Saturday, December 11, 2004

Bowling, bowling, bowling....

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

Bowl season. A time where we get to watch games in cities we’d never visit [Boise, Mobile, Shreveport] and teams we’d never watch play [Troy, North Texas, Navy, New Mexico] because….well, there is nothing else on. We could watch “A Christmas Story” or QVC or World Suicide Poker Tour instead…but that Bowling Green-Memphis match up is a little more inviting.

Being a bowl team nowadays isn’t as prestigious as it once was. In fact, only THREE teams with winning records are NOT in a bowl game this year. Two of them, Clemson and South Carolina, declined bowl bids due to a brawl that ended their rivalry game a few weeks ago. The other winning team was Akron.

Five MAC teams are in bowls. Two Sun Belt teams. Florida and Notre Dame fired their coaches despite going to bowls.

Don’t get me wrong…I kid because I care. I have no problem with the glut of bowl games. To many of these kids…this may be the pinnacle of their football careers. This will be the final football game for many of these guys.

This isn't my "Bowl Preview" as such...just my rating of the actual games and my interest in them. 

#1-The Orange Bowl is the National Title Game. USC and Oklahoma have stayed a top the polls all season long….so this match-up should be awesome!!! FOUR of the five Heisman trophy candidates are playing in this game [Leinart, Bush, White, Peterson]. Even if this wasn’t the “title game”…it would be one heck of a matchup.

#2-How about that Liberty Bowl??? This is the best bowl game to be played before the new year. Undefeated Boise State against Louisville. They have a combined record of 21-1. The Cards average over 50 ppg….Boise averages just under 50 ppg. LeFors and Zabransky could combine for 1000 passing yards in this game.

#3-The Rose Bowl is the Granddaddy of them all. The most prestigious and, to me, the best bowl experience. Beautiful weather at a huge historic venue with two great/very good teams competing. Michigan vs. Texas should be a doozy of a game….and I’m not a bit miffed by Cal not being there. It could be the closest BCS game. Hard to believe that this will be the first ever meeting between Texas and Michigan.

#4-With the BCS bowls kind of breaking away from the other games….bowls like the Florida Citrus, errrrr, Capital One Bowl get lost in the shuffle. Iowa and LSU will match up their outstanding defenses. Heck, both schools could end up meeting next year in the National title game. The bowl also features two of the most sought after coaches in college….Kirk Ferentz and Nick Saban.

#5-The Battle for Florida will be played….in Atlanta. Florida and Miami-FL will meet in the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Eve. While you and your loved ones are wearing annoying hats and making god awful noises with pieces of cardboard stapled to a piece of plastic….these two schools will settle the title of Best Team In Florida [both beat Florida State].

#6-Auburn may run away with the Sugar Bowl. While V-Tech is a formidable opponent….they have nothing to lose nor gain. Auburn wants a piece of that National title…and they have a grudge to bear. Don’t overlook V-Tech. They did win the ACC and play better special teams that anyone.

#7-I like the Outback Bowl. First, they play those Outback Steakhouse commercials during the game that get my mouth watering. Second, this should be a whale of a game. I had Georgia as my #3 team before the season. And Wisconsin… no slouch….itself. The Badgers, however, have looked horrible in their final two games [Michigan State, Iowa].

#8-The Gator Bowl has gotten lost in the shuffle of late. This year should be no different. West Virginia against a disappointing Florida State squad. FSU should dominate this game. But, hey, it is the first bowl of 2005!!!

#9-The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl will be very important. No, it doesn’t matter if Utah stays undefeated….but they have to beat Pitt. Pittsburgh shouldn’t be in a BCS game while Georgia and California are not. But, that happens. Utah is the first non-BCS school to get into a BCS game. However, they play a team that is probably the worst BCS team of all time. If Utah loses this game….it may be a long, long time before you see a non-BCS school in a BCS game. If they can’t beat Pitt…they how can you justify any mid-major team to beat a legit BCS team??

#10-Why is there a bowl game in Boise, Idaho??? Formerly the Humanitarian Bowl…the MPC Computers Bowl [great name….ptttthhh!!!] finally doesn’t feature Boise State. Instead, Virginia and Fresno State will just freeze their hinnies off. Actually, Virginia preferred this game so it wouldn’t interfere with exams. Fresno just wanted to go somewhere other than the Silicon Valley Classic.

#11-The Emerald Bowl played in…..heck, I don’t know….will be a running feast. Of the 117 teams in Division I football….New Mexico is 115th in pass offense and Navy is 116th [Rice is the worst pass offense]. Will anyone watch this game?? Possibly. No matter what, the service academies are a treat to watch when they get in these bowl games.

#12-The Holiday Bowl is usually quite a game. This year, slighted California will battle the upset minded Texas Tech Red Raidahs. Cal was the odd man out of the BCS….just as Texas was last year [they ended up losing this bowl].

#13-The John Hancock….I mean, Sun Bowl would have been a better match-up if Arizona State’s QB Andrew Walter wasn’t injured in the Zona game. Purdue’s Kyle Orton will be there…and although he had a big dropoff as the season wound down….he still is a pro prospect.

#14-Do you like to run the football?? Then the Music City Bowl’s matchup of Minnesota and Alabama is for you. This should be a bruiser. In a rarity…both teams love to run the ball. Bama has one mean defense.

#15-The Alamo Bowl tends to favor the Big XII team….especially when that Big XII team is from Texas or Oklahoma. So look for OSU to win this game. Ahhhhh…..but which one??

#16-The Cotton Bowl will feature…gasp…Texas A&M against Tennessee. A week ago, this was a orange filled UT vs. UT game [Texas-Tennessee]. But, with Cal dropping out of the BCS….A&M fills this void.

#17-Laugh, but the GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Alabama should be a gol’ durn good time!! Memphis back DeAngelo Williams is the best player most people have never heard of…and will finally get his national audience. This game has seen Ben Roethlesberger, Byron Leftwich and LaDanlian Tomlinson in past years. Bowling Green won’t be a pushover…with a high octane pass offense.

#18-In the Continental Tire Bowl, an interesting experiment will take place. Boston College is the better team…but North Carolina will have a home crowd advantage. Will BC have a letdown after being so close to a BCS berth?? Will mediocrity in the ACC be better than being elite in the Big East?? Next year, these two schools will be ACC brethren.

#19-The Insight Bowl [the old Copper Bowl] is a rematch of the 2001 Fiesta Bowl played at nearby Tempe. Oregon State killed Notre Dame in that game 41-9. OSU should win this one….especially with all the turmoil going on due to the firing of Ty Willingham in South Bend.

#20-The Houston Bowl will have an in-state team playing, UTEP. Actually, this game features two coaches who have been embroiled in scandals of late. We all know about UTEP coach Mike Price’s dismissal from Alabama [where he never coached a game] due to some stripper and room service. We all know the scrutiny Gary Barnett had to deal with this past summer in Boulder. Both coaches are tough skinned and should have their teams ready for one another.

#21-The Motor City Bowl tends to not get my motor running. This year it is Toledo and UCONN. Yeah, there will be some scoring…which should make the game watch-able. This is the first bowl game for Connecticut since becoming a D-I program.

#22-Here is one of those “we are playing close to home” bowls. The Hawaii Bowl features, yes, Hawaii. As if the Warriors ever play outside of the Aloha State. Timmy Chang can just keep on piling up the yards against a pretty good UAB team. Hey, the game gives me something to do until I open presents.

#23-Usually, the Independence Bowl has a pretty good game. A couple of pretty good teams that matchup pretty well. Not this year. Iowa State and Miami-OH. Iowa State was a pleasant surprise this season…nearly winning the Big XII North division. Miami came back to a pretty nice season after losing Big Ben Roethlesberger to the Steelers.

#24-The Las Vegas [California Bowl/Raisin Bowl/Silver Bowl] Bowl has become a better game since they got out of the MAC vs. Big West bids. This edition has the best bet to be a blowout. Wyoming hasn’t been to a bowl in a while…and UCLA should have a ton of fans that made the trip up to Vegas. Watch the game…then gamble.

#25-The Ft Worth Bowl…yes, that’s right….looks to be a very mediocre day. Neither Marshall nor Cincinnati is that good. Let’s just hope the Bearcats decide not to trample all over the logo before the game. 70-7 anyone? Also, this is a matchup of a C-USA team that is leaving the conference against a MAC team that will be entering the C-USA next year…on the field of a C-USA team that will be in the Mountain West next year.

#26-Formerly the Tangerine Bowl….I think…the Champs Sports Bowl begins Bowl Week. Georgia Tech and Syracuse [possible Final Four pairing in hoops] look to cap off a year in which they weren’t expected to do much.

#27-I don’t hate on the New Orleans Bowl….but why is it still around?? I guess so North Texas has something to do in mid-December. The Mean Green is in the bowl yet again…and face a Southern Miss squad that was ranked a few weeks ago.

#28-This gets my vote for the worst bowl of the year. And it really isn’t a bowl. The Silicon Valley Classic. That’s a lie…since it never has been a classic. This year is no exception. Northern Illinois against Troy. Yep…that’s it. First off…who cares about these teams other than the people on those campuses?? Second…Troy is in Georgia [right?] and NIU is in, uh, Illinois so neither will have an abundant of fans at the game. Third, the game is on at 11:00 pm on New Year’s Eve Eve. I’d be willing to bet that most of you couldn’t even give me the school’s nicknames.   This is just another thing that you can blame Ron Artest for.  If it wasn't for his brawl...the SoCarolina-Clemson brawl may not have happened and those teams would have gobbled up bowl bids.  Instead we have these two stalwarts. 

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