Perhaps my favorite Christmas sketch of all time. Steve Martin expressing his Christmas wish. Simple, subtle, yet hillarious. Have a good holiday everyone.
Friday, December 24
Monday, December 20
Perhaps the greatest big man doing athletic things highlight in the history of the NFL. Jumbo Elliot has to be impressed. The Packers decision to squib it before the half turned the tide of the game, perhaps because Connolly's rumbling put the Earth temporarily off it's axis. It has been comfirmed that this is the longest kick return by a large man in the history of the NFL at 71 yards. Amazing that this return happened on the same day as Desean Jackson's throat rip of the Giants, which was so amazing it even made Joe Buck break monotone.
Friday, December 17
I think I've got cabin fever. Bowl season kicks off Saturday. If 6-6 BYU and UTEP does not get you excited than nothing will. Don't worry, I am not going to go into a college football playoff discussion or mock the horrible names of the bowls or say there are too many (well I will slightly). Let's take a look at all 35(!) bowls and I will make a
horrible educated guess on who will win. Read on....for entertainment purposes only of course.
New Mexico Bowl
Dec. 18, 2:00 pm, Albequerque
BYU(6-6) vs. UTEP (6-6)
The Match-up: The first bowl has become the standard for mediocre match-ups. Here we have BYU who certainly fell off this year and UTEP who finished 4th in Conference USA...in their division. In the course of the meal of bowl season, this is the saltine you popped in before the party starts.
The Wild Card: Mike Price still coaches at UTEP. Anytime someone remembers that he does they usually include a joke about his unceremonious firing from Alabama. I won't go there Mike, hope all is well.
The Pick: UTEP. BYU gets distracted by the enchantment of New Mexico as some kind of black magic that goes against Mormonism.
uDrove Humanitarian Bowl
Dec. 18, 5:30 pm, Boise
Northern Illinois(10-3) vs. Fresno State(8-4)
The Match-Up: Northern Illinois went undefeated in MAC play but lost in the championship game. The last three games before the title game they outscored their opponents 195-54. You may think they missed out on a superior bowl but the team that beat them is playing in GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile. Fresno gets the chance to travel...somwhere they already played this year.
The Wild Card: Pat Hill's mustache. That thing will not move unless a heavy dose of mineral spirits are applied.
The Pick: Fresno State gets the pick because the familiarity with the Smurf Turf.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Dec. 18, 9:00 pm, New Orleans
Ohio(8-4) vs. Troy(7-5)
The Match-up: When the Sun Belt and the MAC get together, you can throw out the records. If you can't get up for this match-up in the middle of December than there is a serious problem with your sports fandom.
The Wild Card: Most famous alum from each school? For Ohio it has to be Paul Newman, all apologies to Piper Perabo and Peter King. For Troy, some dude named Manley Johnson who is Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Edge, Ohio.
The Pick: Going with the Bobcats in this one, Frank Solich whips his kids intoa frenzy come mid-December.
Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl
Dec. 21, 8:00 pm, St. Petersburg
Southern Miss(8-4) vs. Louisville(6-6)
The Match-up: I'm sure Cardinal fans are breathing a sigh of relief that Charlie Strong is staying put. Not just from a performance point of view, but this team has gone through coaches like free bread at an Italian restaurant. Louisville squeaked in to bowl eligibility and were all over the place on the field in terms of results. They did blank BCS bound UCONN 26-0 so that counts....for something. Southern Miss was 8-4 but had two one point losses in conference play. That means they are a very good Conference USA team, take that as what you will.
The Wild Card: I do enjoy how we get the single quotation marks bracketing the O in Beef 'O' Brady's. Have you ever been to one of these? I have a few times. When I was in my "out of college but no clue what I'm doing" phases I was a door to door salesman. Yes, there was a clever title like Sales Associate tagged on there but that's essenitally what I was. It was the worst job I've ever had and this was before the economy went in the complete crapper. I did learn a lot about life and about people though. One of our clients was Beef 'O' Brady's. We met at a location in South Carolina and spoke with the manager. After getting some details we headed out. Now, this was basically a pyramid scheme and the guy who was running it was as shady as Calipari on an extra slicky oil day. So off I would go into some random middle class neighborhood trying to convince people that if they bought this sheet of coupons, they would save money on the multiple trips they were obviously planning to that restaurant for the next year. Hell of a way to make a living. The sick thing was is that I was good at it; I was coming back to the office having sold a stack of the coupons and getting paid straight commision. Every night I got home with a wad of cash. Problem was this job was going nowhere, I hated everyone that worked there, and I was working 72 hour weeks. The final straw is when they sent me into the ghetto of Gastonia, NC and expected me to sell a bunch of pizza coupon books. Anyway that's what Beef 'O' Brady's reminds me of, those years in my 20s that I'll never get back.
The pick: Louisville. I think Charlie Strong is going to lead the Cards to bigger and better things in the future.
MAACO Las Vegas bowl
Dec. 22, 8:00 pm, Las Vegas
Utah(10-2) vs. Boise State(11-1)
The Match-up: Easily the best early bowl game and probably one of the best bowl games period. Riddle me this? When Utah beat Bama in the Sugar Bowl a few years ago, people made the excuse for the Tide that they were let down from their loss against Florida in the SEC Championship game. This year the supposed exact same thing happend to the Utes. They had their game of the year against TCU, at home with their whole season riding on it. TCU obliterated them which sent them into a spiral (said spiral consisted of losing at Notre Dame, they won the rest of their games). Now all that was said was that it was hurtful to TCU's case. On Boise's side their poor kicker is probably running around pointing out to everyone that even if Boise had beaten Nevada like they should have the Broncos would not have been in the national championship game. He did cost them a Rose Bowl bid though and lots and lots of money.
The Wild Card: As much as these two teams wanted better bowl games, the players have to be happy with the locale. Vegas baby, those upper classmen must be especially happy. Not that Vegas is probably big on checking IDs nowadays, they need the money. These guys get to play before Christmas as well, so they will get to spend the holidays at home. As much as it hurts for neither team to make the BCS, they at least get a nice swag bowl to play in.
The Pick: I like how Whittingham gets a team ready for bowls, but Boise has a lot of frustration to get out and they are the better team. The foot will not be taken off the gas pedal in this one.
S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia bowl
Dec 23, 8:00 pm, San Diego
Navy(9-3) vs. San Diego State(8-4)
The Match-up: Scrappy San Diego State from the Mountain West gets a virtual home game against a tough Navy team. They mentioned this during the Army-Navy game on Saturday, but the Navy seniors have accomplished quite a bit in their career. That includes 4-0 against Army, 3 Commander in Chief trophies, 4 bowl games and a 35-17 record. Impressive.
The Wild Card: Of course it has to be the triple option. Navy is so successful because Ricky Dobbs their QB can throw it down the field when he has to and they do have some athletes on defense as well. There is always the "month to prepare" thing about the option, but it doesn't always work like that. Giving someone time to do something does not mean they will always do it right.
The Pick: Maybe I was just too impressed with a win over a rebuilding Army team or their destroying of Notre Dame but I think Navy runs wild.
Sheraton Hawaii bowl
Dec. 24, 8:00 pm, Honolulu
Hawaii(10-3) vs. Tulsa(9-3)
The Match-up: Both of these teams quietly put together spectacular records and feature high-power offenses. I expect this game to be similar to the Boise-ECU shootout from years back in this bowl which introduced most of us to Chris Johnson.
The Wild Card: Hawaii playing at home of course. How many "Wow Hawaii is in the Hawaii bowl?" jokes have you heard so far? Yeah I lost count to. Next person that says that to you should be met with the retort of "I heard the NFC West was a bad division this year."
The pick: Hawaii. Can never get enough of that Haka.
Little Caesars bowl
Dec. 26, 8:30 pm, Detroit
Florida International(6-6) vs. Toledo(8-4)
The Match-up: FIU has been unfairly targeted by anti-playoff pundits as a horrible team that would get an automatic bid under the 16-team playoff framework. They really don't deserve that label. They are just a small FBS team doing what they can. Their opening 4 games were Rutgers(lost by 5), Texas A&M(lost by 7), Maryland(lost by 14), and Pitt(got shelled by 27). That definitely will skew your final record. Toledo's logo is phallic in nature (all I got).
The Wild Card: I know recognition can be geopgraphical when it comes to food chains but this bowl did accomplish what Little Caesars wanted; it got people talking about the place. Granted, most of that chatter was in the form of, "Wait, Little Caesars is still around?". I saw them dissapear in Charlotte when I was a little kid and the only one I saw in Miami was a horribly shotty one that I would never buy food in. Yet now they host a bowl, even if a craptastic one.
The Pick: FIU. The Panthers have been battle tested, while Toledo's biggest win was ...Purdue?
AdvoCare V100 Independence bowl
Dec. 27, 5:00 pm, Shreveport
Air Force vs. Georgia Tech
The Match-up: Are you ready for some sweet triple Option on triple option action? The 117th ranked pass offense vs. 119th ranked pass offense. 2nd ranked rushing attack vs. 1st ranked rushing attack. This game may very well be over by 7 pm.
The Wild Card: I've never Paul Johnson. I'm sure he's somewhat of a nice guy but the man looks as miserable coaching a football team as I've ever seen. Never seems happy, his halftime interviews are usually pretty snappy, and he constantly gets on his players. I know perception is hardly reality from the outside of a TV, but it looks like the man dislikes the game, his team, and anyone who tries to talk with him.
The pick: Air Force. The Falcons handled Navy and Army so I don't think the Georgia Tech triple option led by a replacement QB will befuddle them.
Champs Sports bowl
Dec. 28, 6:30 pm, Orlando
West Virginia(9-3) vs. NC State(8-4)
The Match-up: Pretty intriguing game here. Bill Stewart has really done a fine job considering how many people were counting on him to fall on his face. He hasn't sniffed a title game but they have had solid records and bowls. The amazing thing about NC State is that despite having the most even-keeled, stable personality as their coach the Wolfpack are the same old Wolfpack. Up and down, good and bad, wild game Wolfpack that had a shot to lock up the ACC Atlantic but failed against Maryland.
The Wild Card: I've been somewhat familiar with these two fanbases. I won't throw the term 'unrealistic expectations' out there but they can be hard on their teams. Whoever loses this game will have their fans rabble-rabbling.
The Pick: NC State. I think we see the good Wolfpack, the bad Mountaineers, and the ugly cheerleader who made the team because they had to fill the fatty requirement.
Dec. 28, 10:00 pm, Tempe
Missouri(10-2) vs. Iowa(7-5)
The Match-up: Both teams rode their high hopes to the top of the unrealistic expectations mountain only to see them take the log plume into the lazy river of moderately good bowl placement. Did that analogy blow your mind? Mizzou got the nod for this game of Nebraska even though the Huskers played for the Big 12 title. When reached for comment the Big 12 said "Cuz fuck them, that's why."
The Wild Card: Iowa may be having some problems with players so it appears there is more cause for concern than the team losing 5 games.
The Pick: Mizzou. I know that the conventional pick is "tough" Big Ten team over the spread speed team but I think the issues off the field and Iowa's lack of focus hurts them.
Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman
Dec. 29, 2:30 pm, Washington D.C.
East Carolina(6-6) vs. Maryland(8-4)
The Match-up: I know Maryland is a little salty that they slid down the bowl pole and landed in a less glamourous bowl, but there are a few upsides. They only won 2 freaking games last year so they should be happy to be there, they play against a very beatable opponent, and the bowl is close to home so they should travel well. East Carolina also deserves some kudos for making another bowl after Skip Holtz skipped town (a-thank you).
The Wild Card: I think we all have the same question right now: The fuck is a Northrop Grumman? According to their website:
"At Northrop Grumman, corporate responsibility is a key component of our business and operating strategies. We take pride in conducting our business with a broad perspective, taking into account our customers, our employees, our shareholders, and the environment and communities in which we operate.
As we continue to grow as a company, we remain committed to maintaining the highest of ethical standards, embracing diversity and becoming an ideal corporate citizen. We do so by implementing our core values: taking responsibility for the quality we put forth, delivering customer satisfaction, demonstrating leadership as a company and as individuals, acting with integrity in all we do, valuing our people, and regarding our suppliers as essential team members."
I consider myself a patriot but seriously one thing I do not trust are defense contractors. Our defense budget is bloated with a bunch of crap we don't need and that has no effect on keeping us safe. Look at all that sweet talking, doesn't fool me. This company is making a shit ton of money an you and I are footing the bill for it.
The Pick: Maryland. Ralph Friedgen is either highly under or over appreciated and I can't decide which.
Dec. 29, 6:00 pm, Houston
Illinois(6-6) vs. Baylor(7-5)
The Match-up: The magic of bowl season! Two teams not expected to be assured of bowls this year and whose records reflect that but there is always room at the table. Houston better be prepared to be Zookified. Baylor is worth watching just for Robert Griffin.
The Wild Card: Texas bowl. Is this really the best we could do? Should we have expected anything else from the home of a franchise named 'The Texans'? Seriously a few moments of thought could produce better branding. The Jalapeno classic, the Steer bowl, the BBQ bowl.
The Pick: Baylor. Seriously this might be the toss-up of the lot.
Valero Alamo bowl
Dec. 29, 9:15pm, San Antonio
Oklahoma State(10-2) vs. Arizona(7-5)
The Match-up: Arizona had quite a thud ending to their regular season. Losing to rival Arizona State because they couldn't make their extra points. Oklahoma State had a great season but fell just short against Oklahoma in a barn burner. Should be a good offense-defense match-up in this one.
The Wild Card: Alamo bowls have been highly attended and highly entertaining lately. The last five years the margin of victory has been an average of 6 points.
The Pick: Arizona. I think Okie State gets ditracted while Arizona focuses in. Stoops will be all over them while Blackmon begins thinking NFL, Holgorsen denies coaching rumors, and Gundy doesn't shine T Boone's shoes exactly the way he wants them the first time.
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces bowl
Dec. 30, noon, Dallas
Army(6-6) vs. SMU(7-6)
The Match-up: Army makes it all three service academies in bowl games, and that's a good thing. These guys will never compete for national titles (most likely) but they have all found systems that fit what they do and give the young men who are going to serve a chance to compete on the field. SMU made the CUSA championship game but couldn't beat UCF. June Jones continues to emit positive vibes for the program.
The Wild Card: I wonder how SMU views the 'Pony Excess' 30 for 30? Source of their biggest success and shame.
The Pick: SMU. I've watched every Black Night game this year save one and the one thing I do know is Army is horrid against the pass. I am not saying this as a dig on the young men, they put forth great effort, they just have not been able to stop the forward pass mechanism.
New Era Pinstripe bowl
Dec. 30, 3:20 pm, Bronx
Kansas State(7-5) vs. Syracuse(7-5)
The Match-Up: The Cuse is in the house! Back in a bowl for the first time since 2004. Doug Marrone doing his miracle worker performance. Kansas State delivered a curse of the vampiric performance by bringing back Bill Snyder and returning to bowl glory.
The Wild Card: These two teams met in the 2001 Insight bowl and also the 1997 Fiesta Bowl when Donovan McNabb was under center and Paul Pasqualoni was chomping salami on the sideline.
The pick: The Cuse. Things can open up nicely for the Orange in the Big East if Marrone keeps the momentum going.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City
Dec. 30, 6:40 pm, Nashville
North Carolina(7-5) vs. Tennessee(6-6)
The Match-up: Two teams that had pretty ugly 2010 campaigns get a nice bowl game! Seriously, not a long trip for either school and they get nice bowl swag (up to $500 value per NCAA rules) and the schools get a little money in the pocket. Especially Tennessee since they will no doubt travel well. North Carolina will be discussed in the context over the players lost over the course of the season due to NCAA investigation. Catfish loves to hear about this every single 2 minutes of every UNC game played this year. Tennessee made a bowl game after Lane Kiffin bolted for the west coast. The Vols really had a bad season, barely beating UAB in overtime after dropping a game at LSU where they out Les Miles'd the Tigers.
The Wild Card: I know this will only infuriate Catfish more but I have to wonder where Butch Davis' head is at. Does he want to stay at Carolina long term? I thought by now he would have had them in the ACCCG (granted I thought the same thing about Randy Shannon). I can't really see him being an attractive hire for any school or NFL team. I was never really sure about him being happy to stay for a long time in Chapel Hill though. Everyone there seems to be more focused on getting the basketball program back on track and worrying about Duke though.For the school and Butch, it just might be one of those old axioms that Huey Lewis pontificated so poetically.
The Pick: Carolina. Call me a fool for thinking the ACC takes down SEC speeeeeeeeeeeed in this one.
Bridgepoint Education Holiday
Dec. 30, 10 pm, San Diego
Nebraska(10-3) vs. Washington(6-6)
The Match-up: It's deja vues all over again. Braska went to UW earlier this year and beat that ass 56-21. We already mentioned the Insight bowl passed on them, but now it turns out Big Red is likely to lose money by traveling to this bowl. Clearly, the Big 12 sent the Huskers out with this clear message:
The Wild Card: The Jake Locker debate is sure to continue all the way through the draft. Some "experts" think he is the real deal, others look at his numbers. Is playing on a bad Washington team (but they finished 3rd in the Pac 10!) enough of an excuse for his bad numbers. Some are just enamoured with his physical tools. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I saw Kyle Boller throw a ball from the 50 yard line on one knee through the uprights at the combine.
The Pick: Nebraska. But it won't be the blowout it was during the regular season. Not because Washington is not that bad, but because Nebraska will sleep walk through it.
Meineke Car Care bowl
Dec. 31, noon, Charlotte
South Florida(7-5) vs. Clemson(6-6)
The Match-up: The Meineke Car Care bowl knows where its bread is buttered the last few years. They try their best to include a team that will get a local draw to Charlotte. Now a lot of bowls do this, because it is all about revenue for these non-profit organizations. UNC the last two years, West Virginia and now Clemson will put some butts in the seats. Oh, the game. Clemson is having an identity crisis which is what happens when your head coach is named Dabo. South Florida is going to be a top 25 team again soon with Skip Holtz at the helm.
The Wild Card: This game used to be played around Christmas. I am going home to Charlotte for Christmas but now they moved the game to the first New Year's Eve bowl. I would have ponied up some money for some cheap upper decker seats. Your loss Meineke!
The Pick: Clemson in a slopfest.
Hyundai Sun bowl
Dec. 31, 2 pm, El Paso
Notre Dame(7-5) vs. Miami(7-5)
The Match-up: Call me biased but I think the Sun Bowl made an excellent choice in creating this match-up. It has got people talking. It is always good to renew a rivalry, especially when one side of them had turned tail and ran from the rivalry. However, this is not the glory #1 vs. #2 match-up we saw back in the 80s. Both programs have had a rough year. Notre Dame has surged at the end of the year while Miami fell flat on their face and now have a new coach (who won't coach the bowl game). I dread this game as a Miami alum only because losing to Notre Dame is high on the list of my intolerable sports occurences. The Canes have offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland performing interim duties for the bowl game, and so far he says the attitude has been strong for Miami. Notre Dame has been very quiet so far, with Brian Kelly surely cooking up a good game plan.
The Wild Card: This game being on at 2 in the afternoon assures that I will be beyond intoxicated before the night even arrives on New Year's. Which is fine, I am not a big fan of New Year's. If Miami loses then I will be indentified as the lumped mass on the couch while everyone makes the final countdown.
The Pick: Notre Dame(/vomits). Like I said I am excited about the Al Golden hire, Jimmy Johnson agrees with me, but Notre Dame is a team hitting their stride with a sharp coach and Miami has no clue what its identity is. Miami will be in the game because of their superior size on the O-line and fast players on the outside. Notre Dame will win because of their continuity with the players filling in for injured ones and Miami's mistakes. If there is one thing we can be guaranteed it is that Miami will have stupid penalties and mental lapses. It is their M.O. this year. The Michael Floyd-Brandon Harris match-up will be very spicy by the way. Heart says Hurricanes but head knows better.
AutoZone Liberty bowl
Dec. 31, 3:30 pm, Memphis
Georgia(6-6) vs. Central Florida(10-3)
The Match-up: The Fightin' O'Leary's had a very strong season this year. Their 2 losses to BCS opponents were by a combined 11 points. How good are they? I am still not sure, they won CUSA but is a bowl game against a very so-so Georgia team this year a proper indicator? It will be in perception, Georgia is still a school from the SEC so if they win it is a very distinguished notch on UCF's belt.
The Wild Card: Coach Mark Richt. Is he on the hot seat? Should he be? My answers would be no and no but with a new AD in place and expectations always high to borderline unrealistic you never know.
The Pick: Georgia. Am I being a homer for my friend Beck? Possibly, but then again AJ Green is a freaking monster.
Dec. 31, 7:30 pm, Atlanta
South Carolina(9-4) vs. Florida State(9-4)
The Match-up: Runner-ups from the ACC and Big East meet in the Georgiadome. This bowl rarely dissapoints, always an entertaining game if you decide to tune in on New Year's eve. The Gamecocks won the SEC East only to get destroyed against Auburn. F$U took the Atlantic crown in the ACC only to get run over by Virginia Tech. This sets up a pure bragging rights game here. The Visor takes on Jimbo.
The Wild Card: Spurrier is a gmablin' man. He yanks QBs and calls unconventional plays at certain times. Since this bowl game as no tangible consequence for him, I look for a huge bag o' tricks to be opened on the Seminoles.
The Pick: F$U. Jimbo will have the offense working and I think Sakerlina's improvised offensive gameplan implodes.
Jan. 1, noon, Dallas
Northwestern(7-5) vs. Texas Tech(7-5)
The Match-up: Well this is just a let's have a bowl for the hell of it. Northwestern always plays tough under Pat Fitzgerald but are without their QB who broke his leg on the winning TD pass over Iowa. I honestly have not seen much of Texas Tech this year. Have no idea how much Leach residue is on the squad.
The Wild Card: Remember when there was always a 11 am Citrus bowl on New Year's day? I miss the before noon game.
The Pick: Texas Tech. Northwestern heads south to play Texas undermanned.
Jan. 1, 1 pm, Tampa
Florida(7-5) vs. Penn State(7-5)
The Match-up: This is one of those SEC/Big Ten match-ups that are guaranteed to involve big name programs every year even if the teams did not perform that well. Florida has speed and talent but have been very inconsistent this year. Penn State started off looking like it was headed for a historically bad year but was able to make some headway in the Big Ten.
The Wild Card: It is literally painful for me to watch Joe Paterno do anything these days. The man earned his choice of exit years ago so we are all held to watch him patrol the sidelines, slur his speech in interviews, and not be able to hear radio show hosts:
The Pick: Florida. With a month to practice and tune up I think the Gators get their playmakers in the right places, even if those playmakers were arrested on felony charges earlier this season.
Capital One bowl
Jan. 1, 1 pm, Orlando
Alamaba(9-3) vs. Michigan State (11-1)
The Match-up: If you were handed the records and teams seperately, most people would have thought Bama would never have 3 losses. This is no doubt a step down for the program after two consecutive BCS bowls, one being the title game. Like I said earlier there were many who were quick to give the Tide a pass for the Sugar Bowl loss to Utah, so you would think if Michigan State wins here there will be the same types of comments. Sparty did everything it could to win the Big Ten, except for one October day in Iowa that went horribly wrong. This should be a great power on pwoer match-up.
The Wild Card: Mark Ingram, the forgotten player of 2010. He had a knee problem and was not as dominant as last year obviously but still had 856 yards and 11 touchdowns on a 5.6 ypc clip. How will this affect his draft status? I'm not sure but the man is still a powerful runner.
The Pick: Michigan State. I think the Spartans will come into this game dead focused and with more to prove than Alabama.
Progressive Gator bowl
Jan. 1, 1:30 pm, Jacksonville
Mississippi State(8-4) vs. Michigan(7-5)
The Match-up: Bulldog Nation must have lost pounds in sweat over Dan Mullen the last few weeks. Metioned for both the Miami and Florida jobs, Mullen appears to be staying put for the time being. Rich Rod may not be staying put, but at least he shared his love for Josh Groban with the world.
The Wild Card: Should be interesting to see how Mississppi State handles Denard Robinson. After starting the year with insane numbers, he cooled off a bit in conference play but still put up gaudy numbers. MSU played Cam Newton to a 17-14 loss, but that was early in the year before Auburn really got rolling.
The Pick: Mississippi State. I like the weakness of Michigan's defense over the stregth of Michigan's offense.
Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO
Jan. 1, 5:00 pm, Pasadena
Wisconsin(11-1) vs. TCU(12-0)
The Match-up: It's BCS time! I am really looking forward to this game. If you are one of the 5 people that read here you know that I admire TCU. If there is one way they can answer the bell outside of winning the title it will be to beat the big, bruising Wisconsin in the Grandaddy of them all. The Badgers had one loss in a rainy field in East Lansing, but other than that they have trounced the competition. TCU once again ran through the regular season, notching some impressive wins but not as much as they did last year.
The Wild Card: Gary Patterson's defensive scheme. Wisconsin wants to use their hulking line to run it all over the Frogs, mixing in some sure throws for Scott Tolzein. How will the 4-2-5 handle it?
The Pick: I've been a TCU bandwagon navigator for 2 years now. No use jumping off now, Horned Frogs in a "stunner".
Tostitos Fiesta bowl
Jan. 1, 8:30 pm, Glendale
Connecticut(8-4) va. Oklahoma(11-2)
The Match-up: UCONN is not a BCS success story. They are in an unfortunate situation. They are the weakest BCS team, playing far from their home, and will most likely going to cost themselves a lot of money. They play Oklahoma which to the delight of Big 12 traditionalists (if they exist) vanquished Nebraska on their exit out of the conference. The Sooners have their own BCS demons to slay.
The Wild Card: How many people are going to watch this game outside of the panhandle area? My guess is not many. Probably a lot of frowny faces in the Fiesta Bowl board room.
The Pick: UCONN! No I'm just kidding, too much talent on the Oklahoma side.
Discover Orange bowl
Jan. 3, 8:30 pm, Miami Gardens
Stanford(11-1) vs Virginia Tech(11-2)
The Match-up: Stanford had one bad night against one of the teams playing in the title game. Virginia Tech had two bad games to start the season. The glaring note for Tech is that they lost to FCS James Madison. However, since that game they rolled and have been classic Tech on defense and explosive on offense. Andrew Luck is expected to be the #1 pick in April, but first Bud Foster gets a month to prepare and take a crack at him.
The Wild Card: The idea for spreading the BCS games out were so that they could get each game in prime time and hence better chance to rake in advertising dollars. However, with games such as these on weekdays it makes it harder for the fanbases to travel. It's easy to take the vacation for New Year's, but now you're asking people to take vacation past January 1. Furthermore, in this economy, people in general are not as willing to travel just for a game when watching at home is just as entertaining. Now I get that some schools are bulletproof to this and that iswhy they get the BCS nod if allowed. It starts to beg the question on whether those schools should just break off and form their own superconference.
The Pick: Stanford. Jim Harbaugh is as coveted as his star QB. Other colleges, NFL teams will be after him but if he chooses to stay at Stanford (they are going to offer him a big deal) he could bring a title shot to the school should he continue on this pace.
Allstate Sugar bowl
Jan. 4, 8:30 pm, New Orleans
Ohio State(11-1) vs. Arkansas(10-2)
The Match-up: Same old song. Ohio State after another dominant Big Ten season faces off against an SEC opponent on an indoor track. The Buckeyes are 0-9 against the SEC in bowls. Here is a big opportunity for them to break that streak against an Arkansas team that is much stronger offensively than defensively.
The Wild Card: Ryan Mallet. He's thrown 30 TDs and has the ability to carve up a defense. Ohio State is not going to sit back though.
The Pick: Arkansas. I had Ohio State winning it all this year, and in truth they have noly lost once, but they are far from battle tested. A lot of their wins look unimpressive now. That's not their fault, Miami was supposed to be a quality non-conference game and they never faced Michigan State because of the conference rotation.
Jan. 6, 8:00 pm, Mobile
Middle Tennessee(6-6) vs. Miami(OH)(9-4)
The Match-up: I hate any lower level bowl that is played after January 1st. This bowl will be played by a 6-6 Sun Belt team and MAC champion Miami who just lost their head coach to Pitt on a Thursday night in Alabama.
The Wild Card: Never a fan of the GoDaddy commercials. I understand they are pushing their brand and must do so by outlandish means, but Danica Patrick unzipping some jumpsuit doesn't get me excited to register a domain name.
The Pick: Middle Tennessee because I like how they refused to pander to the geographic labels that every other school uses. Forget using directional indicators such as north, south, eastern, southwestern; they are just somewhere in the middle.
AT&T Cotton bowl
Jan. 7, 8 pm, Dallas
LSU(10-2) vs. Texas A&M(9-3)
The Match-up: I read somewhere that the chairman of the Cotton Bowl(or some such person) made an anti-playoff rant and one of the reasons he gave was that he wanted to preserve the tradition of the Cotton Bowl. What is left of the tradition of this game? It's no longer played on New Year's Day during the daytime, and it's not even being played in the Cotton Bowl. The days of Thrill Hill are long gone.
The Wild Card: Has there ever been more of a wild card in a college football game than Les Miles? Whether his team pulls one out of their ass, or he calls a gutsy fake on a 4th down while chewing grass you never know what you will see. In their bowl game last year Les had another interesting display of clock management so we can only hope for a repeat performance.
The Pick: LSU. A&M came on really strong at the end of the year but Les Miles playing in Jerry Jones' house? Combustable.
BBVA Compass bowl
Jan. 8, noon, Birmingham
Pittsburgh(7-5) vs. Kentucky(6-6)
The Match-up: Really people? A full week after New Year's we have a compass bowl in Alabama between two weak teams.
The Wild Card: Kentucky QB Mike Hartline was arrested a week ago for being "drunk in public".
The Pick: Disenchanted program who just lost their stache against middling SEC team that just had their QB arrested. I'm going with Kentucky for reasons I know not.
Kraft Fight Hunger bowl
Jan. 9, 9 pm, San Francisco
Nevada(12-1) vs. Boston College(7-5)
The Match-up: Ugg. I have bowl fatigue already and they haven't even started yet. This is Nevada's prize for knocking off Boise? I hope they travel well and their team has a great experience because from the outside, this is a Sunday night bowl game that starts at 9 pm eastern.
The Wild Card: BC lost all 5 of their games in succession. Their best win was over....Clemson?....Syracuse? Wow they have a shitty resume.
The Pick: Nevada. /fires pistol formation in the air
Tostitos BCS National Championship Game
Jan. 10, 8:30 pm, Glendale
Oregon(12-0) vs. Auburn(13-0)
The Match-Up: Finally, we come to the game that will crown a mythical national champion. Oregon's spread it out high octance offense against Auburn's Newton spread. The expectation is a fast-paced high-scoring affair but with so much time off between games (37 days) who knows how the teams will respond once they are out there. What if Newton's shoulder goes dead like McCoys did last year? I expect one or both teams to come out rusty, nervous or a combination of both (rusvous?).
The Wild Card: What is Oregon going to do to stop Cam. We've already seen that SEC defenses cannot contain him and he is impervious to NCAA regulation. I think you have to attack him. If you sit back he either will wait for a running lane to open up or he will fire it downfield. Oregon's best bet is to creat chaos at the line of scrimmage.
The Pick: Oregon. I know, another contrary to SEC dominance pick. Ohio State smashed Oregon's offense up last year in the Rose Bowl as well. However, I think Chip kelly is going to take what he learned from that game and use it to make a better performance. Auburn's defense is stout at the line with Fairly but I think Oregon is going to avoid his presence using their hurry up mode and outside speed. Both teams will score, but in the end I think Oregon wins the turnover battle and take it by 10.
Tuesday, December 14
This was his past.
This is his present and future:
I went from cautiously optimistic at the time of the hire to pumped and confident after yesterday. I think this was a great fit. As Kent Brockman once said, "From now on we'll all be taking golden showers. What?"
Friday, December 10
Tomorrow Army and Navy will meet on the field of friendly strife for the 111th time. A great read on the history can be found here. The Black Knights of Army have not won since 2001 but the program is back on the upswing. They will attend their first bowl game since 1996 when they face SMU in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. Navy had another strong year, but not as good as last year. All three of the academies are playing bowl games this year, with Air Force winning the Commander in Chief's trophy after wins against both Army and Navy.
Army's last game was a debacle against Notre Dame in the new Yankee Stadium in which they only mustered 3 points and those came in the first quarter. Since both they and Navy run versions of the triple option it is interesting to see how they attack each other. I have a feeling the game comes down to a few wrinkles the teams have thrown into their offensive gameplan and who executes them. It is a great tradition and a great chance for these young men along with the armed service men and women they represent to be recognized. Speaking of traditions, one of them is for the Cadets and Middies to craft videos for the upcoming battle. Here is one such video that was obviously made in the Army camp and (I'm guessing) in the spirit of fun. Since I'm rooting for them tomorrow, they get the honors.
The Bobcats were close to acquiring Jose Calderon during the off-season. Allegedly, Larry Brown put the kibosh on the deal at the last possible moment. Although the video was originally made to highlight Rony Turiaf's dancing, Calderon's defense is infinitely more humorous to yours truly. How could Larry not want him?
Wednesday, December 8
Get Kenny Loggins on the horn right away. The NCAA voted last year to put sand volleyball as an emerging sport for women in college athletics. It will begin in next August. There are a few theories as to why a new sport such as this would be introduced. Obviously title IX plays a part here. By the proposals it appears there will only be a maximum of 14 counters so it is not a tremendous swing but it is something. Facilities for housing the sport should not be too much of a committment, you just need a sand pit.
This of course points to the sad fact that men's non-revenue sports are dissapearing faster than the Amazonian rainforest. Why incorporate a sport that will obviously be prevalent mostly in geographically favorable areas? Also there has been some concern over what impact this will have on the traditional indoor volleball game.
There continues to be a struggle over creating fair and equitable opportunities under Title IX as it exists while balancing the issue of the financial health of athletic departments. The NCAA (meaning its members) sees sand volleyball as a viable course of action to aid in these areas. No word on whether the uniform of choice will be jeans though.
Division I to consider parameters for sand volleyball [NCAA]
Tuesday, December 7
I enjoyed the epic 45-3 beatdown the Patriots gave the Jets last night as much as anyone. For the past week I have heard all the media hype and all the analysts up here discuss why the Jets are the better team and even if they did not win, they would keep it close. With an extra three days to prepare given to both teams, New England sliced and diced the Jets defense. On the other side of the ball, the sometimes porous Patriot defense instituted the "bend but don't break" philosophy that Belichick seemingly has crafted to perfection. Rex Ryan looked lost for words on the sideline, which isn't easy. Mark Sanchez was completely out of his element (Donny) and soon turned to jawing with receivers and throwing blindly into coverage.
It was a total immasculation. However, it is not the end of the season. For either team. The Pats now have the leg up on the division but still 4 games left. No game in the NFL is a easy one but they are at the Bears, home against Green Bay, at Buffalo, and then hosting Miami. The Jets host Miami, then are at Pittsburgh, at Chicago, and then finish with Buffalo. A lot could happen within those four games.
The sentiment today is going to be that Brady is flawless and the Pats are the clear best team in the AFC but one humiliation doesn't make a season. Nothing is secured right now and although it appears the Patriots realize that, they better perform like it if they want to get homefield. Still, it is pretty nice. These Pats seem to be a hybrid of 2004 and 2007 and they finally realized that variety on offense is the only way to succeed. Last year and early this season they seemed resigned to what Randy Moss was going to give them and crafted the offense arround that. Getting Branch back and replacing Laurence Maroney with BenJarvis Green-Ellis has made a tremendous difference. With Logan Mankins back on the offensive line they are giving Brady enough time even if allowing a sack on occasion.
The Patriots will never be back in 2007 form, but they have proven to still be in the upper echelon of the league for a decade. There is a lot of football to be played but at least for today they can earn a tip of the cap (or in Donald Trump's case, a flop of the hair).
Friday, December 3
I really don't know how to explain this. A bunch of random celebrities, many from the past, singing and some lip-synching along to Let It Be which seems to be orgnaized by some Scandinavian dudes in red sweaters. Even that does not do it justice. Just watch, somehow find meaning in this and apply that meaning to your own life and I'm sure something positive will happen. Let it be this weekend, don't go beyond your bounds, don't try to be a hero or popular girl/guy, just let things happen. We're all going to get through this.
[Update: Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Video removed...but I found another one...and that one was yanked too. Why can this not be shared with the world?]
Thursday, December 2
Did Randy Shannon deserve to be fired?
Yes. Let me repeat what I said on Monday: you will not find a better man in college football coaching anywhere. Randy Shannon overcame tremendous odds just to make it to Miami, let alone be a part of three national championship teams. Only a horrible person who passes themselves off as a Hurricane fan would hold any hostility toward him. That being said, the man was not cut out to be the head coach of this team. It hurts to type it but it is the truth.
Shannon did wonders in the classroom and off the field. His grad rates were bested only by Army and Navy and his APR score was even better than Stanfords. His single arrest during his tenure came when Robert Marve, who would later transfer to Purdue, broke a car mirror during a fight with his girlfriend. Those accomplishments are commendable, they are praiseworthy, and they are what got him his contract extension last year and would have kept him at UM another season. I believe in these goals the program as much as anyone, but it cannot be the single driving force behind football at your school if football is your main source of athletic revenue. Ideally, you want to run a clean program that is successfull academically and win football games. Shannon only gave you one of the two.
Can I pinpoint the problem? No. I have heard various stories from everywhere. Yes, I have a few (very few) contacts on the inside that I heard rumblings from. Shannon was too loyal to certain players, Whipple was forced on Shannon and the two never got along, the players didn't agree with Whipple's playcalling, etc. The bottom line was the performance on the field. 28-22, 16-16 in a mediocre ACC, 0-2 in bowl games. The final game against South Florida was an appropriate final straw. The Canes out-matched the Bulls on paper with first-year coach Skip Holtz setting out to rebuild the program. Miami went scoreless in the first half. Then with the game tied at 10, Storm Johnson seemingly saved the day with a 71 yard scamper. Yet in crunch time, the Canes let a true freshman walk-on who was replacing the injured starter B.J. Daniels march down the field for the tying TD. South Florida won in overtime. The Randy Shannon era was encapsulated in a nutshell.
Going 7-5 with the talent on this team is simply inexcusable. The great recruiting classes Shannon pulled in have matured in age, but not development. All year long, asinine penalties, lapses in concentration, and foolish turnovers costs them games. Shannon never even came close to playing for an ACC title and when he did, the team choked. For all the good that Shannon did, one of the basic tennants of coaching at Miami is winning games playing in big time bowl games. His failure to accomplish these goals and the regression of his results deservedly led to his firing.
While I mentioned above the off the field work Shannon did let me ask you something: did the perception of Miami's football program ever change? College football is an old boy system. Just look at the schools that stay on top on the bowl system in place opertaing under the guise of non-profits. People hold onto old ideals, whether it is the "magic" of Notre Dame or the "tradition" of southern football. The point is the detractors still subscribed to the theory that the U was a bunch of thugs. So the academic progress should strictly be an insitutional goal, and not used as a public item. No one was mentioning Miami's successes in this area while Shannon was coaching, but once he was fired people came out supporting him for that reason alone.
Now that the Gruden rumors seem to be dying away, Miami has a real chance to turn the corner like they did way back with Schnellenberger, with Jimmy, and with Butch Davis. If they get the right coach that can use the talent and fertile recruiting grounds famously termed the "State of Miami" by Schnellenberger then Miami should be competing for a BCS bowl every season. There is a notion being floated around that Miami is short on money and facilities. Once again, this is people working on notions that are old and out-dated. The issue of playing in Sun Life Stadium is what it is, there will never be an on-campus football stadium and there are much worse places to watch a game than Sun Life. Considering Edgerrin James helped get a new weight room built and NFL players still spend their summers there working out and that The Rock donated money to get new locker rooms built, I'd say facilities are on doing okay. They don't have a behemoth museum like some schools but you definitely are not left wanting. Add to this a new $5 million plan to renovate the athletic center does not give the appearance of struggling either.
The other factor when it comes to money is the firing itself. Shannon had just signed a four-year extension before the season, which came with a buyout. Someone had to step up and swallow that money for the school because the athletic department itself sure as hell was not footing the bill. Then added to that AD Kirby Hocutt is reportedly willing to offer $3-4 million per year for a new coach. There is clearly some money in the coffers at the U.
Miami has a niche in college football. It is not your traditional big conference school that churns out mobs of mouth-breathing fans every year. Our fraternity of fandom is pretty small, almost minuscule compared to the football powers. But it's one I am proud to be a part of. When I traveled down to the U this October and partied and tail-gated with what turned out to be a 60% full Sun Life Stadium, I couldn't care less about a full house. I was there to support my team with others I knew cared as much about them as I did. The value of your football program is not measured in attendance, how well your fans travel, or message board traffic. Miami has risen to the upper echelon of college football with a low rating in all those categories. The U is the exception to the rule, gate crashers that turned college football on its side and some people are never willing to let that go. We cannot duplicate our history but we can build on it. This year there will most likely be a Hurricane taken in the first round after a one year absence. Prior to that it had been 20 years straight. The strength of the U is the former players who come back and connect with the present players to show them it is a special thing to wear the U on their helemt. That may come off sounding cheesy but it is true. The strength of the U is players like Santanna Moss, who were not highly recruited but played with a chip on their shoulder and were willing to outwork anyone else.
Miami needs a coach who will foster this strength but not let it keep the program from moving forward. Acknowledge the past, but make your own destiny in the record books. Unlike when Shannon took over, the cupboard is full of talent that is waiting for someone to take them to the next level. There's nothing we can do but wait. If I had to throw a name out there since it seems clear that Gruden will not become the coach, it is Dan Mullen. He knows the state, he knows offensive football, and he has finished with a better record than Miami this year with far less talent.
I hope Randy does well wherever he goes and he is still appreciated for all the years he put in, but as Tom Petty once said, it's leaving time.
Wednesday, December 1
According to facts of the case agreed upon by Auburn University and the NCAA enforcement staff, the student-athlete's father and an owner of a scouting service worked together to actively market the student-athlete as a part of a pay-for-play scenario in return for Newton's commitment to attend college and play football. NCAA rules (Bylaw 12.3.3) do not allow individuals or entities to represent a prospective student-athlete for compensation to a school for an athletic scholarship.