Bowl Mania (of the college football variety) – Part 1

This is the fair warning to the whole Pearson clan: All my writing of late has concerned laboratory configurations, science literacy, or 9.8*sin(deg2rad({theta}))-{muk)*cos(deg2rad({theta})) (love to this semester’s PHY 1030 class). I have been observing the college football, but while I’ve been doing the academic work and with significantly less rigor than in years past, and I have not been writing much of anything about it. Therefore, I fear this is going to sound extremely technical and yet still find a way to be light on substance.

However, my seasonal communique on the state of college football (with a full set of bowl picks thrown in for good measure) seems to be a source of family entertainment even when it’s ill-constructed, ill-conceived, and ill-executed (I’ve only shared the coveted Pearson family hardware once, after all) and so I’ve chosen to make it available to the wider populace for the first time. I hope it’s enjoyed.

I do have to mention the initial e-mail received from our current Bowl Mania CEO and defending champion of our annual family tournament – my mother. I shall resist the temptation to snark over the failure to receive the usual spreadsheet; there’s no one best way to submit picks for this enterprise, and I can understand how geeks of a certain vintage might prefer the simple Microsoft Word document to a ready-made spreadsheet. But what took me aback was the title of the document – “2010 College Bowl Ballot.” For those who don’t know, in addition to my faculty/professional geek duties, I advise Shorter’s academic bowl team, and College Bowl is one of the formats we used to play (as well as the lone format of the game that’s ever been televised, and again, I must commend the famous Princeton v Agnes Scott match to your attention). I seriously wanted to know what my man from College Bowl, Tom Michael, wanted me to vote on. Alas, it’s simply Bowl Mania time.

So, without further ado, we’re going to start picking games.

BYU (6-6) v UTEP (6-6)
The standard operating procedure for these write-ups is to hone in on what looks like sophisticated knowledge of the game (but really is something any joe could figure out after a weekend browsing Dr. Saturday -and if you have any claim to college football geekdom but don’t religiously read Dr. Saturday, the former Sunday Morning Quarterback, shame on you), and follow it up with a gentle jab at a far more useful pop-culture reference.

How it’s done, especially for a football game that will be as miserable as this utterly forgettable Mountain West v Conference USA matchup will prove to be: “BYU enters this game on the back of a 4-1 run to close the season, with Jake Heaps going from highly-touted-bust to highly-touted-with-a-reason. UTEP enters this game…with an inexplicable .500 record and a washed-up old Pac-10 coach of questionable personal ethics who swings a pickaxe for no good reason. BYU 27, UTEP 3, AND IT’S ROLLING, BABY.

See the model? And had you forgotten that Mike Price landed at UTEP after that unforgettable season as Alabama’s coach-elect? See, that’s what I’m here to remind you of.


I would have been very curious to see how this game turned out if the brilliantly-named Jerry Kill hadn’t taken off to Minne-ha-ha, and even in the wake of that departure I may be selling Northern Illinois short – they were far and away the most reliable team in the MAC this season, and only lost the MAC Championship on a fluky tip drill. Ordinarily, I would be all over the top team in the MAC over the consensus #4 team from the WAC.

However, and I will return to this theme frequently over the course of this month – the Western Athletic Conference this season was a beastly monster, one far more deserving of your respect than your garden-variety mid-major league. I hope I don’t need to convince you of Boise State’s power, or Nevada’s power after their brilliant comeback against the Broncos, and Hawaii has returned to their air-raiding entertaining ways. Fresno State lost to Ole Miss and beat Cincy and Illinois; they were OK against BCS foes. Northern Illinois, on the other hand, beat Minne-ha-ha and lost to Iowa State and…that same Illinois team.

If that doesn’t convince you, Jerry Kill’s mustache has left for Big Ten pastures, while Pat Hill’s brilliant facial hair has held it down in Fresno for fourteen seasons now. I think we’re done here. FRESNO STATE 34, NORTHERN ILLINOIS 20.

OHIO (8-4) v TROY (7-5)

The stat that you will hear repeatedly over the course of the runup to this game (should you even care to pay a tiny bit of attention): Ohio University has never won a bowl game in four attempts. A win in this game would be the next step in Frank Solich’s reconstruction of a proud Bobcat history.

The stat you will not hear repeatedly in the runup, but you really should to understand the demolition that is about to take place: Sun Belt Conference bowl-eligble teams have a collective record of 0-8 this season against BCS conference opposition, including Middle Tennessee’s 24-17 loss to Minne-ha-ha, Florida International’s TWO losses to Big East teams (Pittsburgh and Rutgers, if you care), and Troy’s competitive effort against Oklahoma State and capitulation against South Carolina. (Troy padded their nonconference with games against mid-major tomato cans Bowling Green and UAB…and couldn’t even beat UAB!) Troy is very likely the best team in the worst conference in BCS-era history.

(The MAC’s corresponding record among their five bowl-eligble teams isn’t great, but it is 3-8, including Temple’s win over BCS-bound UConn. Temple isn’t in a bowl this year. I hate the bowl system.)

The point is this: Ohio isn’t great shakes, but they’re due a bowl win. Troy is bad, and they only have a winning record because the rest of their conference is worse. This is the Sun Belt’s best chance at a bowl win this bowl season. Sorry, guys. OHIO 31, TROY 13.

Please note the added bonus of this flavor of college football analysis: several instances of calling a fine Midwestern state school in a city of rich and vibrant culture “Minne-ha-ha”. You can’t get this kind of sophisticated writing anywhere else, folks.

I’ll return sometime around Monday with a take on the weeknight pre-Christmas games…and a report from Florida? Stay tuned for more obnoxious analysis of bad college football…

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