Sunday, January 03, 2010

Random Thoughts on the Bowls

  • I watch games like Ole Miss-Oklahoma State (12 combined turnovers) and Auburn-Northwestern (a cavalcade of errors by both teams that led to an overtime in which Auburn had to win the game three separate times) and I wonder about a sport that ends its season with teams taking 4-6 weeks off and then playing in allegedly meaningful games. Rusty doesn't even begin to describe some of the play. I don't have many moments in which I think that NFL fans have a point when they tout their product over that of college football, but some of the games over the past week have given me such thoughts. How does it make sense for us to put such import on games that take place after a long layoff and in which some of the players and coaches are already checked out (not to mention situations where the coach has already checked out or seen his boss do the honors for him)?

  • I would dearly love to know what Cincinnati would have looked like against Florida with Brian Kelly coaching them. The result would have been similar because no amount of scheming can enable an overmatched corner to run with Riley Cooper. Within two drives, the Georgia-Hawai'i vibe was very strong, which led me to believe that Kelly's departure had nothing to do with the result. Florida had a terrific team. It's a shame that it took their coach going on sabbatical to get maximum effort out of the defending champions. Score one for Pat Riley's "Disease of More." (I finished Bill Simmons' book this afternoon, so this is fresh in my head.)

  • Um, the people who said that Gary Crowton was overrated as an offensive coordinator and that his attacks get worse as time goes by? One point to you. Les Miles, welcome to a mildly warm seat.

  • If the Charles Rogers Theorem wasn't killed by '06 Florida and '07 Georgia, I would be chomping at the bit to claim that Nebraska is going to be overrated next season. To a lesser extent, I would be saying the same things about Georgia, but teams tend not to get a pile of hype when they are starting a redshirt freshman quarterback. On a related note, I tried, but I couldn't make myself care about the Independence Bowl.

  • I got viscerally angry at ABC and Buffalo Wild Wings for deciding that the Boston College-Miami Hail Mary is the greatest play of all-time. What, pray tell, separates it from Stewart to Westbrook? Or Randall to Clayton? What's that? Something about a Boston team being involved? And a shrimpy Caucasian quarterback with whom middle-aged fat guys in press boxes can relate? (The David Eckstein of college quarterbacks?) Does anyone remember that the teams had combined for five losses coming into the game? Or that BC beat the worst Miami team of the 1983-92 time period? And what was so amazing about the play? Kordell Stewart threw the ball farther. LSU's Bluegrass Miracle was more improbable in terms of the distance that they had to cover, not the mention the absurdity of Kentucky students rushing the field without knowing what had happened.

  • And while I'm bitching about ABC/ESPN's angle on college football, it must be nice for Big Ten fans to enjoy Todd Blackledge calling a Penn State bowl game followed by Kirk Herbstreit calling the Ohio State bowl game. I was eagerly anticipating Kerwin Bell calling the Sugar Bowl. Instead, we got Brian Billick. In Billick's defense, he did a good job with the game. In my week of "NFL fans have a point," it was refreshing to see an objective take on Tim Tebow: an exceptional college quarterback with a slow delivery. Even better, when Thom Brennaman tried to round second base with Tebow (yet again), Billick came across like a grown up by noting that the backlash against Tebow has had to do with the avalanche of hype that he's received, which isn't his fault and which means that the anger isn't really directed at him. I'm going to miss Tebow, but I'm not going to miss hearing about Tebow.

  • One other complaint about Kirk Herbstreit: contrary to your claim, it is not a penalty every time a defensive back doesn't turn and look for the ball when a pass is approaching.

  • I'm not his biggest fan by any stretch, but kudos to Jim Tressel for an effective game plan against Oregon. When Ohio State came out slinging the ball around, I was reminded of Lloyd Carr's tendency to do the same when Michigan faced an opponent with a scary offense. That tendency drove me crazy because it led to the sense that the offense could operate at a much higher level if only the management coached every game with such aggression and fear. I suspect that Ohio State fans feel similar pangs of "we could be doing more," but Tressel's teams are better at what Carr tried to do - running and playing defense - so they don't have the resume of losses against inferior opponents that drove me bananas.

  • That said, let's cool it a little with the Terrelle Pryor hype. There's no doubt that Pryor played a good game, but 266 yards passing on 38 attempts aren't earth-shattering, nor are 72 yards on 20 carries. This was not anything like Vince Young's coming out party in the last game of his sophomore season in Pasadena, when he put on a show for the ages in a 38-37 win over Michigan. On Friday, there were still too many instances where Pryor didn't have his first read and then chose to run for his life, often to little effect. A lot of the positive reaction to his play stems from the extremely low expectations that most people had for Pryor after the disaster in West Lafayette, followed by Ohio State's conscious decision to go vanilla (even by Tressel's standards) for the remaining month of the season. Maybe I should just say that Ohio State's coaching staff did an outstanding job of getting Pryor ready to play during their time off?

  • Was I the only one who got the feeling that Oregon's players acted like they were hard as a means to overcompensate for the fact that their mascot is a duck and they have wings on their shoulders? When their whole sideline was jawing at Pryor after he was knocked out of bounds, I found myself asking "how am I supposed to take you seriously when you're wearing...that?"


Anonymous said...

Drawing meaningful inferences from the slop in Orlando is a fool's errand. LSU will be a national title contender next year. While Crowton is dodgy, Chavis was a great hire. Because of Chavis, the offense only has to be good, not great.

South Carolina shouldn't have been in a bowl. They got humiliated by a 3-4 Big East team in front of a stadium filled with 3/4 Gamecock fans. Conditions weren't a factor there, just mediocre coaching. They were so sloppy, disorganized, and clueless that it honestly looked like they were throwing the game. They showed up better under Holtz, no question.

Anonymous said...

FYI: Florida looked a lot better in their bowl than in the SEC championship for two reasons:

1) Alabama's defense is much better than Cincinnati's defense. Cincinnati's scoring defense over their last four regular season games: 36.5 pts/game. Alabama's scoring defense in their worst four games of the season: (17.25, vs. VT, UK, AU, LSU) The numbers are similarly lopsided is you look at the full season or if you look at yards per play.

2) Carlos Dunlap wasn't suspended for DUI. Brandon Spikes and
Major Wright weren't playing with minor injuries. Florida's defense is incredible when everyone is on the field and healthy.

P.S.: I'm not saying that Florida would have beaten Alabama with their regular defensive unit but I am saying that the game would have been significantly closer 32-13 if Florida and Alabama are both at full strength for that game.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with your thoughts on the play in bowls this year. There is just very little incentive for some teams to play top-notch in a non-BCS bowl game, especially with coaching and player changes so close on the horizon. From a "money" and recruiting standpoint, the schools probably don't make any less money or get less recruits based on how their team plays in "Independence" bowls, but the "lesser" school has a lot more opportunity to make their mark both in potential recruiting and in revenue.

This is not to say that the top teams will or should "roll over", but there is a lot less motivation for players on a BCS contender to perform at their absolute best in bowl games that are potentially irrelevant to them.

Anonymous said...

You'll have plenty of opportunities to see Brian Kelly coach in BCS games in the very near future.