Special thanks to Steve Spencer of The Columbus Dispatch for use of his "Mount Buckmore" artwork.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Weekend Read

Three down, five to go

The great thing about bowl season is, in th
ese remaining contests, five teams can take a huge step towards re-solidifying the Big Ten as a respectable, if not top conference in the increasingly level college football landscape. And they ("they" including me) say the college football post-season is meaningless.

Consider that Purdue and Penn State have already done their part and once-hapless Michigan State was a Brian Hoyer interception away from a major upset of Boston College.

Already played:

*T5= Tied for 5th

Motor City Bowl
Purdue 51, Central Michigan 48
(Big Ten #T5 v. MAC #1)
Not to dwell on the negatives, but the saddest part about Purdue blowing a huge lead and nearly embarrassing the Big Ten out of the gate is that Joe Tiller would still have a job if his team lost. As his spread offense become less and less of a novelty, one wonders how many 5 loss seasons Joe Till can afford.

Champs Sports Bowl
#14 Boston College 24, MSU 21
(ACC #T2 v. Big Ten #T5)
This would have been the bowl season’s first big upset and, realistically, the first interesting game unless you honestly enjoyed that Boise St. Eastern Carolina nail-biter. Sparty deserves some serious recognition for nearly beating the one-time BCS prize horse from the Big East. On the other hand, almost-wins still fall in the L column and no one in East Lansing can be happy about falling short in another big game.

Alamo Bowl
PSU 24, Texas A&M 17
(Big Ten #T4 v. Big 12 South #T3)
The win would have been better if it was against a Big 12 team that wasn’t scrutinized four underachieving all year. An Indiana victory over Oklahoma State on Dec. 31 would compliment this one nicely.

As you begin to see, it’s not a stretch to imagine the lowly Big Ten winning ESPN’s conference bowl trophy pseudo-award statuette-like object. Obviously an Ohio St. win by itself would throw a huge monkey off the back of the entire conference but a majority of the leg work is being done by the Big Ten’s enigmatic chewy middle (four teams with 3 wins, two with 4 wins.)

The remaining games:

Insight Bowl, Dec. 31
Indiana v. Oklahoma St.
(Big Ten #T5 v. Big 12 South #T3)
Despsite being Indiana, the Hoosiers seem to have the edge here. Playing in that coveted 13th game that eluded Terry Hoeppner, IU should be riding high on emotion and will look no further for motivation. Okie State, on the other hand, might be so fed up with these second-tier bowl cameo’s that Crazy Mike Gundy can harness their energy and turn it into the first complete game the Cowboys have played since beating Kansas State in October.
Prediction: Indiana in a close one

Outback Bowl, Jan. 1
#18 Wisconsin v. #16 Tennessee
(Big Ten #3 v. SEC East #1)
Two teams that failed to live up to expectations this year but certainly didn’t keel over and die midway through the season. If you believe that LSU is the best team in the country then Tennessee should be somewhere in the top ten after playing the Tigers close for three quarters in the SEC Championship game. Although, using that logic, which most people do, three loss Florida, four loss Alabama and Arkansas and five loss Kentucky should all be at the top of everyone’s ballot as well. Returning to Wisconsin though, who actually does well against SEC teams in bowl games. The Badgers are more physical and a better coached team who has a talented young defense, all of which adds up to:
Prediction: Wisconsin, also close. Tyler Donovan is, in my opinion, one of the worst quarterbacks in the Big Ten whose final outing was a horrendous 6/13 passing day against Minnesota.

Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1
Michigan v. #12 Florida
(Big Ten #T2 v. SEC East #2)
This could get ugly. Though it’s taken a year longer than most, I’m beginning to believe Tim Tebow is as good as advertised, which is like saying I think the iPhone is really as sexy as those commercials make it look. And believe me, it is. Like Indiana, Michigan will be playing for their coach and only for their coach because all that “returning to beat Ohio State and win a National Championship” fodder went to shit in September. At the same time, The Weasels are a talented group of veterans who are playing a Florida team that doesn’t really have a lot more to prove after a comparatively mediocre season.
Prediction: SEC faithful are dismissing Florida as the “3rd or 4th” best team in their conference, and until playing OSU, Michigan was in line to be the Big Ten’s BCS rep. Considering each team’s perceived position in their respective conferences, this is a must-win for the Big Ten. Unfortunately, a victory is unlikely. Florida, let’s say 34-17.

Rose Bowl, Jan. 1
#13 Illinois v. #7 USC
(Big Ten #T2 v. Pac Ten #1)
USC scheduled to tear off about 400 rushing yards and 48 points on J. Leman and Illinois. And, despite a few glaring flaws with USC predictions this season, I can’t imagine a scenario where Illinois pulls off the upset. Prove me wrong.
Prediction: USC pulls away in the second half. At some point in the fourth quarter Brent Musberger will wistfully reflect on someone’s career while mispronouncing the player’s last name.

Better days-- Little Animal knocks a younger, less slippery Juice Williams out of the 2006 game. You can bet USC has studied and learned from OSU's recent mistakes against Williams' Illini.

BCS National Championship, Jan. 7
#1 OSU v. #2 LSU
(Big Ten #1 v. SEC #1)
See this ('Buckeyes get motivation').
Prediction: OSU. Trev Alberts agrees.
Splitting the games won’t prove anything and hoping for perfection is not only unrealistic, it's now mathematically impossible. But, if the conference can pull together and come away with a 6-2 bowl record, there’s going to be a lot of media head-scratching accompanied by a sizable shift in perceived power going into next season.

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