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There are many more reminders of why this system needs to be put out of its misery than there are positives in the bowl match-ups, but there are four games I’m looking forward to.
Bowls To Watch
The only BCS game I’m even somewhat excited about is Kansas St. vs. Oregon (though the runaway offenses will probably become tiresome). Neither Texas/Texas A&M nor the Backyard Brawl worked out as bowl games. Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M should be a good substitute for the former though. That gets top billing in my mind for best non-BCS contest. The second and third choices are probably Georgia-Nebraska (CapitalOne [which you might remember as the Florida Citrus Bowl]) and LSU-Clemson (Chik-fil-A, aka Peach). But I’m still going to complain about LSU’s treatment shortly.
A brief aside about the Cotton. Maybe it’s because I’m not Texan, but I really don’t understand why someone was going to veto Texas/Texas A&M. I get that Texas had its schedule set, and the non-conference schedule is also curtailed by the fact that the Big XII schedule is now 9 games, and they weren’t going to bend over backwards to accommodate a rival who decided to go to the SEC instead. But how is any of that a reason not to play that rival in a bowl game, especially one with such historic ties to both programs? Just for spite someone had to put a stop to it?
I know the non-BCS bowls I mention all involve SEC teams, but the SEC has the best non-BCS teams. Clemson and Nebraska are two of the best non-champions. Nebraska would have easily been regular-season champions of a combined Big Ten (but got creamed by a Wisconsin team that didn’t even really belong in the title game), and Clemson tied in the ACC Atlantic (the one with the only ACC teams worth a whole lot) with Florida St. but lost the head-to-head tie-breaker. Oklahoma actually tied for the Big XII championship but didn’t get the Fiesta invite for losing head-to-head (not to mention out of conference to Notre Dame).
I’m still annoyed that Northern Illinois was forced into a BCS game, but they still may be better than Louisville. I have never understood why they made it top 16 rather than top 12. Any undefeated team is almost guaranteed to be in the top 12, as will many strong one-loss non-major-conference teams. But Northern Illinois has played probably the easiest schedule in FBS. They’re in 2007 Hawaii vicinity with how bad it was, and we all remember how that turned out. And that was an undefeated Hawaii team. As mentioned, at least there is some solace in the fact that this system will be replaced.
Not that NIU is sure to be embarrassed. If North Carolina St. can beat Florida St., why not the Huskies? I’ve already mentioned Wisconsin winning a game it didn’t belong in (and actually doing the embarrassing in the process).
And Wisconsin is still an example of why you don’t put the wrong team in a match-up, they can always win. I’m not saying the Big Ten had a choice here (I understand the probations of both Ohio St. and Penn St.), but it just didn’t work out well for neutral fans here.
Louisiana Teams Slighted
It’s nice that LSU and two of the lesser Louisiana teams made bowl games, but I’m disappointed that Louisiana Tech isn’t one of them. All the weak bowl teams around, and they couldn’t find a place for a 9-win team with three respectable losses?
The AD explained that they were hoping the Liberty Bowl (which he would later say misled him into believing there would be an invite regardless) would invite the team and had simply asked the Independence Bowl to await the outcome of other invitations. It seems that Oklahoma being in a non-BCS bowl trickled all the way down to Iowa St. getting the Liberty invite instead. (9 of the 10 Big XII teams got invites.) I know in hindsight this was a terribly unfortunate decision, but Louisiana Tech deserved better than playing in its own back yard against a local team, so I don’t blame him for thinking that was a strong possibility.
I don’t think it was hostility for the potential opposition at all. I can almost assure you there is more excitement in that area for the average Ruston-West Monroe high school football game than there would have been for La. Tech vs. UL-Monroe, but it would have been better than nothing. Speaking of high school football, it would have been good for recruiting in the area for players and their families to be able to watch both teams at the same time. It also would have probably been a better business decision for the Independence Bowl. I doubt the Ohio Bobcat faithful will travel to Shreveport in droves, nor was that a team that needed to be secured with any urgency. It seems like they would want good will with a team that sometimes plays at Independence Stadium (including this year against Texas A&M) and will likely be a team of interest in the bowl in the future.
I had said in comments elsewhere that the WAC had terrible bowl tie-ins, but now that I’ve read up on it, I guess the WAC didn’t have any bowl tie-ins. Furthermore, we may have seen the last down of WAC football, but I’ll get into the conference cluster**ck with my next blog.
A few hours to the South, LSU’s placement in the Peach Bowl provoked a Rodney Dangerfield headline in the Baton Rouge Advocate.
I’m also not happy LSU took what is supposed to be the sixth SEC slot with the Peach bowl (the fifth spot if there aren’t two SEC teams in BCS bowls). How many times will South Carolina go to the Outback Bowl? I thought they might want to mix it up for once. LSU vs. Michigan would have been a great match-up, and LSU hasn’t been to Tampa since 1988. I have read that LSU may have been preferred to Georgia by the CapitalOne Bowl, but the SEC insisted that as the runners-up Georgia should be given the spot.
Funny that I don’t remember LSU receiving similar consideration when it ended up in the Peach Bowl after losing to Georgia in the SEC title game in 2005. Just like Georgia this year, that LSU team suffered only its second loss in the title game in question.
Unlike Scott Rabalais (who wrote the article linked to above), I don’t begrudge the Cotton its pick of Texas A&M, but it doesn’t seem like someone was looking out for LSU like the SEC was looking out for Georgia, and someone should have been. LSU lost a bitterly close game to Alabama, as did Georgia, but LSU’s other loss was a respectable 8-point road loss to Florida. No comparison to a 35-7 humiliation at the hands of South Carolina. While of course Georgia’s big win was over Florida, that doesn’t trump LSU’s wins over South Carolina AND Texas A&M.
I do understand that South Carolina shouldn’t have have to play Clemson again though, and I guess the Gator is a second-rate SEC bowl now, so they didn’t want to send South Carolina there either. Still, I think they could have put that logic aside especially considering that’s a good SEC venue, it’s the most convenient to South Carolina apart from the Chik-fil-A, and it’s not a step down in terms of opponent from the Outback (Michigan beat Northwestern in overtime to finish one game ahead in the Big Ten standings, but Northwestern was undefeated out of conference including a win over Vanderbilt, so the Wildcats have a better record).
To go full circle back to what I mentioned early on here, Clemson is a better opponent than Northwestern or Michigan, so at least there’s that to be happy about if LSU wins. Also, this should be a game serious fans are interested in even though it’s not the flashiest bowl to be in.
Anyway, good thing there aren’t so many early bowl games, because I don’t see much else worth getting out of bed to watch. I may get a head start on watching college basketball this year. I may even blog about it.