Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Another year of bowl game overload

They make office polls for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament draw but almost no one attempts to sweep through the holiday period when the BCS bowl game schedule is unveiled. It should be a college football junkie’s dreamscape – to have the remote locked on ESPN and see more football than an advance scout.
But there are problems, as usual, to the choices. First, and as always, there are just too many damn bowl games! I can’t think of ANY one, other than Vegas bookies, which cares one iota about the Belk Bowl, or if Duke even fields a football team. There are 35 post-season bowl games this season and by January 1, there’s a good chance you will need new glasses if you plan to see all the action. It’s simply waters down the competition because college football has a tapeworm inside its internal workings – unable to resist any company wanting to slap its moniker to some matchup in some stadium.
Once the overabundance of these games is firmly established, there are several other factors at play in this season’s bowl matchups to be discussed:
No, no No. Illinois – Regardless of a 12-1 record, putting the Huskies into a prime time BCS bowl game is not a stroke of inspiration; it is an insult to the other conferences NOT named the SEC. Primarily, a team like Oklahoma, which actually tied for the Big 12 title with Kansas State, would have been a far superior opponent for Florida State in the Orange Bowl. This is big boy college football, not the Equal Opportunity Agency.
Seriously, name ONE quality opponent Northern Illinois defeated in 2012! NIU lost to Iowa in the opener and only beat a lousy Army team (by one point) and Kansas (the only Big 12 NOT to earn a bowl berth). A BCS berth should be reserved for QUALITY teams who have come through a season of hard games and tough tests – Northern Illinois fails to qualify on both accounts.
Victims of its own success/hype – Sorry to all those Southeastern Conference fans and schools, but the rules state only TWO schools from one conference can obtain BCS spots; the SEC had six of the top 10 teams in a majority of the final polls. So … that means excellent teams get “stuck” in seemingly lackluster consolation bowls (such as LSU in the Chick-Fil-A, or former Peach Bowl).
The problem this year was the elevation of Florida past Georgia simply because the Bulldogs fought tooth-and-nail before falling to Alabama in the SEC title game. The setback dropped Georgia to fourth in the BCS behind idle Florida; a complete miscarriage of sports justice (those who watched the game know exactly how close a contest it was). Georgia got punished for trying to win a spot in the BCS championship by missing the Elite Eight in its entirety.
So its booby prize is facing Nebraska, a squad that choked SO badly, it allowed a lousy Wisconsin to hang 70 points on its “vaunted” defense.
Draw a line in the sand – It should be illegal/improper/unbearable to allow ANY team at 6-6 to play in a post-season contest. A bowl game was meant, once upon a time, as a reward for a season’s effort; now the 70 vacancies require that conference dip deep into mediocrity to fill commitments. This year, there are 11 schools that should be watching the post-season from their choices (… and yes, that includes Sparty and Central Michigan); it would also mean almost six games less to blur the brain and eyeballs.
Purdue was so ashamed of its season, head coach Danny Hope got fired because at 6-6, it wasn’t good enough. YET … it was just fine and dandy to get the Boilermakers into the Heart of Dallas Bowl at the “real” Cotton Bowl against another classic underachiever, Oklahoma State (7-5).
And, excuse me! But how in the hell did Georgia Tech, at 6-7, get anything but a trip to The Varsity Drive-In in Atlanta??? Again, it’s a sham selection.
Too many games, too many duplications – No city should hoist more than one game, other than the BCS championship and even then, it should be that city’s bowl namesake. Sorry, but San Diego, you need to choose between the Holiday and Poinsettia Bowls; the same goes for New Orleans and Orlando.
Play football in football places – In three cases, bowl games are slated to be held where football NEVER sees the light of day – Tropicana Field, AT&T Park, Yankee Stadium; one stadium, essentially empty for 364 days has been recruited for meaningless games (RFK Stadium in D.C.) will host the Military Bowl between two non-military teams (San Jose State and Bowling Green). Since the game is in Washington, there will be LOTS of lobbyists working the crowd in favor of their favorite defense contractor, such as sponsor Northrup Grumman. How nice!
Fear the Blue Potato Bowl – Poor Utah State! Its 10-2 record should have earned a nice trip out of town, or the state of Utah, but, no … the bizarrely named Famous Idaho Potato Bowl needs a local draw against Toledo so the Aggies will play on their rival’s ugly blue carpet surface in Boise, instead of some place with … sunshine and warmth. Bowl games need to stop punishing in-state schools because the normal matchup process won’t excite the local fan base enough to produce butts in the seats (Central Florida playing in St. Petersburg, Central Michigan in Detroit, Louisiana-Monroe in Shreveport, as examples).
Games are played on the field – Someone needs to ask the BCS people, or whoever is responsible for the actual pairings, if they have EVER seen half of these schools play, especially in the second half of the regular season. If that WAS the case, Minnesota would never have been invited anywhere and certainly never paired in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston (the old Texas/Astro-Bluebonnet/Bluebonnet Bowl) against a high-powered offense like Texas Tech. Aside from Indiana, Minnesota was actually one of the worst teams in the Big 10 at the end of the 2012 season.
Going old school names – What was wrong with the OLD names for many of these games? The Chick-Fil-A Bowl is the old Peach Bowl, which makes more sense since Georgia is the Peach State and the main drag is Peachtree Avenue. The Sheraton Hawaii Bowl was, for years, the Hula Bowl; the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl was originally the Cherry Bowl; the Outback Bowl used to be the Hall of Fame Bowl and the Capital One Bowl is the former Tangerine Bowl, which first kicked off in 1947! I’d rather have the games follow the stadium names, as was done in the good old days (Cotton, Rose, Orange, Sun, Tangerine, Gator).
First up, first down – For Michigan fans, it might be to take a couple of moments to watch the lidlifter in Albuquerque and to root for the Wolf Pack of Nevada to add to Rich Rodriguez’s post-season blues in the New Mexico Bowl. RichRod’s Arizona squad faltered down the stretch (a familiar refrain, anyone?) and it will simply be fun to root against the man who set the program in Ann Arbor back a few years.
Here is the complete bowl schedule, participants and times:
2012-13 Bowl Schedule
Gildan New Mexico – Nevada (7-5) vs. Arizona (7-5), Albuquerque, N.M. (University Stadium), Dec. 15, 1 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
Famous Idaho Potato – Toledo (9-3) vs. Utah State (10-2), Boise, Id. (Bronco Stadium), Dec. 15, 4:30 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia – BYU (7-5) vs. San Diego State (9-3), San Diego (Qualcomm Stadium), Dec. 20, 8 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg – UCF (9-4) vs. Ball State (9-3), St. Petersburg, Fla. (Tropicana Field), Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
R+L Carriers New Orleans – East Carolina (8-4) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4), New Orleans (Mercedes-Benz Superdome), Dec. 22, noon (EST) – ESPN
MAACO Las Vegas – Washington (7-5) vs. Boise State (10-2), Las Vegas (Sam Boyd Stadium), Dec. 22, 3:30 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
Sheraton Hawaii – Fresno State (9-3) vs. SMU (6-6), Honolulu (Aloha Stadium), Dec. 24, 8 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
Little Caesars Pizza – Western Kentucky (7-5) vs. Central Michigan (6-6), Detroit (Ford Field), Dec. 26, 7:30 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman – San Jose State (10-2) vs. Bowling Green (8-4), Washington, D.C. (RFK Stadium), Dec. 27, 3 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
Belk – Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Duke (6-6), Charlotte, N.C. (Bank of America Stadium), Dec. 27, 6:30 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
Bridgepoint Education Holiday – Baylor (7-5) vs. UCLA (9-4), San Diego (Qualcomm Stadium), Dec.27, 9:45 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
AdvoCare V100 Independence – Ohio (8-4) vs. Louisiana-Monroe (8-4), Shreveport La. (Independence Stadium), Dec. 28, 2 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
Russell Athletic – Rutgers (9-3) vs. Virginia Tech (8-4), Orlando, Fla. (Florida Cirtus Bowl), Dec. 28, 5:30 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
Meineke Car Care of Texas – Minnesota (6-6) vs. Texas Tech (7-5), Houston (Reliant Stadium), Dec. 28, 9 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces – Rice (6-6) vs. Air Force (6-6), Fort Worth, Tex. (Amon G. Carter Stadium), Dec. 29, 10:45 a.m. (EST) – ESPN
New Era Pinstripe – West Virginia (7-5) vs. Syracuse (7-5), Bronx, N.Y. (Yankee Stadium), Dec. 29, 3:15 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
Kraft Fight Hunger – Navy (7-4) vs. Arizona State (7-5), San Francisco (AT&T Park), Dec. 29, 4 p.m. (EST) – ESPN2
Valero Alamo – Texas (8-4) vs. Oregon State (9-3), San Antonio (Alamodome), Dec. 29, 6:45 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
Buffalo Wild Wings – TCU (7-5) vs. Michigan State (6-6), Tempe, Ariz. (Sun Devil Stadium), Dec. 29, 10:15 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
Franklin American Mortgage Music City NC State (7-5) vs. Vanderbilt (8-4), Nashville, Tenn. (LP Field), Dec. 31, noon (EST) – ESPN
Hyundai Sun – USC (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (6-7), El Paso, Tex., (Sun Bowl), Dec. 31, 2 p.m. (EST) – CBS
AutoZone Liberty – Iowa State (6-6) vs. Tulsa (10-3), Memphis, Tenn. (Liberty Bowl), Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
Chick-fil-A – LSU (10-2) vs. Clemson (10-2), Atlanta (Georgia Dome), Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. (EST) – ESPN Gator – Mississippi State (8-4) vs. Northwestern (9-3), Jacksonville, Fla. (Everbank Field), Jan.1, noon (EST) – ESPN2
Heart of Dallas – Purdue (6-6) vs. Oklahoma State (7-5), Dallas (Cotton Bowl), Jan. 1, noon (EST) – ESPNU
Outback – South Carolina (10-2) vs. Michigan (8-4), Tampa, Fla. (Raymond James Stadium), Jan. 1, 1 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
Capital One – Georgia (11-2) vs. Nebraska (8-4), Orlando, Fla. (Florida Citrus Bowl), Jan. 1, 1 p.m. (EST) – ABC
Rose by Vizio – Wisconsin (8-5) vs. Stanford (10-3), Pasadena, Calif. (Rose Bowl), Jan. 1, 5 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
Discover Orange – Northern Illinois (12-1) vs. Florida State (11-2), Miami (Sun Life Stadium), Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
Allstate Sugar – Louisville (10-2) vs. Florida (11-1), New Orleans (Louisiana Superdome), Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
Tostitos Fiesta – Oregon (11-1) vs. Kansas State (11-1), Glendale, Ariz. (University of Phoenix Stadium), Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
AT&T Cotton – Texas A&M (10-2) vs. Oklahoma (10-2), Arlington, Tex., (Cowboys Stadium), Jan. 4, 8 p.m. (EST), FOX
BBVA Compass – Pittsburgh (6-6) vs. Ole Miss (6-6), Birmingham, Ala. (Legion Field), Jan. 5, 1 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
GoDaddy.comKent State (11-2) vs. Arkansas State (9-3), Mobile, Ala. (Ladd Peebles Stadium), Jan. 6, 9 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
Discover BCS National ChampionshipNotre Dame (12-0) vs. Alabama (12-1), Miami (Sun Life Stadium), Jan. 7, 8:30 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
Now here are my pre-game selection for all 35 games: Nevada (we root for anyone against RichRod), Utah State, San Diego State, Ball State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Boise State, Fresno State, Western Kentucky, San Jose State, Cincinnati, UCLa, Louisiana-Monroe, Rutgers, Texas Tech, Air Force, West Virginia, Navy, Oregon State, TCU, Vanderbilt, USC, Tulsa, LSU, Northwestern, Oklahoma State, Georgia, Stanford (in the Rose Bowl), Florida State (in the Orange Bowl), Florida (in the Sugar Bowl), Oregon (in the Fiesta Bowl), Oklahoma (in the Cotton Bowl), Ole Miss and Kent State.
Michigan has the most unique perspective towards the national championship game of ANY team in the nation. Not only did the Wolverines play both, on the road (and lost) but also faced the number three-ranked team in the AP (Ohio State). In fact, aside from Iowa, Illinois and UMass, every U-M opponent earned a bowl bid.
The Irish, despite SIX Michigan turnovers, could’ve lost the 13-6 outcome to Michigan, but escaped. There is NO escaping Alabama’s speed, talent and offensive line. It will be a double-figured victory for Roll Tide.
Michigan, for itself, will be involved in one of the three best matchups of the bowl season (Cotton and Fiesta being the others) and might have to play for conference pride as only Northwestern could be considered a viable choice to win over Mississippi State.
The strengths and problems for the Wolverines will still be in place – lack of a consistent running game and the unknown status of Denard Robinson as a passer. This will be a game-winning field goal outcome in the making with … Michigan winning 27-24.
But be smart about your bowl game viewing to avoid the chance to simply having your head explode from ESPN Bowl Week overload.