New Mexico, Humanitarian and New Orleans Bowls were all decisive routs for Brigham Young, Northern Illinois and Troy respectively. It’s the most, wonderful time, of the year, but we’d like a little more in week 2.
- Louisville v. Southern Miss [St. Petersburg] (ESPN, 8:00pm ET). Louisville is back, y’all. Bobby Petrino left the Cardinals for the NFL, leaving behind a team that — in conjunction with Rich Rodriguez’ Mounties and Dantonio’s competitive Cincitucky squads — made the Big East a supremely underrated conference. Now, the Big East is a laughing-stock and the Cardinals are having to recover from Petrino’s ill-fated replacement, Steve Kragthorpe1. Kragthorpe’s successor is Charlie Strong, the former defensive coordinator at Florida. The Cardinals are 6-6 on the season (such is the Big East), but they are competitive and rely on their defense (15th in scoring, 12th in total defense) to compensate for an anemic offense (65th total, 71st scoring). On the other side of the field is Southern Miss, coached by another former Florida coordinator Larry Fedora2. Fedora, usually disappointing fans by sporting a visor (if any headwear), will test Charlie Strong’s defense. The offensive-minded Fedora coaches the 15th ranked total offense in college football. Still, the biggest intrigue for this game is not the game itself, but the bowl itself. Is St. Petersburg really a destination for anyone other than a retiree? Shouldn’t Tropicana Field be demolished and erased from human history? Will anyone actually show up to this game? And why am I asking myself so many questions? Sponsorship is also interesting. I like to think of myself as a crafty consumer, aware of all bowl sponsors. I’ve never heard of Beef ‘O’ Brady’s. Perhaps not coincidentally, I’ve never heard of the previous sponsor — magicJack — when the bowl was inaugurated. What is it, some kind of bus3?
- Boise State v. Utah [Las Vegas] (ESPN, 8:00pm ET). Entering the season, I think the BCS cabal would have thought of this as a doomsday national championship scenario. Instead, this is confined to the Las Vegas Bowl. Utah is 10-2 and Boise is 11-1, and somehow that’s a colossal disappointment for both. Utah was destroyed by Texas Christian and followed that up with an indefensibly dumb loss to Notre Dame. Boise, for their part, beat undefeated-in-conference ACC champion Virginia Tech and Oregon State, but wanged a few gimme field goals against Ostrich Man‘s Nevada Wolfpack. Rather than play a few hours south on January 10th, the Broncos and Utes will finish their seasons early and be home for Christmas. The matchup here is Boise’s offense v. Utah’s defense. Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham is a defense guy and used that to obliterate Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl. They’ll need similar magic against motion-heavy Boise State.
- Navy v. San Diego State [Poinsettia] (ESPN, 8:00pm ET). I don’t know who can boast the longest active bowl drought entering this season, but San Diego State had a sizable one. The Aztecs last appeared in a bowl in 1998, losing to the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Las Vegas Bowl. Their last bowl victory: 1969′s Pasadena Bowl over the Boston University Terriers. This is an accomplishment for a meager program, one that did happen to produce Marshall Faulk. They will capitalize on the home cooking against the Navy Midshipmen. This is the first year since 2002 that the Middies did not win the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, given annually to the best football team representing a service academy. It’s also the end of the road for Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs. Dobbs, who gave Ohio State quite a scare in the 2009 season opener, has been a paradigm-changer at Navy. Wedded to the triple option flexbone package since Paul Johnson took over in Annapolis, Dobbs’ success as a passer for the Middies has Ken Niumatalolo recruiting a different mold of quarterback. Rather than recruit option QBs and teach them how to throw, the Middies are going to start recruiting passers and teach them how to run the option. Dobbs’ farewell will come against a tough Aztec team. The Aztecs are a 4-loss team, but look at their losses: all to the wire at Missouri, at Brigham Young, at Texas Christian and vs. Utah. San Diego State head coach Brady Hoke deserves a lot of credit for this turnaround.
- Hawaii v. Tulsa [Hawaii] (ESPN, 8:00pm ET). It must be nice to host your own bowl game. For the third straight year, and seventh time in the bowl’s nine year history, the Rainbows4 will play in their home stadium for a bowl game. Given Hawaii’s constraining budget, I really can’t fault them. It’s easy to think of Hawaii as a doormat or beneficiary from playing in a bad WAC league, but this team isn’t that bad at all. Hawaii lost to USC, but schooled them on offense. They do have an inexplicable loss to Dan Hawkins’ Colorado intramural squad and a beatdown in Boise, but they handed Nevada their only loss on the season. This is a competitive squad, one made dangerous by wide receiver Greg Salas. Justin Blackmon got the Biletnikoff and Julio Jones, Alshon Jeffery and AJ Green all shine in a star-studded SEC, but Salas is second nationally in receiving yards per game. Just ask USC, Nevada and Fresno State how much of a hassle he can be. Hawaii will host Tulsa, a most uninhabitable place. The Golden Hurricane started their season off with a wild loss to Eastern Carolina, which saw the home team Pirates win on a hail mary at the final gun. They took a beating and a paycheck from T. Boone Pickens’ team, but lost in conference only once: at Southern Methodist. Unfortunately for Tulsa, that loss was the tie-breaker that sent Southern Methodist to the Conference-USA title game. Honololu, Hawaii will be the consolation prize. Todd Graham will need his defense to step up. The Golden Hurricane are near the bottom of every defensive statistical category. Hawaii, meanwhile, has a top-1o offense. That doesn’t necessarily mean Tulsa is doomed. The Southern Miss game shows Tulsa can win a shootout.
- Kragthorpe has now entered the college football dictionary as a verb, meaning “to destroy a good thing from within.” See synonym of: Zook. [↩]
- This is the Zook Legacy Bowl. Fedora was Zook’s offensive coordinator at Florida and Charlie Strong was Zook’s defensive coordinator at Florida. [↩]
- But seriously, don’t bother telling me as I won’t bother to internalize whatever it is. [↩]
- I’m not inclined to recognize the name change to the Rainbow Warriors. This look was so much cooler anyways. [↩]