Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Superlatives from the bowl season. In both directions.
Best performance by a leading man: USC quarterback Mark Sanchez accounted for five touchdowns -- four passing -- and completed 28 of 35 passes for 413 yards in the Trojans 38-24 blitzing of Penn State in the Rose Bowl. After being blamed much of the season for USC's inconsistent offense, Sanchez turned in the day's most spectacular performance, one that might have proved he's NFL-ready.
Best defense: With its offense struggling without James and Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State's defense throttled Pittsburgh to secure a 3-0 victory in the Sun Bowl. The Beavers had five sacks and held the Panthers to just 178 yards and 10 first downs and limited All-American running back LeSean McCoy to just 85 yards on 24 carries. Pittsburgh's deepest penetration was the Beavers' 36-yard line. This is the same unit that gave up 65 points and 694 yards to Oregon in the regular-season finale.
Worst start: Oregon's defense looked, well, defenseless to start the Holiday Bowl against Oklahoma State, giving up 199 yards and 17 points in the first quarter. Cowboys quarterback Zac Robinson and receiver Dez Bryant hooked up seven times for 89 yards and a touchdown in the first frame. The Ducks, however, would surrender 270 yards and 14 points over the final three quarters.
Best defensive play: With the score tied and 3:28 left in the Emerald Bowl, California linebacker Zack Follett caught Miami quarterback Jacory Harris from behind and slapped away the football. Cal recovered on the Hurricanes' 2-yard line, setting up the game-winning touchdown pass from Nate Longshore to Anthony Miller. It was Follett's second sack of the game, but the savvy play was the cornerstone of the Bears' 24-17 win.
Worst way to set a record: Arizona receiver Mike Thomas had a great career but he didn't have a good Las Vegas Bowl. He entered the game needing just three receptions to eclipse former Arizona State great Derek Hagan's Pac-10 career record of 258. He broke the record on a 3-yard pass on the final play of the game, during garbage time when the Wildcats' victory was well in hand.
Best hit, quarterback class: Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli set the Ducks physical tone in the second half of the Holiday Bowl by running over Oklahoma State safety Quinton Moore on a 41-yard touchdown run. Masoli finished with three rushing touchdowns and one passing.
Best Heisman Trophy showcase: California running back Jahvid Best was spectacular while rushing for 186 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries against Miami in the Emerald Bowl, accounting for well over half of the Bears' offense on the evening. The sophomore had runs of 42, 32, 28 and 25 yards, and probably earned a spot on most short lists for the 2009 Heisman Trophy.
Worst fourth quarter: USC probably lost a couple of potential No. 1 votes when it went to sleep in the fourth quarter of the Rose Bowl and gave up 17 points and 159 yards to Penn State. While the Nittany Lions deserve credit for fighting until the end, college football fans -- and pollsters -- were reminded how indifferent the Trojans can look at times.
Best way to go out as a record-setting senior: Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama rewrote the Wildcats' passing record book but never led his team to a bowl game, much less a bowl victory, until the final game of his four years as a starter. And he saved his best for last, completing 24 of 35 for 325 yards and two touchdowns, leading Arizona to its first bowl win in a decade. He also ran six yards for a score.
Best bowl records (tie): Oregon State's Mike Riley improved to 5-0 in the postseason as the Beavers' coach. While you can't argue with perfection, it's hard to ignore that USC's Pete Carroll improved to 6-2 in bowl games since he took over at USC, including a 6-1 mark in BCS bowls.