Friday, December 29, 2006

Hurricanes Love Snow

Since it's a ruse already to have an ACC-affiliated bowl game hosted in Idaho each winter, one of the running jokes (or "storylines") for the press is to watch some big ole' Southern boys getting their first taste of snow.

The Idaho Statesman, and no doubt some of the local news broadcasts have had their fun, and ESPN will surely run some cute, good-natured tape of its own to document this noteworthy encounter during its telecast of the Micron PC Bowl on Sunday.

Sure, "the snow is cool" for now, but what effect, if any, will it have on the Hurricanes come Sunday? Only time will tell, but Vegas doesn't seem too concerned spotting Miami 3.5 points as the favorite. At a wobbly (even in Florida) 6 and 6 coming into what amounts to a cold, hostile environment in Boise (only 5 hours by car from Reno) I've got my doubts.

I may be tacking the Pack in this one.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Big Ten, Little Results?

After three terrible years for the nation's premier football conference, will this finally be the year that the Big Ten rises to the occasion for Bowl Season? (I just christened "Bowl Season" as a proper noun)

The past three Bowl Seasons have been lackluster for the Big Ten, and the conference hasn't survived with a winning record since 2002 (which was the last time the mighty Buckeyes won the national championship, I might add):

2002/2003 Bowl Season: 5-2
2003/2004 Bowl Season: 3-5
2004/2005 Bowl Season: 3-3
2005/2006 Bowl Season: 3-3

This year could prove to be different. Before we dive into some of the Big Ten's seven bowl games, let's look at a reason WHY the Big Ten might fare better.

Most convincingly (to this guy) is the overall strength of the teams. The Big Ten has 2 of the 3 top teams in the nation, even though the Big Ten is admittedly top-heavy. But there are also 3 Big Ten and 3 SEC teams in the Top 10. All 3 of those teams have a great chance to win their games.

The second issue is the players. It's a little disappointing that we won't get to see two of the best players of the Big Ten future (Juice Williams of Illinois and Kellen Lewis of Indiana) in these bowl games, but we're going to see a hell of a lot of them. Why?

In sticking with the tradition of picking on the SEC, nine of this year's ESPN All-Americans are from the Big Ten, compared with six from the SEC. In addition, nine of this year's AP All-Americans are from the Big Ten, compared with four from the SEC. The Big Ten has almost every part of the football field covered in the All-American selections, from quarterback to offensive line to linebackers and secondary. You're going to get to see some stellar players take the field in the next couple weeks.

On to the games themselves. What would be better than a sweep for the Big Ten in bowl games against the SEC? This year, we're getting three great SEC/Big Ten matchups in the bowls. Maybe these will help sort out what is the best conference this year:

Penn State vs. Tennessee
Penn State was mediocre this year, and it's too bad that JoePa didn't leave after last year's amazing run, ending with a victory over co-dinosaur Bobby Bowden. Not sure how good this game will be, but I just hope JoePa makes it through the game with his pants intact.

Arkansas vs. Wisconsin
People don't yet believe in Wisconsin, because they didn't have to play Ohio State this year and their toughest game, against conference heavy Michigan, they lost. But I think first-year coach Bret Bielema has done a hell of a job stepping into the very-hard-to-fill shoes of Barry Alvarez. And McFadden is a beast. I guess we'll see what happens, but I think the Badgers can gain some street cred for the Big Ten with a win in this game.

Ohio State vs. Florida
This is just too much for me to think about right now. But I will definitely be addressing this game, along with the other Big Ten bowl games, within the next few days.

Stay tuned.

Oklahoma Bored With Boise State

As a generic Knight-Ridder (now 'McClatchy Company') publication The Idaho Statesman is really stretching its creative power on the wings of Boise State's recent success. Judging by the above-the-fold hype, this must make business sense from the standpoint that the Broncos are the hottest gig in town and are no doubt pulling in lots of eyeballs for advertising sales. Yeah!

From the fan's perspective it's also yielding some interesting journalism. For example, Statesman reporter Chadd "Double D" Cripe's foray into enemy (Sooner) territory. For the sake of generating more than the standard, speculative rehashing of available internet-data and hot-air pre-bowl game coverage, the Statesman has embedded Mr. Cripe in Norman, Okla. to get a pulse on the enemy team, its fans, and their general ennui at this match up.

You can view the dedicated coverage here.

The articles are colorful and highlight the significant back story, which is starting to read something like unrequited love.

The Broncos are thrilled to be here. They've embedded a reporter. They sold their allotment in record time. The riff raff in Idaho are mortgaging their homes and shelling out $1,400 each for booze-soaked charter airplane/tailgate/ticket packages. Coach Chris Petersen may be offered the governorship.

The Sooners not so much. For their part they're not reflecting back any of that love. This seems odd for a community so steeped in college football lore. They've sold their allotment of 17,500 tickets, but needed help to get there with less than 25% of season ticket holders partaking. OU Fiesta Bowl merchandise is gathering dust on the shelves as the rout (34-10 trend early, Norman-based predictions) is expected.

The Norman Transcript website is giving this game none of the above-the-fold love of the Idaho Stateman, apparently more concerned with the seasonal Christmas Story Contest. Meanwhile its OU Sports Page (for Chrissakes!) is busy covering basketball, in December!

Maybe they're right to be so blase. Maybe the Fiesta Bowl is a no-win situation for Oklahoma. And if this attitude remains the same they sure are looking like the early losers.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Ian Johnson Scored 24 Touchdowns This Season

And they're all here in an easily-enjoyed compilation.

There's a lot of bad image quality going on here, but that doesn't diminish the fact that Ian Johnson led Division I-A in scoring this season with 24 touchdowns. Amazing. Three of those he got wearing a flak jacket after breaking his ribs and collapsing a lung.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sooners Intimidate with Acoustic Guitar, Mellow Musical Stylings

How's this for mid-tempo intimidation?

If the rest of the Sooners fans are this chill in their vitriol I'd say the State fans should dominate them in the stands.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Adrian Peterson Back for Fiesta Bowl, and Pete Fiutak Hates Boise State

It's true that you can't spell Pete Fiutak without a big F.U. In his CFN Q&A, Mr. Fiutak lambasts Bob Stoops for his declaration of Adrian Peterson's health to play in the Fiesta Bowl (see How much does Oklahoma care about its players?) against Boise State.

His objection to this move is that it could endanger Peterson's draft status on the off chance he gets injured:

"But Oklahoma isn't playing in the national championship, or even the Big 12 title game, which would then be more than understandable for Peterson to come back to play in. The Fiesta Bowl against Boise State is nothing more than a glorified exhibition game, and certainly isn't worth jeopardizing this great kid's future.

What if he blows out a knee like Willis McGahee in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl? What if he breaks his leg like Michael Bush in the season opener against Kentucky? We're talking about a top ten pick in next year's draft, and possibly number two behind Brady Quinn, and he's going to risk it against Boise freakin' State?!

It's Peterson's place to say he wants to play and nothing can keep him off the field. It's up to the adults to do what's best for him and his family."

(*bold emphasis added by me)

So we're calling on Stoops to stop and consider Peterson's NFL future before considering his team's need to win this game? Forgive me for asking when a college coach, whose primary responsbility is to win games for his university (and his job depends on it), has ever or should ever give precedence to the future NFL career of player during the process of gameplanning, especially when it comes to benching his best player.

What we're seeing here is a disgraceful lack of respect being shown to Boise State. If it were any other BCS program this wouldn't be a question that would cross Fiutak's nimble mind. He thinks that the win over Boise State is such a forgone conclusion that Stoops should bench Peterson. Well, by that logic let's suggest Stoops bench any player with pro-prospects and see how they do.

While I can see the knee-jerk appeal of this type of thinking, it's flawed. Playing Boise State is a no-win situation for a prestige program like Oklahoma. They are expected to win and win big, since eeking it out and God forbid, losing, are both calamities of a high order. There is no reward for beating Boise State, since it's expected, and a high degree of punishment in the offing should they lose. For this reason I would expect Stoops to pull out the stops and give Boise State the shot they deserve - Oklahoma's best shot. That's the only intelligent move he can make and if Adrian Peterson gives him a better chance than :who's the backup running back" that's a move Stoops had better make.

Now, if you still don't agree, let's entertain Fiutak's advice and say Stoops lets Peterson watch the game in street clothes. Boise State can play and they take the lead, by halftime people are asking questions about Stoops' decision and he looks like a turkey. If it's close or the Sooners lose, Stoops looks like a pretty big turkey. Solution? Eliminate the uncertainty, give Boise State the respect they're due and play Peterson if he's really healthy.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Can the Rose Bowl Recover from the Cold?

There is the fact that I partied too hard this weekend, consuming drink and smoke in abundance and impairing my immune system. Then I was out in the elements as well, climbing a remote peak in central New Hampshire in bitter temperatures and howling wind probably without the proper attire. Third is that emotionally I've been dragging since USC blew the pure, 'Trojan-paved' road to Glendale and Michigan was dissed on style-points in favor of Florida. The collective effect of all of this is that I'm sick and tired. The controversy has finally grown exhausting.

It's weird to admit this but the Rose Bowl is feeling like an all around letdown. I would guess that a lot of this has to do with the fact that both USC and Michigan are coming off losses to back pedal into a Granddaddy of Them All whose pre-game energy are so far actually fitting the geriatric nickname.

The feeling is remarkably different from a week ago when LSU was OMG excited to have a chance to play in the Rose Bowl. When USC was headed to the Nat'l Championship, and Michigan seemed pumped to play a worthy foe in LSU. But now, there seems to be zero excitement for this game. (I would bet this extends to the Sugar Bowl as well where it's kind of a glorified home game for LSU against a glorified high-school squad in Notre Dame, but I would differ to the Bayou Bengals fans to expand on that sentiment.)

For Michigan it's the political letdown. The system failed again. The voters suddenly freaked out at the idea of a rematch. Urban Meyer lobbied shamelessly while Lloyd Carr remained, silent, stoic, dignified. Tressel didn't vote.

For USC it's the no-less hard hitting body blow. They were the masters of their own destiny and choked in a very big way to an inferior team. They are left not only dealing with the damage of a bad loss but also the haunting spectre of what might have been had they kept their shit together.

In the end we're left wondering if USC is really that good a team, and whether Michigan can recover from the handicapping feelings of victimhood. Will this be a good Rose Bowl or will both teams show up feeling sorry for themselves?

In any other year this is a marquee matchup, a classic Rose Bowl. Three years ago this was the game that launched USC back to dynastic, National prominence in a win over Michigan. And the deck appears to be stacked to launch the winner of this game onto an urgent and real campaign for pre-season #1 and championship expectations next year.

That's the glamorous storyline, but so far the glitter just isn't there. There's one month left to let these wounds heal and like me, these teams and their shell-shocked fanbases have a long way to go to get the energy levels back up and recover from the cold.