Monday, December 05, 2011

Creole sugar tasting sweeter than rest of BCS stew

It’s official: Michigan is headed to the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 3 in New Orleans and the entire Bowl Championship Series is headed for the crapper. The process to select a national Division 1 football champion (without actually using a sensible playoff system) has spit out a rematch for its coveted crystal football – a game most fans, outside of the Southeastern Conference, do NOT want to see; that contest has been held and decided.
But in the wisdom and contrivance of too many computerized system, it has been declared that undefeated LSU, the legitimate top-ranked team in the nation, will play Alabama, the squad the Tigers beat 9-6 in an overtime battle of field goals in early November.
It, frankly, stinks; it is NOT what most of college football wants to see, and in the process of this ridiculous charade, many excellent programs got the shaft so hard, they might as well employ Isaac Hayes’ classic theme for their entrances (and that means the likes of TCU, Boise State, Houston, Southern Miss and, yes, Michigan State).
Michigan’s appearance almost completes the circle of full redemption from last year’s disastrous conclusion to the 2010 year in the Gator Bowl. A victory over a good (but not great) Virginia Tech squad, accomplished by playing at their best, will allow the Wolverines to feel totally vindicated.
And has anyone noticed that 10 of the schedule’s 12 opponents earned bowl bids of some kind – including San Diego State and Western Michigan. The only two schools NOT invited? Eastern Michigan (although head coach Ron English was named MAC Coach of the Year) and Minnesota. I’m not sure how many schools can equal that.
The BCS need to institute several changes to its policy for picking championship game participants – all based on the avoidance of a rematch of ANY kind (either scheduled or from conference play).
First, two teams from the same conference cannot face each other in the finals. When Ohio State beat Michigan 42-39 in 2006, they were the top two-ranked teams in America and little of what happened in Columbus changed that. Yet … they did not play a second time for the 2007 national championship. As difficult as it is to say, Michigan had its bite at the apple and fell short. Another team would assume that mantle (Florida did and won it all).
Besides, let’s assume Alabama does upset LSU on Jan. 9; what will football fans then expect? A best 2-out-of-3? The bickering could be endless; the best answer is to avoid such a scenario.
The team burnt the most by the choice is Oklahoma State, sitting at 11-1, having utterly and thoroughly destroyed in-state rival Oklahoma in the season finale. The Cowboys would be MORE than a worthy opponent to LSU, offering someone not often seen in the SEC – a potent offense. Much of the defensive statistical supremacy by a host of SEC schools can be attributed to offensively-challenged systems. No one can really name one school whose attack was superlative; Oklahoma State is capable of overwhelming most defenses so playing the best unit (LSU) could make for a compelling matchup.
People inaccurately point to OSU’s double overtime loss at Iowa State as the reason for non-placement in the BCS title game. Yet very few fans, outside of Stillwater, remember the circumstances under which that game was played.
A plane crash the night before had killed two members of the OSU women’s basketball staff and two of the school’s major boosters; all of Stillwater was in morning. YET … because the game was set for Friday night, prime time, on ESPN, it HAD to be played. Or did it? Would a postponement really have been so improper, in deference to the tragedy that also affected the football program?
Iowa State played out of its mind and Oklahoma State seemed distracted, but the Cyclones earned their win and no one from OSU bitched about it. Their performances from that point forward seemed to employ more urgency and the annihilation of OU was the capper.
Of course, the team who “might” have been the one to play on Jan. 9 is ineligible – Southern Cal. Because of that status, the Pac-12 championship march was a joke; all the quality was in one division (Oregon, Stanford) and the Pac-12 title game produced a team that is the only one going to a bowl game with a losing record (UCLA).
Come to think of it, after so many other programs have committed equally egregious violations, why IS Southern Cal on the outside looking in? All because of one player? Come on…
Speaking of UCLA, if you have a sub-.500 record, you simply cannot, and should not, be allowed into ANY post-season bowl game. Period! And if there are not enough teams to fill those slots, cancel the damn game. Sorry, Boise, you ain’t playing this year; sorry, Little Caesars, no bowl bowl for pizza pizza.
And the most worthless of the matchups should be relegated to the kind of channels the Republican presidential candidates held their debates. A few public access outlets might want to show the Belk Bowl.
Next, some conferences lose their automatic bids if their teams stink too much – specifically the Big East. It’s a basketball conference; football is an after-thought. The Mountain West has more of a legitimate claim than the Big East. And if you have members west of the Ohio River, you’re not the Big EAST anymore.
If football purists really want fewer games and better competition in the post-season, then do this: winner take all! Excluding the major games, let’s have all these 6-6, 7-5 and 8-4 schools play on an “all in” basis (especially at the Las Vegas Bowl), with the winner of the contest (and that includes the coaches and players) getting 100 percent of the payout. The loser gets squat, squa-doosh, zilch.
If that was the situation, you’d see two things: a MUCH better contest and fewer of them because many of the schools would back away from that proposal. School presidents wouldn’t have the same stomach to take that wager as they do when wined and dined by these various bowl committees and respective chambers of commerce.
One other thing: except for the BCS title game, one game to a city per year. Sorry, San Diego it’s either the Poinsettia OR the Holiday Bowl … but not both. Same goes for Orlando and New Orleans.
Obviously, an eight-team or 16-team playoff system, held between school semesters, climaxing in late-January on the weekend before the Super Bowl, would end all this nonsense about the BCS. A real national champion would be earned, not pre-anointed by some jukebox of a computer and a smoked-filled meeting room.
For anyone going to New Orleans for the first time, eat beignets and café aulait at the world famous Café DuMond at 2 a.m., see Audubon Park, ride the trolley up and down St. Francis, listen and watch the street scenes around Jackson Square, see the galleries on Royal Street include George Rodrigue’s “Blue Dog” exhibition, and eat at the greatest garden (and most decadent) buffet in the world, The Court of Two Sisters – make sure you order some mimosas.
New Orleans is a Creole city, as opposed to Cajun (which is the rest of Southwest Louisiana, also known as the Acadian region). Creole cooking involves sauces, Cajun cooking involves spices (youse gotta know dat).
So let the good times roll and Geaux Blue!
Here are the BCS bowl lineups (with comments):
Rose Bowl (presented by Vizio) (Pasadena, Calif.), Jan. 2, 5 p.m. – Oregon (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (11-2) (ESPN)
The only way Bucky Badger wins this game is ball control and keeping the Oregon offense off the field. Michigan State possesses just half the potency on offense as do the Ducks and they scored a bunch against Wisconsin. This is Oregon’s chance for redemption from last year’s Rose Bowl.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.) Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. – Oklahoma State (11-1) vs. Stanford (11-1), (ESPN)
In a parallel world, this would be worthy of the national title. The battle could be between the top best pro-style quarterbacks in the collegiate game and NFL scouts could account for a significant portion of the crowd. The Cowboys have more to prove than the Cardinal.
Allstate Sugar Bowl (Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La.) Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m. – Michigan (10-2) vs. Virginia Tech (11-2) (ESPN)
There’s no history between these two schools so animosity will not be a factor. But Michigan has played, for the most part, with chips on its shoulders and this should be continued vindication on two levels – which the coaching change was the right move and there was enough talent on campus to have prevented what happened the previous three years.
Discover Orange Bowl (Sun Life Stadium, Miami, Fla.) Jan. 4, 8 p.m. – Clemson (10-3) vs. West Virginia (9-3) (ESPN)
You have to like any coach whose name is “Dabo.” And no Michigan fan should be able to like anything labeled “West Virginia” – again because of the previous three seasons.
Allstate BCS National Championship (Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La.), Jan. 9, 8:30 p.m. – LSU (13-0) vs. Alabama (11-1) (ESPN)
LSU’s defense is more dynamic than Trent Richardson for the Crimson Tide. Someone will actually score a touchdown, but the real question is whether America will be so “gamed” out by Jan. 9 to care about watching…even on ESPN.
And here is the full schedule for the also-rans:
Gildan New Mexico Bowl (UNM Stadium, Albuquerque, N.M.), Dec. 17, 2 p.m. – Temple (8-4) vs. Wyoming (8-4) (ESPN)
Gildan is some kind of activewear company (that sells the blank shirts/fleece that are used by screenprinters) that I’ve never heard of… blank as in this “who cares” game. El Pinto is a great Mexican restaurant in north Albuquerque and makers of the best green chile salsa and sauce I’ve ever tasted. It should have been the sponsor.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Bronco Stadium, Boise, Id.) Dec. 17, 5:30 p.m. – Ohio (9-4) vs. Utah State (7-5) (ESPN)
Five minutes of watching any game on this blue carpet will send you straight to the ophthalmologist for severe eye damage. If you need a local/state team to boost your attendance, it’s a game that should never be played.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La.) Dec. 17, 9 p.m. – Louisiana-Lafayette (9-3) vs. San Diego State (8-4) (ESPN)
Michigan played its first quality overall game versus the Aztecs, heading into Big Ten action. SDSU was better than it showed in Ann Arbor. Louisiana-Lafayette is down Interstate-10 from New Orleans and used to be the Southwestern Louisiana Rajun Cajuns. Press box food ought to be pretty good, though.
Beef O’Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl (Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla.) Dec. 20, 8 p.m. – Florida International (8-4) vs. Marshall (6-6) (ESPN)
Never heard of Beef O’Bradys, which is a Florida-based eatery chain that looks like any other generic joint of its kind. So does the game, with (again) a state team needed to boost ticket sales. And why is Marshall here? So we can rehash the story of “We Are Marshall?” I’ll pass.
S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Calif.) Dec. 21, 8 p.m. – TCU (10-2) vs. Louisiana Tech (8-4) (ESPN)
My, oh my, how Texas Christian got completely screwed! Louisiana isn’t a quality opponent for the Horned Frogs to care about, and this assignment is a complete disrespecting of the program and its conference. TCU DID beat Boise State, BYU, Wyoming and SDSU, plus Air Force to go 7-0 in winning the Mountain West, and this is its reward? It stinks!
MAACO Las Vegas Bowl (Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Nev.) Dec. 22, 8 p.m. – Boise State (11-1) vs. Arizona State (6-6) (ESPN)
And then there’s Boise State penalized to this zero bowl game. If I am Boise, why would I give a flip for such a lousy also-ran as Arizona State, who is spending more time finding a new coach than coaching up its players to getting whipped like rented mules.
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hi.) Dec. 24, 8 p.m. – Nevada (7-5) vs. Southern Miss (11-2) (ESPN)
Once again, a conference champion being given the BCS finger. Southern Miss pulled one of Championship Week’s biggest upsets by defeating undefeated Houston and then no respect. At least the Golden Eagles will spend Christmas in Oahu.
AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl (Independence Stadium, Shreveport, La.) Dec. 26, 5 p.m. – Missouri (7-5) vs. North Carolina (7-5) (ESPN2)
Of all the places for a bowl game, Shreveport is probably at the bottom of anyone’s list. The stadium got renovated when it was State Fair Park, but it’s still not an inviting place to play. Just ask Texas A&M when the Aggies lost a game held in a full-fledged blizzard. This, however, would be a great basketball matchup. Can they substitute sports?
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (Ford Field, Detroit, Mich.) Dec. 27, 4:30 p.m. – Purdue (6-6) vs. Western Michigan (7-5) (ESPN)
They better giveaway tickets with special orders of cheesy bread and thee-topping pizzas, pickup only. No one is his or her right mind wants to see this game. Thank Goodness Godfather’s Pizza isn’t the sponsor; it could sell tickets, but still suspend the game.
Belk Bowl (Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.) Dec. 27, 8 p.m. – North Carolina State (7-5) vs. Louisville (7-5) (ESPN)
Belk is a retailer chain of stores specializing in a Southern lifestyle; Charlotte is a city which likes basketball more than anything. So they had to have NC State bus from Raleigh to sell tickets. Boo!
Military Bowl (presented by Northrup Grumman) (RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.) Dec. 28, 4:30 p.m. – Air Force (7-5) vs. Toledo (8-4) (ESPN)
At least there’s a school actually representing the service academies, as opposed to the Armed Forces Bowl which does not. Aside from Rocket fans, or Air Force personnel, interest doesn’t seem to be high.
Bridgeport Education Holiday Bowl (Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego) Dec. 28, 8 p.m. – California (7-5) vs. Texas (7-5) (ESPN)
This is a crime on SO many levels. Cal is too average and Texas’ offense is one of the weakest in all of college football. What’s sadder is how this bowl game, which once upon a time decided a national championship, is reduced to this.
Champs Sports Bowl (Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Fla.) Dec. 29, 5:30 p.m. – Florida State (8-4) vs. Notre Dame (8-4) (ESPN)
This game is more about past reputations than actual on-field performances. The Irish’s only top-flight win was over Michigan State; it was its golden-helmeted heads handed to it by Southern Cal. But FSU is not USC so Notre Dame might escape with a win in the final college game of the country’s best (and poorest utilized) receiver Michael Floyd.
Valero Alamo Bowl (Alamodome, San Antonio, Tex.) Dec. 29, 9 p.m. – Baylor (9-3) vs. Washington (7-5) (ESPN)
Baylor deserves a better showcase for the talents of Robert Griffin III than to play Washington, It used to be a Big Ten representative but the contract got changed. This year, there’s no decent Pac 12 team to match the Bears, who will destroy the Huskies.
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl (Gerald J. Ford Stadium-SMU, Dallas, Tex.) Dec. 30, Noon – BYU (9-3) vs. Tulsa (8-4) (ESPN)
The SMU campus stadium only holds 36,000 and it will STILL be half-empty for this matchup. That’s a sad prospect.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl (Yankee Stadium, New York City) Dec. 30, 3:20 p.m. – Rutgers (8-4) vs. Iowa State (6-6) (ESPN)
What’s next? The Clam Chowder Bowl played in Fenway Park? Or the Billy (Bartman) Goat Bowl in Wrigley Field? So Rutgers had to be imported from Jersey? The ghosts of Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard are shaking in their graves (when REAL football was played in Yankee Stadium).
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (LP Field, Nashville, Tenn.) Dec. 30, 6:40 p.m. – Mississippi State (6-6) vs. Wake Forest (6-6)
Funny, I thought all mortgage companies were in ruins; I know this matchup is in ruins. It really should be against the law to have a game with two teams without above-.500 records. And Michigan fans, whatever happened to the newest charging program in America? Wasn’t Mississippi State the darling of predictors after last year’s Gator Bowl swamping of UM? To quote Rick Perry, “Oops.”
Insight Bowl (Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.) Dec. 30, 10 p.m. – Iowa (7-5) vs. Oklahoma (9-3) (ESPN)
If a team played as poorly as did Oklahoma in its traditional rival game, with the Big 12 title on the line, it deserves to face no-name Iowa. I can’t see how OU even gives a damn about this game; Iowa could pull the upset.
Meineke Car Care of Texas Bowl (Reliant Stadium, Houston, Tex.) Dec. 31, Noon – Northwestern (6-6) vs. Texas A&M (6-6)
Amazing what beating Minnesota and Illinois gets you … a trip to Houston (it used to be called The Bluebonnet Bowl) to face the coach-less Texas A&M Aggies – THE single most disappointing football team of 2011. Sadly, the stadium will be stuffed with A&M fans and the 500 Wildcat followers will get lost, mistakenly thinking the game is at The Astrodome next door.
Hyundai Sun Bowl (El Paso, Tex.) Dec. 31, 2 p.m. – Georgia Tech (8-4) vs. Utah (7-5) (CBS)
Another former Big Ten/Pac-12 destination that has lost out. Too bad because the people in El Paso REALLY put on quite a show; one of the best in all America.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Memphis, Tenn.) Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. – Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6) (ABC)
Another former prestigious game reduced to inviting Vanderbilt, whose most memorable win is over hapless Tennessee. Cincinnati will have nothing to gain by beating the Commodores.
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (AT&T Park, San Francisco, Cal.) Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. – Illinois (6-6) vs. UCLA (6-7) (ESPN)
First, neither team has a head coach; both Ron Zook and Rick Neuheisel got fired. Second, UCLA does not have a winning record and should be ineligible. Third, I’d rather see a rematch of the Oakland cops versus Occupy Oakland protesters – it will be more interesting.
Chick-Fil-A Bowl (Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga.) Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. – Auburn (7-5) vs. Virginia (8-4) (ESPN)
Once upon a time, wasn’t this the Peach Bowl? Good thing it’s being played on a Saturday because all Chick-Fil-As are closed on Sunday…so no overtime in Atlanta. Virginia is a team on the up as Auburn tries to remember what it was like to win.
TicketCity Bowl (Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Tex.) Jan. 2, Noon – Houston (12-1) vs. Penn State (9-3) (ESPNU)
Follow me here: The Cotton Bowl, one of the original Big Four, was downgraded when the Fiesta Bowl bid higher. The Cotton Bowl people wanted a shinier palace to play their game so they accepted the bid from JerryWorld to depart the actual Cotton Bowl and go to Arlington. But the actual Cotton Bowl still needed a game, so it started a new game last year and TicketCity (which has no outlets in Dallas) became the sponsor. This year, poor Houston gets the short straw on little seen ESPNU to play toxic Penn State (for reasons not needed to be said) in a really good pairing. Not sure PSU has enough offense to match UH.
Capital One Bowl (Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Fla.) Jan. 2, 1 p.m. – Nebraska (9-3) vs. South Carolina (10-2) (ESPN)
This is Tier 1-A from BCS games. This actually is a very good, equal matchup between two name teams, one semi-legendary coach and one semi-traditional program. Nebraska would endear itself as a Big Ten member by actually … winning! Gator Bowl (EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Fla.) Jan. 2, 1 p.m. – Ohio State (6-6) vs. Florida (6-6) (ESPN2)
Everything about this game is a joke – from the sponsor name to the participants. The fact that Ohio State even received, and then accepted, a bowl bid shows the shame and the sham that is the NCAA … and its rules. If 10 people outside of Columbus and Gainesville watch this game, the TV police should go to their homes and remove their cable/satellite systems.
Outback Bowl (Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.) Jan. 2, 1 p.m. – Michigan State (10-3) vs. Georgia (10-3) (ABC)
Spartan fans can complain all they want, but they had the Big Ten title game won and let it go. Georgia, in turn, threw the scare of a lifetime into the BCS hierarchy by leading LSU 10-0 at half of the SEC championship. Of the sub-BCS level games, this is probably the best matchup (aside from the Cotton Bowl) and the edge should go to Sparty for playing through a more difficult schedule.
AT&T Cotton Bowl (Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Tex.) Jan. 6, 8 p.m. – Arkansas (10-2) vs. Kansas State (10-2) (FOX)
For the first time in years, the “new” Cotton Bowl has a better matchup than most of the BCS games. Arkansas was always overrated at number 3 and Kansas State was always underrated when it never entered the top 10. The Wildcats are for real, but the Razorbacks have one of the most fanatic followings. The move to Arlington was made to boost the Cotton Bowl to legitimate BCS standing; I just wish it was still played at the real palace.
BBVA Compass Bowl (Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala.) Jan. 7, 1 p.m. – Pittsburgh (6-6) vs. SMU (7-5) (ESPN)
I might be the only one among you who knows one of these coaches. Pitt’s Todd Graham used to coach here at Allen (Tex.) High School just 10 years ago, when I was working for that community paper. Since then, he’s worked for RichRod, and been head coach at Rice, Tulsa (his alma mater) and Pitt … and it wouldn’t surprise me if he bolted before kickoff here for another school. SMU’s inclusion doesn’t mean much, even here in Dallas. So enjoy.
GoDADDY.Com Bowl (Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Ala.) Jan. 8, 9 p.m. – Northern Illinois (10-3) vs. Arkansas State (10-2) (ESPN)
Didn’t they play the Senior Bowl here? And why are two conference champions (MAC, Sun Belt) playing in Mobile??? Oh yeah, no real coach at ASU; Hugh Freeze went to Ole Miss Monday.
If fans want to dump this silly system, it can be done by either refusing to watch these games or buying tickets to them. Economics will eventually drive/force the poo-bahs of college football to institute a playoff system, rotating the site of the tournament finals and using a system of game sites (calling them whatever bowls are used) with a wild card play-in match or two like Major League baseball.
It will bring true excitement and interest to college football instead of this pandering, manipulating (ask Coach Peterson at Boise State what HE did to try to fix his team’s chances) and near-bribery from bowl executives.
Meanwhile, enjoy New Orleans Michigan fans!!!

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