We’ll see how many of us are still here after tonight’s Discover Orange Bowl and AT&T Cotton Bowl, both of which promise to be lollapaloozas, excellent football-wise. As far as we know, Mike Gundy’s middle name is still “Who, me? Nobody said I’m going to Texas.”
(Some of us are on extended mental vacations from the ugly realities of Obamacare, after last night’s Allstate Sugar Bowl, in which the Oklahoma Who Knews slew the Alabama Too Kewls, unexpectedly. Speaking of the Allstate Sugar Bowl, there was a strange moment in the recap broadcast, which ran from midnight to 2 AM here in the Pacific time zone. At the end of the game, in the original live broadcast, Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight thanked “my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ,” among others, for having his back during the bowl season. In the recap broadcast, those words were changed to “my Lord above.” Don’t know how that happened. It sounded like Knight’s voice the second time; perhaps he uttered both phrases in the original interview, and only one was used in the recap broadcast. But we didn’t see him say “my Lord above” in the original broadcast. If he said it, it was off-camera, and somehow came during an identical moment in the interview. Something of a puzzle, if you saw both broadcasts.)
The next week of football offerings kicks off on Saturday with an NCAA bowl, a championship game, and two NFL playoff matches. Good times, good times.
Some of you might be thinking that the BBVA Compass Bowl, featuring Vanderbilt and Houston, will be kind of a let-down after several days of pretty darn awesome bowl action. But that just shows how much you know. The oddsquad has Vandy giving about 2, probably reflecting (mainly) the edge bettors award to SEC play over The American. Both teams come in 8-4 and mid-pack in their conference structures; Cougar receiver Deontay Greenberry will be back from his injury to wreak havoc on the Commodore secondary. Bowl-goers will catch a break with temps topping the 50-degree mark and sunny skies in Birmingham.
The long-awaited FCS championship game will kick off in Frisco, Texas at 1 PM Central between #1 North Of Course Dakota State and Towson – the latter not exactly Cinderella, but at #7 in the polls an underdog to both the Bison and #3 Eastern Washington U., which Towson beat 35-31 to get to the championship.
In a bit of TOC Nation drama, hot-running NDSU head coach Craig Bohl will be moving to Wyoming to take the top job there in 2014. Presumably, this won’t put a damper on the patented Bison thunder tomorrow. The Towson Tigers put up a heck of a fight in the semi-final game, so tomorrow’s match should be good fun. The teams will meet in Toyota Stadium, home of Frisco’s FC Dallas MLS club (north of Dallas between Denton and McKinney). A balmy 62, with a fairly stiff wind, for the game.
In the early playoff on Saturday, formerly unstoppable Kansas City, which went sick, lame, and lazy in Week 10 and wound up 11-5, will meet highly respectable 11-5 Indianapolis. The Chiefs are hoping to requite their ugly 23-7 loss to the Colts before Christmas. The Colts also beat the Broncos, 49ers, and Seahawks in recent weeks. No prognostications here, but we award the edge to Indianapolis. Retractable roof on Lucas Oil Stadium, and sunny 30-ish temps anyway; weather won’t be the 12th man in this game.
New Orleans, 11-5, heads to 10-6 Philly for the late game. It’ll be in the 20s for the game, but no precipitation is expected. The wild-card Saints may not have been all that this season, but the division-champ Eagles have been somewhat less than not-all-that, the whole “NFC East” being sort of a running Don Rickles joke these days. Ordinarily we’d give New Orleans the edge, but they’ve been underperforming on the road lately, and the Eagles are breathing the air outside the accursed NFC East dungeon now, for at least one bright shining weekend, so that will chirk them up.
In Sunday’s action, the NCAA bowl mustn’t be neglected. The GoDaddy Bowl – undisputed king of the Booger Bowls – will kick off in Mobile, Alabama, our kind of place, at 8 PM Central between Arkansas State and Ball State. The GoDaddy Bowl was the GMAC Bowl from 2000 to 2010, which is how you may remember it.
Arkansas State, 7-5, is of course the Sun Belt Conference champ, and 10-2 Ball State slid in right behind conference champ Northern Illinois in Mid-American West. Not unnaturally, Ball State gives 6. If Ball State had a fan base like Texas’s, Oklahoma’s, Alabama’s, etc, the give would be more like 14. But as we’ve observed before, those Midwestern fan-bettors are tight with a penny. TOC tip: just sit back and enjoy.
The never-ending theme for the Sunday NFL matches, meanwhile, will be whether the California teams can handle the weather. Yada yada yada. Here it comes. Just warning you.
San Diego (9-7) and Cincinnati (11-5) will face off in the afternoon game in Paul Brown Stadium. The wild-card Chargers will be looking to redress their loss to the Bengals a month ago, and of course are coming off quality wins over the Broncos and Chiefs since mid-December. In their own “of course” column, the Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since 1990, and are looking to put that nonsense behind them. They’ve got the #3-ranked defense in the league to make the attempt with. No one’s counting the Chargers out, as they come in with that hungry look and indefinable “momentum” quantity. Maybe the 30s temps and snow/ice mix on Sunday will slow them down, however.
The late game is the one that has all the sportsbabblers swooning over the weather. Sure, the 12-4 49ers (hilariously, the wild card in this match) can handle rain and wind. That’s their milieu, for crying out loud. But can they handle Lambeau Field in below-zero temps with lingering snow showers and wind?
The game kicks off at 3:40 PM Central, and temps will drop from a high of 4 to well below zero as night falls. Green Bay had to fight tooth and nail for the NFC North, straggling in at 8-7-1 with the do-or-die over Chicago. But the Packers will have serious home-field advantage, with a fan base that eats up the frigid temps and begs for more.
Rodgers will be behind center on Sunday, looking to restore the luster to his injury-impoverished year. Kaepernick, meanwhile, is expected to have Michael Crabtree back from the injured list, along with Anquan Boldin, increasing the likelihood that at least one receiver at a given time can hold onto the ball. Try to watch this one from Florida or Hawaii, if at all possible.
On Monday night, at last, all eyes will be on Pasadena, where the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game will unfold between #1 Florida State and #2 Auburn. Might as well point out that it will be about 75 and clear as a bell for the 5:30 PM Pacific kickoff. TV watchers are guaranteed a Goodyear-eye view of a delightful sunset, in the final moments before game start.
The Seminoles bring health, a thoroughly dominating 13-0 record, and Jimbo “No one’s saying I’m going to Texas” Fisher; the 12-1 Tigers come off one of the most heart-stopping last-second wins of all time over the fabled Alabama program, not to mention a rousing, romp-em stomp-em championship bout with Missouri, and bring a rocket-propelled Gus “Hey, I just re-upped for big bucks with Auburn; who said I’m going to Texas?” Malzahn. The Oddsbubbas give FSU the 8-point edge. Sports prophets foresee an even bigger margin for the ‘Noles. We’re not so enthusiastic about the points. But, of course, it’s hard to bet against FSU on this one.