CFN Bowl Special: 35 Games, 35 Comments
TCU QB Andy Dalton
What's good? What's not so good? What could have been better? What's compelling, and what's boring as sin? These and other important philosophical queries are tackled in a first-glance assessment of the 2010-2011 bowl lineup. College football has to live with what it created, but as always, the reality falls well short of what the sport could have given its fans.
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Outrage comes easily this time of year, but being "easy" and being "cheap" are two very different things. One has to begin a 35-comment look at the 35-game bowl season by noting the worst aspects of a broken system led by a lot of corrupt individuals.
1) Temple got jobbed. This is an obvious but plainly necessary point to make: The Owls won eight games and defeated Big East champion (and BCS bowl-bound) Connecticut... by a double-digit margin. Yet, coach Al Golden's team is not going to a bowl. Yeah, the sanctity of the regular season applies to a team that went 8-4, only to see 13 break-even ballclubs reach the postseason. We were all so focused on whether Arizona State would have its waiver approved by the NCAA (it didn't), but in the meantime, a far greater injustice emerged in BowlWorld.
2) TCU has been left at the altar... again. The problem isn't that Oregon and Auburn are playing in Glendale. The problem is that TCU won't get to play for the title despite being 12-0 for the second straight season. The Horned Frogs had a legitimate claim to last year's title tilt and didn't get invited to the BCS title game. When did they get eliminated? When does the sanctity of the regular season apply to the boys from Fort Worth?
3) UTEP and Middle Tennessee made bowl games. No offense to the Miners or Blue Raiders, but they took the bowl slots that Temple could have used. UTEP and Middle Tennessee underachieved profoundly this season; their presence in this bowl lineup shows why the 35-game slate needs to be trimmed to no more than 20 games.
4) If we're really concerned about maintaining tradition as a core part of the current bowl framework... why in the Sam Hill aren't Stanford and Wisconsin playing in the Rose Bowl, the way the good lord intended college football to be played on the afternoon of January 1 in the Arroyo Seco?
5) Missouri. Plainly put, when will this program - which should have had a BCS bowl ticket in 2007 (January 2008) and now has to play 7-5 Iowa in the not-very-prestigious Insight Bowl - get a break in the bowl-selection process? No wonder the Tigers hate the Big 12. They should. Speaking of that...
6) ... Nebraska? Playing Washington? Again? In the Holiday Bowl? One year after Nebraska played in the same bowl? In a season when Washington is 6-6? This is why a stubborn insistence on bowl tie-ins is absurd. Put a good team in a bowl game known for delivering quality. Don't force-feed a Pac-10 team into this game when it has only six wins. Boise State-Nebraska would have made a fine game, and Washington-Utah would have been a more even matchup in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Holiday Bowl hosts 9-3 or better teams, not 6-6 teams; break-even clubs are the ones who play in Las Vegas and its smaller stadium.
Fortunately, the sausage-making process known as bowl-dealing wasn't entirely bereft of good developments. Backroom dealing (or perhaps a lack of it) left us with some positive realities to contemplate over the next five weeks.
7) The SEC and the Pac-10 will finally get it on. Yes, for the first time in the BCS era - a total of 57 games dating back to January of 1999 (a 13-season span) - the two conferences will meet in a BCS bowl. USC never got to play LSU, Auburn, Florida or Alabama in the postseason during the Pete Carroll era, making both USC's and the SEC's national titles not very "national" in nature. It's great for the sport that the Pac-10 and the SEC will clash on the gridiron, not the court of public opinion. If there's one bowl tie-in worth having, it's this one.
8) The Orange Bowl got a good matchup and the Fiesta Bowl didn't. The Fiesta Bowl - as reported over the past year by Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports - engaged in unsavory practices relative to the way in which its staffers donated money. The Fiesta Bowl deserves to be overtaken by the Cotton Bowl as the fifth BCS bowl game; it is not honoring college football and the larger public interest. The Orange Bowl is one of the old-guard BCS bowl games, an event that has paid its dues to the sport and which has suffered through bad crowds the past few years. The Orange Bowl deserved a sexy matchup this season, and it finally got one for the first time since 2006 (Florida State-Penn State) in the form of Stanford-Virginia Tech. Andrew Luck versus Tyrod Taylor will highlight a fabulous showdown that should light up the Miami night on Jan. 3.
9) Speaking of the Fiesta Bowl... we all know the BCS system is horrible, and that the conference tie-ins need to go. Every conference (not just the Big East) should have to earn its way into a BCS bowl each season. We get it. Now, with all that having been said, let's move on. Let's give UConn its due and not rain on the Huskies' rightfully happy parade. Support and cheer what UConn - an FCS school not very long ago - has achieved in a short period of time. Just don't support the BCS. Make criticisms of the system, but then enfold Randy Edsall's team in a big bear hug.
10) As for Oklahoma... the Sooners aren't getting a raw deal. First, this isn't their best team under Bob Stoops. Secondly, OU is in very good shape to win its first January Fiesta Bowl (the school won a December Fiesta Bowl in 1976) and get that monkey off its back. Landry Jones is far from a finished product, so he can win a low-stress BCS bowl game and feel very solid about next season, a season in which Texas will be playing catch-up. Not bad for the OU crew.
THE 10 BEST BOWL GAMES, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
11) The BCS National Championship Game. Oregon-Auburn will be a fun game. Auburn won't be stopped, but if any team could keep up in a track meet, it's the group of Ducks from Eugene.
12) The Orange Bowl. Classic power football. Classic vertical passing. Physical hitting. High-caliber coaching. The Pac-10 getting a shot in a major intersectional BCS battle. What's not to love?
13) The Rose Bowl. Wisconsin's brawny offense versus TCU's athletic defense: worth the price of admission in its own right.
14) The Capital One Bowl. Both Alabama and Michigan State will have something to prove. Nick Saban used to coach Sparty. Michigan State enters this game as the overachiever, a singularly unique development. This clash will definitely be intriguing and should go down to the final few minutes of regulation.
15) The Poinsettia Bowl. Navy and San Diego State will offer a delicious contrast in styles, which makes a sporting event sing. Moreover, Ken Niumatalolo and Brady Hoke are two of the best young minds in coaching today. Third, Navy will bring fans to San Diego, the city being near water and all.
16) The Armed Forces Bowl. SMU-Army is another matchup of 180-degree opposites. These two programs have endured tough times for most of the past two decades, so the Mustangs and Black Knights will both take this tilt seriously. The product is likely to be enhanced as a result.
17) The Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Steve Spurrier against Florida State is pure magic, and with the quality of the two secondaries, the festive atmosphere in Atlanta should continue through the entirety of this contest, which has "shootout" written all over it.
18) The Liberty Bowl. George O'Leary versus Mark Richt is intriguing enough, but the matchup between Central Florida quarterback Jeff Godfrey and Georgia's linebackers is even more eyebrow-raising in its own right. Georgia will score a ton, but UCF might be able to keep pace, certainly for three quarters.
19) The Cotton Bowl. Texas A&M looks and feels like a legitimately solid team right now. LSU is superior, but the Tigers just need to make a few mistakes to change the calculus in Dallas. If A&M wins this, coach Mike Sherman can justifiably point to a brighter day for the Aggies, who need this game a million times more than LSU does.
20) The Hawaii Bowl. Pure unrestrained aerial excitement - need we say more in the contest pitting Tulsa against Hawaii?
THE FIVE WORST BOWL GAMES IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
21) The GoDaddy.com Bowl. Miami University deserves to be here, but not Middle Tennessee.
22) The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Boston College-Nevada illustrates why this first-year bowl never should have existed.
23) The Holiday Bowl. Please - we've had Nebraska and Washington before, and it wasn't even that interesting the first time.
24) The Ticket City Bowl. An injured Dan Persa isn't just unfair to Northwestern; it's unfair to college football fans who won't be able to see him play... especially at 11 a.m. on New Year's Day in suburban Dallas.
25) The Meineke Car Care Bowl. This is the game in which fans of Clemson and South Florida will need to calm their nerves and soothe their souls before kickoff. Tigers-Bulls promises to be dysfunctional to the -nth degree.
HOW THE BOWLS COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER
26) In a world without tie-ins... Boise State would play Alabama or LSU in the Cotton Bowl, while Texas A&M and Nevada could have locked horns in the Holiday Bowl.
27) In a world without tie-ins... Hawaii would host Arizona, not Tulsa. Oklahoma State would play Alabama or LSU, whoever did not play Boise in a hypothetical Cotton Bowl.
28) In a world without tie-ins... Missouri and Michigan State could find their way to a bowl matchup, perhaps in the Music City Bowl. Not the biggest payout, but a game worth relishing without oppressive travel demands.
29) In a world without tie-ins... Temple would have been able to play Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl, a natural geographical fit.
30) In a world without tie-ins... the Military and BBVA Compass Bowls would swap East Carolina and Pittsburgh to reduce travel and create perfectly decent matchups that wouldn't be terribly different from the current arrangements.
FIVE BOWL FACTS
31) Florida International is making its first-ever bowl appearance in the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl against Toledo.
32) Army is making its first bowl appearance since 1996.
33) San Diego State is making its first bowl appearance since 1998.
34) Courtesy of Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press: The Oregon-Auburn title-game matchup is the first BCS National Championship Game pairing since the 2002 Rose Bowl (Miami-Nebraska) in which both teams are first-time participants in the event.
35) Connecticut and Arkansas are the two schools that will be making their BCS-bowl debuts in early January.