Thoughts from my couch
One of few benefits of rooting for a team that always plays before New Year’s Day (or January 2 in this case) is that I can watch all the big games dispassionately and just enjoy the unique matchups. Here are my thoughts I what I saw:
Cotton Bowl: Florida got up early in the Outback, so I found myself watching this more than I expected. (For all the oldtimers clinging to the Bowl system, all you need to do is look at the Cotton Bowl. This game had as much tradition, passion, and great matchups as any of the other New Year’s Day games. The BCS and SWC split relegated it to JV status. If there is a playoff, hopefully a game like the Cotton Bowl will reemerge for the non-playoff participants as a NIT-like destination. Off my high horse, back to thoughts on the game.) Alabama’s defense was very impressive. Too often when teams play these new schemes, they sit back and react. The Tide did not sit back. Like the Florida game, Alabama came after Texas Tech. Sure they got beat for the occasional big play, but Hodges was hit enough that he started scattering his throws. You can get pressure on these schemes, you just need to trust your DBs and everybody better make their tackles. On the other side, Croyle was off too…he missed a lot of passes. He made them when it counted. The game-winning kick was awful. I was sure it was going to be short. What do I know? Nice season for ‘Bama. It is good for college football to have them back on the scene.
Outback Bowl: Urban Meyer has plenty of critics but the guy has balls. Everyone is talking about WVU’s fake punt, but I think Florida’s -- from their own 19 in the fourth -- was more risky and a better call. Iowa got jobbed on the onside call. The officiating throughout the bowl season was atrocious. We have replay, yet it wasn’t used (or misused) in multiple games. Leak still looks out of sort on the option portion of the spread-option. The score was close, but probably not as good of a game as the Cotton Bowl.
Gator Bowl: Is there a team that is less fun to watch than Virginia Tech? Williams was tossed for getting into it with a ref. Vick pulled a Laettner-Butler cheap shot. They won, but it wasn’t pretty. Despite the loss, I do tip my hat to Petrino. He sent a walk-on out there and still moved the ball. The walk-on QB (Cantwell) played tough. He broke his nose early and stayed in. Back to Vick…I met Michael once in a casual setting and he was one of the most relaxed, friendliest superstars I had ever come across. Marcus seems like a real dick. If the stomp had been a one-time thing, you might excuse it. But the stomp, the sex with minors, the flipping the bird to fans add up to one thing: a$$hole. Beamer will do nothing about it. But this kid is not that great of a talent to put up with this nonsense.
Outback Bowl: Every BC fan has his pet name of who he would like to see take over BC if and when TOB leaves. For the past two years mine has been Al Borges (Auburn OC). That bandwagon hit a little speed bump yesterday. The porous Auburn defense deserves most of the blame, but Cox was off on a lot of his passes. Borges didn’t seem to make adjustments for his shaky QB. This was probably the least interesting game of the day.
Fiesta Bowl: I like Charlie Weis. I think he will do well at Notre Dame. They got pushed around, yet were still in the game in the fourth quarter. I might even make them my preseason No. 1 next year…yet one thing bothered me about him and this game. Brent Musburger relayed an exchange he had with Weis in their pregame meetings. According to Brent, he told Weis (paraphrasing) “this might be the toughest defense you faced all year…” Weis challenged Brent back with “have you seen Tennessee?” The way Brent told the story, it came off like Weis was scolding/belittling him. Now this is just a little exchange and had little to no impact on the game. But it stuck with me. And I read it a few ways...let me explain. First, I grew up with Parcells and I know he gets into it with the media, but I never understood the need. Why try to constantly prove you are the smartest guy in in the room? Especially with a low-credibility guy like Brent Musburger? It just comes off as insecure. I think the better way to handle it is either the Holtz method “gee, Brent, they might be the best defense I’ve ever seen in all my years of football” or the Belichick method “maybe (followed by awkward silence).” Second, if Weis really did underestimate this defense and think it was inferior to Tennessee, than this must have been an eye-opener. Either way he comes off as a bully or unprepared and cocky. Weis did so much right this first year that the sour notes seem more pronounced. I still think he is the real deal and will have the Irish in the BCS every year.
Sugar Bowl: I like Georgia. I want them to win. I am not emotionally invested in the Bulldogs. So when they go down early, I can casually switch over to the Gauntlet II and not feel bad. “Early night and I’ve got work. Sorry they lost, but at least I’ll get some sleep.” I come back to the game at 10:30 and the Dawgs are chipping away. Now here is how weird I am. I cared so little about this blowout that I could watch a crappy MTV show and look forward to going to sleep, yet the faintest hint of a comeback and a WVU meltdown pumped me up. So I watched the rest of the game and really thought UGA was going to pull it off. Richt’s clock/game management seemed Bowden-esque. WVU played well and Rich Rod deserves credit for the fake. The game should also provide hope to Florida fans -- a spread can be effective against an SEC team. You just need the right people and a good line. I wasn’t pissed about the loss. I was pissed I stayed up until 1 AM and didn’t get to see the greatest comeback in Bowl history.