New Year’s Day is traditionally the time when the stars of college football take center stage.
And while the monumental college football playoff matchups took place on New Year’s Eve, there were still some mammoth contests on the schedule the next day, including a Fiesta Bowl showdown between No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 9 Oklahoma State, a Sugar Bowl battle between No. 7 Baylor and No. 8 Ole Miss, and of course, “The Granddaddy of Them All” – No. 6 Ohio State against No. 11 Utah in the Rose Bowl.
It was a crazy day, with several record-breaking performances – and Ohio State coach Ryan Day might have summed up the day better after his Buckeyes’ 48-45 victory:
Here are the highlights of the bowling game action on New Years Day.
C.J. StroudQB, Ohio State
If you haven’t watched the Rose Bowl for some reason and are wondering why Day was screaming “Wow” in Stroud’s face in the video above, we’re here to help:
After the Buckeyes fell 14-0 in the first quarter, Stroud got to work, tossing the ball around the Rose Bowl like he was playing a video game on easy mode. Stroud became the first Ohio State quarterback to pass for 500 yards in a game and also became the first QB to pass that mark in a Rose Bowl. His 572 yards were third in FBS history.
He also tied the Ohio State record for most passing touchdowns in a game (6), the second time he has done so this season. His six TD assists were as many as Utah gave up in their previous seven games combined.
Jaxon Smith-NjigbaWR, Ohio State
As good as Stroud is, he wasn’t even voted MVP of the Rose Bowl – that honor went to his primary target of the day, Smith-Njigba. The Buckeyes have had a few key players retire, including receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. Never mind – it just meant more passes thrown in Smith-Njigba’s direction, and the second was more than up to the task, catching 15 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns.
Smith-Njigba set a number of records in the Ohio State win. His 347 receiving yards broke a Rose Bowl single-game receiving record. He set an Ohio State single-season receiving record (1,606). He broke the bowl record for receiving yards. He broke Ohio State’s single-game receiving yard mark. And he broke Ohio State’s single-season receiving record (95). On top of all that, Smith-Njigba’s 347 receiving yards were more than the passing yards of 12 of Utah’s previous 13 opponents.
KJ JeffersonQB, Arkansas
Jefferson didn’t do much in the passing game in Arkansas’ 24-10 victory over Penn State in the Outback Bowl. It’s not that Jefferson struggled — he completed 14 of 19 passes for 98 yards — but that the Razorbacks focused almost completely on the ground game. Arkansas absolutely beat the Nittany Lions with their rushing offense, gaining 353 yards on 58 carries and averaging 6.1 yards per attempt. Jefferson led the way, gaining 110 yards on 20 carries and scoring a touchdown. Raheim Sanders added 79 yards on 13 carries and Dominique Johnson added 77 more yards on 11 carries, but it was Jefferson who walked away with MVP honors.
Wan’ Dale RobinsonWR, Kentucky
With 3:31 left in the Citrus Bowl, the No. 22 Wildcats had the ball on their own 20-yard line, trailing No. 15 Iowa 17-13. That’s when Robinson stepped in, helping Kentucky go 80 yards for the winning score. The junior receiver made several big plays on the drive, including this hit on third and 10 while taking a huge hit.
Then came the big one — a 47-yard gain on a Will Levis pass to set up Chris Roridguez’s game-winning TD run.
Robinson finished with 10 catches for 170 yards that day, bringing his impressive season tally to 104 receptions and 1,334 yards. He now holds the British record for most receiving yards in a single season.
spencer sanderQB, Oklahoma State
Sanders appeared in Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl game with Notre Dame with 3,011 total rushing yards this season. He added almost 500 more against the Irish. Sanders proved nearly unstoppable against the Irish, passing for 371 yards and four touchdowns, and rushing for 125 extra yards on just 17 carries, while guiding the Cowboys from a 28-7 deficit to a 37- 35.
He spat out a fumble late in the fourth quarter that gave Notre Dame a chance to come back, but the Oklahoma State defense held on pretty tight. Sanders’ 496 rushing yards was a Fiesta Bowl record.
Jack CoanQB, Notre Dame
The Irish were unable to give Marcus Freeman a victory in his first game as head coach of Notre Dame, but it was not for lack of effort from Coan, who managed a record from the 509-yard Fiesta Bowl. He also threw for five touchdowns and generously distributed the ball to his teammates, as Lorenzo Styles Jr. (136), Chris Tyree (115) and Kevin Austin Jr. (105) all went for over 100 yards receiving and catching a touchdown pass. Michael Mayer added 72 yards and a pair of points.
Abram SmithRB, Baylor
Smith was one of the few to stand out individually in Saturday’s Allstate Sugar Bowl as the game turned out to be mostly a defensive battle. He made his mark with 172 rushing yards on 25 carries, breaking Baylor’s all-time single-season record.
Smith’s yards on the ground proved to be paramount given that Baylor QB Gerry Bohanon was just 40 yards in the air. It was Smith’s ninth 100-yard game of the season, nearing his career-high 188 rushing yards, a mark he set earlier this season against BYU.
Get more from college football Follow your favorites for game insights, news and more.