January 05, 2005

College football bowl recap

So the 2004 college football season is now officially at an end. Herein is my analysis and comments. No, I’m not going to talk about the big games until the very end, so if that’s all you care about, click on the extended entry link and skip the rest. Below is a handy chart I will reference in more detail.

Big 10
Big 12
Big East
PAC 10
S. Belt
Bowl Record
Total Bowls
No. of Top 25

The ACC sent six teams to bowl games; that was likely about four teams too many. The Big 10, Big 12, and SEC all sent six teams to bowl games as well. There were likely one or two teams out of each of these conferences that didn’t deserve to go to a bowl game, but heck, there are so many bowl games now that they have to fill them up somehow. (For future analysis of this phenomenon, see ACC, Big East, MAC, MWC, the Sun Belt, and WAC conferences.)

The PAC 10, home of two of the top five teams in the country, sent five teams to bowls. This was three teams too many. One will note that the PAC 10’s #2 team, Cal, was man-handled by lowly-ranked, #21 Texas Tech. This only furthers my case that the PAC 10 is woefully overrated when compared against the Big 10, Big 12, and SEC.

The Big East, Conference USA, and the MAC also sent five teams each to bowl games, and this was also about four teams each too many. At least Conference USA had a winning percentage.

Speaking of winning percentages, the Big 10 and the SEC both broke even in their bowl bids, going 3-3. This is proof not of the weaknesses in these conferences, but in their strengths, seeing as how in a lot of the bowls being played, these two conferences squared off against one another, or Big 12 opponents.

The SEC sent the most Top 25-ranked teams to bowls, with a total of five. The ACC, Big 10, and Big 12 each sent four, and the PAC 10 sent three. (For those at home without a scorecard, the PAC 10’s third-ranked team was Arizona State, at #24.)

The independents split, with Navy winning and Notre Dame falling, Notre Dame getting the bowl bid solely because they’re Notre Dame, and not having anything to do with the fact that they haven’t had a national championship contender in nearly a decade. Would someone care to explain to me how Navy, at 10-2, is unranked, while Arizona State (9-3), Texas Tech (8-4), and Ohio State (8-4) all made it in to the Top 25? Oh, is it the conferences those teams play in? Is it those teams’ strengths of schedule? Then how does one explain Boise State, Louisville, Utah, Cal, and USC?

Now on to the bowls:
(Please note that I did not watch all of the bowls, and most, if not all of these I mention I did personally view.)

I only mention this one because our good friend Gary is a Bowling Green alum, and they whooped Memphis.

Hawaii Bowl
I only mention this one because my parents reside in Birmingham, and UAB getting to a bowl game was the talk of the town. Plus, it was Tommy Chang’s last game in a Warrior uniform, and it was an entertaining offensive shoot-out.

Alamo Bowl
Gary is also an Ohio native, so he was clearly rooting for the Buckeyes in this one. They stomped Oklahoma State, whose coach is now moving to LSU, with Nick Saban’s departure to the NFL and the Miami Dolphins. I’m looking forward to seeing what Les Miles can do with the Tigers. Miles has found himself in the same situation Saban was in while in Michigan—in the shadow of a larger, more successful and more popular football program at the state’s other major university. LSU is one of the few teams in the SEC that doesn’t have to share with another SEC school in the state. Miles has taken the Cowboys to a bowl game each of the last three years, and is a coach in the Saban vein.

Holiday Bowl
I’m sorry, did the number four team in the country get trounced by the twenty-first-ranked team in the country? Where was that number four team from again? Oh, that’s right, the woefully overrated PAC 10.

Emerald Bowl
Unranked Navy, at 10-2, handily beats New Mexico, and still won’t be ranked at the start of the season next year.

Liberty Bowl
This was a great football game to watch. Louisville and Boise State went back and forth the entire way. It was really, really entertaining. Still, neither team deserved to be ranked in the Top 10.

Peach Bowl
Finally in a conference that will air more legitimacy to future national title shots, Miami rolls over Florida, which, quite frankly, fell apart. The Gators didn’t look like their normal poised and confident selves, and the Hurricanes took full advantage.

Sun Bowl
I’m just glad Purdue lost, for reasons known only to myself.

Music City Bowl
This was another greatly entertaining football game, with Minnesota from the Big 10 going against the SEC’s Alabama. The Crimson Tide came up short, but this was one of many top conference slugfests that were the epitome of hard-nosed gridiron playing.

Cotton Bowl
This was probably the most disappointing of the major bowl games, as Tennessee crushed Texas A&M. The Aggies, in a rebuilding year, had fought their way in to the Top 25, and look to be turning their program back toward success. I was honestly surprised it got out of hand for them, but was glad to see another SEC team gain a victory.

Outback Bowl
Another great Big 10-SEC contest, with Georgia outlasting Wisconsin.

Capital One Bowl
I fully expected this to be a knock-down, drag-out slugfest, and I wasn’t disappointed—except with the final score. Iowa and LSU, two teams which should have been in the Top 10, participated in a purely defensive contest for three quarters, before their offenses blew it open in the fourth. The Tigers looked to have put the game away, but with 31 seconds left, the Tiger defense, in prevent mode, had the Hawkeye offense blow by them to score a touchdown on the last play of the game for the win.

I have long maintained—and I acknowledge my dad for putting forth this maxim—that the prevent defense only prevents the defense from stopping the offense. To this day, I have not seen a team successfully use a prevent formation to stop the opposing offensive unit. Maybe the Tiger defense was simply the first to tire. Maybe the players’ hearts were give out, trying to earn their coach a win in his final game. Maybe the coach, his mind already on a jet plane to Miami, forgot what sort of play won LSU a national championship last year. For whatever reasons, it was a heartbreaking loss for the Tigers, and Iowa is to be commended for their never-say-die attitude, and pulling out the win.

Fiesta Bowl
I can’t wait to see the Neilsens for this week. I’ll be shocked if the contest between Utah and Pittsburgh even registered. The big story here was how Utah was the first non-BCS conference team to make it to a BCS game. Yeah, they were undefeated. In the Mountain West Conference. Heck, Florida State or Miami deserved to play in this bowl more than Utah did.

Rose Bowl
This game had the feel of a national championship game. What a clash of titans here, as Texas and Michigan met for the first time ever. This was a great football game, with all the high drama that comes with such a contest. The Longhorns last-second field goal pulls it out for the Lone Star State. This game alone was testament to the greatness of the teams’ respective conferences.

Sugar Bowl
And Auburn wins the national championship.

Oh, there’s another bowl the night after this one? That bowl is for the BCS national championship? Oh.

Orange Bowl
This was quite a shocker. I was rooting for Oklahoma. I fully expected the Sooner defense to trounce Leinart and the Trojan offense. I figured the Sooner defense would slow the Trojans enough that the Oklahoma offense could keep up and pull it out. I don’t think anyone was expecting a 55-19 blowout. (Though I’m sure USC fans are insisting they knew this would happen all along, which is an outright lie. Hindsight is always 20/20.)

By the way, Mr. Leinart, it doesn’t show a lot of class for a Heisman Trophy winner to throw a hissy fit over taking a safety when his team is up 55-10. Mr. White, a fellow Heisman Trophy winner, and on the losing end of that 55-19 score, seemed to hold his composure much better. Then again, what was I expecting from a guy who earlier in the season wore a “F*ck the BCS” t-shirt for a nationally-televised interview?

By the by, I fully expect that this game will be lower in the Neilsens than both the Sugar and Rose Bowls.

The National Championship
So let’s talk about the national championship. USC and its fans, including those incredibly-biased media and coaching voters, now declare the Trojans to be the one and true national championship team.

I have long lamented how flawed the BCS is, most of it due to the incredibly-biased media and coaching voters. Despite its many flaws, however, the BCS was set up to ease the determination of a true national champion. Like it or not, the BCS was designed to have the number one and two teams in the nation fight it out for the title. It’s a shame that a worthy number three team is left out in the cold. As what happened to USC last year.

So let’s see, Trojan fans and players: if you want the rest of us to acknowledge that you, as the BCS national championship game winner, are the undisputed #1 team in the nation, will you do the same for the 2003 LSU Tigers? Yeah, I thought not.

For the last time, USC worshippers: if you want to blame anyone for there not being a USC-LSU championship game last year in the Sugar Bowl, look to that incredibly-biased media and coaching voting segment that put Oklahoma there instead of you. This is the same incredibly-biased media and coaching voting segment, mind you, that ensured, all season long, that USC would compete for the national title this year.

Just as last year we should have seen a USC-LSU match-up, this year we probably should have seen an Auburn-Oklahoma match-up. Jason Campbell, in his last press conference as an Auburn player, makes one hell of a case for a national title to reside on the plains of Alabama. Put this in your crack pipes and smoke it, southern California: in every BCS category except poll voting, the Auburn Tigers kicked your butts.

Yes, it is a big deal for you to come in and whip the Big 12 champion the way you did the Sooners. I’m not trying to take anything away from your Orange Bowl victory. I simply take issue on whether you should have been there in the first place.

So enjoy this moment in the sun, USC. No doubt you will find yourselves atop the rank of college football’s best at the beginning of next season. No doubt, with a strong number of your current talent slated to return, the incredibly-biased media and coaching voting segment will ensure your return to the BCS national championship game again.

I think Coach Nick Saban had something last year, when questioned, before the Sugar Bowl, over the prospect of a “shared” championship. He thought the BCS system was pretty good, but in order to totally eliminate the sharing prospects, he recommended the “BCS plus one.” Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville echoes the “plus one” scenario, as he finds himself in similar straits as Saban this year.

Wouldn’t that be something? To have one more game, USC against Auburn for all the marbles. Because if I were a betting man, I’ll take an undefeated SEC team over an undefeated PAC 10 team any day.

Posted by retrophisch at January 5, 2005 01:03 AM | TrackBack