Welcome to college football’s post-Christmas feast. In the next nine days, fans will be treated to a 22-game bowl smorgasbord culminating with the BCS title game Jan. 7 at the Rose Bowl between undefeated powers Alabama and Texas. Here’s a look at the best and worst of the bowl offerings this season:
Cheese balls and chestnuts - With 13 of 34 bowls in the books, more than a third of the postseason is behind us, most of it of the superfluous appetizer variety. Those who skipped the first third of bowl season haven’t missed much.
In summary, the Mountain West Conference is 3-0 following victories by Wyoming (over Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl), BYU (over Oregon State in the Las Vegas Bowl) and Utah (over Cal in the Poinsettia Bowl), increasing BCS-status clamor for the Mountain West and providing more ammunition for those who claim TCU (12-0) is more deserving of a title shot at the Crimson Tide than Texas.
In terms of individual performances, Middle Tennessee’s Dwight Dasher set a bowl record for quarterbacks by rushing for 201 yards in a 42-32 victory over Southern Miss in the New Orleans Bowl. Still, Dasher’s performance probably hasn’t supplanted Vince Young’s 200-yard opus in the 2006 Rose Bowl in a single fan’s mind.
Roast beef - When the BCS title game features two teams with 13-0 records and storied histories, the season’s most compelling bowl game becomes even more obvious. Compelling? Yes. Competitive? Don’t bet on it - not when Alabama’s Nick Saban has a month to prepare for Mack Brown and the state that gave us “strategery.”
Fruitcake - The Sugar Bowl officially is the season’s most bizarre bowl. God told Urban Meyer to retire the day after Christmas but then returned to Urban on the 27th and downgraded His suggestion to a sabbatical. All that kissing with Tim Tebow should have been a sign that Meyer was an odd bird, but this latest flip-flop deal is the capper. Meyer is the biggest sports flake since George Foreman, and he hasn’t been repeatedly battered about the head.
Incredibly, Florida has a saner sideline than its Sugar Bowl opponent: Unbeaten Cincinnati will play down one head coach (Brian Kelly to Notre Dame) and depending on an interim guy (Jeff Quinn) who will take over at Buffalo after leaving New Orleans. Meanwhile, future Bearcats coach Butch Jones will be watching on TV.
Fried squirrel and Budweiser - The Chick-fil-A Bowl features Tennessee and Virginia Tech, two teams who seriously considered playing a game at Bristol Motor Speedway before officials reconfigured the track. Who’s head hillbilly?
Figgy pudding - Apparently it was a 19th-century thing, sort of like Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, who will be coaching his last game against West Virginia in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1. In related news, Paterno State faces LSU at the same time on the same day in the same state in the Capital One Bowl.
Sweet potatoes - Yeah, they’re on the table, but has anyone actually ever eaten them? Undefeated Fiesta Bowl competitors TCU and Boise State spent the entire season on the periphery of the BCS title-game discussion and didn’t even get a shot at a BCS conference team for their flawless efforts.
Dressing - In some houses, desire to dig into the stuffing trumps the turkey every time. If there was only one bowl game to watch this season, it might be the Rose Bowl featuring Ohio State and Oregon, a pair of 10-2 teams with intriguingly gifted quarterbacks.
Canned cranberry sauce - Our weak-sauce award thus far goes to Clemson, which had the audacity to chant “A-C-C, A-C-C” after beating Kentucky in the Music City Bowl. C.J. Spiller was his usual, game-shaping self, rolling up 172 all-purpose yards. But the rest of the Tigers need to be reminded that the ACC runners-up probably shouldn’t crow about conference superiority after edging the fifth-place team from the SEC East.
Yule log - In the bowl game most closely resembling a leper, Marshall is rumored to have beaten Ohio in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, the Detroit-hosted MAC nightmare formerly known as the Motor City Bowl. You know you’re in trouble when Frank Solich is easily the most recognizable person in attendance.
By Elaine Donnelly
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