After an extended holiday hiatus with family and traveling, it is important to first address NCAA football. Here’s hoping everyone in TOC Nation had a blessed Christmas and/or a happy Chanukah (even if you were celebrating it out of step with the Candle-Lighter in Chief). I second the wish of Darkness at Noon (intrepid reader and commenter) that we all have a happy New Year as well.
I know, I know. Iran. The Hawkeye Cauci. The Boehner Cave. We’ll get to all that (well, maybe not to the Boehner Cave, which is pretty self-explanatory; basically, we needn’t expect to have a budget again before 2103, and the Speaker has probably guaranteed that the Republicans will, in fact, have no momentum of their own on budget and domestic matters for the next year, and will fill the role of spoilers. Which is not a bad thing given Obama’s penchant for “honest graft” and overspending, but it’s harder to cast as a positive thing).
The important games
At any rate, we’ll get to the other stuff. Meanwhile, we are saddened to report that Tulsa lost the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl to BYU, 24-21. The Cougars pretty well had Tulsa’s offensive number, but then, Tulsa had BYU’s too. Both teams brought their defenses, and BYU’s came out on the long end. (Believe me, if you haven’t been watching them: a game in which Tulsa and BYU hold each other to a 24-21 final is a low-scoring game.) It wasn’t a real exciting bowl, as bowls go, but who could not want to be in Fort Worth on a nice day in December?
The worthless Sooners proved themselves a few points better than Iowa in the Insight Bowl in Tempe. It’s hard to say what motivates the Sooners to their bursts of effort. Just once, I’d like to see them charge the field with mayhem in their eyes, and dance around on the sideline like they just can’t wait to get back on the field. Their depth of talent is such that they can lose half a dozen marquee players over the season and still come out 10-3. But who knows what they could do if they played like they cared?
I do like to mention that I-40 was crowded with OU fans headed to the Insight Bowl on the 28th. Saw a few Hawkeyes too, but I think they mostly had to fly. I also observed a car with a Texas special plate, inscribed “OSU” and festooned with orange doodads, apparently headed early to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. With the Cowboy fans’ penchant for rioting after winning big games, we’ll need to check and see if Glendale is still there on 3 January. The oddsquad has OSU giving Stanford 4 on the 2nd, and that may be about right. Here at TOC, we predict a Cowboy win. The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl should be a good game, if not the scoring fest we saw in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Thursday, in which Baylor overcame Washington’s 56 points by eventually posting 67. No believers in defense, they. At any rate, go Cowboys! Neither bend nor break! End Stanford’s Luck!
The service academies sang their last on the 28th, with Air Force’s painful 42-41 loss to Toledo in the Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman. Didn’t get to see or hear this game while on the road. But the game recap indicates that it was every bit as close and hard-fought as the score suggests. Congrats to the Rockets; condolences to Big Blue.
Virginia Tech will meet Michigan in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on the 3rd. Besides being the Hokies’ fourth BCS bowl appearance in the last five years, it’s also their first meeting ever with the Wolverines. (VT doesn’t play much Big 10.) The oddscritters have Michigan giving 2, but we predict the Hokies will take ‘em down, as long as the special teams show up. Tech needs to keep the turnovers – their Achilles heel – to a minimum in New Orleans, and they’ll be fine. Go Hokies!
We are extremely sorry to record that Nevada lost to Southern Miss 24-17 in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve. The Wolf Pack couldn’t settle on a QB and had some sloppiness issues on both sides of the ball, but the game was very evenly matched in terms of stats. Minus the blocked-punt TD by the Golden Eagles in the 2Q, the game would have been 17-17 at the end of regulation. But, of course, blocked-punt TDs and other such oddities are what evenly-matched games turn on.
The unimportant games
In today’s exciting Booger Bowl action, Texas A&M is up 17-7 on Northwestern in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas as the first half winds down. This in spite of Northwestern toting a stuffed monkey around with them to represent the “monkey on their back” (years without a bowl win). Gig ‘em, Aggies! The monkey looks good on ‘em. (And it’s still there as this goes to the blog; final 33-22, A&M, after a wild 4Q.)
Also on tap in the Full-Frontal Booger Bowl category are the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, featuring Illinois and UCLA (TOC: Illinois), and the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, in which Virginia meets Auburn (TOC: Auburn).
In the Oblique Only-sort-of Booger Bowl category, Georgia Tech and Utah collide in the Hyundai Sun Bowl this afternoon (TOC: Georgia Tech), and Cincinnati and Vanderbilt in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl (TOC: Cincy). The Sun and Liberty Bowls have long and distinguished histories; it appears that the Memphis-based Liberty Bowl has decided to go with teams that will bring in a short-drive crowd, rather than hosting teams from all points NSE&W whose fans have to travel long distances to get there.
Meanwhile, we note that technically, the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl used to be the Emerald Bowl, and could also claim to have a long and distinguished history that might excuse it from Full-Frontal Boogerdom. But come on: you name something the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, you’re automatically and firmly in the Booger category. We’ll be watching the stands closely to make sure they’re fighting hunger today.
A few other bowls past seem worth mentioning. We note that Ohio edged past Utah State 24-23 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise on the 17th. We like the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl because it used to be the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl, and before that the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl, and before that the MPC Computers Humanitarian Bowl, and before that the Crucial.com Humanitarian Bowl. So when it comes to Booger Chic, you’d have to cut off fingers to count the number of bowls that have as much as this one. Tulsa played in the Humanitarian Bowl at the end of the 2003 season, losing to GA Tech 52-10.
In another Booger favorite, we regret to report that Rutgers downed Iowa State 27-13 yesterday in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium. This is a deeply silly bowl, and we’re darn glad they started it.
In other Booger news, Texas topped Cal 21-10 in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl in San Diego on the 27th. Technically, again, the Holiday Bowl enjoys Oblique Only-sort-of Booger status, as opposed to Full-Frontal, due to its long and distinguished history. As a human-interest aside, TOC personally observed the actual Bridgepoint Education headquarters building decked out in its enormous, 5-story Holiday Bowl banner, while heading north on the 163 expressway in San Diego on Thursday. This trip could have been better timed, but the Xterra’s old DOD sticker expired at the end of this month, and had to be updated.
BCS #7 Boise State played in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas (formerly the Las Vegas Bowl) again, which is the kind of thing that gets Bronco fans riled up (i.e., when they see lower-ranked teams go to BCS face-offs in the Allstate Sugar Bowl and the Rose Bowl Game Presented by VIZIO). We could get into a whole big “thing” about whether BSU “plays anyone,” as opposed to whomever else you want to argue about. To no one’s surprise, the Broncos stomped Arizona State 56-24. The 24 points from the Sun Devils are worth a quizzical eyebrow, however.
Finally, we would be remiss not to mention the Belk Bowl (motto: “Who knew?”) held in Charlotte, NC on Tuesday. The home-crowd favorite, North Carolina State (motto: “They have a football team?”), defeated Louisville 31-24.
We could go on and on about already-played Booger Bowls, of which there can never be enough, but we do need to preview 2 January’s offerings. Houston and Penn State will meet in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas for the second annual TicketCity Bowl, another bowl that has Booger written all over it. TOC: Houston. Fabulous weather is predicted for game time, 50 and sunny.
The Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl (God bless America!) will feature a meet between Ohio State and Florida in Jacksonville. TOC: too close to call. The oddsdudes have Florida giving 2.
In the Capital One Bowl (formerly the Florida Citrus Bowl, formerly the Tangerine Bowl) in Orlando, multiple-time Capital One Bowl teams Nebraska and South Carolina (motto: The Other USC) will duke it out. Oddspuppies have the Gamecocks giving 2. TOC concurs.
Michigan State and Georgia will meet in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, with Georgia giving 3. TOC thinks the Spartans will bag this one, however.
In BCS action, The Rose Bowl Game Presented by VIZIO will kick off under sunny skies with a balmy 82F on the Pasadena thermometer, which is actually 10-15 degrees warmer than normal. Oregon and Wisconsin clash in the Tournament of Roses, and TOC predicts the Ducks will tote off the trophy. But it won’t be a pushover game. Ducks will want to actually start “playing” sometime in the 1Q, against the erratic but often brilliant Badger offense.
It all leads up to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, previewed above. Go Cowboys!
Some miscellaneous football notes
The FCS championship game will be played 7 January between Sam Houston State and North Dakota State at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, TX.
In Div II, Pittsburg State beat Wayne State (MI) 35-21 on the 17th for the title. Congrats to all the finalists.
In Div III, Wisconsin-Whitewater took the honors with a 13-10 win over Mount Union in the Stagg Bowl on 16 December. Congrats to all!
Up in the stratosphere, NFL football is back on track with a slate of Sunday games to requite the football-hungry. The worthless 8-7 Dallas Cowboys will meet the 8-7 Giants one last time, and probably lose. Their playoff fate comes down to this game, as well (potentially) as games being played elsewhere in the NFC. So, being the Pokes, they’ll play “stupidly” (especially if Romo isn’t fully good to go after last week’s bang-up). Sigh. The AFC West is also still up for grabs, with the Broncos and Raiders both 8-7. Denver should have less trouble with KC than Oakland will have with San Diego, although the 7-8 Chargers’ wild card hopes are basically dead. (The Titans and Jets would both have to lose.) The Detroit-Green Bay game should be a good one.
We also note, for serious football fans, that the unstoppable Israeli Football League has its season underway. TOC’s team, the Haifa Underdogs, are 2-0 and second in the North Division to the 3-1 Tel Aviv-Jaffa Sabres. Not much video from the IFL makes it Stateside, but you can check out some clips from the Chanukah Bowl, played between the Rebels and the Kings earlier this month, at the IFL website. The Underdogs meet the Tel Aviv Pioneers today (31 December), and we’re pulling for them. The playoffs are in March, and the championship Israel Bowl will be played 30 March. Unless they have improved dramatically over previous seasons, the Underdogs won’t be in it.
For sports history buffs, a last-call factoid. The year 2011 has passed without an NCAA bowl played in a foreign country; the International Bowl – held for some reason in Toronto (they couldn’t have had it in, like, Vancouver??) – played its last in January 2010. Who knows why someone thought Canadian football fans would flock to a game played by Yank also-rans in a city where the average high on game day hovers around 30F and snow is virtually guaranteed. In 2010, South Florida beat Northern Illinois 27-3 in front of a whopping 22,185 fans, which frankly says a lot for Canadians’ love of football.
At any rate, this melancholy reflection sparks a reminder of a storied bowl history from yesteryear: that of the Bacardi Bowl. Played in Cuba eight times between 1907 and 1946, the Bacardi Bowl almost always matched a Cuban team with a US NCAA football squad. Louisiana State played in the first game on Christmas Day, 1907, against Havana U. (LA State won 56-0.) In the one game featuring two NCAA teams, Auburn tied Villanova 7-7, on 1 January 1937. The last Bacardi Bowl was played in 1946, with Southern Miss edging Havana U 55-0.
We here at TOC miss the Bacardi Bowl. We hope for a speedy end to the Castro regime, and a resumption of bowl match-ups between US and Cuban football teams.