Bowl Mania (of the Pretend New Year’s Day variety)
New Year’s Day doesn’t matter this year. It’s just another bowl day.
How little does New Year’s Day matter?
At noon you can watch the TicketCity Bowl on ESPNU. Let’s not even start in on the fact that my satellite package doesn’t carry ESPNU. Let’s simply reflect on the fact that the TicketCity Bowl is played in the Cotton Bowl, in Fair Park, Texas. But the TicketCity Bowl is not a rebranded Cotton Bowl game. The Cotton Bowl Classic still exists. But it’s not played in the Cotton Bowl; it’s played in Cowboys Stadium (referred to in other quarters as JerryWorld). And the Cotton Bowl Classic is not played on New Year’s Day. It’s played on January 7th.
So the bowl game played in the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day is not the Cotton Bowl.
That’s how broken New Year’s Day has become.
There are five bowl games of irrelevance, and we shall go through them in order:
TICKETCITY BOWL: NORTHWESTERN 31, TEXAS TECH 6. Pat Fitzgerald wishes his defense played with the intensity he did. Fortunately, Texas Tech is in the process of being thoroughly defanged by Tommy Tuberville.
OUTBACK BOWL: FLORIDA 9, PENN STATE 0. I refuse to make another Urban-Meyer-is-retiring-while-Joe-Paterno-is-staying joke. We’ll simply remember this game as the moment when Florida ceased to be known for offensive schemes and a team full of defensive players told Will Muschamp “We’re ready for you, coach.”
CAPITAL ONE BOWL – ALABAMA 31, MICHIGAN STATE 17. Yes, Michigan State did beat Wisconsin and would like for you to know that they have a legitimate claim to a BCS berth, but Alabama would like for you to know that they exploded for twenty-one points in the first quarter against Auburn, they fully intend to do so again, and you don’t have Cam Newton.
GATOR BOWL – MISSISSIPPI STATE 63, MICHIGAN 55. In Ann Arbor, the departure of the entire defensive coaching staff (and perhaps the head man who hired them, although that’s not the immediate crisis) and the arrival of actual cornerbacks and safeties cannot come soon enough.
FIESTA BOWL – OKLAHOMA 23, UCONN 22. Bully to my cousin Dan and his son for actually being brave enough to pick what will surely be one of the more motivated teams to play this bowl cycle; at a certain point, you hear enough about what you can’t do that you have to go out and do it. Unfortunately, the Huskies have every bit of a track record of fighting valiantly and just falling short as they do of actually finishing the job, and Oklahoma is so overdue for a BCS win that Bob Stoops still has nightmares of Boise State running the statue of liberty.
So, now, the one game that actually feels like New Year’s Day:
WISCONSIN (11-1) v TCU (12-0)
(By the way: dig the irony that the game that most feels like New Year’s Day is the game that could not have existed in the traditionalist’s era, when this game was stuck in a Big 10-Pac 10 rut. Not that Wisconsin-Oregon or Wisconsin-Stanford wouldn’t have been an epic encounter, but TCU landing the berth in The Granddaddy Of Them All just feels right, for all that this program has accomplished, and the result is an incredible matchup of Big Ten power against nouveaux-rich moxie.)
I’m feeling eliminated from the competition (my formula for figuring out my chances for winning the game: (1) look at my picks; (2) look at Matt’s remaining picks; (3) see how many games we differ in; (4) see how many games I am behind; (5) tear spreadsheet to a billion tiny pieces).
And the closer I get to this matchup the more I don’t trust my original pick of TCU.
TCU is an outstanding defensive football team – again: going undefeated in Division One Football ($1 to Dan Hawkins) is an incredibly difficult task – but they are NOT the kind of machine that, say, Boise State has shown to be in the past. They CAN be caught out by a good football team, and put under significant pressure. (Corollary: Utah, TCU’s closest Mountain West competition, was not a good football team.)
Wisconsin is an outstanding offensive football team, with something that TCU frankly does not see against Western competition: a physical, punishing rushing game that has depth only rivaled by Nevada’s, and size that puts Nevada to shame. When Wisconsin got their game going, they were not only the class of the Big Ten, they DESTROYED Big Ten defenses.
TCU’s defense is very good, and I don’t see Wisconsin hanging 70 on TCU the way they way they did against Northwestern (and let’s not even mention Indiana). But Wisconsin closed the season strong, and I don’t see TCU being able to generate points at the rate to hang with them as the game pressure becomes real.
So I abdicate my pick for the competition and back the Big Ten, by the score of WISCONSIN 38, TCU 20.
Happy New Year. And, in the words of Pete Abrams, “That’s it; I’m going back to bed.”