Ugly, uglier, ugliest . . .
Some "yeah, I'm still on vacation but somebody has to write something" observations on the SEC's 0-3 start in the bowls.
-- Easy y'all. Reports of the SEC's demise are greatly overstated. This, after all, is the SEC (L)East, which this year would be competitive only in the Ugliest Dog pageant.
Still . . .
**The officiating in the UNC-Tennessee game was a carnival, particularly when the game got down to the winning and losing. Let's start with the personal foul call against Janzen Jackson that put Carolina in range for its tying field goal. Sorry, y'all, but that was a clean, albeit ferocious, hit. Jackson led with his shoulder and aimed at the back. Savage but perfectly legal. The Big 10 refs also blew the call on the next-to-the-last play of regulation, which needed only a bunch of clowns on scooters to qualify as a bona fide circus. Illegal participation -- running a play with too many men on the field -- is a 15 yard penalty, not 5. Put a second back on the clock, if you will, but the UNC kick should have been 50 yards, not 39.
That said . . . Tennessee didn't distinguish itself with its on-the-field antics. Derek Dooley still looks a tad wild-eyed and overwhelmed on the sidelines, and his players made enough mistakes to keep the game close. In Daniel Lincoln, they have The Scott Norwood Award winner, legendary for the ones that he missed (Alabama fans passed the hat for Lincoln's trophy). The Vols did test drive what should be one of the SEC's best passing attacks in the years ahead. Better still, quarterback Tyler Bray clearly displayed the behavioral qualities that next year will put his name up next to Casey Clausen as the most hated player in the conference. Can't wait to watch his personal development.
**Georgia fans continue to amaze us. They are passionate, mean-spirited (we like that about them) and know few equals in their love for their team and their disdain for their rivals. They are also clinically delusional, which is OK to a point because most of us lack any objectivity when it comes to their own teams.
But every year Georgia people believe they are destined to win the SEC, and they stick to it, even though this Bulldog edition was just woeful. Which hasn't stopped Dawg fans from lighting their torches and storming the castle after Friday's loss to Central Florida, a top 25 team that did all the little things a good football team does to win a game. The Liberty Bowl was a bit of a dogfight, except Central Florida had the better clamp hold. The longer George O'Leary's team held on, the more the fight went out of Georgia. Mark Richt has a lot of little/essential things to fix before Georgia kicks off next September against Boise State -- when Georgia will clearly be a favorite for the BCS Championship Game.
**The Spurrier/Garcia road show sputters on toward the pathological. You would think that after the third straight unsightly bowl performance from the tandem that one of them -- read Garcia -- might go. This is a team with improving talent and still way too many holes in talent, coaching and intangibles. Yet the biggest gap remains between the ears of its veteran quarterback. When does Spurrier say enough?
Which brings us to today's games:
Florida-Penn State: Tony Barnhart over on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says Florida has too many athletes for Joe great-grandPA's team. My question to Tony: Have those Florida kids of whom he speaks been studying abroad this fall? Florida has had more athletes than every team it has played and is lucky to be 7-5! The highlight of their season was beating Georgia (which should be playing Oregon for the national championship if not for the minor detail that the Dawgs lost more games than they won). Sure, it's Urban Meyer's last game as Florida's coach. But this team hasn't played hard for Meyer all year. Nittany Lions, 20-16.
Mississippi State-Michigan: The Rich Rodriquez Parting Gift Bowl shows the dark side of tradition. MSU, whose only legacies are losing and cheating, hires an unproven assistant who runs a goofy offense, mouths off to everybody and after two years of exceeding low expectations is now considered one of the hottest names in coaching. Michigan, with all its history and wins, runs off a coach, botches his replacement, and "settles" on an outsider: Rodriguez, fresh off a highly successful stint at West Virginia. Three years later, the team still can't play and Ann Arbor still keens over the absence of a "Michigan Man" at the helm of the program. Note to Big Blue: Your last Michigan Man lost to App State. Word is that Rodriquez is out whether he wins or loses, and since his team stopped playing for him months back, it's hard to imagine one last rousing rendition of "Hail to the Victors" to send the coach on his way. The EXPATS have long thought the praise for Mississippi State a bit premature. But State has so much more to play for. Bullies, 28-24.
Alabama-Michigan State This game is simple and complicated at the same time. Alabama is bigger, faster and deeper. Michigan State has far more incentive. Alabama didn't play a complete game in 2010 (including the BCS winner over Texas) and had their heart and lungs ripped out in the epic collapse at Auburn. So how long does the good Alabama stick around against the Spartans, and when does the we-could-give-a-rip Alabama take over? The guess here is that the shift change won't occur until the game is in hand, but that Michigan State will make it closer at the end. If Alabama can run the ball, we will have the day's only rout. Tide, 31-22.
Arkansas-tOSU: Jim Tressel is doing what he can to save some face for his team and program, but his decision to play Terrelle and THE Free-Marketeers have completely overwritten the original storyline of the Sugar Bowl, which was: Will The Ohio State University finally beat an SEC school in the post season? The correct answer now is Who Cares? Much of the Buckeye fanbase believes
their star quarterback and the other violators should sit on their wallets. And yet, surely for the personal development of the student-athletes involved, the NCAA says they should play. Too bad, what was easily the second most interesting matchup on the bowl lineup now becomes a morality play -- with not enough morals to go around.
Saturday, January 1, 2011
Ugly, uglier, ugliest . . .