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The College Football Report: Beef 'O'Brady's Smokin Jack Slider Basket And The Rest Of This Week's Bowl Games Preview As Well As Part 1 Of Our Season Recap
That was a quite the regular season, true believers. In keeping with our two-part approach to the season preview, we present for your consideration Part One of the Beachwood College Football Report Postseason Recap.
Below, you can find us returning to some of the macro issues we pointed out in the preview: the Black Coaches Association and minority football coaches, conference realignment and last but hardly least, Kim Kardashian.
In Part Two, you can expect some further discussion of Layoff Season and the coaching caro . . . merry-go-round. And in the interest of full disclosure, we will go on to compare our (decidedly amateurish) predictions against the results from the 2010 season.
In Part One of the 2010 season preview, we commented on the (very) gradual increase in hiring minorities for head coaching positions at the college level - especially at BCS programs. The 2010 season saw black head coaches take the helm for the first time in school history at three different programs: Joker Phillips at Kentucky, Charlie Strong at Louisville, and Mike London at Virginia. The three new hires combined to go 16-20, with both Kentucky and Louisville squeaking into postseason play with 6-6 records. Randy Shannon, the fourth black coach in the BCS at the start of the season, did not survive to coach a fifth season at the University of Miami despite taking the 'Canes to seven wins and the Sun Bowl. (More on Shannon in Part Two.)
Among the coaching changes across the Big Ten, Big 12 and elsewhere among the six conferences to automatically qualify for the BCS, black coaches took three top spots:
* Jon Embree returns home to coach the Colorado Buffaloes after the departure of Dan "Why Don't You Re-Up My Contract During a Losing Season" Hawkins. Embree first started coaching as a volunteer in 1991 at Colorado after graduating from the school in 1987. He was a standout tight end for the Buffs, starting as a freshman and lettering all four years. In the coaching ranks, Embree parlayed his playing experience into position and assistant coaching roles, tutoring TE Tony Gonzalez (then of the Kansas City Chiefs) among others. The 2011 season looks to be an interesting one for the Buffs, who will welcome Embree along with fellow Buff legend Eric Bieniemy as offensive coordinator and (as if a new coaching staff isn't enough) join the expanded Pac-12. We like Embree's chances and wish him and his staff the best.
* Pittsburgh forced out Dave "This Is My Last Job" Wannstedt after the Panthers posted a disappointing 7-5 record. Wanny led Pitt to a 10-3 season last year (the school's most wins since 1981) but failed to deliver postseason Ws; in his six seasons, Pittsburgh never earned a spot in a BCS game and won only one bowl - last year's underwhelming 19-17 victory over UNC in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Michael Haywood, former top guy at Miami (Ohio), will take over before Pitt faces off against Kentucky in the BBVA Compass Bowl on January 8. Haywood turned Miami around in just two seasons; the Redhawks went from 1-11 in 2009 to 9-4 and MAC champ in 2010. Here's hoping Haywood works out better than Pitt AD Steve Pederson's last major hire. Pederson also held the AD job at Nebraska from 2002-07, where he was responsible for the Bill Callahan debacle.
* And lastly, Vanderbilt brought its search for a new head coach to a merciful end on Friday by hiring former Maryland assistant coach and offensive coordinator James Franklin. Despite interviewing Franklin (twice) and fellow O-coordinators Don Treadwell (Michigan State) and Greg Roman (Stanford), Vandy seemed to have its sights set on yet another offensive play caller, Auburn's Gus Malzahn. When Malzahn slipped away away (in favor of as much as $1.3 million to remain at Auburn next year), Vandy hurriedly hit the reset button. Ranked among the nation's top recruiters, Franklin might help the Commodores regain the magic of 2008 and 1982. For the record, those were Vandy's only winning seasons in the past thirty years. Well, good luck, Coach!
Smirk & Sarkisian Update
Lane "Coach Smirk" Kiffin led the USC Trojans to an 8-5 mark, but won't be eligible for postseason play until 2012 due to the penalties stemming from the Reggie Bush era. Sarkisian's Huskies finished the season a mediocre 6-6, including a 32-31 win over USC in early October, and earned the dubious honor of facing the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl - exactly 103 days after the last game between the two schools. (Nebraska beat UW 56-21 in Week Three.)
In related news, former Reggie Bush beau and unofficial College Football Report Correspondent Kim Kardashian has moved on and can now be found courtside at Nets games when not canoodling with New Jersey forward Kris "That White Guy from Minnesota" Humphries.
Posts to Kardashian's Facebook fan page asking for comment were not immediately returned.
The Conference Realignment Roulette Wheel Comes Up . . . Double Zero
Also in Part One, we mulled all of the conference shuffling that took place during the offseason. In particular, we argued that Boise State's move from the WAC to the Mountain West was a marginal improvement at best. With Utah departing for the Pac-12, only TCU remained as a major power in Boise's new conference. We wondered what would happen if TCU faded from the national scene - but we did not (although we should have known better) speculate on the Horned Frogs also fleeing for greener pastures.
But as the 2010 season evolved into a naked power grab, the Big East took notice of the machinations by rival conferences such as the Pac-12 and Big Ten to absorb big name schools - and big time markets.
Just days after completing the season 12-0 with a pummeling of New Mexico (66-17 in Week 13), Texas Christian University accepted an invitation by the Big East to join the conference effective for the 2012-13 season.
Some commentators mentioned the memory of the ACC snatching Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech as a contributing factor but Big East commissioner John Marinatto was not shy about identifying the two major issues at hand: the conference's "media footprint" and, by extension, leverage when the Big East renegotiates its television contracts after the 2013 season.
The Big East wanted to expand to 10 football programs. At the start of this season, 16 teams belonged to the conference, but many (Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall, et al.) do not participate in football. The Big East also extended an invitation to Villanova, a current member in all other sports, to elevate its football program from I-AA (i.e. the Football Championship Series) to join the Big East and the FBS. But TCU - and the Dallas-Fort Worth television market - was the golden goose. By adding TCU, the Big East will hold six of the top 14 Nielsen markets and league games (currently aired by ESPN) will reach an estimated 25 million homes.
Beyond the media numbers, the league desperately needed to shore up its BCS credentials.
While we can't be sure when negotiations with TCU began, by the time the move was announced (November 29), the Horned Frogs were ranked #3 in the Bowl Championship Series formula and had guaranteed a spot in a BCS bowl. By contrast, Marinatto must have felt queasy watching the Big East title chase - for example, eventual champ UConn finished October at 4-4 and 1-2 in league play. For a time, it seemed the Big East champ might not even finish ranked in the AP Top 25. (UConn barely squeezed in at #25 in the Week 15 poll.) Not exactly compelling stuff for the masters of the BCS HAL 9000, who are - lest we forget - in the business of making money. And BCS games between two mismatched opponents (lacking the David vs. Goliath romance inherent in games featuring the likes of Boise State) don't draw much of a crowd.
In related news, UConn has sold only 4,000 of the 17,000 Fiesta Bowl tickets allotted to the Huskies. That's $2.5 million worth of tickets that will be charged back to the school if unsold. The school is said to be "similarly behind" on its commitment to book 550 hotel rooms near the Fiesta Bowl. Not even UConn fans seem interested in the outcome on January 1.
The Beachwood Bowl Series
We hope you spotted the forecast for the first three bowls of the season in the Weekend Desk Report last Saturday. Based on those early returns, the favorites seem poised to rake in the Ws in the minor bowl games. The next week will feature only one or two Vaguely Interesting Bowls interspersed among a full slate of Also-Ran Bowls. In fact, we have recently devised a system to generate your own fantasy Vaguely Interesting Bowl game:
1. Generate a random number between 1-26.
2. Take the corresponding letter of the alphabet and plug it into the "Get Quotes" search box on the Google Finance home page.
3. Pair the first resulting company name from the search with the name of the town from the first picture on this page.
4. Presto! Imagine the possibilities of The CitiGroup Inc. Hot Springs Bowl or The Johnson & Johnson Fort Oglethorpe Bowl, or . . .
Below, please find a review for the next week or so of games including a complimentary pick (for entertainment purposes only) from the Beachwood Sports Seal.
Game: Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl
Time: Tuesday, December 21, 7 p.m. ESPN (St. Petersburg, FL)
Teams: The Louisville Cardinals (-2.5) vs. The Southern Miss Golden Eagles
Comment: Beef 'O' Brady's Family Sports Restaurants & Pubs markets itself as rooted in the idea of a "neighborhood pub" dreamed up by founder Jim Mellody in 1985. The chain now contains more than 250 restaurants in 20 states. Here's hoping that neither the Golden Eagles nor the Cardinals stop in any of the 40+ locations in the greater St. Petersburg area for a "Smokin Jack Slider Basket" on game day. That delicacy will set you back 2062 calories, 140g of total fat (38g saturated) and 4882 mg of sodium.
We shouldn't pick on 'O' Brady's, as most chain restaurants feature at least one whopper on the menu. Fair enough. And who knows? Maybe college-aged linemen can afford to tuck away a Slider Basket or two every week. But for us less active types, let's stick to items along the lines of Buffalo wings. And in handicapping ornithological duels, let's always remember to back the larger, more aggressive species. Golden Eagles, in this case.
The Sports Seal Says: Southern Miss 30, Louisville 24
Game: The MAACO Las Vegas Bowl
Time: Wednesday, December 22, 7 p.m. ESPN (Las Vegas, NV)
Teams: The Utah Utes #19 vs. The Boise State Broncos #10 (-17)
Comment: Boise State came within a field goal of forcing an unprecedented controversy in the BCS era: four undefeated teams (including TCU, Oregon and Auburn) atop the rankings at the conclusion of the regular season. But the Broncos blew a 24-7 halftime lead against Nevada in their last game of the season - a collapse more to blame than the travails of kicker Kyle Brotzman at the end of regulation and in overtime.
The Utes will be without star QB Jordan Wynn, who reinjured his throwing shoulder in the season finale against BYU. While backup Terrance Cain is no slouch, he will be facing the Broncos' stingy defense (13.6 ppg allowed, good for fourth overall in the FBS) and a forecast that calls for rain beginning Monday through game time. We're calling for a push and the "under."
The Sports Seal Says: Boise State 34, Utah 17
Game: The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Time: Thursday, December 23, 7 p.m. ESPN (San Diego, CA)
Teams: The Navy Midshipmen vs. The San Diego State Aztecs (-5)
Comment: Midshipmen vs. Aztecs? Say, that reminds us, are we the only ones with Civilization V on our Christmas list this year? With a copy of this game, we could recreate all the Aztec battles we wanted and skip watching this random bowl game. But then, we would have to own a computer capable of running it, and a good monitor, and a sound system . . . and just like that, a $50 video game turns into a $2,000 investment. I guess we'll have to tune in on Thursday and watch SDSU try to win its first postseason game since beating Boston in the (now defunct) Pasadena Bowl in 1969.
The Sports Seal Says: San Diego State 38, Navy 31
Game: The Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
Time: Friday, December 24, 7 p.m. ESPN (Honolulu, HI)
Teams: The Tulsa Golden Hurricane vs. The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (-10.5)
Comment: This is what we like to see! Bowl games with rational names and a title containing four words or fewer. What a revelation. As far as the actual game is concerned, we like the Warriors to win but we don't think Tulsa will be so happy to be in Hawaii as to roll over for a double-digit loss. We'll take the Golden Hurricane (note: singular) in a closer-than-expected game.
The Sports Seal Says: Hawaii 34, Tulsa 32
Game: The Little Caesars Bowl
Time: Sunday, December 26, 7:30 p.m. ESPN (Detroit, MI)
Teams: Florida International Golden Panthers vs. The Toledo Rockets (-1.5)
Comment: The trend continues - shorter bowl game titles and "golden" mascots! And the use of exclamation points in our comments! Fun fact: FIU switched from the Sunblazers to the Golden Panthers in 1987. While their former team name may have connoted a certain lack of . . . seriousness (given its resemblance to "Sunbathers"), we would love to see FIU somehow work in the old logo. Classy.
The Sports Seal Says: Florida International 27, Toledo 24
We can all share a chestnut from our Christmas adventures, and the Sports Seal will have a fresh slate of games to predict. We will also grace you with Part Two of our Postseason Recap. Until then, stay warm and beware mascots dressed like cheery fat men swaddled in red velvet.
Mike Luce brings you the world's greatest college football report in this space every week. He welcomes your comments.