Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bowl Preview 8: New Year's Day. Hate and Admiration.

Whatever man, it's just another day with six bowl games. Actually, that's the most for any one day this season. There will also be four overlapping games, which is also a rarity. Considering that ESPN owns nearly all the teevee rights, they generally space out the start times in order to guarantee maximum viewership (aka, viewer laziness and the inability to even change the channel). Not so on New Year's Day.

A reminder that the term “MSC” refers to a “Monkey Specialty Category” and helps us determine whether the bowl game is actually trying, or is just an even more blatant cash grab.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014
9 am PT, ESPNU
Bowl #23: Heart of Dallas Bowl. UNLV (7-5) vs North Texas (8-4)
The Cotton Bowl Stadium when it still hosted the Cotton Bowl

I won't complain about the matchup... that's for BOA to do. Instead, let's talk about everything else that's wrong with this game. I have no idea where to start with that. Let's start with the fact that if there's one game that symbolizes the greed culture that has completely overtaken the NCAA and bowl games, this is it. It's played at the Cotton Bowl but it's not the Cotton Bowl.

The name Cotton Bowl is now attached to the game played at the billion-dollar Jerry Jones Mausoleum. That stadium will host the first BCS playoff championship game in January 2015. They ripped the Cotton Bowl out of the Cotton Bowl because it wasn't fancy or shiny or new enough to host one of the prestigious, memorable, and long-standing bowl games in college football history.

I grant you, the football stadium at the Texas State Fairgrounds is not new, and it doesn't have luxury boxes, and it could probably use an upgrade. But to not play the Cotton Bowl at the Cotton Bowl is a disgrace. That the game played at the Cotton Bowl cannot be called the Cotton Bowl is a damned shame.

Fine, the game. These teams statistically are pretty much in a dead heat. Hell with it, let's go with the home team. This game disgusts me. Wait till we get to the actual game called the Cotton Bowl.


Guest picker Bob of Arabia:

This game is competing for this season's MSC Award as most blatant non-bowl. The Swamp Bowl is still the king, but I'm giving this one a close second. I had originally awarded second place to the Belk Bowl for inviting a 6-6 Tar Heel team to a game in Charlotte. However, that powder blue home field advantage was much stronger than I had anticipated. I don't know who the Tar Heels embarrassed on the field that day (aside from me), but I'm not sure Cincinnati ever got off the plane in Charlotte. Thus, due to a thorough heel stomping, I have to award the Belk Bowl some level of legitimacy for inviting North Carolina. Now that that is out of the way, how the hell is this game being played on New Year's Day? If they want a fake Cotton Bowl, do it earlier in the week. Maybe on the same day the fake Holiday Bowl is played. At least this time, a bowl with Texas in the name has a team from Texas in the game (reference Texas Bowl). I will invoke the color team name rule, and I was a big Grand Ma Ma fan, so I'll take the Runnin' Rebs.


9 am PT, ESPN2
Bowl #24: Gator Bowl. Nebraska (8-4) vs #22 Georgia (8-4)
Original Gator Bowl Stadium, date unknown

This game is similar but not similar to the Heart of Dallas/Cotton Bowl shenanigans. The Gator Bowl itself does not exist anymore. By that I mean the classic stadium that hosted this game for 40 years. That was torn down and replaced by a stadium on the same spot that does the same things that the old Gator Bowl stadium did, like host the annual Georgia-Florida game as well as this one. (And they did that so they could get the Jaguars, so was it really that much of an improvement?) But it's not the Gator Bowl.

And since Georgia plays a game here every year and they're in this game... well, that's MSC one and MSC two against this bowl. And Nebraska played Georgia in the Citrus Bowl last year. MSC three. Feel free to nurse your hangover and skip this one, too. As for which coach screws this one up the least, I'll pick Georgia to win it but only because I want to see Bo Pelini fired and Nebraska sink even further out of the national picture. PS, I went to a Big 12 school and since the Huskers left I always want them to burn.

Guest picker Bob of Arabia:
 
I am going to refer to this as the Embattled Coach Bowl. I don't understand how a coach be handed a losing team, post a winning record year after year, go to a bowl game year after year, and still somehow end up on the proverbial "Hot Seat" EVERY year. However, that is exactly what happens to both of these guys. Ya ya, neither has won a National Championship lately, but not too many guys not named Nick Saban or Urban Meyer have. The Sports Dude made a similar point regarding Oregon State's coach a few days ago, so I'll stop here to avoid any reader deja vu fatigue. Speaking of deja vu fatigue, we have seen this game before, just in a different venue. Georgia beat Nebraska last year in the Capital One Bowl. I expect the same result here.


10 am PT, ABC
Bowl #25: Citrus Bowl (really). #19 Wisconsin (9-3) vs #9 South Carolina (10-2)

Are you ready for this? This is awesome: It's the Citrus Bowl, it's still played in the Citrus Bowl, and the name Citrus Bowl is nowhere to be found in it's official name. It's totally sold out to the highest bidder, in this case a company that encourages America to stay in debt. Okay, now I'm just ranting. The Citrus Bowl stadium is actually quite rare because it hosts two bowl games every year. The previous one I mistakenly called the Citrus Bowl, but it wasn't the Citrus Bowl. In fact, that one never really had a non-sponsor title name. It was briefly called the Tangerine Bowl, which was the first name of the Citrus Bowl game. But it wasn't really the Citrus Bowl. This one is. Except this one isn't even officially called the Citrus Bowl anymore.

Well, at least that wasn't confusing.

I take South Carolina, because The Ole Ball Coach is always entertaining. And I don't want injuries, blah blah blah, but I want Jadeveon Clowney to do this again. And so do you.

It should also be noted that this is just the third bowl featuring ranked teams. This is the 25th bowl to be played.


Guest picker Bob of Arabia:


Great, another Orlando bowl game. Just when I thought I was clear of the memory of last week's tequila fog, here's a game that will bring with it more mouse ear induced reminders. Bundle that with the inevitable New Year's Eve hangover I'll be sporting and the fact my credit card bill from the drunken Anaheim shopping spree just landed, and I finally have a reason to watch the Heart of Texas Bowl. OK, I'm kidding. No hangover, or memory thereof, is that bad. For me, this game is essentially the Jadeveon Clowney combine. Dude tiptoed his way through the entire season and is miraculously healthy for this final "Yo, NFL, check me out" moment. It was despicable.....and brilliant. I am really hoping this does not become the motus operandi for top draft prospects going forward. The whole thing lends itself to a debate on whether or not we should be paying college players, but that is a different posting. I'll take South Carolina. Hmmm....imagine the merchandising opportunities if South Carolina had landed in the Mistletoe Bowl.


10 am PT, ESPN
Bowl #26: Hall of Fame Bowl. Iowa (8-4) vs #16 LSU (9-3)

Wait, how did Iowa make a New Year's Day Bowl? Do they even have a chance against the only team to beat Auburn? Well, LSU doesn't have their starting quarterback, but they had a month to figure it out. If they don't then that's on them. I'm taking Iowa just because of that.

You don't even know what the Hall of Fame Bowl is, do you? It's been corporate sponsored for so long you don't even remember watching a Hall of Fame Bowl. That's okay, neither do I. Apparently they originally played it in Birmingham, even though, you know, the college football hall of fame isn't actually there. But they were a sponsor. Then they moved it to Tampa, because, well, would you rather go to a bowl game in Birmingham or Tampa? That's how these things work

What's interesting about that is when they originally moved it to Tampa in the mid-80's, the bowl didn't have an alliance with conferences, so it brought in two at-large teams. No, listen to that again: a game sponsored by the college football hall of fame didn't have a contract with any conference. You'd think if any game had an alliance, it would be, you know, the one sponsored by the college football freaking hall of fame. Anyway, now it's named after steaks.


Guest picker Bob of Arabia:


Steak, a deep fried onion made to look like a dining table centerpiece and beer make for a perfect hangover cure. Much like the Michigan / K-State game (which I got jobbed on because of that post write-up Wolverine quarterback switch), you guys know where to find me. Every year I make picks, I inevitably pick an SEC team to beat Iowa. Why wouldn't I? The SEC is the flagship of NCAA Football. The Big Ten....not so much. However, Iowa is batting Satan's area code against the SEC in bowl games (4-for-6 or .666 for those of you keeping score). All that corn and snow must make for a bad disposition or something (have you heard or seen Des Moines natives Slipknot?). Bad dispositions translate well in football and helped Iowa play well down the stretch. Perhaps this is the year for me to buck the trend. The definition of insanity is blah blah blah, I'm taking the Bayou Bengals.

2 pm PT, ESPN
Bowl #27: Rose Bowl. #5 Stanford (11-2)  vs #4 Michigan State (12-1)
I took this one pre- Oregon-Wisconsin, Jan 2012

And then there's the Granddaddy Of Them All. The Rose Bowl is the reason bowls exist and that they're called bowls. It's been played in the same stadium since 1923, and although it's gone through major upgrades, it's still the outstanding college football bowl game. Even with the BCS and all the money thrown around, the Rose Bowl still makes more money than any college football bowl game, even the BCS title game. And you wonder why the Pac-10 and Big 10 still think about bailing on the BCS and the NCAA and going independent. The Rose Bowl would make it all worthwhile, because the Rose Bowl isn't going anywhere. The Rose Bowl is the reason they didn't join the Bowl Alliance when it started in the mid-1990's, the Rose Bowl is the reason they added an extra BCS title game (because Pac-10 and Big 10 teams either got screwed out of playing in the Rose Bowl or couldn't play in the Rose Bowl), and it's the reason that they five major bowls will rotate the BCS playoff semifinals. If the Rose Bowl couldn't stay mostly the way it was, the Pac-10 and Big 10 would leave the BCS. It's the truth.

The Rose Bowl makes up for everything. It sticks to its guns and uses the word tradition as the reasoning... but in reality it just wants to keep cashing the largest check. Can't say I blame them. Occasionally it's nice when tradition is the greediest way to go, it keeps traditions going.

The actual game might be the best of the bunch. I say Stanford.


Guest picker Bob of Arabia:


For those of you who have never seen the Stanford band's act, you should. They're no more musically gifted than any other marching band, nor to they march particularly well. They are funny as hell though. If Ohio State had made it to the Rose Bowl, I am sure they would have had a field day making fun of the whole Buckeye "dot the i" thing. I know nothing of Michigan State's band, and be honest, neither do you. That means they're not nearly as big of a smack talk target. Much like their football team not playing for the BCS Championship, I'm hoping the Cardinal band can avoid a letdown here. Either way, I would still rather see what they have planned than sit through the halftime highlight show and be reminded that Iowa screwed me over again. As for the game, I hope Michigan State shows up. If they do, this could be the best bowl game of the year. Two big, strong, physical badass teams trading blows like Rocky and Apollo. How Stanford lost two games is beyond me (Utah? Really?). How Notre Dame beat Michigan State is really beyond me. I would invoke the color team name rule here, but I just don't see the Spartans winning this game. Instead, I will use a loop hole.....a cardinal is a bird, right?


5:30 PT, ESPN
Bowl #28: Fiesta Bowl. #16 UCF (11-1) vs #6 Baylor (11-1)
Took this one too, pre Oregon-Auburn National Championship game 2011

I've been to the Rose Bowl, but I've been to the Fiesta Bowl twice. And the Fiesta Bowl treats the media right. Oh man. The hotel is awesome, the venue is amazing, and you're in sunny Phoenix in January, so it's not 110 degrees, it's a breezy, comfortable, sunny 55-65. And even with all the damned cars it still feels like fresh air. I would go to the Fiesta Bowl every year. I know it's on the same day as the Rose Bowl, but for the hospitality/convenience/fact that I love deserts, I would still go to the Fiesta Bowl most years.

But not this one. This matchup is awful. UCF is a joke. You remember they're coached by George O'Leary, who lied on his resume for 25 years and only got caught after Notre Dame hired him and then actually vetted his accomplishments. He still gets coaching jobs. And that UCF is in the awful has-been still-gets-an-automatic-BCS-berth American Conference, the remnants of the Big East that nobody wanted.

Actually, going to the Fiesta Bowl this year would actually be interesting, because Baylor's gonna set a bowl record by putting up 85 on these liars. That would be fun to watch.


Guest picker Bob of Arabia:


Is UCF and Baylor really a fiesta? Name 3 players on each team right now. Ya, I couldn't do it either and I just finished reading up on both teams for this posting. Baylor seems to be the Midwest's answer to the Oregon Ducks. Same video game offensive numbers. Same multiple crazy uniform combinations. Same shiny check-your-hair-in-the-reflection helmets. Even the same friggin' color scheme. Does that shoe company in Eugene know about this? Anyway, here's what the research says. Both Baylor and UCF had a signature win (Oklahoma / Louisville respectively), a single loss to a superior team (Oklahoma State / South Carolina), and did what they were supposed to do against everyone else. The difference is that Baylor plays in the Big-12 and UCF plays in the Little East. On paper, Baylor should run away with this game. On paper, "47 Ronin" was a no-doubt-about-it blockbuster too. People roll joints with it; paper can make you stupid. UCF is in Orlando. My ties to Orlando are well documented, so I'm taking the Knights. Tequila shots for everyone!!

Happy New Year!

photos courtesy: en.wikipedia.org, metrojacksonville.com, huskerj.com, sports.tamu.edu, liquoranddrink.com