Monday, December 30, 2013

Bowl Preview 7: Finally, New Year's Eve

The last day of 2013 ends with, uh, more bowl games. Remember when there was only a handful of bowl games before New Year's Eve, and then it really kicked into gear? This year, 18 bowls got played before NYE. Too many. Way too many. 18 should be the number of bowl games total, an emphasis on quality over quantity. Instead, it's dollar bills y'all. The more the merrier. More for all... except the guys playing in the games, of course, because that would be immoral to reward the guys who have made college sports a multi-billion dollar industry. And you wonder why guys sell their autographs. Allegedly, of course. We'll get to him presently.

Tuesday, December 31st
9:30 am PT, ESPN
Bowl #19: Independence Bowl: Arizona vs Boston College

No, no, no... Independence Bowl, not Independence Day
This bowl has been around a long while and because of it's not-quite-as-desirable location in Shreveport, Louisiana, was one of the first to climb aboard the sponsored name train. Of course it got made fun of, because that only made it seem worse. You're not only going to Shreveport, you're playing in the Poulan Weed Eater Independence Bowl. It's changed title sponsors since then, but calling something the Weed Eater Bowl will never not be an insult.

Having lost whatever luster it's had, the Independence Bowl only has one tie-in with a conference, the ACC, and is left to pick the best off the scrap heap for it's second team. Because everyone schedules creampuffs, they're going to get somebody that's excited to go bowling, even if it is in Shreveport for the Weed Eater Bowl.

I'm looking at you, Arizona Wildcats. The 9th team to go bowling from the Pac-12. The New Mexico Bowl, the final conference tie-in game, picked Washington State over Arizona, so the Wildcats took the invitation to the Independence Bowl and were glad to go.

For all I've ridiculed this game, it actually should be pretty good because it features the top two rushers in the country (aka, guys who should have been Heisman Finalists) who should go up against other on Sundays here pretty soon. I mean, if you want to watch a game from Shreveport at 9:30 in the morning. It's up to you. And I take Arizona.

1995 Program Cover
Guest picker Bob of Arabia:

First, worst bowl name ever.  If I ever win the lottery, and it's some ridiculous half-a-billion amount, I am going to sponsor a bowl game and call it "My Effen Bowl Game" because even that is better than this one.  Second, I hope you like watching handoffs.  I am pretty sure me and The Sports Dude could play quarterback in this game.  The game plan for both teams will be catch the snap, give it to the fast guy / catch the snap, give it to the fast guy.  The good news is that four quarters of catch the snap, give it to the fast guy will make for a pretty quick game as long as they don't go Franco Harris and continually run out of bounds. (Ya, I said it.  Raider fan.  Hate Franco.  Immaculate Reception my....gah, started getting fired up, sorry about that, back to work).  I am not sure who to pick in this one, mainly because I have no clue which Arizona team is going to show up.  Will it be the motivated badasses that whooped up on Oregon, or the complacent chumps that lost to Wazzu?  I am really hoping for the former.  Besides, don't cats usually chase and kill birds?

11 am, CBS
Bowl #20: Sun Bowl. #17 UCLA vs Virginia Tech

And for the 20th bowl game, we get the first one not televised on the ESPN/ABC monolith. The game from El Paso has been on CBS for an awful long time, and I really have no idea why. CBS holds the rights to the SEC regular season and has for what seems like ages, and now they have the Mountain West regular season, too.... but their bowl game is a Pac-12/ACC matchup. The Pac-12 has been part of this game for decades, it feels like, and for a long time it was a Pac-12/Big 10 matchup. Which still doesn't explain why it's CBS's only bowl game.

If They (capitalization intended) wanted to get it right (but They haven't gotten a lot right as far as these things go), then CBS and ESPN should straight-up trade the Sun Bowl for a bowl game with an SEC team. Really, since the SEC championship is in Atlanta, CBS's one bowl game should be the Peach Bowl, which is also in Atlanta and has an SEC team involved. There are two games featuring SEC teams on New Year's Day as well, those also would totally work in this trade. I can understand how ESPN wouldn't really want to trade the Sun Bowl for a New Year's Day Bowl, but the Liberty Bowl (next one up in our previews) is in Memphis and has an SEC team too. Either way, CBS should not be televising the Sun Bowl.

I say this because even though I like Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson, the broadcasters for this particular game, it's clear they haven't been paying attention to either team throughout the season, because they've been broadcasting Auburn and LSU and Alabama and Georgia and... you know, SEC teams. They're not paying attention to who's gonna finish 3rd in the Pac-12 and 4th in the ACC on a regular basis throughout the year. Now, if they were the Peach Bowl broadcasters, there would be an aura of familiarity. But they aren't, and there isn't. Maybe Verne likes sneaking over the border for a little late-night nip, and that's why CBS keeps the rights.

As for the game, every team obviously sneaks over the border for a little late-night nip. It depends on who did it the least. I say UCLA takes it, but only because I forgot Virginia Tech had a football team.

If you'd like a story that really will raise your impression of Verne Lundquist, read how he met his wife.

Guest picker Bob of Arabia:

Finally, a sign we're getting closer to the end....a game that's been around for a long time that has a real bowl name.  If I recall, this was basically Rose Bowl Light back in the day as it would pit not the best Pac-10 team against not the best Big-10 team.  A loser's bracket consolation game if you will.  But, I suppose if you think about it, 34 of these bowl games are loser bracket consolation games.  Unless you're Auburn or Florida State, you're really playing to be able to claim that you technically won your last game and nothing more.  Well, besides the money thing.  Schools seem to put a level of importance on the money thing.  Much like Zona, I am a little concerned with which UCLA team is going to show up.  You could say the same about the Hokies.  They beat Marshall, but lost to Maryland.  Marshall just beat Maryland in the Military Bowl.  Not to start an argument with The Sports Dude, but 1 and 1 and 1 don't always make 3.  I'll give in ever so slightly to my SoCal bias and take the Bruins to win, driving me crazy every step of the way I'm sure.

Mike Ficher emerges once again from his Christmas food coma to make a prediction:

Google image search is amazing: 1947 Sun Bowl, VT vs Cincy
The last time Virginia Tech played in the Sun Bowl (1947), the cost of a first class postage stamp was $.03, unemployment was at 3.7% and Margaret Osborne and Jack Kramer won the singles titles at Wimbledon.

A lot, in a bit of an understatement, has changed.

In fact, the next time Virginia Tech played in a bowl game, the cost of a first class postage stamp was $.05, unemployment was at 4.5% and Texas Western rocked the sports world by winning the NCAA men's basketball tournament with a starting lineup consisting of five black players.

The year was 1966 and the Hokies lost to Miami in the Liberty Bowl, 14-7.

Virginia Tech appeared in only four more bowls until 1993.  Since then, they have not missed a post-season bowl appearance. Bowl games are now part of the Hokies season schedule.

UCLA has struggled in the shadow of its more celebrated neighbor, USC, but appears to be emerging as a viable contender for attention in the crowded southern California market under Jim Mora.  Not sure a game in El Paso enhances that cause, but considering the Bruins have dropped six of their last eight bowl appearances, a victory will be welcome.  Even in El Paso.  Even with the cost of a first class stamp at $.46.

UCLA 34, Virginia Tech 27

Enjoy the game!
1pm PT, ESPN
Bowl #21: Liberty Bowl. Rice vs Mississippi State

The best story of the Liberty Bowl never concerns any of the teams playing, it's always the trivia question: Why do they play the Liberty Bowl in Memphis?

See, most people usually never think about that. They just assume it's a name, maybe because they played the first one in 1976 during the Bicentennial, and my goodness everything got named the Liberty or the Independence something during the Bicentennial. (Like, guess what, the aforementioned Independence Bowl!) I'm sure there are more than a few 37 year olds running around who are named Liberty precisely because of that.

Baker breaks a tackle and is off in the 1962 Liberty Bowl
Well, that's a decent theory, it's wrong. And since I made that up, I can only blame myself. The Liberty Bowl is called the Liberty Bowl because it started in Philadelphia in 1959. And they used to play it really, really early. The only Heisman winner to ever play at a college in Oregon, Terry Baker, scored on a 99 yard touchdown run for the only score of the game in the 1962 edition for the Beavs as they beat Villanova 6-0. On December 6th. I mean, that's goofy. Not just the whole bowl game in Philadelphia thing, (although when you think about it, Philly and Chicago are about the only two major metropolis' that don't have a bowl game at this point, now that NYC is back in the college bowl game mix) but they played it the week after the season ended. I don't even know when Baker won the Heisman, it's very possible that he could have missed the ceremony to play in that godforsaken 17 degree game.

Either way, the Liberty Bowl was not a success in Philly because it was so freaking cold, (you might have noticed in the photo, the field was frozen so the teams wore straight-up sneakers and not football spikes)and actually became the first bowl game to be played indoors when it was held in Atlantic City for the 1964 edition. The game moved to Memphis the following year. Such were bowl games back then that the founder of the game just said “to hell with it” and moved it on his own without having to consult the NCAA.

Oh, and I pick Rice in this one, because they beat Kansas, and it's always better when you lose to a team that ends up winning a bowl game. Such are the things an alum has to look forward to when their football team is terrible.

Guest picker Bob of Arabia:

Another real bowl name....sweet.  I'd go to this game.  It's in Memphis.  They have Barbecue in Memphis.  Lots of it.  I love Barbecue.  They have blues bars in Memphis.  Lots of them.  I love the blues.  And, if I went to this game, I'd take Blue Oyster Cult, Bruce Dickinson (a.k.a. Christopher Walken) and Will Farrell with me because there is going to be much cowbell there.  Much cowbell.  So much cowbell.  The cowbell will be courtesy of the Mississippi State fans and, after being told not to bring them to their SEC games anymore, they will be more than obliged to cure any fever Dickinson can throw at them.  "Mississippi Queen" by Mountain starts with cowbell.  That's not a good sign for Rice.  Give me the Bulldogs.  Hey, Bulldog fans, do you guys know "Hair of the Dog"?

5pm PT, ESPN
Bowl #22: Peach Bowl. #21 Texas A&M vs #24 Duke

So Duke's reward for having their best football season in over 70 years is to get whupped by the Aggies in Johnny Manziel's last college football game. A little mean? Yup. Accurate? Yup.

Duke was good this year but they're not that good. They could have a chance if Johnny Football hasn't slept in 72 hours, which is entirely possible. A&M's not looked good at times this season usually because Manziel appears to phone it in occasionally. He may not be the best NFL prospect but he's tired of this joke where A&M earns millions and he doesn't get any of it.

He may seem like a spoiled brat because his folks already have millions... but the fact is he understands he's getting screwed more than a lot of players precisely because he is a spoiled brat used to getting things his way. In the NCAA, it's done Their way (capitalization again intentional).

If there's something Johnny needs to keep in mind here, it's “be careful what you wish for.” In the NFL, you might finally be getting paid... but you only get paid as long as you're being useful. Players are chewed up and spit out a lot more in the pros than they are in any college. If you're not going to work as hard as possible, they'll cut you and bring in the next guy. Especially if you're the 3rd string quarterback. There's a reason the average NFL career is three years... which is exactly how long Manziel was in college. I wonder how he'll like playing in Saskatchewan after he gets cut by the Jaguars?

Guest picker Bob of Arabia:

I like it when schools that suck for so long they really should have killed the football program finally turn it around.  Enter Duke.  Even though I don't like Duke because of the whole basketball thing, I was really hoping they would beat Florida State to throw a serious monkey wrench in the whole BCS thing.  That didn't happen, mainly because Florida State is really, really, really good.  I question how motivated the Aggies are to play this game.  They were thinking BCS all season long.  Instead, they lose their last 2 games of the season to finish 8-4.  Duke is going to come in to this game with their hair on fire.  However, the only Duke I really like is Daisy and I'm pretty sure she's not going to the game.  Even though I don't like Texas A&M because of the whole Johnny Football thing, I think they come out of this with a win because of the whole Johnny Football thing.

No, no, no... Daisy Duke, not Daisy Duck

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