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On the perils of trying to fire one’s way out of “Glen Mason Territory” October 15, 2018

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Last year, SB Nation’s Bill Connelly wrote about the perils to which average and above-average football programs expose themselves when they fire a coach who has been winning games, except that now he’s not winning enough games.  He dubbed this situation “Glen Mason Territory”.

What happens is that a team (typically, a 2nd-tier Power Five program) is in the doldrums, suffering from a string of losing seasons.  The university’s AD hires a new coach who then comes in and rights the ship.  Instead of losing season after losing season, the program now enjoys winning seasons.  The team starts going to bowl games, say, five over the course of seven years.  The fans are loving it.  They want more.  The boosters want more.  The athletics director wants more.

Except that the head coach cannot deliver more.  It’s usually not his fault.  There’s often a set of structural limitations in place, and despite the community’s clamoring, the coach, despite all he has done, cannot deliver on the expectations that have been unintentionally raised.  In other words, the coach did raise the bar of performance expectations, which was great for a while.  Now the fans and everyone else take this for grant, and want it raised even further, which is an impossible task.  Instead of accepting this frank fact of life, the fans call for the AD to do the feel-good thing, which is to fire the coach and replace him someone who (they think) deliver on these raised (often, unreasonable) expectations.

Let us briefly consider the namesake of “Glen Mason Territory” for a moment as an example.  Glen Mason was a former Ohio State coordinator who did an impressive salvage job at Kansas in the 1990s.  Minnesota hired him in 1997 for a similar turnaround.  Despite the Golden Gophers’ past tradition (having won multiple national titles in the 1930s and 1940s under Bernie Bierman), the program had been absent from the national conscious since most of the 1960s (having won the whole thing, oddly, in 1960).

Mason started to deliver in 1999, winning eight games that year, including a massive upset over then, No. 2 Penn State.  The following year, they sent Ohio State’s national title aspirations into an early death spiral, in the Horseshoe, no less.  As Bill Connelly tells it further:

“The Gophers would bowl again in 2000 and 2002, then surge in 2003. Behind the punishing combination of Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney, they beat Penn State and Wisconsin on the way to a 9-3 regular season, then Oregon in a Sun Bowl thriller to reach 10 wins for the first time since 1905.

The problem: he never won 10 again. The Gophers started 2004 5-0 and reached 13th before losing five of six down the stretch and needing a bowl win to salvage 7-5. They went 7-5 again in 2005 and were on the doorstep of a third straight seven-win season in 2006 before blowing an enormous Insight Bowl lead to Texas Tech.

A year after a contract extension, Minnesota used the bowl collapse as impetus for panic. Despite seven bowls in eight years — for a program that had been almost absent from college football’s consciousness for nearly four decades — the school pushed Mason out.

The program had grown stale, you see, and needed young energy. “I believe the program needs a new vision to reignite fan enthusiasm,” said athletic director Joel Maturi.”

The question in the mind of many of the readers by now is, ‘why couldn’t Minnesota “got over the hump”, so to speak?’  One reason, at the time, was facilities.  If a Big Ten recruit went to, say, Michigan, Ohio State, or even Penn State on visits was able to take in the grandeur of their home stadia, they would be most unimpressed by seeing the Metrodome as their potential home stadium if they chose to don the Maroon & Gold.  Having been on the sidelines for a game there once, I personally can vouch for how sterile a place it is.  Despite the university’s best efforts to jazz it up with bunting and national championship banners in the school’s colors all over the place on game day, it remains sterile, even negatively inspiring.  As one of my fellow student managers at the time said so succinctly, “that place just sucks the life force out of you.”

Seeing things along those lines, one can appreciate the difficulties that Mason had to overcome in attaining the success his team enjoyed.  But in the end, it wasn’t good enough.  Why?  Answer: expectations that have been raised beyond reason.

Notice in Connelly’s writing how he cited then-AD Joel Maturi saying the program had “grown stale”.  Such wording is a symptom of the fallacious “this-is-who-we-now-are mentality”, when a program long in the doldrums all of a sudden enjoys a spate of success.  Pretty soon, the fan base starts to take this newfound success for granted, and becomes increasingly restless when the coach fails to deliver even more success, more than the program is structurally built to deliver under modern constraints.

Consider, again, Minnesota.  Sure, the Twin Cities might produce several players talented enough to compete at a high level, but much of the rest of the roster is made up of recruits from Ohio who were passed over by the Buckeyes.  In explicably, you’ll find a few players from Florida and Texas (e.g., Marion Barber III) in there, too.  But the immediate point is, there is not enough local talent from which to draw in order to build up a roster that can consistently vie for the national title.  The only team in such a predicament that has come close to such viability is Oregon (proving that there is always an exception to the rule), with maybe Washington to a lesser extent.

So Mason was already dealing with that structural roadblock to meeting unrealistic expectations, in addition to the stadium, which was a potential turn-off to recruits.  Not until 2009 did they open up TCF Bank Stadium on the school’s main campus.  Had Mason had this shiny new stadium at this disposal then, things might have been a little different (emphasis on ‘might have been’).

Consider weather, too.  Sure, Minnesota is a great school, and the Twin Cities are reasonably happening, but it’s also cold…very cold.  Most recruits might choose to brave the cold winters in Columbus, Ohio, or even State College, Pa., or even Ann Arbor, Mich., but they’ll draw the line at the next-level frigidity of the Land of 10,000 Lakes.  Can one blame them?

Of course, asking the reasonable thing, which is for the fan base to take these structural obstacles into consideration to damper their unrealistic expectations is apparently too much to ask these days.  These unrealistic expectations lead to impatience, which leads to rash decisions.  So naturally they fired Mason.  They brought in Tim Brewster as his replacement.  Brewster promised to recruit, to be the ‘shot in the arm’ the program needed, etc., and proceeded to go 15-30.  For comparison, Mason went 64-57.  Will the Gopher faithful give charismatic young coach P.J. Fleck the chance to duplicate Mason’s efforts?  That all depends on if they learned anything from this experience.

Other fan bases seem not to be have learned, and have suffered the consequences as a result.  To wit:

Arizona State fired Todd Graham, despite his 7-5 regular season record in 2017.  The program had not been competitive consistently since the Frank Kush years of the 1970s.  Bruce Snyder did the best job in recent years, leading the Sun Devils to almost win the national title in 1996.  Snyder’s leadership proved that the Sun Devils are capable of high ceilings, but brief ones.  Arizona State has hired former NFL head coach Herm Edwards in his stead.  It remains to be seen if this risky hire will pan out, but at least it is an interesting hire.  One thing that ASU does have going for it is that it’s located in a geographical spot with an endless summer, a campus that sports tons of pretty co-eds, and the Phoenix area is a decent hotbed for good recruits.  Theoretically, the right coach could set the entire Pac-12 on notice, as Bruce Snyder did in the mid-to-late 1990s.

But as Bill Connelly wisely points out, schools without such advantages who nevertheless act on the impatience born of unrealistically raised expectations can suffer major consequences.

  • On the heels of 11- and nine-win seasons, Boston College pushed Jeff Jagodzinski out because he deigned to interview for other jobs. They were 2-10 four years later and haven’t reached nine wins since.

  • Ron Zook took Illinois to nine wins and a Rose Bowl in 2007, and after a two-year reset, got them back to 7-6 in both 2010 and 2011. He was fired. Illinois has averaged 3.7 wins per year since.

  • Dan McCarney won at least seven games five times in a six-year span at Iowa State but was let go after a 4-8 downturn in 2006. ISU has not topped seven wins since, though that could change with an upcoming bowl game.

To be sure, current ISU head coach Matt Campbell has made Jack Trice Stadium a perilous place to play for undefeated teams, as top-ten West Virginia just learned last night the hard way.

  • Ralph Friedgen took Maryland to seven bowls in 10 years, and after a two-win collapse in 2009, rebounded to nine wins in 2010. Maryland has averaged 4.7 wins per year since firing him.

  • NC State pushed Tom O’Brien out in 2012 after 24 wins in three years. Their best three-year win total since: 22.*

Dave Doeren has brought NC State back to respectability (and rankings), but it has taken the program several years to return to this spot.

  • David Cutcliffe won seven or more games for five straight years at Ole Miss, peaking with a 10-win campaign in 2003. But after a 4-7 reset in 2004, he was fired. The Rebels would top four wins twice in the next seven years.

  • Pitt pushed Dave Wannstedt out after after 26 wins in three years. The Panthers have averaged 6.6 wins since.

  • Despite seven ranked finishes in 11 years, Syracuse fired Paul Pasqualoni after he hit a dry spell. He went 4-8 in 2002 then rebounded to only 6-6 in 2003-04. Syracuse went 10-37 under replacement Greg Robinson and has averaged 4.4 wins since Pasqualoni.

Dino Babers has methodically built Syracuse into a better program, but consider that the hiatus between this decent year and Pasqualoni’s last season is 13 years.

  • Phil Fulmer took Tennessee to 15 bowls and five SEC championship games in 16 years. He won the national title in 1998 and won at least eight games 14 times. He fell to 5-6 in 2005 but rebounded back to 10 wins in 2007. After a second five-win reset in 2008, he was fired. The Vols have hit the eight-win mark twice in the nine years since.

But what about Georgia, you ask?  That’s really not an exception to the rule after all.  Mark Richt had been consistently winning at Georgia but failed to bring home a national championship trophy.  Nick Saban and others did have something to do with that, but again, it’s almost too much to expect folks to be reasonable, especially in SEC country, where “it just means…more”.  So, they fired Richt and brought in Alabama assistant coach Kirby Smart.  And he too, won games, even played his former team for the national title.  And lost, because Nick Saban’s Alabama these days is a consistent juggernaut.  Nevertheless, Smart succeeded where Richt failed.  So firing their way out of Glen Mason Territory has panned out for Georgia thus far, but that’s because they have access to tons of NFL-potential talent in Greater Atlanta, their own backyard.  So there.

The conclusion to which Connelly arrived in his article is that a school cannot simply fire-a-coach its way out of “Glen Mason Territory”.  Why?  Let us consider basic reality.  Football, unlike economics, is a zero-sum game.  When one team wins a game, that means that team’s opponent had to lose that game.  Not all teams can be championship-viable teams all the time.  It is simply impossible.  Furthermore, because of this zero-sum fact of life football (and most other sports), not everybody can be good all the time.  Even traditional powers have had down years (just look at Alabama in between the Mike Dubose and Nick Saban years).

Second, not all teams are built to be national-title contenders.  Again, one key factor is, does your state produce enough local talent to compete nationally?  In states like California, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, or Florida, (borderline case:  Arizona) that is a given.  Even Oklahoma does not produce the players it used to (to be sure, even during the glory days of Bud Wilkinson, OU has had to recruit Texas to be successful).  The only state north of the Sunbelt that can remotely compete on that scale is Ohio.  Everyone else has to recruit from those states just to be in a position to win games, period.

Also, unlike in the pros, where teams choose the players, in college, the players choose the programs.  That means that many blue chip recruits who have options are not going to flock to the Arctic climbs of Minnesota, or the isolated, wind-swept plains of Nebraska if they can land a scholarship at Georgia or LSU or even TCU instead.  Ohio State has managed to stay viable despite its cold winters due to the total commitment of the university, plus the community and state at large, to muster every last resource needed to attract the players necessary to compete at that level.

When a coach raises the bar of performance expectations but cannot raise it further, it’s usually not the coach’s fault.  It’s program history for one.  Georgia, for example, only has two national titles, one from 1942 and from 1980; the former being shared with Ohio State.  As discussed at some length, it’s also infrastructure (e.g., facilities and access to NFL-caliber talent), and program support.  But dealing with these issues ranges from difficult to impossible.  Instead of dealing with these realities like responsible people, too often people take the feel-good way out (in reality, a dead end) and kill the messenger by firing the very coach who improved the team’s standing and situation in the first place.

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College Football Week 9 Awards November 2, 2015

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duke_miami_gms_20151031

One of a few missed calls during the hap-hazard, yet incredible, 8-lateral kickoff return finish my Miami in yesterday’s game. Paging Cal-Stanford 1982: you now have competition.

(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 9] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES

Wish I were him: Jim McElwain, Florida

Glad I’m not him: Gus Malzahn, Auburn

Lucky guy: Mark Helfrich, Oregon

Poor guy: Mark Richt, Georgia

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Bobby Petrino, Louisville

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Jeff Brohm, Western Kentucky

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Charlie Strong, Texas

Desperately seeking … anything:  Mike Riley, Nebraska

TEAMS

Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Oklahoma (defeated Kansas 62-7)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Texas A&M (defeated South Carolina 35-28)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Vanderbilt (lost to No. 18 Houston 34-0)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Purdue (see below)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Tennessee (defeated Kentucky 52-21)

Dang, they’re good: Florida

Dang, they’re bad:  UMass

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Pitt

Did the season start? Arizona

Can the season end?  UCF

Can the season never endHouston

GAMES

Play this again:  No. 9 Notre Dame 24, No. 21 Temple 20

Play this again, too:  Oregon 61, Arizona State 55 (3OT)

Never play this again: Arkansas 63, UT-Martin 28

What? North Carolina 26, No. 23 Pittsburgh 19

HuhMiami 30, No. 22 Duke 27

Are you kidding me?  Purdue 55, Nebraska 45

Oh – my – GodIowa State 24, Texas 0

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 9, pre-week 10)

Ticket to die for:  No. 4 LSU @ No. 7 Alabama

Also:  No. 5 TCU @ No. 12 Oklahoma State

Make it a Trifecta:  No. 17 Florida State @ No. 3 Clemson

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: (none)

Best non-Power Five matchup: Navy @ No. 16 Memphis

Upset alert: No. 13 Utah @ Washington

Must win: Duke @ No. 21 North Carolina

Offensive explosion: Cincinnati @ No. 18 Houston (also TCU @ OKST)

Defensive struggle: Syracuse @ Louisville

Great game no one is talking about:  Penn State @ Northwestern

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Todd Graham of ASU vs. Mike Leach of WSU

Who’s bringing the body bags? Vanderbilt @ No. 11 Florida

Why are they playing? BYU @ San Jose State (Friday)

Plenty of good seats remaining: Hawaii @ UNLV

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Kansas @ Texas

Week 9 Take-aways:

First it was Michigan State’s blocked punt that they recovered and ran back for a score with 0:00 left on the clock to beat rival Michigan in the Big House (they were behind prior to said score).  Last week was followed up by Georgia Tech’s fantastic finish, whereby they blocked a Florida State field goal attempt at home, ran it back for a score and thus broke the tie as time expired.  This week, the Miami Hurricanes – fresh from both a devastating home loss to Clemson and the subsequent firing of head coach Al Golden – made an eight-lateral play on a kickoff return that harkens directly back to Cal-Stanford 1982, for the game-winning touchdown, over then-ranked Duke, on the road.  Three weeks in a row, three fantastic, historic finishes.

Well, sort of.  There were tons of blown calls on that play, including an illegal block in the back (or two), and at one point, one of the lateralling players for Miami had his knee already down before he tossed the ball sideways.  The overlooked calls were so blatant that the ACC suspended the officiating crew the following day.  Could it be that the game result itself be overturned?  We shall all have to stay tuned.

Bobby Petrino must be beside himself.  Despite his able coaching, his players made mistake after mistake on the road against Wake Forest.  Yet somehow they managed to barely win.  Despite consecutive wins, this performance is not a sustainable path.  Something must be done for the team to improve so as to win sustainably.  An infusion of discipline would be both a quick and effective remedy.

Poor Mark Richt.  Despite all the success he has had at Georgia, he just cannot get over the hump.  A statistic during the debacle of a game against Florida (the Gators thumped the rival Bulldogs 27-3 at this year’s World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville) showed that Richt is 5-15 against ranked opponents during his tenure at UGA.  Moreover, he is 5-9 against Florida, despite being 141-51 overall.  The first stat alone indicates that he has peaked during his tenure at Georgia, that he has gone as far as he can with that program.  Some new, dynamic blood in Athens, Ga., would perhaps finally help get the Bulldogs to consistent dominance of the SEC East, while Miami, Richt’s alma mater, has a head coach opening just waiting for a rock-solid fellow such as he.  If such a scenario were to play out, it could benefit both parties concerned, the latter particularly, with a fresh start.

What on Earth has happened to Arizona?  Early in the season, we anticipated they would be a factor in the Pac-12.  Last night, they embarrassed themselves on the road at Washington, after coughing up the game to Wazzu the previous week.  The Wildcats will not have much time to lick their wounds, either, as next week they take on USC, followed by Utah the week after, and the week after that they close the regular season against rival Arizona State, possibly with a 5-7 at this rate (they are current 5-4, and 2-4 in the conference).

College Football Week 8 Awards October 27, 2015

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GT-FSU2015

Georgia Tech blocked a last-second field goal attempt by Florida State, and returned said blocked kick for a game-winning touchdown in one of the most fantastic finishes of the season.

(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 8] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES Wish I were him: Clay Helton, USC

Glad I’m not him: Gus Malzahn, Auburn

Lucky guy: Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

Poor guy: Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Doc Holliday, Marshall

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Al Golden, Miami

Desperately seeking … anything:  George O’Leary, UCF

TEAMS Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Oklahoma State (defeated Kansas 58-10)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Pitt (defeated Syracuse 23-10)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Rutgers (lost to No. 1 Ohio State 49-7)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Maryland (lost to Penn State 31-30)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Mississippi State (defeated Kentucky 42-16)

Dang, they’re good: Clemson

Dang, they’re bad:  UCF

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Utah

Did the season start? Arizona

Can the season end?  Kansas

Can the season never endOhio State

GAMES

Play this again:  No. 8 Alabama 19, Tennessee 14

Play this again, too:  Arkansas 54, Auburn 46 (4OT)

Never play this again: No. 6 Clemson 55, Miami 0

What? UCLA 40, No. 20 Cal 24

HuhNo. 24 Ole Miss 23, No. 15 Texas A&M 3

Are you kidding me?  Georgia Tech 22, No. 9 Florida State 16

Oh – my – GodUSC 42, No. 3 Utah 24

Told you so:  Vanderbilt 10, Missouri 3

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 8, pre-week 9)

Ticket to die for:  No. 11 Florida @ Georgia in Jacksonville

Also:  USC @ No. Cal

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: No. 11 Notre Dame @ No. 22 Temple

Best non-Power Five matchup: Louisiana Tech @ Rice

Upset alert: Tennessee @ Kentucky

Must win: Arizona @ Washington

Offensive explosion: No. 10 Stanford @ Washington State

Defensive struggle: Maryland @ No. 12 Iowa

Great game no one is talking about:  North Carolina @ No. 25 Pitt

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Mark Helfrich of Oregon vs. Todd Graham of Arizona State

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 17 Oklahoma @ Kansas

Why are they playing? Tennessee-Martin @ Arkansas

Plenty of good seats remaining: Idaho @ New Mexico State

They shoot horses, don’t they?  UTSA @ North Texas

Week 8 Take-aways:

And to think that everyone thought it would be a down week for football.  That was before Texas won a ground-and-pound game at home, in the rainy remnants over Hurricane Patricia, over Kansas State.  That was also before Georgia Tech, who has had a down year compared to the previous season, recreated Michigan State’s improbably win from last week by A) blocking a field goal, B) against No. 9 Florida State, and C) ran it in for a game-winning touchdown as the final seconds ticked off the clock, in one of the greatest fantastic finishes of the season, if not the decade.  This of course, is NOT to discount Michigan State’s fantastic finish from the previous week!

In the SEC, a noticeable upset occurred in the evening when Ole Miss held Texas A&M to only a field goal for the entire game.  Speaking of the SEC, Tennessee apparently continues to improve, as their annual rivalry game between Alabama lived up to said rivalry’s prestige, for the Vols played the highly ranked Tide as if they themselves were also a top-ten team.  Though Tennessee ultimately lost, it ought to be considered a moral victory, and foreseeably, teams will take the Vols lightly at their own peril.

Then to cap things off for the day, USC upset No. 3-ranked Utah at home, 42-24.  It was more than a defeat, it was a demolition.  Apparently nothing galvanizes a team with good talent like their coach being let go mid-season under unconventional circumstances and then being left for dead by everybody who pays attention to their sport.  Such a win no doubt generates some degree of momentum, but can the Men of Troy maintain it and salvage their season in so doing?  They shall have a solid test to prove that they can against insurgent Cal next week.  Fight on?

Apropos of nothing, who could have guessed at the beginning of the season that Auburn, who started off ranked no. 6 in the nation, would be 4-3 and 1-3 in the SEC by the end of eighth week?

College Football 2015 Quick Preview September 3, 2015

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AubLou_GeorgiaDome2015

Atlanta bolsters its stature as one of the epicenters of college football by being the host city for arguably the best game of Week 1. Photo by Paul Abell, USA Today Sports.

Another glorious season of college football is about to commence.  Come the evening of Thurs., Sept. 3, teams will have kicked off the most exciting three months in all of sports (four if you count the bowl game postseason), and come late Monday evening, the fans, analysts and pundits alike shall have had a look at whether or not the preseason rankings are worth any count.

What is particularly attractive about this particular opening weekend is that, unlike in some years past, there is a critical mass of high-stakes games from the beginning.  Sure, the body-bag games abound as they usually do during Week One.  However, there are many high-ranked teams that are about to butt heads with other ranked teams, or teams that are near-ranked and hungry for respect from the voters.

From the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic in Atlanta, to an incredibly delectable home opener for Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., to a Carolina border war Thursday evening, to a revenge game for Urban Meyer & Co. in Blacksburg, Va., on Labor Day evening, this weekend has it all.  Below is thus faithfully submitted a list highlight and lowlight games on which to keep a fan’s eye.  Enjoy, and God Bless America!

Ticket to die for Auburn vs. Louisville in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta; possible Texas @ Notre Dame, too.

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: Western Kentucky @ Vanderbilt; BYU @ Nebraska

Best non-Power Five matchup: UNL @ Northern Illinois; Ohio U @ Idaho

Upset alert: Texas @ Notre Dame; TCU @ Minnesota (don’t laugh);

Must win: Ohio State @ Virginia Tech; Purdue @ Marshall

Offensive explosion: Arizona State @ Texas A&M

Defensive struggle: BYU @ Nebraska

Great game no one is talking about: South Carolina vs. North Carolina in Charlotte; Michigan @ Utah; Washington @ Boise State; Stanford @ Northwestern

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Gus Malzahn of Auburn vs. Bobby Petrino of Louisville and Paul Chryst of Wisconsin vs. Nick Saban of Alabama; Todd Graham of Arizona State vs. Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M

Who’s bringing the body bags? Baylor @ SMU; Akron @ Oklahoma; Mississippi State @ Southern Miss; UTSA @ Arizona; Michigan State @ Western Michigan; Texas State @ Florida State; Wofford @ Clemson; LA Monroe @ Georgia – and that’s the short list!

 Why are they playing? Savannah State @ Colorado State; Oklahoma State @ Central Michigan; Norfolk State @ Rutgers; Arkansas State @ USC

Plenty of good seats remaining: Villanova @ UConn; also, Presbyterian @ Miami (Ohio); also Old Dominion @ Eastern Michigan;

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Bethune-Cookman @ Miami (Fla.); Georgia Southern @ West Virginia; Tennessee Tech @ Houston; Elon @ Wake Forest

College Football Awards Week 11 November 11, 2014

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ASU_NotreDame2014(Note: All rankings are current AP [week 11] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Todd Graham, Arizona State

Glad I’m not him: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State (hon. mention: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame)
Lucky guy: Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Poor guy: Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Tony Levine, Houston

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Doc Holliday, Marshall

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Desperately seeking … anything: Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 11 Ole Miss (defeated Presbyterian 48-0)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Penn State (defeated Indiana 13-7)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Kentucky (lost to No. 20 Georgia 63-31)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t: Wake Forest (lost to No. 21 Clemson 34-20)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did: Marshall (defeated Southern Miss 63-17)

Dang, they’re good: TCU
Dang, they’re bad: Iowa State

You know, they’re not so bad: Louisville
Can’t Stand Prosperity: Michigan State

Did the season start? West Virginia

Can the season end? Buffalo
Can the season never end? Ohio State

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 3 Auburn 35, No. 3 Ole Miss 31

Play this again, too: No. 24 Duke 51, Pittsburgh 48
Never play this again: Marshall 63, Southern Miss 17

What? Texas 33, No. 23 West Virginia 16

Huh? No. 9 Arizona State 55, No. 10 Notre Dame 31
Are you kidding me? No. 14 Ohio State 49, No. 8 Michigan State 37

Oh – my – God: Texas A&M 41, No. 3 Auburn 38

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 11, pre-week 12)
Ticket to die for: No. 1 Mississippi State @ No. 5 Alabama

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: Temple @ Penn State

Best non-Power Five matchup: East Carolina @ Cincinnati

Upset alert: No. 16 LSU @ Arkansas

Must win: South Carolina @ Florida

Offensive explosion: Missouri @ Texas A&M

Defensive struggle: Virginia Tech @ No. 22 Duke

Great game no one is talking about: No. 14 Ohio State @ Minnesota

Intriguing coaching matchup: Mark Stoops of Kentucky vs. Butch Jones of Tennessee

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 6 TCU @ Kansas

Why are they playing? Georgia Southern @ Navy

Plenty of good seats remaining: Troy @ Idaho

They shoot horses, don’t they?  No. 12 Michigan State @ Maryland

 

Week 11 Random Thoughts:

  • So many good games took place from 19:00 or later on the 8th of November. Start with Louisville at Boston College, which should not have been interesting on paper, but was, unfortunately, due to the Cardinals’ inability to get it together for the first half (they did in the second). Then again, the Cards have always had their troubles with BC!  But then came TCU vs. Kansas State. Bill Snyder has put together an excellent team for this year, and the Wildcats being well-coached shows on the field (especially against Auburn early on in the season). But even a good time like KSU was no match for Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs, who are making every statement they can in order to vie for the playoffs.

Or, look at Ohio State vs. Michigan State. After the Buckeyes laid an egg at home to a mediocre Virginia Tech squad, everybody was skeptical as to how good a team they truly were. Leave it to Urban Meyer to coach his talented bunch up to be more than a match for Mark Dantonio’s Spartans.

But it turned out the most important game, and the one with the biggest national title implications was the Alabama-LSU game. In typical fashion, it was a defensive struggle, and just to make things even more exciting / to heighten the already high degree of urgency even further, the game went into overtime. The Crimson Tide still have a brutal slate of games ahead, but their win is certain a step in the right direction for them

  • As I have noted before, Notre Dame is overrated. To be sure, I also noted (in other article) that they are enigmatic. But the overrated question mark remained; lurking, hidden, just waiting for the right opportunity to emerge. Thanks be to Todd Graham and the Arizona State Sun Devils to confirm that which us skeptics felt all along. After all, to have the Irish be among the final four, thus displacing a far-more deserving second SEC team in the process, would have been a travesty beyond words: a travesty, thankfully, that will be pre-empted before it even began.

College Football Week 7 Awards October 13, 2014

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(MissSt_Auburn2014 Note: All rankings are current AP [week 7] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

Wish I were him, too: Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

Glad I’m not him: Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Lucky guy: Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

Poor guy: Charlie Strong, Texas
Desperately seeking a wake-up clue: Bobby Petrino, Louisville

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Jim McElwain, Colorado State

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Gary Pinkel, Missouri
Desperately seeking … anything: Paul Petrino, Idaho

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Tennessee (beat Chattanooga 45-10)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: No. 6 Notre Dame (beat North Carolina 50-43)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Chattanooga (lost to Tennessee 45-10)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t: Purdue (lost to No. 8 Michigan State 45-31)
Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did: No. 13 Georgia (defeated No. 23 Missouri 34-0)

Dang, they’re good: Mississippi State (and Ole Miss)
Dang, they’re bad: UConn

You know, they’re not so bad: Central Florida
Can’t Stand Prosperity: Missouri

Did the season start? Texas
Can the season end? Idaho
Can the season never end? Ole Miss and Mississippi State

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 7 Baylor 58, No. 9 TCU 61

Play this again, too: LSU 30, Florida 27
Never play this again: Arkansas State 52, Georgia State 10

What? Iowa 45, Indiana 21

Huh? USC 28, No. 10 Arizona 26
Are you kidding me? Duke 31, No. 22 Georgia Tech 25

Oh – my – God: No. 3 Mississippi State 38, No. 2 Auburn 23

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 7, pre-week 8)
Ticket to die for: No. 5 Notre Dame @ No. 2 Florida State

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: (none, notwithstanding the “Why Are They Playing” entry)

Best non-Power Five matchup: Fresno State @ Boise State

Upset alert: No. 10 Georgia @ Arkansas

Must win: No. 21 Texas A&M @ No. 7 Alabama

Offensive explosion: No. 4 Baylor @ West Virginia

Defensive struggle: Kentucky @ LSU
Great game no one is talking about: Utah State @ Colorado State

Intriguing coaching matchup: David Shaw of Stanford vs. Todd Graham of Arizona State (also, Bill Snyder of Kansas State vs. Bob Stoops of Oklahoma)

Who’s bringing the body bags? Colorado @ No. 22 USC

Why are they playing? Furman @ South Carolina

Plenty of good seats remaining: New Mexico State @ Idaho

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Southern Miss @ North Texas

Week 7 Random Thoughts:

  • This weekend was almost as epic as the previous one. True, there were the amount of upsets to match last week, but there were great matchups and key tests therein. Both flagship schools from the Magnolia State proved that they not only could stand prosperity, but that last week’s wins proved to be no flukes. Indeed, Ole Miss went in to College Station, Texas, in front of the largest crowd ever to assemble for a football game in the Lone Star State (106,000 fans), and beat the Aggies in convincing fashion, 35-20. Meanwhile, Mississippi State had just as huge a challenge as they had the previous week, if not even more so in a cagey Auburn squad. The fact that they beat the Tigers/War Eagles at home shows that the Bulldogs are for real, and that their No. 1 ranking is no happenstance.
  • Last week I observed of the inconclusiveness of Purdue’s win over Illinois. The unanswered question at the time was, had the Boilermakers improved that much from their inept showing against Iowa the previous week, or were the Illini just that bad? After their respectable showing against a very tough Michigan State squad, I am compelled to conclude that they have, in fact, improved: clearly a positive trend.

Josiah Price, Ja'Whan Bentley

  • So what was up with those God-awful, all-white uniforms that Purdue wore at home? It turns out that they intended to use neon-yellow trim on their uniforms for some sort of breast cancer awareness gesture. For some inexplicable reason, Nike refused to make a black jersey for them in that sort of trim, so the Boilers went all-white instead. Sounds like the Boilers should switch to Under Armor, for such a refusal for a team is most unbecoming. Seeing things another way, would Nike have a refused such a thing to, say, Oregon?
  • They say that the team that makes the fewest mistakes wins. The Longhorns demonstrated that in spades against Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Statistically, they dominated the Sooners, but too many miscues, penalties and turnovers caused them to give up the game. Even more ironic was that the Sooners were ranked ahead of Texas anyhow. Now we know why. Charlie Strong has his work cut out for him in terms of stemming such mistakes in the near future.

College Football Week 4 Awards September 22, 2014

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Indiana Missouri Football2014(Note: All rankings are current AP [week 4] unless otherwise noted.)

 

COACHES
Wish I were him: Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

Glad I’m not him: Les Miles, LSU
Lucky guy: Rich Rodriguez, Arizona

Poor guy: Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Gary Pinkel, Missouri
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Ruffin McNeil, East Carolina

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Larry Fedora, North Carolina
Desperately seeking … anything: Bob Diaco, UConn

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 11 Michigan State (defeated Eastern Michigan 73-14)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Central Michigan (lost to Kansas 24-10)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Troy (lost to No. 13 Georgia 66-0)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t: Texas State (lost to Illinois 42-35)
Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did: East Carolina (defeated North Carolina 70-41)

Dang, they’re good: Alabama
Dang, they’re bad: Hawaii

You know, they’re not so bad: Arkansas
Can’t Stand Prosperity: LSU

Did the season start? Virginia Tech
Can the season end? Eastern Michigan
Can the season never end? East Carolina

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 1 Florida State 23, No. 22 Clemson 17
Never play this again: North Texas 77, Nichols 3

What? East Carolina 70, North Carolina 41

Huh? Georgia Tech 27, Virginia Tech 24
Are you kidding me? Indiana 31, No. 18 Missouri 27
Oh – my – God: Mississippi State 34, No. 8 LSU 29

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 4, pre-week 5)
Ticket to die for: Arkansas @ No. 6 Texas A&M

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: Cincinnati @ No. 22 Ohio State
Best non-Power Five matchup: Central Michigan @ Toledo

Upset alert: Tennessee @ No. 12 Georgia

Must win: Missouri @ No. 13 South Carolina

Offensive explosion: North Carolina @ Clemson

Defensive struggle: Iowa @ Purdue
Great game no one is talking about: Texas Tech @ No. 24 Oklahoma State

Intriguing coaching matchup: Jim Mora of UCLA vs. Todd Graham of Arizona State

Who’s bringing the body bags? Wyoming @ No. 9 Michigan State

Why are they playing? New Mexico State @ No. 17 LSU

Plenty of good seats remaining: Miami (Ohio) @ Buffalo

They shoot horses, don’t they?  UTEP @ No. 25 Kansas State

 

Week 4 Random Thoughts:

  • This week, the Big Ten acquitted themselves rather well. After three weeks of disaster, along with nearly everyone in America paying attention to the college football scene about to write the one-great conference’s epitaph, the B1G appeared to have reminded folks that, to paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of their demise have been greatly exaggerated. To wit:
  • Maryland upset Syracuse. The Orange, who were 2-0 going into the game, seemed to be the favored team (especially since they were playing at home in the Carrier Dome). But the Terps showed up, and won 34-20, on the road.
  • Yes, even Purdue won, even though they had to defeat an FCS team in order to do so, beating the Southern Illinois Salukis only 35-14. Just one more touchdown would have made the win semi-convincing.
  • Iowa won on the road, defeating a respectable Pitt team, 24-20, in the last minutes of the game, no less.
  • Think Purdue’s win was less-than-convincing? Check out Northwestern: they beat Western Illinois 24-7. Still, a win is a win – at least, in this case.
  • Michigan State, without any surprise, thrashed their directional neighbor Eastern Michigan 73-14, in what amounted to be one of the biggest “body bag games” of the week.
  • Even though Illinois had to struggle to do so, they pulled in out in the end over Texas State, 42-35.
  • Granted, there was a rather ignominious loss concerning Michigan. To be sure, Utah is not a horrible team, but they’re not great either. Moreover, this was a home game for the Wolverines, who failed to even reach the red zone. In the Big House.
  • Wisconsin’s blowout win over Bowling Green at home, 68-17, came as little surprise. And I must say, the Badgers’ red helmets look very nice indeed!
  • Minnesota beat San Jose State 24-7.
  • Let us not forget Nebraska’s win at home over Miami (Fla.), 41-31.
  • Rutgers did beat Navy, 31-24, and the Midshipmen are never to be taken lightly.
  • That said, Indiana (yes, that Indiana) represented the entire conference well by beating a more-than-respectable Missouri Tigers squad on the road. If these shadows remained unchanged, the Hoosiers could take the conference by storm this year (notwithstanding Michigan State or Ohio State, who both happen to inhabit the same division as IU).
  • So, 12-1 for the conference is not bad considering the previous two weeks. Were it not been for Ohio State’s bye week, it might have been 13-1.
  • In other news, while I hate to see LSU take it on the chin, it is very nice indeed to see Dan Mullen and Mississippi State get a nice, signature win.

College Football Week 3 Awards September 15, 2013

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 3] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Mark Helfrich, Oregon

Glad I’m not him: Gary Patterson, TCU

Lucky guy: Todd Graham, Arizona State
Poor guy: Gary Andersen, Wisconsin
Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Charlie Strong, Louisville
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: George O’Leary, Central Florida

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Ron Turner, Florida International
Desperately seeking … anything:  Willie Taggert, South Florida

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 10 Florida State (defeated Nevada 62-7)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: No. 11 Michigan (defeated Akron 28-24)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Tennessee (lost to No. 2 Oregon 59-14)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Purdue (lost to No. 21 Notre Dame 31-24)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  USC (defeated Boston College 35-7)

Dang, they’re good: Oregon
Dang, they’re bad:  Florida International
Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Penn State

Did the season start?  Texas
Can the season end?  South Florida
Can the season never endOle Miss

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 1 Alabama 49, No. 6 Texas A&M 42

Play this again, too:  Oregon State 51, Utah 48
Never play this again: Utah State 70, Weber 6

What? Arizona State 32, No. 20 Wisconsin 30

HuhSouth Alabama 31, Western Kentucky 24
Are you kidding me?  Texas Tech 20, No. 24 TCU 10
Oh – my – GodCentral Florida 34, Penn State 31

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 3, pre-week 4)
Ticket to die for:  Tennessee @ No. 19 Florida

Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: Utah State @ USC

Best non-Big Six matchup: Boise State @ Fresno State

Upset alert: Purdue @ No. 24 Wisconsin

Must win: Kansas State @ Texas

Offensive explosion: Boise State @ Fresno State
Defensive struggle: Hawaii @ Nevada
Great game no one is talking about: Utah @ BYU, or, North Carolina @ Georgia Tech

Intriguing coaching matchup: Mark Dantonio of Michigan State vs. Brian Kelly of No. 22 Notre Dame

Who’s bringing the body bags? Florida International @ No. 7 Louisville

Why are they playing? Florida A&M @ No. 4 Ohio State

Plenty of good seats remaining: UTSA @ UTEP

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Louisiana-Monroe @ No. 20 Baylor

Week 3 in Review:

The game that has been billed by the media and built up in the minds of many a fan nationwide certainly lived up to its billing/hype yesterday.  No. 1-ranked Alabama is sure to retain atop the mountain of college football rankings after defeating the home team No. 6 Texas A&M in a thriller of a game.  The key to the success of the Crimson Tide was figuring out how to contain the Aggies’ QB Johnny Manziel, by not allowing him sufficient access to the outsides of the hash marks and instead forcing him inside, up the middle (both of running and throwing) as a means of containing the threat of his talents.  In the end, it worked.  Best of all, “Johnny Football” seemed surprisingly humble, contrite, and team-oriented during the postgame press conference. After witnessing all of his antics the previous weeks, this was a rather pleasing development. Time will tell if he truly did learn a lesson or two from this loss, or whether he will devolve back to the cocky, reckless punk he was earlier.

Other random thoughts:

A curious case of both Michigan and Notre Dame arose this past Saturday.  The former team had to struggle at home to beat the Akron Zips, and only doing so in the last minutes of play.  Meanwhile, Notre Dame, an ostensibly revitalized, nationally viable team under head coach Brian Kelly, had to earn – in every sense of the word – a win against a Purdue team whose performance prior to this game was suspect at best.  Perhaps this strange case is a result of a hangover from big game between the two the following week.  Lots of media hype and team energy went into that game, and as anybody who has any real experience in college football can tell you, one of the biggest challenges in the sport is trying to get 19-20 year-olds to play consistently week in and week out.  Or, it could be at both Akron and Purdue are better than we thought they were.  Concerning the latter, it could have been that the Boilers were looking past Indiana State (could you blame them?) and devoted some extra prep time to dealing with the Fighting Irish.  Certainly a plausible scenario, no?  What remains intriguing about this case is that, in all likelihood, Michigan and Notre Dame will be just fine.  But it could also be that Akron and Purdue are on the rise from the doldrums in which both programs have been stuck for the past several years.  Time will tell.

Meanwhile, Texas lost another game, this time at home, against a respectable opponent in Ole Miss. The Longhorns were supposed to have gotten things together, so we were told. After all, before last week’s BYU debacle (in which they lost 40-21), they were ranked No. 15 in the nation.  This week, the Rebels came into Austin ranked #25.  Yet the Horns lost again, this time 44-23.  It is conceivable that Texas could turn things around and that the defense could get more settled under new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson.  Or, it could be that the wheels are coming off the program, and as much as Longhorn Nation likes head coach Mack Brown personally, it is time for a changing of the guard.  Right now, though, things are not looking good on the 40 Acres, and the prognosis for the second Saturday in October is not that rosy, either.

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.

Bowl Game “Categories” December 11, 2012

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COACHES: (following Week 15)

Lucky Guy:  Ken Niumatalolo, Navy

Poor Guy:  Rich Ellerson, Army

TEAMS:

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t:  Navy

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Army

UPCOMING BOWL GAMES:

Ticket to die for:  No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Alabama in the BCS National Championship, Miami, Jan. 7

Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: Nevada vs. Arizona in the New Mexico Bowl, Dec. 15

Best non-Big Six matchup: East Carolina vs. Louisiana-Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl, Dec. 22

Upset alert: No. 16 Nebraska over No. 7 Georgia in the Capital One Bowl (formerly the Citrus Bowl), Orlando, Fla., Jan. 1 (the reasons for this possibility are to be explained in a subsequent article).

Old Rivals Reunite:  No. 9 Texas A&M vs. No. 11 Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, Dallas (Arlington), Jan. 4    Also:  West Virginia vs. Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl, Bronx, N.Y., Dec. 29

Home Field Advantage:   Vanderbilt vs. North Carolina State in the Music City Bowl, Nashville, Tenn., Dec. 31

Must win:  Pitt vs. Ole Miss (both 6-6) in the BBVA Compass Bowl, Birmingham, Ala., Jan. 5

Offensive explosion: Baylor vs. No. 17 UCLA in the Holiday Bowl, San Diego, Dec. 27

Defensive struggle: possibly none.  Then again, possibly TCU vs. Michigan State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Tempe, Ariz., Dec. 29.

Great game no one is talking about: Mississippi State vs. No. 20 Northwestern in the Gator Bowl, Jacksonville, Jan. 1

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Ken Niumatalolo of Navy vs. Todd Graham of Arizona State in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, San Francisco, Dec. 29

Intriguing Lack-of-Coach matchup:  No. 25 Kent State vs. Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl, Mobile, Ala., Jan. 6

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 21 Louisville vs. No. 3 Florida in the Sugar Bowl, New Orleans, Jan. 2               Also:  See next item below!

Why are they playing? No. 15 Northern Illinois vs. No. 12 Florida State in the Orange Bowl, Miami, Jan. 1

Plenty of good seats remaining: Rice vs. Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl, Fort Worth, Texas, Dec. 29

They shoot horses, don’t they?  USC vs. Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas, Dec. 31

ArmyNavy2012-1When it comes to the bowl games themselves, plenty more humorously-talented writers than I have taken their stab at wryly skewering most of the matchups.  Perhaps the best example of this would be the talented folks at everydayshouldbesaturday.com, who have done just that regarding the aforementioned skewering.

Having said that, a brief pause is in order for the Army-Navy game this past weekend, for it was a viewing pleasure.  The game was the best of this storied match-up in recent memory; big plays on both sides, a close score throughout the game, and lots of heart and extra efforts on both sides of the ball.  It was a darn shame one of them had to lose, especially Army, who lost in heartbreaking fashion after fumbling the ball with only 15 yards and a minute to go before scoring a touchdown to otherwise win the game.  Instead, the Midshipmen have triumphed over the Black Knights for the 11th year in a row (!).  But the game was also a viewing pleasure from a uniforms aesthetics standpoint, too.  The gold in Army’s helmets was a true old gold, and harkened directly back to the glory days of Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis.  Why don’t they use that gold in their helmets all the time today?  The WWII maps in their jersey numbers and black helmet stripe was a way-cool touch, too!  Meanwhile, Navy’s tri-tone white helmet was awesome to behold.  Chrome-gold on blue on white is something never before seen at any major level of football; congrats to the Middies for this new innovation in artistic helmet design!