Over the weekend, I sent my poem "Uberday" and its explanation to Smiley Anders, columnist for the "The Advocate" daily newspaper here in Baton Rouge.
The headline on this morning's column was "Überbowl can be a super bowl" and the lead item was:
"I’ve read several sports columns from around the country complaining about the name of the football game to determine the BCS national champion.
The name of the game just doesn’t have, well, pizzazz.
Dadlak agrees, and says his family has taken to calling the game the Überbowl, using the German word meaning “over, above, on top of, higher than, superior to” etc.
Über, he explains, is “a catchword that my 14-year-old daughter and her friends apply to anything that is excessive in any way — good, bad, exciting, beautiful, smelly etc.
The Allstate BCS Championship Game, which lacks a more descriptive bowl title like Rose, Orange, Sugar or papajohns.com, embodies all the aspects of über, at least here in Baton Rouge, home of the LSU Fighting Tigers.”
Nice idea — and maybe they can find a German sponsor if Allstate bails out. I’m thinking Volkswagen or Beck’s beer. . . ."
Here's a link to Anders' entire column for January 16, 2008.
LSU Tigers Roast (Smoke?) Ohio State Buckeyes 38-24 in Uberbowl (BCS Championship Game)!
Matt Flynn is Offensive MVP. Four TD passes. Defensive MVP is Ricky-Jean Francois (I may have the hyphen misplaced. In any event, he sounds like a character from a James Lee Burke novel). Blocked a FG attempt. Didn't play in a game this year until the SEC Championship Game.
Roast vs. smoke comes from my daughter's insistence that the emblems on the OSU helmets are marijuana leaves, hence "smoking the buckeyes." I'm going with the less subversive "roast the Buckeyes", though I toyed with "emasculate the Buckeyes (nuts, get it?)"
10:46 - Charles Scott covers the onsides kick. Tigers take over at OSU 43. Kneel down play. 1:04 left. Dorsey has ice water for Miles. Gets Pellini instead. Another kneel down by Flynn. Third time ends it. Miles stays dry. LSU 38 Ohio State 24! Tigers are BCS Champs.
Dadlak Predictions finish at 22-10 straight up and 17-15 vs spread as LSU both wins and covers. Dadlak Poll participants also got the game right. They chose 17 to 8 in favor of LSU.
10:41 - OSU returns kickoff to the 46. LSU kicker down on the field. Assistant coach gets doused. Hartline catches pass and gets OB. Ball on LSU 38. Deep pass. Interference on LSU #4 Eugene. 15-yard penalty. Pass OB at 15. Next pass caught at end zone but OB. 3rd and 2. TD pass to Hartline. 38-23. PAT good. Coleman couldn't snag Hartline. 38-24, LSU.
10:36 - Flynn keeps for a first. Murphy takes a pitchout to the 5. Hurdles one tackler. 1st and goal. Scott tackled at the 5. Flynn lobs to Dickson for the TD. 37-17, LSU. 1:50 left. That will do it. I'd go to bed if it wasn't LSU playing. David makes PAT. 38-17. 2nd TD for Dickson. 4th TD pass for Flynn.
10:31 - 4th down pass picked off by #27 Curtis Taylor. End around on Doucet. Gains 5, but runs OB. Flynn keeps for 3 more. Middle screen to Doucet is about a foot short. 4th down. Flynn sneaks for first down. Grim play for Buckeyes. Hester gets 4. Clock at 3:30 and counting. Timeout OSU.
10:25 - Wells gets 3. Pass to Robiskie. Tackled in bounds. 3rd and 1. Wells stopped short. 7:30 left. Wells gets it on 4th down. Good catch by Small for 13 yards. Looked like a one-hopper. Dorsey knocks ball loose. Boeckman recovers. Good coverage by Jones. 3rd and 15. Tigers call time. 5:50 left.
10:17 - Play of the game goes in LSU's favor. Tigers can negate the last turnover here with much less of game left. Review confirms fumble instead of incomplete pass. LSU on OSU 45. Handoff to Hester. 10:20 left. He gains 3. Three more on next handoff. 3rd and 4. Pass blocked at line. LSU will punt. Takes delay of game penalty. Touchback. 9:02 left.
10:14 - 4th and 7. 10:51 left. Sacked! #24 Coleman finally picks it up. Highsmith caused fumble. FOX doesn't say where the ball ended up. LSU ball deep in OSU territory.
10: 08 - Wells gains 2. Pass to Hartline gains to 40. Good run by Wells to midfield. Another first down. 140 yards for Wells. Robiskie wide open at LSU 37. First down. Jones blitzes. Boeckman overthrows. 2nd and 10. 12:22 left. Boeckman scrambles. Drops ball but recovers. Gain of 5. 3rd and 5. Pittman gets sack at 34. 4th and 7. Game in a play. Timeout OSU.
10:03 - 3rd and 6. Flynn runs for it. Two yards short. LSU will punt. Punt flies to end zone. Comes out to 20. 60-yarder for Fischer.
9:56 - Holliday takes KO at 1. Brings out to the 30. Flynn keeper for zero. Doucet gets 4 on end around. 3rd quarter runs out. 31-17, LSU.
9:46 - 5:46 left in 3rd quarter. First Flynn pass INC. Hester gets 5. Completed pass to Dickson for first down. Hester gets 2 to the 30. Flynn throws to sideline. Picked off by OSU #2 Jenkins. Mix up with receiver. Receiver went in. Ball went out. OB on 11. OSU ball. Wells gets 4 to the 7. Wells close to the 1. 3rd and 1. #90 Jean-Francois dumps Wells at the 4. OSU goes for it. Great catch by Robiskie for the score. 31-16, Tigers. PAT good. 31-17.
9:39 - Three guys missed Doucet. Embarrassing for OSU. Kickoff to 12. Tackled on 27. Getting desparate for OSU. Wells gets 4. Coleman still in game for Steltz. Boeckman keeps for about 2o on run to the left. Ball on LSU 48. Wells stopped for no gain. Pass to Saine gets two. Zenon drives him OB. 6:59 left in 3rd. Boeckman didn't see open receivers. Sacked. I didn't see the open receivers. Punt OB at LSU 11.
9:31 - 3rd and 23 for Tigers. I don't expect them to get too bold here. Get half and then punt. Scott covered. Flynn throws it to the ground. Punt by Fischer. Nearly blocked. Fischer goes down. Roughing the kicker. Automatic first down. No doubt about the call. Rusher missed the ball and hit the punter.
Ball at OSU 45. Back to Hester. Gain of 2. Another personal foul on OSU. Losing poise. Now at OSU 29. Fourth personal foul on OSU. Hester gets about 9. Middle screen to Scott. Breaks two tackles. Runs to 4 yard line. Screen pass to Doucet. More missed tackles. Doucet walks in for TD. 30-10, LSU. PAT good. 31-10. 9:04 left in 3rd. Game looking suspiciously like 2007 version.
9:18 - Great half for Matt Flynn. 11 for 15 for 118 yards and 2 TDs. Also covered the bad snap well. Completed passes to seven different receivers.
Holliday takes a knee one yard into end zone. LSU will start on 20. 10-yard carry by Williams. Ball at 30. Great catch by LaFell for 6-yard gain. OSU ahead in yards at halftime. LSU won time of possession. Perriloux keeps on option play. 3rd and 1. Hester gets first down. Ball at 41. Screen to Doucet for 7. Holliday gets a first on a pitchout. Ball in OSU territory. Good move by Holliday. Short of first by a foot. 3rd down. Flynn sneaks for first. Ball at OSU 48. Holliday gets two on a pitchout. Intentional grounding by Flynn. 3rd and 23. First penalty on LSU. Tigers call time.
8:50 - Punt rolls into end zone. Touchback. LSU at 20. Hester tackled after one yard gain. Half runs out. Fabulous 2nd quarter by Tigers. Still 30 minutes to go.
8:43 - Kickoff to 10. OSU return man stopped at 20. Tigers should keep pressure on here. 4:08 left in half. Pass deflected by Zenon. Almost caught by #9. 2nd and 10. Wells runs. Coleman makes hard tackle. Short gain. 3rd and 9. Complete to #9. First down. LSU blitzed but didn't get there. End around. 2nd 4. 2:31 left. Sacked! Ball loose but OSU lineman recovers. Coverage sack. 3rd and 13. Complete but short of first down. Clock running. LSU should call time. They do at 0:59.
8:32 - Kickoff to 10. Returned to 32. Wells flattened on first carry. Dorsey tackles. Incomplete pass. Jackson covering. 3rd and 10. Big play for OSU. Need to keep defense off field. Blitz. Long pass picked off by Chevis Jackson. Returned to OSU 25. Blitz from #24 Coleman in place of Steltz. Pass to Byrd to OSU 17. Steltz in locker room with hurt shoulder. Completion to Dickson. OB at OSU 1. Another embarrassingly open receiver vs. vaunted OSU defense. Hester stopped at 1. Hester from FB position to goal line. Time out Tigers. Could be 4-down territory. 3rd and goal from 1. Some quarter for LSU. Were down 10-3 at start. Killed in statistics. TD on 3rd effort by Hester! 23-10, Tigers. Kick is good. 24-10, LSU. 21-0 in 2nd quarter.
8:23 - Lost some material there. OSU drove and tried a 37-yard FG. #90 Jean-Francois blocked FG for LSU. Tigers have ball on OSU 45. Flynn throws ball wide. Next pass complete to #89. Good for first down. Ball comes loose after play. Ball on OSU 26. Flynn keeper gets nothing. Better for RBs to do running. Nice running by Holliday. So tiny and quick. My daughter's favorite player. Flynn sneaks for first to OSU 15. Screen pass blocked. 2nd and 10. QB draw moves Flynn to 10. 3rd and 5. 5-receiver set. TD pass from Flynn to LaFell in left corner of end zone. 16-10, Tigers. Kick is good. 17-10. 7:25 left in half.
8:07 - LSU at 21. Hester runs to 25. 3rd and 1. First quarter stats show LSU lucky to be down by only 7. Hester breaks tackle or first down and more. Gains to 31. Perilloux in at QB. Option pitch to Williams gets 10. Personal foul on OSU. 15 more on top of play. Ball in OSU territory. First mistake by OSU. Flynn back in. Screen pass loses 1. Good play by 97 of OSU. Completion to Byrd at OSU 25. Add face mask foul. Ball on OSU 12. TD pass from Flynn to Richard Dickson. Last two passes were to wide open receivers. Breakdowns in OSU coverage. PAT good. 10-10.
7:58 - OSU KO return tackled at 28. 2:15 left in 1Q. Wells gets about 5. OSU doing just fine with a best player named "Beanie." Good running by Wells. Gets first down on next run. Now has 5 runs for 87 yards. Ball at OSU 40. Long pass. Broken up. No INT though Zenon got a hand on it. Wells stopped after 2-yard gain. 3rd and 8. Pass overthrown. 4th and 8. OSU will punt. Long punt. Good return, but ball dropped by Jones. Recovered by #24, Harry Coleman. Yikes.
Ball on LSU 16. Pass to Doucet for 6. End of first quarter. 10-3, Ohio State.
7:55 - 3rd and 13. Flynn rushed hard. Throws it away. FG attempt coming for LSU. Colt David comes on. Beauty. 10-3, OSU.
7:41 - Wife makes wise comment. Asks Tigers to play like they belong in the game. So far they look like bad team in New Mexico Bowl. Now 3rd and 6 after touchback. Completed pass to Doucet gets first down. Other yardage on short runs by Hester. Ball at 32. Short pass to #45. Run by Hester. 3rd and 1 or 2. Make it 2. Buckeyes blitz. Hester runs to OSU 40. Nice catch by Doucet on sideline. 16-yard gain. Ball at OSU 24. Doucet to 20 on end around. 2nd and 6. Scott to 15. 3rd and 1. Hester gets 3. 1st down at 13. Great blocking by 82 and 89. QB keeper. One yard at the most. Call it none. Busted play. Flynn looking for Holliday. Not there. Flynn takes a 3-yard loss. Tigers call time. 3rd and 13. Fans call here OH and IO across the room. Yikes. A little piece of Columbus.
7:35 - Crowd in Capital City Grill dining room is now split evenly between Buckeye and Tiger fans. Buckeye fans getting the better of it, but remembering last year's BCS game.
OSU starts at 41. Pass to wide-open receiver #3 Saine puts ball at LSU 15. Wells takes next handoff to the 10. Illegal procedure--back to 15. QB keeper for 6. 3rd and 4. Another keeper or QB draw gains 1. 4th and 3. FG attempt coming up. Through the middle. 10-0, OSU.
7:29 - 13:34 left in 1Q as OSU kicks off. Kick sails 5 yards into end zone. Tigers will start at 20. Hester gets 3. Doucet drops a screen pass. 3rd and 7. Center snaps too soon as Flynn calls audible. Flynn falls on ball at the 5. 4th and 24. Great punt by Fischer. Drives return man back to OSU 35. Return to OSU 40. Buckeyes will start there.
Kickoff happens on time at 7:22. Return man tackled at OSU 23. LSU already ahead of Florida last year, as OSU returned Florida's opening kick for a TD. Beanie gets five after an incomplete pass. 3rd and 5. Short pass for first down to the 36. Caught by #80. Wells breaks through the middle and runs 64 yards for a TD. Now the Tigers are even with the 2007 Gators. PAT good . Official distance of run is 65 yards. OSU leads 7-0.
More Pregame - Preservation Hall Jazz Band played the National Anthem, sung by vocalist Clinton somebody in about 1:55.
FOX's pregame content included a silly "Forrest Gump"-like feature about Glenn Dorsey.
Celebrity sound-offs came from Jack Nicklaus for Ohio State and Shaq for LSU. Guess who was louder. When seeing Nicklaus, my daughter said "Isn't he the guy on the money?" My wife is in treasury and has Scottish 5 pound notes featuring golf hero Nicklaus.
The Tigers win the coin toss and defer until the 2nd half. Ohio State will receive. Somewhat oddly, the Tigers from 90 miles away are the visitors in this game.
Pregame Check-In - We're at a restaurant with internet access, but I can't spend much pregame time online because I've got just enough battery power to survive the first half. Remarkably, the dining room we're in has more people in red than in purple and gold. The count is 7-2. Enjoy the hype. Happy Uberday! Go Tigers!
Uber, which in German needs an umlaut over the U that I don’t know how to create in Word, is a catchword that my 14-year-old daughter and her friends apply to anything that is excessive in any way—good, bad, exciting, beautiful, smelly, etc. The upcoming Allstate BCS Championship Game, which lacks a more descriptive bowl title like Rose, Orange, Sugar or papajohns.com, embodies all the aspects of “uber”, at least here in Baton Rouge, home of the LSU Fighting Tigers. So, my family has taken to calling the game the “Uberbowl” which led me to the idea that today, January 7, 2008, is “Uberday.”
The day has arrived
Down the road off I-10
Will shoulder the load
While linebackers create
Now you may wonder why
So find your seat back
Decked out for the big game, the Louisiana Superdome is lit up in Mardi Gras colors (click here to "Watch Video" )
As the saying goes, close is good enough in horseshoes and hand grenades--and sometimes in college football.
Close was good enough to put the #1-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes and the #2-ranked LSU Tigers in the Allstate BCS Championship Game in New Orleans on Monday, January 7, 2008. The Buckeyes finished the season close to undefeated, losing late and almost disastrously to Illinois, but recovering to beat Michigan and watch at least four higher-ranked teams fall behind them.
Losers of two games, the Tigers didn't come that close to being undefeated, but given that losses to both Kentucky and Arkansas were in triple overtime, the pollsters discounted them in the final poll to jump LSU ahead of Virginia Tech, Georgia, Oklahoma and last-weekend losers Missouri and West Virginia into the title game. Close worked in favor of the Tigers in nail-biting wins over Florida (28-24 with Tigers converting several key fourth down plays), Auburn (30-24 on last second TD pass), Alabama (41-34 on late sack and fumble) and Tennessee (21-14 in SEC Championship Game on two late INTs, one of which was returned for the game-winning touchdown).
After last year's BCS demolition of the supposedly unbeatable Buckeyes by the #2 Florida Gators, Ohio State had a hard time regaining the pollsters respect, particularly with last year's stars, Heisman Trophy winning QB Troy Smith and WR/KR extraordinaire Ted Gunn, Jr. having moved on to the NFL. Their non-conference schedule was unexciting--Youngstown State from the FCS division, instate schools Akron and Kent State from the MAC and 4-9 Washington from the Pac-10. Overall, the Buckeyes didn't beat a team that finished in the top 20, though they did beat five bowl-bound teams from the Big Ten including Penn State at State College and Purdue at West Lafayette.
But after then-#1 LSU lost to Kentucky, the undefeated Buckeyes took over the #1 spot, which they held for three weeks until they were upset by Illinois 28-21 in Columbus. The loss plunged OSU to 7th in the next BCS ranking, just one game and three polls from the final rankings. Ahead of them were LSU, Oregon, Kansas (still undefeated, but even less respected than Ohio State), Oklahoma, Missouri and West Virginia. At that point the Buckeyes could only play and win one game, which they did, beating Michigan, and hope for five teams to fall past them in just three weeks.
Oregon and Oklahoma cooperated immediately. The Ducks lost Heisman Trophy candidate (and perhaps favorite at the time) Dennis Dixon to injury and a Thursday night game to Arizona. Oklahoma, playing without their starting quarterback, met a very tough Texas Tech team in Lubbock, fell behind early and couldn't quite catch up in a 34-27 loss. The Buckeyes advanced to fifth in the next poll. Thanksgiving weekend cleared two more teams out of the way--LSU in a triple OT loss to Arkansas and Kansas in a loss to Missouri. Prospects going into the last week looked much better as only Missouri and West Virginia led the #3 Buckeyes.
The events of the last weekend have been pretty well discussed here and elsewhere so I won't go into excruciating detail. Of course, Missouri lost to Oklahoma and West Virginia got shocked by Pitt, completing Ohio State's resurrection from #7 back to #1 in just three short weeks.
LSU's BCS odyssey is much the same story. When pre-season #1 USC fell from grace by losing to 40-point underdog Stanford at home, the Tigers advanced to the top spot until the Kentucky upset dropped them to fourth. South Florida lost the next week, moving the Tigers to 3rd. Two weeks later, Boston College lost to Virginia Tech, moving the Tigers up another rung. While Ohio State was losing to Illinois, LSU was trouncing Louisiana Tech to retake the top spot.
Their reign lasted just two weeks, when the Thanksgiving Friday triple overtime upset by Arkansas sent them reeling to 7th in the next poll, with just one game and one week to recover. Tiger fans made plans for a January 1 game in New Orleans, namely the Sugar Bowl, where they figured to play as long as they could beat Tennesee in the SEC Championship Game. They did and the dominoes fell. Oklahoma and Pitt took care of two problems. Pollsters jumped the SEC champion Tigers ahead of Virginia Tech (although the Hokies just beat Boston College to win the ACC title), Georgia and Kansas, and kept them ahead of Big 12 champion and #1-vanquisher Oklahoma. Still, in the final BCS rankings, the Tigers were closer to #1 Ohio State than to #3 Virginia Tech. The Tigers' 48-7 trouncing of Virginia Tech in their season opener made all the difference.
Getting down to the team personalities and players, Ohio State offers the most balanced offense imaginable--about 2,400 yards gained both passing and running. QB Todd Boeckman was accurate (64.5% completions) and productive (23 TDs, 8 yards/pass), but did throw 12 INTs. Brian Robiskie, son of former LSU star Terry Robiskie, was his favorite target with 50 catches for 885 yards and 10 TDs. Rushing was handled Wells by Chris and Maurice (relationship unknown), with Chris Wells leading the way with 1,463 yards and 14 TDs.
Even more so than balanced offense, the Buckeyes succeeded because of their stingy defense. Seven opponents scored 7 or fewer points. Four scored between 14 and 17. Only Illinois broke through for 28, a game in which QB Juice Williams made the Buckeye defense look surprisingly slow and tired for such an accomplished crew.
Having seen almost all of their games in one form or another, I'm more familiar with LSU's personnel than with Ohio State. But with all their talented players, the person who got the most attention all year was head coach Les Miles. As soon as Michigan lost to Appalachian State in the season opener, speculation was rampant that Michigan grad Miles would take over the Wolverines once current coach Lloyd Carr was fired or retired. Speculation bubbled throughout the season, gushing with each Michigan loss and easing when Michigan won. The pot boiled on SEC Championship Saturday when ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit (a former Ohio State QB) reported that Miles was signed to go to Michigan and would take Georgia Tech's defensive coordinator with him. Miles called a press conference just hours before kickoff to state "definitively" that he "was the LSU coach" and "would be the LSU coach in the future". Language experts picked up on the non-definitiveness of the fiery statement. Miles hadn't said whether "the future" would extend past the end of the SEC championship game. He later clarified this position on LSU's radio pre-game show and in an interview with CBS's reporters. With all of this, worship of Miles in Baton Rouge isn't universal. Some see his aggressive playcalling as genius that has enabled the Tigers to win close games. Others think Miles has coached an outrageously talented team down to the level where every game vs. a good team is a struggle.
Oh yeah, LSU's talented personnel. Having seen very little of USC (another supposed awesomely talented team), I can't compare directly, but game by game, I'm awed by the depth of talented players (particularly on offense) on the LSU roster. The Tigers have five tailbacks (Hester, Williams, Holliday (also a national class sprinter), Scott and Murphy) who get real game time, and all of whom are better than the #1 tailback who played for Louisiana Tech. Hester, the least gifted athletically of the group, is one of the best players of the game of football I've ever seen. He played two-plus years at fullback before working his way into the #1 tailback role. The Tigers have four wide receivers and a pass catching tight end (Doucet, LaFell, Byrd, Tolliver and Richard Dickson) who all get significant time on the field, and again who are all better than Louisiana Tech's best wide receiver. This talent glut remains even after LSU sent their two top WRs from last year's team, Brandon Bowe and Craig Davis, to the NFL.
At quarterback, the Tigers sent 2006 incumbent JaMarcus Russell to the NFL as the first overall draft pick. Successor Matt Flynn came into the season with one good game under his belt--a 40-3 destruction of Miami in the Chik-Fil-A (nee Peach) Bowl. Hampered by a couple of injuries, Flynn still passed for 2,200 yards and 17 TDs. At times a little scatterarmed, Flynn completed "only" 55% of his throws and did throw 10 INTs. Backup Ryan Perilloux, a south Louisiana high school star who was the subject of a huge recruiting battle between LSU and Texas (Perilloux changed his mind at the last minute), played beautifully in place of the injured Flynn in the SEC championship game. He'll be ready to go if needed in the BCS game, and as the starter for the 2008 LSU season.
On defense, the Tigers feature Outland Trophy winner Glenn Dorsey, a force of nature until a chop block in the Auburn game slowed him down. All-SEC linebackers Ali Highsmith and Darry Beckwith track down runners and receivers with equal fury. The defensive backfield isn't quite as deep, but features hard-hitting all-American safety Craig Steltz (#16 hauling down Darren McFadden in my title photo) and senior cornerback Chevis Jackson. Freshman safety Chad Jones at 6'3" and 222 lb is another game-changer. His sack of Alabama's quarterback caused the fumble that won that game for the Tigers.
Even Tigers' placekicker Colt David has enough talent to take a pass on a fake field goal and run it in for a touchdown.
I expect Ohio State to play a much improved game from their 41-14 shellacking in last year's BCS game. Still, I don't think the Buckeyes have the talent or depth to keep up with a rested and healthy LSU team. LSU is a solid 4-1/2 point betting favorite. FOX's coverage starts at 8 p.m. EST. Dadlak Prediction: LSU 27 Ohio State 20
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? This one is not too tough. Tigers vs. Buckeyes, a kind of nut, and probably not big enough to choke a tiger. Carnivorous, hungry tiger it is.
Jayhawks Abolish Virginia Tech Hokies 24-21 in Orange Bowl
Orange Bowl MVP Aqib Talib sails into the end zone with an interception return for a TD in the Kansas Jayhawks' 24-21 win over Virginia Tech (photo J. Pat Carter/AP)
West Virginia fullback Owen Schmitt rumbles for a 57-yard touchdown in the Mountaineers' 48-28 win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl (photo Ross D. Franklin/AP)
Missouri tailback Tony Temple scores one of his four touchdowns in the Tigers' 38-7 Cotton Bowl win over Arkansas. (photo Tim Sharp/AP)
The "Who Says?" Award goes to the entire Michigan Wolverines team, who bought none of the pre-game analysis that they couldn't compete with Florida. They competed for 60 straight minutes (despite some disheartening turnovers) and beat the Gators 41-35 in the Capitol One Bowl. Special mentions go to Michigan QB Chad Henne, who outplayed the more celebrated Heisman Trophy-winning Tim Tebow, to the Michigan defensive line, which brought the most relentless pressure that Tebow saw all year, and to retiring coach Lloyd Carr and his staff, for outstanding motivation and preparation of a team in flux.
Michigan wide receiver Mario Manningham awaits a touchdown pass from Chad Henne in Michigan's 41-35 win over Florida in the Capitol One Bowl. (photo Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Retiring head coach Lloyd Carr enjoys a victory ride after Michigan's 41-35 win over Florid in the Capitol One Bowl on New Year's Day. (photo Doug Benc/Getty Images)
The Big Leg Award goes to Georgia placekicker Brandon Coutu, who brought back memories of Kevin Butler with 52-yard and 45-yard field goals, each of which would have been good from 60 yards. He added 5 routine PATs to total 11 points in the game.
The Hunker Down Award goes to the rest of the those Hairy Dawgs, a Georgia team that totally dominated the undefeated Hawaii Warriors for 60 minutes and seemed to take great delight in doing so, even if they did think they were playing a week early. Special "Monster Not Dot Com" sub-Award goes to Georgia defensive end Marcus Howard, the Sugar Bowl MVP who had three sacks, a forced fumble that he recovered for a touchdown, and a blocked pass that was intercepted by his teammate.
Freshman running back Knowshon Moreno scores one of his two touchdowns against Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans (photo Charlie Riedel/AP).
Best Team Not in BCS Championship Game (3-way tie) - Fans of USC, Georgia and Missouri will all claim this moniker for their team. All three teams were so impressive in lopsided wins that I won't break the tie. Hopefully this group is enough of a muddle (which can perhaps be joined two of Oklahoma, West Virginia, Virginia Tech and Kansas) that there won't be a revolt by AP pollsters who then choose a faux half-champion as was done with USC over LSU in 2004.
Best Play Not in the Playbook Award - USC got a 60+yard run from freshman tailback Joe McKnight after he dropped a backwards screen pass. To McKnight's credit, he pursued the loose ball, picked it up and ran downfield, rather than assuming it was an incomplete pass. To Illinois' discredit, most of them seemed to take the incomplete pass route, though a safety did eventually run the speedy McKnight down after a 65-yard gain.
Well-Deserved Whirlpool Award - Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell earned this one with a "boy is my arm tired" 44-69, 403 yards and 3 TD passing line to lead the Red Raiders to a comeback win over Virginia. The Raiders rallied for 17 points in the game's last 3:31 to overcome a 28-14 deficit and win 31-28 in regulation time.
Texas Tech is just 0:02 from a Gator Bowl victory over Virginia as kicker Alex Trlica lines up the game-winning kick. (photo Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Worst Impersonation of BCS Team - OK, just one negative award. It was a tough choice, but since Illinois remained quasi-competitive with USC midway into the 3rd quarter (they were down 21-10 when their receiver fumbled the ball on the USC 5, and melted down thereafter), we'll go with Hawaii, who "stayed with" (only down 7-3) Georgia for less than one quarter and were physically and mentally intimidated by the relentless, surly Dawgs for the entire game (or at least until the score was 41-3).
Hawaii QB Colt Brennan takes a familiar position after being sacked in Georgia' 41-10 destruction of the Warriors in the Sugar Bowl. (photo Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Lost in Space Award - This one's negative, but it goes to a broadcaster, who is ostensibly an adult professional and can take it. The winner is ABC/ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit for his annoying overuse of the phrase "in space" (this must be coachspeak) to describe what used to be very adequately called "open field." Other announcers use this as well, but Kirk's woodpecking use of the phrase during last night's Rose Bowl was the reed that fractured the ungulate's spine for me. Hence this award.
New Year's Day Results
Georgia Bulldogs Masticate Hawaii Warriors 41-10 in Sugar Bowl
USC Trojans Annihilate Illinois 49-17 in Rose Bowl
Texas Tech Red Raiders Ambush Virginia Cavaliers 31-28 in Gator Bowl
Michigan Wolverines Survive Florida Gators 41-35 in Capital One Bowl
Tennessee Volunteers Trap Wisconsin Badgers 21-17 in Outback Bowl
Missouri Tigers Eviscerate Arkansas Razorbacks 38-7 in Cotton Bowl
2007 Bowl Highlights - While the 2008 bowl games get moving today, I'll fill the time by making some awards based on the 2007 bowl action.
Fingertip Finish Award - BYU blocked a short UCLA field goal attempt as time expire to preserve a 17-16 win in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Fab First-timer Award - Florida Atlantic whipped Memphis 44-27 in the New Orleans Bowl, their first-ever bowl appearance (the whole program is only seven years old; only three in the FBS).
Passing Fancy Award - Cal backup quarterback Kevin Riley entered the Armed Forces Bowl in the second quarter with his team down 21-0. The rest of the way he was 16-19 passing for 269 yards and 3 TDs, and ran another TD in from a yard to lead the Golden Bears to 42-36 comeback win.
Return of the Bus Award - At 5'11" and 230 lb, Oregon tailback Jonathan Stewart looked like a runaway bus to South Florida as he ran for 252 yards, including a 71-yard TD dash to lead the Ducks to a 56-21 upset win in the Sun Bowl. Redshirt freshman QB Jason Roper came in a close second to Kevin Riley for the Passing Fancy Award with 4 TD passes in his first-ever start.
Conference Bragging Rights Half-Award - Pollsters who moved LSU up to #2 are looking good as SEC also-rans Mississippi State, Alabama, Kentucky and Auburn won their bowl games over C-USA, Big 12, ACC and ACC competition respectively. Tennessee, Florida and LSU are favored to continue the streak with only Arkansas being an underdog to Missouri. Tennessee just scored to take an early lead over Wisconsin.
Outmanned Award (tie) - Facing a size mismatch at almost every position, the Navy Midshipmen fought valiantly before succumbing to Utah, 35-32 in the Poinsettia Bowl. Apparently beaten at 35-25, the Middies recovered a fumble, scored and recovered an onsides kick before an interception ended their comeback.
Despite the suspension of 36 players from their roster for a mass academic violation, the Florida State Seminoles played Kentucky down to the last minute before losing 35-28 in the Music City Bowl. Kentucky cooperated with 3 lost fumbles and an interception for a TD, but the non-cheating members of the Seminoles still deserve credit for hanging tough after their depth chart was blown up.
How Soon They Forget Award - Just 6 days ago, Purdue QB Curtis Painter completed 35 passes for 546 yards and 3 TDs as he led the Boilermakers to a 51-48 win over Central Michigan in the Motor City Bowl. It's too late to recount the votes for the Passing Fancy Award, so Painter wins this award instead.
That's Got to Hurt Award - Air Force QB Shaun Carney (108 yards rushing and 2 TDs plus a TD pass) carried his team to a lead over Cal in the Armed Forces Bowl until a double hit tore both his ACL and MCL. Refusing to go to the clubhouse for treatment, Carney laid on a gurney with his knee iced for much of the rest of the game.
Long Distance Upset Award - Every team except the University of Hawaii would travel a long way to the Hawaii Bowl, but you can't get much further away than Wilmington, NC, home of the East Carolina Pirates. Not content with a bowl appearance and Hawaii vacation, the Pirates beat the 2006 bowl darlings, heavily-favored Boise State, 41-38 on a FG as time expired.
D-Fence Award - The Mississippi State Bulldogs take this one for holding the high-powered Central Florida offense to 219 yards and 3 points. They intercepted Golden Knight QB Kyle Israel three times and held the nation's leading rusher, Kevin Smith to 3.4 yards per try on a bruising 35 carries.
Eddie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award - Who else but Penn State coach Joe Paterno could win this one? Penn State's appearance in the Alamo Bowl marked Paterno's 500th game as their head coach. The 24-17 win over Texas A&M was Paterno's record-extending 23rd bowl win.
Best Non-BCS Team - After their 52-34 demolition of 10-2 Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl, Texas looked like a shoo-in for this award. Juniors Colt McCoy (QB) and Jamaal Charles (RB) led an offensive onslaught that rolled up 477 yards despite four McCoy fumbles (three recovered by Texas, including one for a TD). Oregon's 56-21 win over South Florida put them in the running, but I'll stick with the Longhorns for their win over a Dennis Erickson-coached team that came within one game of playing for the national championship.
Looks Most Like an NFL Quarterback Award - I know what you're thinking, another QB award? I had to mention Boston College QB Matt Ryan, whose 29-yard TD pass to Rich Gunnell in the Champs Sports Bowl was the most beautiful pass I've seen this bowl season--a spiraling, airborne work of art. Not particularly quick afoot, Ryan's perfect passing form and QB savvy should still get him a long look in the suddenly QB-poor NFL.
Doormat to Red Carpet Award - Wake Forest wins this one. The traditional ACC weak sister played in the Orange Bowl last year, and won the Meineke Car Care Bowl in 2007 by a decisive 24-10 margin over Connecticut. The Demon Deacon defense held the Huskies to 213 total yards. Coach Jim Grobe has been mentioned for several high profile jobs, but has thus far chosen to stay in Winston-Salem.
Almost Perfect Prediction Award - This one goes to (blush) me, for Dadlak Prediction's call for a Chick-Fil-A Bowl final score of Auburn 20 Clemson 17 (OT). Actual final score: Auburn 23 Clemson 20 (OT).
Toothless Award - I don't much like negative awards, but special mention is due the University of Nevada Wolf Pack, who managed just 210 total yards while giving up 548 yards to New Mexico in a 23-0 loss in the New Mexico Bowl. The Wolf Pack, a fringe bowl pick at 6-6 anyway, finish the season as perhaps the worst 7 loss team in the country, if anyone's keeping track.
The rest of the story so far:
Alabama Crimson Tide Mires Colorado Buffaloes 30-24 in PetroSun Independence Bowl
Penn State Nittany Lions Maul Texas A&M Aggies 24-17 in Valero Alamo Bowl
New England Patriots Topple New York Giants 38-35 to Complete Undefeated Regular NFL Season
Purdue Boilermakers Forge 51-48 Win over Central Michigan Chippewas in Motor City Bowl
East Carolina Pirates Plunder Boise State Broncos 41-38 in Hawaii Bowl
BYU Cougars Paw UCLA Bruins 17-16 in Las Vegas Bowl
New Mexico Lobos Cannibalize Nevada Wolf Pack 23-0 in New Mexico Bowl
Florida Atlantic Owls Spook Memphis Tigers 44-27 in New Orleans Bowl
Utah Utes Sink Navy Midshipmen 35-32 in Poinsettia Bowl
Back in the '60s, did your town have a TV show called Bowling for Dollars or the like?
I grew up in the Syracuse, NY TV market and if my memories aren't too jumbled from 40+ years of passing time, there was a weekly locally-produced TV series of that name, starring Syracusan and PBA professional bowler Marty Piraino. Marty was a short, ebullient, broad-faced Italian-American with a real showman's flair for the game. He bowled a sweeping left-handed hook ball and would often follow his delivery with a knee-slide, apparently in prayer for a strike. The locals loved him even though he wasn't quite good enough to compete and win on a week-to-week basis with the Dick Webers and Don Carters of the PBA circuit (he won $93,000 in 161 tournaments over 27 years--Tiger Woods' caddy makes more than that in a week). Amateur bowlers would appear on the show with Marty. If you bowled a strike, you won $100, or the jackpot, or something. A spare earned something less. An open, nothing, but lovely parting gifts.
Program Note - Piraino appeared on Syracuse Bowls. According to one account, he averaged 237 on 57 games bowled on the show. Bowling for Dollars, however, was hosted by a radio DJ. Apparently I conflated these shows, but Piraino, a member of the Syracuse Hall of Fame and winner of four PBA tournaments, made the stronger impression.
Program Note Two - This story keeps getting better. While searching for some more biographical information on Marty Piraino, I found a USA Today article written by a reporter who as a 14-year old hot shot competed against Piraino in the local Saturday morning TV show Challenge Bowling. It makes more sense that Piraino would be involved in a competitive show. And I'm now guessing that the Bowling For Dollars prize money was much more modest, given that an amateur bowler who beat PBA pro Piraino could claim only dinner for his family at a neighboring Big Boy restaurant.
More on Marty Piraino. It turns out that he is still alive in Syracuse (or was in September 2007 when his 82-year-old wife of 55 years died). Well into his 60s or perhaps even at 70-years-old in 1993, Piraino bowled a 854 three-game series (perfect is 900). I'm glad I misremembered his bowling show.
This story has almost nothing to do with the rest of this post, which will be an ongoing preview and update on the 2007 college football bowl season. Except that the college football bowl season is certainly a case of bowling for dollars in a big, big way.
The list of this year's bowl games is daunting. There are 32 in all. Twenty-one kick off in 2007. Six are set for New Year's Day. 2008 will be greeted with five more games including the Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl and BCS Championship Game from New Orleans.
I'll try to write a preview and prediction for each game and at least post the final score. To the extent she'll cooperate, I'll get my daughter to comment on the name of the bowl game, the schools' nicknames, and the team uniforms/colors.
The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (what a mouthful!) kicks it off on the evening of Thursday, December 20 from beautiful San Diego, where the Utah Utes of the Mountain West Conference and the independent Navy Midshipmen match 8-4 records. Other than a shocking loss to lower-division Delaware, the Middies had a great season, beating Notre Dame for the first time since Roger Staubach was in uniform, crushing Army 38-3 in the traditional rivalry game, and beating Air Force 31-20 to win the Armed Services championship. They also scored 74 points in a win over North Texas. The Utes best win was a 44-6 trouncing of UCLA. They suffered a letdown the next week, losing 27-0 to UNLV. San Diego should have no problem drawing a crowd, as Utahans will welcome the trip to the Pacific Coast, and Navy supporters, who are everywhere, are concentrated at San Diego's naval and Marine bases. I'll root for the Middies, as every win by them enhances the aura of Delaware's (my alma mater) upset, but I'm picking the Utes, who will closer to home and perhaps less distracted by other duties and thoughts. ESPN has this game starting at 9 p.m. EST. Oddsmakers make Utah an 8-1/2 point favorite. Dadlak Prediction: Utah 42 Navy 35 (photo by Jonathan Newton of the Washington Post)
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? Based on 200+ years of American history, you'd have to bet on the US military over Native Americans, even if it was the wrong branch of the service to battle a mountain-based tribe.
Game Blog - We're not gonna get to 42-35 at this pace. Score is still 0-0 with 1 minute to go in first quarter. Navy has two turnovers; Utah has one. We missed most of the first quarter as the basketball game between Pitt and Duke went into overtime. Pitt won 65-64 on a great 3-point shot with 5 seconds left. They advance to 11-0; Duke falls to 10-1. Both teams were ranked in the top ten.
Navy takes over at their own 20. Option pitch gets outside for 44 yards. Navy is nation's leading rushing team. QB keeper and sweep get only one total. 3rd and 9 as first quarter ends.
FG attempt as quarter starts. Long enuf, but wide left. Still no score.
Utah runs a fun play. Hook-and-lateral from the Navy 20. Navy linebacker makes a great play to force a 2-yard loss, but the play still looked slick. "Trickeration" making a play for a future dictionary. I've heard that word in a couple of broadcasts now. Seems like "trickery" is equally descriptive and shorter. Utah tailback bursts through the middle for a TD. Utah breaks through, 6-0. Great blocking creates huge hole. PAT makes it 7-0.
Navy moving the ball well in response. Good run by QB. Then pass interference puts ball in Utah territory. Another option pitch takes it to the 15. Navy is purest option team I've seen this year. Almost every run comes from option formation. Now first and goal from 1. QB gets TD on next play. Pulls Middies to within 7-6. Could still be high scoring game if teams can hold onto the ball. Crowd goes nuts as Navy scores. PAT good. Game tied at 7-7.
Navy has 10-7 lead at halftime. Neither team playing particularly well. Navy coach not satisfied with the small lead.
Halfway through the third, Navy has expanded their lead to 17-7. They are beginning to look like the better team. No way that Utah will score the 42 points I predicted without a lot of overtimes.
Utah zips in a TD on a wide receiver reverse. Well blocked. The runner was never touched. PAT pulls Utes to within 17-14.
Utah gets another three-and-out from Navy (the Middies had only nine in the entire regular season). They get the ball on a punt and move quickly down field, scoring on a long pass to take a 21-17 lead. Utah QB is 9-9 passing in the second half. Maybe my statement of a couple paragraphs back got back to the Utes.
A third straight three-and-out punt for Navy. Their defense will have to stop Utah on the next series. Utah starts at own 39 with 14 minutes left. Nice pass and run puts ball inside Navy territory. Another Johnson pass for a Utah first down. Now Johnson keeps for the TD to push Utah lead to 28-17. Now who looks like the better team?
Big third down play for Navy. If game gets too much older, they'll have to start throwing--against their strength. Got very close. If it's short, Navy should go on 4th. First down! Fullback carries for 10 and another first. QB smushed on option on next play. Low throw but good catch for first down. Play will be reviewed. Good catch. Fullback rumbles for about 30. Navy snaps from Utah 12. Two yards on QB keeper. Option pitch works for a TD. Turned into a shovel pass rather than a pitchout. QB keeps for 2-point play. Utah 28, Navy 25. 8:48 left.
Johnson scampers for Utah first down. Clock moving toward 7 minutes. Utah inside the Navy 30. Field goal not much help for Utes. Navy safety has great chance for an INT, but drops the ball. Very nifty running by Johnson on a third down play. Gets another first down. Clock inside 6 minutes. Ball at Navy 15. Navy defense gassed. First and goal at the 7. QB dive for Utes misses pylon by about four yards. Johnson scrambles back to the four. Third down. Huge play for Navy. Just 4 minutes to play. Short pass. Catch and stretch for pylon. Looks like a fumble. Ball carrier threw the ball at the pylon. Ruling on field is 4th and goal from the one. Being reviewed. Replay upholds call on field. Strange. Navy stops the fourth down run!
Middies need about 75 yards for a FG attempt to tie. 99 yards for TD to win. QB keeps out to 3. Clock approaching 3 minutes. Campbell slips down at the 7. QB stops after a yard gain. 4th and 2. Time out Navy. QB stopped short on 4th down run. Looks like Utes will take this one.
Utes get a short TD run to push lead to 35-25. Kickoff to Navy who score on a long pass down the middle of the field. 35-32, Utes. Onside kick to come. My 42-35 prediction is looking better. Nice work by Middies--refused to give up.
Kick takes high bounce. Looks like Navy has it! They do. Along with one time out. Singleton, who just scored the touchdown, wrestled the ball away from a Ute. QB scramble for 8. Ball near midfield. Throw to sideline is picked off.
That's your ball game. Utah 35, Navy 32. Great game after a slow start. The Utes go to 9-4 for the season. Navy drops to 8-5, but did themselves proud in the loss. Dadlak's predictions start 1-0 straight up and 0-1 vs. the point spread.
Friday, December 21 - The R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl in the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans is the first of three bowl games in that stadium. The game matches the Florida Atlantic Owls (7-5) of the Sun Belt Conference and the Memphis Tigers (7-5) from Conference USA. The Owls are coached by peripatetic Howard Schellenberger, who's making at least his fourth college coaching stop (Miami, Oklahoma and Louisville preceding) at the Boca Raton, FL school. I think he also had a head coaching stint in the NFL as well. A last game win at Troy (the Alabama-based school, not the Eric Bana-led army (I wanted to use Brad Pitt, but he was Greek)) put the Owls in the New Orleans Bowl. Memphis started their season 2-4 and suffered the murder of player Taylor Bradford, but won five of their last six to become bowl-eligible. Their best win was over bowl-bound Southern Miss. Gotta root for the Tigers here. My wife spent at least one semester going to school there. I'll pick the Tigers to win as well. ESPN2 will televise at 8 p.m. EST. Oddsmakers like FAU by 2-1/2. Dadlak Prediction: a mild upset, Memphis 27 FAU 23.
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? Let's see. Owls--smart; Tigers--half-ton of razor-sharp tooth and claw carnivore. I'm going with the Tigers.
Halftime Update - FAU leads Memphis 30-20 after a wild first half. FAU QB Rusty Smith threw 4 TD passes among his 15 first-half completions. Rival Martin Hawkins of Memphis could "only" manage 2 TD passes and 244 yards. As the two QBs combined to throw for more than 6,000 yards and 29 TDs, this kind of game could have been expected. Memphis is moving the ball as the third quarter swings into action.
Smith finished with 336 yards passing and 5 TDs as FAU rolled to a 44-27 win. This was FAU's first ever bowl appearance and bowl win. They've been a team for only seven years and a Division I-A team since just 2005. Coach Howard Schnellenberger improved his personal bowl record to 5-0. Congratulations, Owls. I should have been rooting for you.
FAU posted a 8-5 record for the season. Memphis dropped to 7-6. Dadlak predictions are now 1-1 straight up and 1-1 vs. the spread.
Saturday, December 22 - Birmingham, AL's Papa Johns.com Bowl has had a lot better names in the past. But now that I think about it; nothing brings the thought of tasty pizza to mind quite like a web address. On to the combatants, who are no strangers to each other, having both played in Conference USA until the Cincinnati Bearcats (9-3, ranked #20) moved to the Big East and the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (7-5) stayed put. In electrons, this one looks like a mismatch, as the Bearcats' season, highlighted by wins over Oregon St., Connecticut and South Florida and marred only by narrow losses to Pitt, West Virginia and Louisville looks far superior to the Golden Eagles' campaign, an up-and-down march through the weaker Conference USA, marred by a loss to Rice. With no strong rooting interest, I'll pull for the Bearcats to complete their first-ever 10-win season and pick them get the job done. (Loyalty change note - I have a business contact who's an USM grad, and will therefore root for the Golden Eagles.) ESPN has this one at 1 p.m. EST. Oddsmakers say Cincinnati by 11. Dadlak Prediction: Cincinnati 40 USM 17
Nickname Note - When I asked for her thoughts on the Cincinnati nickname, my daughter reasonably asked, "What's a bearcat? Is that a real animal?" I looked it up. The University of Cincinnati's mascot is a mythical beast, invented in 1914 by a player named Baehr and an imaginative cartoonist on the campus newspaper. The original drawing, posted at http://gobearcats.cstv.com/genrel/081706aae.html looks much more like a bear than a cat. Back in the real world, "bearcat" is a simple translation of the Chinese word for panda "xiang mao" - bear cat. In SE Asia, bearcat is the common name for a sloth-like mammal officially called a bilurong. According to Wikipedia, at least 20 other colleges and high schools use the bearcat as their mascot. Even with the explanation, my daughter remains unimpressed, ranking Bearcats as one of the three worst nicknames ever, along with Knickerbockers (pants) and Nuggets (fast food). She refuses to accept that the Denver Nuggets came along before Chicken McNuggets. She's been unhappy for years with their baby-boy blue uniforms.
Who Would Win Battle of Mascots? Bearcats are either fictional, sloth-like or herbivores. Golden eagles are large, ferocious predatory birds. This one goes to the birds.
Game Summary - The oddsmakers had this one about right as Cincy beat USM 31-21. Bearcat QB Ben Mauk overcame three interceptions with four TD passes. Bearcat defensive back DeAngelo Smith matched his quarterback with three interceptions of USM quarterback Jeremy Young's passes. Cincinnati gets their 10-win season (10-3). Southern Miss falls to 7-6. Dadlak predictions are 2-1 straight up and 1-2 vs. the spread.
Also on December 22, the unsponsored New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque, NM features the University of Nevada Wolf Pack (6-6) of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) putting their .500 record on the line against the home state favorite University of New Mexico Lobos (8-4) from Mountain West. Nevada got trounced in their opener by Nebraska, suffered a late season loss to San Jose St. and gave up 69 in an overtime loss to Boise St. New Mexico beat their in-state rival New Mexico State early in the season, and followed with nice wins over the Air Force Academy and the Pac-12's Arizona. This looks like another mismatch, with the superior team playing closer to home. I'll pick the Lobos and root for them so that justice may be served. I would rather see fewer (no) 6-6 teams in bowl games. ESPN covers this game starting at 4:30 p.m. EST. Oddsmakers like Lobos by 3. Dadlak Prediction: UNM 33 Nevada 20.
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? Lobos vs. Wolf Pack--about as even as it gets. Perhaps a pack would be better organized. Wolf Pack in a squeaker.
The Lobos celebrate their New Mexico Bowl win with the traditional coach dousing.
Game Summary - The New Mexico Lobos were even better than either the oddsmakers (3 points) or I (13 points) thought they would be in a 23-0 whitewash of the Nevada Wolf Pack. The Lobos dominated the game throughout, leading in total yards by 548 to 210. New Mexico finishes their sesason at 9-4. Nevada drops to 6-7 with a chance to be the worst team to play in a bowl this year. Dadlak predictions are 3-1 straight up and 1-3 vs. the spread.
On the evening of December 22, the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl (hard to believe they can't find a local title sponsor in one of the most commercial cities in the country. It seems like Steve Winn and Donald Trump could have a bidding war) has a ranked team and a big name matchup between the No. 19 Brigham Young Cougars (10-2, 8-0 in Mountain West) and the 6-6 UCLA Bruins. It's a little surprising that BYU didn't garner a later and more lucrative bowl with a fine season that finished with eight straight wins. The game is also an opportunity to avenge a loss that probably kept BYU out of the BCS bowls, a 27-17 second-game loss to UCLA. Two nice wins over preseason power Cal and Dennis Dixon-less Oregon snuck the Bruins into the bowl mix. So as not to be boring, I'll root for the 6-6 Bruins, even though their "record" includes a loss to hapless Notre Dame. (Now that he's declared culture war on non-religious people, I'm a little nervous that a BYU bowl win might somehow translate into extra votes for Mormon Mitt Romney for President.) ESPN continues coverage. The Las Vegas Bowl starts at 8 p.m. EST. Oddsmakers pick BYU by 6. Dadlak Prediction: BYU 37 UCLA 34
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? Another toughy, but I think that cougars, being pure carnivores, would be more feisty than the omnivorous bear, except of course if the bear were guarding its cubs. A pyrrhic win for the Cougars.
Late Look - This game is going down to the wire. BYU leads 17-16 with about 2 minutes to go. Not quite the scoring fest I anticipated, but the Cougars may pull out a narrow win.
17-16 BYU holds up. (A pretty dry recap there. It turns out that BYU blocked a 28-yard FG attempt by UCLA as time ran out.) I'll watch the presidential polls to see if Romney gets a bump. BYU's record improves to a gaudy 11-2. UCLA drops below .500 at 6-7. Dadlak predictions are 4-1 overall and 2-3 vs. the spread.
Playing in semi-familiar surroundings with a better team, Boise State should be a big favorite in this one, unlike the heavy underdog they were in last year's Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma. I don't know enough about the underdog Pirate to root for them, so I'll pick and root for Boise State. It might be interesting to see if the Broncos play as well as big favorites as they did as heavy underdogs. ESPN will cover starting at 8 p.m. EST. Broncos are 10.5 point betting favorite. Dadlak Prediction: Boise State 50 East Carolina 31
The only game on Sunday, December 23 (due to a heavy NFL schedule, no doubt) is the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl from Honolulu, which matches the 2007 Fiesta Bowl darling and 24th-ranked Boise State Broncos (10-2 and second in the WAC) against the East Carolina Pirates (7-5) from Conference USA. The Broncos chose a trip to Hawaii over hosting the Humanitarian Bowl against Georgia Tech on December 31. A last-game loss may have kept Boise State, which boasted wins over bowl teams Southern Mississippi, Nevada and Fresno State, out of a BCS bowl. East Carolina started 1-3, but rallied to get to 7-5, missing a chance at the Conference USA championship with a November loss to Marshall.
Who Would Win Battle of Mascots? It's our first man vs. beast matchup. Assuming the pirates came armed with blunderbusses, cutlasses and such, I'd have to favor them, as long as the Broncos didn't run out of range such that the drunken buccaneers couldn't find them. In a forced choice, I'll take the Pirates, but it could be "no contest."
Hawaii Update - The score with 11 minutes left looks inverted as East Carolina leads Boise State 38-24. In the last few minutes the Bronco defense has stiffened, but their offense, especially QB Taylor Tharp, has struggled. Now they've moved the ball to the ECU 1-yard line. Now a short TD run by Harper pulls the score to 38-30. Still 7 minutes left. TD being reviewed. Should still be a TD. It is. Knee came close to touching turf, but didn't. PAT good. ECU lead down to seven.
ECU tried to regain the momentum with a QB change, but still went three and out. Boise regains the ball at their own 20. Gets a first down out to the 32 on a third down pass. 4:33 left. Pirates getting good pressure on Boise QB Tharp. Shovel pass picks up a first to the 48. Another short pass on 2nd down gets first at ECU 35. Pirates defensive secondary looks gassed. Boise playing no-huddle offense to prevent ECU blitzes. Now 3:30 left. 2nd and 10 after no-gain run. Tharp scrambles forward for six. Didn't look too smooth. Rain pouring down. Pass to tight end for first down at 23. 2:15 left. Screen pass well defended. Gain of one. Time out Broncos with 1:56 left. Overthrow. 3rd and 9. Short pass. Caught short of first down, but fumbled. Recovered by ECU. Could be game-clinching play for Pirates. Boise using time outs. 2nd and 5. Now ECU takes time out. Fumble by ECU back. Boise State CB recovers and weaves down sideline for a TD. Great blocking by Boise on the return. 38-37 ; now tied at 38. ECU gets another chance with 1:25 left.
Kickoff return comes out almost to the 40. ECU needs only a FG to win. Not sure how good their kicker is. First down run gets about three. 1:00 left. Throw high to sideline. 3rd and 5. Clock stopped at 0:46. Good pass on left sideline takes ball to Boise 25. Beautiful throw. 0:38 left. FG attempt likely unless ECU turns ball over again. Play being reviewed. Speculation is that ECU receiver may have gone out of bounds. Play not reviewable. Receiver was pushed out of bounds. QB keeper to 17. 0:15 left. Boise has one timeout. 2nd and 4. ECU to run another play. Keeper loses one. ECU time out at 0:11 to get FG team on. Ball in middle of field. 34-yard attempt. Boise calls last TO to ice the ECU kicker. Kick is good! Clock shows 0:00. ECU wins, 41-38! Big upset of heavily-favored Boise State team. ECU advances to 8-5. Boise State drops to 10-3; still another fine season for this mid-major powerhouse. Dadlak predictions are now 4-2 overall and 2-4 vs. the spread.
Central Michigan, which not too many years ago was Division I-AA school (they won the division championship in 1975 with a final game 54-14 win over Delaware), had an 8-5 season that featured some not-so-exciting wins in the MAC and devastations at the hands and feet of Kansas (52-7) and Clemson (70-14). I'll root for and pick the upstart Chippewas to gain revenge on the Boilermakers and expose Purdue's mediocre season for what it was. The best thing this game has going for it is a Wednesday evening time slot, when it's the only football game, pro or college, on that day. I'll think about watching it. ESPN's got this thriller in primetime (8 p.m. EST). Oddsmakers like Big 10's Purdue by 8.5. Dadlak Prediction: an upset, CMU 19 Purdue 16
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? Native Americans vs. mechanical engineers this time. Assuming the Chippewa were warlike and the engineers couldn't call in the cavalry, I'll take the Chippewas.
Motor City Bowl MVP Curtis Painter of Purdue admires his well-deserved trophy.
Game Update - I'm glad I didn't bet the over/under in this one. Halfway thru the 4th quarter Purdue leads CMU 48-41. Purdue QB Curtis Painter threw for 336 yards in the first half. CMU fans have filled Ford Field in Detroit, but their heroes will have to stage a comeback.Now five minutes to go, but Purdue has the ball again. They're backed up on their own 7 with a 3rd and 4. Now 3rd an 7 from the 4 after a penalty. Painter completes a pass to the 11 for the first down. Clock under 4 minutes. Chippewas will need to use timeouts. Pass caught. Receiver pushed OB. 3:21 left. Another first down pass to the 25. Chippewas have two TOs left. Clock under 3 minutes. 501 yards passing for Painter. Pass out of bounds stops the clock at 2:42. Second and ten. Surprised we didn't see a run there. Run for two yards. CMU calls time with 2:36 left. They have one TO left. Chippewas should get the ball back. Ball on 27 yard line. 3rd and 8. Pass batted but caught short of first down. Clock running. Now stopped at 2:15. Reset to 2:22. Three Boilermaker receivers over 100 yards each. Purdue punt goes out at CMU 35. 2:15 left, but no TOs left.
Chippewa QB is Dan Lefevour--one TD short of 20 rushing and 20 passing for the season. Sacked on first play. Inside 30 yard line. Near sack on next play. Lefevour races for sideline. 3rd and 16 with 1:46 left. Pass over the middle for a first down. Just across midfield. Another pass caught for a first down across the middle. Ball at Purdue 36. Lefevbre runs to the 20. Clock now at 1:14. Purdue calls time to slow down CMU and save time for their own response if CMU scores. Would CMU go for two and the win? Probably not. Fade route to goal line. Touchdown! 1:09 left. Scored too quick. Brian Anderson catches the TD pass. CMU lines up for PAT. It's good! Game tied at 48.
Short kickoff sets up Purdue at their own 39. First down pass to midfield. Can anyone play defense. CMU was down 34-13 at the half. Great comeback. Another first down pass inside the CMU 40. 0:44 left with a TO left. Long pass leads the receiver by about a yard. 2nd and 10. 0:35 left. Ball on CMU 38. Catch on about CMU 28. Pass to sideline. Caught at 20. Receiver pushed out of bounds. 0:12 left. One more play. Better not be a sack or fumble. Painter keeper puts ball in middle of field at the 23. 40-yard FG attempt could end the game. Purdue kicker Summers was 17-21. NFL accuracy. Long of 50 yards. 0:02 on clock. Right in the middle! Purdue wins 51-48. Dadlak predictions go to 4-3 straight up and 3-4 vs. spread. Purdue goes to 8-5. CMU drops to 8-6.
Great game. Something for everyone. A win for Purdue and a great comeback for Central Michigan, particularly considering the first game blowout by Purdue and the lopsided first half score. Sick stats by both QBs. Painter 35-54 for 543 yards and 3 TDs; Lefevour threw for 290 yards and 4 TDs and ran for 114 yards and 2 TDs. Announcers speculate that CMU coach Butch Jones will get the West Virginia job.
Two ranked teams match up in the next game, the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl on Thursday, December 27-- the second bowl in eight days in San Diego. The 12th-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils (10-2), led by old/new coach Dennis Erickson, tied USC for the best record in the Pac-10, but lost a lopsided head-to-head matchup and a Rose Bowl or even BCS Championship bid. They'll face the 17th-ranked Texas Longhorns (9-3) of the Big 12, who entered the season with national championship aspirations, but stumbled early with losses to Kansas State and Oklahoma, and late with a numbing 38-30 loss to Texas A&M, even while the Aggies were distracted by firing their coach. The Longhorns best win was in a 59-43 footrace with Texas Tech. I know more Longhorns than I know Sun Devils, so I'll root for Texas and pick them to bounce back from the loss to the Aggies and finish their season on a high note.
ESPN will have this game at 8 p.m. EST. It should be a good one, even taking the old-school bleatings of veteran play-by-play man Brent Musburger into account. Kirk Herbstreit will do the analysis. He's promised to "give up reporting" after his story that LSU head coach Les Miles would bolt for Michigan blew up on the day of the SEC Championship game. With a new LSU contract extension signed, Les now says that he'll assist the Michigan search, but will not be a candidate himself. I hope he focuses at least 99% of his effort between now and January 7 to preparing the Tigers to take on and beat Ohio State in the BCS Championship Game. Oddsmakers favor Longhorns by 2. Dadlak Prediction: Texas 39 Arizona St. 35
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? "Armed" with two long horns and an ornery disposition, the Longhorns would be appear to be no match for godlike devils wielding the power of the sun. A steak dinner is likely for the Sun Devils in this one.
Game Blog - The Longhorns jump out to a quick 7-0 lead and have the ball back. Interesting that they are favored despite Arizona State being ranked #11 and Texas #19. Respect for Pac-10 is pretty shallow--about Trojan deep. Horns pick up a first down at their own 20. Back later with an update.Texas has added another TD to lead 14-0 with about 3 minutes left in the first quarter. They look quicker than the Sun Devils.
It's beginning to look a little desperate for Arizona State. Texas just completed a TD pass to stretch their lead to 21-0. The first quarter is near a merciful end.An unbelievable play keeps things from getting even worse for the Sun Devils. Their QB gets sacked and lobs the ball backwards in an aborted attempt to pass. The ball rolls toward the sideline and is eventually recovered about 30 yards downfield by Texas. But wait a minute! As the ball neared the sideline, one of the Texas assistant coaches touched it in a misguided effort to keep it on the field for his team to recover. This resulted in a nullification of the fumble, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Texas, and first-and-goal Arizona State on the Texas 7-yard line. Great call by the officials. Hard to see whether the coach's thumb really contacted the ball, but he (and another coach) were definitely on the field. I think he deserved the penalty whether he touched the ball or not. Now the refs say it's not first and goal. Rather, fourth and three from the 7. Arizona State will go for it. Touchdown pass to #13, Chris McGaha--great catch while covered. Talk about a potential game-changing play. The Texas assistant (named Chris something - Chris Jessie, head coach Mack Brown's stepson, as it turns out) will never live that down, particularly if Arizona State comes back to win the game.
Now ASU is fired up. They stop a 3rd and 19 screen pass at the 4 and force a punt. Sun Devil ball at the Texas 40. 4th and 1 for ASU on the 31. They call time to make a decision. Seems like they should go for it. Lob pass to tight end is just high. Could have been caught but wasn't. Receiver was open. Pass too high. Should have been an easy completion.Texas takes over on downs. Whew! New QB for Longhorns--John Chiles--option specialist. Stopped on third down. Another punt. Faked! Run by upback gets the first down. Not by much. McCoy back in at QB. Completes pass across the middle for a first down. Flag down. Face mask on ASU. 15 yards added to the play. Ball inside ASU 30. Next pass thrown away on right sideline. McCoy scrambles to avoid a sack and gain a few yards. Personal foul on defense will give Texas a first down at the ASU 9. McCoy keeps on left side for a TD. Texas 28 Arizona State 7 after the PAT. Good recovery by Texas after the coach's error. Stopping ASU on fourth down, then fake punt were pivotal, though ASU helped with personal fouls.
ASU stopped near own 40. 3rd and 2. Timeout ASU. Now 4th and 7. ASU will punt. Plenty of time for Texas to add more. 3 minutes left in first half.Not happening so far. Longhorns have 3rd and 19. Will try to run clock here--force ASU to take last timeout. Shows you what I know. Short pass is incomplete. Texas punts with 2:13 left. ASU punt returner bobbles catch but recovers. ASU ball on own 37.
Short pass. Caught over middle. Run to midfield for first down, then fumbled out of bounds. Helped ASU with clock management. Next pass caught in bounds at Texas 45. Clock running now. ASU QB Rudy Carpenter sacked. Timeout ASU. 1:26 left. Carpenter sacked again. Texas calls timeout this time.Texas return man get to sideline. Gains out to own 45. Still 1:05 left. McCoy fires one into ground. Receiver covered. McCoy sacked and fumbles. ASU recovers at Texas 15. 0:52 left in first half. Throw out of back of end zone. No timeouts left for ASU. Carpenter rushed. Unloads. Almost intercepted by lineman. 3rd down. Pass for first down broken up. ASU will go for FG. Kicker is 22 for 23. Top FG man in country this year. Ball goes straight through uprights. Three for ASU. Score goes to 28-10 Texas. Good play by ASU pass rusher to force the fumble. McCoy tried to hold on but couldn't. Good job by Texas defense keeping ASU to a FG.
Longhorns return squib kick to own 33. Have 30 seconds. Mack Brown has seen enough. Calls for handoff. Gain of six, but Longhorns call timeout. McCoy passes for a first. Clock down to 0:11. Last play of half. McCoy keeps for about 15. Half ends.ASU moves ball well after second half kickoff. Kicker glances a FG off the right upright and through. 28-13 Texas. Still a ball game. Depends on who scores next.
Longhorns struggling on their turn. McCoy fumbles snap but recovers for loss of five. Short pass gets 3 back. McCoy sacked at the 7. Big loss. Momentum swinging to ASU. ASU fields punt. Takes over at Texas 40.Long pass into double coverage. Ball tipped away from receiver. Safety takes deflection for INT. Texas ball at the five. Two runs get three yards total. Fumble recovered by Texas. Delay of game puts ball back at the 4. Beautiful throw by McCoy and catch at sideline by Nate Jones. Gain of 19 and a first down. Dug Texas out of a hole there. Didn't want to give ball back to ASU so soon after the turnover. Now third and 7. McCoy runs for the first. He's not fast but he has good vision and feet. Flings next one out of bounds after some scrambling. Short gain by Charles. Has almost 100 yards rushing. Pass caught but tackled short of first down. Texas has to punt. Punt muffed by ASU return man. Recovered by Longhorns. 4:26 left in 3rd quarter. Could be killing turnover for Sun Devils.
First Texas run stopped for no gain. McCoy gets loose on a scramble. Runs to the 2, then fumbles. Big pileup in end zone. UT players signalling TD. Officials agree. Wow! Certainly a game of fumbles. A couple of Sun Devils had a shot at the fumble, but WR Nate Jones (make that Finley) recovered it for the TD. 35-13, Texas.ASU brings kickoff back to midfield. Maybe game not over yet. Carpenter fumbles snap. Has to recover and throw it away. Screen pass clicks for almost 30. Great block by monstrous #64 for ASU. Next pass batted, but floats OB. Next pass high. Receiver well covered. Third and 10. Carpenter throws off back foot. Lobs into end zone. #1 outjumps defenders for TD catch. PAT good. Score goes to 35-20 Texas. Game back in doubt.
Bouncing kickoff dribbled by Texas. Return only gets to 20. McCoy throws for the first. #8 catches. McCoy goes back to pass, then runs--gains 20 without coming close to being touched. Eases OB to end the play. Short gain by Charles. Inside ASU 40. QB draw by McCoy for almost 20 more. Short gain on bubble screen. 3rd quarter ends. Another TD here by Texas will make it real tough for ASU.Short pass leaves Horns with 3rd and 3. Could try a FG to stretch lead ot 18. McCoy finds his man Shipley for a first at about the 10. McCoy runs to the 4. Protected the ball well that time. Gives to Charles. Stopped for no gain. McCoy scrambles. Fires to zone, but Finley can't hang on. Bailey on to try FG. 21 yard attempt. No problem. 38-20 Longhorns. 12:58 left in game.
First play by ASU is an incompletion. Now fumble OB. Texas almost recovered in bounds, but couldn't hold on. Coach thinks they did. Next pass squirts forward for incompletion. Big rush by Texas. ASU punt shanked OB. Horns will start at ASU 40. One more Texas score will send me to bed.Chiles back in at QB. Good idea to give McCoy a rest. He works hard out there. Horns can run the ball with the big lead. Chiles keeps for first down. OB with 11:10 left. Next play is option pitch to #2 McGee for a 28-yard TD run--untouched. Now 45-20 Texas. Will let you know final score in a.m.
I'm back. Daughter has taken over bathroom and bed for personal beautification. ASU scored a quick TD to close gap to 45-27 with 8:55 left. Horns take over at own 40. McCoy is QB. Charles runs for first down before heading OB. Big stats for Charles--more than 1,500 yards rushing and 17 TDs for the season. Has 119 rushing yards in this one. Nice throw from McCoy to Shipley for a first down. Clock winding toward 7 minutes. Handoff to Charles. Short gain. Next carry is OB for a loss. 6:08 left. Third down pass leaves six yards on 4th down. Ball on ASU 35. Texas letting clock run. Takes timeout to avoid penalty. Will they go for it, try FG or punt? Go for it. Pass defended. ASU takes over on downs.5:17 left. A lot of wood to chop for ASU. Ball thrown away. Next one caught on short hop. 3rd down. Call challenged by Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson. He won't win this one.
Bathroom clean now. Off to bed. See you for a game or two tomorrow.Back again. ASU scored another. Drive led by backup QB. Score now 45-34 Texas.
Onsides kick. Texas recovers. Ball ripped away late, but officials keep it with Texas. Run gets 5. Clock at 3:00 and running. Run by Charles for first down. Clock running again. Now at 2:30. Charles takes handoff and scampers to end zone. ASU not playing real defense--just clawing at the ball. 51-34 Texas. Now I can definitely go to bed. Really. Hook 'em Horns!Texas added the PAT for the final 52-34 margin. QB Colt McCoy survived four fumbles. Both teams finish up at 10-3. Texas will no doubt be higher ranked in the post-bowl poll. Dadlak predictions move to 5-3 straight up and 4-4 vs. the spread.
The first of three bowls on Friday, December 28 is the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, where ACC runnerup and one-time #2 team (now #14) in the country, the Boston College Eagles (9-3), will face the less-than-mighty Michigan State Spartans (7-5). A loss to Florida St. knocked the Eagles off their lofty perch; a Maryland Terrapin attack (beware the turtle!) ended any national championship hopes; an ACC Final revenge loss to Virginia Tech dumped them from Orange to Champs Sports. Michigan State started fast with four wins; then lost five of six (including to Northwestern), but finished with wins over Purdue and Penn State to punch their ticket to Orlando. I don't remember Michigan State typically showing well in bowl games, so I'll pick and root for the Eagles, also in honor of the poor, downtrodden Boston sports fans, who will still have to wait at least another month for their next major sports championship. ESPN's coverage starts at 5 p.m. EST. Bettors like BC by 3.5. Dadlak Prediction: Boston College 27 MSU 20
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? Spartans lacked mechanized weapons (rifles, etc.), so I'm thinking that enough eagles who knew their goal would be able to win this one, a la "The Birds."
BC QB Matt Ryan tosses a beautiful scoring pass to #18 Gunnell--about 30 yards. BC leads 14-7.
Did you know that this bowl was called the Carquest Bowl in 1994? Does Carquest still exist? Did they find the car they were looking for?
MSU sacks Ryan back at the BC 17. Could give the Spartans a boost before halftime. They should get the ball near midfield. Shanked punt sails out at the BC 30. A 13-yard punt.
BC stops MSU on three plays, but Spartan FG is good. Score goes to 14-10.
ESPN color analyst Todd Blackledge has a report on pepperoni rolls in West Virginia. They look great, but I'm not sure of the relevance to this game. He's been eating in and talking about various college town restaurants all season. Tough work.
Ryan's pass is intercepted by a MSU linebacker. Returns to the BC 27. Great chance for Spartans to take the lead. Maybe not as Hoyer's pass is intercepted on first play. Great play by BC safety.
BC takes over on own 14. Halftime just a minute away. Ryan completes short pass for first down--by a couple of inches. Only 0:38 left in half. Handoff gets 3 or 4 and half will run out.
Second half begins with BC bringing the kickoff out to the 22. Ugly first half for both teams. MSU had three turnovers. Even with all that generosity, BC only leads by 4. False start puts BC in 3rd and 12. BC gained only four yards rushing in first half. Won't run here. Pass near a first down, but dropped after a hard hit. BC will punt. Caught and tackled at MSU 39.
MSU starts with run for 15. Another good run for about 12. Ball on BC 32. 13 more on next run. Now inside BC 20. New back turns a loss into a five yard gain. Nothing on next carry. #23 Ringer back in at tailback. Carried first three plays of drive. Determined effort, but about a yard short. Fourth and one from the 9. MSU going for it. Big #30 gets the first. Coaches love having a dominating running game. Play action would get wide open TD pass. Direct snap to Ringer. No gain. Ringer takes handoff. Gets a couple. All nine plays on this drive have been runs. Throw by Hoyer to end zone broken up. Ball floated for awhile, but no one in position to catch or intercept. FG attempt next. Kicker Swenson sneaks it through. 14-13, BC.
BC going for 8th straight bowl win. Who knew? Utah's win over Navy was their 7th straight bowl win.
BC moving the ball through the air. Gets a break on a pass interference call. Looked like good coverage to me.
BC trying FG. It's good. 17-13, BC.
BC gets ball back on MSU turnover (not sure what kind--was playing with my new camera) with about 5 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. 4th and 8 from MSU 26. BC goes for it. Receivers covered. Pass to sideline OB. MSU takes over on downs.
Quick break to go to papajohns.com to order pizza for daughter's slumber party. I'll provide a full report on this bowl-relevant experience.
I'm back. Had to register as a papajohns.com customer before I could order. Was a little confused about how many pizzas I was ordering, but all became clear. There were a lot of opportunities for me to buy stuff that I didn't want, including magazine subscriptions, but I resisted. Pizza will arrive in 31-41 minutes from 6:47 p.m, just in time for the girls, I hope.
Back in Orlando, the Spartans are working on a 3rd and 4 from near midfield. Score remains 17-13 BC. Screen pass is blocked by leaping lineman. Spartans punt to the end zone. Touchback.
10:25 left in game. Another BC touchdown would make life very tough for MSU. Still, BC can't run in game where they'd like to run the clock a little. Ryan completes a sideline pass for a first down. He throws a beautiful ball. Deep ball to Rich Gunnell. 68-yard TD pass. Ball a little underthrown, but Gunnell outfought the defender for position. PAT makes score 24-13 with 9:21 left.
MSU at own 48. Hoyer had a man open on the left sideline but missed him. 2nd and 10. 81 yards passing and 3 INTs for Hoyer. Deep ball overthrown. Receiver open. 3rd and 10. Hoyer runs for it. Stopped a yard short. 4th and 1. No decision here. #30 is a big back. 255 lb. Play action. Hoyer in trouble. Throws to back, but no connection. BC takes over on downs.
7:17 left. All BC needs is first downs. Ryan throws deep again. Receiver double covered. Throw sailes out of bounds. Draw play for four yards. 3rd and six. MSU calls time with 7:02 left. 3rd down pass to tight end complete for first down. Ball at MSU 45. Sack and fumble! Recovered by #70 of Spartans.
MSU starts from BC 45. Hoyer completes deep sideline pass. Beautiful catch at 14 yard line. Next pass thrown away. 2nd and 10. Hoyer scrambles. Finds #84 in back of end zone. Touchdown! Great play by Hoyer. MSU going for 2. Score is 24-19, BC. 6:04 left. 2-point pass complete to tight end #80. Pulls MSU to within three at 24-21. Was just thinking that BC had this one locked, barring a sack and fumble.
BC will start on the 27. Now things are much dicier for BC. Want to be more careful about passing, but have had no luck running. Ryan misses his target. 2nd and 10. Throw to sideline. Well covered. 3rd and 10. Clock not moving at all. Next pass goes off one BC receiver to another, but he can't hold on. BC has to punt. Michigan State return man muffs the punt, but Spartans cover at the 7. Net 66 yards on punt and return.
5:33 left. Nothing for Ringer. 2nd and 10. Short pass and run gets first down at 22. Deep throw. Receiver open. Official says out of bounds. Looks like he had left foot in bounds, but maybe before the catch. Call challenged. Replay indicates that call on field will be hard to reverse, but who knows. Call stands. 2nd and 10. Next pass fired out of bounds. 3rd and 10. Next pass a little high. Incomplete. Was short of first down anyway. MSU punt coming up. Pretty punt. Returned for 9 yards to BC 35.
First down run gets 8. Ideal play for BC. Clock under 4 minutes. Next run gains 1. Still need a foot. Spartans have two timeouts left. Ryan bobbles the snap. Has to fall on it. 4th and 3. MSU calls time. 2:45 left. Safety muffs punt. Covers at MSU 4.
Long way to go for Spartans, but they only need three points to tie. Hoyer throws from his end zone. Picked off by BC at MSU 30.
4th and 1 for BC with 0:49 left. Ryan sneaks for first. BC can run out clock and does. Final score, Boston College 24 Michigan State 21. BC's 8th straight bowl win. The Eagles go to 10-3. The Spartans drop to 7-6. Dadlak predictions are 6-3 straight up and 4-5 vs. spread. Emerald Bowl is next.
Number two on December 28 and tenth overall is the imaginatively named Texas Bowl in Houston. In my youth, the Houston bowl was called the Bluebonnet Bowl, which was then renamed the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl after moving to the Astrodome from Rice Stadium. Astro-Bluebonnets sound like a space station project. The Texas Bowl ought to be played in Texas Stadium, but instead is in Reliant Stadium in Houston. Enough of that. The Houston Cougars (8-4) of Conference USA are looking forward to sleeping in their own beds. Their opponents, the Texas Christian University (TCU) Horned Frogs (7-5) from the Mountain West Conference, make the trek down I-45 from Fort Worth. The Cougars are looking for their first bowl victory since 1980, but go into the game without their three top coaches, who all took new jobs after the regular season.
The Horned Frogs, alma mater of Billy Clyde Puckett and Marvin "Shake" Tiller from Dan Jenkins' classic comic football novel Semi-Tough, had a lopsided loss to Texas early, but their other four losses were by a total of 13 points. Their best win was a 37-0 thumping of bowl-bound New Mexico. In honor of Billy Clyde, Shake and their beloved Barbara Jane Bookman, I'll both root for and pick the Horned Frogs. NFL Network will cover this one, ensuring a pretty small audience. Oddsmakers like TCU by 4. Dadlak Prediction: TCU 31 UH 24
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? We've already picked the cougars to defeat bears, so surely they could take out some horned frogs, unless these are deadly poisonous. Research project. Horned frogs aren't poisionous, but they have to be orneriest amphibians on the planet. They can be 8" across; they have viselike jaws; and they're voracious carnivores that take on prey many times their own size (horses!)
TCU supported a strong passing game and defense with just enough running to pull out a 20-13 win over Houston in the Texas Bowl in Houston. Both Horned Frog touchdowns came on short runs. The only Cougar score came on a 64-yard pass in the first quarter. The Cougars kept firing, gaining 335 yards passing to just 32 running, but could manage only two field goals the rest of the way. Ten different players caught passes in the flexible TCU offense. Both teams finish the season at 8-5. Dadlak predictions go to 7-3 straight up and 5-5 vs. the spread.
In the last game on December 28, those not-so-fearful Maryland Terrapins (6-6) line up against the Oregon State Beavers (8-4) in the beautifully-named Emerald Bowl from San Francisco's even more beautiful AT&T Park. Perhaps there's no title sponsor because AT&T doesn't welcome competition. At 5-6 when they headed to NC State to play on November 24, the Terps rolled to Bowl-Eligible-Land with a monster-trucklike 37-0 crushing of the Wolfpack. They also beat Boston College, Georgia Tech and Rutgers and lost close games to Wake, Virginia, and UNC. All in all, a better season than the 6-6 record would indicate--maybe the country's best six-loss team, if anyone's counting.
Oregon State also started slow but finished strong--getting trounced by Cincinnati, Arizona State and UCLA in the season's first five weeks, but finishing strong with three wins, including an overtime triumph over rival Oregon, who were once #2 in the country. The numbers seem to favor the Beavers, who have the nation's 12th-ranked rushing defense, to stop a Maryland offense whose two top runners scored 25 of their 35 touchdowns on the ground. Oregon State is also playing closer to home. I'll pick them, but root for the Terrapins because of their great rallying cry, "Fear the Turtle!" The game starts at 8:30 EST and will be televised by whom else, ESPN. Betting favorite is OSU by 4.5. Dadlak Prediction: Oregon State 21 UM 17
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? Our first battle of the lowlands would have to favor the beaver, who I'm thinking includes turtles along with fish in its real-life diet.
Game Notes - This one starts just as the Champ Sports Bowl ends. Good timing. Pizza arrived a few minutes behind the promised 31-41 minute window, but in time for girls, some of whom returned from the movie just as the pizza showed up.
Will let this game get rolling and come back to it.
Maryland gets the first score on a 10-yard TD pass. The play before was strange as the Maryland receiver clearly ran out of bounds then back in to make the catch. It didn't look like the receiver was pushed out. Apparently none of the officials saw it. Not sure if Oregon State could have challenged. In any event, the score is 7-0 Terrapins.
Wife calling "chat with me" from other room. Back later.
Beavers have evened the score at 7-7. Just over 2 minutes left in first half.
Maryland gets another TD. Will have to check out how they did it. Lead 14-7 with 12 seconds left in first half. OSU pass incomplete. Half ends. Whoops. Make that first quarter. Game not moving as fast as I thought. Maryland QB Chris Turner found receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey for a 63-yard TD pass.
Sack causes OSU QB to fumble. Recovered by Terps. Am yawning here. Combination of Papajohn's pizza and pinot noir. Some excitement from the field. Turner throws straight to OSU defender (receiver fell down). INT return went to end zone but not without a step OB at the 37. Beavers fumble on next play to return ball to Terrapins.
Now Maryland QB fumbles while being sacked, but ball squirts forward a couple of yards and is covered by a Terrapin lineman. OSU takes over after ensuing punt at midfield. Reading break. Getting a little punchy on too much football. Back after halftime.
Now it's time for "Fashionably Late with Stacy London" on TLC. The daughter of one of my best friends ("TJ") is expected to appear. The concept appears for the host to call people out of the audience and comment on their outfits. Ms. London is also the host of another fashion show, "What Not to Wear", that is a regular staple of my daughter's TV diet. In that show she and her co-host throw out all the clothes of a "regular" person and help them buy a new wardrobe in New York. No sign of TJ yet on this show.
Now the "Take Home Chef", Aussie Curtis Stone, is the guest. He is poaching strawberries in champagne. 9:19. Cooking is complete. Still no TJ.
Next comes a fashion upgrade for a celebrity followed by a segment on online dating. 9:29. No TJ.
Now it's a segment on men's T-shirts. 9:39. No TJ.
Next comes designer jeans. Most of this stuff is lost on me, though I have watched many episodes of "What Not to Wear."
9:44. TJ must be in the audience somewhere, but I can't spot a specific blonde that I'm sure is her.
Next comes interior design, Hollywood style. I promise to get back to football as soon as this is over.
9:50. We're in the home stretch of Fashionably Late. The Emerald Bowl is tied at 14 midway through the 3rd quarter.
It's over (the fashion show). I'm sure she was there somewhere, but she was hard to pick out of an audience composed mostly of young women.
Now I'm ready for my reading break. Emerald update later tonight or tomorrow morning.
It's Saturday morning. The Beavers ran over the Terrapins, 21-14, scoring a third quarter TD and dominating the 4th quarter with a ground game that amassed 275 yards. Star running back Yvenson Bernard (a name that belongs in Louisiana) gained 177 yards on 36 carries. Running mate James Rodgers added 115 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown (a run of "0" yards--I'm not sure how that happened--he recovered Bernard's fumble in the end zone) after catching a TD pass earlier in the game. Oregon State goes to 9-4. Maryland drops to 6-7 to become perhaps the best seven loss team in the country after another close loss to a good team. Dadlak picks are now 8-3 overall and 5-6 vs. the spread.
Your patience during the fashion show is appreciated. I promise there will be no similar tangents during today's action.
After the Emerald Bowl finishes at about midnight Friday (barring overtimes), have a couple of beers to celebrate and wind down, grab a few hours of sleep, and wake up before noon to prepare for Saturday, December 29, a second straight three-bowl-game day (plus whatever the NFL might offer). My friend from our twenties swore by Cocoa Krispies and beer for breakfast. This may or may not work for you. The action starts at 1 p.m. on ESPN with the Meineke Car Care Bowl from Charlotte, NC. I think that this bowl was invented for Meineke and hasn't ever had a real name. Matching up are those storied East Coast football programs, the Connecticut Huskies (9-3) and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (8-4) (oops--that's basketball powerhouses). The Huskies were having a great season until they got trounced by Cincinnati and pulverized (66-21) by West Virginia in two of their last three games. Still they beat Rutgers and once-#2 South Florida, improved from 2006's 4-8 record, and tied West Virginia for best record in the Big East at 5-2.
The Deacons (don't you wonder about Demon Deacons as a nickname for a school founded by a religion?) are making their second straight bowl appearance for the first time in their history. Their best wins were over bowl teams Florida State and Navy. Both teams are in the top 40 nationally in yardage defense, pointing to a close game. I don't have a strong feel or rooting interest in this game. I'll pick the Deacons, for their stronger competition in the ACC, and root for the Huskies, who once played Delaware in the Yankee Conference in Division I-AA. Oddsmakers like Wake by 3. Dadlak Prediction: Wake 37 UConn 28
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? This one comes down to just what level of demon the deacons are. If they're just misbehaved, I'll go with the Huskies. If the demon part means supernatural, then the Deacons are the choice. Being more into symbolism than the supernatural, I'll go with the Huskies.
Game Update - Whoopee! More football. We're six minutes into the first quarter of a scoreless Meineke Bowl. Wake Forest is playing in black uniforms with gold numerals; Connecticut in white with blue numerals. The Deacons try for a 3rd and 14, but can only get 10 despite best efforts of QB and receiver. Punt hits at the 1, but WF coverage can't control it. Touchback.
Connecticut gets one first down, but can't move it further. Great punt and coverage makes Wake start on their own 10. Make that the 5 after a personal foul on Wake. Game of punts so far.
Good stretch to catch a screen pass, but a dive comes up just short of a first down at the Wake 14. Another punt. Driving kick forces Connecticut return man Larry Taylor back to the 32. He muffs the ball, picks it up at the 26, and runs all the way down the right sideline for a touchdown. Official return yardage is 68. 7-0, UConn. Muff may have thrown off the rhythm of the Deacon's coverage.
Wake starts at own 26. Moves the ball a little, but has to punt after long 3rd down pass is broken up by UConn defender. UConn has ball on their own 20. Punt return for TD is only difference in game so far as both teams have struggled to move the ball. UConn gets the first on a short pass. Pass to RB gets another 9 yards out to UConn 35. Another first on a run out near midfield. Play action pass incomplete.
Wake with the ball now. Long pass draws interference call. Looked overthrown to me. Coverage looked OK to. Wake moves up to own 45 on the 15-yard foul. Screen pass brings up 3rd and 2. Great effort by Deacon back Kenny Moore gets a first down. Other back did a great job picking up the blitz. More good work by Wake QB Riley Skinner avoiding the pass rush. Finds open receiver downfield for a first down. Offenses working a little better now. Reverse on 2nd and 6 loses a bunch. Well defended by UConn. Now 3rd and 15. Pass intercepted at 9-yard line. Nice leaping grab by #33. UConn's lead safe for time being.
UConn back Donald Brown loose on the sideline. Finally pushed OB at WF 32. 58-yard run. Biggest play from scrimmage by far in this game. Now 3rd and 11. Good pass by QB Tyler Lorenzen, a lefty. Receiver came back to get the ball, then pivoted and recovered the first down. Ball on Wake 18. Run by Brown loses 4. Fake reverse. QB keeper gets loss yardage back. 3rd and 10. UConn should protect the FG attempt here. Back to pass. Can't find anyone. Lorenzen runs, but can't get to first down marker. FG attempt good by Cirivaino. 10-0, UConn. 5:00 left in first half.
Kickoff rolls through end zone. Deacons will start on 20. Good throw and catch. Skinner to Moore for 30+. Six catches for Moore already. Check off to Moore gets about 5. 3rd and 4. Pass over middle broken up. 4th and 4. Wake coach thinks. Calls timeout. Ball is near midfield. I think they'll go for it. Of course, they punt. Out of bounds at 13. 3:13 left in half.
Third and 3 and after two runs. Big play for Wake. Lorenzen stopped short. Refs call time for measurement. Now Wake takes time. 1:42 left.
Fair catch of punt. Wake takes over at own 30. Eight yard pass. Hurry up offense. Skinner runs for first and gets OB. Takes a hard hit. 1:03 left. Pocket collapses. Skinner sacked for loss of 11. That could do it for the half. Wake taking their time now. UConn calls time at 0:41. Running play stopped at 39. 3rd and 13. No more play. 10-0, UConn at the half.
Off to get an oil change (not at Meineke Car Care). Back for some of the 2nd half.
Wake needed me to leave. They won the 3rd quarter 14-0 and added a field goal to take a 17-10 lead with 10 minutes to go.
Now UConn is going for it on 4th and 5. The pass is broken up. Wake takes over at their own 40. Skinner has completed 27 of 33. Moore has caught nine balls. RB Josh Adams contributed a 38-yard TD run. Skinner just overthrew a wide open Moore on a deep sideline route. 3rd and 10. Good catch by Moore over the middle for a first down. Ball at UConn 43. It's a new world for traditional football doormat Wake Forest. They played in the Orange Bowl last year. Screen pass to Moore stopped for a loss. 4th and 7. Wake will punt for sideline. Caught at 10 yard line.
A loss and a gain leave UConn with 3rd and 1 from their own 19. Clock under 6 minutes. Lorenzen hits wide open tight end to the 38. Screen pass sniffed out by WF. Loses seven. Lorenzen overthrows his man. 3rd and 17. 4:25 left. UConn calls time.
Long pass by Lorenzen. Broken up by #24. Saving play. UConn punt taken by Moore. Short return to Wake 38. Roll out pass incomplete. Expected a run there. 3:59 on clock. Run stopped at 40. 3rd and 8. Skinner scrambles and makes first down by plenty. No linebacker in the middle. Ball at UConn 41. Wide run to right loses four, but clock runs. UConn calls last timeout at 2:41. Straight handoff breaks through the line for a big gain by senior RB Micah Andrews. Wake lets play clock run to 0:01 and calls time out. 2:06 left in game. Handoff to fullback. More good running. 5-yard gain. Ball snapped at 0:01 on play clock. Another run. 3rd and 4. Game clock under 1 minute. Now 0:35. Another Wake timeout. One more snap should do it. Andrews takes it in for a touchdown. 23-10, Wake. Hit three times but still scored. 24-10. 0:29 left for the UConn comeback. Would have been the place for the kneel down at the 1. Wake could have run clock out on next play. Now they have to kick off. Wake doused their coach, Jim Grobe already.
Squib kick returned to UConn 43. Backup QB Dennis Brown heaves the ball to the Wake 2. Some throw. Next throw only makes it to the 8. UConn receivers nowhere near the ball. 0:07 left. Last heave coming up. Brown hit as he throws. Ball sails OB.
Game over. Wake Forest 24 Connecticut 10. Wake defense was terrific throughout. Only 212 total yards and 9 first downs for UConn. Dadlak predictions go to 9-3 straight up and 6-6 vs. spread.
Central Florida running back Kevin Smith led the nation in rushing during the regular season but was held down by the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the Liberty Bowl.
One of the most intriguing matchups takes place next on December 29 in the venerable Auto Zone Liberty Bowl from Memphis, TN, where Conference USA champions University of Central Florida Golden Knights (10-3) tackle the Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-5) of the SEC. The Golden Knights, not highly regarded at the start of the season, lost only one conference game to East Carolina and were trounced severely in a out-of-conference backyard brawl with South Florida. However, they lost to Texas early by just three, and finished with seven straight wins to claim the Conference USA title. Here's a few more facts about UCF from Orlando, FL. Their football program produced NFL quarterback Dante Culpepper. The school has the largest undergraduate enrollment in Florida and 49,000 students overall. Their best player, running back Kevin Smith, rushed for a Sandersesque 2,400 yards and 29 touchdowns and got zero consideration for the Heisman Trophy. Can you say "lack of respect?"
Missisippi State earned their early-season lack of respect with a 45-0 shellacking by LSU in their season opener. After eight games they were 4-4, having upset Auburn, but been just trounced by West Virginia. They went to Lexington and turned around their season with a dominating 31-14 win over the then-ranked Kentucky Wildcats. The next week they parlayed a 100+ yard interception return into a 17-12 upset of Alabama. In the Egg Bowl, they rallied from 0-14 to beat Mississippi by 17-14, a win that earned head coach Sylvester Croom SEC Coach of the Year honors. After many downtrodden years, a 7-5 record and a bowl game, even in nearby Memphis, must look pretty good to Bulldog fans. Mississipi State played good defense (less than 20 points surrendered) in all their wins. They'll have to do that to beat high-powered UCF. I look for UCF to continue their push for respect with a win; but I'll root for the Bulldogs, as I have many friends at work who are Bulldog alums. ESPN has the game starting at 4:30 p.m. EST. UCF garners enough respect from oddsmakers to be 3-point favorite. Dadlak Prediction: UCF 34 MSU 27 (overtime)
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? Another man vs. dog battle in this one. I'm thinking that armor, spears and the like will be more effective than Bibles and threats of hellfire and damnation vs. even the most determined Bulldog. Gotta go with the Golden Knights in this one.
Game Recap - The Golden Knights proved empty shells as they fell to Mississippi State 10-3. Bulldogs' RB Anthony Dixon scored the game-winning TD on a one-yard run with less than 2 minutes to play. UCF was hampered by a 10-24 with 3 INT performance by their QB Kyle Israel and a strong Bulldog run defense that held star running back Kevin Smith to 119 yards on 35 tough carries. The teams combined for only 23 first downs in a somewhat unexpected defensive struggle. Dadlak predictions fall to 9-4 overall and 6-7 against the spread.
December 29 wraps up with the Valero Alamo Bowl from where else but San Antonio, TX. In an unusual coincidence, the two schools playing in the game share a word in the name of their home town. The Big 12's Texas A&M Aggies (7-5) from College Station, TX play the Big 10's (actually 11) Penn State Nittany Lions (8-4) from State College, PA. The teams finished with identical 4-4 conference records. But there are differences. Penn State coach Joe Paterno has been at Happy Valley since God was a kid (this game will be Paterno's 500th as a head coach and 34th bowl game), while Texas A&M fired their coach Dennis Franchione at the end of the season for selling insider e-mails to boosters. On the field, their season-ending 38-30 win over Texas both pushed the Aggies above .500 and probably rescued their bowl hopes, as otherwise they would have ended the season with a four-game losing streak and 6-6 record. An overtime win over bowl-bound Fresno State and a 1-point win over Oklahoma State were highlights in a season marred by lopsided losses to Big 12 powers Oklahoma and Missouri and to ACC non-power Miami.
Penn State had its chances for a great season, but stumbled in close losses to Michigan and Illinois, and in a disappointing drubbing by Ohio State at home, when much of the world was looking for a Lion upset. Then a last game loss to Michigan State probably kept them out of a New Years' Day bowl. Still, they trounced Wisconsin and Iowa and beat Purdue. For most schools, this would result in a successful season, but not for Penn State. As JoePa said, "We should have been a 10-2 team, but we weren't." I'll have no problem rooting for the Lions in this one. My niece will graduate from Penn State sometime next year (or maybe this year). The whole paramilitary Aggie culture makes me a little nervous. And even though Penn State will travel halfway across the country while the Aggies ride in busses down I-10, I think the Lions will prevail in the game as well. The oddsmakers favor Penn State by 5-1/2. Dadlak Prediction: PSU 24 A&M 16. Chris Fowler, Doug Flutie and Craig James might provide some decent coverage on ESPN starting at 8 pm EST.
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? This one could go either way. If the Aggies bring their loaded weapons from their ROTC drills, they win. If they bring laptops and designs for an irrigation system, they lose. I'm guessing they'll bring the former.
Game Update - Penn State spotted the Aggies a 14-0 lead but have come back to lead 17-14 at halftime. The Lions have both the lead and the statistical domination (244 yards to 111 yards), bad signs for the Aggies, though they trail by only three points. This game is competing for the attention of football fans with the NFL game between the Patriots and Giants, in which the Pats go for the NFL's first 16-0 regular season record. The Giants are resisting gallantly and lead 21-16 at the half.
Both the Giants and Pats scored touchdowns in the 3rd quarter, so the Giants' lead remains five at 28-23. Down in San Antone, the Nittany Lions hold onto their three point lead with 11 minutes left in the 3rd quarter.
I don't know why, but I find myself rooting for the Giants to break up the Pats' undefeated season, and I almost have never rooted for the Giants since converting from being a Giants fan to an Eagles fan back in the early '70s.
The Aggies are threatening to score at the Alamo Bowl. They are at the Penn St 21, 2nd and 6. Pass out of bounds. 3rd and 6. Aggie drive started on their own 1. Another pass out of bounds. FG attempt upcoming. Could tie the game for A&M. Kick sails right and then left--finishes in the middle. 17-17.
Back to New Jersey. Giants have 3rd and 11 from their own 28. Eli calls time.
Tonight's tangent is a little more relevant than "Fashionably Late". Again, I apologize for that one.
The Giants can't convert a 3rd and 11. Pats take over at own 34. Brady fires over head of Welker. Moss drops underthrown Brady pass at NY 15. Same play next time. Brady hits wide open Moss for TD. 65-yard play. Record 50th TD pass of season for Brady. Record 23rd TD reception of season for Moss. Pats go for two. Maroney runs it in. 31-28, Pats. Tough blow for Giants to absorb and recover from.
Nice kickoff return out to the 37. Flag on field. Personal foul of some kind. Late hit on Giants. Giants will start at own 22. Didn't see that foul on the replay. Giants' shooting themselves in foot. Holding on run for first down. Pats call time.
Alamo Bowl still tied at 17 as 3rd quarter winds down. #22 breaks through line for Lions. Easy TD run. 23-17 Penn State. PAT good. Lions lead 24-17.
Manning overthrows receiver on sideline. #27 intercepts for Patriots.
Brady passes to Stallworth for first down. Sack on blitz by linebacker Torbor. Completion to Welker. 3rd and 11. Complete across middle to Faulk. He breaks a tackle for the first down. Maroney stopped at 20 after 3-yard gain. Giants can't afford to give up a TD. Only 7 minutes left. Maroney stopped in backfield. Great play by Strahan. Pushed two blockers into the ballcarrier. 3rd and 9. Brady finds Welker for the first. 11 catches for Welker. Moss catches and gets tackled inside the five. Looking tough for Giants. Clock at 5:00. Maroney runs it in. 37-28 Pats. Pat PAT makes it 38-28. 4:36 left. 21 straight points for Pats.
Back to San Antonio. 4th quarter starts with Penn State holding 24-17 lead.
Giants will start on 33. Need lightning. Jacobs gets 6. Pats add personal foul. Ball inside Pats' territory. Completion for 8. Hurry up offense. Not much for Jacobs. 3rd and 1. Manning completes pass to Smith for first down. Ball on Pats' 27. Wounded duck short of Toomer. Clock stops at 2:36. Jacobs catches a pass for nine. Manning sneaks for first. Two minute warning. I'll keep it in NJ until this game ends. Manning to Smith to 4-yard line. Giants slow to get to line. Manning misses Burriss on fade route. 1:16 left. 2nd and goal. Pats call time. Great game by Pats under extreme pressure against game opposition. Giants played hard the whole way, even though game meant nothing to them. Complete to #85 for loss of two. Giants call time out. Pats offside. Ball moves to three. Manning to wide open Burriss for TD. 38-34. PAT and onside kick coming. There's the PAT for 38-35. 1:04 left.
Vrabel takes onsides kick out of the air. Just one Giant TO left. Pats in victory formation. Giants call last time out. History is 1:01 away, once the clock starts. Two kneel downs. That's it. 38-35, Patriots. Undefeated regular season complete. Congrats to Pats on history-making run.
Back in San Antonio, Penn State retains their 24-17 lead with 10 minutes left in the Alamo Bowl. Aggies are driving, though. Now inside the Lions' five yard line. 3rd down and 3 play coming up. Aggies call time. Running play short of first down at the 1. 4th and very short. Expect Aggies to go for it here. They do. QB slips down on option play. Lions covered options very well.
Lions take over on downs at their own 6. 93-yard drive by Aggies gets nothing.
Run by #20 gets a first down across the 15. 126 yards for Rodney Kinlaw. He runs for another first near the 30. Clock approaching 7 minutes. Only 3 for Kinlaw on next carry. Good drive already for Lions. Got ball away from own end zone. Pass to sideline. Gets first down. Clock under 6 minutes. Sweep by #22. Goes down in bounds after gain of 4. Kinlaw tripped up for no gain. Clock under 5 minutes. 3rd and 6. Pass is wide of target. Lions will punt. 4:09 left. Touchback. Aggies will start at 20 with 3:59 left, needing TD and PAT to tie.
Joe Pa thinks his punter was roughed, but no call. Shovel pass moves ball to 30. Run for first down past 40. Clock at 3:30. Sideline pass. Tackled in bounds for no gain. Great play for Lions. Aggie QB scrambles OB. Holding coming against Aggies. Clock stopped at 2:23. 2nd and 20. Aggies' fans glum. Pass out of bounds. 3rd and 20. 2:16 left. Two plays left for Aggies. Pass under pressure short hops receiver. 4th and 20. Aggie QB gets crushed. Aggies send out punter. Touchback. Lions' ball at 20.
Handoff to #22. He gets 7. Aggie TO at 1:56. First down carry by #22. Handoff gets three more. Clock at 1:22. Last TO by Aggies? #22 carries for five. Last handoff. Clock can run out now. Penn State wins, 24-17, over Texas A&M. Dadlak predictions now 10-4 straight up and 7-7 vs. the spread. My prediction of 24-16 was just one point off the final score.
There's just one bowl game on Sunday, December 30, the Petro Sun Independence Bowl from Shreveport, LA. I wish I had better news for you about the matchup. Not one, but two 6-6 teams will take the field in this game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Colorado Buffaloes. I guess being below average in above-average competition is worth something. If there's any justice, the wind will be blowing from the northwest on the night of the game, maybe with some of Shreveport's famous freezing rain thrown in. Both teams will be trying to avoid back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in many years. Putting a nicer face on the situation, Alabama was in every game but one, a blowout by Tennessee. They played national powers LSU and Georgia to near-standstills. Losses to bowl-bound Florida St. and Auburn were by only 7 points each. They beat Cotton Bowl-bound Arkansas on a last-second pass. Still, there's that Holocaust-like loss (to paraphrase Coach Nick Saban (or Nick Satan, as he's known in Baton Rouge--quite a fall from Saint Nick after the Tigers won the 2003 national championship) to Louisiana-Monroe at home, after which the Tide responded heroically by losing their blood rivalry game to Auburn the next week.
Speaking of blood, here's one more Alabama story--for years I had my daughter believing that the nickname Crimson Tide came from Alabama's desire to beat their opponents so badly as to create a river of blood on the field. "Bloody river! That's terrible!" she would moan. The reference is actually to red clay soil of central Alabama.
Colorado had two great wins over Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Otherwise they got beat or trounced by bowl-bound teams. They did get past in-state rival Colorado State (3-9) in OT and handle Big 12 doormats, Baylor and Nebraska (scoring 65 points against the 'Huskers porous defense.) Boy, it's hard to pick a rooting interest or a winner in this one. I'll pass on rooting, and pick the Tide to prevail. For Alabamans, Coloradans and the truly addicted, ESPN's coverage starts at 8 p.m. The betting line favors the Tide by 3.5. Dadlak Prediction: Tide 23 Buffaloes 17
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? In the strangest matchup since Native Americans vs. mechanical engineers, buffalo take on an inanimate stream of red mud. If the mud is thick and deep enough, the buffalo will get bogged down and starve. I can't see what damage buffalo can do to mud. Mud wins.
Game Report - I resisted this one and watched the first half of the Colts and Titans before going to bed (the Titans won 16-10 to claim the last NFL playoff spot). The Tide prevailed, 30-24--exactly my predicted point spread. Dadlak predictions go to 11-4 straight up and 8-7 vs. the spread.
First up on New Year's Eve at 12:30 p.m. EST is time for the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl from Fort Worth, TX. Yet another 6-6 team, the California Bears of the Pac-10 made the cut and will face the Air Force Academy Falcons (9-3) of the Mountain West Conference. The Bears may have taken the most Daedulus (or was it Icarus?)-like plunge this season, peaking at #2 in the country with a 5-0 record and wins over Tennessee and Oregon, then losing 6 of their last 7, including a "Big Game" loss to Stanford to end it all. By contractual obligation one assumes, the Bears plummeted into the Armed Forces Bowl berth.
Coming off three straight losing seasons, not much was expected of Air Force, but they ended up second to BYU in Mountain West, losing only to the Cougars, to the Navy and to also-bowl-bound New Mexico. As usual, Cal is a throwing team and Air Force, despite their job training, moves the ball on the ground. My politics fit better at Berkeley than in Colorado Springs, but I'll root for the Falcons anyway, and pick them to win over the bedragggled (three "g's"--that's really bedraggled) Bears. Oddsmakers still think Cal has something left, favoring the Bears by 3-1/2. Dadlak Prediction: A mild upset (if beating a team that's lost six of seven can be an upset) AFA 27 Cal 21. ESPN will televise.
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? This is a tough one. Enough falcons could probably take out one bear, but not a whole whatever-they-call-a group of bears. One-on-one, maybe a bear could take down a falcon with a quick paw swipe. Bears in a close call.
Game Update - Work let out early so here I am at home just in time for halftime of the Armed Forces Bowl. Does a service academy always compete in this bowl? Apparently not, but up until this year the game was known as the Fort Worth Bowl, so it wasn't really an issue. Utah beat Tulsa in last year's game. The bowl committee may try hard to invite a service academy to future games, but the field is limited, of course, to Air Force, Navy and an Army team that wins about two games per year.
This year a fine 9-3 Air Force squad leads Cal 21-14 at halftime. The Falcons have thrown only three passes compared to 31 runs, but one pass was for a touchdown. Cal QB Kevin Riley brought the Bears back from a 21-0 first quarter deficit with two second quarter TD passes. He completed 9 of 11 passes for 122 yards and the two touchdowns.
Air Force catches a big break early in the 2nd half when a fumble call is reversed, leaving the Falcons with the ball at the Bears' 5-yard line. Based on the replay we saw on TV, I thought the call would be upheld--the play was just too close to call. The Bears' defense stiffens, and the Falcons will have to try a FG. Kick is through the middle. 24-14 Air Force.
Cal moving the ball now. Tailback just hurdled a tackler. Ball on AFA 19. TD pass to#2 Jordan on the next play. Deficit cut to 24-21.
I'm finishing Chris Rose's "1 Dead in Attic" during the many commercials. The book is a compilation of his columns in the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper in the year following Hurricane Katrina. As a Louisianan, I've read several books about the storm and its aftermath. Rose's is the most intensely personal, even though his family and home suffered very little direct damage. As a newspaper columnist and longtime resident of the city, Rose reacted to Katrina like an uber-citizen, feeling the loss of his neighbors and friends and of the city as a whole.
Air Force goes for it on 4th down and make the necessary yardage on an option pitch. Next comes a beautiful catch on the right sideline, then a 3rd down pass down the middle to the Bears' five. 1st and goal. Run gets to the three. Next run to the one. QB Shaun Carney stopped at one. Fumbles, but Air Force recovers. Carney holding knee. Right leg looks bad on replay. Got hit from both directions at same time. Carney carried off field and laid out on stretcher. Air Force adds the FG to extend lead to 27-21.
Big loss for Air Force. Carney had 108 yards rushing and two TDs, plus one TD pass. Cal gets ball near midfield after short kickoff. Long pass moves ball to AF 4. QB draw stoppped near goal line. Forsett walks in on next carry. Game tied for the moment. Good PAT gives Cal the lead, 28-27. Big comeback from 21-0 deficit.
Both the Humanitarian Bowl and Sun Bowl are underway--led by Fresno St. 10-7 over Ga. Tech, and by Oregon 8-3 over South Florida. Not sure I'm up to multibowl live blogging. Will check those games when this one ends.
Air Force goes three and out. Bad timing with Cal going so well. End of three quarters. Cal 28 Air Force 27.
Bears take over at own 24 after a good punt. 3rd and 9 after incompletion and short run. Beautiful throw down the middle gains about 30. Big play for Cal. Riley now 15-18, 254 yards and 3 TDs. 3rd and 6 after two runs. Another strike on a crossing route to Jordan. Ball at AF 25. #20 runs 21 yards for a touchdown. Cal lead grows to 34-27. Looking unstoppable now. 35-27 after PAT. Carney being prepped for trip to locker room. He asked to stay on sideline for awhile after his injury. 3rd down pass comes up 3 yards short. Falcons going for it. Get the yardage plus a 15-yard penalty. Ball at Cal 34. 3rd and 11. Smith keeps for half of it. Ball near the Cal 30. AFA lines up for FG. Slides it through on right hand side. Lead cut to 5. 35-30.
Cal churns downfield once again, all on the ground. Riley scores on a QB draw from the 2. 41-30 Cal. PAT pushes lead to 42-30. 6:13 left.
FGs against TDs won't get it done for Air Force. Now they need two TDs and a shutout the rest of the way.
Falcons have ball at midfield with 5 minutes left. Run-oriented offense not the best for comebacks. Hard to believe that Cal lost six of their last seven. Smith keeps for a first down to the Cal 35. Pass to end zone knocked away. A run gets stuffed at the line. AF calls time. 4:08 left. Incomplete swing pass. 4th and 9. Last chance for Air Force. Pass incomplete. Ball goes to Cal on downs.
New life for Falcons. Forsett fumbles first handoff. Air Force ball at 37. Pass is short. 3:42 left. Option pitch dropped for three yard loss. 3rd and 13. Pass to end zone overthrown. Another last chance. First down completion over the middle to tight end. Ball inside Cal 20. Pass knocked down. 2:42 left. Smith on option keeper to the three. Chad Hall scores on run up the middle. 42-36, Cal. At 5'8", Hall is tough to see. Air Force lines up for 2-point play; then calls time out. Timeout more valuable than extra point.
Music City Bowl follows this one. Will still be three games going at once. Kentucky and Fla. State in that one. Hall stopped on two point run. 2:22 left.
Cal snags the onsides kick. Air Force calls last time out with 2:17 left. Ball at Air Force 38. Forsett carries to 34. 3rd and 4. 1:59 left. Timekeeping error--corrected by adding 18 seconds. Forsett gets first down. Should wrap up the win for Cal. Only 1:21 left. Victory formation. Cal wins 42-36. Very good game. Air Force outmanned after injury to their star QB. Dadlak predictions go to 11-5 (straight up) and 8-8 (vs spread).
Next on New Year's Eve is the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl from Boise, Idaho where the head coachless Georgia Tech Yellowjackets (7-5) from the ACC face the Fresno State Bulldogs (8-4) of the WAC. The Bulldogs were just a few points from a great season, losing to Texas A&M by 2 in OT and to Hawaii by 7. Their other losses were to bowl teams Boise State and Oregon (with Dennis Dixon). Best wins were over bowl-bound Nevada and Big 12 club Kansas State. Georgia Tech opened in high style--wiping out Notre Dame and Samford by a combined 102-17 before hopscotching through the rest of the campaign with a 5-5 record. A sixth straight loss to Georgia sealed Coach Chan Gailey's fate. Something tells me that the Yellowjackets' ACC membership will make them the favorites, so I'll root for and pick Fresno State. The line favors the Jackets by 4-1/2. Dadlak Prediction: An upset; Fresno State 31 Georgia Tech 25. ESPN2 has coverage starting at 2 p.m. EST.
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? One-on-one, you gotta go with a bulldog, though he might play with the yellowjacket for awhile before eating it.
Game Update - Fresno State is looking good, leading 34-21 at the start of the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs' balanced offense has amassed 444 yards of total offense.
Fresno State tacks on a TD with less than two minutes to go. They lead 40-28. That's the final score. Dadlak picks are 12-5 straight up and 9-8 vs. the spread.
In El Paso, TX, the Sun Bowl (also on New Year's Eve) has a matchup of two teams that were flying high at #2 for at least a week. Like counselor Whittington that day with Vice President Dick Cheney, the Oregon University Ducks of the Pac-10 went down after an injury to their Heisman Trophy candidate QB Dennis Dixon, falling from an 8-1 record and #2 ranking to an 8-4 finish, including an overtime loss to archrival Oregon State, which probably cost them a spot in a New Year's Day bowl. The University of South Florida Bulls (9-3) came close to a New Year's Day game as they roared from near obscurity to upset Auburn and West Virginia and then crush Central Florida 64-12 to reach #2 in mid-October, only to suffer three straight close losses to Rutgers, Connecticut and Cincinnati. They closed with impressive wins over Syracuse, Louisville and Pittsburgh and were actually chosen as the Big East's #2 rep for the Sun Bowl over higher Big East finishers, Connecticut and Cincinnati. Junior quarter Matt Grothe passed for almost 2,500 yards and ran for another 800+. USF is an up-and-coming program that should handle the Dixon-less Ducks, despite USF's program being only 11 years old and the game being so far from Tampa. I'll be with them (in spirit). The betting line favors the Bulls by 6.5. CBS will televise the Sun Bowl starting at 2 p.m. Dadlak Prediction: USF 42 Oregon 33.
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? Bulls are bigger and more aggressive than ducks. I like them in a mascot matchup as well in the game on the field.
Game Update - Running back Jonathan Stewart is having a phenomenal game - 16 carries for 186 yards with a 71-yard TD run. The Ducks lead 25-14 midway through the third quarter. Make that 32-14 on a 16-yard TD pass, the third of the game for QB Justin Roper. The Ducks' defense has also done a great job against the South Florida running game, holding it to 42 yards on 21 attempts.
I'm envisioning Daffy Duck as a matador, flush with victory as Oregon now leads South Florida 46-14. The Ducks have scored 28 points in the 3rd quarter. Roper threw his 4th TD pass. Stewart's rushing total is up to 222 yards on 20 carries.
South Florida finally gets a score. "Closes" gap to 49-21. Phenomenal game for Stewart--252 yards on 23 carries and a TD; also a TD reception.
Oregon finish with a Sun Bowl record 56 points in a 56-21 win over South Florida. This year's game marked the 73rd renewal of the Sun Bowl game in El Paso.
Dadlak picks fall to 12-6 overall and 9-9 vs. the spread.
The fourth of six New Year's Eve bowls, the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl from Nashville, TN, matches the football stylings of the Florida State Seminoles and the Kentucky Wildcats, both with 7-5 records. Despite losing three of their last four, including a wrenching 52-50 (4 OT) loss to Tennessee, the Wildcats have to feel better coming into this game than does Florida State, which came into the season expecting to end a recent pattern of mediocre play, but are leaving with at least five losses, 20+ players (36!) suspended from bowl play for reported academic infractions, and a co-head coach situation, now that offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher has been named "head coach in waiting". This last item probably won't have too much effect unless Fisher gets head coaching offers elsewhere (West Virginia?).
Kentucky's season started like they played in Rupp Arena, as they won 5 of their first 6, including a game with cross-state rival Louisville, a win at Arkansas, and a thrilling 3 OT win over then-#1 LSU. The second half wasn't as pretty as the Wildcats sandwiched a lone win over Vandy among losses to Florida (close), Mississippi State (not close), Georgia and Tennessee (as mentioned). QB Andre Woodson, who completed 63% of his 468 passes for 3,351 yards and 36 TDs, stayed in the Heisman talk for much of the year. Late season Wildcat losses hurt his candidacy. Florida State won four in a row after a season-opening loss to Clemson, but managed just 4-4 in their ACC games (best win being over then #2 (how many times has that been written?) Boston College), and then were blown out by Florida and Tim Tebow's one good arm and two great legs. Two QBs saw considerable playing time for the 'Noles and only one running back had more than 300 yards rushing. The team managed only 24 TDs all year (Tebow had 52 both rushing and passing), but did tack on 27 FGs. If the Wildcats have healed emotionally from the Tennessee loss, I'll root for and expect them to maul the surprisingly middling Seminoles. ESPN will televise starting at 4 p.m. EST. Oddsmakers say Wildcats by 3. Dadlak Prediction: Kentucky 38 Florida State 23.
Who Would Win Battle of Mascots? A wildcat is an ornery critter, but I’ll choose a well-armed, prey-stalking Seminole.
Game Update - I took our dog for a walk and lost control of the TV. Now with three games going on we're watching a "House" rerun. The Wildcats and Seminoles are tied at 7 after the first quarter.
Back from "House". He got saddled with one month of supervision. With 8:28 left in the 2nd quarter, Kentucky takes the lead on a deflected pass caught and run into the end zone by WR Steve Johnson. Wildcat QB Andre' Woodson is 13-20 for 136 yards and 2 TDs. 14-7 Kentucky.
Florida State completes a pass to the end zone. It's called back for offensive pass interference. Very touchy call. Looked like the receiver did everything right. Just extended his arms to catch the ball.
3rd down pass thrown into the ground. Receiver covered. 51-yard FG attempt. Wide right. Kentucky takes over at 41.
Second chance for Seminoles. Wildcats fumble after a short pass and Florida State recovers at the 30. Pass and run goes to Kentucky 4. Run by Smith takes it to the 1. Play fake. Throw to crowded end zone. Ball tipped. 3rd and goal. Tailback reaches for end zone. Ball at goal line. Refs signal 4th down. Play will be reviewed. Call on field looks right to me. Knee down before ball reached end zone. Florida State goes for it. Run stopped short of goal line. Great penetration by linebacker #56.
Kentucky starts on 1-foot line. Terrible throw by Woodson out of the end zone. Picked off and run back for easy TD by Carter of FSU. Two post-score personal fouls on Seminoles. They will kick off from their own 7, if I did the math right. PAT ties score at 14. Seminoles competing well with depleted roster.
Nice job by FSU kicker. Drives ball to the 15. Wildcat returner brings it back to the 40. Woodson completes to Johnson at the FSU 35. Quick out to Johnson. Missed tackle. Johnson runs to the 11. Much better work by Woodson. Two runs move ball to the 8. 3rd and 7. 1:47 left in half. Woodson sacked at 20. Wildcat FG attempt coming up. Sack made it quite a bit longer. Perfect. Kentucky 17, Florida St. 14. Flag on play. Personal foul, FSU. Automatic first down. Kentucky takes points off scoreboard.
Ball at 10-yard line. Pass out of bounds. Kentucky timeout to avoid delay of game penalty. Great job by Woodson avoiding a sack. Finally threw ball away on left side. Receiver almost got to it. 3nd and goal. Intentional grounding on next play. Woodson threw ball into ground to stop the clock. Longer FG attempt now. Misses just left. Kentucky pays for decision to take points off scoreboard. Half ends with 14-14 tie.
Kentucky gets the ball to start the 2nd half. Gets one first down, but then stalls. Punt out of bounds at the FSU 28.
Wildcats moving ball now. At FSU 48. Pass to wide open receiver. Shoved out at the 2.
That was scary. Woodson fumbled the snap into a pile beyond the line of scrimmage. The Wildcats recovered, then scored on the next play. PAT good. 21-14, Kentucky.
Gave up the computer for awhile for my wife to do an e-mail check. In the meantime, Kentucky scored on a short run, Florida State on a 4th down keeper by QB Drew Weatherford, and Kentucky on a nice screen pass to Steve Johnson, his 2nd TD reception in a big day (7 catches for 124 yards). Kentucky has had no trouble moving the ball (505 yards and 32 first downs), but has had some problem holding on to it (2 fumbles lost and 1 interception for a TD).
An interception by a Kentucky lineman ends the next Seminole drive. If they can hold the ball, the Wildcats will win the game. Two runs get nothing, but clock is under 4:00. Woodson throws ball out of bounds. Cats will try a FG. No good. Kick was blocked.
FSU takes over at the 21. 3:31 left. Completed pass to sideline. Receiver tries for extra yardage rather than go out of bounds. Got about one extra yard. Next pass incomplete. 3:14 left. 2nd and 15 after a penalty. Runner Anton Smith breaks through the middle. Kentucky hauls him down at the 10. 58-yard run. FSU back in the hunt. Next pass incomplete out of bounds. 2:52 left. Next pass complete, fumbled, but recovered by FSU. 2:25 and counting. Fade pass to corner. Ref calls incomplete. Receiver juggling as he went out. Should be reviewed. I think he had it. Replay official agrees with me. PAT good. Kentucky lead cut to 7; 35-28. Onside kick coming up.
Kentucky grabs the kick with no problem then fumbles on the first play from scrimmage. Almost recovered by FSU. Game-saving play by #18 to retain ball for Wildcats. Clock at 1:40. Next play stopped. 3rd and 3. FSU calls time at 1:25. Still have two (maybe one) timeout left. FSU player injured on last play. One timeout left. Little stopped a yard short. FSU calls last timeout at 1:17. Kentucky will punt. Kentucky tries to keep it out of end zone, but not quite. Touchback.
FSU ball at 20. 1:09 and no timeouts. Keeper by Weatherford, tackled in bounds. Next pass picked off. Might be a fumble on the return. FSU still has the ball. 0:29 left. Ball at FSU 17. Pass blocked dowfield. 0:22 left. Pass to FSU 40. Clock running. Spike. 0:14 left. Pass to sideline. Receiver gets OB. 0:08 left. Ball at FSU 46. One throw to the end zone. Another sideline throw. 10-yard gain. 0:03 left. Ball on Kentucky 44. One throw now. Goes all the way to the end zone. Knocked down by Kentucky!
Wildcats win, 35-28. Great effort by undermanned Seminole team. Dadlak predictions go to 13-6 and 10-9.
Your cable company probably won't offer NFL Network by 5:30 p.m. on New Year's Eve, so unless you're an Indiana Hoosier or an Oklahoma State Cowboy fan, you won't have to feel bad about missing the Insight Bowl from Tempe, Arizona. From personal experience, I know that Insight is the ISP serving the Bloomington, IN area, so Hoosiers' appearance in the game must be especially meaningful to the sponsors (does anyone have a handkerchief I could use?) Indiana's slogan going into the season was "Play 13", translated to mean, "get six Division I wins and qualify for a bowl", something that basketball-centric IU doesn't often do. Their plans suffered a between seasons blow when head coach Terry Hoeppner died in June after an 18-month battle with brain cancer. But with six wins in hand, here the Hoosiers are in the Insight Bowl. The wins (actually seven) are none too impressive (one was over Indiana State) as Indiana's schedule skipped Ohio State and Michigan and the Hoosiers lost to bowl teams Wisconsin, Penn State and Illinois. They even lost to Northwestern. But a last game 27-24 win over Purdue got Indiana (7-5) their coveted 13th game.
Oklahoma State plays in this game as one of those 6-6 teams I'm so fond of. In what has to be the minimum excuse for a bowl-eligible season, the Cowboys beat Texas Tech, 49-45 for their lone quality win. Morale-boosting losses may have occurred in games with Texas A&M (1 point) and Texas (3 points), but equipment-destroying losses were administered by Georgia (21), Troy (18), Kansas (15) and Oklahoma (32). The matchup of OSU's potent offense and Indiana's lowly-ranked defense favors the Cowboys, while the emotional edge has to go to Indiana, as they continue their "13th Game" season in Coach Hoeppner's memory. The state where the movies "Hoosiers" and "Rudy" played out seems just the place for a happy ending, even though it will actually happen in Arizona. I'll root for and pick Indiana, though the oddsmakers like the Cowboys by 4. Dadlak Prediction: Indiana 31 the other OSU 28.
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? No one's even sure what a Hoosier is (a rustic or unskilled person appears to be the consensus definition). Even though modern-day cowboys are often of the rhinestone variety, I'll have to with one of them to beat a hoosier.
Game Update - So much for sentiment. The Cowboys are thrashing the Hoosiers 35-10 in the (at the end of the) first half.
A late and unthreatening comeback shrinks the final margin to 49-33, Oklahoma State. Hoosiers couldn't stop the Cowboy offense, which racked up 513 yards and 29 first downs.
Dadlak predictions fall to 13-7 and 10-10.
Taking you to Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta will be the peachiest game on the menu, or at least would have been until Chick-Fil-A decided that "Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl" was making too many potential customers say "eww!" instead of "mmm!" regarding their crispy chicken sandwich offerings. I have to admit, the image of fried chicken and cling peaches in heavy syrup all in a bowl isn't too appetizing, though my wife makes a great grilled jerk chicken dish with mango salsa. Sorry about the off-track intro. This intriguing game matches the Clemson Tigers (9-3) of the ACC and the Auburn Tigers (8-4) of the ACC. Even with a midseason slump (losses to Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech), Clemson had a shot at the ACC title game, but lost by 3 to Boston College.
Auburn struggled offensively for most of the season and were tripped early by South Florida and Mississippi State. They recovered with nice wins over Florida and Arkansas and finished their season with a satisfying Iron Bowl win over Alabama. Their other two losses were to national powers LSU (last play) and Georgia (wipeout). Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville hired a new offensive coordinator for the bowl game.
Both teams will be playing close to home and should be able to bring a good crowd to Atlanta. This is a very close call. I'll root for my old home-state Clemson Tigers, but pick Auburn to win based on something new brought in by their new coordinator. Still, it'll be close. Dadlak Prediction: Auburn 23 Clemson 20 (OT). Oddsmakers like Clemson by 2. ESPN has coverage starting at 7:30 EST.
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? Until we know about the variety of tiger in each case, we'll have to call this one (tiger vs. tiger) a draw. There's no provision for overtime in mascot battles. Auburn also has the "war eagle" thing going, but I don't know how that fits in.
Game Blog - I took a weak shot at going out for New Year's Eve, but Daiquiri Cafe doesn't have karaoke, so here I am with the battle of the Tigers. Auburn got a FG in the first quarter and lead 3-0 in what to now has been a defensive battle.
Clemson back C.J. Spiller breaks two tackles and races 83 yards down the sideline to give Clemson a 7-3 lead.
Auburn runs the hidden ball trick on the kickoff and gets out to the 43. Five players huddled at the 5-yard line and broke out in all directions.
Auburn picks up two first downs, taking the ball to the Clemson 35. FG attempt sails to the right. Clemson lead holds at 7-3.
The first half ends with the same score. Auburn not getting much from their new offense yet.
The second half begins with Auburn taking possession. Along with blogging the action, I'm trying to finish the novel "Bittersweets" by Pakistani-born, London-raised author Roopa Farooki. Time is running out for finihsing this book in 2007 and I have 117 pages to go.
Auburn's 2nd QB takes a direct snap and runss to the Clemson 45. The next play is a short pass across the middle for 5. After a couple more plays, Cody Burns fires a TD pass to a wide open #27, Fannin, who cruises the rest of the way for the touchdown. Auburn leads 10-7.
Back in London, Ricky-Rashid's double life is being exposed after his heart attack, triggered by the sight of his married daughter in the arms of her lover. His secret London family (wife and daughter) and his Pakistani-born daughter (also living in London) meet in the hospital room. Now the Pakistani daughter's son is smitten by the English-born daughter, his aunt of sorts.
Clemson starts from their own 37. Screen pass broken up, almost intercepted. 3rd and 7. Next pass is into the carpet. Clemson will punt. Back to London.
Auburn moving the ball again. Two runs take them to the Clemson 45. Another run takes the ball to the 30. Auburn using two quarterbacks very effectively in this half. Not sure what happened next. Clemson ends up with the ball. Now they have to punt. The ball goes out of bounds inside the Auburn 10.
Ricky-Rashid's grandson and daughter are now dating, but once he finds out he forbids it, even acting like he's having another heart attack to convince her how serious he is.
Auburn can't move the ball. They punt back to Clemson, who have 2nd and 5 at the Auburn 37. Nice running by Spiller. Avoids a tackler in the backfield, then sprints around left end for a 20 yard gain. Trick play gains 8. Snap and handoff through the legs in a tight formation. Nothing on next play. 3rd and 3. Close to first down. 4th and 2 feet. Tigers going for it. Harper made it. 1st and goal from 5. Davis stopped at the 3. No gain on next play. 3rd and goal. Harper sacked on next play. FG attempt next. End of 3rd quarter. 10-7 Auburn.
The young lovers agree to break up for public consumption, but to see each other in secret. Apparently, they haven't figured out their blood relationship.
Clemson makes the FG to tie the game 10-10.
Auburn gets a first down. Then a Cox pass is tipped and intercepted by Clemson. Ball thrown into traffic. Clemson takes over on 33. Running play moves ball to 28. Wide play loses yardage back. Spiller has 116 yards rushing. Deep fade to Kelly. Caught at the 5-yard line. Make it the 4. 1st and goal. Spiller wrestled down at the 4. Play action pass short of target. 3nd and goal. Catch at 1 yard line, receiver stretches--just short of goal line. 4th and inches. Time out Clemson. Play being reviewed. Clemson going for the TD. Davis runs it in. 16-10, Clemson. PAT good. 17-10.
Auburn starts at their 29. Burns on a keeper to the 35. Cox runs for first down to the 41. Loss on next play to 39. Completed pass to 47. 3rd and 4. Nice pass by Cox to Dunn. Out of bounds at Clemson 35. Burns gets 5 on a keeper. Lester gets first down on toss sweep, down to 24. Another sweep for 6. Burns keeper to the goal line. 1st and goal. Tate walks in. 17-16. Tied at 17.
Spiller brings kickoff out to the 36. Five yard gain on a short pass. 8:13 left.
Clemson has 1st and 10 at own 47. Pass incomplete. Screen pass to wide receiver Taylor goes to Auburn 39. Davis tackled in backfield for loss of 2. About 6 minutes left. Harper sacked at midfield. 3rd and 20. Harper sacked again. Clemson punts. Ball rolls into end zone and back out. Touchback.
4:11 left. Auburn ball on their 20. Tate gets loose on left side. Offensive holding brings play back. 2nd and 12. Burns keeps for 5. 3:15 left. Both teams with two timeouts left. Third down screen to Fannin comes up a yard short. Beautiful punt. Goes out of bounds at Clemson 25. 1:51 left.
Pass incomplete over the middle. Incomplete in the middle. Well covered. 3rd and 10. Pass broken up by linebacker. Possible interception, but couldn't hold it. That's why he's playing linebacker.
Clemson punt. Fair catch at Auburn 32. 1:32 left. Burns skips OB. Loss of 1. Cox finds Dunn at Auburn 49. Toss to Smith. OB at Clemson 46. Burns throws complete but OB. 3rd and 6. Cox throw almost intercepted. Another punt. Fair catch at 6. 0:55 left.
Run to the 10. Game apparently headed for OT. Neither team in a hurry. Another carry. That will do it. 17-17 going into overtime, as predicted by Dadlak Predictions. Now let's see if Auburn can prevail by 3. Not a likely outcome in a college overtime. If one team makes a FG, the other can probably match it.
Auburn won toss. Elects defense. Clemson will play toward their fans. If they stop the Tigers, then Auburn can win with a FG. This is most likely scenario for a 20-17 final.
Ball at 25. Harper pass wide of mark. 2nd and 10. Pass in middle. Catch by Kelly. Good catch near the ground. Davis gets the first at the 15. Play fake and pass to tight end. Gain of 5. Ball at 10. Not much for Davis. 2 yards to the 8. 3rd and 3. Late pass into crowded end zone. Batted down. Very risky pass. Four blue shirts in area. 25-yard FG attempt. It's good. 20-17, Clemson. Auburn TD will win.
Loss of 3 on Auburn's first play. Next play thrown OB. 3rd and 13. Strike to #80. Just a foot short of a first down. 4th and inches. Cox got what he needed. Whew! Ball on 14. Tate gets 3 to the 11. Lester takes it to the 7. 3rd and 4. Burns in end zone for TD and win. Took the snap off the ground. Auburn 23 Clemson 20 (OT). Great close game all the way. Dadlak predictions now 14-7 overall and 11-10 vs. spread.
Sorry about bailing out on the book "Bittersweets". The story got into a scene where drunken Oxford students explore their sexuality. Check Amazon.com for this title, due to be published very soon.
The first of six New Year's Day games (at 10 a.m. CST, which recalls a great line from "Ball Four" when Pirates catcher Jim Pagliaroni is informed that a holiday baseball doubleheader will start at 9:30 a.m. says, "9:30! Hell, I'm not done throwing up by then!") matches two top twenty teams, the #16 Tennessee Volunteers (9-4) and the #18 Wisconsin Badgers (9-3) in the Outback (formerly Tangerine) Bowl from Tampa, Florida. The motto of this steakhouse-sponsored bowl, which follows the Chick Fil-A Bowl in our minds, hearts and stomachs, is "Don't Listen to Those Cows!" The Volunteers probably had a good enough season to save coach Phil Fulmer's job, but there were some ups and downs. The ups included a big win over national #4 Georgia (a win that served as a tiebreaker to put the Vols in the SEC Championship game), an unbelievable 52-50 win at Kentucky in four overtimes, solid wins over bowl teams Southern Miss and Arkansas, and a season-saving 1-point win over Vandy. Low points included a 59-20 thrashing by Florida and lopsided losses to California (back when Cal was good) and Alabama (the Tide's best game). Most disappointing was a 21-14 loss to LSU in the SEC title game, a game that could have sent Tennessee to the Sugar Bowl if not for a couple of late LSU interceptions, the first of which provided the winning margin, while the other squelched a late Tennessee drive for a tie.
Wisconsin gets to this game via a 3-loss, 4th place Big Ten campaign. The Badgers rolled to a 5-0 start, were nipped by 5 at Illinois and later drubbed by both Penn State and Ohio State in season-defining games. They did beat bowl teams Indiana, Michigan State and Michigan along the way. They feature a balanced offense with QB Tyler Donovan and RB P.J. Hill, though reports are that Hill may not play due to injury. QB Erik Ainge (3,157 yards and 29 TDs, despite the LSU INTs) and RB Arian Foster (1,162 yards and 12 TDs) lead a potent Volunteer attack.
On paper, this one looks like a close matchup, but with Hill either nicked or out, I'll go with the Vols. Dadlak Prediction - Vols 28 Badgers 24. The oddsmakers are close to this view. They like Tennessee by 2.5
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? Assuming the volunteer is armed, he should be able to overcome even the most ill-tempered badger.
Game Update - Tennessee jumped out to a 21-7 lead, but Wisconsin has pulled to within 21-17 as the 3rd quarter ends.
That's the final score. Tennesee 21 Wisconsin 17, exactly my prediction margin. Takes SEC to 5-0 in bowl games. Takes Dadlak Predictions to 15-7 overall and 12-10 vs. the spread.
Once one of the big four New Year's Day games (along with the Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowls), the Cotton Bowl has been demoted to non-BCS status since the dissolution of the Southwest Conference. The Arkansas Razorbacks (8-4), former SWC member, and strong-finishing also-ran in the SEC this year, come roaring into the game, albeit without head coach Houston Nutt, who resigned after the regular season to take the same position at Mississippi. The Missouri Tigers (11-2) are probably slightly less excited about playing in Dallas, being that their other options were the BCS Championship Game or the Orange Bowl. Their BCS dreams died on a Saturday in December when the Tigers were drummed by the Oklahoma Sooners in the Big 12 championship game. The Orange Bowl then delivered the coup de grace by inviting Kansas instead of Missouri, in spite of Missouri's convincing win in their head-to-head game.
Missouri had a terrific season, losing just two games, both to Oklahoma. Along the way they scored good interconference wins over Illinois and Mississippi and beat bowl teams Colorado, Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Kansas. QB Chase Daniel from Texas was a Heisman Trophy finalist. Daniel completed more than 69% of his passes for 4,170 yards and 33 TDs to nine different receivers.
In RB Darren McFadden, the Razorbacks had their own Heisman Trophy candidate--the runnerup to winner Tim Tebow, in fact. McFadden ran for 1,700 yards and 15 TDs, threw 4 TD passes and caught one. He was ably supported on offense by QB Casey Dick, speedburning RB Felix Jones, who averaged more than 9 yards per carry in an 1,100 yard campaign, and FB Peyton Hillis, who caught 44 passes. Their scorecard included a phenomenal 3 OT win over LSU, and nice wins over Mississippi State, South Carolina and Troy. Losses were by 3 to Alabama on game-ending miracle catch, to Auburn by 2, to Kentucky by 13, and a three-TD blowout by Tennessee. The Razorbacks scored 40 or more points in seven games and were virtually unstoppable in the last three quarters and overtime of the win at LSU.
Missouri had much the better season, but the circumstances of their appearance make this one a tough call, but I'll take the Tigers in a shootout (though I'll root for the Hogs). Dadlak Prediction: Missouri 45 Arkansas 38. The oddsmakers like the Tigers by 3. CBS has the coverage starting at 10:30 CST. I'll probably watch this one instead of the Wisconsin/Tennessee game.
Who Would Win Battle of Mascots? A razorback is tough-skinned and mean, but likely no match for a tiger.
Game Update - In honor of all my Razorback pals, I'm watching this game while following the TN-WS Outback Bowl via foxsports.com.
Missouri got the first score on 22-yard run by RB Tony Temple. QB Chase Daniel is 7-8 for 74 yards.
The Hogs just called timeout to nullify their best play yet--a fake punt that went for a first down. They tried the same fake punt play again, and of course Missouri stopped it.
As the 2nd quarter begins, Missouri leads 7-0 and are driving at the Arkansas 35-yard line. A penalty pushes them back ten yards. 3rd and 21. Daniel throws out of bounds. Mizzou will punt. They down the punt at the 2.
Hillis runs to the 7, then McFadden out across the 25. Speedster Felix Jones tries the left end, but only gets 1. Pass to Hillis gets a first down near the 40. Hillis is a very versatile player. Holding on Arkansas on next play. Offense can't recover. 4th and 12. Punt time. Potent Hog offense not firing together yet.
Hog defense having no luck with Tiger RB Tony Temple, who has 159 yards on 13 carries and 2 TDs. The Hogs were expecting a bigger challenge from Chase Daniel's passing game, but it hasn't been necessary with Temple running untouched on almost every carry. He just carried for 19. The Tigers are inside the Arkansas 5. Temple takes it the rest of the way for his 3rd TD. 20-0, Missouri. I'll check in on some other games.
Arkansas finally scores on a 3-yard run by McFadden. Temple has 219 yards and 3 TDs on 21 carries for Missouri.
Temple gets his 4th TD on a 40-yard run. His stats are a ridiculous 282 yards on 24 carries. Tigers lead 38-7. Temple's rushing total is second highest in NCAA bowl history.
That's the final score--Missouri 38 Arkansas 7. The Tigers are a sure top five team and possible #2 to the BCS Championship Game winner. SEC bowl winning streak comes to an stark end. Dadlak predictions are 16-7 straight up and 13-10 vs. the spread.
The run of NCAA major sport championships (two basketball, one football) for the University of Florida Gators (9-3) comes to an end on January 1 with their appearance in the Capital One Bowl against the University of Michigan Wolverines (8-4). Actually, the last BCS rankings officially ended the ninth-ranked Gators hopes, five weeks after a 42-30 loss to Georgia, their third loss of the season, effectively put them out of contention. Other than the pivotal Georgia loss, the Gators had another excellent season, marred by close losses to LSU and Auburn, and highlighted by the otherworldly play of Heisman Trophy-winning QB Tim Tebow, who accounted for a staggering 51 TDs (29 passing and 22 rushing). In addition to completing over 68% of 317 attempts, Tebow ran the ball 194 times, almost twice as often as the Gators' second busiest running back. Defensive lapses vs. LSU and Georgia and poor coaching vs. Auburn (inexplicable play calling on Florida's last drive) proved the difference between another championship run and the Orlando bowl for the Gators.
The Wolverines suffered the most notorious loss of the season to Div 1-AA power Appalachian State in the first game of the season. The sting eased a little when the Mountaineers later claimed their third straight division title, but Michigan never contended for national honors thereafter, especially after their second game resulted in a blowout loss to Oregon. Wins over Penn State, Illinois and Michigan State got the Wolverines rolling through midseason, but they also closed the season with consecutive losses--a 37-21 loss at Wisconsin, and a disappointing 14-3 loss to Ohio State at home, a game that could have salvaged their season with a trip to the Rose Bowl. Even the Capital One Bowl is a bit of a surprise for Michigan, as both Illinois and Wisconsin were thought to be ahead of the Wolverines in the queue (Illinois ended up in the Rose Bowl; Wisconsin accepted an Outback bid, thinking that Ohio State would go the Rose and Illinois to the Capital One).
Michigan features a balanced attack based on Chad Henne's passing (57% and 14 TDs) and Michael Hart's running (1,232 yards and 12 TDs). Mario Manningham had an All-American season at WR with 67 catches for 1,096 yards and 11 TDs.
I don't how you can pick against the Gators in this one. Michigan might get some offense going on long passes to Manningham, but Tebow and company should be able to respond to every challenge and provide many challenges for the Wolverine defense. I'll pick and root for Florida. Dadlak Prediction: Florida 35 Michigan 21. The oddsmakers like Florida by 10.5.
Who Would Win Battle of Mascots? Gator vs. Wolverine. I might have to consult a biologist on this one. My thinking is that the gator would be a heavy favorite in the water, but the wolverine could hold his own on dry land. I'm guessing that these guys don't mess with each other in the real world. I'll take the gator in a close and bloody battle.
Game Update - I saw enough of Missouri's domination of Arkansas. Michigan scored first in this one (Henne 21 yard pass to Manningham); Florida is threatening to tie the score. They have 3rd and goal. Tim Tebow throws a TD pass to Percy Harvin. Game tied at 7.
Gators get the ball back after a Michigan punt. Threatening again at the Michigan 12 after Tebow completion to Harvin. Screen pass to #5 Andre Caldwell taken in for a TD. 14-7, Gators. Starting field position too good to keep Gators out of end zone.
Michigan threatening with 1st and goal at 3. First run stopped for no gain. Pass just out of reach of open receiver. 3rd and goal. Michael Hart scores. 14-14. Michigan hanging in well with Florida.
Barry Sanders named #2 all-time college football player. It ought to be easy to figure out #1, but I haven't been following the list too well.
Now Harvin races down left sideline. Safety #14 runs him down at the Michigan 14. 84 yards on 5 carries for Harvin. Tebow gets 1st and goal inside the 4. Michigan better work on getting a fumble. Tebow run rejected. Stopped at the 4. Jump pass time? Pass underthrown but Harvin dives and catches in end zone. Illegal motion negates TD. Harvin misses the next one. Ball pretty well thrown. Only Harvin could catch it. Michigan sacks Tebow near the 20. Motion penalty really hurt. 35-yard FG attempt. Blocked! Michigan grabs and returns to Michigan 40. Big upset there. Gators 1st and 3 come up with nothing. Post-block personal foul puts Michigan back at 24.
Manningham reverse gets five. Screen pass to tight end goes all the way down the left sideline to the 4-yard line. Hart dumped at the four. Fumbles and Gators recover. Breaks streak of over 1,000 carries without a fumble for Hart. Point-saving play for Florida.
Florida has ball on 2-yard line. Tebow run goes nowhere. Tebow misses Caldwell across the middle. 3rd and 12. Tebow throws to Harvin. Catches but can't get to the first down marker. Gator punt. Fair catch at midfield.
An INT gives ball back to Gators. Starting at the 1. Tebow finds Harvin out to the 20. Some room to work. Wolverines getting good pressure on Tebow. Bad throw by Tebow. Should have been intercepted for a TD. 4h down coming up. Fair catch at Michigan 38.
Now 3rd and 12 for Michigan. Florida blitzes. Michigan picks it up. Henne finds Manningham downfield for the first. Interference on Florida. Michigan at Gator 31. Pass dropped by tight end. 3rd and 6. Completed pass for first down. Tackled in bounds. Clock at 1:13. Hart tackled on draw play. Loss of 1. Clock running below 1 min. Great throw from Henne to Arrington. Diving catch. Touchdown! Michigan leads 20-14. Play being reviewed to see if receiver fell on field or in end zone. Looks like he was down on the field--about 1 foot away. 1st and goal. Still 14-14. Florida timeout to set defense. 0:38 left. Henne fumbles snap. Michigan recovers. 2nd and goal. Clock moving. Pass to Arrington broken up by Florida. 0:13 left. TD pass in back right corner of end zone to Arrington. Great throw by Henne. Arrington got his TD. PAT good. Michigan leads 21-14. Michigan doing more than "hanging in there" now. 21-14 Michigan at halftime.
I'm struggling to come with the name of the number one player. Notably missing from the top 25 so far are Gale Sayers, OJ Simpson (not likely), Marcus Allen, Doug Flutie, Ricky Williams, and Tim Tebow(?). None of these guys would I put ahead of Herschel Walker and Barry Sanders, who were #3 and #2. I guess that ABC/ESPN will surprise me.
Florida in some trouble against Michigan, who scored on their first drive to lead 28-14. Gators with ball on own 47. Good run by Harvin to Michigan 36. Tebow overthrows Caldwell. Short pass to #9. 3rd and 6. Tebow runs for it. Tackle by #45. 4th and 5. Gators going for it. Tebow finds Harvin at Michigan 21. Tebow keeper to 16. Great scrambling run by Tebow to the 1. Face mask penalty moves it another 18". Tebow takes it in. 28-21 Michigan.
Michigan drives to the Florida 1. Hart fumbles again while stretching the ball for the goal line. Gators recover in end zone for a touchback. Two plays lose two. 3rd and 12. QB draw by Tebow. Dropped at the 23. 4th and 7. 3:23 left in third quarter. Fake punt by Gators. Pass for first down by punter. Harvin takes snap and runs to 43. Harvin is loose in secondary after run up the middle. Run out of bounds at the Michigan 13. 150 yards rushing on 10 carries for Harvin. Also 6 catches for 70 yards. Tebow keeper dropped for loss of one. Tebow finds Caldwell in end zone for a TD. Great job by Gators with the fake punt. Big turnaround. 28-28 instead of 35-21 Michigan.
Michigan brings KO out to the 29. Screen to Manningham. Nothing to the left. Reverses the play and makes 23 yards around the right side. Manningham drops the next pass. 3rd and 6. Complete to Matthews at the yellow line. Just made it. Good spot for Michigan from the officials. 3rd quarter over. Tied at 28.
Dinner break. Michigan got a FG to take a 31-28 lead. Then Percy Harvin scored on a reverse to give Florida back the lead at 35-31. Michigan just regained the lead on a TD pass to Arrington, who's caught 153 yards of passes for two touchdowns.
Tebow takes the Gators from the 20 with 4 minutes left. Bubble screen to Harvin gains a couple. Same the play the other way for two more. Tebow throws it away under a blitz. 4th and 6. Can Florida afford to punt? No. 2:47 left. Pass broken up by defender. Ball goes over to Michigan on downs.
Nothing for Hart. Florida timeout at 2:36. 3rd and 8 at 2:31. Draw play loses 2. Last timeout for Florida. FG attempt coming. 373 yards passing for Henne. FG right through. 41-35 with 2:21 left.
Florida return man takes the ball 8 yards deep in endzone. Brings it out to the 23. Throw wide to Caldwell. 2nd and 10. Tebow hit as he throws. Ball lands short. 3rd and 10. Intercepted out of bounds. 4th down. 1:58 left. Tebow evades rush, decides to throw, ball knocked down.
Michigan will win this one. Nice career-ending victory for Lloyd Carr. Dadlak predictions now 16-8 overall and 13-11 vs. spread.
One of the first bowl games I remember caring about was the 1966 Gator Bowl between Syracuse and Tennessee (I remembered the matchup, but had to look up the year). The Orangemen were a rushing team led by All-American RBs Floyd Little and Larry Csonka, two heroes of my childhood growing up in central New York state. Actually the 1965 Sugar Bowl would have been earlier--a game in which the Little-led Orangemen lost to LSU. Of the two teams in this year's Konica Minolta Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, FL, the University of Virginia Cavaliers (9-3) are closest to Syracuse (about 400 miles away in Charlottesville, VA). Their opponents will be the Texas Tech Red Raiders (8-4) from the faraway Texas prairie town of Lubbock. The Gator Bowl is the last non-BCS game on New Year's Day.
The Cavaliers opened their season with an ugly 23-3 loss at Wyoming (a team that finished 5-7), then reeled off seven straight wins (including bowl teams Connecticut, Maryland and Georgia Tech, and giant-killer Pitt) before stumbling at NC State and losing a season-ending game to Virginia Tech when a win could have put them in the ACC Championship game and potentially in the Orange Bowl. Statistically, Virginia looks to be stronger on defense than on offense. Their QB, Jameel Sewell, threw just 11 TD passes, while their top runner among five who got regular work gained just 585 yards.
Virginia's defense will be challenged by the antithesis of the 1966 Syracuse Orangemen. Texas Tech threw almost 700 passes and ran the ball only 222 times, 34 of which were QB scrambles or sacks. The Red Raiders are led by prolific QB Graham Harrell, who completed almost 73% of his passes for almost 5,300 yards and 44 TDs. All-American freshman receiver Michael Crabtree grabbed an astounding 125 passes for 1,861 yards and 21 TDs. Danny Amendola also caught more than 100 passes. Texas Tech had one really bad game, a 41-10 loss to Missouri, and one great win, a 34-27 upset of Oklahoma that kept the Sooners out of the BCS title game. Otherwise they scored gobs of points (peaking at 75 vs. Northwestern State) that were mostly enough, but sometimes not (in 49-45 loss to Oklahoma State and 59-43 loss to Texas). Even with the 4-4 conference record, third place finish in the Big 12 South, and head-to-head loss to Texas, the high-powered Red Raiders were irresistible to the Gator Bowl committee. I saw some of the Oklahoma game--I'll try to catch some of this one too. Lots of folks like Texas Tech, as the betting line favors the Red Raiders by 5-1/2. I'll pick them and root for them too--Virginia didn't accept me back in the 1972. Dadlak Prediction: Texas Tech 41 Virginia 31.
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? Red Raiders vs. Cavaliers is our first pure military matchup. I'm guessing that the Red Raiders (assuming this is a 19th-century reference) will have access to more modern weapons and will be able to defeat the 17th-century-restrained Cavaliers.
Game Update - Hard to choose between Florida-Michigan and this game. Will try to track both. Virginia just got a safety (intentional grounding in the end zone) to take a 9-7 lead. Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell threw 16 passes in the first quarter.
Raiders stop 3rd down pass by Virginia. Punt goes out of bounds at the 15. TT makes one first down. Next pass dropped by wide-open receiver. Two passes net another first down. Ball at 43. Run gets 4. Pass gets five more. Great catch by #12 for a first down. Harrell got rid of the ball quickly because of strong pass rush. Harrell sacked back to TT 46. Shovel pass goes for good yards, but holding on TT. 2 and 28 coming up. Tough for 5 yards at a time TT offense. Pass just misses receiver. TT offensive line averages 331 lb. Pass to Morris gets back to original line of scrimmage. 4th and 10. Raider punt. Downed on 2-yard line. Punt rolled parallel to goal line.
Fat lot of good the punt did. On Virginia's 2nd play, their halfback Mikell Simpson runs 96 yards for a TD. Play is under review. Clock malfunction rather than play under review. TD stands. 16-7 Virginia.
Cavaliers add another safety (Harrell sacked in end zone) and lead 18-7. They add a FG as time expires to take 21-7 lead into halftime.
Tech tries an onsides kick to start the 2nd half and recovers it. Gets one first down on a pass. Might have been a TT fumble, but it wasn't called. Great pass rush against Harrell. Has to throw it away to avoid a big sack. Tech goes for it. Pass complete to Crabtree for the first. Another short completion. Ball at Virginia 31. Pass complete to UVA 16. Running play gets 8. Running play stopped short of the first. 3rd and 1. Harrell sneaks for the first. TD from Harrell to Amendola. 21-13, UVA. PAT good, 21-14.
Still 21-14 with 12 minutes left in Gator Bowl. UVA threatening. 2nd and 8 from 12. Run gets 1. 3rd and 7. Screen pass to #5, Simpson Cruises all the way to the end zone. TD UVA. Lead grows to 28-14.
Dinner time. Back later. Tech scores two TDs within 20 seconds to get within 1 point. Harrell is 43-67 for 389 yards and 3 TDs. PAT awaits attention to injured Tech player.
VA will have to punt with 2:17 left. Punt hooked OB at TT 47. Handoff to #21 for 9 yards. FG enough to win. Handoff fumbled. TT recovered. 3nd and 1. Good run to UVA 34. Run for 1 to 33. Clock running. Virginia calls time at 0:24. Pass to #21 for first down. Pass incomplete. Dropped by Crabtree at 0:07. FG attempt coming. Spot at 31. 41-yard attempt. Virginia timeout. TT win or overtime at this point, unless UVA blocks. Right thru the middle. 31-28. 0:02 left. Fabulous comeback by Texas Tech. Kickoff still needed. Squib kick. Caught be UVA. Tackled before he could lateral. Texas Tech wins 31-28. UVA fell apart in the 4th quarter after dominating the game for three. Dadlak predictions 17-8 straight up and 13-12 vs. spread as the Raiders didn't cover the 5-1/2 point spread.
Based on the point spreads, you'd think that the University of Southern California Trojans (10-2) were the top team in the country. They're favored by 13.5 points over Big Ten runnerup and Ohio State vanquisher, the University of Illinois Fighting Illini (9-3) in the Rose Bowl, (presented by Citi) on January 1 in beautiful Pasadena, CA. Consensus #1 in the preseason and until their stunning 24-23 loss at home to 40-point underdog Stanford, the Trojans still might have moved a Rose Bowl-like matchup with Ohio State to New Orleans and the BCS Championship Game if not for another pesky loss to Oregon. Now they can only hope to beat Illinois, for LSU to beat Ohio State and for the AP pollsters to again defy the BCS system and vote USC #1 (among a host of two-loss teams) in their final poll, so that the Trojans can claim a second faux championship, akin to the one they "won" after the 2003 season.
But enough whining about events of four years ago. The Trojans finished strong with fine wins over Arizona State and UCLA. They also beat bowl-bound Oregon State and California. However, their "next great QB", John David Booty from Louisiana, ended up sharing time with backup Mark Sanchez after a hideous interception-ridden performance against Stanford. They appear to have their usual bevy of talented RBs and WRs.
Illinois operated beneath radar for most of the season, suffering a close season-opening loss to Missouri and then back-to-back losses to Iowa and Michigan in October. In between they strung together wins over bowl-bound Indiana, Penn State and Wisconsin. But a November 10 win over then-undefeated Ohio State in Columbus put the Illini in the major bowl flight path, a route that ended in Pasadena for the first time since 1983 when the Buckeyes unexpectedly worked their way back into the BCS Championship Game by beating Michigan and watching a rash of late-season upsets of higher-ranked teams. The Illini are led by sophomore QB Juice Williams who passed for 1,500 yards and ran for another 774. Supporting Williams on the ground is RB Rashard Mendenhall, who ran for more than 1,500 yards and 16 TDs. Williams was too quick and clever for a tired Ohio State defense in November. It remains to be seen if his game will be effective against Southern Cal. I'll root hard for Illinois, alma mater of a longtime friend, but still pick the Trojans to prevail. Dadlak Prediction: USC 27 Illinois 21. ABC's coverage starts at 3:30 p.m. Central Time.
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? Warriors from B.C. and A.D. eras face off in this one. I'll favor the Illini for their possible access to rifles and the like.
Game Blog - Illinois gets the ball first. One first down. Now 3rd and 9. Williams sacked at Illinois 30.
Punt to USC. Close call on catch and fumble. USC maintains possession and goes on to score. 7-0 Trojans with about 11 minutes left in 1st quarter.
Williams gets a first down on a scramble.
Illinois has to give the ball up. USC scores on a double pass. 34-yard pass from wide receiver Garrett Green to another WR Desmond Reed. 14-0 USC.
The #1 college football player of all time is Harold "Red" Grange, whose college career ended in 1925, four years before my father was born, and ten years before the first Heisman Trophy was awarded. Rats, I thought all the old-timers were taken care of .
Third TD for USC; second for TB Chauncey Washington. USC leads 20-0. Bring on the Sugar Bowl.
Illinois moving the ball right before halftime. 1st down at USC 16 after a pass interference call. Williams runs out at the 10. 3rd and 4. Pass out of back of end zone. FG team comes on. Illini get 3. 0:38 left. USC 21 Illinois 3.
USC gets a couple of first downs on passes to All-American tight end Fred Davis, but has to punt. Illinois needs a new approach to get something going. If USC gets the next TD, this will officially be a blowout.
Pass for a near- first down. Ball on 21. Mendenhall takes it the rest of the way on the next play. 79 yards on a run up the middle. Mendenhall showed great speed running away from the USC defenders. USC 21 Illinois 10. The run doubles Illinois' offensive output for the game.
Two runs generate a first down for the Trojans. Ball on USC 30. Throw to RB McKnight picks up 19. Great running by freshman McKnight from Louisiana. WR screen dumped by cornerback. No gain. 2nd and 10. Short pass to RB. Slipped down. Gain of 3. 3rd and 7. Big play for Illinois. Pass to WR broken up. Fair catch of punt on 19.
Mendenhall puts Illini on his back. Catches short pass and runs 55 yards to the USC 25. Ball fumbled on next play. Illinois recovers. Whew! 2nd and 11. Completion inside 5. Fumbled into end zone. Recovered by USC for a touchback.
McKnight dumped for a loss. 2nd and 12. Incomplete. 3rd and 12. I'm tired of hearing Herbstreit talking about doing things "in space". This phrase is moving up on "trickeration" on my pet peeve list. Booty throws first down pass to sideline. Short pass to Washington. Penalty for holding on US. 1st and 20 from the 23. Strange play. Swing pass hits the ground. Ruled a lateral. McKnight picks it up and runs 60 yards downfield. Illini corner Davis runs him down from behind at the 10. 65-yard gain. Lateral/incomplete being reviewed. Looks like a lateral. Good work by McKnight to not assume an incomplete pass. Ball at 12. Throw wide. 2nd and 10. Run to the 8. 3rd and 6. Pass to end zone. Broken up and intercepted. But interference on Illinois defensive back. 1st and goal from 2. TD pass to TE Davis. Nice play call. Good roll out and throw by Booty. 28-10 after PAT.
Deep sideline pass by Williams picked off by USC. A little overthrown.
WR screen from Booty incomplete. Swing pass to McKnight gets a first down. Pass to fullback rolls to Illinois 13. 36-yard gain. Pass to Davis gets to the 6. McKnight walks in for the TD. 35-10 coming up. See 'ya for the final score.
Final score 49-17, USC. Oddsmakers had this one right. Dadlak predictions go to 18-8 straight up and 13-13 against the spread. I expected a better game from the Illini.
When did the University of Hawaii Warriors (12-0) drop "Rainbow" from their nickname? The heretofore colorful Rainbow Warriors are now just the mundane Warriors, though I should be a little more respectful of my high school's mascot. (Wikipedia offers an explanation in the link below. Not surprisingly, the motivation for the controversial semi-change was marketing).
The Boise State of the 2007 bowl season, Hawaii parlayed an undefeated season in the Western Athletic Conference into a #10 ranking and the final spot in the BCS bowls as challenger to SEC rep, the University of Georgia Bulldogs (10-2) in the (Allstate) Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on New Year's night. Whether the Warriors will be able to match the Broncos stunning upset of Oklahoma is another story, and an outcome with a lot of stats working against it. Two such upsets in consecutive years would be about as likely as two major hurricanes hitting within 250 miles and four weeks along the Louisiana coastline. Oh yeah, that happened.
I did some research to get a feel for how far apart the WAC and SEC are. Their respective non-conference records give you a pretty good idea. Nine WAC teams posted a 7-19 record against Division I-A non-conference opponents. Five of the seven wins came against teams from other mid-major conferences, the Mountain West and Conference USA. WAC teams were a grim 2-15 against teams from BCS conferences--the Pac-10; Big 12; SEC and Big 10; and 0-3 in their three games vs. just SEC opponents.
The 12 SEC schools compiled a 31-8 record against Div. I-A non-conference opponents. Stripping out a 20-1 record against mid-major conferences like Conference USA, MAC, WAC and Sun Belt, still leaves SEC schools a healthy 11-7 against the other BCS conferences--Big East, Big 10, Pac-10, Big 12 and ACC.
But enough circumstantial evidence on whether Hawaii deserved a shot at the national title (no). On to the Sugar Bowl itself. Georgia had a great season, marred only by a narrow second game loss to South Carolina (at home) and an ugly 35-14 loss to Tennessee at Knoxville. Otherwise, the Bulldogs whipped a list of bowl-bound teams--Oklahoma State, Florida, Troy, Auburn, Kentucky and Georgia Tech. A 42-30 win over Florida was most impressive and established the Bulldogs as a legitimate national power. Unfortunately for them, the Bulldogs' loss to Tennessee served as the tiebreaker for the SEC East title and kept them out of the SEC championship game. Bulldog fans whined a bit about being leapfrogged by LSU in the final BCS standings, but a team that couldn't win half its own league wasn't going to earn a spot in the national final (see Kansas). A late-developing star and future superstar for the Bulldogs was RB Knowshon Moreno, who ran for more than 1,200 yards and scored 12 TDs (watch for "Knowshon" to move up the list of popular boy's names if Moreno goes on to win a Heisman Trophy--well, maybe not). QB Matthew Stafford helped with 2,300 yards passing and 18 TD passes. Still in today's college football world, the Bulldogs are a running team.
Most definitely NOT a running team are the Hawaii Warriors, who threw the ball at a pace second only to Texas Tech. QB Colt Brennan, a Heisman Trophy finalist, completed more than 71% of his passes for 4,174 yards. His backup threw for another 1,000 yards. Brennan also led the Warriors in rushing attempts (73), though many of these were probably scrambles and sacks. Leading rusher Kealoha Pilares ran the ball 61 times for 362 yards and 3 TDs. None of this is too surprising, given that Hawaii's coach is June Jones, who soared to national honors years ago as QB in Coach Mouse Davis's "run and shoot" offense at Portland State University.
As with Boise State in last year's Fiesta Bowl, it'll be hard not to root for the underdog Warriors in this one. But it's harder still to pick them to win. Dadlak Prediction: Georgia 34 Hawaii 24, close to the oddsmakers' spread of 8 points. FOX has the BCS coverage starting at 7:30 Central Time.
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? Man would bite dog (or worse) in this matchup of Warriors and Bulldogs.
Game Blog - I'm ready for this game to start. I got bored with the lopsided Rose Bowl and went to the Sugar Bowl preview where I learned more than I want to know about Hawaii QB Colt Brennan.
Hawaii brings the opening kickoff out to the 45, but gets a five-yard penalty for delay of game. False start on next play. Now 1st and 20 for Hawaii. Brennan misfires on first pass. 2nd and 20. Hawaii has to punt on 4th and 8.
Georgia takes over at their own 38. Sideline throw gets six. False start on Georgia. 2nd and 11. Both sides nervous. Screen pass gets first down at Hawaii 45. Brown runs to the 40. Dogs now 2nd and 4 from Hawaii 18. Knowshon (love that name) Moreno runs it in for a score. 7-0 Georgia after a PAT.
Hawaii starts at 35. Short pass and run to 45. Nice sideline pass to GA 40. Brennan's best throw so far. Ball now at 35. Brennan scrambles for 7 and a first down at the 28. Run for 3 to 25. Screen pass gains two more. Penalty flag down. Holding on Hawaii.
Break for wife to read e-mail.
Moreno scored another TD. In between Georgia's TDs, Hawaii got a field goal, but Georgia's Brandon Coutu matched that with a 52-yarder that would have been good from 60.
On the next possession after Coutu's FG, the Dogs intercept Brennan on a great coverage play. They're getting a good pass rush with just three or four rushers. 3rd and 7. Pass complete to #16, Durham. Ran to Hawaii 15 where ball was stripped. It went out of bounds before Hawaii could recover it. First down Georgia at Hawaii 16. Make it the 11. Fade pass to Bailey. Touchdown! 23-3 Dogs. Looking a lot like the USC-Illinois game. 24-3 with PAT.
Hawaii is at their own 30. Short pass incomplete when receiver gets hit. Run gets 11. 3rd and 4. Hawaii was down 21 to Washington and won the game. Georgia is probably a little better than 4-9 Washington. Rusher hits Brennan. Ball is loose. Georgia recovers. Georgia seems to be really enjoying the one-sided game. Ball at Hawaii 42. Flanker screen gets 7. 3rd and 1. Brown flattened for 2-yard loss. 4th and 4. Go for it, or go for long FG? Timeout to think.
Offense stays on field. Stafford misses target. Ball goes over on downs at Hawaii 37. 4:13 left in half. Short pass good for 4. Hawaii way off their usual offensive production. Just about 100 yards total offense so far. Brennan sacked. 3rd and 16. Good tackle short of first down on next pass. 4th and 8. Short punt dies at Georgia 25. Ball moved back 10 yards for holding on Georgia.
1:51 left in half. Brown run gets nothing. Gets four on next carry. Clock at 1:00. Hawaii not calling timeouts. Finally call one at 0:39. Brown tackled. 4th and 5. Timeout with 0:31 left.
Hawaii takes over with 0:19 left. Penalty puts them back on own 25. One time out left. Good pass by Brennan to 45. Brennan sacked. Calls last timeout at 0:06. Fifth sack of Brennan. Short completion ends the half. 24-3 Georgia going to the locker room. Georgia coach Mark Richt credits team for "getting after it" on every play. That's what I've seen. Relentless play by Dogs on both sides of football.
Halftime is seemingly endless. A collection of high school bands is playing now.
Georgia gets 2nd half kickoff. Tackled on 16. Third down conversions for Hawaii 0-5 vs. Georgia 5-8. WR screen gets 13. Brown runs for none to 29. Durham drops next screen pass. 3rd and 10. Stafford pressured. Throws it away. Georgia will punt. Punt taken on 20. Returner smothered at 25.
Brennan sacked again on first play. Back to 19. Short pass, missed tackle, but good support. Hawaii gains four. Sidearm throw intercepted by #2, Allen. Good catch. Nowhere near the receiver. Good start for Bulldog defense.
Ball at Hawaii 38. Moreno fights for 5. Gets another 4 on next carry. Takes ball to 15 on next carry. Three more. An irresistible force. Play fake. Pass tipped and intercepted by Hawaii. Great play by lineman to tip the pass.
Hawaii starts at 4. Brennan shovels ball to back. Tackled at 7. Next pass incomplete off receiver's hands. 3rd and 7. Pass just long enough for 1st down at 14. Pass tipped at line. Only one missed tackle so far by Georgia. Brennan tries the left sideline. Goes thru hands of defender then hits receiver. Incomplete. 3rd and 10. Brennan sacked. Fumble. Rolls into end zone. Recovered by Georgia for a touchdown. Ouch! 30-3. Big hit on Brennan. PAT good. 31-3 Georgia. #38 Howard caused the fumble. May have recovered it for the TD too. He did. His third sack. Seven overall for Dogs.
Good runback to midfield, but may come back for a penalty. Coach Jones of Hawaii not happy. Hawaii starts at 10. Brennan fires wide to avoid a big hit. Next throw wide too. Brennan has thrown 2 INTs and fumbled once for a TD. Timeout Hawaii. Brennan runs from pursuit. Fires high over receiver. Roughing the passer against Georgia. Penalty of exuberance, but not needed. Shovel pass incomplete. Another Hawaii timeout. Pass complete. Short of first down. 3rd and 2. Pass to fullback gets the first. #45 for Hawaii is huge. Jason Laumoli. 5'10" and 287 lb. Still only 130 total yards for Hawaii. Catch close to first. 3rd and 1. Option pitch gets 10. One of best plays Hawaii has run, though Brennan got crushed. Screen pass gets a dozen. Ball at 34. Missed tackle by Georgia, but not two. Four yard loss. 2nd and 14. Caught out of bounds. 3rd and 14. Hawaii needs to score for their own peace of mind. Pass tipped and intercepted. Marcus Howard blocks the pass, can't control it for the INT, but tips it to a teammate who can.
UGA ball at midfield. Loss of two for Brown. Play action throw to Massaquoi at Hawaii 37. Reverse takes ball to 18. No loss of enthusiasm by Georgia in 2nd half. Slant pass for TD to Massaquoi. Great throw by Stafford. 37-3 Georgia. Maybe not a TD. Knees down when he caught the ball. Will be first and goal at one. 12 on field for Hawaii. Ball moves to half-yard line. Fullback stopped. 2nd and goal. Brown gets the TD. Now 37-3. PAT good 38-3.
Dogs add another FG. 41-3.
Will check in tomorrow for the final score. Overwhelming game by Georgia. The "Hairy Dawgs" hunkered down. Congrats to players and coaches.
Georgia wins 41-10 after Hawaii backup QB Tyler Graunke led the Warriors to their lone TD. Dadlak predictions improve to 19-8 straight up and 14-13 vs. the pesky spread.
A number of upsets changed the course of the college football season (Stanford over USC; Texas Tech over Oklahoma), but none turned a team's season upside down like Pitt's last-game upset of the West Virginia University Mountaineers (10-2) at Morgantown in the so-called "Backyard Brawl". The then-#2 ranked Mountaineers were four touchdown favorites over the then 4-7 Panthers. A win would have put them in the BCS Championship Game against Ohio State, a team they could have planned to beat to claim the national championship. The loss sent the Mountaineers reeling all the way to Glendale, Arizona and the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on January 2 as a heavy underdog to the imposing University of Oklahoma Sooners (11-2), champions of the Big 12 after devastating then-top-ranked Missouri in the Big 12 championship game.
Oh yeah, there's one more thing. Freed by WVU's non-appearance in the national championship game, coach Rich Rodriguez took the head coaching job at Michigan, a job that was probably still open only because LSU took West Virginia's place in the championship game, forcing LSU coach Les Miles to stay in Baton Rouge (well, there was that ESPN story that forced Miles' hand). And to top it all off, the university is suing Rodriguez for $4 million for breaking his contract. For the Mountaineers sake, I hope the weather is decent in Arizona (a good bet this time of year) and their bus doesn't break down going to and from airports.
Other than the chilling loss to Pitt, the Mountaineers had another outstanding season under Rodriguez, ripping through most of their schedule with just a lone loss at South Florida. Most impressive were a 66-21 dismantling of Connecticut and lopsided interconference wins over Maryland and Mississippi State. Double threat quarterback Pat White (12 TD passes; 14 TD runs and 1,185 yards) was a Heisman candidate most of the year. RB Steve Slation supported White with 1,000 yards and 17 TDs. WR Darius Reynaud was White's favorite target (59 catches and 11 TDs).
The Mountaineers were strong defensively as well, surrendering more than 30 points only once in a win over Louisville. In six games, West Virginia gave up 14 or fewer points.
Oklahoma nuked their first four non-conference opponents by a combined 246-47 (average score: 62-12), then plowed through a tough Big 12 schedule with a 6-2 record. Wins over bowl-bound Texas, Texas A&M, Missouri and Oklahoma State were highlights. Costing the Sooners a trip to New Orleans and a shot at the national championship were an early loss at Colorado and a late loss at Texas Tech, the latter game Oklahoma played without their regular quarterback Sam Bradford.
The Sooners scored a ridiculous 70 touchdowns with Bradford throwing 33 TD passes among his 216 completions in 308 attempts (70%) for 2,879 yards. The ground game features three backs--Allen Patrick, DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown, who combined for almost 2,400 yards and 29 TDs. Five different Sooner receivers caught at least 20 passes for 13+ yards/catch and at least four TDs. West Virginia's defensive coaches have a tough job. Conversely, Oklahoma's rushing defense, ranked 14th in the country at 92 yards per game, should match up well against the Mountaineers running game.
Unless the Mountaineers' coaches can uber-inspire their players with the old "us against the world" (Pitt, Rodriguez, BCS, Oklahoma, the terrorists) speech, the Fiesta Bowl looks to me like the biggest mismatch of the BCS games. On the other hand, Oklahoma can play for a no-worse than #2 final ranking, and perhaps even a few #1 votes in the final AP poll if they hammer WVU while LSU and Ohio State struggle through an ugly 9-6 field goal battle (or who knows--maybe even a faux half-championship like USC claimed in 2004). The oddsmakers and bettors set the line at a "mere" 7.5. I like the Sooners by a lot more. Dadlak Prediction: Oklahoma 28 West Virginia 10. FOX will televise on Wednesday, January 2 at 7 pm CST.
Who Would Win Battle of Mascots? This is our first battle of historical reference mascots. Both Mountaineers and Sooners are better known for their land settlement practices than for any skill in battle. I'll give the edge to the Sooners as the 1889 land rush that settled Oklahoma no doubt put them at odds with the Native American populations, while the Mountaineers mostly conquered the landscape.
Game Update: Sorry for the delay in getting this one started. It took me all the way until halftime to fix formatting problems caused by inserting pictures. I had the point spread of this game about right, but with the wrong team in control. At the half, West Virginia leads Oklahoma 20-6 after dominating almost every facet of the game. The Mountaineer TDs came on a 57-yard run by their fullback and a 10-yard pass to an uncovered receiver. They also have two field goals. Other than a 50-yard pass that led to a FG, the Mountaineer defense has completely stymied the high-powereed Sooner offense, which has amassed 11 whole rushing yards. Oklahoma made a second field goal after two West Virginia 15-yard penalties on the same play, but that was essentially the Mountaineers' only mistake of the half. WVU takes the second half kickoff, making Oklahoma's comeback challenge all the more difficult. Sooners did block last-second FG attempt by WVU before halftime.
WVU brings kickoff out to 24. Star halfback Steve Slaton got hurt in the first half, but the Mountaineers haven't missed him. Swing pass to Reynaud gains one. Only 100 yards total for Oklahoma in first half. Half of that one play. Offsides on OU. 2nd and 5. Tackle for no gain. 3rd and 5. Blitz makes Pat White throw it away. Punt coming. 12 tackles in first half for MLB Lofton. Sooners take over at 16. 57-yard punt.
Penalty on first Sooner play negates nice gain on pass. Nice run on 1st and 15 by Patrick. Gain of 38 to midfield. Bradford rolls to avoid pressure. Fires to Iglesias for 14 to WVU 36. Bradford to Gresham for a first down at WVU 24. 11 TDs on 34 catches for Gresham. Brown runs for 4. Brown runs to 10, but flag on play. Holding OU. 2nd and 16. Hard to see on replay. 3rd and 12. Looked like a hold, but no call. Bradford throws it away. OU will try FG. Hartley bangs FG through. WVU 20 OU 9.
WVU stopped at 25 on KO. Three plays and a punt on 4th and 2. Long punt fumbled by OU return man. Scramble with OU recovering in end zone. Ruled a touchback. Big break for OU. Could have been a TD for WVU.
Big completion to #84 Chaney gets 42 for Sooners. Two runs to 30. 3rd and 2. OU timeout. Sideline pass for first down. Brown runs close to 15. 2nd and 1. Brown goes out at the 1. #83 destroyed the cornerback. Brown is in for the TD. 20-15 WVU. OU goes for 2. Pass to Iglesias is wide. 20-15 it stays.
OU tries onsides kick. WVU covers it before the ball goes 10 yards. 3rd and 5. White runs for first down. Ball at OU 26. White runs to 19. 100 yards on 16 carries. QB draw just short of first. Handoff to #7 Devine. Runs around left side for a touchdown. PAT good. 27-15. Good OU start to 2nd half has picked up only 2 points on the margin. Big gamble by OU Coach Stoops on onsides kick backfires.
Long return by OU will come back for a holding penalty. OU starts on 23. Run to 26. Screen pass batted down. 3rd and 7. Pass complete but short of first down. WVU pass rush disrupted that series. OU punt. 2 minutes left in 3rd quarter. Punt to 20. Return to 25.
Run to 28. WVU offense has 208 yards rushing. OU gave up 92 per game this year. White runs for a bunch. 41 yards. Ball on OU 30. Next play goes to end zone. Reverse to Reynaud gets the TD. WVU 34-15. 280 rushing yards for WVU.
Ground ball kickoff returned to OU 48. Sooners have no time to waste. Flanker screen gets 9. Long pass down middle. Pass interference against WVU. OU gets one play from 28 before end of quarter. Brown gets 4.
4th quarter starts with OU down 129. 3rd and 5. Brown gets close to first. OU has to go for it. FG not enough. Play action pass to Chaney for a 19-yard TD. Great call. Great game for Chaney. 4 catches for 129 yards. Another 2-point try. Run stopped short. 34-21 WVU.
Traditional KO by OU. Tackled at 21. Pass to #83. Only one Sooner back. Complete. Defender falls down. Walk to end zone. 79-yard TD. 41-21 WVU after PAT. Beautiful throw by White under pressure.
Iglesias down at 27. Holding on OU. 1st and 20 from 17. 12:47 left. Bubble screen gets 4. 2nd and 16. Pass to Gresham is a yard short of first down. Brown gets first down. Tough running, and out of bounds. Add 15 for face mask foul. Ball at WVU 48. Pump and go thrown long. Pass interference on WVU plus personal foul. Ball moves to WVU 18. Run to 15 by Gutierrez. Easy TD pass to wide-open Iglesias. 41-27. Not sure where defense was on that play. 41-28 after PAT.
WVU will start at their own 30. White gets 5 on a keeper. Noel Devine takes handoff, cuts inside and runs 65 yards for TD. Great block by FB Schmitt. 47-28 WVU. Huge letdown by OU defense. 48-28 after PAT. Over 350 yards rushing for WVU. Third TD play of over 50 yards for Mountaineers.
OU starts at 20. Still 9 minutes left. Chris Brown gets 2. Bradford runs OB at 27. Iglesias catches pass for first down at 33. Brown runs to 40. Effective but time-consuming. 2nd and 4. Play fake doesn't open a receiver. Bradford scrambles out of bounds for first down. Long pass to Iglesias. Just broken up. 2nd and 10 from 46. Bradford scrambles again for 9. Running pretty well. Bradford throws it away. 4th and 1. First last chance for Sooners. OU calls 2nd timeout. Brown cuts back for first down. Clock under 7 minutes. Sooner fans looking grim. Bradford overthrows receiver. Strange play. Ball maybe caught by receiver's feet, but refs say incomplete. Being reviewed. Confirms ref's call. Personal foul on WVU. Lots of those so far. Helmet to helmet hit on Bradford. Ball moves to WVU 28. Screen pass for 6. Flag on play. Should have gone OB. Late hit on OU. Pass to 25. Another flag. Holding on OU. Long yardage down. 2nd and 29. 225 penalty yards in game. Now 3rd and 18. Bradford pulled down. 4th and long. Less than 5 minutes left. Ball knocked down in end zone. WVU takes over on downs.
Congrats to Mountaineers. I had the mismatch in the wrong direction. Interim coach Bill Stewart deserves a long look for the permanent job. Dadlak predictions go to 19-9 straight up and 14-14 vs. spread. Clock running down. WVU wins 48-28.
In long-past years the then-Big 8 champion (mostly Nebraska or Oklahoma) hosted the Orange Bowl. In the current BCS alignment, the Big 12 (the result of the merger of the Big 8 and half of the now-defunct Southwest Conference) champion goes to the Fiesta Bowl, while the Atlantic Coast Conference champion goes to Miami for the Orange Bowl, a better geographic fit for both conferences. On January 3, 2008 the last of the traditional New Year's Day bowl games, the FedEx Orange Bowl gets representatives from both conferences, the ACC champion Virginia Tech Hokies (11-2) and the University of Kansas Jayhawks (11-1) from the Big 12.
Virginia Tech's season had a rough start and a strong finish. After a narrow opening win over East Carolina, the Hokies ventured to Baton Rouge and were mauled by the LSU Tigers, 48-7. The LSU band, fans and administration gave a stirring sympathetic tribute to the suffering of the Virginia Tech community during their horrific on-campus mass murder in April. The LSU team showed no such sympathy as they ran the eventual #5 team in the country off the field in Tiger Stadium. The Hokies then regrouped with three straight conference wins, including a big win at Clemson, before losing a close game to Boston College. They finished their season in great style, winning out against four bowl teams--Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia, and a revenge win over Boston College in the ACC championship game. Despite having the same 11-2 record and conference championship as LSU, the early season win by the Tigers enabled them to jump over the Hokies to #2 in the final BCS standings.
The Hokies use a balanced offense--QBs Sean Glennon (the passer) and Tyrod Taylor (the runner) combined for more than 2,500 yards and 16 TDs. RB Branden Ore led runners with 876 yards and 8 TDs, but a relatively poor 3.6 yards to carry--typical of the Hokies' ground game.
Virginia Tech's stingy defense was critical to their success. Other than the LSU game, they gave up no more than 23 points in any game, and 14 or fewer points in eight games.
The Orange Bowl game should be a good example of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object as the prolific Kansas Jayhawk offense tries to break the Virginia Tech defense. Like Oklahoma, the Jayhawks blazed through their non-conference schedule, winning four games by a total score of 214-23 (average 54-6). Bowl team Central Michigan must have improved after being shellacked 52-7 by Kansas in the season opener. After wins over Big 12 also-rans Baylor and Kansas State, the Jayhawks were 6-0 for the first time since, well let's just say in a long time. Narrow wins over bowl teams Colorado and Texas A&M pushed Kansas to 8-0 and set up the game that finally brought national attention to the club--a 76-39 devastation of perennial tormentor Nebraska. The Jayhawks continued their dream season with wins over Oklahoma State and Iowa State, then saw their conference and national championship dreams dissolve on the Saturday evening after Thanksgiving in a not-as-close-as-it-seemed 36-28 loss to Missouri. Second in the Big 12 North, and out of the conference championship, the Jayhawks could only sit and watch the BCS parade go by. For whatever reason (money would be my guess), the Orange Bowl committee decided to salve Kansas's wounds with an invitation to the January 3 game in Miami, ahead of their higher-ranked vanquisher Missouri.
Kansas's offensive stats are in keeping with their high-scoring run through their schedule. QB Todd Reesing, an almost- Heisman Trophy candidate (the Missouri game happened just as fans were figuring out who this guy was), threw for more than 3,200 yards and 32 TDs against only six INTs. RBs Brandon McAnderson and Jake Sharp combined for more than 1,800 yards and 23 TDs. Eight different receivers caught TD passes from Reesing and his backup Kerry Meier (25 of 29 for 275 yards and 3 TDs).
My only look at Kansas was the drab Missouri game. Likewise, I didn't see much of Virginia Tech other than the LSU game. I have old friends who went to Kansas, so I'll root for them. But to pick a winner, I'll go with Virginia Tech's clear improvement over the course of the year, and with their experience in bowl games (the Orange Bowl is Kansas's first January bowl since 1969). Dadlak Prediction: Hokies 23 Jayhawks 17. The oddsmakers like Virginia Tech by 3-1/2. FOX will televise the game at 7:00 CST on Thursday, January 3.
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? Answering this question requires answering two other questions.
First, "What is a Jayhawk?" According to Wikipedia - "The Jayhawk is a cross between two hunting birds--the noisy blue jay and the quiet sparrow hawk. The term came to prominence just before the Civil War, in Bleeding Kansas, where it was adopted by militant abolitionist groups known as jayhawkers. With the admission of Kansas as a free state in 1861, Jayhawker became synonymous with the extremist people of Kansas. The Jayhawk appears in several Kansas cheers, most notably, the "Rock Chalk, Jayhawk" chant in unison before and during games."
The Kansas State Historical Society clearly states that the Jayhawk is a mythical creature. It even has a puppet to teach this fact to children.
Second, "What is a Hokie?" Here's an explanation from the Virginia Tech website.
"What is a Hokie? The origin of the word "Hokie" has nothing to do with a turkey. It was coined by O. M. Stull (class of 1896), who used it in a spirit yell he wrote for a competition.
Here's how that competition came to be held. Virginia Tech was founded in 1872 as a land-grant institution and was named Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College. In 1896, the Virginia General Assembly officially changed the college's name to Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute, a name so long that citizens shortened it in popular usage to VPI. The original college cheer, which made reference to the original name of the institution, was no longer suitable. Thus, a contest was held to select a new spirit yell, and Stull won the $5 top prize for his cheer, now known as Old Hokie:
"Hoki, Hoki, Hoki, Hy. Techs, Techs, V.P.I. Sola-Rex, Sola-Rah. Polytechs - Vir-gin-ia. Rae, Ri, V.P.I."
Later, the phrase "Team! Team! Team!" was added at the end, and an "e" was added to "Hoki."
Stull later said that he made up the word as an attention-grabber. Though he may not have known it, "Hokie" (in its various forms) has been around at least since 1842.
According to Johann Norstedt, now a retired Virginia Tech English professor, "[Hokie was] a word that people used to express feeling, approval, excitement, surprise. Hokie, then, is a word like 'hooray,' or 'yeah,' or 'rah.'" Whatever its original meaning, the word in the popular cheer did, as Stull wanted, grab attention and has been a part of Virginia Tech tradition ever since."
Who Would Win the Battle of the Mascots? Mythical bird vs. expression of approval? An esoteric battle for sure, perhaps better suited for those medieval theologians who argued about how many angels could fit on the head of pin. Still, those Kansas abolitionists were a pretty rowdy bunch. I'll pick them over a bunch of engineers in whatever students wore at college in 19th century rural Virginia.
Game Blog - I can't resist. "Hokie, Hokie, Hokie, Hi!" "Techs, Techs, VPI!", "Sola Rex, Sola Rah, Polytechs!", "Vir-gin-ia", "Rae, Ri, VPI!", "Team, Team, Team!"
Jayhawks are in red with blue helmets. VT in white with maroon helmets.
Virginia Tech going for first-ever 12-win season.
Announcers are Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston. Also Coach Barry Alvarez. Not bad for a network that doesn't cover college football. Sideline reporter is big-haired Jeannie Zelasko. I'm not expecting much.
Jayhawks kicking off. Big return across midfield. No flags. Hokies start at KU 40. Run left gets 4. Overthrown at the 10. 3rd and 6. Pass and catch by #81. Gain of 11. Sack back to the 37. Tyrod Taylor in at QB for VT. Gets sacked. Another sack at 46. 3rd and 29. Short pass to 39. Hokies will punt. Sails to back of end zone.
KU starts at 20. Pass for 6 to Brisco. Thrown away. 3rd and 4. Good first down catch at the 30 by Fine. Pass to McAnderson goes to near midfield. WR screen gets three. Short passing game by Kansas. Catch by #10, Kerry Meier, WR and backup QB. Run for 2. Option pitch gets 2 more. Reesing runs for it. A yard short. VT offside. Gives first down on fourth down. Ball on VT 26. Reesing sacked at 36. Shovel pass gets back to 28. Misting rain falling. 3rd and 11. Had receiver open, but threw out of bounds. FG attempt. Wide left.
VT takes over. 9-yard run to 35. 2nd and 1. First down on next carry. Taylor throws to midfield for first down. Run gets 1. Sideline pass intercepted by KU and run back for TD! Talib gets penalized for "high step" into end zone. Ridiculous. KU leads 7-0.
Interesting commercial by monster.com as townspeople try to prevent sunrise on Monday morning.
Return to VT 45. Cost of a strange penalty, but within the current enforcement guidelines, I'm sure. Flanker screen gets 4. Not enough blocking. Great long pass by Glennon. Dropped by Morgan. Distracted a little by the coverage. 3rd and 6. Pass to #81. Gains 24 after a run. Steps OB. End around for no gain. 2nd and 10 at 27. Glennon sacked. Third sack for KU. Ball at 32. 3rd and 15. Pass downfield broken by Thornton. FG attempt. 49 yards. Short. Brought out of end zone by Talib. Returns to KU 39. Great game for Talib so far.
Back to the game after an e-mail/news break for my wife. Kansas gets a TD pass to take a 17-0 lead. VT in danger of doing an Oklahoma in this game. Still 7 minutes left in first half. VT needs to get something going to get back in the game.
Ore gets 6 yards. 3rd and 1. Ore gets 1o on next carry. Ball near midfield. Four more for Ore. Ore stopped for 1. 3rd and 5. Big play for VT. Ore breaks tackle to get a first down. 4:33 left. Ore gets four more. Six carries in a row. Play action. Glenning runs. Face mask penalty on KU. 15 yards. Big help for VT. Ball on 15. Gives VT a chance to score. Ore gets 3. Ore carries to 2 yard line. 2:25 left. Ore stopped at 1. 2nd and goal. 9 of 10 carries for Ore. Ore carries it in. 17-6. Fitting TD after that drive. 17-7 after PAT.
3rd down pass completion allows KU to run out the first half clock.
ZZ Top will play at halftime. Now that's entertainment. "Sharp Dressed Man" but now many, many commercials and a preview of the BCS game and more commercials. They'll have to take down the stage to get ready for play. I once went to a Halloween party as ZZ Top. Would have won $100 but was 5 minutes late for judging. Learned to dance to "Velcro Fly."
KU takes kickoff to 24. Had to interrupt YouTube presentation of ZZ Top's "Legs", but it's worth it, I think. 3rd and 3. Pass to #86. Breaks a tackle for 12. Screen pass to Talib, dumped by VT for loss. 2nd and 16. Reesing sacked near the line. 3rd and 18. Pass to Talib broken up by linebacker. Great play.
VT returns punt for TD after a reverse. Penalty was offsides on KU. Almost pushed out, but not quite. Now 17-14 KU. 84 yard return by Justin Harper.
While we watched the ZZ Top video "Legs"
VT stopped the KU series and forced another punt. Beautiful 63-yard punt rolls dead at VT 18.
Hokies bring ball out to 47 on an interference penatly and another Ore run. VT receiver wins battle downfield for the next pass. Second receiver comes to rescue of primary receiver who has lost the ball to two defenders. Amazing play by #8, Boone. 37-yard gain.
Ore gains to 11. Ore forced out on wide play at 12. Third and 6. Gain of 2 or 3 by Ore. Hokies will go for tying field goal. Watch for fake. Kick is blocked! Rock Chalk, Jayhawk!
Another good defensive series by VT. KU punts.
Not getting the Southwest Airlines commercial about productivity enhancers. Also concerned about Budweiser using "The Daily Show's" brainless correspondent as a spokesman. I wouldn't believe a word he said.
Ore gets VT first down beyond the 40. KU lead looking pretty skinny. Long pass caught out of bounds. Glennon tackled on 3rd down play. VT punts. KU takes on own 12.
Pass to tight end gains to KU 49. Briscoe drops next pass thinking about his first move. Short pass incomplete. 3rd and 10. Middle screen. Deflected. KU will punt. Not a great pass. Fake punt works for first down. Pass by upback McAnderson. Ball at VT 29. Reesing to Fields. OB at 1. McAnderson stopped at goal line. Fumbles while stretching for goal line. Jayhawks recover at 5. Flag on play. Personal foul on KU. Ball goes back to 19. Bailout pass to McAnderson goes to 15. Holding on KU pushes ball back to 29. Bad throw by Reesing picked off by VT. Late hit by VT after the interception. Great Jayhawk drive nets nothing.
VT starts at own 6. Ore goes out at 9. Glenning pass to Morgan gets first down. Ore gets another first out past the 30. Ore over 100 yards rushing. End of 3rd quarter. Outcome still much in doubt. KU has lead, but VT has momentum.
Play action pass caught OB by Morgan. 2nd and 10. Fullback catches pass. Hit three times before going down. Gain of 2. Pass wide of Harper. 4th and 8. Short punt dies at KU 33. Flag on play. No flag. Ball stays at 33.
Next TD will probably win the game. Defenses in charge now. Reesing sacked for loss of one. Reesing scrambles. Takes big hit from #26 for no gain. 3rd and 1o. Pass well covered. Incomplete. 12:09 left. Another punt. Punt bounces well for KU. Stops at VT 9. 58-yard punt.
Ore gets 3. Glennon in trouble. Throws it away. 3rd and 7. Bad throw by Glennon. Intercepted and run back to VT 3.
Reesing takes it in after a play fake. TD KU! 23-14. So much for VT's momenturm. PAT good 24-14. Not sure why VT has abandoned the running game.
Hokies start at 33. Taylor back at QB. False start. 1st and 15. Taylor runs to 35. 2nd and 8. Glennon back. Glennon sacked at 28. Blitz from blind side. 3rd and 15. Pass complete but OB. 4th and 15. Yet another punt. 9:14 left. Punt rolls to 28.
Big run by McAnderson to VT 44. 28 yards on play. Reesing keeper to 36. Clock running. Sharp gets first down. Wrestled down. Best running of game for KU. Sharp gets five in middle of field. 7 minutes left. Option pitch to short side. 3rd and 1. Out of bounds. Sharp wrapped up short of first down. 4th and 2 from 22. VT calls time at 5:57. KU would have called TO a few seconds later. KU goes for it. Play action pass to tight end broken up. Ball over on downs to VT.
Pass complete to Morgan for 9. Time out for measurement. Hokies need two scores. Lucky measurement for VT. QB sneak for first down. Pass blocked at line. 2nd and 10. Glennon finds Morgan at 45 for first down. 5:09 left. Sideline pass overthrown. Glennon avoids sack. Runs OB for 5 yards. Harper drops pass for first down. Good throw under pressure by Glennon. 4th and 6. Boone catches pass for 7 and first down. Pass OB stops clock at 4:17. Ball at KU 43. Pass to Harper. OB at 34. 2nd and 1. Ore gets first down at KU 31. Glennon throws late. Almost INT. 2nd and 10. KU making VT work for this one. Pass to Ore to KU 22. 3rd and 1. Handoff to Ore. Close to first down. Got it at 20. 3:15 left. Glennon to Harper for TD. Great catch by Harper. Glennon squeeze it in among three KU defenders. 24-20 KU. PAT good 24-21. 3:00 left. Pressure on KU to move the ball.
Onside kick popped up to KU. Start at VT 43. Three for McAnderson. 1 TO left for VT. Reesing complete to Fields for 11 yards and first down. Ran OB. McAnderson gets 7. Good play for Jayhawks. Last TO by VT. 2:42 left. KU needs one more first down. McAnderson gets first down to 17. Looking good now. McAnderson gets 5 to 12. McAnderson to 9. 1:20 left. McAnderson stopped at 1. 1st and goal. Here comes the Gatorade, but players can't get to Mangino. Reesing kneels. KU wins 24-21! Dadlak picks are 19-10 overall and 14-15 vs. spread.
One of those bowl games that makes you wonder if it's really needed (another than to find a home for the two of the myriad of 7-5 and 6-6 teams), the second International Bowl from Rogers Centre (formerly SkyDome) in Toronto matches the Rutgers University Scarlet Knights (7-5) from the Big East and the MAC runnersup Ball State Cardinals (7-5). Helping to fill the gap between the Orange Bowl on January 3 and the BCS Championship Game on January 7, the International Bowl hits the air on ESPN2 at noon EST on Saturday, January 5.
Rutgers, who had an electrifying 11-2 season capped by a Texas Bowl win over Kansas State in 2006, struggled to a 3-4 conference record in a very competitive Big East in 2007. Highlights were wins over South Florida, Pitt and Navy. Back-to-back lopsided losses to West Virginia and Connecticut and a heartbreaking 41-38 loss to Louisville in the season finale resigned the Scarlet Knights to a January date in Canada. At least it's an indoor stadium. In another piece of good news, the Knights retained coach Greg Schiano, who was wooed by Michigan but decided to stay in New Jersey.
Red on red is the color scheme of this game as the Ball State Cardinals from Muncie, Indiana provide the opposition. Second place in the MAC does well to get any bowl game, particularly with just one win over a bowl-bound team (34-31 over Navy in OT). The Cardinals do more with their passing game than running game, gaining 3,400 yards thru the air to 1,800 on the ground. The Knights feature RB Ray Rice, a NFL prospect who gained 1,732 yards and scored 20 TDs.
Dadlak Predictions will pick and root for the Scarlet Knights over the mediocre Cardinals: Rutgers 30 Ball State 17. The bettors make Rutgers a 10-point favorite.
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? Let's see. Soldier (albeit medieval) vs. songbird. Gotta be Scarlet Knights all the way.
Game Update - I never thought I'd be blogging this one live, but I'm at home manning the keyboard for vacation planning and it dawned on me that football might be on the air. Rutgers leads Ball State 14-3 going into the second quarter. Not sure who is who. It's white on red vs. red on white. Rutgers appears to be in white with the ball. #88 just threw a crunching block on an end around. The Scarlet Knights add a FG to extend lead to 17-3.
At halftime it's 24-9, Rutgers. Looks like the bettors had this one pegged about right.
Ball State had the ball when I went to the shower. When I came back, Rutgers star running back Ray Rice was racing down the sideline on a 90-yard touchdown run, on which he did a nice job of stiff-arming an attempt to shove him out of bounds. Rice has more than 200 yards in the game and three touchdowns. Rice ran for 1,732 yards and 20 TDs during the season, but got very little consideration for the Heisman Trophy, probably due to Rutgers' second division finish in the Big East. Rice is a junior and could be in next year's Heisman race if he stays in school.
With 8 minutes to go, Rutgers leads 45-23. 52-30 is the final. Ray Rice has a Tony Temple-clone game--280 yards and 4 touchdowns, albeit on 35 carries.
Dadlak predictions go to 20-10 straight up and 15-15 vs. the spread as Rutgers both won and covered the 10-point spread.
The next unnecessary bowl kicks off at 7 p.m. CST on Sunday, January 6 in Mobile, AL. (As it turns out, the game serves like a warmup band to the BCS Championship Game main act just down I-10 in New Orleans the next day.) The GMAC Bowl (no mystery who the sponsor is) pits the Bowling Green University Falcons (8-4) from the MAC against the University of Tulsa Golden Hurricanes (8-4) from Conference USA. Bowling Green won the MAC East (there was no playoff with Central Michigan of the MAC West) and beat Big 10 team Minnesota on the road. Less impressive were lopsided losses to the Ohio brothers, Ohio U and Miami of.
Tulsa won the C-USA West, slaughtering Houston 56-7 along the way, but lost the conference championship game to UCF by 44-25, almost the identical score they lost by in their regular matchup with the Golden Knights.
Tulsa's plan is to outscore you. They scored 69 touchdowns--43 through the air, 25 on the ground, and one via a return. Quarterback Paul Smith completed 300 passes for over 4,700 yards. Receiver Brennan Marion caught 39 passes for a remarkable 1,244 yards (almost 32 yards per catch). Their 542 yards of total offense per game ranks first in the country. Giving up 496 yards per game ranks 232nd.
Bowling Green also likes to throw the ball. QB Tyler Sheehan passed for more than 3,200 yards and 23 TDs.
Like the warmup band trying to impress you with 30 minutes of high energy noise, the GMAC Bowl should be an entertaining show. My sister-in-law's grandson just graduated from BGU, so I'll root for them, but I'll pick Tulsa to survive the shootout. Dadlak Prediction: Tulsa 51 Bowling Green 45. The oddsmakers favor Tulsa by 4-1/2 points. ESPN will televise.
Who Would Win the Battle of Mascots? I know what a falcon is. I know what a hurricane is. But I'm not sure what a "golden hurricane" is. Louisianans wouldn't consider any hurricane to be golden, except maybe a drnik (I mean drink) made with yellow rather than red kool-aid. Still I can't imagine that any bird would be a match for any hurricane, so golden hurricanes it is.
Bowling Green challenged Nevada as the worst team playing in the 32 bowls of 2007/8. The Falcons "piled up" 231 total yards to 562 for the victorious Tulsa Golden Hurricanes. They also contributed four lost fumbles to Tulsa's good fortune. The outcome--Tulsa 63 Bowling Green 7 for the largest margin of victory in bowl history (all bowls, not just the GMAC Bowl). Tulsa QB Paul Smith threw for 312 yards and 5 TDs in his 14th consecutive game with over 300 yards passing. Dadlak predictions improve to 21-10 straight up and 16-15 vs. the spread. Just 11 hours and 39 minutes 'til the kickoff of the Uberbowl!
Many thanks to foxsports.com for ready to use statistical support for this post.