"There must have been some magic in the old felt hat they found, for when they placed it on his head, he began to dance around…"
OK, so the holidays are long over. Frosty has melted away and, unless you are spiritually tuned into Twelfth Night, you have by now packed up the tree, the wreath, the lights and returned (or re-gifted, you know who you are) all the sub-standard merchandise. Now we start over with new resolve that usually lasts until at least the second week of February (eh, maybe MLK Day). Once the workaday life begins you take magic wherever you can find it. Even in a dilapidated old dome that not too long ago was the epicenter of misery. There may still be some magic left in the Louisiana Superdome. I kind of had the feeling that once the Preservation Hall Jazz band played the national anthem, the Buckeyes were cooked…
LSU 38, Ohio State 24
It wasn’t that simple. State started strong with a 65-yard Beanie Wells TD run and dominated the opening minutes, but the Beanie Show was the only bright spot for OSU, whose defense put up a valiant effort, but was undone by some crisp game-planning by Gary Crowton, depending on an array of different Tigers getting into the act from multiple formations. Matt Flynn managed the game exceptionally well and Jacob Hester was as dependable as Brittney Spears isn’t.
And so it is that the Bayou Bengals become the first repeat champion in the BCS era.
As we come to the end of another season, I have this bizarre thought that a four team plus-one playoff among Stanford, Appalachian State, Pitt and Syracuse would have been more fun than the BCS games to which we were just "treated."
Would someone please notify the Rose Bowl that tradition is dead? Setting up a sure rout with USC and the Big Ten Sacrificial Lambs from Illinois gave them a great ad campaign: "The Rose Bowl the way it was meant to be" or some such nonsense, but it cost the public a great football game, namely the one that didn’t take place between USC and Georgia. LSU should be glad that the game not played did not provide any basis for comparison (don’t ever trust an AP voter to behave rationally).
In the game that did take place, USC killed the Illini 49-17. The Trojans overwhelmed Illinois early, withstood a third-quarter rally and then coasted home behind great defense and a lightning-strike running game. One bright spot for the Illini was during a strong first half drive when my four-year-old asked me if Juice Williams was "super-duper" fast. Not really, I think Trindon Holliday is the only super-duper fast player in college football.
Georgia was stuck in a no-win game against Hawaii. I don’t know when I have ever seen such an ugly demolition of an outmanned opponent. Except perhaps when Georgia dismantled Boise State 48-13 to start the 2005 season. If there’s one thing Mark Richt hates it’s small conference Cinderella football teams. And terrorists, he hates terrorists. And people who think orange juice is still just for breakfast. Man I could tell you stories…Georgia 41, Hawaii 10.
West Virginia livened things up a mite the day after New Year’s by taking the fight straight to an unprepared and strangely unemotional Oklahoma. Bob Stoops’ troops responded in the third quarter (finally) to make it a game but were then victimized by the Dark Lord’s own poor decision-making, chasing a needless two-point conversion and then trying an ill-advised onside kick. WVU made them pay. Pat White, Noel Devine, Darius Reynaud, Owen Schmitt and a crazed defense all got into the act in a memorable 48-28 rout.
West Virginia’s defensive ends are named Dingle and Berry. After a full season, that still cracks me up. Ah to be 40 and easily amused…
Kansas and Virginia Tech offered up the best of the BCS tilts. The Jayhawks completed their dream season (no, Mark Mangino was not carried off the field…) with a 24-21 win, thwarting a Virginia Tech comeback and picking up key first downs to run out the clock.
Michigan shocked Florida (who never should have been a double-digit favorite) 41-35 in the Capital One Bowl and sent Lloyd Carr out a winner. More importantly, the Capital One can be counted on to have the most ridiculous halftime show going. This year featured a laughable Blues Brothers knock off. Thankfully, John Belushi wasn’t alive to see it.
Want to talk ridiculous? Try East Carolina taking down Boise State 41-38. The game not only put some tarnish on the Boise reputation, it also cost me 32 confidence points in the Yahoo Bowl Pick ‘Em Challenge. Thanks a lot, Broncos.
The only result more surprising was Oregon’s 56-21 thumping of South Florida, who looked completely overmatched (or lost?) during a 28-0 Duck bludgeoning, or wigeoning maybe, in the third quarter.
Missouri, likely furious they weren’t included in the BCS party, took it out and how on the poor defenseless Arkansas Razorbacks in an ugly 38-7 Cotton Bowl exhibition.
Tennessee ended the Wisconsin mini-streak over the SEC with a 21-17 win in the Outback Bowl.
Texas snapped a season long malaise with a 52-34 beat down of Arizona State that would have been worse had Mack Brown’s stepson not caused a key turnover to be reversed. I guess I could explain. Or not. Anyway, Texas looked energetic, disciplined…interested even.
Here’s an idea, Mack. Next year against Oklahoma, perhaps you could replace the Cotton Bowl sign with a Fiesta Bowl sign and move up the calendars in the Sooner locker room to January. Your scout team could beat Bob Stoops under those circumstances.
Mike Leach sure makes a mean chicken salad. For the second year in a row, his Raiders played like the other chicken by-product for much of the game before rallying in the last five minutes from 14 down and ruining Virginia’s Gator Bowl with a field goal as time expired. 31-28, Pirates.
Auburn won the PEACH BOWL in a great slugfest with Clemson, 23-20 in overtime.
TCU beat Houston 20-13 in the Texas Bowl. The JTT resident TCU fan told me that they would; the least I can do is print it.
BYU outlasted UCLA 17-16 in the Las Vegas Bowl. New UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel couldn’t get a ticket so instead watched the game from the sports book at Bellagio, taking the Bruins and the six and a half.
Florida State played surprisingly tough in the Music City Bowl considering they left half their players back home as the result of an academic fraud scandal. Nevertheless, Kentucky prevailed 35-28.
Cincinnati won the Papajohns.com Bowl (it’s the website, not the pizza place) 31-21 over Southern Miss, who said goodbye to Jeff Bower in an intense, but often ugly, game full of turnovers and penalties. Cincinnati caps off a ten-win season.
Oklahoma State allegedly beat Indiana 49-33 on the NFL Network.
Boston College was disappointing down the stretch, but pulled out of their downward spiral with a too close for comfort 24-21 win over Michigan State. Wake Forest took out UConn 24-10 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl and Alabama did their best to give away a 27-0 lead, but prevailed in the end against Colorado 30-24 in Shreveport.
Joe Paterno coached in his 500th game and came away with his 23rd bowl victory as Penn State came back from two touchdowns down to beat Texas A&M 24-17 in the Alamo Bowl.
Mississippi State gained 199 total yards, punted eleven times and went 2 for 13 on third down in the Liberty Bowl. Naturally, the Bulldogs won, 10-3 over Central Florida. I’m sure the DVD of this one will be flying off the shelves.
So how did this expert do with his picks? Exactly what you would expect: nine up, nine down. I missed on almost all of the early games and hit on almost all of the late ones, including a 5-1 mark on New Year’s Day and 4-1 in the BCS games, missing only the big enchilada.
Other than that, I was flat awful. However, I was right about the Poinsettia Bowl and no one can take that away from me. Utah 35, Navy 32.
Impressive Showing of the Bowl Season: West Virginia
One more time around the block and, once again, I find it very hard to keep LSU down. Somewhat unsatisfying, but in the grand scheme, they were the best team of the year.
3. West Virginia
5. Ohio State
6. Oklahoma (credit for beating Missouri twice)
9. Virginia Tech
Thanks to everyone who faithfully reads this space each Monday morning. It has been a ball, as always. I will leave you this year with one huge piece of news. My first book, Rose Bowl Dreams: a Memoir of Faith, Family and Football, will be released by St. Martin’s Press just in time for a new football season.
Beat the Christmas rush and pre-order it here:
Good night and God bless,