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The College Football Bowlgame Breakdown for 2014-2015 December 17, 2014

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NewMexicoBowl2012

The 2012 New Mexico Bowl between Arizona and Nevada turned out to be a thrilling, high-scoring affair. Let us hope that when the Wildcats line up against Boise State in this upcoming Fiesta Bowl, we the fans will be treated to similar fireworks!

Yes, folks, we are but a few short days away from looking LIVE at a bevy of bowl games.  This plethora of postseason pigskin contests will span two weeks and change, and we will likely be satiated with college football, at least until the Spring games in April.  So, here is a break-down of what not to miss, and a few that you’d like to miss, but will not be able to help yourselves just the same.

Ticket to die for:  Oregon vs. Florida State in the Rose Bowl, Thurs., Jan. 1.  Actually the real ticket to die for is the playoff championship game held a week later, but the semifinals must be played first to determine who plays then.  Fair enough, you say, but what about Bama vs. the Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl?  That’s a good one, to be sure.  But in the minds of most fans and commentators, the Ducks vs. the Seminoles seems to have just a slightly greater degree of sex appeal, that’s all.

Best non–Power Five vs. Power Five match–up:  Utah vs. Colorado State in the Las Vegas Bowl, Sat., Dec. 20.  For one, this might be the only worthwhile bowl game to watch on the first day of the post–season.  For another, there are actually a few other decent match–ups to keep one’s eye on as said post–season unfolds, namely Illinois (wait, they’re in a bowl this year?) vs. Louisiana Tech in the Heart of Dallas Bowl and N.C. State vs. Central Florida in the St. Petersburg Bowl (wait, what happened to it being called the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl?), both on Fri., Dec. 26.  Indeed, the latter line–up might be cause to reconsider who merits the “best” distinction. The reason I say that is, with the Rams’ coach having bolted to take the Florida job (who can blame him for taking such a prestigious post?), nobody knows what sort of team will show up to face the Utes.

Then again, this is the mystery that shrouds most bowl game line–ups.

Best non–Power Five match–up:  Marshall vs. Northern Illinois in the Boca Raton Bowl on Tues., Dec. 23.  So Florida Atlantic is going to host a bowlgame?  Apparently they’re good for something after all. Sorry, Owls, but things haven’t been the same since Coach Schnellenberger retired.  The Huskies won the MAC decisively in Detroit, while Marshall has been a strong non–Power Five team all year long, notwithstanding almost coughing it up to the La. Tech Bulldogs recently.

Upset alert:  Oklahoma vs. Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl, Mon., Dec. 29.  This is the safest upset to predict because whereas the Tigers are ranked (No. 17), the Sooners are not, and Clemson’s postseason performance is unreliable, right, Dana Holgersen?

Must win:  Ole Miss vs. TCU in the Peach Bowl, Wed., Dec. 31.  The winner of this game will be the team that is the least disappointed to be there after having much higher aspirations during the regular season.  A win here will also help them salvage some consolation from not having lived up to said aspirations.

Offensive explosion:  Boise State vs. Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl, Wed., Dec. 31.  At least, this match-up has a good a chance as any to rack up some points.  The Wildcats and the Broncos both have been fairly adept at that this season, after all.  The bonus in this game is that there is great potential for snazzy colors in the team uniforms on both sides of the ball!

Defensive struggle:  Boston College vs. Penn State in the Pinstripe Bowl, Sat., Dec. 27.  Neither team really lit up the scoreboard this year, did they?  Add cold weather on top of that (it will be played in Yankee Stadium, after all), and that is likely to put a further damper on offensive output.

Great game no one is talking about:  Iowa vs. Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Fri., Jan. 2.  This used to be called the Gator Bowl for the previous 67 years, fyi.  What makes this game so good is that the Hawkeyes have been very quietly winning a critical mass of games this year, while the Volunteers are a year away under Coach Butch Jones before becoming really good.  Translation:  this is a closer match–up than most SEC fans would be willing to acknowledge.

Intriguing coaching match–up:  Nick Saban of Alabama vs. Urban Meyer of Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, Thurs., Jan. 1.  This is a no–brainer.  They’re arguably the two best coaches in the business, no what it takes to win, and both of multiple national championships under their belts.  Moreover, the two have gone head–to–head before when Meyer was coaching at Florida.  This oughtta be a good one, folks!

Who’s bringing the body bags?  LSU vs. Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl, Tues., Dec. 30.  The only way this game is remotely competitive is if the Tigers just lie down for most of the game, for the Irish have been exposed time and again as overrated frauds late this year.

Why are they playing?  Florida vs. East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl, Sat., Jan. 3.  The only reason in any known universe that these two programs would be playing each other in a bowl game is because the Gators are that far down as a program at the moment.

Plenty of good seats remaining:  Western Michigan vs. Air Force in the Idaho Potato Bowl, Sat., Dec. 20. Nothing against Western Michigan and the fine year they have had (by MAC standards, at least).  Nothing against Air Force, because they’re the troops.  But still, it will be in frigid Boise, Idaho.  Unless you’re going there to ski, why bother being anywhere near there this time of year?

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Nevada vs. Louisiana–Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl, Sat., Dec. 20.  Yes, I know, these past 13 years, the New Orleans Bowl has been the traditional kick-off game for the bowl season, but let us be honest:  this strikes us as only a slightly better–than–average non–Power Five early season match–up.  Do I lie?

That said, an honorable mention for pointless match–up is Toledo vs. Arkansas State in the GoDaddy Bowl (played in Mobile, Ala.) on Sun., Jan. 4.

Red–and–Black Special:  Louisville vs. Georgia in the Belk Bowl, Tues., Dec. 30.  These two teams seem too good for the Belk Bowl.  Still, the bowl itself has managed to climb its way up the prestige ranks a bit over the course of a decade.  It must be the sponsor:  “Belk Bowl” has far better ring to it than “Continental Tires Bowl”.  Yes, that’s what it used to be called.  Honest!

Most exotic location:  Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl on Wed., Dec. 24.  Do not adjust your screens, for you read that correctly.  Yes, there is now a bowl game in the Bahamas (Nassau, specifically), an obvious “first”.  Let’s hope the teams have the opportunity to enjoy things and live it up a bit.

Two great programs in a so–so bowl:  Miami vs. South Carolina in the Independence Bowl, Sat., Dec. 27.  Maybe after these two proud programs get down knocking heads, the bowl game will be a bit less so–so, and more reminiscent of recent times when the likes of LSU and Notre Dame slugged it out (1997) or when Mississippi State and then–Big XII rep Texas A&M duked it out in a blizzard (2000).  It already has made us forget the less–than–memorable match–ups of the past few years.

The explosive offense meets the immovable defense:  Baylor vs. Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl, Thurs., Jan.1. Plus, there will be lots of green!  Seriously, though, the Bears have put up scorching numbers on offense, but the big knock against them has constantly been, whom have they played this year?  On the other hand, Michigan State has proven themselves to be a force with which to be reckoned after upsetting Stanford in the most recent Rose Bowl.  Lesson learned:  Mark Dantonio and the Spartans are not to be taken lightly.

Consolation game:  Mississippi State vs. Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl, Jan. 1.  Similar The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, if Mississippi State wins this, it will be because they overcame their disappointment of not making the Top 4 in the playoffs.  With that said, when was the last time that the Bulldogs have made it to such a prestigious bowl game?  Certainly not in my lifetime!

College Football Week 5 Awards September 29, 2013

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 5] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Mark Richt, Georgia

Glad I’m not him: Les Miles, LSU

Lucky guy: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

Poor guy: Rich Rodriguez, Arizona

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Butch Jones, Tennessee
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Tony Levine, Houston

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

Desperately seeking … anything:  Lane Kiffin, USC

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 15 Miami [FL] (defeated South Florida 49-21)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Tennessee (defeated South Alabama 31-24)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Wake Forest (lost to No. 3 Clemson 56-7)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Troy (lost to Duke 38-31)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Northern Illinois (defeated Purdue 55-24)

Dang, they’re good: Georgia
Dang, they’re bad:  Louisiana Tech
Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Oklahoma State

Did the season start?  Purdue
Can the season end?  Wake Forest
Can the season never endOhio State

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 9 Georgia 44, No. 6 LSU 41

Never play this again: No. 3 Clemson 56, Wake Forest 7

What? Tennessee 31, South Alabama 24

HuhArizona State 62, USC 41

Are you kidding me?  Northern Illinois 55, Purdue 24
Oh – my – GodWest Virginia 30, No. 11 Oklahoma State 21

Told you so:  No. 12 South Carolina 28, Central Florida 25

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 5, pre-week 6)
Ticket to die for:  No. 15 Washington @ No. 5 Stanford

Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: Army @ Boston College

Best non-Big Six matchup: BYU @ Utah State

Upset alert: Kansas State @ No. 21 Oklahoma State

Must win: No. 10 LSU @ Mississippi State

Offensive explosion: No. 4 Ohio State @ No. 15 Northwestern

Defensive struggle: Air Force @ Navy
Great game no one is talking about: No. 24 Ole Miss @ Auburn

Intriguing coaching matchup: Pat Fitzgerald of Northwestern vs. Urban Meyer of Ohio State

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 2 Oregon @ Colorado

Why are they playing? Georgia State @ No. 1 Alabama

Plenty of good seats remaining: Florida International @ Southern Miss

They shoot horses, don’t they?  No. 7 Louisville @ Temple

Week 5 in Review:

Last week had so many horrible, “body bag” matchups that we were all better off just firing that week’s worth of games into the Sun, never to hear from it again, and good riddance! This week was different.  First off, there was one of the games of the year in LSU @ Georgia, which did live up to its billing.  Even the noon games, normally throw-aways, were intriguing. South Carolina v@ UCF was surprisingly competitive.  Ditto with Oklahoma State @ West Virginia, and the results of that game were positively shocking. The evening games were also very entertaining, what with Arkansas giving Texas A&M a solid game, and Wisconsin doing the same at Ohio State.

Meanwhile, out on the west coast, a real offensive explosion took place between USC and Arizona State, and ironically, the 62-41 result in favor of the Sun Devils resulted in some much bigger fireworks after the game.  As soon as the Trojans got back to Los Angeles, USC athletics director Pat Haden literally pulled head coach Lane Kiffin aside on the tarmac to inform him that his services will not be needed for the remainder of the season. Yes, Kiffin’s overall record in four seasons was 28-15, which is not terrible, but it’s not up to USC standards, either.  Moreover, he lost 7 of the past 11 games, was 3-2 this year, and lost both of his conference games thus far.  Things clearly were headed in a negative direction.  Yes, the NCAA had unduly hamstrung the Trojans’ program with restricted scholarships all because somebody not affiliated with the program had given Reggie Bush’s parents a sweetheart deal on a house in San Diego.  Still, after four years, one would expect some meaningful progress to be made from the undue setback, and unimaginative offensive play-calling, combined with inept execution is most certainly not a reflection of progress! Ed Orgeron, the defensive coordinator, (and formed Ole Miss head coach) has been named the interim head coach.  Who says the SEC is geographically insular?

ETC.:

West Virginia’s upset win at home over ranked Oklahoma State could probably save Dana Holgersen’s job after his ignominious loss to Maryland the previous week.  Louisville, meanwhile, remains a formidable team, but the only problem is, their temporary conference home (American) is so weak that every other game is a “body-bag” game.  Take the upcoming week’s game at Temple, for example.  South Florida and Memphis do not do the Cardinals’ strength of schedule any favors, either.  On a positive note, the Oct. 18 game against Central Florida could turn out to be a dandy of a game, folks!

College Football Week 4 Awards September 22, 2013

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 4] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: David Shaw, Stanford

Glad I’m not him: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

Lucky guy: Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State
Poor guy: Bronco Mendenhall, BYU

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Brady Hoke, Michigan
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Kyle Flood, Rutgers

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Dana Holgersen, West Virginia

Desperately seeking … anything:  P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 7 Louisville (defeated FIU 72-0)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: No. 11 Michigan (defeated UConn 24-21)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Troy (lost to Mississippi State 62-7)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Colorado State* (lost to No. 1 Alabama 31-6)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Iowa (defeated Western Michigan 59-3)

Dang, they’re good: Stanford
Dang, they’re bad:  Western Michigan
Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Arkansas

Did the season start?  Michigan State
Can the season end?  Central Michigan
Can the season never endUCLA

GAMES
Play this again:  Fresno State 41, Boise State 40

Play this again, too:  Pittsburgh 58, Duke 55
Never play this again: No. 4 Ohio State 76, Florida A&M 0

What? Iowa 59, Western Michigan 3

HuhFresno State 41, Boise State 40

Are you kidding me?  Texas 31, Kansas State 21
Oh – my – GodMaryland 37, West Virginia 0

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 3, pre-week 4)
Ticket to die for:  No. 6 LSU @ No. 9 Georgia

Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: Northern Illinois @ Purdue

Best non-Big Six matchup: Navy @ Western Kentucky (honorable mention:  Akron @ Bowling Green)

Upset alert: No. 23 Wisconsin @ No. 4 Ohio State, or, No. 12 South Carolina @ Central Florida

Must win: No. 10 Texas A&M @ Arkansas

Offensive explosion: Arizona @ No. 16 Washington

Defensive struggle: MTSU @ BYU
Great game no one is talking about: Virginia Tech @ Georgia Tech (Thurs.)

Intriguing coaching matchup: Ken Niumatalolo of Navy vs. Bobby Petrino of Western Kentucky

Who’s bringing the body bags? South Florida @ No. 15 Miami

Why are they playing? South Alabama @ Tennessee

Plenty of good seats remaining: Kent State @ Western Michigan

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Troy @ Duke

Week 4 in Review:

*:  This was the “body bag” game that did not quite turn out to be one.  On paper, Colorado State was to be the lamb being led to the slaughter.  After all, the fortunes of the Rams have been nothing like the halcyon days under former head coach Sonny Lubick.  Moreover, in a week where every other game seemed to be a body bag game, this one should have been no different.  Consider an under-performing Mountain West Conference team journeying over a thousand miles from Fort Collins, Colo., to Tuscaloosa, Ala., only to go into one of the most hostile places in the land in which to play football, with none other than Nick Saban, arguably the best coach in the business, to be the pitiless executioner.

All things considered, the 31-6 loss could have been much worse.  The Rams actually did a good job of gaining yardage against the Crimson Tide.  The only problem was, the bulk of that yardage was between the 20 yard-lines.  Once Colorado State made it into the red zone, Alabama started to show more of its true defensive colors, as the score attests.  Still, head coach Jim McElwain – coincidentally, the former offensive coordinator at Alabama – came in with a sound game plan, and that was to keep his team’s offense on the field for as long as possible, and conversely, to keep Alabama’s offense off the field as long as possible.  They took plenty of risks – including lots of screen passes – in order to try to make that happen.  One thing that was particularly telling of some degree of success in the overall game plan, despite the loss, was that Saban kept his headset on and kept coaching his team literally as the final second of the fourth quarter ticked off the clock.  One normally does not see that sort of behavior from a coach – no matter how skilled they are in the business – during a so-called “body bag” game.

But this game aside, even some of the better matches on paper (say, Tennessee at Florida, or Michigan State at Notre Dame) turned out to be exercises in ineptitude on both sides of the ball. Even Purdue, who acquitted themselves well against Notre Dame last week, came out flat against Wisconsin this week.

Speaking of “body bag” games, though, this weekend was lousy with them.  Records have become so important in terms of one’s BCS standings, that teams have largely become risk-averse, and since most conferences do not mandate that at least nine conference games be scheduled (notwithstanding the Big XII and Pac-12), we the fans had to suffer through lots of garbage matchups (hello, Florida A&M @ Ohio State) this past week.  Next week will thankfully be different, though, as most teams have some sort of conference game, and even those that do not still [mostly] have some interesting opponent to play (e.g., Northern Illinois at Purdue, South Carolina at an up-and-coming UCF, Oklahoma at Notre Dame, and Navy at Western Kentucky).  The bottom line is, let us blot this past week out of our memories, and just look forward to that which is immediately ahead.