Ruminations on the Passing Scene
December brings mixed feelings for college football fans.
The Christmas holidays mark the end of the regular season and those wonderful weekly Saturday football bonanzas of games from morning to night. No more College Gameday, no more tailgating, fewer trips to campus.
We are not Scrooged however!
Like a little boy looking forward to Santa bringing a sleigh full of gifts, college football fans now get ready for a month's worth of bowl games.
Welcome back to The Campus Game ... where every college football bowl game - from the New Mexico on December 19th to the title game on January 7th - is like opening a great gift on Christmas morning. To those who think there are too many bowls - bah humbug! No such thing.
Christmas Comes Early to T-Town ...
Alabama fans got an early Christmas gift from St. Nick (Saban) when the Tide rolled over Florida in the SEC title game and earned a date with Texas to settle the national championship.
The game was sweet redemption for the Tide.
A year after losing to Florida with similar stakes on the line, Alabama out-prepared, out-hit, and out-played the Gators from start to finish. Bama is now a victory away from earning a first national crown since 1992.
The game with Texas pairs two of the nation's premier and storied programs.
Not So Fast My Friend
That signature comment from ESPN's Lee Corso should apply to all those who believe Alabama will easily handle Texas in the BCS title tilt.
Since the BCS format started after the 1998 season, at least half the games have been won by teams given little chance at victory.
Here is a brief recap with upsets in bold:
1999 Tennessee 23 FSU 16 ... Odd as it may seem more than a decade later, the SEC champs were considered not much of a match for the powerful Seminoles.
2000 FSU 46 Virginia Tech 29 ... This game held to form as the Noles whipped the Hokies despite a scintillating performance from Tech's Michael Vick.
2001 Oklahoma 13 FSU 2 ... The Sooners were considered an upstart under 2nd year coach Bob Stoops. If you think FSU benefitted from playing weak conference competition during the 1990s - you'd be right.
2002 Miami 37 Nebraska 14 ... Canes lived up to billing and easily beat Huskers (who didn't even win conference).
2003 Ohio State 31 Miami 24 ... perhaps the most well-known of the upsets, the Buckeyes prevailed in OT.
2004 LSU 21 Oklahoma 14 ... few gave Bengal Tigers (and coach Nick Saban) a chance against mighty Oklahoma but SEC champs shut down Sooners (many experts thought USC should have been there instead of LSU).
2005 USC 55 Oklahoma 19 ... this one held to form as the great Trojan team with Leinart and Bush crashed the Sooner Schooner.
2006 Texas 41 USC 38 ... Longhorns and Vince Young staged yet another upset against what some were calling the greatest team ever.
2007 Florida 41 Ohio State 14 ... remember when many pundits (most notably Kirk Herbstreit - who's apparently only for a rematch when the Big Ten and Bucks are involved) called for a Michigan do-over against OSU. The underdog Gators quieted such talk quickly and thoroughly.
2008 LSU 38 Ohio State 24 ... Once more, an upset. LSU lost its last game but pulled out the SEC championship and got the BCS bid. The underdogs from the bayou outclassed Ohio State.
2009 Florida 24 Oklahoma 14 (this was a tossup) ... Oklahoma boasted one of the great offenses in college football history averaging over 50 points (and more than 60 down the stretch), but Florida shut them down and won a tight game.
More on this topic in another column ... but don't bet the house just yet Tide fans.
Notre Dame Coaching Carousel
Hire Brian Kelly.
Perhaps by the time you read the Irish will have wised up enough to go ahead and hire the best guy for the job. The man is young enough, driven enough, and successful enough to handle all the attention and pressure.
Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson announce the CBS SEC game of the week and while they are likeable enough, the league could do better.
Lundquist is at heart a Southwest Conference/Dallas Cowboys guy with (at least in my opinion) a somewhat limited knowledge of the SEC and its heritage (although he has a wonderful overall grasp of college football history).
He is also slipping just a bit ... as only one example, during the SEC title game did you catch the mistake during a discussion of teams that have won three national titles in four years (only Minnesota in the late 1930s and Notre Dame in the late 40s have done so). Verne mentioned those old Irish teams with Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis! If you don't know that's a mistake leave this site immediately! ... just kidding, but those two Heisman Trophy winners actually played at Army during the WWII years.
Danielson didn't even correct him (hopefully from politeness rather than not knowing).
Here's a suggestion for CBS/SEC ... Ron Franklin on play-by-play, Tommy Tuberville as analyst, and how about sports talk radio's Paul Finebaum as sideline host or special commentator? All southern, all knowledgeable about the SEC, all professional and very candid.
Check back soon for the bowl schedule and Professor's Picks for all the bowl games!