Ranking the 10 best bowl games of 2012-13

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Before the postseason began, we asked y’all to vote on which bowl games you felt would be the best and worst of the non-BCS group.

Thirty-five bowls later, the only thing we’ve confirmed is that you might be better off picking games by throwing a dart blindfolded. With that in mind, it’s time to go back and rank the 10 best bowls of the 2012-13 postseason (note: there’s no need to rank the 10 worst because, well, why would you want to relive cruddy bowls?).

1. Outback Bowl: No. 8 South Carolina 33, No. 24 Michigan 28

A back and forth game between the Big Ten and SEC that came down to the final seconds on New Year’s Day would be enough by itself to warrant the top spot on our list. Then Jadeveon Clowney made arguably the best individual, game-changing play of the bowl season. Of course, if you argue with Clowney, he’ll form tackle you into a fine powder.

2. Chick-fil-A Bowl: No. 11 Clemson 25, No. 14 LSU 24

Tajh Boyd‘s heroics against LSU’s blitz-happy defense were amazing until you realize he was actually a test subject in a real-life episode of ESPN’s “Sports Science.” Today, we ponder how many times a quarterback can get hit with the same amount of force per square inch exerted by a space shuttle on liftoff… and live to tell about it.

3. Alamo Bowl: No. 19 Texas 31, No. 20 Oregon State 27

“Texas back?!?!?!?” will undoubtedly be the theme for the Longhorns this year after a come-from-behind win over Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl. Defensive end Alex Okafor went Oka-BEASTMODE with nine tackles, 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble, most of that damage coming in the third and fourth quarters. The win makes UT’s offseason tolerable, but 2013 is a critical year for Mack Brown.

4. Belk Bowl: Cincinnati 48, Duke 34

Oh, Duke. Y’all were so close to winning your first bowl game since 1961. Unfortunately, the Blue Devils “Belk’d it” by allowing Cincinnati to score on an 83-yard touchdown pass and a 55-yard pick-six within the final minute of the game. For 59 minutes though, this game was awesome.

5. New Mexico Bowl: Arizona 49, Nevada 48

Nobody circles the wagons like the fightin’ RichRods. Down 13 with under two minutes to play, Arizona scored not once, but twice with the help of a successful onside kick to win the first bowl game of the season. I can only imagine the shock of the loss played a role in Chris Ault‘s retirement. Okay, it didn’t really. But still.

6. New Orleans Bowl: Louisiana-Lafayette 43, East Carolina 34 

America demands offense in games that have no national implications because we don’t give a single damn about your defensive coordinator’s job security, even in the worst of economies. The New Orleans Bowl understood that and obliged by racking up 45 points in the second quarter. The sacrifice was complete.

7. Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas: Texas Tech 34, Minnesota 31

Comebacks are always welcome in bowl games and Texas Tech scored 10 points in the final 1:10. However, we can only speculate that had Tommy Tuberville been on the sidelines, the Red Raiders would have elected to take a knee and play for overtime rather than attempt a risky 28-yard, game-winning field goal.An opportunity missed to jump up our rankings, to be sure.

8. Rose Bowl: No. 7 Stanford 20, Wisconsin 14 

This was the only BCS bowl where the game was decided by a touchdown or less. That should give you an idea as to how the BCS bowls played out this year. Defense lovers will point to the low score; cynics like me who only wish they were athletic enough to play football will point to some iffy execution by both offenses. But a close one in The Grandaddy of Them All? We’ll gladly take it.

9. Capital One Bowl: No. 5 Georgia 45, No. 25 Nebraska 31

The irony of an “SEC defense” and the “blackshirts” giving up a combined 76 points and over 1,000 yards was too much for us not to include this game. This was old man football… if the old man was in better shape than you and could probably beat you up.

10. Military Bowl: No. 21 San Jose State 29, Bowling Green 20 

I’m gonna miss you, WAC. At least San Jose State was able to get you a win before you went peacefully into that big ‘ol bowl game in the sky. Also, there were, like, four blocked punts because weird things tend to occur when #MACtion and #WACtion happens at the same time on the same field.

Division II, Division III and NAIA title games set while FCS heads into semifinals

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Outside of a thrilling Army-Navy game and the Heisman ceremony, it was an empty Saturday at the highest level of college football.

But no so at the lower levels.

The divisional playoffs are cranked into high gear. Let’s take a brief look at where everything stands in each division.

FCS

Top-seeded and defending champion James Madison needed a last-second field goal to survive visiting Weber State, 31-28, on Friday night, while No. 5 seed South Dakota State routed New Hampshire, 55-14.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 seed and winner of five of the last six national titles North Dakota State walloped Wofford, 42-10 in Fargo. No. 6 seed Sam Houston State outlasted upstart Kennesaw State, 34-27, to send the Bearkats into their fifth semifinal game in the last seven years.

Semifinals: No. 5 South Dakota State at No. 1 James Madison — 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPNU; No. 6 Sam Houston State at No. 2 North Dakota State — 8 p.m. ET Friday, ESPN2.

Division II

No. 4 seed West Florida traveled north and upset top-seeded Indiana (Pa.), 27-17 on Saturday, to send the Argonauts into their first championship game. No. 2 seed Texas A&M-Commerce fended off the option attack of No. 3 Harding (Ark.), 31-17, putting the Lions in their first title game as well.

National championship: No. 2 Texas A&M-Commerce vs. No. 4 West Florida — 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan.

Division III

In a similar dynamic to FCS, the defending champion is on a collision course with the traditional champion. In the first semifinal, defending champion Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) blanked Brockport (N.Y.), 24-0. The Crusaders will make their third trip to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, looking to win their second title.

In the other semifinal, Mount Union (Ohio) overcame a 21-10 deficit to beat Wisconsin-Oshkosh, 43-40. The Purple Raiders will play in their 20th Stagg Bowl — all of them coming since 1993, and 19 of them since ’96 — with a shot at their 13th national championship. However, Mount Union has won just — “just” — two national championships since 2009.

National championship: Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) vs. Mount Union (Ohio) — 7 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN at Salem Stadium in Salem Va.

NAIA

The NAIA was off this weekend, taking a break in between last week’s semifinals and Saturday’s national championship. Defending champion Saint Francis (Ind.) out-gunned previously-undefeated Morningside (Iowa) 43-36 in the first semifinal, while Reinhardt (Ga.) held off undefeated Southern Oregon, 37-34 in double overtime.

National championship: Saint Francis (Ind.) vs. Reinhardt (Ga.) — 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN3 at Municipal Stadium in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Minnesota lands commitment from 6-foot-8, 395-pound offensive tackle

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P.J. Fleck is going to need a bigger boat.

Minnesota has landed a commitment from the largest recruit on record, as 6-foot-8, 395-pound offensive tackle Daniel Faalele has committed to the Gophers. Faalele made the announcement on his Twitter page on Saturday night.

A 3-star recruit, Faalele is rated as the No. 29 offensive tackle in the country, according to 247Sports. He listed 20 offers, including from the likes of Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and LSU.

As the story goes, Faalele did not find football; football found him. He was discovered by a recruiter from Hawaii working out at a gym in his native Melbourne, Australia. He attended a Michigan satellite camp in Australia and played this season — his first season in pads — at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

In making the trip from the Land Down Under to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Faalele will be joined by a pair of IMG Academy teammates in offensive lineman Curtis Dunlap, Jr., and quarterback Zack Annexstad, who also committed to Minnesota on Saturday.

Those pledges now give Minnesota the 26th best recruiting class in the country and the sixth best in the Big Ten — but the No. 1 class in the Big Ten West — in the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Minnesota’s class may not be the best in the country, but it’s among the biggest — both in size (the Gophers have 25 pledges thus far) and stature.

Texas A&M suspends DT Zaycoven Henderson amid felony gun charges

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Texas A&M defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson was suspended amid multiple felony charges on Saturday.

As detailed by Ben Baby of the Dallas Morning News, witnesses say Henderson pointed a rifle at one person outside College Station’s Campus Village Apartments and threatened to kill two others and allegedly threw the gun out of a fleeing car as police arrived on the scene. The car was later tracked down by College Station officers, who discovered marijuana in the car.

He was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, tampering with evidence and marijuana possession. The first charge is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in a prison. The second is a third-degree felony and the third is a misdemeanor.

He was booked into the Brazos County (Texas) jail at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning.

Texas A&M has suspended Henderson indefinitely, which really only lasts one game as the senior from Longview, Texas, was set to close his Aggies career in the Belk Bowl against Wake Forest on Dec. 29 (1 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Henderson made 35 tackles with five TFLs and 2.5 sacks in 12 starts this season. He was honored as a member of Texas A&M’s senior class at the annual team banquet earlier this weekend.

UCLA reportedly hires Paul Rhoads as defensive backs coach

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Chip Kelly has reportedly hired one of the most respected men in the business to his staff. According to a report from Sports Illustrated‘s Bruce Feldman, Paul Rhoads is on his way to Westwood to coach UCLA’s defensive backs.

Rhoads spent the past two seasons at Arkansas, the first as defensive backs coach and the second as defensive coordinator in addition to his duties with the secondary. He’s best known, of course, for his 7-year run as the head coach at Iowa State, where he took the Cyclones to three bowl games and created this viral moment before any of us knew what “going viral” went.

In addition to Arkansas, Rhoads also owns defensive experience at Auburn, Pittsburgh, Iowa State, Pacific, Ohio State and Utah State.

UCLA finished last season ranked 74th in pass efficiency defense, yielding a 57.1 percent completion rate for 7.3 yards per attempt with seven interceptions against 18 touchdowns.