College Football Bowl Season Preview

Since yesterday was Opposite Day, I didn’t really want to break up the party by posting this, so it got pushed back a day. Then I realized it might actually be Opposite Week. In any case, this is not the opposite of anything, except maybe good taste.

A little background: for the second year in a row, I wrote a preview of all the college football bowls for a friend of mine. She’s a Michigan grad, a solid football fan, and she lives in Boston (which should, I hope, provide enough of an explanation for how this is pitched and who the intended audience is). She likes a guide, and my exhaustive (or: obsessive, pathetic, pick your favorite adjective) knowledge of the game means that I get to write it.

For each game, I list the date, the bowl’s name, the teams involved, a short description, and a rating. The ratings are on the following scale: DON’T BOTHER, CAN SEE, SHOULD SEE, MUST SEE.

I thought some folks here might be interested in seeing it, so click through the fold if you’re so inclined.

12/17 – Gildan New Mexico Bowl – Temple vs. Wyoming
This game is potentially more interesting than it seems at first glance. Neither of these teams does anything special, but they both had good (8-4) years, played competitively in their losses (see especially Temple vs. Penn State), and will probably put on a game of fairly decent football. I can’t predict ahead of time who will win, and that’s usually a decent enough sign. Some bonus points because Steve Addazio might (theoretically, but not probably) end up as Penn State’s coach.
RATING: CAN SEE

12/17 – Famous Idaho Potato Bowl – Ohio (the Other Ohio) vs. Utah State
Ohio is about as good a MAC team as you’ll find. Utah State is an above average WAC team that played fairly well. This might be an okay game, all things considered, but the location leads me to believe it won’t be that close.
RATING: DON’T BOTHER

12/17 – R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl – San Diego State vs. Louisiana – Lafayette
Now we’re starting to talk. San Diego State is a legitimately decent mid-major (three of their four losses were to Michigan, TCU, and Boise State, and they got a win over an improved-but-still-not-good Washington State). I’ve been pushing ULL all season long, as I am the only person with even a passing interest in Sun Belt teams. I think SDSU is likely to run away with this thing, because they’re pretty good, but ULL is a decent team. My only real question: why is it in the middle of the night?
RATING: CAN SEE

12/20 – Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl – Florida International vs. Marshall
No. Florida International had a nice enough year – 8 wins, beat Louisville, lost a close one to Duke – but Marshall isn’t any good. Why Marshall got a bowl bid and Western Kentucky got screwed out of their first-ever bowl I cannot explain. The only upside to this game is that FIU and Marshall actually both beat Louisville, which won a share of the Big East title. This is an extremely minor upside.
RATING: DON’T BOTHER

12/21 – S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl – TCU vs. Louisiana Tech
Happy birthday to me! I get to watch a nationally-ranked TCU team pound the shit out of Louisiana Tech. Who designed this matchup?
RATING: HIDE THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN

12/22 – MAACO Las Vegas Bowl – Arizona State vs. Boise State
Another one. Remember this later when you see Michigan and Virginia Tech in a gigantic-money BCS bowl. If Boise State wins this by less than four touchdowns, it’ll be because they weren’t trying.
RATING: HIDE THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN

12/24 – Sheraton Hawaii Bowl – Nevada vs. Southern Miss
The downside of knocking off Houston is that Conference USA lost a boatload of money for not placing a team in a BCS bowl. The upside is getting to spend a week in Hawaii. Nevada’s a decent-ish team, but Southern Miss is better. Time zone changes always screw with teams when they play in Hawaii, and Larry Fedora is probably going to be leaving Southern Miss for a new job (keep your eye on North Carolina, if you’re so inclined), so who knows how this will turn out? Prepare to hear Bing Crosby’s “Mele Kalikimaka” a million times.
RATING: CAN SEE (IF YOU DON’T LOVE YOUR FAMILY)

12/26 – AdvoCare V100 (what?!) Independence Bowl – Missouri vs. North Carolina
No idea. These are both 7-5 teams that played reasonably difficult schedules. There is a lot of residual talent at UNC from Butch Davis’s recruiting/breaking-the-law frenzy, and it’s safe to say Mizzou is battle-tested after their gauntlet of a conference. I’m interested in this one, so I think you should be too. It also has the benefit of being the first bowl game featuring two BCS conference teams. That (typically) means an upgrade in talent and quality.
RATING: SHOULD SEE

12/27 – Little Caesars Bowl – Western Michigan vs. Purdue
Purdue is not a good team. Western has one of the best quarterback/wide receiver combos in the whole country (let alone the MAC). I’m sort of expecting a wrong-direction blowout here, although it’s one of those games where BCS vs. non-BCS talent could tip the scales.
RATING: DON’T BOTHER

12/27 – Belk Bowl – Louisville vs. NC State
I cannot imagine a more Belk-ian matchup of teams. If you have nothing better to do, go ahead and watch it. But don’t expect much in the way of entertainment.
RATING: DON’T BOTHER

12/28 – Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman – Toledo vs. Air Force
Air Force is a 7-5 team that, as far as I can tell, hasn’t actually won any games. The only thing worth paying attention to here is Toledo’s tendency to put up 60+ points while simultaneously giving up an almost equal number. They have one of the elite offenses in the point-a-minute MAC, and that’s always worth taking a gander at.
RATING: CAN SEE

12/28 – Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl – California vs. Texas
My understanding of the Holiday Bowl is that it’s supposed to be a matchup of decent teams from the Pac-12 and the Big 12. If you wanted to conclude, from the names involved, that that’s what this is, I won’t dissuade you. Still, expect Texas to run away with this. They’re bad, but Cal is worse.
RATING: CAN SEE

12/29 – Champs Sports Bowl – Florida State vs. Notre Dame
This would have been an excellent bowl 15 years ago. Still, even in tarnished times, this is two 8-4 teams that play a game that is recognizably football. In college football, mediocre teams with good pedigrees still come recommended. Look for whoever wins this game to be a preseason darling next year (for the 800th time).
RATING: SHOULD SEE

12/29 – Valero Alamo Bowl – Washington vs. Baylor
Another “Virginia Tech?” game. Baylor, featuring the best player in all of college football, who should run away with the Heisman if there’s any justice in the world (spoiler: there almost certainly isn’t), got shafted out of a BCS bowl for this. This is one of those games where the worse team often wins just because the better team is so horribly dispirited. In any case, RGIII owns all the bones, so watch it, because it’s likely the last time you’ll see him in the green and gold. And he’s worth every second you can spare.
RATING: SHOULD SEE

12/30 – Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl – BYU vs. Tulsa
Here’s a couple of teams you didn’t even notice having strong years. Like the New Mexico Bowl, this is a matchup of two pretty good mid-major teams who do most things well and nothing all that poorly. This one will be low on flash, high on competence, and medium on entertainment.
RATING: CAN SEE

12/30 – New Era Pinstripe Bowl – Rutgers vs. Iowa State
Or, as I prefer to call it, the “Yes, These Teams Really Do Exist” Bowl. Iowa State is a moderately competent team most famous for screwing everyone out of a national championship game they actually want to watch, while Rutgers went 8-4 and no one even noticed (maybe the greatest testament I can imagine to the job Schiano has done there). Another game featuring a potential Penn State coach, and another game featuring two teams that are probably better than you think.
RATING: CAN SEE

12/30 – Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl – Mississippi State vs. Wake Forest
And here’s one featuring two teams that aren’t as good as you think. Wake started strong and then collapsed down the stretch, and Mississippi State is lucky Florida exists to deflect any talk about which SEC team was the most massive, crashing disappointment.
RATING: DON’T BOTHER

12/30 – Insight Bowl – Iowa vs. Oklahoma
Oh my. I believe I read yesterday that this game is one of the three with the most lopsided opening spreads, and for good reason. Iowa is a mediocre team. Oklahoma is a national power that had a mildly disappointing season and somehow ended up here. Another one where one team’s only hope is that the other team isn’t paying attention.
RATING: HIDE THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN

12/31 – Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas – Texas A&M vs. Northwestern
Who even knows? Texas A&M is almost certainly the best 6-6 team in history, but they’re also headless because of Mike Sherman’s recurring bouts of narcolepsy. The only thing that is ever consistent about Northwestern is their ability to play games in a manner no one expects. On paper, A&M wins this by a bunch. In reality… probably also that.
RATING: CAN SEE

12/31 – Hyundai Sun Bowl – Georgia Tech vs. Utah
This is not your slightly-older-sibling’s Utah team. Nor is it a particularly good Georgia Tech team. That said, as always, I counsel watching Georgia Tech, because Paul Johnson’s triple option is the single most entertaining offense in all of college football.
RATING: CAN SEE

12/31 – AutoZone Liberty Bowl – Cincinnati vs. Vanderbilt
I have almost nothing interesting to say about Cincinnati as a football team. Butch Jones might be getting a new job, I guess. Zach Collaros might be back to play QB for the bowl game, although his replacement is named Munchie Legaux, so who even cares? Vanderbilt had a very solid year, is in like the fifth bowl game they’ve ever been in, and James Franklin probably calls Ralph Friedgen every time he needs a good laugh. I actually have no idea what will happen, but Cincinnati is (probably?) more talented.
RATING: DON’T BOTHER

12/31 – Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl – Illinois vs. UCLA
This has to be, by far, the most embarrassing game on the entire bowl slate. Illinois is 0-6 in their last six games, UCLA is 6-7 and needed a waiver just to get into a bowl, neither has a coach. This game, right here, puts the lie to everyone who says bowl games are a reward. The only thing these two teams deserve is to be shot out of a cannon into the sun. Seriously, if there’s a hockey game on, watch that instead.
RATING: DON’T BOTHER

12/31 – Chick-fil-A Bowl – Virginia vs. Auburn
I’m a long-time (like three years) fan of Mike London, and I absolutely adore Gus Malzahn. Assuming the latter hasn’t gotten a new job, I expect this to be one of most interesting matches in the undercard. Virginia plays solid defense and is almost certainly overrated. Auburn plays great offense and is almost certainly overrated. There is real potential for Auburn to blow this one up, but if they don’t, I bet it’ll be pretty good.
RATING: SHOULD SEE

1/2 – TicketCity Bowl – Houston vs. Penn State
I hear (from Twitter) that Penn State people are upset that their team “fell” all the way to this bowl that’s happening alongside the New Year’s Day bowls, in the Cotton Bowl, against a team that was vaguely a national title contender and a certain BCS bowl lock until a few days ago. Penn State people: kind of stupid. In any case, this is a really fun matchup. Penn State plays legitimately excellent defense, Houston is amazing on the other side of the ball. Case Keenum has been a quarterback for like 10 years, I think, and he owns every record there is to own for quarterbacks. Kevin Sumlin will almost certainly not be the boss at Houston any more, but Penn State doesn’t have a boss either. This should be a terrific game.
RATING: MUST SEE

1/2 – Outback Bowl – Michigan State vs. Georgia
A pretty sad consolation prize for both of these teams, but a nice game for everyone else. Two elite defenses, a good old fashioned Big Ten/SEC grudge match, talented quarterbacks who belong in the discussion for best QB in their respective conferences. I don’t like either of these teams, but I’m legitimately excited for this game. It’s one of the best pure matchups of any game in the entire bowl season.
RATING: MUST SEE

1/2 – Capital One Bowl – Nebraska vs. South Carolina
I don’t care for this matchup. South Carolina, like Michigan State and Georgia, fields an elite defense. Nebraska fields whatever shows up in any given week. One of these teams is a lot better than the other. And bringing Bo Pelini to a battle of wits with Steve Spurrier is not what I’d call a well-conceived plan.
RATING: CAN SEE

1/2 – Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl – Ohio State vs. Florida
Even setting aside the fact that you’ll have to deal with incessant, inane “Urban Meyer Bowl” talk, and even setting aside the fact that these are two utterly unlikable teams coached by two utterly unlikable frat boys, this is terrible. Ohio State and Florida are both bad at football. Really, terrifically bad at football. In a just universe (which, as covered above, is probably not the kind we live in) these teams would not even be in bowl games. Expect a final score of like 10-7, and not because of the proficiency of defense being played.
RATING: DON’T BOTHER

1/2 – Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio – Wisconsin vs. Oregon
I’m not sure if the Big Ten will ever get a favorable matchup in this game again. Wisconsin is very good; Oregon is great. I expect this to be fairly entertaining, but I’m not on board with the people who think Wisconsin can keep up with Oregon. They can’t. (Full disclosure: I believed the same thing about Ohio State the year they completely dismantled Oregon’s offense. It’s possible I have no idea what I’m talking about.)
RATING: SHOULD SEE

1/2 – Tostitos Fiesta Bowl – Stanford vs. Oklahoma State
The only reason this matchup exists is because Oklahoma State got screwed by idiot humans. But whatever. This is still a great pair of teams. Two of the best offenses in all of college football, in the middle of the desert. Stanford’s top 25 defense vs. an Oklahoma State defense that seems to manufacture turnovers out of thin air (of which there is, of course, plenty in the desert). Just sit back and enjoy this one.
RATING: MUST SEE

1/3 – Allstate Sugar Bowl – Michigan vs. Virginia Tech
If you weren’t a Michigan fan, I might not even suggest this one. Both of these teams are here because of white privilege (more or less). This should be Boise State vs. Baylor, which would be a thoroughly excellent game. Instead, it’s not. It’s easily the worst of the BCS games, featuring two teams that feasted on weak schedules and then bet on their own names to see them to the big money. The only upside here is that Denard Robinson is legitimately exciting to watch no matter what.
RATING: CAN SEE/MUST SEE

1/4 – Discover Orange Bowl – West Virginia vs. Clemson
The annual meeting of the Big East and ACC champions, stuck here because no one else wants them. That said, even this rickety thing is better than the Sugar. Both teams have dynamite offenses, and both are coached by hillbillies who are overwhelmingly likely to wake up hungover in a ditch on January 5th. You’ll at least be entertained.
RATING: SHOULD SEE

1/6 – AT&T Cotton Bowl – Kansas State vs. Arkansas
Let’s just call this the sixth BCS bowl. These are both top ten teams that had surprisingly strong seasons. Arkansas is one of the few SEC teams with an elite offense, and Kansas State keeps doing something to win games they probably shouldn’t. If nothing else, the coaching matchup here (Bill Snyder, old as Methuselah, vs. Bobby Petrino, human/lizard hybrid) is a nice storyline.
RATING: MUST SEE

1/7 – BBVA Compass Bowl – SMU vs. Pittsburgh
No. Go outside instead. The Boston winter will be less merciless than having to watch this nightmare.
RATING: DON’T BOTHER

1/8 – GoDaddy.com Bowl – Arkansas State vs. Northern Illinois
As of this morning, I would have rated this game a lot higher. Hugh Freeze, last seen in “The Blind Side”, did what I consider one of the most impressive coaching jobs of the year getting Arkansas State to 10-2 (first Sun Belt team to ten wins, second winning season in ASU’s 19 years in I-A, and so on), but he’s out the door to coach Ole Miss. I don’t know whether he’ll be around or not, but it seems like his attention won’t be here. And Northern Illinois is the best team in the MAC. There is still a ton of potential here, and I’ll keep this as one of my sleeper picks, but some of the bloom is off the rose.
RATING: SHOULD SEE

1/9 – Allstate BCS National Championship Game – LSU vs. Alabama
Yeah, yeah. This thing. You’ve seen it once, you shouldn’t have to see it again. You have to watch it because it’s “important”, it’ll probably be a good game anyway, there’s a decent chance we end up with a split national title, and all that. Whatever. You know what to do.
RATING: HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO SEE

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66 thoughts on “College Football Bowl Season Preview

  1. You are 100% correct on the Rose Bowl (except for the Can See designation – dude this has two legitimate Heisman contenders, one finalist, up against a team with another legitimate contender that was considered a key competitor for a national championship and has the same core of players that played in the final game last year.  How is this not Must See?).  We (Wisconsin) likely cannot, but perhaps can, keep up with Oregon’s speed.  it all depends on Oregon’s defense.  Ours certainly had all it could handle from the vaunted(!) multidimensional MSU attack in the two games they played.  It’s likely to be lopsided but it could be the most thrilling shootout on this year’s slate.

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  2. I enjoyed this. Two comments:

    1.) I think the Vandy-Cincy game will be more entertaining than you do, largely because Vanderbilt is actually pretty good (they almost beat Arkansas, for example), and good in an entertaining way — with a very talented tailback and a quarterback who, in addition to having a brother who is the best quarterback in the world right now, isn’t so bad himself.

    2.) While I also think OSU got shafted, and should be losing to LSU in the national title game, I think the LSU-Alabama game will likely be much more entertaining than the last one (which was somewhere between watching paint dry and watching paint that’s already dry). They have 5 weeks to prep for each other, and that usually bodes well for the offenses.

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      • I was rooting for LSU, if it matters.

        By the way ,there’s a little diner just off the LSU campus that has fishing amazing crawfish poboys, but I cannot for the life of me remember the name of it. Can you throw out some names? I’ve been trying to remember and it’s driving me crazy.

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          • Just got off the phone with the youngest who lives in New Orleans and she gets her po’boys from Cajun Seafood on Claiborne or Verdi Mart on Royal.  She says Verdi Mart is better and recommends “All that jazz” which consists of bacon, ham, turkey, shrimp, two types of cheese, mushrooms and their special sauce.  Have fun in New Orleans.

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  3. First of all, Iowa is always a great team that sometimes has underacheiving years.  Just look at where the coaches of Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Kansas State got their starts.  Not to mention the wrestling team at Iowa.  This is self-evident to any biased former Iowan and Hawkeye fan.  That you fail to recognize these facts simply indicates your lack of team spirit.

    And of course Iowa State exists.  As a graduate, I can tell you that, without a doubt, from 1993-1995 the Iowa State University did physically exist and I have specific examples from their humanities departments, specifically, Cold War History, Russian History, 18th Century Continental Philosophy, and Creative Writing courses.  Oh, and they beat Iowa, which makes them great, too.  And they beat that other Oklahoma team.

    Both are must see games for the reasons listed above.

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  4. Dude, I absolutely loved this post. And it’s darn good to see someone else with more than a passing interest in the Sun Belt and MAC and be able to mention their teams in a non-derogatory manner.

    I disagree about Marshall, though. They beat Southern Miss (in addition to Louisville) and came in second in their division. They’re hot-and-cold. Whether they win or not depends on who they are.

    Also, I think Louisiana Tech may give TCU a game. TCU doesn’t seem to really want to be there. Louisiana Tech has had their best season in years.

    Tulsa is one of those below-the-radar teams that does a good job year in and year out (with some exceptions) but never gets the attention that others do. They’re one of the most winning teams in Conference USA since the last major realignment, but no one notices (even accounting for the fact that they are in Conference USA.

    I will be seriously sad if the Kraft Bowl gets bad ratings. The bowl’s preference of mediocre teams from the big four conferences over better teams from the ACC, Big East, and mid-majors is seriously depressing.

    (In case you haven’t noticed, I have a soft spot for the underdogs of the FBS. Or the teams from underdog conferences.)

    More broadly, I think the bowl system needs to be restructured. I think something got off track, and not merely because “there are too many bowls.”

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  5. Two comments:

    1. You weren’t hard enough on the Fight Hunger Bowl.  To be fair, no human on earth is capable of being as critical as that execrable matchup deserves.  It’s truly a low point in NCAA football history.  This year we have three bowl games that don’t feature even one team with a winning record, but this one is the worst of even that dismal lot because it features one team without a winning record (that lost every game in the second half of the season, concluding with a 7-27 loss to a team that wen 3-9!) and one team with a losing record.  Will even UCLA fans bother to make the 6 hour drive to San Francisco for this shitpile of a game?

    2.  As a rabid Oregon fan, I fear Russell Wilson and especially Montee Ball.  Oregon has had trouble stopping inside runs this year–even pathetic UCLA was able to demonstrate that in the PAC 12 championship game.  I’d much rather have faced MSU–they’re every bit as good as Wisconsin, but would have presented Oregon with better matchups.  Oregon should win, but I’d be astonished if its a blowout, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Wisconsin pulled the upset.  Keep in mind that bowl games, with all their play stoppages for commercials, undermine one of Oregon’s great strengths, which is moving faster than other teams, tiring them out, and keeping their defense from making substitutions.  The nature of bowl games negates that advantage for them, as was clearly demonstrated in last year’s national championship matchup.

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    • I’m also kind of suspicious that there’s some aspect of Oregon’s offense that can be cut off with proper preparation. You see this a lot, for instance, with Georgia Tech. Give a team an extra week to prepare for the triple option, and that offense just fizzles. Oregon seems to have their worst games in the opening game of the season (LSU this year, although maybe only because LSU is a lot better than everyone else, Boise in… 2009, right?) and their bowl game (Ohio State, Auburn). Of course, those also tend to be the games in which they play the best defenses on their schedules, so there are a lot of confounding variables.

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      • Maybe.  But I interpret the season-opening LSU and Boise losses simply to better preparation by those other teams (as much as that hurts to say).  Had the Boise game gone another quarter, Oregon would have won; it just took them three quarters to begin to play solidly.  Against LSU the big problem was turnovers, for which part of the credit goes to LSU, but much of the blame goes to our frosh WR De’Anthony Thomas–it was his first game and it showed (it was also essentially a home game for LSU).  In both cases I think Oregon just wasn’t itself prepared for the first game of the season while the other teams were. Against Auburn, everyone tends to forget that Oregon passed all over Auburn (68% completion, and led the game with less than a minute left, and had Auburn beat cold except for that final, devastating, fluke).  The key for Auburn in that game was stopping Oregon’s run, but they’d been great at that all season–I’m not so sure it was the extra prep time as just that Auburn had a hellaciously good run defense.

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    • I will say this – Wisconsin ought to relish the underdog role here.  It’s the first time they’ve gotten to occupy it all year, even if in both of the MSU games they really shouldn’t have been as much the favorite as they were.  In both games they were really having to deal with expectations more than a pure desire to win.  Now we have two teams looking to atone for bowl losses last year, and Wisconsin has no expectations of being the better team to live up to.  They know they have to elevate their level of play past expectations to win.

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    • I’m not sure either defense is capable of consistently stopping the other – Wisconsin is too big and strong up front for the Ducks and Oregon is too fast for the Badgers. I really see this as a toss-up game that will be decided by whomever manages to avoid turnovers or pull out a couple of stops.

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  6. A few points of order:

    1) You said FIU was a good team for beating Louisville while their bowl opponent, Marshall, “isn’t any good.” However, Marshall also beat Louisville and also beat a ranked Southern Miss.  FIU’s doesn’t have a win that comes close to the level of USM.

    2) You underrate a Louisiana Tech team that took both Southern Miss and Houston to the wire, beat Ole Miss in Oxford by 20. Will TCU win? Probably, but they lost to a team worse than the Bulldogs in SMU earlier this season. So it is possible.

    3) Texas can’t score enough points to run away from anyone.

    4) While RG3 is great, Baylor has no business in a BCS bowl ahead of OK State(who beat them), Kansas St.(who beat them), and Oklahoma(who beat them).

    5) It’s obvious you haven’t watched Tulsa play this year. That’s ok; most people haven’t. They score almost 40 pts and gain almost 500 yards a game. That’s flashy.

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    • 1) I think the objection above that Marshall is “hot and cold” is probably a good one. They’ve played all over the map this year.

      2) Anything’s possible, but TCU (after working out their early-season kinks) is just plain good at football. I don’t dislike Louisiana Tech, by any means, but TCU should hammer them.

      3) Wait until you see them against a mid-tier Pac-12 defense.

      4) I wouldn’t dream of taking them ahead of Oklahoma State, but they lost by 1 at K-State and didn’t lose at all against Oklahoma. That’s good enough for me.

      5) Hilariously, 34 points and 454 yards (the actual numbers) is just barely top 25 in both categories. Those are pretty good numbers, for sure, but college football has redefined “flashy” over the last few years.

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  7. Michigan fan here. Of course I’m happy that UM got into a BCS bowl — the selection process has been nothing if not candid about its desire for money and big TV ratings. I am also aware that Boise State, KSU, Baylor have legitimate claims to a BCS bowl. Here’s the “but”: I think it’s slightly unfair to assume they “feasted on weak schedules and then bet on their own names to see them to the big money.”

    Of course they had a weak schedule. With so much shit going down the past few years, the program needed something to get momentum going, and that proved prescient since we kicked off this year with a new coach. And then we had a solid year against a so-so schedule, and then benefitted from a pretty crappy bowl selection process. I guess I’m trying to say that it wasn’t some Master Plan to play shitty teams and bank on the BCS going after the biggest fanbases — that “master plan” was always in place, for all legacy teams, ever since the BCS was created.

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    • I agree with this. I also don’t think Michigan’s schedule was weak on purpose. They have no control over the quality of the Big Ten (which, this year, was pretty low).

      Also, full disclosure, I am a Michigan man as well. That’s why the divided recommendation for that game.

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  8. Since the BCS has made bowl games essentially irrelevant, I have one basic criterion for whether to watch a bowl game:  is this is game that I would make a priority to watch in the last week of October?  If not, there are a lot more interesting things to do, like watching reruns of Chopped and Triple D.  With that as my guide, I will probably watch Oregon-Wisconsin; Stanford- OK State;  Washington-Baylor (I live in Seattle and have not seen RPGIII play); and I’ll try to watch LSU-Bama, although the first game was probably the most boring football game I’ve ever seen (other than  the OSU-Michigan games during the RichRod era) and since with commercial interruptions the game will last at least four hours, I may have to come in sometime in the 3d quarter and see how it’s going.

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    • Those were some tough years for Michigan, that’s for sure.

      OK, I’m going to lay this out because I guess I want yet another message board to tell me I’m nuts: I didn’t think the first LSU-‘Bama game was boring. I thought it was incredible. I thought it was the best showcase of defensive athleticism in the ten years or so I’ve been watching college football. It was phenomenal football through a different lens — not unlike top flight soccer. Every down counted, every tackle was fierce. I don’t mean to pile on you, Mr. Donegal. I’m firmly in the minority here, but I can’t help but express some surprise at the near universal declaration of “bor-ring!”  Great football doesn’t have to involve shootouts and hail marys.

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      • I enjoyed it quite a bit, although I think people are much too quick to forgive a fair amount of sloppiness from both team’s offenses. It was a great defensive game, but it wasn’t that great. Alabama’s inability to kick field goals was also a big deal.

        All that said, I watched it at the LSU bar in Northern Virginia and had the absolute time of my life.

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        • Fair enough. I’m probably retroactively inflating the collective defensive triumphs. Easier to remember huge hits, less so with overthrown passes and illegal motion penalties. I think it’s in reaction to the tons of disgust out there. And I’ll say here that I think OSU should have gotten the nod to the big game — and immediately follow that by saying that I think Bama has a better chance of winning.

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      • Some people like cricket, some people like nil games in soccer, some people liked LSU-Alabama.  Who am I to criticize.  And I agree that great football doesn’t have to involve shootouts and hail marys, but it does need some element of drama.  Due to the inept offenses in the first LSU-Alabama game, the only real drama was whether the Bama kicker would whiff.

        An aside.  I am one of the fortunate people who attended both Ohio State and Michigan.  As an ardent Buckeye, I was glad to see RichRod go because during his tenure, the Game had no drama.  This year’s game was one of the better ones in a long time even though we lost.  I’m glad the rivalry is back.  Go Bucks.

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  9. If this was opposite day I’d explain in detail how magnificent the BCS and attendant bowl system are.  Since it’s not I’ll just pick a couple of your points to argue with.

    You are grossly overrating Baylor.  They lost three games, two of them badly, and went to overtime against Kansas, which is the equivalent of losing by eight touchdowns to Oklahoma State.  Their c.v. comes down to having beaten Oklahoma, which OSU and Iowa St showed is no big whoop.  Having said all that, they are still a good and exciting team and will put up crooked numbers against UDub, but keep in mind that their defense is practically non-existent so the Huskies will score a bit as well.  If you like scoring the Alamo Bowl will be for you.

    RGIII is a fun player to watch, but I’m afraid it’s simply the case that Andrew Luck is better.  When looking at their respective numbers you really have to keep in mind — there’s no polite way to put this so I’ll just say it — that all of Luck’s receivers are big, slow, and get zero separation in man coverage.

    Otherwise, thanks for putting together this mammoth post.

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        • The only problem basketball has is a playoff that’s too large. Brian Cook at MGoBlog writes about this every year, but what a playoff fundamentally needs is for two conditions to hold:

          1. It is impossible to determine the best team given only the regular season.

          2. A playoff is constructed such that whoever wins it will have compiled the best resume in doing so.

          In college football, 1 usually holds. In a six team playoff with byes, 2 almost always will.

          Basketball’s problem is that its playoff is so large and unwieldy that it doesn’t meet criterion 2 in a fair number of years. The BCS has the same problem, but because it’s too small rather than too large.

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            • That’s almost certainly true. At the end of the day, I would prefer a massive, unwieldy thing like the basketball tournament to the BCS, so I’m not that worried about it. I think any playoff of any kind is preferable to trying to eyeball who the best team is based on how they fared against 8 other teams in their backyard.

              The BCS is not a solution to this problem anyway, since it virtually always gives us the same kind of ambiguous champion that a giant playoff sometimes does.

              If, at the end of the day, we’re not really interested in crowning a national champion using actual games between high-performing teams, there wasn’t anything fundamentally wrong with the old bowl system. The BCS adds nothing of value while simultaneously destroying old rivalries and ripping conferences apart while everyone chases dollars and autobids.

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              • I think there’s just too little inter-conference information provided by the limited college football season to ever provide a satisfying result.  I do like the fact that at least we’re pretty much guaranteed to see #1 vs #2, even as subjective as the human and computer rankings are — it’s a bit more information than we had before.  Although it was badly screwed up this year by matching two teams in conference — we’d have learned a lot more about relative conference strength if we had gotten to see LSU vs Ok St and Alabama vs Stanford.

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              • At the end of the day, I would prefer a massive, unwieldy thing like the basketball tournament to the BCS, so I’m not that worried about it.

                And since I wouldn’t, it is of primary concern and why I prefer the status quo, which is flawed and which did not produce the results that I wanted this time around, over any sort of playoff.

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                • I believe that battle is being lost. The self-evident inanity of the BCS is killing any hopes you may have of avoiding a playoff. Ultimately, college football is going to decide, like every other sport, that deciding who is the champion on the field is preferable to deciding a champion by opinion polling.

                  It behooves us to attempt to inject some sanity into the process.

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                  • I’ll believe it when I see it. This year is far less problematic than in years past, where nothing ended up happening. The real gut-punches are when undefeated (BCS-AQ conference) teams are left out, like Auburn. But the bowl system survived that.

                    I could see a Plus One, which is a 4-team playoff in the same way that the current system is a 2-team playoff. But I’d be pretty surprised to see 6-and-up, despite my slippery-slope fears.

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                    • Even that, I don’t think will happen. If it does, the key thing for me is that the final two are not decided until after the bowl games. If that happens, it’s all good as far as I am concerned. Once you formalize which four teams are in contention, it starts getting a lot messier. This year, either Stanford or Oregon would be crying bloody murder. And Boise State would have a case. And the SEC would be arguing for UGA’s inclusion. Then you have to go to 6… 8… 16… 20…

                      So, what I would be okay with saying “Okay, after the last bowl, rank the teams and pick two.” Some bowl coordination would be good, though figuring it out beforehand is like moving first base to 91-feet because of those ties at 90.

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          • The only problem basketball has is a playoff that’s too large.

            No, the only problem basketball has is a playoff that’s too broad, but not large enough.

            Don’t get me wrong, I actually like March Madness.  But I’m under no illusions that the team that wins the tourney is even close to the objectively best team.

            Team sports are all about the margins.  It’s not about who can win this particular game, it’s about who can win most games against most opponents.  This is why the Superbowl is a silly championship; you have to win too few games to get through the playoffs (not to mention the fact that 16 games is a piss-poor number of trials and injuries have *way* too big of an impact).  It’s too easy to win by exceptional circumstances (that doesn’t make it not-fun, it just makes it a bad measure).

            This is also true in March Madness: a 15 might beat a 2 on any given night, but if they had to play even best of 3 the odds that they’d win would plummet.  Best of 5 would be closer to an accurate representation of comparative skill.  Of course, then you’d have 63 x 5 = 315 games, or 31 x 5 = 155 games if you only had 32 teams in the tourney, or 15 x 5 = 65 games if you had 16.  Too many games for the first two options and not enough teams in the third.  There’s no good combinatorial solution to this problem.

            Baseball used to have this correct, back before they had playoffs the way they do now, because the season was so damn big that the two division leaders in the NL and the AL had plenty of statistical rigor to say, “We’re better than everybody else in our quarter of the league” and then you had the two pennant series capped by the WS.  They broke it by making the playoffs bigger.

            Again: I kind of like it, it certainly makes the end of the season more exciting.  But it’s a worse measure of “best team” than what they had before.

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        • Can you explain what you perceive the “problem” to be?  In and of itself the BCS has no problem.  It is a formula that the participants have agreed to in advance and it spits out a “championship” game at the other end.  Likewise, a playoff wouldn’t entail any “problem” in and of itself, whoever wins the playoff wins the playoff and that’s just the way it is.

          My objection to the BCS is that its whole premise is antithetical to what athletic competition is supposed to be.  The best teams are decided by a Rube Goldberg of computer algorithms and subjective opinions.

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    • The only sense in which I’ve “rated” Baylor is my claim that they should be in a BCS bowl instead of Michigan or Virginia Tech. That seems… self-evident to me, but if you like:

      Baylor has three wins over teams in the final BCS top 25: Oklahoma, TCU, and Texas. Michigan has one: Nebraska. Virginia Tech has zero. Baylor has three losses, two of which were to #3 Oklahoma State and #8 Kansas State (the third was to 6-6 Texas A&M, which I’ve said I believe is the best 6-6 team in history, for whatever that’s worth). Michigan has two, one to #17 Michigan State and one to Iowa. Virginia Tech has two, both to #15 Clemson, but with the added caveat that they didn’t even play another ranked team all year. Baylor went 9-3 in what was easily the strongest (or second-strongest; I’m not interested in fighting about the SEC) conference; Michigan went 10-2 and Virginia Tech went 11-2 in significantly weaker conferences. In no way do I consider Baylor’s season performance worse than those two teams.

      The world will debate forever whether Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III is the better player. These questions are ultimately unanswerable, but it remains the case that I think RGIII is more fun to watch than any other player not named Tyrann Mathieu, and that’s good enough for me.

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      • Regarding Virginia Tech, I’m not arguing for a second that they deserve a top bowl game, the Sugar Bowl matchup is laughable as far as I’m concerned.  What I’m saying is that there are at least a dozen teams that deserve it over either Virginia Tech or Baylor.  Hell, they ought to give Boise the Sugar Bowl as an intrasquad scrimmage, seeing as Boise gets ripped off by the BCS year after year.

        The way I personally evaluate the top college QBs is, which one would I want my favorite pro team to get hold of?  My answer is Luck.

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    • all of Luck’s receivers are big, slow, and get zero separation in man coverage.

      OTOH, because they’re tall (especially the tight ends), he can often get away with just throwing the ball sufficiently high that they’re the only ones who can come up with it.

      I’ll take everyone’s word for it that Luck is an amazing QB, but a lot of the ways that he is are not particularly obvious to a casual fan like me.  I say this as a Stanford fan, btw.

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  10. The one thing about Va Tech’s selection is that it’s karmac balance for when about 10 years ago Notre Dame stole Tech’s rightful spot in a BCS bow, when the overrated/underrated scores were reversed.

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