The last author you ever thought would be quoted in a college football article is about to be quoted.


… faultless in spite of all her faults …

Yep, I just threw a Jane Austen knowledge bomb from “Emma” right at the feet of hundreds of sports fans expecting discussion on “zone blitzes” and “transfer portals.”

Austen was referring to the titular character in her novel, a beautiful, intelligent, sweet and capable heroine who is also stubborn, undisciplined, spoiled and self-absorbed.

Wait … are we discussing Emma Woodhouse or college football?

The answer, at least for myself, is both. This bowl season, college football again proved it is all the aforementioned adjectives used to describe Austen’s literary character. College football is a dichotomy, wrapped in a puzzle, surrounded by a riddle … and it has my unabashed adoration despite these undeniable flaws.

Emma, indeed.

Look, I can’t argue at all about the flaws in the sport. The transfer portal has made rosters more fluid than any professional league. The addition of name, image, likeness (NIL) payouts has further removed athletes from the world of other college students. Player opt-outs in bowl games have turned many of the postseason contests into little more than exhibitions and previews of next season. The playoffs have polarized fans into camps of either “more teams!” or “fewer teams!”

All of these are undeniable to even the most vehement college football backer. Yet, to paraphrase Austen, these are a lot of flaws … but — in my mind at least — the sport remains flawless.

Give me the Pop-Tarts Bowl with its official mascot — the iconic pre-packaged breakfast pastry — rising out of a giant toaster. Hit me with the winning coach of the Duke’s Mayo Bowl having a giant bucket of mayonnaise poured on him. Inject right into my veins the “I got class” postgame rant from New Mexico State head coach Jerry Kill about unfair treatment by bowl host and arch-rival University of New Mexico. Please don’t inject into my veins Rob Gronkowski’s rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner to start the L.A. Bowl, but do have him do it before the game every year.

These colorful events make the bowl season something special. They cozy up right alongside less outrageous moments, such as watching the Song Girls from USC, the Mountaineer from West Virginia, OU’s Sooner Schooner, and all the colorful traditions and quirky items college football brings to the table in a manner unlike any other sport.

With a few exceptions, the on-field product this bowl season has proved to be fun and exciting, too. Now, college football fans have one more big game to enjoy.

Personally, as I prepare to crack the proverbial final beverage for my Hangover Highlights column this college football season, I feel the pain thinking we are down to only one game.

Here is some of what has happened since my last scribbles and bits:

  • Let’s start locally, and with the good news. Oklahoma State took care of Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl 31-23 … or at least a Texas A&M-adjacent team. The Aggies were probably more hurt by opt-outs and transfers of any team during the bowl season this side of Florida State. They came into the game with only 55 scholarship players, and they ended up giving walk-ons significant playing time — even a memorable starting spot;
  • Still, you can only play who’s in front of you, and Oklahoma State handled itself well. The Texas Bowl marked a particularly good outing by the Cowboys’ offense, which piled up 570 yards, with 402 of that coming through the air by quarterback Alan Bowman. After its self-imposed handicap to the start the season, OSU’s offense has been nothing short of impressive with all-world running back Ollie Gordon, talented wide receiver Brennan Presley and the steady hand of Bowman, who recently received his seventh — SEVENTH — year of eligibility. With all three back in Stillwater next season, OSU will have one of the conference’s best offenses …
  • … right alongside Big 12 newcomer Arizona. The Wildcats’ duo of quarterback Noah Fifita and wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan opened eyes and gave OU fits in their 38-24 win over the Sooners in the Alama Bowl. Fifita passed for 354 yards, and McMillan collected 160 of those on 10 catches. Both will be back with Arizona next year in its initial season with the Big 12;
  • What shall we make of the Sooners in their bowl loss? Well, you simply can’t turn the ball over six times and win. Freshman quarterback Jackson Arnold, in his first start, accounted for four of those, while wide receiver Jalil Farooq had the other two. Between all the turnovers, OU actually dominated the game. Even though the Sooners fell behind 13-0 less than two minutes into the second quarter, they rebounded and were absolutely in charge until Farooq’s fumble-six with two seconds left in the third quarter. During that stretch, OU outscored the Wildcats 24-0, outgained them 336 yards to 17, had a 13-1 first-down advantage, and averaged 9.3 yards per play while allowing just 1.1 yards per snap;
  • The result of that domination put the Sooners ahead 24-13 and on the doorstep to score again when Farooq fumbled. The fumble was returned 87 yards for a touchdown and seemed to be the spark to reinvigorate Arizona for the win;
  • The Sooners saw plenty to like from Arnold, despite the miscues, with his 361 passing yards and two touchdowns. With nine starters returning on defense, they certainly won’t be short of experience on that side of the ball next season either. Of course, with one of the toughest schedules in program history looming this fall, OU is going to have to play better defensive football than it did this year. With Brent Venables turning to Zach Alley to replace Ted Roof as defensive coordinator, maybe some of the coverage busts and other kinks can be worked out over the summer.
  • Elsewhere, the two biggest games of the bowl season were obviously the playoff semifinals, and neither disappointed. In the opener, Michigan outlasted Alabama in overtime, 27-20, and Washington held off Texas 37-31 in the nightcap;
  • In the end, Alabama simply had too many liabilities at quarterback. Jalen Milroe had put up impressive stats this season, but faced with a ferocious pass rush that kept his running ability bottled up, he regressed to what many people thought he was: A below-average pocket passer with happy feet;
  • Texas, meanwhile, saw its secondary exposed by another left-handed quarterback in a 37-31 loss to Washington. The Longhorns’ defensive front seven is as good as — or better than — anyone in the country. The defensive backfield, well, that’s an entirely different story. By the time the smoke cleared, Washington quarterback Michael Penix had passed for 430 yards;
  • Still, thanks to some head-scratching Huskie play calls and gross clock mismanagement in the final quarter, Texas found itself throwing in the end zone with a chance to win the game in the final seconds. With all the millions of dollars head coaches are making nowadays, can’t they spare a little change to pay somebody to stand beside them and slap them upside the ‘noggin when they start doing dumb things like “running the ball” with a minute left in a game? Take a knee, you fools! It’s not that hard! I’ve personally never been incensed by a team more than Washington during the last minute of game time Monday;
  • Iowa was shut out in the Citrus Bowl, 35-0, by Tennessee. It was the third time the Hawkeyes were shutout this season, yet they still managed to win 10 games. Still, when you’re outscored 92-0 by ranked teams in one season, those 10 wins have to seem pretty hollow;
  • Two teams that will probably be taking a hard look in the mirror this offseason are Ohio State — the new home of former K-State signal caller Will Howard — and Penn State. The Buckeyes lost 14-3 to Missouri in the Cotton Bowl, while their Big Ten East compatriots fell 38-25 to Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl. With losses in its final two games of the season, Ohio State fans must feel like Nebraska fans from the 1980s: Win a lot during the season, but just not the ones that matter the most. The same can be said for Penn State, which is exactly the same at Ohio State, except it wins a little less;
  • USC stood out as one of the more impressive teams in the early part of the bowl season. The Trojans beat Louisville 42-28 in the Holiday Bowl behind six touchdown passes from quarterback Miller Moss. Moss replaced all-universe signal caller Caleb Williams as he opted out of the game. Still, the Trojans offense actually hummed in a way it hadn’t since September, and against a ranked foe at that;
  • About that ranked foe, though. Louisville strolled into the game ranked 15th, but they had lost their final two games: first against a .500 Kentucky team, and then to a Florida State squad that would have happily put one of the playing pieces from those old electric football games at quarterback given the chance. Florida State, by the way, laid the biggest egg of the postseason with a 63-3 disaster against Georgia in the Orange Bowl. The rest of the ACC was nearly as bad: N.C. State, Miami, North Carolina and Syracuse all dropped their bowl games as well. While there were some wins for the conference, it did leave me pondering a final thought as bowl seasons ended:
  • I think it’s narrow-minded, counterproductive and myopic to make wide-ranging and judgmental statements about conferences or even specific teams based on what are essentially exhibition games played during the bowl season;
  • With that said, I’ve been called worse than narrow-minded, counterproductive and myopic, so the ACC is trash!
  • As for the upcoming championship game between Washington and Michigan, my knee-jerk prediction is that Michigan will win. The matchup reminds me too much of OU’s playoff game against Georgia in 2017: A great offensive team with a shaky defense (OU/Washington) against a team with a great defense and an OK-to-solid offense (Georgia/Michigan). Of course, that 2017 game between OU and Georgia ended up being evenly matched enough that it went to overtime before Georgia eventually prevailed, so maybe Monday will end up being a great game as well. Any opportunity to watch Washington’s Penix and his fleet of sure-handed receivers against the controlled chaos of Michigan’s defensive front should make for must-watch TV;
  • Lastly, I’ve had a blast sharing these thoughts with everyone this season, and I’m already ready for next season! Between now and then, however, go enjoy some college basketball, college softball, major league baseball or even whatever form college baseball takes nowadays!