Friday, December 20, 2013

Let the Bowl previews begin!

There are 35 bowl games and within this space I will preview every single gosh-danged one of them. Even the lousy ones. Of which there are plenty. But the word “preview” is slightly misleading, considering that even though I watch hours and hours of college football each season, I guarantee you I can recall not seeing a minutes worth of action for oh, probably 35 of these teams. That would be half. So these previews will involve a lot of snarky commentary. Unless you are an alum of those 35 teams, you'll probably agree with most of the snark. But I can't be the only one to revel in the glory of “bowl snark.”
"No prisoners!"

So I have invited the one and only Bob of Arabia to join me. He may not preview every bowl, unless of course I succeed in shaming him to do so. It could happen. Anyway, Mr. BOA and I, along with a third person who actually has a life, once had a sports website not unlike this one entitled “3 Sports Monkeys,” which was a healthy and contributing member to Yardbarker until we all got busy and said “Eff this noise.” Actually, we just stopped posting, and Yardbarker said “Eff this noise,” and tossed us to the scrap heap. Consider these “bowl snarks” a return to those days. I won't say “glory days,” because that would not be accurate. Fun, yes. Glory, no. These are the glory days. Let the bowl snark begin.

Saturday, December 21:
11 am PT, ESPN
Bowl #1: New Mexico Bowl. Washington State (6-6) vs Colorado State (7-6)

Wazzu's Athletic Director is Bill Moos, and Bill Moos can hold a grudge, and it's fantastic. Last season, Mike Leach's first in Pullman, the Cougs lost eight straight games. Moos received many emails saying how terrible he was at his job and how bad Leach was at his job, and both should be fired.
Mike and Bill

Well, after the Cougs won their sixth game to be bowl eligible for the first time in a decade, Moos did a fantastic thing: he announced that he saved those emails, and those particularly venomous writers would not be allowed to buy bowl tickets. Ever. That is the best news I've heard for sports in years. We are all too hasty in our instant love/hate reactions, and the advent of twitter and getting those opinions out there while we're thinking them is contributing to the decline of the culture, to make it a bit more serious than it needs to be (Do you see what happens, Larry?). It is about time we are all held more accountable for our social media actions. Bravo to Bill. Just for that, I take the Cougs. It'll be a shootout.

And a little about this bowl game: The Monkeys (BOA, me, and the guy with a life) have been to New Mexico, and it was fantastic. We still talk about it like it was yesterday, even though it was for the guy with a life's bachelor party, and he's now been married for more than a decade. That's how good it was. We continuously talk about going back. We also have a plan to go see horrible sporting events and revel in the badness, as detailed here. So that the new first bowl of the year is played in New Mexico.... well, that's too much. We will go to this game someday. And it will be fantastic.
BOA's nickname may have partially been inspired by scenes like this

Special guest pick commentary from BOA:

The immediate thought when looking at this bowl was "what's Gildan?". (Editor's note: Officially, it's the “Gildan New Mexico Bowl) So, I had to Google Registered Trademark it. They make clothes, really plain clothes. Painstakingly plain...hmmm....can we make "plainstakingly" a word? Probably not. In any event, I needed some undershirts and they were priced right, so I bought some. Chalk one up for bowl game marketing rights. As for the game, does anyone really care? It's a 7-6 team whose coach has a Captain Jack Sparrow fetish against a team that went .500 in the Mountain West. There are far too many pirate jokes just begging to be used here. OK, I'll use one. The Ram throws Jack overboard.

12:30 PT, ABC
Bowl #2: Las Vegas Bowl: #20 Fresno State (11-1) vs #25 USC (9-4)
Blatant excuse to use this picture, taken in Vegas, 1969

Two things jump out immediately about this game:
  1. The Pac-12 may be puffing out their chests that they have nine bowl teams, but two of them will be done by the time the sun sets on the first day.
  2. A game involving ranked teams should not be played on the first day.
And this game is the first to be slotted into a “Monkey Specialty Category,” or MSC. We came up with these categories to remind ourselves that bowl games are all about selling tickets, and not about matchups, and they always have been and always will be.

This particular category is: “Bowl is played less than one day's driving from campus of both schools.” And it is. 6 hours from Fresno. Not only that, they built an interstate from LA to LV. Which sort of sullies the “ooh, actual ranked teams!” part.

Funny thing about USC, their nickname is the “University of Spoiled Children,” and this year it really seems like they're Los Angeles children: They're on their third father, and after this game they'll have a fourth. Okay, okay, so it's really “coaches” and not “fathers,” but the analogy fits. Count 'em: Lane Kiffin (fired), Ed Orgeron (resigned when they hired Steve Sarkisian), Clay Helton (offensive coordinator, interim coach for this game only), and after the game, Steve Sarkisian comes in to be the new official head man.

They take on a Fresno State squad that would have been a BCS buster had they not, you know, lost to San Jose State 62-52 in the regular season finale. They do have yet another Carr at Quarterback, this one's name is Derek, and I figure he'll throw for 500 yards and the Bulldogs send the Children home quietly.

Special guest pick commentary from BOA:

I had to look Royal Purple up too. (Editor's note: Royal Purple sponsors this one). I don't need motor oil, so me and marketing rights are even. I'm biased on this game, I'm a Fresno State fan. Being located in California's Central Valley, that big 'V' on the back of their helmets sorta kinda makes them my home team, even though Fresno is over 100 miles away from my house. Adding to the bias is my being a SoCal native (born & bred in Long Beach). I grew up a UCLA fan. I'm a Cal State Fullerton alum. I hate USC with a hate that burns hotter than their song girls in those perfectly fitting sweaters (hey, I hate 'em, but gotta give props where props are due). What I hate even more is that they are going to treat the Bulldogs like that DeVille lady did in the movie about the spotted puppies.

2:30 pm PT, ESPN
Bowl #3: Blue Turf Bowl. Buffalo (8-4) vs San Diego State (7-5)

This had a great chance to be the first bowl involving teams I hadn't seen this season, but I watched the Aztecs blow a double-digit fourth quarter lead to Oregon State early in the year, and thanks to them nearly losing to then-winless Hawaii in November I got to watch them late, late at night. That's not a lot of success personally witnessed, but after starting 0-3, including a loss at Ohio State they finished up 7-2. So there's that.

However, Buffalo is more of a cold-weather town, and that seemingly would give them an edge playing a game in, you know, Boise. Two of their losses were also to Ohio State and Baylor. Hey wait a minute, both of the teams lost to Ohio State? That tells me a whole lot about the Ohio State's schedule, and none of it is any good. Anyway, this is just Buffalo's second bowl, so why not? They did get invited to the Tangerine Bowl in the late 50's, but turned it down after being told their two black players wouldn't be able to play in it. Well, at least some things have changed for the better.
I was torn between using an In'n'Out picture or a Five Guys pic. Five Guys won.

Special guest pick commentary from BOA:

I didn't have to look this one up. There is something to be said about straight forward branding. Famous Idaho Potato tells you everything you need to know. It's a potato, it's from Idaho, and it is somewhat popular. Damn, now I want some fries....chalk another one up for marketing. Did I read this right?  The Buffalo Bills are so bad they've been relegated to a college bowl game? Perhaps they can finally rid themselves of all their demons and win a bowl game. Come on boys, win one for Marv. Win one for Machine Gun Kelly (still the coolest football nickname ever). Win one for the Juice. Oh wait, that's right, your demons go waaaaaay back. Aztecs win. Bills go to 0-5 in bowl games.

6 pm PT, ESPN
Bowl #4: New Orleans Bowl, Tulane (7-5) vs Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4)

And it's official, we have our first non-bowl bowl game!!! BOA made up this category a couple years ago if a bowl game fell into several MSC's (see above). This game qualifies in the following categories:
  1. Game and teams are from the same state.
  2. Bonus category: at least one team is from the host city (Tulane's campus is 3 miles from the Superdome).
  3. One team has played in this bowl in the past three years (LA-Lafayette is the two-time defending champion).
  4. Matchup makes you go, “wait, aren't these guys in the same conference?”
  5. It just feels like a joke.
The only thing this game is going for it is that Tulane's starting quarterback is Nick Montana. Son of Joe. Except he's hurt and may not start. Nick's already transferred to like six schools, I think being Joe's kid means he gets some special NCAA exception to transfer and play in-season.

I have no idea who to pick. The stats favor Louisiana-Lafayette. Sure, what the hell.
I'm sure there's a Hurricane somewhere in this picture.

Special guest pick commentary from BOA: 

Is this being televised outside the state of Louisiana? Can we just rename this the Swamp Bowl and get it over with? When I flip the channels during commercial breaks of Diners, Drive-In's & Dives, I see ads for a show called Swamp People, or Gator Hunters or something like that. Couldn't they get the History Channel to sponsor the game? The Swamp People Swamp Bowl. Due to this lack of creativity, I'm calling me and marketing even and walking away from Day 1 of Bowl Season with a 2-2 record. Tulane is called the Green Wave....sounds like a friggin' Skittles commercial. I'll take the Ragin' Cajuns to win the Romp in the Swamp. Now, somebody get Daddy a Hurricane, it's time to get my swerve on.

Monday, December 23
11 am PT
Bowl #5: St Petersburg Bowl: Ohio (7-5) vs East Carolina (9-3)

With this, I now create a new MSC. And that is:

“Is the bowl played in a location that usually never hosts football?”

The four previous bowls are being played in the New Mexico Lobos home stadium, the UNLV home stadium, Boise State's home stadium, and of course, the Superdome. This one's being played at the home of the Tampa Bay Rays. Who play baseball. So, I think we've got a major strike (baseball reference unintentional) against this bowl game.
And this is for the team that plays there 81 times a year.

That's before we even get to the teams. I know at least one person who went to Ohio University and I've at least heard of East Carolina before... but that's about it. The ESPN preview claims that these quarterbacks are underrated, but shouldn't we have heard of a quarterback before he's considered underrated? These guys aren't underrated, they're unknowns.

Ohio's coached by ex-Nebraska head man Frank Solich. That's enough for me to pick East Carolina. Besides, the first name of their head coach is “Ruffin.” Case closed.

So there we are. Five down.... 30 to go. I know you're excited.

Note: most actual information about the bowls is taken from ESPN.com's bowl previews.