You're coming off a dominant performance in the Tire Bowl. A steady series of above average seasons and some recruiting buzz has you thinking big about the upcoming season. The season gets off to a good start, but you still can't beat the conference heavyweights. No matter, you are solidly in the Top 25 all season and finish the year with an 8-3 record. Then bowls season comes around. Your retread status at some bowls and poor travel rep hurts. One by one, you see teams you beat get invited to better games. Then the nightmare scenario comes true -- you accept an invite to the MPC Computers Bowl. BC 2005? Yes, but also UVA 2004. To give us the do's and mostly don'ts of surviving the no win bowl, I've asked Ian from Sexy Results
to guest blog again. Plus he might be the only blogger who has seen Boise in person AND watched more than a half of BC football this year.
1. UVA lost in Boise last year. How can a team, coaching staff and fan base get excited about this trip and avoid what happened to you guys? Is there anything that can justify this trip? No one goes. No money is made. All this for an extra 12 practices?
Although Bill predicted this almost to the letter, I’m assuming that this isn’t what most BC fans had in my mind when the team went to the presumably greener pastures of the ACC. Thursday night games? Gimmick bowls? You’re probably wondering why they didn’t just stay in the Big East to reduce travel costs.
Before you head to the ACC head offices with your pitchforks and torches, you have to realize that although the conference has unquestionably shed its reputation of “FSU and eight other guys,” it’s still not at a position of power come bowling season. I’m sure you’re proud of the fact that BC has a well-balanced athletic program in spite of its academic standards and small enrollment. So are the people at UVA, Duke, GT, Wake and UNC. While that’s the kind of stuff that looks good in an application brochure, it’s murder for a conference that’s looking to increase its bowl profile. Half of the teams in the conference couldn’t “travel well” even if they tried, not to mention that its reputation as an NFL factory is the only thing distracting people from the fact that Miami has a baffling inability to fill its own stadium.
With all that being said, just because a bowl game in Boise or San Francisco exists, that doesn’t mean you need to send a team there. Look, I’d love to visit San Francisco some time, but a matchup against a Mountain West also-ran is not going to convince me to go in December. And I’m sure a lot of people feel the same way. SF is a lovely city, but it’s also expensive, the homeless are legendarily aggressive in their panhandling, there’s not a whole lot that will interest the average college football fan, and oh yeah, it’s on the other side of the freakin’ country. The final insult is that it’s played in a stadium that requires both teams to be on the same sideline. Really, with all this in mind, how many more GT or UVA fans are showing up because it’s in Frisco instead of Oahu?
But the Emerald Bowl is like Xanadu compared to Boise. If you asked ten people who weren’t familiar with college football where the worst place to hold a bowl game would be, how many would come up with Boise in less than five guesses? Nothing about it makes sense: it’s remote, there’s nothing to do and oh yeah, it’s Idaho in December. Some apologists try to argue that there’s skiing, but how many football fans are realistically going to go hit the slopes? This would be a far more valid argument if the game was taking place near Aspen or Jackson Hole, but as far as I know, Boise’s not one of the premier places for skiing anyway. What would be the downside to moving this game to Denver or even Calgary? West Virginia’s got good skiing too. We’ve seen the blue field a million times, because BSU has proven that they’re more than happy to play a Tuesday night game if it means that they can show off their paper tiger program. It’ll be interesting to see if BSU’s inevitably lowered profile after the departure of Dan Hawkins will cause this bowl to fold.
So anyways, the ACC guarantees that two teams in its conference will have enraged fanbases just because of the locations of their bowl. It’s almost as if not going at all is better. Even when other conferences have gimmick bowls, at least they’re somewhere in the vicinity of the conference itself. Would it be at all possible to have a lower-tier bowl in somewhere like Charleston, SC? What about Savannah?
Worse yet, it looks like the real Gang of Six be playing musical chairs for this bowl for years to come. Until proven otherwise, VT, Miami and FSU will likely have the BCS, Peach and Gator on lock. That leaves a team with the best case scenario of the Champs Sports Bowl. And let’s face it: unless one of the Gang of Six finishes more than two games above a team like Clemson, Maryland or NC State, they’ll take the latter every time. While the Meineke Car Care bowl has had some pretty good luck (UVA/WVU sold out, as did UNC/BC), they might as well be called the NC Invitational from now on. UVA/Pitt was responsible for an attendance of 53,000…pretty good for a bowl game of this stature, but 20,000 less than the other two. Truth is, unless you get WVU as your Big East rep, they’re not going to fill the stands. So any NC school (or Clemson, considering SC’s proximity to Charlotte) with six or more wins is likely to get the nod here.
And that leaves us to fight it out. If this scenario doesn’t inspire your team to get to the ACC Championship at all costs, I don’t know what will.
But, you’re still going to Boise so we might as well deal with reality. For reasons I’ll explain later, this is not as dire of a no-win situation as it was for UVA last year. Other than the extra practices and the dubious bowl-streak inflation, the only real benefit to this game is that you’re pissed off. Don’t discount this. Before we were shipped off to Boise last year, UVA was officially invited to the Champs Sports Bowl, but we had to turn it down because it conflicted with exams. GT took our place and are finding out now that karma’s a bitch. Had we gone to the Champs Sports Bowl, I doubt we’d really bring the masses out; it’s just another season of mild disappointment capped with a lower-tier bowl in Florida with a corporate name.
But having been relegated to bowl season’s Siberia, UVA’s normally lethargic fans mobilized. Hitting rock bottom will do that. Bill, you’ll probably find next year that every time you want to write about how mad you are at something BC does administratively with football, you can just use the word “Boise.” And that became a mantra this year for people who wanted to stir up enthusiasm for the Hoos. The moment the Music City Bowl announced its intention to take an ACC team, the names of the bowl officials were posted on The Sabre, and fans were urged to e-mail them and write about how much we wanted to go to Nashville. When UVA got the nod, the Bowl people said that our school put together the most impressive package, and they were particularly pleased with our fans coming out in full force on the mailing front. Trust me, I think the “sluggish” pace of UVA ticket sales has been exaggerated. You’ll see our colors there, but there’s a chance that people would’ve bought them through Ticketmaster.
In the end, none of this happens if we didn’t go to Boise. So if the thought of going off to Idaho despite being ranked tears at your soul, you’ll think of us next time you’re wavering in your support of BC.
2. You saw Boise St. get kicked around by a real BCS team (Georgia). I know this is a different time and place, but do you think they can beat BC?
I hope you’re not expecting me to predict a BC blowout because of what happened in Athens this year. While stunning to watch, Boise’s beatdown was actually rather predictable. The other two times BSU opened their season on the road in the SEC, they were waxed by Arkansas and SC, teams with far less talent than the 2005 Bulldogs. The 48-13 score isn’t so much indicative of the talent gap so much as the fact that Dan Hawkins all but admitted that Jared Zabransky was nervous a whore in church for the biggest game in school history. You turn the ball over six times by yourself, and this score can’t help but happen. The fact that it was only 48-13 is actually a testament to Boise.
Really, if you’re the type of team that worries about losing to Boise any year, you probably can’t be assured a victory. This is pretty much the same Bronco squad that you’ve seen the last five or so years. With all this in mind, this is not the complete and utter no-win situation that UVA faced last year. We were set up; everyone wanted Fresno to beat us. Even though UVA and BC have the same ranking and record, y’all experienced nowhere near the inseason hype that we did. Until mid-October, we were considered a darkhorse for the national championship game (this was when VT and Miami were still considered “down”), and we controlled our own destiny until the Miami game in late November. We lost two of our last three games, and did not beat one ranked team all year. The media was laughing at us anyway, and then we had to go play Fresno, which Shanoff types love to fellate for their ability to take out questionable BCS teams. UVA actually jumped out to a decent lead, but we collapsed late. Although Marques Hagans claimed he was so pissed that he just wanted to walk home, this looked like a game that UVA wanted to win, but didn’t want to work particularly hard for it.
On the other hand, BC’s considered a more solid, quiet team. In UVA’s 2004 wins, we steamrolled teams, while BC tends to have a more business-like approach. By losing to FSU relatively early, the hype died down quickly. UVA’s schedule played out in a way that made us look like a disappointment, even though 8-3 was probably what we should’ve expected. BC seems like more of a team that met its expectations and just got jobbed. In the minds of football writers, somehow, UVA deserved to get punished.
Also, in the event that BC doesn’t win, it will probably look more understandable. Although Boise’s not exactly a stone’s throw away from C-ville, it was still technically a neutral site. In essence, BC is playing an away game against a team that’s won something like 30-straight games on the Smurf Turf. Add the whole “win one for the Gipper” angle with Dan Hawkins coaching his last game. Once again, UVA seemed like they deserved to get punished, while BC runs up against an unfortunate circumstance.
I think BC will probably come out on top, because they don’t seem to have any glaring weakness. That is, unless you want to throw Quinton Porter back in. Boise actually handled UGA’s running game pretty well, but was hopelessly outmatched by the oversized receivers. It seemed like half the touchdowns were the result of bombs. TOB may be concerned about getting into a shootout with Boise, because that’s their style. But if Ryan’s accurate and you can force some turnovers, being aggressive is the way to go considering BSU has one of the nation’s worst pass defenses. Or, if you need some comfort, check out the size differential of your O-line and their D-line.
Good luck…and let’s hope that NC State gets what they deserve next time they play a DI-AA team to get six wins.