"How can you come here and not drink beer?"
I am assuming this question is either theoretical or rhetorical; it certainly wasn’t thrown out to seek any relevant information. But that’s the kind of place this is. "This" of course could be any place in America, but in this case it is the bar in which I typically watch the national title game. A place I once saw two grown men in Red Sox jerseys escape to their car to sing "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond at concert hall volume to induce a rally for the home team. They prevailed. Two years ago, this place hosted a delirious Gator fan who went to the car and returned in an orange jumpsuit to celebrate his team’s second national title. He wasn’t here for the third. He was there.
Hardly the scoring barrage we expected, but pretty good football nonetheless. Bob Stoops will be forever haunted by points unscored in two futile trips inside the Gator five in the first half. He was playing a touchdown game in what turned out to be a contest where points proved far more dear. Tim Tebow took over the second half with an assist from an excellent Florida defense. The Sooners never quite got untracked and the Gators are now college football’s pre-eminent team, winning two of the last three crystal footballs and likely securing a pre-season number one when we next meet.
In the Fiesta Bowl, Ohio State suckered Texas into exactly the kind of game the Buckeyes like (complete with a 6-3 first half). Texas emerged on the other side anyway, with a last-minute 24-21 win, the result of Colt McCoy’s blood running cold and me shaving off my ski trip soul patch at intermission.
Fox Sports coverage of the BCS couldn’t possibly be any worse. If I wanted to listen to an endless stream of idiots I haven’t heard of discussing a game they know nothing about, I’ll watch the O’Reilly Factor.
I argued before bowl season that Utah was not Hawaii. Not only were they not Hawaii, they weren’t even Florida, beating Alabama far more convincingly than the Gators in a 31-17 Sugar Bowl romp decided in the trenches, of all places. That’s just not the way a Mountain West team is supposed to operate.
Penn State, just like Ohio State before them, travelled to sunny southern California, played USC tough for a quarter and suffered a complete second-stanza meltdown. The Nitts at least played hard down the stretch, but not before Troy parlayed a 31-7 half-time lead into a cozy 38-24 final.
Hell of a deal for Pete Carroll: the Pac Ten (basically) assures him of an annual conference title and his team gets to defend it on (basically) their home field.
The best of the non-BCS bowls—and arguably the best bowl of the season period—wrapped up on December 23rd as 11th-ranked TCU ended 9th-ranked Boise State’s undefeated hopes in a 17-16 come-from-behind win in the Poinsettia Bowl. Great football.
I understand how fans hate their own schools sometimes; I lived through John Mackovic, after all. But how do the Virginia Tech fans ever hate the Hokies (setting aside the Vick brothers, of course)? They do nothing but win with a collection of two and three-star lunch-pailers who would infiltrate Guantanamo in dishdashas and ammo belts if Frank Beamer told them it was important to the program. The least-talented Hokie squad in a decade somehow won the wide-open ACC and topped it off by slowly bleeding the life out of Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl, 20-7. Yeah, but…I hear you say. Hey, a BCS bowl is a BCS bowl. Other than the title game, no one will care ten years from now. Or tomorrow, for that matter.
Texas Tech, headed for a romp after taking a 14-0 Cotton Bowl lead on Mississippi, instead got repeatedly caned by the more physical Rebels for the rest of the game in a 47-34 loss. Houston Nutt was typically thoughtful, deliberate and reveled in silent contemplation post-game.
East Carolina was up, then down, then up, then down again. This describes both their season and their Liberty Bowl loss to Kentucky.
Nebraska’s Joe Ganz celebrated winning the 2008 Jones Top Ten Underappreciated Player of the Year award by gift-wrapping two first-half touchdowns for Clemson, then leading the Huskers back with two TD’s in the third, getting his brain swished around his skull a bit, then regaining his balance, mobility and ability to speak just in time for the post-game press conference, where he was named MVP after a 26-21 Cornhusker victory.
Iowa won the only bowl game of the season from the Big Ten by destroying an uninterested South Carolina (mostly they appeared uninterested in tackling Shonn Greene), 31-14. More typical was Michigan State’s performance in a 24-12 loss to Georgia, or Minnesota’s 42-21 laydown versus Kansas, or Wisconsin getting flat worked by Florida State, 42-13. Northwestern gets some credit for forcing overtime…and then losing anyway…to Missouri in the Alamo Bowl. Chase Daniel resembled a quarterback that should be, well, playing in the Big Ten.
The Pac Ten proved opposite. Teams from the west could do no wrong, chalking up Oregon’s impressive Holiday Bowl win over Oklahoma State, 42-31, an Arizona upset of BYU in the Las Vegas and Cal’s exciting Emerald Bowl win over Miami, in which Jahvid Best rushed for 186 yards in one of the best performances of the bowl season.
For good measure, the Oregon State Beavers sustained the Pac Ten reputation for offensive excellence with an Auburn-esque 3-0 decision over Pitt in the Sun Bowl. Guys, immersing yourselves in the local culture is fine, but placating the overwhelming number of soccer fans in El Paso with a 3-0 final is a bit much.
I correctly predicted a Peach Bowl rout in the JTT Bowl preview. Foolish consistency being the hobgoblin of little minds, let’s not revisit who was supposed to rout whom, shall we? LSU 35, Georgia Tech 3.
Notre Dame, miracle of miracles (no pun intended), recruits far better players than does Hawaii. The surprise is that they performed like it on Hawaii’s home turf. Vestments 49, Rainbows 21, as a delicious nine-game bowl losing streak goes by the boards.
Pat White often wills West Virginia to victory, but rarely does he pass them there. With a strikingly unusual stat line (26-32, 332 yards passing), White overcame an even more brilliant receiving performance from UNC’s Hakeem Nicks (forget the stats, you are better served by YouTube) to lead his Mountaineers to a 31-30 decision in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Wake Forest was down early, came back and then screwed up the betting line with a late touchdown while trying to run out the clock in a 29-19 win over Navy in the first EagleBank Bowl. The win avenged an earlier loss to the Midshipmen back in week four of the regular season.
For the first time since 1955, Vanderbilt won a bowl game, costing casual bowl pool gamblers huge confidence points across the country in an epic upset of Boston College, 16-14. Vanderbilt pulled it off with hardly any offense at all, which is how they have won games all year.
You would think Ball State would be used to playing on a Tuesday night in front of a sparse crowd on national television. Yet, Tulsa looked like the more comfortable team in the relative discomfort of Mobile, Alabama during a refreshing winter rainstorm providing the backdrop for a 45-13 Hurricane rout in the GMAC Bowl. There must be a pun in there somewhere.
As for me, I went a remarkable 12-10, breaking my usual .500 thanks to the Florida Gators. This will not lead me to give up the day job.
Impressive Showing of the Bowl Season: Utah
Oh my, what to do? Arguments proliferate for who has a claim on this national title (I say "national" as opposed to "BCS"). Florida’s the easy pick, but Utah never lost and the win over ‘Bama was hardly a fluke. The Big 12 South bowl season left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Texas’ win over Ohio State will be unfairly discounted, but the loss to Texas Tech now looks worse, ditto the victory over OU. USC? Spare me. Let the Trojans make a cross-country trip after a 30-day layoff some year and then we can talk. Otherwise, the Trojans enjoy an inherently slanted playing field in the post-season.
8. Penn State
Next season, Florida starts on top with Texas close behind.
Rose Bowl Dreams: A Memoir of Faith Family and Football is the new book by Adam Jones.