Your 2009 Winner of the SpurSwitz & the Texas Bowl: The Navy Midshipmen (details below)
2009 Winner: NAVY
The very minimal rules for entry into the Bowl Challenge was that your conference needed to supply a minimum of two teams for Bowl fodder. Navy is an Independent and isn't exempt from the rule. Navy was included because the rules were set before Notre Dame idiotically refused to go to a bowl game (that would have given the Indpendents-I know they aren't a conference-two spots). As Army's bowl spot was taken by UCLA and they probably be considered the de facto second Independent (by winning their game they certainly didn't play like a Pac 10 team).
Bowl Challenge Standings
Navy (Independent) 1-0 1.000 Pt. differential: 22
MWC 4-1 .800 Pt differential: 34
Big East 4-2 .667 Pt. differential: 5
SEC 6-4 .600 Pt. differential: 41
Big 10 4-3 .571 Pt. differential: 13
Sun Belt 1-1 .500 Pt. differential: 7
Big 12 4-4 .500 Pt. differential: -28
WAC 2-2 .500 Pt. differential: -34
ACC 3-4 .429 Pt. differential: 14
C-USA 2-4 .333 Pt. differential: -22
Pac 10 2-5 .286 Pt. differential: -60
MAC 1-4 .200 Pt. differential: -25
BCS Bowl Challenge Standings
SEC 2-0 1.000 Pt. differential: 43
Big 10 2-0 1.000 Pt. differential: 19
WAC 1-0 1.000 Pt. differential: 7
MWC 0-1 .000 Pt. differential: -7
Pac 10 0-1 .000 Pt. differential: -9
ACC 0-1 .000 Pt. differential: -10
Big 12 0-1 .000 Pt. differential: -16
Big East 0-1 .000 Pt. differential: -27
One-Handed Grab Top 25 Final Poll (Since this matters as much as the AP does)
The 2010 BCS title game was won by the Alabama Crimson Tide in a wild game in the Rose Bowl Thursday night.
Even as early as the coin toss you just knew something was awry about this game. Saban won the coin toss and decided to take the ball. Highly unusual call by a thoroughly defensive minded coach. Before the smoke had cleared from the pregame fireworks displays, Bama had gone three and out. Ok, well that didn't work out at all, I thought. For whatever reason, Saban thought his punter P.J. Fitzgerald throwing the ball out of a fake punt formation from his own 20 yard line was a good idea. Fitzgerald's FLOATER of a pass was picked off by Texas at the Bama 37. Four plays later, Texas was on the Bama 11 yard line. An option play was called and Colt McCoy started running left, one of his linemen got blownup and McCoy tried to get back to the line of scrimmage, he was then slammed by Bama defender Marcell Dareus into another lineman. McCoy got up and trotted to the sideline and then went down to a knee. Texas called timeout. McCoy's night was done after a freak injury to his shoulder. Enter true freshman QB Garrett Gilbert. His first play was a handoff to D.J. Monroe who got down to the Bama 1 yard line. It seemed like a great start but then Texas lined up with 5 men in the backfield and Bama had a personal foul and the play was called off. The ball moved to the Bama 2. Three plays later Texas had not gotten in the end zone and took 3 points. If you can't get a TD rushing the ball from 2 yards out on 4 straight tries you don't deserve any points. Mack Brown didn't risk it. He should have. Bama forgot to field the short kickoff and Texas easily recovered. This was going to be an off-kilter game, as you recall. Three plays only yielded 5 yards for Texas and they took another FG. The score was 6-0 Texas and Bama had run 4 plays. A trade of punts gave Bama good field position for the first time towards the end of the 1st quarter. By the end of the quarter, the Crimson Tide were 3 yards from the Texas goal line.
Two runs later Mark Ingram was across the goal line. Three punts later, Bama had the ball on the Texas 49. Trent Richardson took the handoff and went screaming through a big hole in the middle of the Texas D-line. As there was no Safety back deep for Texas, Richardson didn't stop running until he hit the end zone. Texas was finally moving the ball again after a good kickoff return gave the Horns the ball on their own 40. Gilbert threw an INT right to Javier Arenas to kill that drive in Bama territory. Two punts and a good Arenas punt return later, Bama was set up at the Texas 29. The offense stalled at the Horns 9 yard line after QB Greg McElroy seeming didn't know where the first down marker was and started to go to the field a yard short of the first down and was cracked by two Texas defenders. Saban finally decided it was time to act like himself and kicked the FG. I think he should have gone for it. Texas was in shock. The score was 17-6 in favor of Bama. Mack Brown must have been out of it for the next sequence of plays. Texas did do anything with the kickoff return and found themselves at their own 28. A safe run play picked up 9 yards. Great, let's go to halftime right? NO. Mack Brown called timeout, let his frosh QB try a shovel pass which Brown hoped would get the Horns to the 50 yard line where said frosh QB could try a heave to the end zone. There were 9 seconds left and Brown was hoping to pick up 13 yards on a shovel pass and use his last timeout for a Hail Mary pass? Did Texas hire Les Miles and Gary Crowton for the game? In any event, Marcell Dareus picked off the shovel pass and turned on the invincibility mode for a TD (see below) to make it 24-7 for Bama. This game is over some people probably thought. And, for all intents and purposes, it had to be over.
The game went stale in the 3rd quarter with 6 consecutive punts. The last one of that punt sequence set Texas up with good field position. On the 5th play of the Texas drive, Gilbert hit Jordan Shipley on a 44 yard bomb for a TD. Before you could really say good for Texas, Brown didn't go for 2 pts to make it a 24-14 game. Before you could start criticizing that move, Brown calls for the onside kick which was perfectly directed off a Bama player and recovered by Texas. It looked like the Horns took the idea straight out of the Waterboy. Texas didn't do anything with the recovery and punted 3 plays later. A Trent Richardson run ended the quarter.
The continuation of the Bama drive took the Tide all the way to the Texas 34 where the drive ended on a missed FG. Gilbert marched the Horns down the field and connected with Shipley on a 28 yard TD pass. The Bama secondary completely blew the assignment and Shipley was wide open. A successful 2 point conversion made the game 24-21 in favor of Bama. Perhaps Mack Brown knew what he was doing not going for 2 pts early on? Bama could not pass or run the ball very well and punted after taking 3 minutes off the clock. This left Texas with plenty of time (3:14) to go down the field again to set up a game tying FG or get a TD to take the lead. After Bama took a holding penalty, Texas was on their own 17. Nobody was looking out for Gilbert's blindside on the ensuing play. Bama's Eryk Anders blitzed and crushed Gilbert from behind and the ball came loose (Anders used similar technique in applying the Gatorade to Saban above). The Tide recovered and Ingram got his 2nd rushing TD 3 plays later. Now the game was really over. But, the SEC hadn't given itself enough of a victory margin. Something wasn't right. Gilbert made it right by throwing another INT (Arenas again). Trent Richardson wanted to show the nation that he too knows how to run the ball and 3 rushes later, he was in the end zone for his 2nd TD. In the continuing theme of outlandish kicking, Leigh Tiffin banged the upright with his extra point attempt. We all got robbed by not seeing if McCoy could get it done against Bama's Defense. Nevertheless, hits are part of the game and this most important of games should serve as a reminder to get your backup some meaningful snaps throughout the season. Garrett Gilbert was able to position Texas for a shot at a tie or a win with 2 TD passes, but he also threw 4 INTs and lost a fumble which helped to seal the Horns' fate.
Stars of the game, Defensive: Bama DE Marcell Dareus, 1 INT, 28 yards, TD, 1 tackle/game changing injury caused, Bama DB Javier Arenas-2 INTs, 3 yards
Odd Stats of the night: Texas total yards 276, Alabama total yards 263 (58 passing)--Bama won the game even though QB Greg McElroy was 6/11 passing for 58 yards. The Tide only converted 2/12 3rd downs. Despite being outgained, Bama had two RBs eclipse 100 yards on the ground (Texas came into the game allowing 61.15 yards rushing per game) enabling the Tide to hold on to the ball for 33:39. Jordan Shipley return yards: 0.
Implications: In retrospect, how can you deny that undefeated SEC champ Auburn should have been in the 2005 BCS title game (Orange Bowl) against Pete Carroll's Trojans instead of Oklahoma? When the SEC makes the BCS championship game, the conference does not disappoint. The SEC claimed its 6th BCS title (or half of the total BCS title games) and has won the last four titles in a row with three different teams (2 from the SEC West, LSU & Bama, 1 from the SEC East-Florida). If Notre Dame can get a rule about automatically qualifying for the BCS, how about a rule stating an undefeated SEC champ is automatically in the BCS title game? I'm not arguing that Auburn would have won, but that they should have been in the game. At the end of the day the SEC reign over college football continues. No other conference has pulled off four titles in a row, much less with 3 different teams. Cue the SEC chant and go back to the drawing board all you other conferences.
Alabama Coach Nick "I'm Not Going to be the Alabama Coach" Saban
As there is no playoff, this game between the Texas Longhorns and the Alabama Crimson Tide will be played for the Waterford Crystal football which indicates who the mythical national champion is for this season. If you're the betting sort, you would do well to put money down on Alabama. Why? First, let's look at the historical dominance of the SEC many people will likely want to dismiss.
The BCS is about to be 12 years old. On January 4, 1999, the Tennessee Volunteers beat Florida State 23-16 to win the first ever BCS title. The SEC would be back with Saban, then coaching LSU, in January 2004 to defeat the Oklahoma Sooners 21-14. After a very memorable Rose Bowl in January 2006, the SEC has won the last 3 BCS titles: Florida Gators 2006, LSU 2007, Florida Gators 2008--all the above adds up to 5 out of a possible 11 national championships for the SEC. Alabama will try to win their first BCS title and give the SEC half of the BCS titles and 4 straight BCS titles. The SEC is perfect in BCS title games at 5-0. No other conference even has 3 titles or is .500 in the title game (the Trojans are 1-1, once the Pac 10 proves itself to be more than a one team conference I'll revise that statement). If Alabama wins, both the SEC West and SEC East will have 3 BCS titles. If Texas wins, the Big 12 South will have 3 BCS titles (2 for Texas, 1 for OU) and improve to 3-4 in the BCS title game. In other words, the SEC has been automatic when it reaches the BCS championship game.
Reason 2: Defense wins championships. Alabama has the nation's 2nd ranked defense. Texas' is number 3. Texas has a better rushing defense by the numbers (about 15 yards per game of difference), but those figures don't tell you that the Big 12 is a pass happy league whereas the SEC is a league for running backs. The Big 12 teams were ranked 2, 7, 11, 14, 16, 18 (Texas), 37, 45, 94, 99, 101, and 106th in passing offense. The SEC teams ranked 9, 10, 12 (Bama), 13, 22, 32, 47, 49, 54, 81, 90, and 91st in the country in rushing offense. Texas has only played 3 teams that rank in the top 31 teams in terms of rushing offense (Oklahoma State, University of Louisiana-Monroe, Texas A&M) with none of them ranking higher than 23rd. Alabama has played 7 teams ranked 32nd or higher in rushing offense including 2 in the top 10 (Miss. St., UF). Therefore, rush defense advantage has to lean in Bama's favor. Alabama has a better pass efficiency defense than Texas by the numbers (88.81 to 101.25). However, Texas has played only 4 teams with QBs who had less than a 130 rating while Bama has only played 4 teams with a QB who sported a rating higher than 130. Alabama does allow 4.15 less points per game (against statistically similar scoring teams) than Texas so the defensive advantage overall has to go to Bama.
Reason 3: Colt McCoy has not performed well against top defenses. In 2009 McCoy played two top ten defenses (Nebraska, Oklahoma) and finished with QB ratings of 35.0 and 58.4, respectively. He threw for under 200 yards, 1 TD and 4 INTs in those games. McCoy did not play a single defense in the top 10 in 2008, 2007 or 2006. If this range is extended to the top 15, McCoy's QB ratings are 69.0 v. Ohio St. 2006, 70.0 v. TCU 2007, 95.0 v. Ohio St. 2008. In the 5 total games of his career in which McCoy was up against a top 15 defense, he has thrown 5 TDs and 7 INTs. I realize Texas is 4-1 in those games (and won 4 in a row), but the point is that McCoy hasn't made it easy on the Horns. The Crimson Tide will have the best defense McCoy has seen in his career, Texas can't afford mistakes from their QB.
Alternatives: Bama has bought into the hype and karma is going to get them. In the 2004 Sugar Bowl the Oklahoma fan base was so overconfident of a sure victory against LSU that championship gear was printed up in advance of the actual game. Jason White won the Heisman Trophy that year and played a miserable game in the Sugar Bowl. OU lost 21-14. Bama's fans are awfully overconfident going into this game (premature celebration anyone?) considering the fact that this season was the Tide's first SEC title since 1999 and that the last Bama national title was in 1992. Mark Ingram won the Heisman Trophy for Alabama. Even worse for Bama than the OU-LSU scenario is that Texas won their last national championship when Vince Young got snubbed for the Heisman and Reggie Bush was seemingly struck by the Heisman curse. That's basically all I got. Sorry Texas. But don't take my word for it. Read a Horns fan on the situation. Ok, I was kidding. Texas needs to limit Mark Ingram's yards, easier said than done. Texas could allow Bama all the yards they want until they hit the red zone. It's an open secret that Bama has been terrible at scoring TDs in the red zone this year. The problem with this strategy is the Julio Jones screen play, see here. If all else fails, go all Utah bowl game buzzsaw on the Tide.
Prediction: Alabama wins by not as close an unspecified margin as the slim unspecified margin ESPN was saying Texas would win by during the GMAC Bowl in order to promote the BCS title game. Lincoln picked Texas.
This bowl game in Mobile has an extremely likely need for a new sponsor given GMAC's troubles. Jimmy Buffett is from Mobile and his LandShark Stadium naming rights ended after the Orange Bowl. If Beef 'O'Brady's can get a bowl game, why not Margaritaville?
This game started off slow and resembled the Fiesta and Orange bowls with respect to the lack of execution on offense. A couple of missed field goals and dropped passes led to a 10-9 Troy lead at halftime. However, if you knew anything about the Troy and Central Michigan teams, you were aware Troy's Levi Brown and CMU's Dan LeFevour (Tebow North, Rust Belt Tebow, Has an NFL throwing motion Tebow) were going to start connecting on passes sooner or later. By game's end Brown had 386 yards passing by hitting 31/56 passes. LeFevour was 33/55 for 395 yards. Both had 1 TD throw. In the 3rd quarter the teams traded scores and Troy came out of the quarter with a 24-19 lead. Effective rushing helped both teams cast aside their opening half red zone struggles and score TDs instead of FGs. Troy scored on their first possession of the 4th quarter to seemingly put the game away with a 31-19 lead with less than 7 and a half minutes to play following a crushing 13 play, 85 yard drive. Central Michigan's WR Antonio Brown (who had 13 catches for 178 yards and a rushing TD) housed the kickoff. The score had changed to 31-25 within a matter of seconds. Troy did nothing with their possession and punted. CMU drove 85 yards and finished the drive with a spectacular juggling TD grab from WR Bryan Anderson. CMU went for 2 points to make it a 34-31 ballgame. It was a good thing they did. LeFevour directed traffic on a rollout during the try and sent WR Kito Poblah back toward the middle of the end zone and hit him with a pass once Poblah got wide open. Troy had used all 3 timeouts but had 1:10 left to work with after a good kickoff return. CMU decided to drop back into incredibly bad coverage letting Trojan WRs run behind the defenders. Levi Brown needed 2 passes to get to the CMU 29 yard line. On a 3rd and 10 play from the 29, Brown tried to throw short of the first down marker to WR Jerrel Jernigan. Jernigan was obviously interfered with on the catch attempt and the refs blew the call. Troy made the FG and sent the game to overtime. In OT LeFevour started off the scoring with a rushing TD (his 150th total TD which only added to his NCAA record). Troy responded with a rushing TD. Troy had their FG in 2nd OT blocked and CMU made theirs to win the game 44-41. It was quite an exciting game for LeFevour to leave the college game with. By far the best of the BCS bowls to this point, oh wait. In any event, this game shook up the Bowl Challenge Standings by stealing the opportunity for the Sun Belt to come out on top. CMU also did something great for the MAC by breaking the conference's 14 game bowl losing streak.
Ceci n'est pas une Orange Bowl (Painting credit; Faith Te at artisticrealism.com)
It takes two to tango. Somebody forgot to tell Georgia Tech that...again. In two straight bowl seasons, a team has had roughly a month to prepare in order to "execute" (Paul Johnson's term and he didn't sound as if he meant anything related to football) the intricacies of assignment football to stop the triple option. And, in two straight bowl seasons Paul Johnson's triple option has been completely embarrassed and so has Georgia Tech. Against LSU in the Peach Bowl in 2008, the Yellow Jackets got a FG near the end of the first quarter to cut LSU's lead to 4, never got on the scoreboard again and lost 38-3. QB Josh Nesbitt was 8/25 for 150 yards and an INT. Georgia Tech ran the ball 40 times for 164 yards. Getting 314 total yards in a game isn't half bad but not doing anything with 300+ yards is pretty lousy.
Cue this season's Georgia Tech team against Iowa. If the Yellow Jackets didn't want to pass the ball, they might as well have just forfeited and let Iowa have the trophy (and saved precious hours). Instead, Paul Johnson wanted to show us on live TV what a grown man trying to put his head threw a brick wall (in this case painted black and gold) looks like. Iowa's defense played much better than LSU's did in the Peach Bowl, so Iowa winning 24-14 is deceptive. Georgia Tech only being down 3 points early in the fourth quarter was similarly devious. The Yellow Jackets had no chance short of Stanziball to be in the game. Before the first quarter was over Ricky Stanzi was responsible for three passing touchdowns (one of them for the other team-that's Stanziball). Stanzi had already put the game away with the first two TDs which put Iowa up 14-0. The pick six was just to toy with Yellow Jacket hopes and dreams. Stanzi had a perfect 1st quarter. He was 10/10 for 196 yards with 3 TDs (yes I'm counting the INT as a pass completion and a TD-it was beautiful and terrible all at the same time). Georgia Tech had 32 yards (0 passing) at halftime (seriously no typo). Nobody would score again until the 3rd quarter. The 3rd quarter itself was absurd. There were 3 total drives. Georgia Tech wasted 7:10 off the clock to start the second half to go a mere 44 yards (on 12 plays) and then miss a FG. Iowa responded with a 10 play, 59 yard, 5:33 off the clock drive which ended with a 3 pointer. Georgia Tech took the ball and went into the 4th quarter and the end zone after 77 yards and 4:47 gone from the clock. It was 17-14 in favor of Iowa at that point, but the inevitable was about to happen. Iowa punted inside of the Georgia Tech 20 and on the first play, Josh Nesbitt threw an INT. He had been a glorious 1/3 for 11 yards at that point in the 4th quarter. Nesbitt finished the game 2/9 for 12 yards and 1 INT. That's right, he threw the ball only one more time (9) than he had completions (8) when Jackets got ran over in Atlanta in 2008. Recipe for success against a good rush defense who was clearly ready for the triple option? Paul Johnson thought so. Georgia Tech finished the game with 155 total yards. Iowa played well on both sides of the ball and recorded 403 total yards. Ricky Stanzi was pretty close to perfect throwing the ball if you include the INT, dropped passes (because of WR injury or not), and passes that were caught out of bounds. However, even if you go by the rule book, Stanzi was 17/29 for 231 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT. That's not too bad. Stanzi also had a big 3rd down run in the 4th quarter which suggested that I say something nice about Terrelle Pryor. Nobody is saying that Ricky Stanzi is a speedster, but on that 3rd and 6 he had all-ACC DE Derrick Morgan chasing him and Stanzi got away. You might recall Stanzi injured an ankle in the Northwestern game and needed surgery and this was his first game back. Who knows how far Pryor would have ran on that play or if he would have been stopped. Georgia Tech hasn't really played defense since about mid-November against Duke. It showed.
Iowa dominated this game throughly but it was well short of "thriller" status (sorry Dick Stockton). The Orange Bowl has to rank higher than the Fiesta Bowl because at least one team came to play (Iowa). The Hawkeyes needed to score more points to turn this one into the laugher that the Sugar Bowl was. Iowa left some points on the field but can still be happy with this win, an important one to be sure, for their program. This win also helps the Big 10 out and makes the conference look good. Maybe now the conference can also get that 12th team and something can be done about that name. For Georgia Tech, it's time to stop the bleeding. This was their 5th straight bowl loss. The Jackets last bowl win came in 2004 when they won the Champs Sports Bowl and Humanitarian Bowl in the same calendar year. Chan Gailey was the coach in those days and Georgia Tech scored 103 points in those two games and gave up 24. In their last two bowl games, Georgia Tech has given up 62 points and only scored 17.
The success of the Hawkeyes lifted my bowl picks to 6-11. Lincoln is 10-3. Kudos to FOX for making their last BCS game ever (please world of TV never let FOX broadcast college football again somewhere down the road) a little more watchable than the Fiesta Bowl. However, good riddance FOX.
Bowl Challenge Standings
Sun Belt 1-0 1.000 (Dwight Dasher swagger override) Pt. differential: 10
Independents 1-0 1.000 Pt. differential: 22
MWC 4-1 .800 Pt. differential: 34 (oh what could have been)
If you watched the whole Fiesta Bowl so that you could see if you could survive it (like I did), then you need not read any further because there's no need to relive it. I would have never picked TCU had I known pregame that they were going to roll out that terrible uniform (pictured above) again. It was supposed to be a one time deal. If you use them in a big game bad things will happen. Ask Miami how the Champs Sports Bowl went or ask UF how wearing the white helmets worked out for them in the SEC Championship.
I picked TCU because I did not expect their WRs to turn into Featherstone and drop game tying TD's. Boise St only ran one trick play. It came on 4th and 9 in Broncos territory when the punter converted the throw to a wide open back up TE for 29 yards. That play kept the drive alive and ended with the go ahead score for Boise St. Thus ends all excitement in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl. I'm really not even joking around here. The TD run which gave Boise St the 17-10 lead (also the final score) came at the end of a drive of 78 yards with 7:21 to go in the game. The final 7:21 of the game saw 88 total yards from both teams. Two of the most explosive offenses in college football gave us two (2) combined offensive TDs. Good defense? Hardly. It appeared that Boise St's Kellen Moore and TCU's Andy Dalton were attempting to have a contest to throw the ball downfield the furthest with no WR in the area. If the ball was thrown further than ten yards WRs on both teams acted as if their hands had retracted into their wrists, so, had Moore and Dalton come closer to those WRs with the errant throws nothing good would have happened anyway. The running games of both teams racked up a total of 113 yards on 52 attempts for a whopping 2.17 yards per carry. Speaking of rushing, hey Broncos, you weren't fooled by the Andy Dalton sideways QB draw (more like a crawl)? Coach Patterson will try it again . . . on the same drive, ON THE NEXT PLAY, with the same results. A 3 yard pass on 3rd and 9 later, the Horned Frogs kicked a FG to tie the game at 10. The FG was kicked from the Boise St 12 yard line. So let's analyze that. Before the back to back QB crawl plays, it was 1st and 10 from the BSU 16 and TCU came away with 3 points--like that wasn't going to come back to haunt them. Dalton also threw 3 INTs in the game, all with tragic results for his squad. The first INT came only a couple minutes into the game. It was a pick six. The throw was so bad that every 8 year old with the NCAA Football 10 game was shouting NOOOOOO! You never throw it to that outside WR with a DB shading him on a slant because the DB will ALWAYS jump the route and take it to the house. Brandyn Thompson, the guy who brought the first INT back, hauled in another Dalton throw at the BSU 22 in the fourth quarter to kill that TCU drive. It set up the Boise St drive with the trickeration play and eventual game winning TD. TCU had not one but two chances to tie the game after that score. One opportunity was the unthinkable drop by TCU I mentioned already above. The second occasion was a chance to make Dalton a hero. BSU pinned TCU at their own 1 yard line with a punt. Dalton had driven TCU down to the Boise St 30 and then threw a pick at the BSU 14 on 1st down. That ended the game finally, mercifully. I will give the Broncos defense a lot of credit for being the difference in winning the game. If they drop all the INTs, TCU probably scores on at least one of those drives. Am I short changing the TCU defense? Probably, but the Horned Frogs certainly didn't look all that great on pass defense when Kellen Moore had wide open WRs and simply missed them. If you think I'm being unnecessarily harsh, consider the fact that I haven't said anything about what I think Tebow and the Gators would have done to these teams.
Why else was this game so hard to watch? FOX. Every producer associated with the broadcast should be promptly fired and never allowed around a TV production again. I have never seen so much of the bands (not even during the Bayou Classic, which is a game I love), the crowd, the dance teams and upskirted cheerleaders during a football game. Those groups were on camera more than the players. The way the cameras bounced around between those groups and the actual game, I wasn't sure what I was supposed to be watching anymore. The game was boring but FOX managed to actually kill a bowl game. Live. Just as the NFL killed the Super Bowl and made the commercials more important than the game, FOX turned the sidelines and stands of the Fiesta Bowl into the entertainment. I was more interested in what the camera was going to cut to next than the WR screen play both teams ran that wasn't working or the 2 yard run plays that weren't working either. At halftime, they gave an unexpected closeup to a member of the Boise St band playing the cowbell. She's blind before you start laughing--not that FOX was going to say anything.
I don't expect Georgia Tech v. Iowa to be much better or worse than the Fiesta Bowl (Fox is broadcasting the Orange Bowl) so this is the only preview you will get: GA Tech QB Josh Nesbitt throwing the ball should be considered a trick play. Iowa doesn't score many points (but finds ways to win) even when QB Ricky Stanzi is healthy and apparently, Stanzi will play. Iowa has a better defense than GA Tech and the Yellow Jackets have a better offense than the Hawkeyes. In that scenario, you take Iowa--Lincoln is. I'll take Iowa also because if you stay disciplined and play assignment football on defense, you stop the triple option dead in its tracks (if Kirk Ferentz is worth any of the millions Iowa is paying him, he knows this and has pounded it into the Hawkeyes' brains for weeks now) and force Nesbitt to try beat you with his arm and I like the odds there.
As this was the last week of the season, the focus should be on the playoffs.
New Orleans Saints. Coach Sean Payton feels that the entire history of the NFL can be overcome by a franchise that has never had a winner. So, he sat Drew Brees and started Mark Brunell who had not seen regular action since November 12, 2006. The Saints not surprisingly got beat down by a red hot Panthers team which should have made the switch from Jake Delhomme (no hard feelings, Delhomme is still a hero to my high school) to Matt Moore at midseason. Whether Payton realizes it or not, no team has lost the last three games of the regular season and made the Super Bowl. Maybe when your franchise has won two (2) playoff games in 42 seasons such things don't apply, or maybe they apply doubly--especially when your team even with Brees checked out two weeks ago. In any event, Sean Payton wins the award this week of having Herman Edwards remind him why you play the game. For the sake of the folks back home, I'd like to see the Saints pull this off to finish their historic season, but I highly doubt that they beat any of the NFC playoff teams right now.
Indianapolis Colts. Coach Jim Caldwell is the runner up for the Edwards reminder. Caldwell played Manning to continue his consecutive start streak (Brett Favre started again today also, more on him below) and Tony Gonzalez and Reggie Wayne to get them 100 catches in a season. This kind of refusal to participate meaningfully in a game has Roger Goodell thinking about incentives, such as draft picks, to keep playoff bound teams from yanking starters. Caldwell isn't going to look at the film from this game. He's not worried about it. Just like Andy Reid in 2004, Caldwell gave away the final two games to rest starters (Reid did lose Terrell Owens until the Super Bowl though). However, those 2004 Eagles are the ONLY team to lose the final two games of the NFL season and make the Super Bowl--they didn't win, you recall. The Colts got beat like a drum today and I hope they lose the first game they play in the playoffs...oh please let it be the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets.
New England Patriots. Wes Welker is done for the playoffs before they got started with a gruesome knee injury. Welker was an irreplaceable possession WR for the Pats (123 catches, 1348 yards this season) and an inspirational presence on the field. New England finished the regular season 2-6 on the road. They host Baltimore in the first round, but should they get by the Ravens, I think the season ends on the road in the next game.
Wild Card games. Really!? There's four of these games and three of them feature the exact same matchups as the final weekend of the season, Week 17 scores in brackets: Jets v. Bengals (Jets won 37-0), Green Bay v. Arizona (Green Bay won 33-7), Cowboys v. Eagles (Cowboys won 24-0). How unlucky can we get to have this happen?
Ready for the Playoffs
San Diego Chargers. They treated their final game against the Washington [redacted] like a preseason game. They rested starters after the starters put up 10 points in two drives. Perhaps this was a belated preseason game, neither team could crack 70 rush yards. Why are the Chargers in this pile and not the winners not playing to win pile,? The Chargers back ups won the game. Sure it was against Washington, but at least the team didn't pack it in without the starters. Also, the Chargers have quietly rattled off 11 straight wins. LaDainian Tomlinson says he is healthier than he has ever been to start the playoffs--look out.
Minnesota Vikings. Huh? The Vikings looked bad in losses against Arizona, Carolina and Chicago, how are they ready to go? Well the Giants were suggilated by the Vikes 44-7. Brett Favre wasn't going to let Tim Tebow's Sugar Bowl performance show him up. Favre was 25/31 for 311 yards, 4 TDs and 0 INTs. Favre threw for 4,000+ yards, 33 TDs and only 7 INTs on the season. He's 40 years old and this is probably his best season statistically--Favre has never thrown less than 13 INTs in a full season. He also has Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson to help him out. Due to the Jets running all over the Bengals, the Vikings rush defense is now 2nd in the NFL allowing a little more than 87 yards per game.
The 2009 St. Louis Rams make any argument for contraction (or even better, a relegation division) seem reasonable. The Rams won 1 game this year and it wasn't in Week 17. In a 28-6 loss to the 49ers, the Rams managed 109 total yards on 62 plays. San Francisco wasn't exactly world beaters this year. This game also featured twenty (20) punts for 971 yards.
Relegation Division idea: The top 20 teams in 2009 stay in the NFL, the other 12 teams are relegated (finishing last in any of the 8 current NFL divisions is an automatic relegation) to a lower division with a chance to win back their pride and make the show again. Relegated teams for 2010: St. Louis, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Washington, Kansas City, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Buffalo, Seattle, Oakland, Miami, Chicago.
Realigned NFL for 2010: AFC & NFC, 1 Division each with 10 teams a piece. Top 6 teams in the AFC and NFC Division tables make the playoffs, the lowest two teams in each table are relegated in 2011. The top four teams from the relegation division table in 2010 replace the bottom four relegation teams from the NFL for the 2011 season.
One thing is assured, after the Fiesta Bowl there will be one less unbeaten team from a non AQ conference clamoring for a playoff (even then, we still might have a once defeated team asking for a playoff; I will unveil my own playoff scheme later this month). The BCS in its infinite wisdom decided to place both non AQ conference teams in the BCS this season in the same game. I realize that the Fiesta Bowl people decided on this dreamy matchup, and, that the Fiesta Bowl President John Junker thinks "it will work out just fine." I sure hope it will be a good game to watch (unlike that Sugar Bowl), but the Fiesta Bowl won't be well viewed. All the games featuring non AQ teams are among the lowest 10 Nielson rated BCS games all-time. The classic 2007 Fiesta Bowl against Boise State which continued "Big Game" Bob Stoops' BCS descent into non-big game winner status (he's lost 5 straight BCS bowl games and lost consecutive Fiesta Bowls in 2007 and 2008) garnered the 8th worst Nielson rating in BCS history. The worst Nielson rated game was Cincy v. Va Tech in the Orange Bowl last year. One thing Fox had going for it was the Saints being undefeated to promote tomorrow's game. Well, the Saints blew that up a couple weeks ago and decided to bench Brees today (more on that in the NFL Wrap Up) against a Carolina Panthers team not going to the playoffs--can you say ratings grab?
To the game itself!
Both teams have great coaches. TCU's Gary Patterson picked up 7 coach of the year awards this season. Boise St's Chris Petersen won the Bear Bryant Coach of the Year Award in 2006. That award will be handed out January 14, 2010 and Petersen made the short list, Patterson did not. Patterson is 2nd on TCU's all-time victories list with 83 wins. Since TCU joined the MWC in 2005, the Horned Frogs have won 2 conference titles and all four of their bowl games. 2009 was Patterson 4th 11 or more win season in 5 years. Chris Petersen has only lost 4 games in 4 years as Boise St's coach (3 losses in a 10-3 season in 2007). 2007 was the only season Petersen did not win a WAC championship and the only season in which he lost a conference game. Petersen comes into the Fiesta Bowl on a 2 game bowl losing streak after beating Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Last year, Petersen and Patterson met in the Poinsettia Bowl (another reason why this matchup was a glorious decision by the BCS) and TCU edged Boise St 17-16.
TCU is led by Junior QB Andy Dalton, the 5th highest rated passer in the FBS, who has thrown for 22 TDs (to 8 different receivers) and 5 INTs this season. Dalton is the team's 4th leading rusher with 522 yards. As a team, the Horned Frogs have rushed for more than 3,000 yards this season (5th best per game in the FBS). Four different WRs have 400 or more yards receiving. The TCU offense scores 40.67 points per game (4th in the nation) while the defense allows 12.47 points per game (4th in the country) and is number one in total defense. On offense, there is no one playmaker to shut down. The best chance to throw the Horned Frogs prolific offense off pace is to disrupt Dalton. However, TCU has only allowed 10 sacks all season and in the two close games (@Clemson, @Air Force in an ice bowl) Dalton was 33/54 for 424 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT. He also had 124 yards rushing in those two games. Third downs conversions were the main issue in these two games in which TCU was held under 21 points.
The Boise St Broncos have the nation's top scoring offense (44.15 pts per game). Sophmore QB Kellen Moore has thrown for 3,325 yards 39 TDs and only 3 INTs making him the country's most efficient passer. Unlike his Fiesta Bowl predecessor Jared Zabransky, Moore is not a rushing threat near the goal line or anywhere else on the field for that matter. Even without Moore, the Broncos run the ball for nearly 200 yards per game led by RBs Jeremy Avery and Doug Martin. Boise St's 2nd leading WR and top TD catching wideout Austin Pettis is questionable for the game. The only close contest for the Broncos this year was a 28-21 win on the road against Tulsa. However, Boise St took a lead they never gave up right before halftime in that game and haven't been held under 42 points since.
TCU DE Jerry Hughes v. Boise's O-Line will be an interesting facet of the game. Hughes has 11.5 sacks this season (he led the country with 15 last season), the Broncos have given up a paltry 5 sacks (1st in the nation). Hughes had four tackles and 1 sack in last year's game against Boise St. The Broncos were ranked 4th in sacks allowed in 2008.
Looking at last year's game: Bronco QB Kellen Moore's worst game rating wise was in the Poinsettia Bowl when he turned in a 69.0. He completed 62.9% of his 35 passes but only threw 222 yards and had 1 INT and no TDs. The run game was utterly shut down in that game. Ian Johnson had 7 carries for 20 yards. The Broncos had 28 total rush yards on 20 carries. If Boise St can't run the ball to make it easier for Moore to stretch the field they are going to be in trouble. They were outgained 472-250 last year against TCU and had to settle for 3 red zone FGs (and missed one). TCU left points on the field also. A trick play WR pass resulted in an INT on the Boise St 5 yard line in the first quarter. At the start of the 2nd quarter, TCU failed to convert on 4th and 2 from the Boise St 33 yard line. Dalton was intercepted on the Broncos 25 later in the 2nd quarter which set up a FG for Boise St. In the 3rd quarter, TCU couldn't convert a 3rd and 13 in the red zone and settled for a FG.
Both teams are better overall than the last time they met. TCU's defensive stats slipped a little bit this season but their offensive numbers are much better and the Horned Frogs score a full 7 points per game more than 2008. Boise St improved on offense, especially in the run game, also scoring 7 more points per game. The Broncos are ranked higher in total defense this year but their scoring defense gives up 5 more points a game over 2008. TCU has only allowed 1 more point per game compared with 2008. I always like good defense over good offense so I'm taking TCU. The fact that the Horned Frogs offense is more potent and has many different weapons certainly helps with the pick. Another factor is the conference preparation. The MWC has dominated the bowl games so far, not so for the WAC. Lincoln is also taking the Horned Frogs.
It Ain't Over Till It's Over-A Theme for the Liberty Bowl
The Bowl Blitz
International Bowl South Florida 27, Northern Illinois 3
After 1 carry in the first half, the South Florida Bulls fed RB Mike Ford the ball in the second half and he rewarded them with a career high 207 rush yards. Ford scored a TD in the 4th quarter and helped South Florida bust the scoring wide open after a 3-3 tie at half.
Northern Illinois struggled to move the ball and got 4 of their 11 first downs on the FG drive in the first half and 2 first downs on a missed 52 yard FG attempt in the second half. The 52 yard FG would have tied Mike Salerno's career long from a 2008 win over Bowling Green.
The Big East is now 4-0 in the International Bowl (aptly named as it is the only current bowl played outside of the United States). The closest game was the inaugural International Bowl in 2007 in which Cincy (then led by Coach Brian Kelly-he only coached the bowl game) defeated Western Michigan 27-24. The Big East has won the other International Bowls by at least 22 points. The Northern Illinois Huskies have lost 3 consecutive bowl games.
Papajohns.com Bowl UConn 20, South Carolina 7
UConn's Kashif Moore made a great one-handed grab (which you can see here) to open the scoring in the game. UConn led 13-0 at halftime and pushed the lead out to 20-0 before South Carolina finally scored with 3:24 remaining in the game.
Unlike the Capital One (mud) Bowl, the playing conditions at Legion Field were fine but the offenses still struggled. The teams managed only a combined 458 yards of offense compared to 519 yards on 15 punts.
The Big East is 4-0 in the Papajohns.com Bowl with an average win margin of 11.5 points. The Huskies are now 3-1 in bowl games. South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier is 1-3 in bowl games with the Gamecocks and his bowl record fell to 7-9 overall.
Cotton Bowl Oklahoma State 7, Ole Miss 21
This one was a turnover fest. The teams combined for 12 turnovers (7 by Oklahoma State). The QB's threw for a combined 8 INTs and only 1 TD. 21 of the 28 points in the game were scored after turnovers. Ole Miss also missed a FG following a Zac Robinson INT.
Ole Miss' Senior RB Dexter McCluster had 185 yards rushing and 2 TDs on 34 carries. He also caught 5 passes for 45 yards. McCluster became the only SEC player to gain more than 1,000 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving in a season. He also threw his first career completion, a TD (a crucial score against LSU), this season. Neither starting QB threw a TD in the game, the 1 TD pass came from Oklahoma State RB Keith Toston.
The Ole Miss Rebels won 2 consecutive Cotton Bowls and have won 4 of 5 Cotton Bowl appearances. The Oklahoma State Cowboys are now 0-2 against Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl. This was the first Cotton Bowl played in the new Cowboys Stadium.
Liberty Bowl Arkansas 20, East Carolina 17, Overtime
The temperature during this game in Memphis was below freezing. The weather played a huge role in the kicking game. The teams' kickers combined to go 3/8 (ECU's Ben Hartman was 1/5 including 2 misses to win in regulation).
Arkansas trailed 10-0 at halftime. The Razorbacks only scored 1 offensive TD (a Ryan Mallett TD pass to tie the game in the 4th quarter) and went 0/13 on 3rd downs.
The TV broadcast prematurely handed out the player of the game award to ECU RB Dominique Lindsay who rushed for 151 yards and a TD on 33 carries. Lindsay seemingly (Coach Skip Holtz and his kicker were seeing yucking it up on the sidelines) set up his kicker Hartman for a game winning FG on two consecutive drives late in the 4th quarter. Arkansas kicker Alex Tejada hit the game winning FG in overtime after a Hartman miss.
Alamo Bowl Michigan State 31, Texas Tech 41
Both teams had adversity to overcome in the bowl game. Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill served as interim coach for the bowl game because of the firing of Mike Leach. It was McNeill's first game as college head coach. Some Texas Tech fans booed WR Adam James (who was dressed but didn't play because of injury) and held signs supporting Mike Leach. Michigan State was missing 14 players who were suspended following an incident at the Michigan State dorms in November.
The game itself was a back and forth offensive shootout with nearly 1,000 (708 passing) total yards combined. Texas Tech QB Taylor Potts threw for an Alamo Bowl record 372 yards passing before injuring his non-throwing hand. Tech backup QB Steven Sheffield entered the game and completed 9/11 passes for 88 yards and the game winning TD. Michigan State's backup QB Keith Nichol caught 2 passes for 11 yards and ran a QB draw for a TD which gave the Spartans a 21-20 lead early in the 3rd quarter. The starter, Kirk Cousins, threw for 220 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs.
Texas Tech has played 10 consecutive bowl games and has a 6-4 record in those games. This was Texas Tech's first Alamo Bowl win in their third try. Michigan State lost their 4th straight bowl game and their second Alamo Bowl.
Bowl Challenge Standings
MWC 4-0 1.000 Pt. differential: 41
Sun Belt 1-0 1.000 (Dwight Dasher swagger boost override) Pt. differential: 10
Independents 1-0 1.000 Pt. differential: 22
Big East 4-2 .667 Pt. differential: 5 (big jump with a 2-0 day)
Big 12 4-3 .571 Pt. differential: -12
SEC 5-4 .555 Pt. differential: 25
ACC 3-3 .500 Pt. differential: 24
Big 10 3-3 .500 Pt. differential: 3
C-USA 2-4 .333 Pt. differential: -22
WAC 1-2 .333 Pt. differential: -41
Pac 10 2-5 .286 Pt. differential: 60
MAC 0-4 .000 Pt. differential: -28 (15 consecutive bowl losses since 2006)
Your all-time BCS bowl single game yardage leader-Tim Tebow
The Bowl Blitz
Outback Bowl Northwestern 35, Auburn 38, Overtime
The teams combined for 9 turnovers (7 INTs, 2 lost fumbles), 1037 yards gained, 10 TDs, 11 punts and 15 penalties for 165 yards (Auburn was flagged 12 times for 140 yards).
Perhaps inspired by the successful gamble of Idaho's Robb Akey, Northwestern's Coach Pat Fitzgerald went for the win in OT by calling a fake FG run, the attempt was stopped at the Auburn 2 yard line.
Northwestern's QB Mike Kafka was 47/78 for 532 yards 4 TDs, 5 INTs and rushed for 34 yards and a TD.
Gator Bowl West Virginia 21, Florida State 33
The bowl win was number Bobby Bowden's 22nd. He finishes his career trailing only Joe Paterno in bowl wins (24). Florida State finished its season 7-6 which gave Bowden 33 straight winning seasons.
Noel Devine had 168 yards rushing, 28 receiving yards and 1 TD for West Virginia.
Florida State QB E.J. Manuel was an efficient 17/24 for 189 yards passing and also added 70 yards rushing and 1 TD.
Capital One Bowl Penn State 19, LSU 17
Penn State K Colin Wagner kicked four short FGs (26, 18, 20, 21) including the game winner from 21 yards out with 57 seconds left to play.
Joe Paterno picked up his record 24th bowl win in his record 36th bowl appearance. Les Miles dropped his first bowl game as LSU's coach (4-1 overall).
The teams combined for 15 punts due to atrocious field conditions-a new Capital One Bowl record.
Rose Bowl Ohio State 26, Oregon 17
Ohio State ended a three game BCS bowl losing streak (now 5-3 overall in the BCS) with the win and won their first Rose Bowl since 1997. The Big 10 is now 9-11 (.450) in the BCS. Oregon dropped to 1-1 in BCS play. The Pac 10 is 9-5 (.643) in the BCS.
Ohio State held the ball for a Rose Bowl record 41:37 and ran 89 plays. Oregon only ran 53 plays and was outgained 419-260.
Sugar Bowl Cincinnati 24, Florida 51
Seemingly playing against air in the first half and a stiff a/c breeze in the second half in the Superdome, Gators QB Tim Tebow put up a BCS bowl record 533 total yards (482 passing). He was 31/35 passing and threw 3 TDs and ran for another score. Florida gained a Sugar Bowl record 659 yards.
Florida held a 30-3 halftime lead and scored 23 straight points to start the game and 14 straight after the Cincy FG to put the game away early in the 3rd quarter. The Gators are the only team thus far in the bowl season to eclipse half a hundred on the scoreboard
Cincy falls to 0-2 in the BCS and the Big East is now 6-6 (.500) all-time in the BCS. Florida is now 5-1 in BCS games and improved the SEC's record to 13-5 (.722) in the BCS.
It is very safe going with Lincoln's bowl picks. He is 9-2. Me...not so much, 5-10.
Bowl Challenge Standings
MWC 4-0 1.000 Pt. differential: 68
Sun Belt 1-0 1.000 (Dwight Dasher swagger boost override) Pt. differential: 10
The Bowl Blitz is later, right now, a review of two games that didn't make any sense.
Insert your favorite Miles doesn't have a clue caption
Capital One Bowl
One has to give credit to Joe Paterno and his team for the win. They were not great today by any means, but they did enough to win. QB Daryll Clark did not do anything to lose this game. Clark was very lucky that LSU did not pull in any of the 4 INTs they dropped. Penn St dropped a few possible INTs of their own. Penn St did not run the ball well, but 3 yards a carry was enough. JoePa stuck to conservative playcalling and kicked 4 FGs. Ultimately, it was the right thing to do. It should not have been enough to win the game.
The field was the worst which you will ever see for a bowl game. The Capital One people owe both teams an apology for the sorry state of the chewed up playing surface. The Citrus Bowl Stadium was used for four high school championships and the Champs Sports Bowl before the mud bowl today.
LSU was pathetic. I'll repeat that: pathetic. Miles' bowl game whateveritwas that got his teams into destruction mode is gone. That was his one saving grace. This was the exact same team as the regular season, there was no improvement. In fact, I saw regression. LSU was penalized 10 times for 64 yards. No Les Miles team is ever well disciplined, but to have 10 penalties in a bowl game? Jordan Jefferson had an atrocious first half throwing the football and only an ok second half. He got bailed out by WRs making catches (they dropped any pass they could in the first half) some times. The running game: non-existent. Sure, LSU was down to their 4th string RB, but the O-line couldn't even open a hole in the Penn State defensive line. LSU's offensive playcalls were absolutely predictable and there was one player missing from the field on offense: Russell Shepard. Remember him? The no. 1 dual-threat QB prospect in the country. Probably not, out of his 50 touches (yes, Miles didn't redshirt a guy who only got 50 touches) he attempted a grand total of 0 passes. As I said in the preview, this is completely unacceptable. I certainly will not encourage, but would not fault Shepard for transferring. It is nearly impossible for Les Miles to be fired even if he screws up bad because LSU cannot afford to fire him. From the administration's standpoint, LSU gave him the worst contract in college football. That is why Miles is in no danger after his end of game management in the Capital One Bowl cost LSU at a chance for a win. It was inanely bad. Ole Miss loss bad. Blowing a 21 point lead at home in the 2nd half to Tennessee bad. Part of the fault in the clock management snafu belongs to Jordan Jefferson. No matter what asinine playcalls you get from the booth (and it's every 3rd play on average), there are times when you have to ignore them, Jefferson never does. He's a good player in the sense of respecting the coaches' authority. It's not what LSU needs during Miles' tenure. Talent HAS to overcome the inept coaching decisions. In all of the 4 bowl games up to this point, talent has overcome Miles. It did not tonight and LSU lost 19-17.
The Rose Bowl
Is this still Jim Tressel?
Jim Tressel (figuratively) hung his sweater vest up in the closet for this game. He let Terrelle Pryor sling the ball around. It was not always pretty. Pryor let go of a few passes that were nothing more than prayers that were answered. Still, Pryor completed 62% of his career high 37 pass attempts for a career high 266 yards. He threw 2 TD passes and only 1 INT (he only got 72 yards on 20 rushing attempts and took 4 sacks). There was a guy in a sweater vest on the Ohio State sideline who looked amazingly like Tressel who said, throw it. On the first TD pass, the Buckeyes were in clear 3 pt range on the Ducks 13. Ohio State dialed up 3 pass plays in a row, the TD play was on 3rd and 10. Astonishing. In the 4th quarter, with the Buckeyes ahead 19-17, there was a 2nd and 7 from the Oregon 17. Guaranteed run play, right? Wrong. Tressel or the guy who looked like him went for the throat. Result? TD pass. That score pushed the lead for the Buckeyes out 26-17. Oregon Coach Chip Kelly had a chance to try to get back in the game, went NFL conservative and called for a 45 yard FG on 4th and 1. Result? Pushed wide, game essentially over. The final score was 26-17. Oregon turned the ball over twice and it hurt badly. The first was a Jeremiah Massoli INT that was returned into Oregon territory near the end of the half. Even after Ohio State was safely in FG range, Tressel allow Pryor to throw the ball. Nothing came of the throws, but a made FG gave Ohio State a 16-10 lead. Oregon scored a TD to start the 3rd quarter and Ohio State responded with a FG to make it 19-17. The Buckeyes were throwing before the FG try. Oregon was then swiftly moving the ball 62 yards on 4 plays when RB LeGarrette Blount drop kicked (unintentionally) the ball at the Ohio State 18 and it rolled through the end zone. Was that cosmic revenge for Kelly reinstating Blount after his Boise State sucker punch? The Ducks were done at that point, their high flying offense grounded by their own poor execution and the Buckeyes clock killing drives (Ohio State time of possession: 41:37). Masoli only rushed 6 times for 9 yards and 1 TD. He was terrible throwing the football, 9/20 for 81 yards and 1 INT. Oregon did rush for 179 yards, but couldn't convert on 3rd and long by passing. Hats off to Tressel for ending that 3 game losing streak in BCS bowls.
What Masoli did to that Okie St defender is what the Buckeyes have coming to them
Ohio State (10-2) v. Oregon (10-2)
This game features two mobile QBs, one who supposedly gets to the edge (Terrelle Pryor) and the other who is estimated to be a physical runner (Jeremiah Masoli). That characterization is not entirely accurate. Pryor runs to the edge against slow defenses in the Big 10 and teams from lesser conferences. You cannot call Pryor fast if you watch him closely and objectively. Despite being 6'6", his stride is that of a sub-6 foot tall player. He appears to be in permanent jog mode when he runs the ball. Pryor has never run the ball further than 43 yards in his career and he's got a PCL tear that he will playing on in the Rose Bowl. Masoli doesn't just run hard, he runs wherever he wants, see the video above. Masoli is also the better of the two QBs at throwing the ball (Ohio State has the 106th ranked passing offense, Oregon is not much better at 92nd). Let's compare the two common opponents of Oregon St. and Ohio St.: Pete Carroll's Trojans and Purdue.
Ohio St. lost to both teams, Oregon beat both teams
Stat line v. the Trojans: Pryor 11/25 177 yards 0 TD, 1 INT, 10 rushes 36 yards (1 sack taken); Masoli 19/31 222 yards 1 TD, 0 INT, 13 rushes 164 yards, 1 TD
The big difference in the Purdue games (besides 4 Pryor turnovers) was that Ohio State ran for 66 yards and Oregon racked up 192 yards. In the games against the Trojans, the same thing applied (granted, Tressel went full sweater vest kicking FGs from the Trojan 1 yard line and 5 yard line), the Buckeyes had 88 yards on the ground and the Ducks had 391 yards rushing. Jim Tressel has lost 3 straight bowl games and is only 3-3 against Pac 10 teams (1-2 in the last 3 years). The best Pac 10 Tressel beat was Washington State in 2002--that Cougars team went 10-3 including a Rose Bowl loss. Oregon will have no problems running the ball on Ohio State but Pryor will likely struggle against Oregon both running and throwing. I look for the Ducks to completely dominate the Buckeyes in this game. Lincoln is taking Ohio State.
Cincy's secret weapon, TE Ben Guidugli
Cincinnati Bearcats (12-0) v. Florida Gators (12-1)
What are the Bearcats doing back in the BCS after they got smoked by Virginia Tech last year in the Orange Bowl? Well, they beat everybody on their schedule, won the Big East for the 2nd year in a row and finished 12-0. Had Hunter Lawrence sent his FG wide or more probable with kickers this season, off the upright, the Bearcats are in the National Championship. It wasn't always easy or pretty for Cincy but they made it to New Orleans. They also got Brian Kelly'd after the de facto Big East Championship. Florida won 22 straight games (including a BCS National Championship) after Tebow's promise. The first loss was when UF got handled by Bama in this years' SEC Championship. That's how they got to NOLA and they don't like it. Tebow cried on TV again. The fans weren't buying the tickets. Urban Meyer resigned and then unresigned.
Cincy has a high octane passing offense. The Bearcats QBs Tony Pike and Zach Collaros give this team the highest passing efficiency rating in the country. If they ran the ball better, they'd have the number one offense in the country instead of the 6th best offense. Their star WR is Mardy Gilyard. He also is the number 2 player in all-purpose yards in college football because of his explosive kick and punt returns. Gilyard is the leader of the team as well as its soul. The Bearcats are a reflection of his attitude. Thus far this season, he has refused to lose and made the big plays to keep Cincy in games they should have been out of. The Bearcats secret weapon, if they watched the SEC Championship tape, is TE Ben Guidugli. He is a capable pass catcher and runner. He had a huge day against Illinois with 7 catches for 149 yards and 2 TDs. Guidugli should see some throws his way to open up plays to Gilyard. The Bearcat defense is only a middle of the road group so the offense will have to be firing on all cylinders in order for Cincy to have a shot at the upset win.
Florida's Tim Tebow has played a larger role in the offense than the Gators wanted or needed this season. Steve Addazio's offense has been shaky all season in the redzone and left Gator fans perplexed. The Gator defense remains in the top 5 though. However, the defensive coordinator Charlie Strong is now the head coach at Louisville. The Gators offense is not one that precipitates power running outside of Tebow running at defenders. This plays into Cincy's hands because they had a heck of a time stopping teams with big physical running backs, see the games against UConn, Pitt and Fresno State. The spread offense is not one the Bearcats have struggled to defend. The Gators offensive and defensive players are still faster than Cincy. They have more skill players than Cincy. The Gators D is dominant. On paper there is no way the Bearcats have a chance in this game.
Since this game will not be played on paper but in the Superdome, what are the things that don't go into stat lines that could play a role in the game? The coaching situations. For Cincy, it won't be an issue without BK as head coach, Mardy Gilyard assures us of this. I believe him, the Bearcats play for larger things than one man and that man betrayed them anyway. The Gators want to send Meyer into his indefinite leave of absence with a win. They have also lost assistant coaches before the bowl game. The Gilyard factor. No matter what happens during a game, he won't get rattled. Gilyard used to live in his car and work four jobs while trying to get his scholarship back. The Gators can't let up with a lead or they might just lose it. Disappointment. The Gators don't want to be in this game. Their goal was the National Championship game. I think they come out a little flat and give Cincy a shot to make something good happen right away.
This is more a pick from the heart and not the head. I know I should pick Florida, but I appreciate what Mardy Gilyard does for Cincy much more than I will ever like any Gator player. I'm going with the Bearcats. Lincoln has safely picked the Gators.
I have always liked Mike Leach. He's been consistently an eccentric but enjoyable character to watch in his ten years in Lubbock, but never in trouble. I was about to post something on my twitter page when I saw from ESPN's twitter that Mike Leach had been fired by Texas Tech. Something about it was still shocking even though both Leach and his lawyer said they expected Tech to go through with a dismissal. I had held back from discussing this situation because the quickness with which the university moved in first suspending Leach and then firing him was odd compared with the firing of Mark Mangino at Kansas after an investigation. I was waiting on more details to emerge and watching New Years' Eve bowl games when a link to News Channel 11 in Lubbock caught my eye: "Emails Reveal Plan to Fire Leach." You can read the emails, which come from a year ago when Leach had a protracted struggle over a contract, here.
This deal smelled like a setup from the beginning considering the big contract Leach signed before the season this year. I'm not saying the Tech administration and certain boosters used Adam James and that he is lying, but instead that it appears highly likely that the administration and certain boosters used the James situation as their out.
From the e-mails:
From former Texas Tech Board of Regents member James Sowell & redacted to Tech Chancellor Kent Hance & Tech AD Gerald Myers: "Kent, they have no leverage, don't give in. Also, I feel you should sign a contract that would not cost us too much to fire him. As I said earlier, I believe salaries have peaked so let's don't go too long term. He has to have a big buyout, he has shown no loyalty, he has tried to get another job every year for the past four years."
"Also, a buyout keeps you from getting blackmailed into giving Leach a raise next year when his 2 Jerry MacGuire wannabees get him another phantom interview to put pressure on you to give Mike a raise."
From James Sowell to Kent Hance: "I hope he doesn't sign, that gives us a full year to find another coach after we fire him after next season and pay off the remaining year on his contract."-my emphasis
From redacted to Kent Hance; "Our two best recruiting years have been the last two, and every comment from the players talk about how they connect to the staff and Mike, like him or not he's performing magic...he is not a 'good 'ol boy', he's a quirky intellect who is a football coach. Love him or hate him, you guys should not be bowing your necks and running him off because you can't get along with or relate to some city slicker Yankee agents."
"...you people would be crazy to end this great period of TT football on a negative note."
It's too bad Tech listened to booster Sowell and redacted instead of the other redacted. Leach was fired by Tech "for cause." For an analysis of what Mike Leach being fired "for cause" means, see this article. I'm not condoning what Leach did with his player Adam James. The characterizations of what happened vary in any event. Leach definitely screwed up with James. If Adam James didn't want to practice hard and had an entitlement issue (I mean before the concussion) as Tech position coaches suggested, Leach should have just kicked James off the team. He didn't and instead made an example of James and it left open the possibility a "for cause" firing. Now's going to be a legal battle over the treatment of the player vis a vis contract language. Luckily for Leach (who has a law degree himself) he hired an aggressive lawyer. I don't know where Leach will end up but if he can't find a college job, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be a perfect fit.