Associated Press USC Trojans

Forty bowl games are now in the books for the 2016-17 season, with only the College Football Playoff championship game still to come. And just when you thought it was pretty ho-hum with a bunch of "meaningless games" ...

Then the Granddaddy happened. Of course it's the Rose Bowl that gave us the best setting for the most memorable game, despite a game-time temperature of 55 degrees (brrrr!) that was the coldest since the 1974 game.

As for the rest of the bowls, sure, there's been more interesting news off the field than on it, such as top prospects sitting out games to protect their pro futures, player shoplifting at the bowl game's namesake store, and Lane Kiffin getting fired even though he quit first.

So, from the picture-perfect ending in Pasadena to the empty stands mostly everywhere else, here's our nifty summary of this bowl season:

Best game: Rose Bowl. This isn't even close. USC somehow managed to out-Penn State in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Nittany Lions 17-0 to pull out a dramatic 52-49 victory on Matt Boermeester's 46-yard field goal at the gun in the highest-scoring Rose Bowl game in history. Despite not being a "playoff" game, the Rose Bowl actually had the most expensive tickets and is expected to earn the highest TV rating of all bowl games.

Best game (non-Rose Bowl edition): Orange Bowl. Anything involving Jim Harbaugh was bound to be entertaining and this game did not disappoint. Michigan fell behind early and looked out of it entering the fourth quarter but rallied to take the lead with just over a minute left. But a long kickoff return set Florida State up for the winning play just seconds from the end of regulation in a 33-32 Seminoles victory.

Worst game: Citrus Bowl. Some shine came off the game when LSU running back Leonard Fournette decided to skip the game to protect his pro future -- a first-round selection in the NFL Draft -- but it still had Heisman winner Lamar Jackson. Well, the Louisville quarterback was sacked eight times, and the hapless Cardinals lost their third straight game in an ugly 29-9 defeat against LSU.

Best conference: ACC. Other than Louisville, the ACC had a banner season in the bowl games, with Clemson advancing to the CFP title game and Florida State upsetting Michigan in the Orange Bowl. The ACC finished with an 8-3 record, with two more wins than any other conference.

Worst conference: Big Ten. The MAC might've gone 0-6, including a loss by Western Michigan in its New Year's Six bowl appearance, but the Big Ten was billed as the best conference most of the season and placed four teams in NY6 games. The B1G didn't live up to the hype, limping to a 3-7 bowl record, including 1-3 in the NY6 games.

The rest of the conference standings:

  • SEC 6-6
  • Big 12 4-2
  • Pac 12 3-3
  • Sun Belt 4-2
  • C-USA 4-3
  • Mountain West 4-3
  • American 2-5
  • Independents 2-0

Best coaching move: Nick Holt, Western Kentucky. As the interim coach with Jeff Brohm having moved on to Purdue, the former defensive coordinator didn't hold back and emptied the playbook -- including a fake victory-formation kneel down that went for a 53-yard gain right before the half. The Hilltoppers went on to a 51-31 rout of Memphis in the Boca Raton Bowl. For the record, interim coaches went 3-2 in bowl games, with Baylor and South Florida also winning while Houston and Temple lost.

Worst coaching move: Chuck Martin, Miami (Ohio). The RedHawks could've gotten the MAC to a winning start when they had Mississippi State on the ropes late in the game. But instead of driving for a game-winning touchdown, Martin chose to go conservative, calling plays to concede 3 yards while in the red zone, only to see Nick Dowd's 37-yard field goal attempt blocked in a 17-16 loss in the St. Petersburg Bowl.

Best performance: Sam Darnold, USC. Are you ready for the Heisman hype, for 2017? All Darnold did was throwing for 453 yards and a Rose Bowl-record five touchdowns to lead the Trojans to a scintillating comeback against Penn State. USC won nine straight to end the season and, with the redshirt freshman quarterback returning, will be a sure-fire pick as a playoff contender for 2017.

Worst performance: Ohio State. It was an epic fail in all phases of the game, and especially shocking coming from an Urban Meyer team. The Buckeyes were outclassed in every way by Clemson in a 31-0 beatdown in the Fiesta Bowl that was also a CFP semifinal game. Ohio State's losing margin was the second largest of the bowl season -- only Central Michigan's 55-10 loss to Tulsa in the Miami Beach Bowl was worse.

Best fight: This battle in the bathroom between a Miami fan and West Virginia fan during the Russell Athletic Bowl had a little of everything, including a nifty reference from the movie Road House.

Who says bowl games are "meaningless?" Even a mere urinal is worth fighting for!

-- Samuel Chi is the managing editor of RealClearSports.com and proprietor of College Football Exchange. Follow him on Twitter at @ThePlayoffGuru.

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