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Brian Fremeau explains why his rating system remains unimpressed with Texas A&M.

09 Jan 2011

One Foot Inbounds: Bowl Redux

by Robert Weintraub

What a fantastic bowl season it's been. Who could forget Slingin' Sammy Baugh leading a plucky bunch of Horned Frogs past the far bigger Wisconsin Badgers, led by Alan Ameche? Hopalong Cassidy and the Ohio State Buckeyes squeaking past a spirited Arkansas team and its graceful receiver Lance Alworth? J.C. Watts and Oklahoma whipping, uh, Tate George's UConn Huskies?

OK, the point has been belabored beyond measure -- the gap between the end of the regular season and the meaningful bowl games is far too big for Evel Knievel to jump, even with a rocket cycle. It will be an astonishing 37 days between the time Auburn and Oregon clinched spots in the BCS title game and the actual kickoff tonight. And even when the margin wasn't pushing a month and a half, it sure seemed like every game required a re-introduction of the main actors.

Still, we'll remember this bowl season for several reasons, mainly the heaping helping of crow Big Ten President Jim Delany had for breakfast on January 2. The Big Ten's 0-5 to ring in the new year was an epic pratfall, only minimally helped by the Buckeyes' survival in the Sugar Bowl. Among the Leaders and Legends' wreckage were the two Michigan schools getting slaughtered by the SEC West. Northwestern did what it seemingly always does -- lose despite an entertaining comeback. And Florida not only beat Penn State, but covered the spread in about the greatest fashion possible, the late game pick-six (someone told Joe Paterno about the loss three days later).

But it was TCU taking down Wisconsin 21-19 in the Rose Bowl that spoke the loudest. Sporting a size advantage up front not seen since the Valley of Elah Bowl, the Badgers should have rolled to victory. But somehow, even with 19 weeks to prepare, Bret Bielema and his staff failed to account for the lone way the speedy Frogs defense could slow Wisconsin -- with backside pursuit. Linebacker Tank Carder lived in the backfield, chasing down backs from behind, forcing the Badgers into unwanted passing situations.

Meanwhile, TCU quarterback Andy Dalton had a terrific game, running and throwing with aplomb, making zone reads and deciphering the Badgers' schemes with ease. Yet for all the good play by Gary Patterson's bunch, Wisconsin should have at least sent it to overtime. After a sledge-hammering drive in which the Badgers finally seemed to wear down TCU, Montee Ball scored on a short touchdown run to close the score to two points. But for reasons passing understanding (pun intended), Bielema decided to abandon the run game his team is built upon and spread the field, trying to throw for two. Carder made a great play to swat it down at the line, TCU recovered the onside kick, and that was it.

Yes, the receiver was open -- had Carder not timed it right, the Badgers would have tied it. I don't even mind a pass play in that situation. But spreading the field and taking the run option completely out of the play not only makes it easier for the defense but spits in the face of Wisconsin's identity -- especially after the team had just powered right down the field (nine runs and one pass covering 77 yards). Alan Ameche can't be happy, wherever he is.

Big ups to TCU and the program that has emerged from the Fort Worth stockyards to become a dominant force in college football. Woe to the Big East when the Frogs join up in 2012 -- that will be a most unpleasant road trip for the likes of UConn, Pitt, and -- gulp -- my Syracuse Orange.

Meanwhile, Ohio State's Tattoo You Tour had a semi-successful stop in New Orleans, escaping with a 31-26 win over Arkansas followed by the team bus crashing through a cyclone fence and escaping across state lines with the robbery.

The Hogs hardly deserved the crystal, bobbling and fumbling away the ball as though it was covered in hog fat. The worst moment came right at the end, when a spectacular blocked punt woulda-shoulda-coulda been returned for the game-winning touchdown. Instead, five or six Arkansas players failed to scoop and score. Ryan Mallet was picked off two plays later by Solomon Thomas, one of the Columbus Five, and the Buckeyes ran out the clock. In a blocked punt situation, of course, there is no scenario that Arkansas would not have gotten the ball, so you have to do everything possible to pick it up and score -- you don't worry about fumbling it back to the opponent. Didn't happen.

That set up an interesting postgame interview with Terrelle Pryor. He answered a couple of questions about the game lucidly enough, but when asked whether he was actually returning to school, as he promised in the wake of TattooGate, Pryor responded with a unintelligible "Feeeeeehhhhhhhhhmeeeeeeenchhhhhhhhh." For those of you that don't speak Yiddish, that means "Depends on whether I can play quarterback in the pros."

Toedrags

  • Let's get this out of the way -- I am just fine with the call that clinched the Pinstripe Bowl for the 'Cuse. In case you didn't see it, Syracuse and Kansas State lit up the new Yankee Stadium with an entertaining display (when both teams hit flea-flickers, you know you're watching a fun game). Syracuse led 36-28 when KSU scored with 1:13 left to close it to two points. The guy who scored, Adrian Hilburn, tossed an innocuous little salute to the crowd, and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.
  • Now, I've railed against these inane calls forever. As Bob Watson and Cesar Cedeno once said, "Hey, let the kids play!" But I'm here to tell you -- you want to throw a salute, play in the Military Bowl. As it happened, the penalty made the two-point conversion an impossibility, and when the 'Cuse fell on the onside kick, it was all over. When your school hasn't won a bowl game since Jim Brown was in the backfield (right?), you take any pennies from heaven that drop your way.
  • Derek Dooley is living on the other side of that fortune line. In an ending reminiscent of the game against LSU, the Volunteers lost the Music City Bowl despite North Carolina having 15 or so guys on the pitch. The Tarheels were trying for a desperation field goal in the dying seconds, but the regular offense was still on the field in a moment of confusion worthy of Jim Ignatowski from Taxi. Quarterback T.J. Yates wisely spiked the ball with a second left, and the Tarheels were rewarded. They were penalized five yards but also got the second, allowing a field goal that tied the game. Sure enough, they won in double overtime.
  • That's a rule that needs altering -- North Carolina benefited from screwing up royally. The NFL would have run off 10 seconds there, ending the game. The schoolboys need to adopt that rule, too.
  • New Miami coach Al Golden watched his charges get waxed by Notre Dame in the Sun Bowl from the comfort of the broadcast booth. One decision was made easy for him -- Jacory Harris was atrocious, paving the way for Stephen Morris to become the starting quarterback in Coral Gables.
  • While Golden checked in to the ACC coaching fraternity, Maryland's Ralph Friedgen checked out. He went out in style: The Terrapins pummeled East Carolina 51-20, and he followed the win with an emotional farewell speech. His replacement, Randy Edsall, pulled a Parcells and didn't even fly back with his UConn team after they were slapped around in the Orange Bowl by Oklahoma.
  • Florida State's Greg Reid had one of the best games of any player during the bowl season, starring in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl win against South Carolina. He had two fumble recoveries, several pass defenses, two or three big punt returns, and a kill shot on the Gamecocks stud running back, Marcus Lattimore, that took the freshman out of the game early. That Reid did it while his father watched from the stands for the first time since being released from prison made the performance that much more poignant.
  • Florida International won the best game of first week, a pulsating 34-32 thriller over Toledo in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (it pains me to type that). Toledo went up 21-7, only to have FIU take a 28-24 lead in the fourth quarter. The Rockets came back with a late drive, capped by the spectacular Terrance Owens running in a touchdown, then tossing the two-point conversion. Toledo, 32-31. But FIU pulled a Boise, converting a fourth-and-17 with a hook-and-ladder play to T.Y. Hilton. "Converted" is one description -- "failed to convert" may be another way to put it. Hilton barely scraped across the marker, and several replays were inconclusive. It seems the refs wanted the hook-and-ladder to succeed as much as the rest of us. Naturally, the Panthers buried the field goal to win it as time expired.
  • Every bowl season has a tight race for the Postal Award, given to the school that mails in its performance. Nebraska is a strong contender, getting whomped by a Washington team in the Holiday Bowl after beating the Huskies by five touchdowns earlier in the season (a perfect way to warm up for Big Ten membership). Miami is in the mix as well for its no-show in El Paso.
  • But I have to go with my home Bulldogs. Georgia conjured a way to lose to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl, 10-6, a nice win for the Knights but an epic fail for the Athenians. Head coach Mark Richt refused to accept the runner-up trophy, apparently holding out for the third-place hardware. His 6-7 finish puts Richt squarely on the waiting-to-be-canned throne for 2011. As if things weren't bad enough, new mascot UGA VIII missed the Liberty Bowl and has lymphoma. Even when Jim Donnan was coach, Bulldog Nation could count on UGA.

On to the championship game, at long last!

Posted by: Robert Weintraub on 09 Jan 2011

24 comments, Last at 10 Jan 2011, 6:27pm by martial

Comments

1
by FireOmarTomlin :: Sun, 01/09/2011 - 5:55pm

Dalton frequently misread the D on the zone read option, and I shudder to think what they could have done if they ran their usual speed options or let out the wheel routes.

The funniest part in total though, was watching them let Watt go unblocked because they (somehow knew?) saw he would frequently overrun/pursue the play.

He could have cost himself 10-15 draft spots based on that pathetic performance. He looked like a little lost clown out there, albeit one with freakish athletic ability.

Go Frogs.

-----------------------------------
Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.

5
by Tom W (not verified) :: Sun, 01/09/2011 - 10:30pm

Really? Only 10-15 spots? The word on the street I've heard is that Watt won't even be touched by NFL Europe, and will have to return to Wisconsin to get his degree so he can get a real job. While I give props to TCU, I'd love to see the game played over, with John Clay getting more than one series of meaningful playing time.

9
by FireOmarTomlin :: Sun, 01/09/2011 - 11:56pm

I meant in ranking amongst DE's.

sorry

----------------------------
Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.

17
by Tom W (not verified) :: Mon, 01/10/2011 - 12:20pm

My previous comment was sarcasm. Early mock drafts released AFTER the bowl games have Watt going anywhere from no. 10 to late 1st round, and I'm pretty certain that's where he'll go. One sub-par game is not going to drop him 10-15 spots.

2
by dbostedo :: Sun, 01/09/2011 - 8:13pm

"...you want to throw a salute, play in the Military Bowl."

Could you explain that? Do you really think that anyone saluting outside of the Military Bowl should be penalized? And that the rule should be treated differently for that game?

Or are you only OK with the penalty because the 'Cuse was involved, and I'm missing the sarcasm/homerism?

6
by syh (not verified) :: Sun, 01/09/2011 - 10:50pm

That part baffled me, as well. Both bad calls have rules that need to be changed, but only the one benefiting Syracuse skates by on "RULEBOOK!"? I don't even care about any of the teams the article mentions and yet I'm disappointed.

7
by nath :: Sun, 01/09/2011 - 11:19pm

I'm guessing it's the latter, otherwise it would be hard to take seriously.

24
by martial (not verified) :: Mon, 01/10/2011 - 6:27pm

Writer went to Syracuse. Writer talks up his 'Cuse connection in almost every post here on FO. He even mentions this explicitly in this post when he gladly takes the "pennies from heaven" two sentences later.

3
by Boots Day :: Sun, 01/09/2011 - 8:32pm

The Big Ten ended bowl season 3-5. "Mildly disappointing," sure, but the only thing embarrassing about it was that the five losses happened all at once.

4
by Solomon :: Sun, 01/09/2011 - 8:58pm

Gee, if I wanted to read a stereotypical "Big Ten sucks" article, I would have turned to ESPN. Really insightful stuff, here.

Yes, the Michigan schools wet the bed. Maybe Wisconsin should have won, but it is not embarrassing to lose a close game to a top-five opponent. Penn State played OK, but the QB blew the game with five picks.

How about giving Ohio State a little credit for defeating a solid Arkansas team? It was a solid win; the Buckeyes did not steal anything. OSU did not play a perfect game either and dealt with numerous defensive injuries.

That is funny that Ryan Mallett's last college pass was an interception to Ohio State. Remember that he used to play for the school up north.

In addition, Iowa beat #12 Missouri, and Illinois blew out Baylor. Somehow, that never was mentioned. The Big Ten did not pad its bowl resume by playing any C-USA, WAC, or Big East teams. FWIW, the mighty SEC is only 4-5 in bowl games this season.

10
by FireOmarTomlin :: Sun, 01/09/2011 - 11:59pm

too bad that the OSU dweeb and big10 commish? called out the MWC as a "little sister of the poor" conference and then Wisky got owned for their lowest point total of the season against representative of said conference.

you run your mouth, you deserve to get laughed at when curbstomped

------------------------------------
Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.

23
by HoyaGon (not verified) :: Mon, 01/10/2011 - 5:45pm

Shhh! Don't let things like facts get in the way of a perfectly good SEC-triumphalism argument. BTW, if Auburn loses tonight, the SEC will be 4-6 in bowls this year, and 0-2 in the almighty BCS games. Given that SEC fans' superiority arguments have largely rested on the conference's peformance in these "top" bowls (while ignoring the league's .500 record against the Big Ten in all other bowl games), what will be the excuse this year?

8
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Sun, 01/09/2011 - 11:28pm

The only Big Ten team of consequence that was a huge disappointment was MSU who were not in the game after the first 6 minutes. Michigan should not have been in a bowl game much less against a team that was ranked.

11
by Q (not verified) :: Mon, 01/10/2011 - 12:08am

Yeah I also do not really see the Big 10 Performance as Embarrassing at all:

Ohio St-Won vs a Top 10 Opponent

Iown (Unranked)- Won vs a Top 12 Opponent

Illinois- Crushed an Opponent from Big 12 with an almost identical record

Wisconsin- Barely lost to an Undefeated Top 3 Team

Northwestern (Without Star QB)- Barely lost to similar record Big 12 Team

Michigan St- Destroyed by Defending National Champions. Exposed as the frauds many thought they were due to multiple lucky wins during the year

Michigan- One of the Worst Michgan Teams in recent memory gets matched up vs a Top 25 SEC school and predictably gets hammered

Penn St- Leads Florida in the 4th Quarter before falling apart

12
by JonFrum :: Mon, 01/10/2011 - 1:39am

You're taking a Creative Writing class?

20
by CuseFanInSoCal :: Mon, 01/10/2011 - 2:49pm

I don't think I was alone in thinking Mississippi State's top-25 ranking was something of a mirage (heck, I still think they'd probably lose to Oregon State, assuming at least one healthy Rogers brother). I mean, they were .500 in the SEC and played no one better than Houston out of conference.

13
by Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 01/10/2011 - 2:32am

Thanks for the one backhanded compliment for the Huskies winning as 11 point underdogs. Funny how nobody noticed Nebraska's lack of desire heading into the bowl game--they seemed eager enough to practice their touchdown celebrations ahead of time.

"Lack of desire" is a term people reach for after they miss badly in a game forecast. Much easier than admitting that the other team played better than you expected.

14
by young curmudgeon :: Mon, 01/10/2011 - 9:43am

"a kill shot on the Gamecocks stud running back, Marcus Lattimore, that took the freshman out of the game early." (1) is this really praiseworthy? I didn't see the game, so I'm assuming it was a clean hit, but in light of the sport-wide emphasis on concussions, head to head collisions, etc., this seems a little, well, enthusiastic. (2) I'm also assuming that you wrote this before the incident in Arizona, but "kill shot" is not the best choice of language in any case.

Yeah, yeah, I know..."football is a violent game...football is a collision sport...etc. etc. But if, e.g., a Jets' player announces before this weekend's game "I'm going to deliver a kill shot on Brady and take him out of the game," I don't think all of us would be sitting around saying "Ahhh, isn't that cute."

16
by roguerouge :: Mon, 01/10/2011 - 9:51am

+1 on the inappropriate timing. And even if he wrote it before the shooting, the editor should take it out before publication.

18
by David Gardner :: Mon, 01/10/2011 - 2:22pm

I really don't see the correlation, but I'm sorry if you were offended.

19
by roguerouge :: Mon, 01/10/2011 - 2:30pm

To explain: Think back to just after 9/11 when commentators vowed to stop using war metaphors around sports and other leisure activities. Obviously, everyone's fallen off the wagon with that, but I wasn't quite ready to see assassination metaphors two days after what was nearly our first assassination of a Congressperson in decades. And in the context of praising a hit that takes a kid out of a football game?

21
by A. Diggity :: Mon, 01/10/2011 - 4:02pm

Always a fan of the non-apology apology. "I'm sorry if YOU were offended, but you're wrong, so suck on that."

22
by David Gardner :: Mon, 01/10/2011 - 5:13pm

I also didn't say that at all. I just said that I was sorry if you were offended. I clearly don't agree that it's offensive, or I would have cut it, but that doesn't mean that I'm right and you're wrong.

15
by roguerouge :: Mon, 01/10/2011 - 9:45am

Praising a college player for injuring another? Classy.