VETTEL: Mid-Bowl Season Musings

I miss my weekly football musings, and trust that all of you do as well. Well as I write this on January second we are pretty much through most of the bowl season and we’ve got a lot to “muse” about with regards to the Gators and Buckeyes, the conferences and some really strange ballgames.

The bowl season has already given us the biggest comeback when Texas Tech spotted Minnesota a 38-to-7 advantage and came back to win. If Alabama wanted to really shake things up, they would hire Mike Leach, keep Joe Kines and company on defense and see what happens. Don’t let Kines’ Howard Dean impression at halftime of the Independence Bowl throw you, the man is a fine defensive coordinator. However it’s hard to see that wide open offense going over well at the Capstone. Still, unless there is already a wink/nod deal with Nick Saban, bringing in Leach might be the best the Tide can do.

BCS Critics Should Clam Up —– The pundits who ripped the voters for putting Florida ahead of Michigan for the BCS Championship game are not going to be heard from for a while after Southern Cal destroyed the Wolverines in the Rose Bowl. Michigan went into the game hoping an impressive win, coupled with a sloppy Gator win over Ohio State might elevate the Wolves to the A.P. Title. Think again.

Big Ten salvages some pride —– After losing their first three bowl games the Big Ten, the conference that can not count got a measure of self respect restored on Monday. Wisconsin overcame a huge difference in total yardage to beat Arkansas in the Citrus Bowl. The Badgers were helped by an obscene 88 yard advantage in penalties. Meanwhile Penn State returned a Tennessee fumble 86 yards to break a ten-ten tie and claim the title in the Outback Bowl. Auburn was the lone SEC team to win on the first day of 2007, edging Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl.

SEC holding its own —– The 1-and-2 day for the SEC left the conference 4-and-3 with two bowl games to go. The bottom tier of bowl teams from the SEC acquitted itself well in winning three out of four with the only loss (by coach-less Alabama) coming in the final ten seconds. Kentucky, the # 7 or # 8 bowl pick from the SEC beat ACC # 4 Clemson and Georgia which is # 6 among SEC schools won despite playing the # 2 pick from the ACC in Virginia Tech. And don’t forget about the Head Ball Coach who led South Carolina to a shootout win over Houston. The success of the SEC teams, added to mediocre 2-and-4 mark for the Big-Ten plus one has to have people re-thinking the “validity” of Florida’s invitation to Glendale.

Gators seem healthy, focused —– Judging how a team is preparing for a bowl game with practices being closed is a crapshoot at best, but best we can tell the Gators have done about as well as could be expected in the long layoff since the SEC Title Game win. One thing that is clear, Florida’s injury situation is the best it’s been in months. Percy Harvin, Dallas Baker and DeShawn Wynn in particular are healed up as well as Florida’s battered offensive line. Defensively, Ray McDonald who could not have possibly played three weeks ago should be available, though it’s impossible to know how much strength he’ll have in his injured arm.

Conference tie-ins make lousy games —– Thus far there have been precious few close, back and forth type games this bowl season. The early games were blowouts and lately we’ve seen several big comebacks (Texas Tech, Georgia etc). The culprit as I’ve mentioned in the past is the practice of tying bowls to specific conferences. That leads to games being chosen without a thought to the attractiveness/viability of the game itself. The solution is also pretty clear; it’s time to get away from conference tie-ins to bowl games. Now I know that position won’t sit well with the powers that be in Birmingham, but SEC teams will be in huge demand no matter what. I would love to see a bowl draft, based on the previous year’s payout after the BCS teams are chosen. Think of the anticipation as people watch the selection show, waiting to see where they might be going. I think players would be more excited and fans would be energized by their team getting to visit a new city. It’s certainly worth a try.

Timmons First in Line —– FSU linebacker Lawrence Timmons is the first player to announce plans to move on to the NFL despite having eligibility remaining. Timmons and senior linebacker Buster Davis were clearly the best players on that side of the ball in Tallahassee. Timmons has a chance to be a first rounder in this draft which is very weak at linebacker. Too early to tell if Timmons coming out will have any impact on Brandon Siler’s decision, but it shouldn’t since Siler is an inside backer and Timmons plays on the outside. Interestingly enough both may be better fits in a 3-4 scheme. Siler is undersized for a true middle linebacker, while Timmons is an ideal “combo” guy who can rush the passer and drop into coverage. Southern Cal receiver Dwayne Jarrett is likely to be the next guy to announce plans to move on to the next level.