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Boston College quietly claimed the top spot in the newly coined College Football Report Fourth Down Stupidity Index. A column by ESPN's Gregg Easterbrook in 2009 convinced us that too few coaches make (seemingly) aggressive play calls on fourth down. A great example took place on Wednesday. As Easterbrook called out, faced with anything short of a now-or-never decision, head coaches (and Easterbrook was speaking of the NFL but the same holds true at the collegiate level) default to playing it by the book. Or so it would seem but the book, or conventional wisdom, call it what you will, makes no sense unless you're looking to avoid mockery on message forums and drunken tirades from upset boosters. Fourth down on your own side of the 50? Punt. (For that matter, most coaches will often punt even if in opposing territory as most college kickers* can't handle field goals over 50 yards.) In the red zone but not at the goal line? Kick the field goal.
If you thought Northern Illinois University's ill-advised attempt to convert 4th-and-18 from the Huskies' own end zone was asinine, you'd be right. Trailing by a touchdown in the first quarter of the Quick Lane Bowl on Tuesday, NIU inexplicably called a fake punt. To be clear, we are not advocating for this level of outright insanity.
What in the world? pic.twitter.com/QMahng8avM— FootballScoop Staff (@FootballScoop) December 26, 2017
However unless you were watching The New Era Pinstripe Bowl closely Wednesday, you might have missed an equally dumb decision. The Iowa Hawkeyes (narrowly favored by 2.5) faced off against the Boston College Eagles in Yankees Stadium in frigid conditions on a frosted-over playing surface. (Players reportedly switched to sneakers as running in cleats yielded as much traction as ice skates.)
Midway through the fourth quarter, after punting on three consecutive possessions, the Eagles drove from their own 39 deep into Hawkeyes territory. Trailing 20-17, the offense suddenly showed signs of life on a bomb to the Iowa 7. However, the BC attack bogged down and ground to a halt at 3rd-and-goal from the Iowa 6. Following an incomplete pass, BC coach Steve Addazio weighed his options. In fact, Addazio mulled over the decision for so long, he squandered a precious timeout, hemmed, hawed, and ultimately called in the kicker who successfully converted a 24-yard chip shot to knot the game 20-20. BC coughed up the ball on its two ensuing possessions, ultimately ending the match in a whimper to lose by a touchdown.
You may have lived to play another season, Addazio, but why? BC never had another opportunity in the red zone. It's a bowl game, there's nothing left to play for other than a win. Failing the fourth-and-goal would have pinned Iowa deep and most likely yielded a punt, with BC resuming midfield. We're putting BC at 100 on the 2017 Bowl Season FDS.
* Notable exceptions include kickers Bryce Crawford of San Jose State (5-of-8 from 50+ in 2017), Matt Gay of Utah (5-of-6), Daniel Carlson of Auburn (4-of-7), Matthew McCrane of Kansas State (3-of-6), and Erik Powell of Washington State (3-of-4) among others. Nice job, boys. Fifty yards is far. For those who have ever doubted the value of a kicker with an accurate and lengthy boot, consider Matt Gay's 2017 stats: 40-of-40 on extra point attempts and 30-of-34 on FGs, with a long of 56 yards. Gay is the college kicker equivalent of Steph Curry: virtually anywhere past midfield is in range.
Can't picture how far 56 yards is? Try this: if you lined up eight 1975 Cadillac Fleetwood 75s nose to tail - the Fleetwood was the longest four-door passenger car ever produced, measuring ~244 inches - you would still need an extra five feet in distance. Never mind that you'd have to clear the cross bar, a height just shy of Manute Bol's arm reach. (That is his flat-footed reach. No jumping allowed, Manute. Let's keep it fair.) You got this.
As an aside, how fun would it be to give special teams coaches the option of fielding a defender at the cross bar and allow goaltending? Programs could opt to squander a roster spot for a true special-teams player: put the basketball team's center on speed dial and call him in whenever the opposing team lines up for a ridiculously long kick. The odds of suffering a last-second loss on a desperately long kick would go from slim to none. Suddenly long attempts would take on an extra layer of drama. Bouncing in a 56-yard kick off the cross bar? Get that out of here! Kickers would have to get creative and go all bumper pool to avoid rejection such as the 46-yarder by South Alabama back in October that boinked the upright, ricocheted off the cross bar twice, and in.
A brief rundown on Thursday's match-ups:
The Military Bowl Presented by Northrup Grumman
Virginia Cavaliers vs. Navy Midshipmen (-1.5)
12:30 p.m. ESPN (at Navy-Marine Corp Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, MD)
CFR pick: This is a no-brainer. Go Navy!
The Chicken: Navy by 22
The Camping World Bowl
#22 Virginia Tech Hokies vs. #19 Oklahoma State Cowboys (-5.5)
4:15 p.m. ESPN (Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL)
CFR pick: Va Tech has always been known for touch special teams and given the nature of this column, let's go with the Hokies and take the points.
The Chicken: VT by 9
The Valermo Alamo Bowl
#13 Stanford Cardinal vs. #15 Texas Christian Horned Frogs (-3)
8 p.m. ESPN (Alamodome in San Antonio, TX)
We love this game. Can we play the Alamo Bowl in the Alamo from now on? That would make it the Alamo Bowl in the Alamodome at the Alamo.
CFR pick: TCU may have home field(ish) advantage, but Stanford can play the "no one respects us" card. Plus, West Coast teams don't necessarily get the love deserved from the betting public. Stanford it is.
The Chicken: Stanford by 7
The San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl
#18 Washington State Cougars vs. #16 Michigan State (-2.5)
8 p.m. ESPN (SDCCU Stadium in San Diego, CA)
Let's get this straight: the SDCCUHB will be played in SDCCU Stadium? Got it. Just making sure.
CFR pick: We never believe in the Big Ten. Once again, we'll take the West Coast.
The Chicken: Michigan State by 16
* The World's Greatest College Football Report's Bowl Preview Part 1. Keywords: AutoNation, Dreamstyle Remodeling, Las Vegas, Mountain Dew Mouth, North Texas Mean Green, Raycom, Troy Trojans.
* The World's Greatest College Football Report's Bowl Preview Part 2. Executives at Cheribundi no doubt would have preferred a more competitive game. Having signed on as the bowl sponsor until 2019, Cheribundi needed the contest to attract at least some marginal attention to bolster the awareness of its tart cherry beverages nationwide.
* The World's Greatest College Football Report's Bowl Game Preview Part 3. In this world of uncertainty, the Potato Bowl remains our rock.
* The World's Greatest College Football Report's Bowl Game Preview Part 4. Overlapping with the NFL schedule this weekend provides a gift to bettors: putting action on pro/bowl teasers.
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