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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Football 2013 - Week 19

by Bill Holmes


My recap of the only football games that matter

OK, I know it's now 2014 but to me it is still the 2013 football season. It spills over to 2014 for a few college bowl games and the NFL playoff season. So you can go along with me and call it week 19 of 2013 or week 1 of 2014 or whatever you want. 

On Monday I watched a bit of the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl between Navy and Middle Tennessee. Two reasons for checking in on this game, first it is played in Fort Worth which is just down the road and secondly I am the dad of a career Navy man. I also grew up in a Navy town so the Navy roots go back many years. Both teams came into this game unranked and with identical 8-4 records. It was a cold day in Fort Worth with temps around 40° all game and wind chill a few degrees colder. It was a close defensive battle for three quarters with the Midshipmen holding a 10-6 lead. Navy finally found the end zone twice in the fourth for a 24-6 victory. The Middies played their usual ground game with only 19 of their 385 total yards coming by pass. The game was somewhat marred by several dirty plays by MTSU. They had a player ejected and several more personal foul and unsportsman like conduct penalties. Navy finishes the season with a 9-4 record. Very respectable for a military academy that has such a big recruiting disadvantage over regular universities. 

I also checked in on the Georgia Tech - Mississippi game. This contest has the very poetic name of Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. It's played in Nashville. I gave this game a look because Mississippi is an SEC team, the first of ten SEC teams to play in bowls this season. I also long ago lived just a couple of blocks from the Georgia Tech campus. The Yellow Jackets and Rebels both entered this game with 7-5 records, Neither team was ranked. It was not a very good game. Ole Miss led 13-7 at halftime and slopped their way to a 25-17 win. It would have been a bigger win but the Rebels missed a couple of close field goal attempts and a PAT. Ole Miss finishes the year with an 8-5 record. The win makes the SEC 1-0 in bowl games with nine more to go.
On New Year's Eve there were two bowl games that involved SEC teams. The first was the AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis. The game pitted the Rice Owls against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Rice had a 10-3 record and won Conference USA. Despite that, they are unranked because C-USA is such a weak conference. On the other hand, Mississippi State barely sneaked into the bowl mix with a 6-6 record. The had a losing 3-5 record in SEC play. This was not much of a contest as the Bulldogs ran over the Owls 44-7. Statistics were as lopsided as the score. This gives you some indication of the vast differences between conferences. The C-USA champion team didn't belong on the same field as an SEC team that couldn't even win half of their conference games.

The late game was the Chick-fil-A Bowl from Atlanta. I have fond memories of
Johnny Football
both Atlanta and the original Chick-fil-A restaurant before it became a chain. This game finally had some ranked teams. The #21 Texas A&M Aggies against the #24 Duke Blue Devils. Yes, Duke does have a football team. This bowl always matches the SEC against the ACC. Duke finished #2 in the ACC with a 10-3, 6-2 record. A&M finished in the middle of the SEC with an 8-4, 4-4 record. The hype for this game was about Johnny Manziel, aka Johnny Football, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner. Would this be his last college game? Would he enter the NFL draft? Duke got off to a great start and A&M struggled. Duke got out to a 21-3 lead early in the second quarter thanks to some stupid A&M penalties, a blocked punt and poor Aggies defense. TAMU came back some but their defense it terrible. They have given up a ton of points this year and finished last in defense in the SEC. The score was 38-17 at the half. Then Manziel showed why he won the Heisman in 2012. He brought A&M back to within three points before they finally took the lead on a pick six with 3:33 left in the game. Then A&M got another interception while Duke was driving with about one minute on the clock. Texas A&M wins 52-48, an even 100 points. It was a great game. It was a tough lose for Duke who actually outgained the Aggies 661 to 541. The two interceptions were their downfall. The SEC ends the day at 3-0 in bowl games.

There is some more good news. Kurt Roper the Duke offensive coordinator will be moving to the Florida Gators next year. Duke lost but still scored 48 points against an SEC team. The Gators didn't score that many points in any game the past two years.

Jacksonville Skyline on a Nice Day
There were six bowl games on New Year's Day, two of them BCS bowls. Way back in medieval times almost all bowl games were played on January 1st. First up was the beautifully named Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl. I had to check this game because Georgia, an SEC team, was playing and it takes place in my old home town. We even played several high school football games in the old Gator Bowl. An aside, Mike Patrick was the play-by-play announcer for this game on ESPN2. Patrick was the sports director/anchor from 1970-75 on Jacsonville's WJXT channel 4. Unfortunately it was not a chamber of commerce day for the game. It was 60° and raining at kickoff. This game pitted #22 Georgia against Nebraska. The first of three SEC-Big Ten matchups today. Both teams entered the game with 8-4 records. The natural grass field at EverBank Field got sloppy during the game. Georgia lost this game more than Nebraska won it. The Dawgs got in the red zone seven time but settled for four field goals. They also allowed a 99.9 yard touchdown pass/run on a third down. Huskers win 24-19. I hate to see the asshole Nebraska coach, Bo Pelini, win a game. The Bulldogs let the SEC down on this one. 


There was also an early game played in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas but it was not the actual Cotton Bowl game. The AT&T Cotton Bowl game will be played on January 3rd at Jerry World in Arlington. The City of Dallas owns the Cotton Bowl stadium but not the bowl game. The one held today was called the Heart of Dallas Bowl and matched UNLV against North Texas in a who cares game. UNT won 36-14. Enough said.

There were two early afternoon games played along Interstate 4. The Outback Bowl in Tampa and the Capital One Bowl in Orlando. Each featured an SEC team against a Big Ten team.  In Tampa it was #16 LSU against Iowa, The Tigers had a 9-3, 5-3 regular season, an off year for them. The Hawkeyes were 8-4, 5-3. This game was closer than it should have been. LSU got out to a 14-0 lead and then didn't score again until two minutes were left in the game. Final score LSU 21, Iowa 14. Not pretty but an SEC win.

At the Orlando contest it was #9 South Carolina vs #19 Wisconsin. Besides being an SEC team, the Gamecocks are coached by Steve Spurrier, the old ball coach. Spurrier still holds a spot in all Gators fan's heart for his Heisman winning years as the quarterback and 12 years as head coach at Florida.  He is one of the true characters in football. The Fighting Spurriers got off to a sluggish start and were behind 14-13 at the half. The game outcome wasn't assured until SC scored with five minutes remaining. SC wins 34-24. They finish with an 11-2 record and certainly will remain in the top ten in the final polls. Another SEC win. That makes it SEC 5-1 so far in the bowl games. Four games to go.

The late afternoon game was the 100th edition of the Rose Bowl. Let me get this out of the way, it appears to be required to refer to this bowl as "the granddaddy of them all". Consider that legal requirement met. It was nice to see that the grand marshal and coin flipper was the great Vin Scully. This game traditionally pits the PAC-12 champion against the Big Ten champion, hence we have #5 Stanford vs #4 Michigan State this year. I got no dog in this fight, but although I hate the Big Ten I kinda like Michigan State for beating Urban Meyer's Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game. In a close game, the Spartans beat the Cardinal 24-20.

One more late game on this New Year's Day, the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl from somewhere around Phoenix. It was the Cinderella #15 University of  Central Florida Knights against the #6 Baylor Bears. UCF sneaked into this BCS game with their #15 ranking. They were the champion of the AAC, the last year that conference gets any automatic bids. I gotta pull for UCF since they are a Florida team. I live in Texas now but only care about TCU of the states teams. In fact, I dislike Baylor for many reasons. Once a Floridian, always a Floridian. There is one thing that bothers me about this game. The Baylor colors are  green and gold so why did they dress in all black or was it dark blue uniforms? It seems to be a trend now to wear usually ugly uniforms that are not traditional school colors. For that reason alone, Baylor should lose. One of the good things about the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl was the commercials. Tostitos and fiesta kinda fit and they had either sexy (remember Ali Landry) or funny ads. Not this year. Jimmy Kimmel is neither sexy or funny in this year's commercials. The game was an entertaining shootout. Even more entertaining because the Knights out shot the Bears. UCF came in as a big underdog who didn't belong in a BCS bowl game. The fine Baptist Christians student-athletes from Baylor did not play that way. They had 17 penalties for a total of 135 yards. It was a great win for UCF and the much maligned AAC. Final score UCF 52, Baylor 42.

On Thursday we had another BCS bowl game and another SEC team. This time it was the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans with #3 Alabama facing #11 Oklahoma. The host of the Sugar Bowl traditionally has been the SEC champion. Unfortunately for that bowl, the SEC champion for the last several thousand years has been in the BCS championship game so the Sugar Bowl gets the number two SEC team. It's the same story this year. Although 'Bama lost to Auburn, many people still think they are the best or at least second best team in the country. This game looks like a mismatch on paper. The SEC is stronger than the Big 12 (that has only 10 teams), 'Bama coach Nick Saban and the team should be pissed they lost a game, the Sugar Bowl is SEC home turf. The only question, is the Crimson Tide so disappointed they are not in the championship game that they don't show up for this game? That question can now be answered. The Tide did not show up. They were outplayed and ultimately beaten 45-31. It was a close game but it looked to me that like most bullies, Alabama doesn't do well when they are behind. They outgained the Sooners but had five turnovers and failed a couple of times in the red zone. This is a huge upset. The Tide got knocked off their pedestal and Nick Saban appears to not actually be god. Perhaps Saban should have taken the Texas job. The Longhorns are used to losing to Oklahoma. I am not a Saban fan but I hate to see an SEC lose. I think Alabama should be fined by the SEC for this lose. The conference now stands at 5-2 with three more bowl games.
There were two bowl games on Friday. Both games featured Tigers playing against an OSU. The first game was the Cotton Bowl which as I mentioned earlier is not played in the Cotton Bowl Stadium. It takes place in AT&T Stadium, aka Jerry World, in Arlington, Texas. It pitted the #8 Missouri Tigers against the #13 Oklahoma State Cowboys. Maybe the best Cowboys team to play in Jerry's stadium this season. This was another Big 12 vs SEC game just like the Sugar Bowl the day before. It turned out to be a very exciting game. The score was only 17-14 in favor of the Tigers after three quarters and then the offenses got going. There were seven scores in the final period. It wasn't decided until the last minute. OSU was behind by three and driving in the last few minutes. They were in at least field goal range for the tie when they fumbled on the 27 with 0:55 to go. Mizzou recovered and ran 73 yards for a TD. Just like the Dallas Cowboys who usually play in this building, the OSU Cowboys had a turnover in the last drive of the game. Jerry Jones and Tony Romo would be proud of Oklahoma State. Final score 41-31 in favor of Missouri. This was another SEC win and helps make up for the Alabama collapse in the Sugar Bowl. The SEC finished the day 6-2 with two games to go.

The second game was the Orange Bowl between #12 Clemson and Urban Meyer's #7 Ohio State. It is required that all Gators fans root against both the Buckeyes and Meyer. This turned out to be a close and exciting game too. It went back and forth all game. Finally with about 6:00 to go the Tigers pulled ahead to stay. Clemson outgained the Buckeyes by about 150 yards but more importantly they caused four turnovers. Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd had 378 yards passing with five TDs. He also added 127 rushing yards and another TD. Final score was Clemson 40 OSU 35. This made me happy.

There was one minor bowl game on Saturday, the BBVA Compass Bowl from Birmingham. I looked it up, a BBVA Compass is a bank. The game had the Houston Cougars facing the Vanderbilt Commodores. Both teams unranked and both with 8-4 records. This was a tale of taking turns. Vandy got out to a 24-0 lead at halftime. Houston scored 24 in the third quarter to tie it. Finally Vandy scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter for a 41-24 win. This was another SEC win which brings their record to 7-2 with only the BCS championship game to go.
There were also two NFL playoff games played on Saturday. First game was Kansas City at Indianapolis. The Colts were behind 38-10 early in the third quarter. They eventually won 45-44 in spite of four turnovers. A giant collapse by the Chiefs. Colts move on to the next round at New England.

The second game was New Orleans at Philadelphia. It was a little nippy 25°, 19° wind chill at game time. The Eagles let by one point half way through, fell behind in the third quarter, went ahead again with 5:00 minutes remaining and finally lost on a Saints field goal with no time on the clock. Final score NO 26 Philly 24. New Orleans dominated the statistics but also had two turnovers. Guess Philadelphia didn't order bad enough weather for a game against an indoor, southern team. The Saints next play at the Seahawks.

Sunday had two more NFL playoff games and a meaningless bowl game. The first NFL game was San Diego at Cincinnati. Temps were around 40° but it was raining. The Bengals had a 10-7 halftime lead but were shutout in the second half. Cincy quarterback had three turnovers in the second half, a fumble and two interceptions. The Bengals outgained the Chargers by 120 yards but their four turnovers were drive killers. Final score 27-10 in SD's favor. The Chargers now head to Denver for the next round.

The late game was in the frozen tundra of Green Bay's Lambeau Field (read in a very deep, dramatic voice). The 49ers vs the Packers. The temperature was 5° with a wind chill of -9° for the kickoff. It dropped a little during the game. Just a lovely day for outdoor activities. The fans were frozen, the announcers were frozen, the footballs were frozen, the field was frozen... It was a good game and the 49ers won with a field goal with the clock at 00:00. Amazingly in that weather there was only one turnover. Final score SF 23 GB 20. San Francisco travels to Carolina for the next round. It should be a little warmer in Charlotte.

I'm sure one of the teams actually won the GoDaddy Bowl. You can look it up.

Rumor has it that there is one more college football game on Monday, 1/6. 

wjh

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