PD’s Picks & Pans: Bowl Week

Bowl Week is finally here. Sure, there have been a number of bowls already, but they were all bowls and matchups that nobody cares about. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some intrigue around these meaningless bowls. For instance, the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl that was played Saturday. The intrigue did not rest in the game itself, won by Arizona State over Navy 62-28, but in the question of how do you hold a game to fight hunger sponsored by a company that makes food that nobody will eat? Then there was the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg. Do they include the city name to avoid confusion with all the other Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowls? And what grammatical inbreeding is necessary to put an apostrophe on both sides of the “O”? And did anyone else watch the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl? The game came down to the last minute, and there were no irrigation malfunctions, no linebackers missing tackles or kickers missing field goals because of the debilitating assault of light sprinkler water on their uniforms and no overtime. Either it has to change its ad campaign to reflect truth in advertising, or maybe Wild Wings has gotten so boring that everyone wanted to go home.

Surely the BCS games will be more compelling. But then again, college football is the opposite of college basketball. In basketball, in the postseason every game is sudden death, and the regular season games don’t matter. In football, the regular season games are all virtual sudden death, and the postseason bowl games don’t matter. Unless you’re in the big one, the only one that matters: whichever one the Gators are playing in. And maybe the national title game.

Capital One Bowl:
No. 16 Nebraska vs. No. 7 Georgia (Jan. 1)

I’ll begin with one bowl outside the BCS, just because it is outside the BCS and Georgia is in it. A few weeks ago, I wrote up some scenarios heading into the SEC Championship Game describing how the seasons of Georgia and Florida could end up. Here was the first scenario and odds-on favorite that I composed then:

<i>Scenario 1: Georgia loses to Alabama and gets shipped off to the Capital One Bowl while Florida plays in the BCS Sugar Bowl. What’s in your wallet? A Dawg nation full of whiners who spend all year in the misery of knowing that in the best season they’ve had in 32 years, finally beating Florida a second consecutive year for the first time in 23 years, they still couldn’t finish ahead of Florida in the national polls or in the eyes of college football.</i>

I didn’t think there could be anything else to add to that, but there is. Who knew that Georgia’s indignity would be multiplied by playing an opponent who just got plastered to the tune of 70 points to 31 in the Big Ten Championship Game by the third-place team from the ironically named “Leaders” division of the league that suffered through its weakest season of the modern era of the sport. The only way Jawja could end the season in a more embarrassing fashion would be if they actually lost this game. But that couldn’t happen.

Could it?

Cornpones: 16
Fertilizer-Makers: 31

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl:
No. 4 Oregon vs. No. 5 Kansas State (Jan. 3)

This is probably the only BCS bowl that will be competitive this year. And of course, these two teams have a lot in common. Both run spread-option offenses that rack up ridiculous numbers as long as they never play a defense with special skills … like knowing how to play college defense. They both excused themselves from the national championship race on the same day, Nov. 17. And they both have similar team fight songs: The Wildcats’ theme is The Platters’ “The Great Pretender,” while the Ducks’ team anthem is Stevie Nicks’ “Have No Heart.” This will be a great game for fans of teams that will score a ton of points and never win a national title.

Big 12 Meows: 46
Pac-12 Quacks: 46 ½

Discover Orange Bowl:
No. 12 FSU vs. No. 15 Northern Illinois (Jan. 1)

Despite being hosed out of a BCS title game berth by a criminally unbalanced SEC schedule and USC’s gutless inability to beat a Notre Dame team that stopped just short of begging to be beaten, Gators fans are going to have a very enjoyable bowl season. Because there are going to be at least three extremely satisfying bowl games for them. The first of course will be Georgia playing in the Capital One Bowl, the reasons for which have been disclosed above. The second is this game. It doesn’t matter if FSU scores 100 points in the Orange Bowl — Florida fans will laugh at them on every single play. Because on every single play, Gators fans will look upon the action and see the Seminoles playing a bowl game against Northern Freaking Illinois. The over/under for this game is 60. That’s not points; that’s attendance.

And then there is the possibility that maybe … just maybe … the Huskies could win.


Didn’t Earn Their Way Here: 34
Huskies: 21

Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio:
No. “Others Receiving Votes” Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Stanford (Jan. 1)

This will be Wisconsin’s third straight Rose Bowl appearance and its third straight Rose Bowl loss. The game is a rematch of the 2000 Rose Bowl when the Badgers beat the Cardinal 17-9. That game marked the last time Wisky won a Rose Bowl and the last time Stanford even played in the bowl. Stanford would have been in the national title conversation except it lost to a pathetic six-loss Washington team. Meanwhile, Wisconsin is a five-loss team itself. Needless to say the Rose Bowl committee is far less enthused about this matchup than its two combatants.

Redder: 27
Better: 30

Discover BCS National Championship Game:
No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Alabama (Jan. 7)

After the final win of the 2012 Notre Dame season and its ascent to the No. 1 ranking in the BCS, Sports Illustrated ran a cover story with the title across the front page reading, “The Notre Dame Miracle.” The article marvels at the absolute miracle that a program with unlimited resources, unlimited recruiting power, the largest fan base of any college sports program, the owners of 11 national titles, the second highest winning percentage in history and fewest losses of any centennial FBS school, the most Heisman Trophy winners, the most All-Americans and the most players and coaches in the College Football Hall of Fame of any program in the nation, and its own BCS provision, its own national broadcast television network and its own hotline to the Vatican could actually manage to compete for one national championship in the last quarter century.

Not to mention the luck of the Irish, which allowed Notre Dame to slip past horrific Pittsburgh thanks to a missed chip-shot field goal and an officiating crew that somehow missed that Notre Dame had two players with the same numbered jersey playing defense on the field goal attempt standing right next to each other, which should have given them a penalty and a re-kick and sure loss that would have rightly pitted Florida against Alabama in this game. But then, Alabama has had its share of Irish good fortune this season as well, as they should be a three-loss team playing in a second-tier bowl. First there was LSU which dominated the Crimson Tide for 58 minutes and then inexplicably changed its defense and did everything it could to facilitate the Alabama’s last-second winning comeback drive. Then there was the Crimson Tide’s single loss on the season, a pretty thorough thrashing by Texas A&M, a team that Florida put away in businesslike fashion this season. Finally there was the SEC title game when Georgia was primed to take three, maybe four shots at the winning touchdown from inside the 10-yard line in the closing seconds, but coach Mark Richt inexplicably waved off the grounding play and called a super-rushed very low-percentage pass that ended the game in a Dawgs loss, something everyone in the world except Richt saw coming a mile away. Based on talent, Alabama demonstrated this year that it is probably the fifth-best team in the SEC, behind Florida, Texas A&M, LSU and Georgia. But thanks to brainless coaching decisions (LSU and UGA) and unfair scheduling imbalances (A&M having to play Florida, Bama avoiding all three top-10 teams in the East, Florida playing five top-10 teams in the regular season, UGA and Bama only playing two each), Alabama is playing for all the marbles. Now that’s some serious luck. Next thing you know, Alabama will be going entire seasons without having a holding penalty called against them…

Notre Dame has Touchdown Jesus, Bama has the Saban Statue … both fan bases regard and revere these two symbols on roughly equal ground. While it is impossible to know which fan base will be more insufferable after winning this game, one thing is certain from the perspective of Gators fans: they should want Alabama to claim their third crystal trophy in the last four years. Because it is only fitting that the Tide be dethroned by the Gators, the premier program in college football overall since 1990, and not by the Irish, which have been completely irrelevant in the sport since 1988.

It will happen. And all will be again right with the world.

Intolerable Arrogance: 26
Nauseating Pomposity: 10

Allstate Sugar Bowl:
No. 21 Louisville vs. No. 3 Florida (Jan. 2)

Well, this just stinks for Charlie Strong. You turn a pathetic program like Louisville around in two years, win the conference, earn a BCS bowl berth, and in large part helped make the Cardinals an attractive invitee to an automatic qualifier conference like the ACC just as their soon-to-be-former conference Big East is about to lose its AQ status. And the reward for this? Face the best team in the nation in their favorite bowl game. And worse yet, face them after they have had a month to fully heal on the offensive line, the only thing that prevented them from an undefeated regular season and likely playing Notre Dame for the national title. And for his star player upon which the team’s chances almost fully depends, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the reward for completing 69 percent of his passes for 3,452 yards and a 25-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio, is to end the season against the nation’s number one passing efficiency defense, and best defense overall.

It’s not completely fair to the Gators fans either, who will take great pleasure in the romping, stomping Sugar Bowl victory, but will not like doing it to Strong, the co-defensive coordinator and DC, respectively, for the Gators’ last two national titles. One of their own. But this guilt will be overcome throughout the game as the Gators defense dominates as it has all year and the Gator offense puts on a show that will be a promising preview of things to come. Behind the healthy offensive line, bowl practices have seen the passing game notably improve and with no future opponent to contend with this season, there will be no holding back any cards against the Cards. Gators fans: expect to be very happy this off-season anticipating the next chapter of this program’s advancement.

The Good ‘Ville: Sweet 42
The Bad ‘Ville: Saccharine 13

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David Parker
One of the original columnists when Gator Country first premiered, David “PD” Parker has been following and writing about the Gators since the eighties. From his years of regular contributions as a member of Gator Country to his weekly columns as a partner of the popular defunct niche website Gator Gurus, PD has become known in Gator Nation for his analysis, insight and humor on all things Gator.