Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Ranking BC's bowl appearances

BC fans love to complain about our bowl games. But our history with bowls isn't all bad. Prior to the bowl explosion in the past 15 years, BC played in a few interesting matchups and in some historically significant games. If you really look at things, there are three distinct BC bowl eras. The first was our success in the 1940s, then the Flutie Years and then the bowl expansion time that coincided with the start of Coughlin's tenure. For the purpose of this ranking, I mixed them all. Here is my list. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.

1. 1985 Cotton Bowl -- This remains the real peak of BC Football. It was the the capstone of the Flutie era Eagles. We played and won a traditional New Year's Day Bowl.
2. 1941 Sugar Bowl -- Although no one other than BC recognizes it as such, this was our lone National Championship. We beat Tennessee in SEC country on a New Year's Day Bowl. If the Cotton was the peak of Flutie, this was the peak of Frank Leahy.
3. 1943 Orange Bowl -- We lost to Alabama but this game was still a big deal. Leahy was long gone to South Bend, but we still had a good team and the Orange Bowl was arguably the second biggest bowl behind the Rose.
4. 1940 Cotton Bowl -- BC's first bowl. We lost to Clemson, but it was an important lead up to the next season.
5. 1982 Tangerine Bowl -- This was BC's first bowl game since the '43 Orange Bowl. The Flutie hype was in full swing and we were fun to watch with our wide open offense and scrappy little QB. 
6. 1993 Hall of Fame Bowl -- Who knew this would be BC's last major bowl? (The Hall of Fame is now called the Outback Bowl.) We lost to Tennessee, but that didn't dull the excitement of the Coughlin era.
7. 2007 Champs Sports Bowl -- This remains the peak of GDF "bowl streak" years. We played in Orlando against a real team in Michigan State and picked up our 11th win. It felt like a real bowl. However, it wasn't New Year's Day game and after losing the ACC Championship, it was all a bit of a letdown.
8. 1994 Aloha Bowl -- The Aloha Bowl used to be a big game. It was usually the first bowl game and one of the few sporting events on Christmas Day. It was also a great defensive performance from one BC's best defenses.
9. 1986 Hall of Fame Bowl -- The Hall of Fame Bowl (currently called the Outback) wasn't a major bowl yet in 1986. It was played before Christmas. This season was a bounce back from 1985 and supposed to prove life after Flutie. Instead it was Bick's last bowl. 
10. 1983 Liberty Bowl -- The Liberty Bowl has never been considered a major bowl, but it has been around a long time. We lost to Notre Dame. Despite the Irish connection it was the least important Bowl of the Flutie years.
11. 1994 Carquest Bowl -- This was our last New Year's Day bowl. The bowl started with a big push when it was the Blockbuster Bowl, but by the time we played, it lost Blockbuster, lost network TV coverage and took on an also ran status. It was also a huge letdown when the team nearly played their way into the Sugar Bowl.
12. 2001 Music City Bowl -- This was TOB's first win over a ranked team. It was also BC's chance to prove ourselves against a traditional SEC power. He would have better teams and more accomplished teams, but this was probably TOB's best bowl win.
13. 2005 MPC Computers Bowl -- If Music City was TOB's best bowl win, then this game was the best microcosm of his tenure. We were shipped off to Boise based on travel reputation and not record. We took a huge lead and looked great for a half only to nearly blow it in the second half. The fans, media and bowl organizers disrespected us. We won, yet the media and Boise State ignored the loss on a technicality (we were the "home" team) so they could keep their Cinderella narrative going.
14. 2000 Aloha Bowl -- It had only been a few years, but the Aloha Bowl was starting to lose its stature. BC barely got into a bowl and at the time received criticism for even being in a bowl. "How can a 6-5 team play in a bowl game!?" Little did fans know this was just the start. BC played well and beat a decent Arizona State team.
15. 1999 Insight.com Bowl -- We got trounced in this game, but it remains important because it was TOB's first winning season and his first bowl game. He also changed his bowl preparation so that BC wouldn't be embarrassed like this again, which led to eight straight bowl wins.
16. 2004 Continental Tire Bowl -- While the current Belk Bowl has earned a niche as a solid mid-level bowl, it was still a bit of a joke when we played in it. However, we had the ACC play hardball on our behalf to avoid going to an even bigger joke elsewhere. This had a letdown feel after blowing our chance to win the Big East. But we won and some kid named Ryan finished the game after Paul Peterson broke his leg.
17. 2006 Meineke Car Care Bowl -- Same bowl in Charlotte, just a different name. The reason I put this here is because we pulled out a miracle (Dunbar forced a fumble, Ryan led a drive, Sid kicked the game winnner) when the game was basically lost. Spaz was interim while we waited for Jags. He kept things together well enough. It would turn out to be his only bowl win.
18. 2002 Motor City Bowl -- This is where I think the casual BC fan started to question the legitimacy of our bowls. We were playing in Detroit, the day after Christmas against Toledo. It didn't feel like a bowl. We were also coming off a disappointing season where we underachieved. Yet the team played really well. It was easily Brian St. Pierre's best game and probably the best BC has ever played in a bowl game.
19. 2003 San Francisco Bowl -- This was a quirky bowl and a quirky season. No one was thinking bowl in October when the season looked lost, but TOB made Peterson the starter and things took off. The novelty of playing in a baseball park in front of our California fans hadn't worn off yet. We beat Colorado State and everyone thought the experience was a good one.
20. 2013 Independence Bowl -- This wasn't a good game and few fans ventured to Shreveport, but it was still important. BC returned to a bowl game under Addazio and played a legitimate team in Arizona. Like the Liberty Bowl, the Independence is not particularly desirable but has a respectable history among second-tier bowls.
21. 2008 Music City Bowl -- If you haven't forgotten this game, you probably wish you could. Like all our bowls after nearly going to a big one (should've been the Orange) this was a letdown. We didn't play all that well and not much went our way (flukey fumbles, etc.) Yet we were still we up late in the fourth only to see some questionable/dumb penalties move Vandy into field goal range. The bowl streak ended and Gene and Jags would blow up their partnership in the days that followed.
22. 2009 Emerald Bowl -- We were playing USC and Pete Carroll but it still didn't feel like a big deal. There was a lot to like about the 2009 season: Herzy's triumph, Kuechly emergence, yet the whole Spaz time felt like sleep walking. No one cared and no one expected us to beat the Trojans. We didn't.
23. 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl -- San Francisco again. Nevada was respectable but there was no juice for this game. It was played late into bowl season and most casual fans had checked out.

I didn't rank Mirage Bowl in Japan. College Football Databases don't consider it a bowl. I also didn't include this year's Pinstripe. How we play will influence where it finally falls. 


BCDoubleEagle said...

Another way of looking at it...

Highest ranked bowl opponents:
#4 Tennessee (1941 Sugar)
#10 Alabama (1943 Orange)
#11 Kansas State (1994 Aloha)
#12 Clemson (1940 Cotton)
#15 Nevada (2010 Kraft)
#16 Georgia (2001 Music City)
#17 Georgia (1986 Hall of Fame)
#17 Tennessee (1993 Hall of Fame)
#18 Auburn (1982 Tangerine)

And then we can narrow the list further...

Highest ranked bowl opponents that BC beat:
#4 Tennessee (1941 Sugar)
#11 Kansas State (1994 Aloha)
#16 Georgia (2001 Music City)
#17 Georgia (1986 Hall of Fame)

Bando '87 said...

Wow, I really enjoyed this. Thanks for the memories!

Leather D said...

From a fan enjoyment perspective, I think the Motor City bowl should actually be bumped up a few spots. This was the infamous "better athletes" Trev Alberts prediction of a big Toledo win pregame, followed by BC scoring TDs on its first six possessions. We were up 42-7 AT THE HALF IIRC, and it should have been worse. A remarkable pass block and diving one-handed interception deep in Toledo territory by one of our D-linemen was missed by the refs late in the half.

The halftime studio broadcast opened with a chortling studio crew replaying the exuberant pregame prediction and then cutting to an absolutely crimson Trev Alberts, who sputtered "I should be better than this..."

If anyone has a full tape of this game including pregame and halftime kicking around, I will pay cash money for a copy.

we make our own movies said...

Leather D, unbelievable memory that you just brought up. Hard to believe I had forgotten that one.

Mike Mamula absolutely LIVING in the Kansas State backfield at the 1994 Aloha Bowl is also a fantastic memory.

Hoib said...

I think I'll speak for the dead here. My Grandfather, class of 1920 went to, by train, and never stopped talking about the Sugar Bowl. So I would flip 1 & 2. Also I would rate higher the wins in #16 Georgia (2001 Music City)
#17 Georgia (1986 Hall of Fame). Considering we beat good Ga. teams in what were home games for them. Great exercize though. It never ceases to amaize me the effort you put in Bill. I bet in terms of game atmosphere the Pinstripe will rank in the upper half.

Bravesbill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bravesbill said...

I do think that the 2001 Music City Bowl should be ranked much higher. That bowl win over a good Georgia team finally gave the football program some legitimacy and provided a springboard to a lot of its success in the middle of the decade. Plus it was a pretty exciting game.

Tim said...

The 2001 Music City Bowl was a huge turning point in the TOB era.

Before that game, TOB was
30-27 (.526) overall
0-13 against Top 25

From that game forward, TOB was:
45-18 (.714) overall
9-7 against Top 25