Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Football 2014 - Week 19

My recap of the only football games that matter

Thankfully after a break to make way for meaningful NFL games we are back to meaningless bowl games. There were three on Monday. These games featured several big time football programs although most had less than stellar seasons. 

Opening up the day was the Autozone Liberty Bowl from Memphis. This was the first of three loses for the Big 12 which only has ten teams. Texas A&M (SEC) beat West Virginia (Big 12) 45-37. 

That was followed by a complete rout of once proud Oklahoma (Big 12) by Clemson (ACC) 40-6. The Sooners didn't score until more than halfway through the fourth quarter, then promptly missed the extra point kick. Some days it just doesn't pay to get out of bed. Hard to believe that Oklahoma was once ranked #4 early this season. This all happened in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, not to be confused with any non-athletic bowl or the other bowl game in Orlando. 

Finally there was the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl in Houston. Advocare is a modern day snake oil sales company and V100 is quote "V100 Tropical Chew provides a synergistic combination of vitamins and minerals to help supply the body with the nutritional components it needs to maintain optimal health.* With 100 percent of the daily values for 16 essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients, V100 Tropical Chew is a safe bet for a balanced nutritional supplement.*" The * is for "* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.This game featured Arkansas (SEC) vs Texas (Big 12). Back in the dinosaur age, these two teams were in the Southwest Conference and played each other every year. The Razorbacks won 31-7 but that does not tell the story. Texas had a grand total of 57 yards, 2 net yards rushing in the game. They also had two turnovers. Arkansas held the ball over 20 minutes longer than Texas. It was a game of men vs boys. 

Three games, three loses by the Big 12 two of which were embarrassing routs. 

Tuesday brings us three more bowls and more big names that had less than outstanding seasons. Opening the day was the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, another catchy title. This game matched Notre Dame against LSU. Both teams were ranked high at one time. ND as high as #5 and LSU #8. The Fighting Irish finished unranked and LSU at #23. It was a good game with ND scoring a last second FG for a 31-28 win. LSU let the SEC down on this one. 

Another SEC team was in the next game, the Belk Bowl. Two ranked 9-3 teams, #21 Louisville vs #13 Georgia. The Bulldogs upheld the honor of the SEC with a fairly easy 37-14 victory.

The last Tuesday game was the Foster Farms Bowl in Santa Clara. Foster apparently has several farms. They sell mostly chicken, turkey and cold cuts stuff. The 68K stadium was only half full despite local team Stanford playing. The Cardinal manages to beat Maryland 45-21.

New Year's Eve had three of the big six bowls. All ranked teams playing for big payouts. The first was the Peach Bowl that pitted #6 TCU against #9 Ole Miss. The Frogs intercepted a pass within the first 30 seconds and scored in the first minute. They were just getting started. TCU ran up a 42-0 lead before the Rebels finally got a FG in the 4th quarter. Ole Miss had a pitiful 129 total yard, only nine on the ground. No contest and an SEC humiliation. There will be talk about the Horned Frogs being ranked outside the top four playoff spots. 

The middle game was the Fiesta Bowl. This game had #10 Arizona from the big name PAC 12 against #20 Boise State from the mid level Mountain West. So of course the Broncos won. It looked like a romp when Boise State got out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter but the Wildcats fought back but fell short 38-30 when they ran out of time with the ball on the Broncos 10 yard line. Good game.

To wrap up the day we went back east for the Orange Bowl. This pitted another SEC team, #7 Mississippi State, against #12 Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets controlled the game with a devastating ground game. They reeled off 452 rushing yards and held the ball almost 10 minutes longer. Final score was the Ramblin' Wreck 49, Bulldogs 34. Another bad performance by a high ranked SEC West team. The posted attendance was 58K in the 80K stadium but it looked like even fewer were actually there. 

Finally on New Year's Day we get to the two playoff bowls. The only games that really matter. But first there were three warm-up games. Let's start with the Outback Bowl that pits another SEC West team, #19 Auburn, against the Big Ten's #18 Wisconsin. This turned out to be a good game although it was another loss for the SEC West. It was a back and forth game with seven lead changes in regulation. The Badgers scored the tying FG as time expired in regulation. The Tigers missed a tying FG in the first OT when the ball hit the upright. Wisconsin wins 34-31. 

That game was followed by the Cotton Bowl right down the road at Jerry's World. This game had a couple of top 10 teams, #8 Michigan State and #5 Baylor. The Bears were ahead by 10 at halftime and by 20 at the end of three. Then the Spartans woke up and scored 21 unanswered points in the last quarter for a 42-41 win. Their last TD was scored with 0:17 remaining. Baylor is a completely one dimensional team. They pass and score quickly. They had 603 passing yards and -20 rushing. MSU held the ball over 13 minutes longer than the Bears. I'm not a fan of the Big Ten, but I'm even less a fan of Baylor so I was glad to see this result.

The last warm-up game was #16 Missouri vs #25 Minnesota in the Citrus Bowl. This game lacked the drama of the other two. Mizzou led most of the game and won 33-17. Finally an SEC victory. 

On to the playoffs. The first ever FBS division playoff game was the at the site of the first ever bowl game, the Rose Bowl. It was #3 FSU against #2 Oregon. As usual the Noles fell behind early and trailed by five at halftime. That was as close as they got. This time the second half comeback magic failed to materialize. The teams traded TDs in the first half of the third quarter. From then on it was all Ducks. They reeled off five unanswered TDs for a 59-20 win. It appeared FSU gave up. They for sure gave up the ball with five turnovers. The Seminoles should be embarrassed by their effort. They should be even more embarrassed by most of the team leaving the field without congratulating Oregon on their win. A classless punk action by a football program that is known for bad behavior. Their 29 game winning streak comes to an end as does their reign at national champs. This should also be the last college game for Jameis Winston and his bad behavior. Oregon now heads to Arlington for the championship game.

The other semifinal game was #4 Ohio State vs #1 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Alabama got out to an early lead and managed to barely hold on to it as the first half ended at 21-20. Ohio State convincingly won all the stats but had two turnovers and had to settle for FGs twice when they got inside the five. They outgained the Tide 348-139 in the half. The Buckeyes pulled ahead in the third quarter with two TDs before 'Bama scored late to get the game close again. All the marbles on the table for the last period. The teams traded TDs but Ohio State held on for a 42-35 win. The Crimson Tide had their chances but couldn't pull it off. The nail in the coffin was when they allowed an 85 yard pass TD with 3:24 remaining to fall behind by 14. Another loss for the SEC West. That puts Ohio State in the championship game against Oregon here in Arlington, TX on January 12th.

Going into these semifinal games I would have hoped that FSU and Alabama would advance to the finals. An SEC team against a home state Florida team. Seeing how the Seminoles played and reacted to the lose in their game, I'm glad they didn't advance. I dislike Alabama and Nick Saban but they are an SEC team. That and the fact that I really dislike Ohio State and their ass coach Urban Meyer. I'll be rooting for Oregon in the championship game.  

Friday brought four meaningless bowl games. It was sorta old home week for me. There was the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth and the Gator Bowl in the old home town. 

The first game was just down the freeway in Ft.Worth at Amon Carter Stadium on the TCU campus. It was the long named Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl that pitted powerhouses Houston against Pitt. Unfortunately it was not a chamber of commerce day in Fort Worth and Amon Carter is an outdoor stadium, temps in the 30's and rain. It was good to see that Lockheed-Martin sponsored the game after Bell Helicopter dropped out. Both Ft. Worth companies and both very indebted to the armed forces. This was another game that looked like a rout only to have a big comeback win. Pitt led 31-6 early in the fourth quarter. Then Houston got hot and a little lucky. They scored 29 last quarter points thanks to two onside kickoffs. The last TD was scored with a minute remaining and they elected to go for the two point conversion for the win rather than a sure tie. Final score Cougars 35 Panthers 34. 

Next was my hometown Gator Bowl. I know, it's not called the Gator Bowl anymore but it will always be the Gator Bowl to me. It was overcast, but temps in the 70's for most of the game. This once prestigious game had two unranked teams, 7-5 Iowa against 6-6 Tennessee. The Vols dominated early and had a 42-7 lead by the end of three quarters. The Hawkeyes scored three fourth quarter TDs after Tennessee took out many of their starters. Final score 45-28. This was a much needed SEC win. 56K showed up for this one, mostly Volunteers. 
Gator Bowl circa 1954

Back to Texas for the third game, this time in San Antonio. The Alamo Bowl matched two 9-3 schools, #14 UCLA and #11 Kansas State. This was another almost comeback game. UCLA won the first half 31-6, K-State won the second half 29-9. Final, Bruins 40, Wildcats 35.

The Friday wrap up game was the Cactus Bowl from Tempe. Yet another game when one team failed to show up for the first half then found some spark. Oklahoma State led 24-0 at intermission then held Washington off for a 30-22 win. This game didn't start until 10:25 PM EST. It was a rare Big 12 (ten teams) win this postseason. 

On Saturday the Florida Gators had the bowl spotlight. That's because the always prestigious Birmingham Bowl was the only college bowl. A time honored tradition since 2006 that is so popular there is no title sponsor. This game pitted the 8-4 East Carolina Pirates against the 7-4 Gator. Somehow Florida managed a 28-20 win. Carolina had 200 yards more offense and almost five minutes longer possession. Both teams had three turnovers. Not exactly a pretty game. This game marked the end of the Coach Muschamp and QB Jeff Driskel era at Florida, neither will be missed. It was a sad year for the Gators. There were an alleged 30K fans in the 71K seat Legion Field which opened in 1927.

There were also a couple of first round NFL playoff games on Saturday. The first was between teams that really didn't belong in the playoffs. Carolina finished the regular season with a 7-8-1 losing record and Arizona was 11-5 but they lost four of their last six games and were on their third or fourth starting QB. The Cardinals had a total of 78 yards, only 27 rushing, and three turnovers. The Panthers also had three turnovers but at least moved the ball some. It was an ugly 27-14 win for Carolina.

The night game was the old rivalry between AFC North division members Baltimore and Pittsburgh. They split the regular season games. The game was close in the first half with the Ravens taking a 10-9 lead. The Steelers led most of the statistics but self-destructed with three turnovers. Baltimore went on to win 30-17.

Two more NFL games were on tap for Sunday. Opening up was a 26-10 Colts win over the Bengals. Cincinnati was shutout in the second half and never really threatened. It was not a very good game.

Finally Detroit came to Arlington to see who plays on. It started out all Lions. They got out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Dallas looked lost on both sides of the ball. Bad back Tony Romo got sacked often and looked confused and frustrated. The Cowboys got lucky near the end of the half and scored on a 76 yard pass play. About midway through the third quarter the Lions led 20-7 then the 'Boys got hot. They scored three times to pull out a 24-20 win. The whole D/FW area has playoff fever. The Cowboys reward for the win is a trip Green Bay next week. Forecast gametime temperature is 8° and it's already being labelled Ice Bowl II. 

There was one last meaningless bowl game on Sunday night. It was the GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile. This mop up game featured national powers Toledo against Arkansas State. What a great event. Toledo won 63-44, a real defensive battle or maybe it was actually an arena football game. 

There are now only real playoff games left. The one final college championship game between Ohio State and Oregon plus more rounds of the NFL playoffs. 


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