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CFN's Final Thoughts Before The Big Bowls
Alabama RB Mark Ingram
Alabama RB Mark Ingram
Posted Dec 31, 2010

Finally, the biggest games of the bowl season are about to happen with the massive New Year's Day glut ready to answer several questions about the 2010 season. The spotlight will be on the SEC as Mark Ingram tries to make up for a mediocre year with a big game against Michigan State. Check out the CFN Friday feature, Final Thoughts, with quick, off-the-cuff musings.

Final Thoughts 

Before The Jan. 1 Weekend

- Final Thoughts  Dec. 3 | Nov. 27 | Nov. 20 | Nov. 13 | Nov. 6 | Oct. 30
Oct. 23 | Oct. 16 | Oct. 9 | Oct. 2 | Sept. 25

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- I’ve never understood it when people complain about the portions being too big at restaurants. You don’t have to eat all the food, and you don’t have to order anything that big. If you’re full, you stop eating and you take the rest home, or you just throw the extra food out. Either way, it’s always better to have too much than too little. It’s the same with the bowl season. You don’t have to consume it all, but the more games there are, the more chances there will be for games like the Pinstripe and the Music City.

- With that said, I hate that every mediocre bowl gets its own special time and own chance to take the spotlight, and then when the good games are up they’re all on at once. I know, channel flipping on New Year’s Day is one of the little joys of life, but it would be nice to be able to relax and fully focus on Northwestern vs. Texas Tech, Penn State vs. Florida, Michigan State vs. Alabama, and Michigan vs. Mississippi State. If Miami University vs. Middle Tennessee can get time all to itself, then certainly the Spartans and Tide should get more undivided attention.

- Cam Newton’s agent, Cecil, solicits $180,000 for his client’s signature on the dotted line, and Cam goes on double secret suspension for about 12 hours. Five Ohio State players sell property that they own and they get five games. Okay, got it.

- Obviously, Cecil, Terrelle, Boom, DeVier, and the other offenders haven’t been paying attention to the ambush of ads coming this bowl season.

- No, Jim Tressel shouldn’t “send a message” of any sort and suspend the offending players for the Sugar Bowl. This one is on the NCAA.

- Here’s the bigger problem. The NCAA has gone from being a ruthless dictatorship to an inconsistent bowl of jelly. At least before everyone knew that the rules were the rules were the rules. Step out of line, and the NCAA will find some sentence in its rule book to justify dropping a hammer. Now the perception is out there, real or not, that the NCAA is playing favorites, and that equals game over in the credibility factor.

- I have devoted my personal and professional life to covering college football. I love the sport from the big games, to the strategy, to the hype, to the fans, all the way down to being geeked out over the idea of getting to put together the 2011 Utah State preview. With that said, I have to be perfectly honest: I’m losing interest in Oregon vs. Auburn. Maybe it’s because I think the Tigers are far better and I already know that they’re going to win, but I think it’s more because the game is played in mid-March.

There’s a buzz right now. Everyone is talking about college football, but starting Monday, January 3rd, everyone will be talking about the NFL playoffs. Come January 8thish I’ll be jacked up to see Cam and LaMichael do their thing, and I’m hoping I’m wrong and Oregon is good enough to make this a great game, but this game should be played on January 4th. - The Rose and the Fiesta on the 1st, the Orange on the 2nd, it could battle Seattle vs. St. Louis in the ratings, the Sugar on the 3rd, and the BCS Championship on the 4th.

- The Bowl is really, really pushing and testing my love and affection for this sport.

- Here’s what the ESPN big wigs don’t get. Of course people will find a way to watch the BCS games on cable, but the prestige of the product is diminished. ESPN is still a niche channel and can be ignored by the non-sports fan. ABC is a network and will get a few more casual fans watching, including those who (gasp!) don’t have the money to shell out on overpriced pay TV. Putting the biggest games of the year on network television is how new fans are brought in.

- No joke, what’s on my local ABC affiliate instead of the Rose Bowl? The American Athlete, with Byron Allen.

- How much did Eric Dickerson and Craig James have to get paid to be on the SMU sidelines during the Armed Forces Bowl? Oh yeah, that’s right, they weren’t a part of the scandal.

- Guilty as charged, and I have to force myself to stop. The term post-season should apply to playoffs and not bowl games. Bowls are merely exhibitions. They don’t really matter.

- I enjoy hockey. I grew up loving the NHL, the playoffs are appointment television in my world, and I wish the sport had a wider audience. With that said, I’m taking a perverse pleasure in the dopey Winter Classic having weather issues. Leave it to the NHL to put on its showcase event on the same day that the rest of the world cares about the Rose Bowl. Wile E. Bettman … Super Genius.

- There’s no truth to the rumor that Al Golden is on the hot seat for not already winning an ACC title at Miami.

- Trying to spin control why Conference USA deserves more than two bowl slots vs. the relevance of the Big 12 coming off the dunkers dropped by Missouri, Baylor, and Nebraska. Discuss.

- That Nebraska performance against Washington in the Holiday Bowl was an all-timer of an embarrassment. The Huskies single-handedly bailed out Arizona and the Pac 10.

- Nebraska wasn’t a Leader and it certainly wasn’t Legendary.

- No, Pac 12 and Big Ten, you don’t get any discounts on Utah or Nebraska, respectively.

- Fiesta Bowl fun stat: UConn has forced one turnover in its four losses, and three or more in seven of the eight wins. The Huskies forced two turnovers in the one other win against Syracuse.

- I can never remember a more interesting BCS matchup than TCU vs. Wisconsin. I think the Badgers are going to win, but I won’t be the slightest bit shocked if the Horned Frogs make a huge statement and show that yeah, they really did belong in the national title discussion over the last two seasons.

- Gut feeling: Michigan State is better than people think. The assumption is that Alabama is the Alabama of last year, and that’s just not true. The Tide offensive line needs to show up against the Spartans.

- Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, and Mississippi State. I’m extremely curious to see how the SEC does after a rocky season. If those five teams play well in a year when the conference is down, it’ll show just how dominant the league really is. Throw in a possible Auburn national title, and this is the chance, once and for all, for the SEC to show that this is its college football world and everyone else is just taking up space.

- There’s a rumor that Virginia Tech and Stanford are going to play on January 3rd. Considering all the backlash about UConn being in the Fiesta, and with the Rose and Sugar getting plenty of hype and attention, the Orange Bowl, which might be the best game of the lot, is being swept aside.

- If you were my close, personal friend and you were going off to Vegas to legally “invest” what little money you might have left, I’d suggest taking a look-see at Michigan State +10 over Alabama, Wisconsin +2.5 over TCU, Connecticut +17 over Oklahoma, and I’m thinking of hopping on a plane myself just to put a hard-earned dollar on Auburn -3 over Oregon.

- By the way, I was 18-15-1 ATS on these picks this year.

By Richard Cirminiello

Why is Dabo Swinney starting Kyle Parker at quarterback in the Meineke Bowl? Since the Colorado Rockies draft pick plans to concentrate on baseball, it’d make more sense to give most of the snaps to heir apparent Tajh Boyd. Plus, the way Parker regressed in 2010, it’s not as if he gives Clemson a noticeably better shot of beating South Florida.

With either injured—and erratic—BJ Daniels or walk-on Bobby Eveld getting the ball from South Florida coach Skip Holtz in the Meineke Bowl, only the Georgia Tech-Air Force game will be a worse display of passing efficiency this postseason.

Get a good look at Clemson RB Andre Ellington in the Meineke Bowl. He has tremendous vision and explosiveness, which were somewhat capped by nagging injuries during the regular season.

Sorry, Sun Bowl officials, but the game between Notre Dame and Miami doesn’t carry the appeal that history might suggest. Sure, there were some classics in the past, but those were over two decades ago, when both programs had significantly more national relevance.

Slated to be the backup for Miami in the Sun Bowl, QB Jacory Harris caught a break when Stephen Morris turned an ankle. The beleaguered junior looks as if he’ll get an important audition in front of incoming coach Al Golden.

Is there a bigger coaching mismatch this postseason than in the Sun Bowl? Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly has prepared teams for BCS bowl games the last two years. Miami’s interim head coach Jeff Stoutland is a career O-line coach.

It’ll be worth doing some advanced scouting on the Liberty Bowl quarterbacks. Georgia’s Aaron Murray and UCF’s Jeff Godfrey are only freshmen, with the tools to become the best in the SEC and Conference USA, respectively.

It’s been a good month so far for freshmen (see: Marcus Coker, Ronnie Hillman, and Jake Heaps). South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore will add to the rookie revelry in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, once again coming up big in a marquee game.

No one is more frustrated by the three-year rule for early draft entrants than South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffery, America’s most NFL-ready true sophomore. He’ll have an interesting Chick-fil-A Bowl match up with a couple of other underclassmen, Florida State corners Greg Reid and Xavier Rhodes.

Although he’ll get ample opportunities to impress scouts in Mobile and Indianapolis, Florida State QB Christian Ponder could really use a sharp effort in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. He has the talent and the right secondary to finish strong, but needs to prove he can avoid the trainers for a full 60 minutes.

Damn, with Northwestern seeking its first bowl victory in 61 years, the TicketCity Bowl would have been doubly interesting had QB Dan Persa not gotten injured in November. Still, Pat Fitzgerald will make sure the Wildcats are ready. He usually does.

Northwestern has had enough time to get Persa’s backup, redshirt freshman Evan Watkins, up to speed for the TicketCity Bowl. It would take a lot more than 15 practices, however, for an average Wildcat secondary to prep for Texas Tech QB Taylor Potts and his top targets, Lyle Leong and Detron Lewis.

‘Bama has missed the BCS for the first time in three years. Once-beaten Michigan State feels it was robbed of a BCS bowl berth. Is it any wonder that I can’t escape the notion that a motivated Spartan team is going to knock off the Crimson Tide in the Capital One Bowl?

The best game-within-the-game match up of New Year’s Day? Try Alabama backs Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson vs. Michigan State LB Greg Jones in the Capital One Bowl. They’ll go toe-to-toe at least 10 times on Saturday.

Will the Outback Bowl go out of its way to promote the fact that the post-game coaches’ press conferences might be more entertaining than the actual game? Everyone will want to hear what Urban Meyer and JoePa have to say. The game itself, however, is a little short on juicy sub plots.

The Outback Bowl will be the first chance of 2011 for Florida’s John Brantley, assuming he stays, and Penn State’s Matt McGloin to gain an upper hand in next year’s quarterback battles. It’s also Urban Meyer’s final game with the Gators, so bank on him digging deep into his bag of tricks and going no-holds-barred with his offensive play-calling.

With all of the Gator Bowl noise surrounding Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez, is it drowning out the fact that Dan Mullen has Mississippi State ranked and playing on New Year’s Day? It shouldn’t.

The two times Mississippi State faced dual-threat quarterbacks, it did a pretty nice job of containing Cam Newton and Jeremiah Masoli. That said, a rested Denard Robinson in the Gator Bowl is a harrowing thought for that rugged Bulldog D.

No. 3 vs. No. 4. The best of the non-AQs vs. a sizzling Wisconsin school. See, you don’t necessarily need a Big Ten-Pac-10 pairing to have an outstanding, must-see match up in the Rose Bowl.

Critics like to suggest that physical, ground-oriented Big Ten teams will struggle against quick and explosive opponents. TCU, for all of its prowess on defense and in the running game, is one of those programs, creating another juicy storyline worth monitoring in this year’s Rose Bowl.

Considering his recent trend in BCS bowl games, dropping the last five, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops ought to accept a pay cut if he can’t get past Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl. The Huskies are a great story, but they simply don’t have enough balance on offense to beat a grown-up Big 12 defense.

However, if Connecticut happens to shock Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl as a 17-point underdog, would it be big enough to knock the streaky Husky women’s basketball team off the front page in Storrs?

By Matt Zemek

-So, about the weekend: For starters, how lovely is it that three SEC-Big Ten games will start within 45 minutes of each other? The bowl season involves 35 games over a span of 23 days, but the fans of the nation’s two best conferences will be forced to have three TVs if they want to see every snap of every game between the two leagues? Ridiculous. Come on Fox Sports – you need to ride in and save college football. We can’t have one family of networks showing 33 of 35 games.

-Another thought: If you’re going to play a bowl game at the Cotton Bowl stadium, name it the Cotton Bowl. Play the Ticket City Bowl at JerryWorld if you’re that drunk on adding still more bowl games.

-About people wanting Joe Paterno to step down: Um, doesn’t he get to call his shot? No, he shouldn’t necessarily be left alone – Bobby Bowden did need to be talked to by Florida State decision-makers, after all – but an icon who has given his life to college football should be allowed to orchestrate his exit on terms he can live with. An important postscript: Remember that as soon as Bear Bryant retired from coaching, he retired from this earth. Paterno has made reference to this himself.

-About Urban Meyer: Say what you want about the man’s ethics; the man can break down a football game. He’ll be a welcome presence as an analyst should he get the chance to demonstrate his knowledge of the game in a studio or a press box.

- About Michigan: If you’re Jim Harbaugh, why in the world would you ever want to work for the York family out in San Francisco? Then again, if Andrew Luck is coming back for another season due to NFL labor strife, why would you want to leave the college side of the Bay Area?

-Alabama-Michigan State is the biggest and best non-BCS bowl. The political spin following the game is sure to be substantial as well. There’s already a lot of chirping about Bama’s presence as a 10-point favorite. If Michigan State loses by a field goal in a close game, the political war will exceed the gridiron battle in terms of intensity and fervor.

-Remember this about timeslotting on New Year’s Day: ESPN says its Rose Bowl coverage starts at 4:30 p.m. Eastern (it happens every year; the only difference is that ABC carried the game in past seasons). Just know that the kickoff won’t take place until at least 5:05 p.m., if not 5:10. This brings up a point: The Fiesta Bowl is slated to start at roughly 8:45 p.m. Often, the BCS bowl after the Rose Bowl is either pre-empted or pushed back. This brings up a simple but important point about bowl-game timeslotting: four hours should be the time window for a bowl game, especially a BCS game. This isn’t a Saturday with 55 games going on over a 14-hour span. One would like to think that with just a handful of games per day, the biggest confrontations can be spread out rather than crammed together. Sure, the Holiday Bowl wasn’t the best matchup on the board, but the Nebraska and Washington fans who expected to see that game (and did NOT have ESPNU on their cable package) got completely shafted on three separate levels: 1) The game started at an absurdly late time; 2) the game was pre-empted on ESPN by the Music City Bowl; and 3) ESPN broke into its football coverage to impose the Connecticut-Stanford women’s basketball ending on viewers, all while ESPN2 was covering the very same UConn-Stanford tilt. The Weekly Affirmation is happy to offer his services as a programming director, but in the meantime, expect some overlap between the end of the Rose Bowl and the beginning of the Fiesta Bowl. Connecticut viewers are about to be inconvenienced, or at the very least, confused.

-Andy Dalton, America found out that Utah wasn’t very good. If you flourish against Wisconsin in college football’s best and most beautiful setting, you will truly be enshrined in the annals of TCU lore alongside a fellow named Sammy Baugh. No pressure.

- Sure, Nebraska didn’t care about the Holiday Bowl, but Washington still acquitted itself quite well. If Stanford brings the heat and thumps Virginia Tech, the Pac-10 – which was not very distinguished this season, to say the least – will still be able to claim a bronze medal behind the (silver medalist) Big Ten and the (gold medalist) SEC. The Big 12 has been horrid enough this bowl season to secure fourth place, ahead of only the ACC (fifth) and Big East (sixth) among the AQ conferences.