How does a young socialite adapt to war between the B1G TEN and the SEC?
2010 is drawing to a close. Today is the last day on the calendar. The next day is a start of a new year, one with as much intrigue as promise for great things for Ohio State football. These two days, reduced to little more than 48 hours, symbolize the frenzy that comes from transitioning from one year to the next. In college football, it’s also the busiest time of the bowl season. There are ten bowl games on December 31st and January 1st, starting with the meek and uninteresting Meineke Car Care Bowl and ending with the, well, meek and uninteresting Fiesta Bowl. These games are discussed below.
- South Florida v. Clemson [Meineke Car Care] (ESPN, 12:00pm ET). South Florida is 7-5. It’s best victory is an overtime win over 7-5 Miami. Its other victories include 1-AA Stony Brook, 2-10 Western Kentucky, 4-8 Florida Atlantic, 4-8 Cincitucky, 4-8 Rutgers and 7-5 Louisville. Clemson is 6-6. It narrowly lost to Auburn at Auburn in overtime. Little else went right and this is what Clemson fans think of their head coach. So of course this is a New Year’s Eve ball game.
- Notre Dame v. Miami [Sun] (CBS, 2:00pm ET). Notre Dame is 7-5, having lost to Tulsa and having issues of scissor lifts and off-campus sexual assaults haunt the program. Miami is 7-5, replacing its head coach with a workout warrior from Penn Shtate. This is also another installment of the Catholics v. Convicts series that became popular in the 1980s. And yet, both sets of players having their passports confiscated before making the trip is the story of this game. Of course I’m watching. Loser should be compelled to go to Juarez.
- Georgia v. Central Florida [Liberty] (ESPN, 3:30pm ET). A 6-6 team faces the Conference USA champions. In the ever tense SEC arms race, Georgia fans are at their wits’ end. Since their Sugar Bowl campaign of 2007, Georgia fans have seen ArKansas, Florida, Auburn, and Alabama enter BCS games. South Carolina won the SEC East, LSU is Cotton Bowl-bound. Ole Miss was there twice and Mississippi State is playing on January 1st. Georgia is just not keeping pace. The 6-6 Bulldogs are one loss away from having its first losing season in 14 years. That might push them over the edge.
- South Carolina v. Florida State [Peach] (ESPN, 7:30pm ET). Should auld acquaintance be forgot. This has been the last bowl game of the calendar year for some time, this time pitting South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier against an old nemesis: Florida State. The future is oddly bright for both teams that were heel-stomped in their respective conference championship games. Jimbo Fisher is building something in Tallahassee and Spurrier just got South Carolina its first legit taste of conference glory since the school joined the SEC in 1992. As for this game, take Spurrier. Florida State’s defense has been exploded by quality quarterback play. Since this isn’t Kentucky or some other dumb team, Stephen Garcia should be up to the task. Having Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery helps.
- Nerdwestern v. Texas Tech [TicketCity] (ESPN, 12:00pm ET). Happy New Year! Your first bowl game of the new year is a Big Ten/Big XII affair involving two 7-5 teams. Nerdwestern is sans Dan Persa, though may benefit from having additional time to practice without him. They’ll face the rotting corpse of Mike Leach’s Airraid offense, reduced to more than an ill-advised constitution of poorly matching parts under first year coach Tommy Tuberville who did not learn from his Auburn days to not meddle with the offensive philosophy. Nerdwestern ranks 74th in scoring offense. Texas Tech ranks 32nd, and I’m not fooled. Performances against Weber State and hapless New Mexico stick out and similar feats against Iowa State and Baylor come at the expense of the 76th and 82nd scoring defenses in college football. A win for the Nerds would be their first since the 1949 Rose Bowl.
- Alabama v. Michigan State [Capital One] (ESPN, 1:00pm ET). Drinking Game: One sip of beer for every mention of Saban’s tenure at Michigan State or Dantonio previously being an assistant to Saban at Michigan State. Surprise! You’re not going to be conscious at intermission. Saban reflected on his time in East Lansing, calling it “as much like home as any place” he’s ever been. Sparty fans are naturally not amused. You probably know my rooting interest. The SEC-B1G TEN war kinda bores me, and I’m not happy that the Gator Bowl was added to the mix. Still, Dantonio is everyone’s favorite former Tressel assistant and I, personally, have grown to hate the Crimson Tide with a white hot fury after living in Tuscaloosa for so many years. It’s a function of Hate — yes, Hate — that approaches the limit of said function. Not quite there, but approximate. If you’re into the SEC-B1G TEN war, don’t expect to add this to the win column. I’ve seen nearly every Alabama game this year and I don’t think Sparty is necessarily built to exploit Alabama’s weaknesses. Sparty doesn’t get a ton of pressure with its front 4 to allow Sackelroy to be Sackelroy. While balanced, Alabama’s defense is particularly vulnerable to offenses that spread them out and put pressure on the secondary. That’s just not Michigan State.
- Penn Shtate v. Florida [Outback] (ABC, 1:00pm ET). I love our Penn Shtate friends at Linebacker-U and Buckeyes need no motivation to hate on Florida. I think we all will in what’s probably the CRIPPLE FIGHT!!! of the bowl season. It’s a battle of anemic offenses, 65th ranked Penn Shtate against 80th ranked Florida. I think we all know why Penn Shtate struggled. The offensive line struggled, again. Having dueling quarterbacks between a true freshman and a walk-on sophomore is not a recipe for a lot of success. The struggle for Florida is even more curious and, basically, it’s all on Urban Meyer. The Gators lost a lot of talent from 2009′s team, not the least of them being their starting Messiah. To compensate, Urbie went on an indefinite leave of vacay and came back to construct a kludge of an offense for which Steve Addazio takes more heat than he should. Every now and then, Florida will line up 3 quarterbacks in the huddle. John Brantley was supposed to excite with his arm. Instead, he’s highlighted how misguided it is to have a passing quarterback in an offense that’s philosophically run-first. To compensate, Urbie sometimes throws freshmen Trey Burton and Jordan Reed into the mix. Burton is a run-threat and Reed will end up making a total conversion to tight end. As is, Urban has gone to gadgets and it’s backfired. The Gators have a string of injuries to important starters on top of that and, all considered, that’s precisely where hope springs eternal for the Shtaters. Beyond whatever emotional edge that Urbie’s last game has for the Gators, the Gators’ secondary is particularly stout and will provide a tough challenge to Matt McMoxie. This could get interesting, especially as Joe Paterno will end up calling Urban Meyer a pussy for retiring (again) at the age of 46, precisely the number of years that Paterno has been head coach in Happy Valley. Important for Penn Shtate: stop the dive. I know, I know. Ollie Ogbu should be an important player for the Nitts.
- Mississippi State v. That Team Up North [Gator] (ESPN2, 1:30pm ET). I don’t know for sure, but I imagine the Wolverines’ 13-4 (1 tie) record against teams from the SEC counts for best in the conference. Yes, the team you despise the most, more than anything or anyone in the world, is your ace in the hole in the SEC-B1G TEN war. Not really, of course. This year’s outfit is interesting in its own special way, but nothing like the teams Gary Moeller or Lloyd Carr would unleash on unsuspecting SEC teams in the 1990s. Underscoring this: Michigan’s hilariously and historically bad defense. Hyperbole is fun, but I try not to get caught up on it. Other defenses in college football are statistically worse in every category of consequence. And still: I think this might be the worst I’ve seen this season, perhaps ever. I say this because there’s not a team out there to whom Michigan couldn’t concede 5 touchdowns, all else equal. On the offensive side of the ball, the Denards have kept pace (allowing the Wolvereenies to get 7 wins, including one over the Big East champion Connecticut Huskies). To beat the Bulldogs, they will need to score on a team that held Auburn to 17 points, the lowest total for the undefeated SEC champions this season. The Bulldogs have the 26th ranked scoring defense and the defensive coordinator, Manny Diaz (the son of a famous Cuban-American politician), is a really interesting story. I guess we have to tow the company line, but I won’t. One of my good friends in Alabama is a big Mississippi State fan and alum and I hate the F out of Michigan. You go to hell, Michigan. You go to hell and you die.
- Wisconsin v. Texas Christian [Rose] (ESPN, 4:30pm ET). It’s finally here for Wisconsin fans, who return to Pasadena after a ten year gap. Yes, they had to beat us to do it, but… …. … . Anyways, the outstanding season for the Badgers culminates in a game against the top ranked total and scoring defense: Texas Christian. Naturally, the story of this game is Wisconsin’s 4th ranked scoring offense against the best defense in the country. This is interesting, especially because I don’t think TCU’s lightweight, but fast and schematically sound defense is built to stop what Wisconsin does. That’s not to say they won’t give Wisconsin fits, but the Badgers run inside/outside zone so well that I wonder how long they will hold the levee. I bring this up because I’ve never been impressed with Texas Christian’s offense. Spiritually, I think they’re very similar to those unimpressive Georgia outfits from 2007 and 2008 that relied more on bullying people up front to make the offense work. That might be doable against the Little Sisters of the Poor (says E. Gordon Gee), but more difficult against JJ Watt and company.
- Connecticut v. Oklahoma [Fiesta] (ESPN, 8:30pm ET). I’ll be brief. Oklahoma: GERG held your opponent’s offense to 10 points. GERG. I don’t know what that means your baseline for points allowed will be, but it’s very likely a negative integer. Oh, also, your conference has taken it on the chin so far this bowl season. Previous BCS trips have ended in victories for LSU, USC, Boise State, West Virginia and Florida. No pressure or anything.