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A Possible Replacement for Hazell at Purdue October 17, 2016

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Remember me, Big Ten?

Coach Darrell Hazell has been fired at Purdue.  Yes, it was highly commendable how he made lots of friendly gestures in reaching out to the football alums; how well-behaved and polite his kids are; how he preaches morals and good conduct to his players.  As a person, Hazell was a very good man.  As a coach, he was a charlatan.

 

We were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt after his first horrible season (2013).  The blowout loss at home to then-No. 2 Ohio State on Nov. 2 of that year was an affront to the university, to the Purdue program, to say nothing of all the Purdue football alumni forebears who had to watch such a disgraceful showing.  Little did we know that plenty more disgraceful showings were to come in the course of almost four seasons.  Those of us who have followed Purdue football for two decades or more know only too well what a disastrous coach Jim Colletto was, but at least the guy could recruit.  With Hazell, we have lacked even that silver lining.

It turns out that Hazell was former AD Morgan Burke’s parting “Gift.”  The humor is in understanding the double entendre, for the word “Gift” in German – hence the capitalized noun, a constant in that language – means “poison”.  In fact, that disastrous hire has permanently tainted Burke’s legacy as an athletics director.  Rightfully so, too.  This is what happens when you continually hire coaches on the cheap, withhold needed administrative support and resources, then act like you’re going to pay the new head coach real money (actually, not so much, comparatively speaking), only to hire a charlatan who fooled you with one good season at a bottom-feeding MAC program.  We saw this scenario before with Turner Gil having one good season at Buffalo, making the gullible think that he was the next Jack Welch.  How well did that hire work out of you, Kansas?

To put it another way, Purdue paid Darrell Hazell roughly $1 Million more than they paid Danny Hope per year, even though the former finished with a 9-33 record at that school, while Hope went 22-27 with two bowl appearances.  Nothing like paying more for a much worse performance, no?

Thankfully, we now have the prospect of being spared future embarrassments in the seasons to come…provided that new Purdue AD Mike Bobinski makes the right hire.  In the college game, hiring the right coach makes all the difference in the world.  Just look at Michigan.  All of us left that program for dead…or, least for permanent diminished relevance.  Then they hired Jim Harbaugh, and in his second year, they are already a national championship contender.

Granted, Purdue is not Michigan, neither in terms of tradition, resources, or recruiting channels.  But that is not to say that there is potential to hire a good coach to not just give the program the shot in the arm it needs, but also, immediately give the program the electric shock paddles just to get its heart to beat again.

But who?  Several ideas have been tossed out in the comment section of the most recent Hammer and Rails articles.  Many of the faithful, for example, seem fixated on Les Miles.  Honestly, that would be a pleasing hire to me.  He would be effective in shaking up the culture, and would attract lots of eyeballs and thus attract some good recruits.  My purpose is to offer an additional idea; not to say it is THE only idea to be considered, but that it is AN idea to be considered.  Here it is:

Bo Pelini.  There are three major upsides with this possible hire.  For one, he is currently coaching at Youngstown State, which is an FCS school.  That’s right, he’s not even coaching at an FBS school after Nebraska fired him.  It would therefore not be a hard sell for him to come to Purdue for a Power Five FBS job.  Indeed, given his current predicament, a salary just slightly higher than Hazell’s might suffice.

Second, Purdue is a Big Ten team, same as his former team Nebraska, who did him dirty.  Those idiots fired him for going 9-3.  Who in their right mind would do such a thing?  Given his reputation for intensity – something Purdue’s program desperately needs, obviously – it would stand to reason that he would not be a “forgive and forget” type.  Thus, the opportunity for revenge against those in the conference who wronged him would make Pelini coming to Purdue an even easier sell.

Third, he clearly has recruiting contacts.  One would need that in order to be able to win nine games a year in a state that produces zero NFL talent, save for the occasional offensive lineman.  His is clearly a name recognized throughout the conference regardless, and that is the most key item.

Indeed, regardless of who becomes the new coach, it is an absolute requirement that he be a recognizable name.  We cannot roll the dice with a coach from the MAC again.  We already made that mistake.  We need a “big name” to show that we truly are committed to not only righting the ship but making sure that it stays on course for the long haul and does not hit a reef again.  Bo Pelini would be such a name.  If not he, then Les Miles should do just fine, or even Dave Wannstedt, for that matter.  If Notre Dame is foolish enough to fire Brian Kelly this year (don’t put it past such a delusional fan base to call for something that monumentally insane, either), then by all means should Purdue empty the bank for him.  Morevoer, if such a scenario were to take place, by all means, forget Pelini go all-in on Kelly!

If nothing else, Mike Bobinski ought to heed that last bit of advice, as his young legacy as the new AD at Purdue hangs in the balance with this critical decision.  Either Purdue gets a name guy with a proven history, or they will stay in the outhouse forever, reaching for the “flush” handle.

Steve Sarkisian to USC December 3, 2013

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Steve SarkisianThe latest news has it that Steve Sarkisian has been named the next head coach at the University of Southern California.  When one considers that the available pool of good coaches is very limited right now (what with relatively few firings and hirings at this time) and most of the best coaches are already ensconced in good programs (Saban at Alabama, Meyer at Ohio State, etc.), this was an excellent hire.

Granted, many were advocating for the permanent hire of Ed Orgeron.  But as well as he has done in the moment, one must ask, could he sustain the positive trend long-term?  His track record might not suggest that.  Plus, we have seen the temp-to-permanent hire scenario before in major college football, and it usually does not turn out that well.  Remember Bobby Williams at Michigan State?  After Nick Saban left for the LSU job, Williams led the Spartans to victory over a formidable Florida Gators squad in the 1999-2000 Citrus Bowl.  Everybody immediately allowed for themselves to be prisoners of the moment and made Williams the permanent head coach at MSU after that.  Part of the rationale was how much the players loved the guy.  Bad idea.  Coaches like Bobby Petrino and Nick Saban are not loved by their players, but those coaches get results from the team.  Meanwhile, the program at MSU eroded after three full seasons under Williams’ leadership.  Orgeron currently enjoys similar popularity with the players at USC.  While this produces short-term gains, it will take somebody who is a bit more of a taskmaster to make sure that these positive trends can be sustained.

But what about Kevin Sumlin as a possibility?  Yes, Coach Sumlin has become a rather hot commodity over the past year or two, but his one weakness is that, while his offenses have considerable fire power, his defenses, well, not so much, and USC prides itself on not only being “Tailback U,” but also having tough “D”’s that shut down the pass-happy intra-conference opposition.  Could Coach Sumlin sustain that reputation, given his track record with weaker defenses in the recent pass?  At this point, it does not appear as though he couch.

What about other candidates, say, James Franklin, whose name was bandied about as a possibility?  A fine choice, especially given what he has accomplished at Vanderbilt under very restrictive circumstances with which the rest of the teams in the SEC do not have to contend.  Still, he has one glaring weakness:  he has no west coast ties.  In the world of college football recruiting, this is vital.  A great deal of recruiting has to do with knowing the high school coaches in the key recruiting areas.   Franklin knows none.

But “Sark” knows plenty.  He knew them as a high-ranking assistant at USC under Pete Carroll, and he still knows them while trying to recruit the players for Washington.  In that important respect, this shall be a seamless transition for him.  Instead of recruiting key players in the talent hotbed that is California, he shall do so wearing  Cardinal-and-Gold polo shirt as opposed to a Purple-and-Gold one.  Moreover, his experience with the program gives him intimate knowledge of organizational culture, making him a good company fit.  This is thus a good hire for the Trojans in any important respect.

To be sure, the gain for USC is a major loss for Washington, where Sarkisian had a good thing going.  But as great as things were with the Huskies, the USC job is rated by coaches and others “in the know” as one of the three absolute best coaching jobs in all of college football, along with Texas and Georgia (yes, Georgia).  In other words, if the Trojans come calling, unless you are coaching at one of those two schools, you are a fool to pass up this golden opportunity.  Sorry about the setback for UW, but good for Sark, and good for USC.

College Football Week 12 Awards November 17, 2013

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 12] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Ed Orgeron, USC

Glad I’m not him: Mack Brown, Texas

Lucky guy: Gus Malzahn, Auburn

Poor guy: Mark Richt, Georgia

Desperately seeking a clue: Frank Solich, Ohio U
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: David Bailiff, Rice

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Al Golden, Miami (Fla.)

Desperately seeking … anything:  Sonny Dykes, Cal

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Oklahoma (defeated Iowa State 48-10)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Central Florida (defeated Temple 39-36)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Syracuse (lost to Florida State 59-3)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Temple (lost to UCF 39-36)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Bowling Green (defeated Ohio U 49-0)

Dang, they’re good: Baylor

Dang, they’re bad:  Ohio U

Can’t Stand Prosperity: Stanford

Did the season start?  Rutgers
Can the season end?  Cal

Can the season never endUSC

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 7 Auburn 43, No. 25 Georgia 38

Play this again, too:  Kansas State 33, TCU 31

Never play this again: No. 2 Florida State 59, Syracuse 3

What? Maryland 27, Virginia Tech 24, OT

HuhKansas 31, West Virginia 19

Are you kidding me?  Duke 48, No. 23 Miami 30
Oh – my – GodUSC 20, No. 4 Stanford 17

Told you so:  No. 4 Baylor 63, Texas Tech 34

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 12, pre-week 13)
Ticket to die for:  No. 4 Baylor @ No. 14 Oklahoma State

Ticket to die for, SEC edition:  No. 15 Texas A&M @ No. 12 LSU

Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: BYU @ Notre Dame

Best non-Big Six matchup: Texas State @ Western Kentucky

Upset alert: No. 18 Oklahoma @ Kansas State

Must win: No. 8 Missouri @ Ole Miss

Offensive explosion: Baylor @ Oklahoma State

Defensive struggle: Michigan @ Iowa

Great game no one is talking about: Cincinnati @ Houston

Intriguing coaching matchup: Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M vs. Les Miles of LSU

Who’s bringing the body bags? Idaho @ No. 2 Florida State

Why are they playing? Chattanooga @ No. 1 Alabama

Plenty of good seats remaining: UConn @ Temple

Plenty of good seats remaining, Big Ten edition:  Illinois @ Purdue

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Coastal Carolina @ No. 11 South Carolina

Week 12 Random Thoughts

Okay, so this week was not big on upsets; some of the lower-tiered ones listed here were borderline reaches.  But there were some eye-popping, jaw-to-the-floor-dropping catches.  For instance, there was one flying, one-handed touchdown catch by a UCF receiver that put the Golden Knights even with Temple, and thus put them on the path to preserve their undefeated season.

A different sort of catch, but one that solidified victory was a tipped pass on 4-and-forever that just so happened to fall within reach of an Auburn receiver going deep.  Ricardo Louis managed to reach for the ball in stride and cruise to the end zone for a touchdown that caused Jordan-Hare Stadium to erupt in ecstasy.

USC, meanwhile, seems to have been rejuvenated under the leadership of Ed Orgeron.  Few experts were predicting a win over No. 4-ranked Stanford, what with the Cardinal’s hard-charging power running game.  But the Trojans’ defense help firm enough to nullify the Cardinal’s advantage, and in the end, helped produce the biggest win for USC yet this season.  In case someone might think that last statement is an exaggeration, when, might I ask in return, was the last time you saw the students rush the field at LA Coliseum this year?

Meanwhile, we all knew this week would come.  This time around, it just so happens to be Week 13 where most SEC teams have the unenviable task of being pitiless executioner to FCS fare, glorified or otherwise.   The irony is that this time around, these teams are not chump D-1AA teams.  Alabama is playing Chattanooga, who is currently 8-3.  South Carolina is to play Coastal Carolina, who is currently 10-1 (at least they’re not playing Wofford this time!).  Florida will play Georgia Southern, who might only be 6-4 in FCS play, but they’re still a traditional power at that level.  But that aside, why schedule these glorified body bag games so late in year?  Did we not get enough of these sub-par matchups in September?

Speaking of Georgia Southern, though, maybe Florida will finally be able to win a game again.  No, that is not a type-o.  The Florida Gators (yes, THE Florida Gators) are on a five-game losing streak.  Why, you might ask?  Perhaps these stats might explain a few things:  they rank 101st in the FBS in passing yardage, 82nd in rushing yards, and 112th in “points for,” meaning the total number of points their offense has scored.  Yet they rank 14th in points against.  The latter is a more-than-respectable stat; the rest of positively abysmal, especially by Florida standards.  Clearly, they have a good defense; they are just atrocious on offense.  Who is to blame?  One possibility is Will Muschamp, who is a defensive coordinator by trade before becoming the head coach in Gainesville.  Could he invest some capital in a better offensive coordinator?  That might help.  But at this point, it leaves fans and observers alike to wonder if he is the man for this sort of job.

At this point, it’s a fairly safe bet that that Florida could snap their five-game losing streak on Nov. 23; but the following week they face No. 2 Florida State.  What is the “over-under” for the Gators going 5-7 this year, Vegas?

2012-2013 Bowl Game Awards January 10, 2013

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What, you’d think I’d be lying down on the job just because the regular season is over?

COACHES
Wish I were him:  Charlie Strong, Louisville

Wouldn’t be bad to be him, either:  Nick Saban, Alabama

Glad I’m not him: Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
Lucky guy:  Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

Poor guy: Patrick Higgins, Purdue (interim coach)
Desperately seeking a clue (long-term, notwithstanding the win):  Mack Brown, Texas
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Bill Blankenship, Tulsa

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Lane Kiffin, USC

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Texas A&M (beat No. 11 Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 4, 41-13)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Florida (see below)

(Dec. 15-31)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Purdue (see below)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t: Louisville (see below)
(Jan. 1-7)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Alabama

Thought you wouldn’t get your butt kicked, you did: Notre Dame

Dang, they’re good: Alabama (and Texas A&M!)
Dang, they’re bad:  Purdue

They can’t be that good:  Oklahoma State

Dang, they’re overrated:  Notre Dame

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Mississippi State (lost to Northwestern in the Gator Bowl, Jan. 1, 34-20)

Did the season start? USC
Can the season end?  West Virginia
Can the season never end?  Louisville (or Clemson, though really, Louisville more so!)

GAMES
Play this again (Jan. 1-7):  Outback Bowl – No. 10 South Carolina 33, No. 18 Michigan 28

(Dec. 15-31)

Play this again:  Peach, I mean, Chick-Fil-A Bowl — No. 14 Clemson 25, No. 8 LSU 24

Also, play this again:  New Mexico Bowl – Arizona 49, Nevada 48
(All Bowls)

Never play this again: Heart of Dallas Bowl – Oklahoma State 58, Purdue 14
Don’t bother with this one again, eitherIdaho Potato Bowl – No. 22 Utah State 41, Toledo 15

What? Chick-Fil-A Bowl — No. 14 Clemson 25, No. 8 LSU 24

HuhHoliday Bowl — Baylor 49, No. 17 UCLA 26

Are you kidding me? Sun Bowl — Georgia Tech 21, USC 7

Oh – my – God: Sugar Bowl – No. 21 Louisville 33, No. 3 Florida 23

Wow, dudeBCS National Championship – erstwhile No. 2 Alabama 42, erstwhile No. 1 Notre Dame 14

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Cal Sport Media / AP Images

That’s why you line them up and play.  My father repeated this mantra to me as I was growing up.  Going in to the BCS National Championship game, it seemed as though Notre Dame and Alabama were rather evenly matched on paper.  The Fighting Irish had some rather impressive wins on their resume this year, far more impressive than the mediocre schedule they had played in recent years.  Beating a tough Stanford squad at home, going on the road to humiliate Oklahoma, and then closing out the regular season on the west coast to beat USC, all in the same year, is no small feat.  With such a record, it looked like Notre Dame was back, ready to butt heads with the big boys for national prominence.

Moreover, it was supposed to be a down year for the SEC, remember?  Michigan played South Carolina down to the wire (though seriously, the overall outcome was as predicted, if not by a slightly truncated margin of error), and an underachieving Nebraska challenged a, well, underachieving Georgia squad.  Mississippi State, for what a great regular season had – by MSU standards, at least – came for naught when they coughed it up to Northwestern in the Gator Bowl.  The most striking example of building the case for a SEC down year was the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.  No way, under normal circumstances would LSU lose to Clemson, though to be sure, the ACC team has been known to pull one over on the SEC team in that bowl game (remember the 2001 Peach Bowl between Auburn and North Carolina?).  No. 3 Florida inexplicably losing to No. 21 Louisville can also add fuel to that fire (not that U of L’s win is something to be rued outside of SEC country!).

Forget that the SEC had three losses going into this game.  The conference was 5-3, to be exact; still a winning record.  Look at the Bama team itself.  They had graduated tons of talent to the NFL.  Quarterback A.J. McCarron was not a transcendent player at that position (as one often expects on a team that would be in the running for the national title).  The offensive line was young and inexperienced.  The Crimson Tide’s defense was not overwhelming, either, especially when compared to the smothering D’s of recent champion squads.  When paired up against the other team, one could readily predict some clearly potential mismatches.  After all, Notre Dame’s receiving corps was big and talented, and proved to be a game-winning factor throughout the season, as the Irish’s opponents had no answer for that part of their offense.

But there was more.  What gave the Irish the strong look of national viability was that Coach Brian Kelly had done an amazing job of massively upgrading the team’s defense.  At a school this is much more academically rigid as ND, certain recruiting restrictions tend to put the defensive side of the ball at a disadvantage.  One can recruit smart linemen, quarterbacks, tight ends, and receivers, after all, and they are out there.  Defense is another issue.  Never as well-choreographed as offensive, players on that side of the ball tend to be a bit more reckless, and often have to be to make key stops.  Making good grades and doing what defensive players have to do to succeed on the field is oftentimes an incompatibility.  Yet Kelly somehow made it work.

So how did things turn out they did?  Even yours truly predicted a close game, at least until some time in the 3rd quarter.  Turns out, in hindsight, we all made the same mistake we made going into the 2007 BCS game.  That year, Ohio State was the undefeated, No.1  team.  Florida got in the game almost as an afterthought.  Yet despite a touchdown by the Buckeyes on the opening kickoff, the Gators dominated from then on, leaving many viewers in a state of shock and disbelief, and also to ask each other:  how did we not see this coming?

The answer comes in two parts.  The simplest part is, they are SEC teams.  Florida then and Alabama this year played in the most brutal of all college football conferences.  Anybody who emerges as the conference champion is battle-hardened, battle tested, and ready and able to go toe-to-toe with anybody else in the country.  If one does not believe that the SEC, despite its down year this year, is still not the best conference in the country, you are both blind and detached from reality.  For one, SEC teams have won every national title since the 2006-’07 season; that’s seven consecutive years and counting.  But even more to the point, the NFL is the ultimate truth serum when it comes to who produces the best players in college football.  One NFL team general manager once observed that you could field a competitive team in the pros just by drafting players out of the Southeastern Conference.  Lots of money, along with people’s mortgages and livelihoods, rest on making such key decisions – think about that.

So Ohio State then, and Notre Dame this year, were frankly NOT consistently playing the same level of competition that SEC teams face week in and week out.  It’s fine for Notre Dame to beat Oklahoma on the road, but to turn right around the struggle at home to Pittsburgh the next game should have raised a few more eyebrows than it did.

The other part to explain how Bama ended up dominating Notre Dame is that Nick Saban is the best college coach in the business.  He learned his grinder’s work ethic from his father growing up in West Virginia, and learned how to be detail-oriented as an NFL assistant under Bill Belichick.  Being detail-oriented is a transferrable skill that works well at either the college or the pro level.  Saban knows how to prepare.  Alabama might have seemed relatively weak (compared to recent teams) having to go from one tough game to another (LSU then Texas A&M, for example).  But give Saban a full month to prepare, and the team’s true potential shines through.  Pay no attention to the Tide getting humiliated to Utah in the 2008 Sugar Bowl; pay attention to Saban’s, and the team’s, more recent body of work, that being three national titles out of the past four years.  They say that hindsight is 20-20, and in this case, it most certainly is:  Bama played better competition throughout the year, had even better overall athletes, and are guided by the best coach in the business.  Sometimes, you have to line them up and play just to be able to see those things with sufficient clarity.

2012-2013 Bowl Games of Some Interest December 15, 2012

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As mentioned in the previous installment, I have ranked the bowl games by category, with the major criterion being level of desirability to view, partly on my end, partly on the end of the average viewer who is NOT a certifiable college football addict like yours truly!

To find a complete bowl game schedule where each game is found in order of date and time each game is to be played, go here.

This second installment is of bowl games about which I am rather interested, which is, to me, higher than “moderately interested:”

New Mexico Bowl (Albuquerque, N.M.), Sat., Dec. 15, 1:00 PM EST

Arizona (7-5) vs. Nevada (7-5)

Chris Ault leads the now-Colin Kaepernick-less Wolfpack back to a bowl game to take on the rejuvenated Arizona Wildcats in a fairly evenly-matched game in the Land of Enchantment.  Speaking of which, Enchantment Bowl has a nicer ring to it than New Mexico Bowl, doesn’t it?  But I digress.  What makes this game truly interesting is that there will be lots and lots of yards gained on the ground by both sides.  How do I know?  Both teams each have some of the leading rushers in the FBS this season, in Ka’Deem Carey (is the apostrophe really necessary?  Then again, the name is already made up, so might as well be stylin’ while we’re at it!) for Arizona and Stefphon (sic) Jefferson for Nevada (one too many consonants in that first name, don’t you think?).  Moreover, both teams also sport mediocre run defenses.  It all adds up to lots of rushing yardage gained on both sides of the ball, with an inability to stop each other on the other side.  Think:  the equivalence of Baylor-Texas Tech, ground game edition!  The fact that the hilarious writers at EDSBS referred to both of these two teams as the plague monkeys of their respective conferences is the icing on the cake!

New Orleans Bowl, Saturday, Dec. 22, 12:00 PM EST

East Carolina (8-4) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4)

If I miss this game, it won’t be the end of the world.  It used to be that we CFB fans would look forward to this game because it kicked off bowl season.  Now, it’s just another bowl.  Still, it pits two solid teams within their respective conferences against each other, which was my rationale for designating this game the “Best Non-Big Six Matchup” for this set of bowl games.

MAACO Bowl (Las Vegas, Nev.) Saturday, Dec. 22, 3:30 PM EST

Washington (7-5) vs. No. 19 Boise State (10-2)

This used to be called the Silver Bowl, but that was before sponsorship took over bowls big time.  Soon, they renamed this game after a slightly classed-up version of Earl Scheib.  That notwithstanding, this could be a decent match-up.  On one hand, Steve Sarkesian has worked diligently to bring the Huskies back to respectability.  On the other hand, Boise State has had a slightly down year compared to their last several.  Could be interesting.

Pinstripe Bowl (Bronx, N.Y.), Sat., Dec. 29, 3:15 PM

West Virginia (7-5) vs. Syracuse (7-5)

Old conference rivals reunite in this bowl game, between a squad that hit the wall when they reached the real meat of their schedule, and a team that gradually improved throughout the year.  On paper, the Mountaineers are more talented than the Orange, but will the former have time to regain their energy?  Plus, the game is in [new] Yankee Stadium:  how cool is that?

Fight Hunger Bowl (San Francisco), Sat., Dec. 29, 3:15 PM

Navy (8-4) vs. Arizona State (7-5)

So which is it going to be, the Pinstripe Bowl or this one?  I choose this one, my “intriguing coaching matchup” bowl game pick, and for multiple reasons.  For one, you have one coaching philosophy of pounding the rock vs. the opposing one that amounts to a watered-down “west coast” offense.  But that’s not all: on one side is Ken Niumatalolo and his apparent philosophy of family, loyalty, dedication, etc., and in the opposing corner is the notoriously mercenary, leave-in-the-dead-of-night Todd Graham.  Very intriguing indeed!

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (Tempe, Ariz.), Sat., Dec. 29, 10:15 PM

TCU (7-5) vs. Michigan State (6-6)

(What used to be the Insight Bowl, and before that, the Copper Bowl) Okay, so the Spartans have been no team to write home about this year, given their inability to, you know, score touchdowns.  Meanwhile, on TCU’s side, their performance this year has been one of peaks and valleys.  Where the Horned Frogs are with respect to their highs and lows will determine whether they mop the field with MSU, or the game remains a defensive struggle.  What could really set things off, though, is if the two teams show up in their chrome purple and green helmets, respectively (oh boy, oh boy!)!

Music City Bowl (Nashville, Tenn.) Mon., Dec. 31, 12:00 PM

North Carolina State (7-5) vs. Vanderbilt (8-4)

Last year, the Wolfpack was in the Belk Bowl, and defeated a young Louisville team.  It looked like they were really up-and-coming.  They return to a bowl game this year, and fire Tom O’Brien.  It makes no sense.  Will head coach-in-waiting Dave Doeren lead the team, or will Tom O’Brien play out the string?  Or will the assistant coaches be left to watch over this mess before Doeren comes in to right the ship?  All this will be moot anyhow, since this is a glorified home game for Vandy, who by all rights should kick N.C. State’s butt.  And that’s what’s really enticing; would it not be grand to see the Commodores win a bowl game?  Goodness knows they have earned it!

GoDaddy.Com Bowl (Mobile, Ala.), Sun., Jan. 6, 9:00 PM

No. 25 Kent State (11-2) vs. Arkansas State (9-3)

College football on a Sunday night instead of pro football?  Yes, please!  Plus, this game is my “intriguing no-coaching matchup,” given that Kent State’s erstwhile coach Darrell Hazell took the Purdue job and Arkansas State’s erstwhile coach Guz Malzahn bolted for Auburn.

Heart of Dallas Bowl (Dallas), Tues., Jan. 1, 12:00 PM

Purdue (6-6) vs. Oklahoma State (7-5)

Okay, how on Earth did this become a New Year’s Day bowl game?  I know that the Cotton Bowl is no longer played in the Cotton Bowl (stadium, that is), but that does not mean that this manufactured bowl game deserves to be on the same day as the Capital One, Outback, Rose, and other bowls that have earned being on this date.  That aside, this game is a rematch of the 1997 Alamo Bowl.  Just don’t expect the Boilermakers to beat the Cowboys 33-20 like they did 15 years ago.  In fact, expecting the score to be reversed in the Pokes favor might be an overestimation.  Still, Purdue is playing in it, so one has to watch it.