Monday, December 29, 2014

Football 2014 - Week 18

My recap of the only football games that matter

My heading of "the only football games that matter" is not true during the silly bowl season. I'll touch on several of these games with a glancing blow but mostly with tongue firmly in cheek. 

There were several bowl games this week It all started with the Miami Beach Bowl which is played in Marlins Park, a baseball stadium that is not in Miami Beach. It is the inaugural edition of this bowl, we needed more bowls. This game actually had two good teams, 8-4 BYU and 9-3 Memphis. I saw the tail end of the game. It ended in double overtime with a 55-48 Memphis win. Then a brawl broke out. Not just the normal pushing, shoving and posturing but actual punches and blood. There were very few butts in the seats. The published attendance was 20K but that number must include the teams, vendors, ticket takers, security and several thousand driving by on nearby Dolphin Expressway. 

The day after the Miami Beach Bowl, that wasn't played in Miami Beach, we had the Boca Raton Bowl which was actually played in Boca Raton. That's only about 45 miles north on I-95. There were an alleged 29K fans in the 29K capacity stadium. Apparently many fans in Boca Raton are invisible.

The second Tuesday game was finally one I had some interest. In the very long named San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, the 7-5 Navy Midshipman played 7-5 San Diego State. That's a local school in their home field playing the Naval Academy in a big Navy town. Should draw a big crowd. There were 33K in the 71K stadium. It was a sloppy game with seven turnovers. It was also a close game with neither team ever leading by more than seven. Navy is strictly a rushing team with only 17 passing yards on 3/7. The Midshipmen took the lead with about a minute and a half remaining in the game. SDSU then drove down the field but missed a 35 yard chip shot FG attempt with 0:20 on the clock. Navy wins 17-16.

There was also the Royal Purple bowl on Tuesday but who cares.

On Christmas eve we had the first ever Popeyes Bahamas Bowl. The Popeye in the name is the chicken joint, not the cartoon sailor. This game was actually held in Nassau, Bahamas, one of the real hotbeds of college football. It was about 80° and humid at kickoff. The game was held in a 15K seat soccer stadium. We have high school football stadiums bigger than that in Texas. It was a game between two 7-5 teams from third tier football programs. I saw about five minutes of this game, looks like it was a good one by the 49-48 final score. Central Michigan trailed Western Kentucky 49-14 midway through the third quarter before staging their comeback that fell just short. They scored a miracle hail Mary/several laterals TD with no time left. They then went for two on the conversion for the win instead of taking the sure tie in regulation. Gutsy call. The alleged attendance was 13.6K, I guess they were all at the concession stands when I saw a crowd shot. 

For the next bowl we need to travel halfway around the globe to the Hawaii Bowl. This game feature the sub .500 Fresno State Bulldogs (6-7) against the always mighty 7-5 Rice Owls. Over the years there have been a number of names for bowl games in Hawaii and I think some years there was more than one game on the islands. Fresno State lost to finish with a stunning 6-8 record. More than worthy of a free trip to Hawaii. The game is played in the 50K seat Aloha Stadium. Published attendance was 25K. Most must have left for the beach before the opening kickoff.

The silly bowl season took Christmas day off but cranked back up on Friday with three more games. The first was the local Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl. Zaxby's is some kind of chicken joint based in Georgia with over 600 locations. There are only two in Texas, neither in Dallas. This game is played in the Cotton Bowl while the actual (Goodyear) Cotton Bowl Classic game is not. The old Cotton Bowl is a huge 92K stadium. Plenty of elbow room as an alleged 31K showed up.

Next was the Quick Lane Bowl in beautiful downtown Detroit. Imagine the thrill of winning a slot in a bowl in Detroit. UNC would have been better off staying home. They lost which gave them a losing record and Chapel Hill is a way nicer place. It was probably a wash for Rutgers. What is a Quick Lane? It's apparently some slogan or name that Ford uses for their service departments. I was at a Ford dealer's service department a few days ago. They had lanes but it wasn't quick.

Finally there was the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl. Bitcoin is that madeup internet currency that about 12 people in the world understand. I wonder if you have to use Bitcoins to buy tickets or if the schools are paid their appearance fees in Bitcoins? This game is played in beautiful Tropicana Field which is normally the worst baseball stadium in the majors. The Rays draw small crowds here. Meaningless football drew better, published attendance was 26K.

Saturday was a big bowling day with five games. First up was the Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman, quite a mouthful. I've often wondered why companies like Northrop Grumman advertise on TV or at sporting events. They don't make consumer goods and I can't imagine that someone shopping for a new ballistic missile would be swayed by a catchy TV commercial. The game was held at the 34K seat Navy-Marine Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, home field of the Midshipmen. This game was a sellout, amazing.

Next was the Hyundai Sun Bowl that is actually played in the Sun Bowl stadium (51K capacity) in El Paso. It is the second oldest bowl in the country, first played in 1902. Duke was in this game, they don't get to too many bowls.  

Up next was the Duck (Dynasty) Commander Independence Bowl in Shreveport. It's played in Independence Stadium which has been renovated and expanded to 49K. I remember passing it many times on I-20 when it looked like a decrepit high school stadium. This bowl featured the Old Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier, one of my favorite football personalities. It has been an off year for his Fighting Chickens but they managed to win for a 7-6 final record. This ensured Spurrier had another winning season. In 25 years as a college head coach he has had only one losing season, his first one. 

Now onto the New Era Pinstripe Bowl played in Yankee Stadium, a baseball park. Get it, pinstripe, Yankee Stadium. The game is owned by the Yankees and the winner gets the George M. Steinbrenner trophy. What a prize. I didn't see any of this game so I don't know how realistic the published 49K attendance is. Looks like it was a good game with Penn State scoring with no time on the clock for a one point victory over Boston College.

To wrap it up we have to go to the west coast for the National University Holiday Bowl in San Diego. Why does a university have to sponsor a bowl game? Maybe because it is a private school with a main campus in La Jolla, CA, one of the most expensive places in the country. Gotta keep that tuition money coming in. 

The march of the bowls took Sunday off to make room for the last week of the NFL regular season. But don't worry there will be three bowl games on Monday.

The Jaguars wrapped up their season in Houston. They end it like they started it, with a lose. The score remained close but the stats show that the Texans dominated. They held the ball over 19 more minutes than the Jags. One of Jacksonville's TDs was from an interception return. Offensively challenged has been the perfect description all season. Bortles was only 14/33 for 117 yards and five sacks. Their lone offensive TD was a pass from a wide receiver, not the QB. The Jaguars finish with a pitiful 3-13 record. Their defense is adequate but they have to find some offense in the offseason. Will a second season Blake Bortles be the answer? The only good news is that the Jags will get the number three draft pick. Wait til next year.

The Bucs win, the Bucs win, the Bucs win! No, not the game of course but the number one overall draft pick in 2015. In typical Tampa Bay fashion they took a 20-7 lead into the fourth quarter but couldn't hold the lead. Final score, the Saints win 23-20. How many times have the Buccaneers had the lead only to lose it? Like Jacksonville, Tampa Bay has to find some offense. Will they use that top draft choice to pick a big name QB? There will probably be two Heisman Trophy winning QBs in the 2015 draft. The Bucs finish the season with a league worst 2-14 record. They went winless at home which doesn't help with ticket sales. 

In the late game the winner of the Carolina at Atlanta game would be in the playoffs despite a losing records. It was a home game for the Falcons plus they had already beaten the Panthers earlier in the year. So of course they would win. Not so fast bird breath. Atlanta forgot to show up for the game. They were completely overrun by the Panthers and lost 34-3. Carolina scored TDs on two interceptions and sacked Matt Ryan six times. The Falcons finish the season at 6-10. A very disappointing year for a team expected to do well. Meanwhile Carolina limps into the playoffs with a stellar 7-8-1 record and actually get to host a first round game. 

So all three of my NFL teams are done, no playoffs. What is the final tally? That would be an outstanding 11-37 overall record. That works out to .229 winning percentage, not even one win per week. 2015 has got to be better, right? 

At least the local D/FW fans will be happy. The Cowboys won their division and will host a game next week against Detroit.

For you bowling fans, have no fear. They crank up again today and there are still 21 games to go.


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