Friday, December 27, 2002

Kansas State 34, Arizona State 27: Every year, the Holiday Bowl is the most wide open, down-to-the-wire post-season game (ask Texas, the past two years), and this season's game in San Diego was no exception. The sixth-ranked Wildcats received a scare from the eighteen point underdog Sun Devils (one of the few schools this year to get their asses kicked by Nebraska), but scored twice late in the fourth quarter to prevail. Since I only live about a hundred miles away, I have to get myself down there one of these years.

Oklahoma State 33, Southern Miss 23 // Mississippi 27, Nebraska 23: The worst bowl in the history of college football, in terms of combined losses, the Independence Bowl, was won by Ole Miss, in what may well be Eli Manning's last game. In the morning game, Ok State capped its most successful season since Barry Sanders was playing with an clear win in the Houston Bowl, which was played in, you guessed it, Houston. I miss the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl, although I'm not sure what product or corporation "Bluebonnet" was.

Boston College 51, Toledo 25 // Pitt 38, Oregon State 13: Easy victories tonight for Big East also-rans. In the Motor City Bowl, Brian St.Pierre led the Eagles to a 42-18 halftime lead, after which a brawl broke out between the teams. At the B.O.B., the Panthers easily handled the Beavers of OSU, breaking open a tie game with an impressive second half performance in the Insight Bowl.

I don't know what to make of this rumor, but word has it that Ole Miss QB Eli Manning is "seeing" Britney Spears. Sorry, but such naked pandering to Google cannot be resisted.

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

Tulane 36, Hawaii 28: As expected, this game was high-scoring. Not much else to say about the inaugural Hawaii Bowl, except for the fact that Tulane opened the game with a successful onsides kick. Why other teams don't try that is a mystery to me; it seems like the early onside kick succeeds more than half the time, and even at the end of the game, when the receiving team is expecting the play, it has a success rate of about 30%. Even without the element of surprise, the strategem would keep the opponent's special teams honest, forced to keep an extra player or two up front to prevent the kicking team from succeeding. Coaches fear the risk of going for it on fourth down, even though mathematically, it almost always makes sense to do so; the early onside kick would be based on the same principal, but be less open for second-guessing, making it ideal for even the most risk-adverse coach.

UCLA 27, New Mexico 13: The Bruins win, but this year's Las Vegas Bowl will be remembered for reasons other than the final score. Just to note, Ms. Hnida did not get a second chance to kick a P.A.T., but at least she got a first.

An interesting development in the Las Vegas Bowl. In the first quarter, Katie Hnida became the first woman to play in a college football bowl game when she was sent in to attempt an extra point for the New Mexico Lobos. The kick was blocked, and UCLA now has a 13-6 lead half way throught the third quarter.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Tomorrow brings two bowls games: the Las Vegas Bowl, featuring New Mexico and UCLA; and the Hawaii Bowl, matching Tulane and Hawaii. The battle in Vegas (and btw, who goes to Vegas for X-mas anyway?) constitutes the last hurrah of the Bob Toledo Era in Westwood: one of his assistants, Ed Kezirian, will take over the reigns for this one game, before drifting into coaching limbo next week when Dorrell takes over. Don't be embarassed if you decide to take a rain check on these two.

Texas Tech 55, Clemson 15: I hope the rest of the bowl games are lot closer than the Tangerine Bowl. I have a feeling we won't see another game that one-sided until the Fiesta Bowl.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Clearly the second choice of the Athletic Department, Karl Dorrell was named Wednesday to be the new coach at UCLA. The early word is that he is another Steve Lavin, an inexperienced gymrat who was hired because of his perceived ability to get along with the student-athletes. His resume, while not impressive on paper (leading to some suggestions that he is an affirmative action hire), does seem to suggest that there is some merit to that.

Saturday, December 14, 2002

Carson Palmer wins the Heisman Trophy. The big surprise clearly was the margin of victory, by over 200 votes. Brad Banks, who will face off against Palmer in the Orange Bowl, was a surprising second, followed by Larry Johnson, Willis McGahee, and pre-season favorite Ken Dorsey. The latter two were clearly hurt by how impressive the Hurricanes have been over the past three years; the impression is that no matter who Miami runs out there, he is going to have very good numbers. Although Dorsey was clearly using the occasion to fire up himself and his teammates for a lack of respect, Palmer ran up better numbers playing with an over-achieving team, and deserved the award.

Friday, December 13, 2002

Anyone want to guess the Heisman winner? Three quarterbacks (Palmer, Banks, and Dorsey) and two running backs (McGahee and Johnson), with no one the clear favorite. If I had to pick, it would probably be Palmer, but since he got shut out of the individual player of the year awards, I'm not even certain anymore.

Monday, December 09, 2002

OK, so now that was a surprise. Who had the brilliant idea of moving the Rose Bowl to Miami, Florida? The Fiesta Bowl gets the first-ever BCS battle of the unbeatens, the actual Rose Bowl loses its raison d'etre, but still gets a pretty good match-up of teams that were in title contention all year, and the Sugar Bowl was the huge loser, getting stuck with four-loss Florida State (although the 'Noles did manage to beat Florida, something their opponent failed to do). Notre Dame drops down to the Gator Bowl, pissing off West Virginia, the runner-up in the Big East, which falls instead to something called the Continental Tire Bowl.

Other bowls of dubious interest: UCLA plays on X-mas against New Mexico in the Las Vegas Bowl, one of four bowls that matches schools with a combined eleven (!!) losses; the Bruins' poor finish to the season finally cost Bob Toledo his job, only four years after they had a 20-game winning streak and were within three minutes of a national title game. The other three bowls that fall into that "must-see" category are the Seattle Bowl, matching Wake Forest and Oregon, the Sun Bowl, where Washington vies with Purdue in a rematch of the last true Rose Bowl two years ago, and, in only eight short days, the New Orleans Bowl, where North Texas and Cincinnati meet. And, finally, a game that you can definitely miss, the Independence Bowl features a pair of 6-loss teams, Nebraska and Ole Miss; unless a school one day can win its conference with a losing over-all record (like North Texas did last year), that will be the record for bowls not to aspire to.

Saturday, December 07, 2002

Ironically, it takes a season where the only two undefeated teams will play for the national title to really make the case for a college football playoff. Miami's increasingly inconsistent defensive play allowed the Hokies to remain within striking distance, but a big play offense and a record game for Heisman candidate Willis McGahee paced the Hurricanes to a 56-45 win. The most impressive winner of the day may have been Georgia, an easy 30-3 winner over Arkansas in the SEC Championship. The Bulldogs will likely play USC in the Sugar Bowl, a game that frankly features two teams that are right now superior to the ones in the Fiesta Bowl.

Friday, December 06, 2002

Posting a link to tomorrow's schedule is not even necessary, since there are only seven games: Army-Navy, VaTech-Miami, MAC Championship (Marshall-Toledo), Washington St.-UCLA, SEC Championship (Arkansas-Georgia), Big 12 Championship (Colorado-Oklahoma) and finally, the big one between Hawaii and San Diego State. Ironically, the highest rated game will be the one featuring the worst teams.

Congratulations to Dennis "Honor and Tradition" Franchione, winner of college football's always hotly contested "Hypocrite of the Year" award.

I don't mind people leaving jobs for more money. Hey, that's how our society works, and works well. But Franchione spent last offseason running around convincing Alabama players to stay even though the team was going to spend the next two seasons on probably and ineligible for postseason. He spent the last month saying he wasn't interested in leaving Alabama. He kept talking about loyalty and integrity, then failed to show any of either.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Momentous a result of its 44-13 rout of Notre Dame, USC is now ranked fifth in the polls, anywhere from first (thanks, Howell Raines !!) to third in the computer rankings, and is now listed as having played the toughest schedule in the country. That, according to the BCS ratings, is enough to move them ahead of one-loss Iowa into fourth place, and what would be an automatic BCS bowl in early January. Miami and Ohio State remain one-two, with Georgia a distant third. That may become relevant next weekend; even if Miami loses a close game to Virginia Tech, the 'Canes might still have enough strength in polling and the computer ranking to remain ahead of one-loss Georgia, and will almost certainly play in the Fiesta Bowl, no matter what they do, if the Bulldogs also lose in the SEC title game.

Sunday, December 01, 2002

Well, those were interesting developments yesterday. Oklahoma gets whipped in Stillwater, SC routs Notre Dame in a game that was even more one-sided than the final score indicated, and Miami stayed unbeaten with their fourth consecutive rout of Syracuse. We'll know more tomorrow about the BCS ramifications....

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