Senior Bowl Thoughts
Some extraneous thoughts from watching this weekend's game:
·Riddle me this…how in the world do USC and West Virginia qualify as Southern teams while Arizona State plays for the North? The last time I checked, California was a Union State in the Civil War while West Virginia seceded from the South to join the ‘Yankee' cause.
·I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall when… Players from Auburn, USC, and LSU talked shop about the Oklahoma Sooners.
·Mike Nugent winning the Groza award only once is a farce. Since his freshman season Nugent nailed all but nine field goals. Neither Kaeding nor Jonathan Nichols could hold a candle to this guy. The only other collegiate kicker I have ever seen dominate games like Nugent can (and has) in the last 25 years is Sebastian Janikowski. Kaeding was good in 2002 but Nugent was better – statistically better. Nichols probably deserved the 2003 award, but line them all three up side by side and I take Nugent any day of the week. For the record, so would Mel Kiper.
Purdue and Losing the Close Ones
Watching Purdue somehow lose their Bowl game caused my feeble mind to start churning. This whole scenario seemed so familiar. Purdue – up in a football game and seemingly in control – only to lose late.
I began to wonder just how many times this has happened to Joe Tiller. With a little research, it became clear it has happened a good deal. Since taking over as the new coach in 1997, Tiller is a respectable 62-37. His numbers are second only to Kenneth "Jack" Mollenkopf in the history of Boilermaker football, and Mollenkopf last coached in 1969. Even so, if there is a weakness for Tiller, it is that his teams often collapse late in the game. Perhaps this is simply a lack of depth. Perhaps it is bad luck.
On the other hand, maybe it is a weakness in their schemes and game management. On five occasions, Purdue has led a team at half before being blown out of the water in the final two periods (Iowa 1997, USC 1998, Illinois 2001, Washington State 2001, Iowa 2002). If you are looking for a statistical number, then roughly five percent of Tiller's total games and 14 percent of his losses have come in this manner.
More damaging however is the fact that Tiller's clubs often squander leads in the fourth quarter. It is simply frightening (or depressing if you are a Purdue fan) how often his teams lose when by all rights they should have been walking away as the victors. Twelve times (including three bowl games) Tiller's squads have lost a fourth quarter lead and tanked a game. One out of every three losses comes this way and one out of every eight games (12%) overall ends with another team beating the Boilermakers with less than 15 minutes remaining. Ohio State leads the virtual parade of those ruining seasons for Purdue as it has defeated them not once, not twice, but three times (2000, 2002, and 2003) in this way. Notre Dame (twice) and Georgia (twice)* are up next. Bowling Green, Wisconsin, Michigan, Northwestern, and Arizona State have also tasted the sweet waters of a late victory while leaving Tiller and all who play for him dining on ashes.
Perhaps the most discouraging element of this puzzle is that the frequency of these late losses is increasing. From 1997 until 2001, Tiller's teams averaged just under two per season. In 2003 and 2004, his teams lost a whopping seven games in fourth quarter heartbreakers. Sure, you can look at this and say the boys in Lafayette, Indiana are becoming more competitive. You can also look at this and ask the question, "Will Tiller ever get over the proverbial hump?"
*Note that one of the two bowl losses to Georgia came after Purdue tied the game only to lose in overtime.
Texas –Ohio State
You knew it had to be coming.
After backing out of a game against ‘powerhouse' Hawaii several years ago, Mack Brown reportedly made remarks in early January that the upcoming Ohio State games this fall and next are not to anyone's advantage. Sadly, Brown is correct. The smart schools will no longer schedule games against tough out of conference foes but simply play a game of survivor and seek to be the last one standing after a schedule against the Sisters of the Poor.
Might Brown also be secretly hoping they could find a way out of this contract?
This is, after all, the year that Brown has his best shot at a national title. The Aggies are not yet rebuilt and were demolished in their bowl game against Tennessee. Oklahoma State lost their coach, spent their entire bowl game with their face in the dirt after Ohio State mauled them, and said the Buckeyes were by far the best defense they faced all season. Oklahoma lost in historic fashion in the national title game, has been exposed as less than impressive the last two seasons outside of the Big 12, and loses the vast majority of their starters. The Big 12 North is a joke and once proud Nebraska and Colorado are hemorrhaging. Who does that leave?
2005 is Brown's year, and he knows it. If he could somehow skulk out of the game in Columbus, he would have an easier time reaching the national title game than Tom Cruise has picking up women. At this late date, it is doubtful the administration will allow him to drop the contest as it would cause an uproar but look for Texas and other programs to start taking the path of least resistance with schedules in the future.
Taking their Marbles and Going Home
Give the AP pollsters a giant raspberry for their recent move to pull out of the BCS.
Before going any further, I want to be clear that I too despise the BCS. It has had only two title games in its entire history that matched the two best teams (1999 and 2002). I have serious doubts that Tennessee could have defeated Ohio State in 1998 or that Oklahoma could have beaten a Miami team that slapped around Florida State in 2000. USC and LSU almost certainly would have been a better game in 2003, USC versus Auburn clearly could not have been worse than the historic loss by OU in 2004, and Oregon versus Miami also could not have been any worse than the humiliation of Nebraska to end the 2001 season.
Even so, the AP should be embarrassed by their behavior.
Last year the AP was incensed. They were upset that a team like LSU was able to squirm into the process, but they were even more bothered that without a late loss to Michigan, the Buckeyes (with their sputtering offense) might have slipped into the title game. LSU upset the apple cart of course when it pushed the Sooners all over the field, leaving the AP staring at several realities: (1) USC was likely the best team in the nation even though LSU might have given them a game and upset them in New Orleans. (2) The Sooners were not nearly as good as advertised and thus their strength of schedule had to be questioned. (3) The least favorite among their teams, Ohio State, pummeled the same Kansas State that beat the Sooners in historic fashion.
As a result, the strength of schedule was removed. This year, with the BCS all lined up according to their wishes, Oklahoma and USC were put in the title game. We all know the result of that debacle.
The solution of the AP was simply to pull out of the whole process.
After giving the AP their giant raspberry, college football should go back to the way it was before the BCS. Let all of the teams play in their traditional bowls. After the bowls, pick the two teams that have shown they are a cut above the rest. That would have created the best title matchups for the last 30 years and beyond. Seeing Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Miami in the Rose Bowl is nothing less than a desecration of the sport's traditions. Watching someone other than the Big 12 play in the Orange bowl is a disgrace. Even stretching out the bowls past New Year's Day has done much to ruin their significance; working people can't block off a week to watch the bowls. They can take New Year's Day off to watch football, but they can't and won't take off the 1st, 2nd, and 4th.
Here is a look at the +1 games that would have been possible the last 20 years:
2004 – USC vs Auburn
2003 – USC vs LSU
2002 – Ohio State vs Miami
2001 – Miami vs Oregon
2000 – Miami vs Oklahoma
1999 – FSU vs Virginia Tech
1998 – Ohio State vs Tennessee
1997 – Nebraska vs Michigan
1996 – Ohio State vs Florida
1995 – Nebraska vs Florida
1994 – Nebraska vs Penn State
1993 – Notre Dame vs Florida State
1992 – Alabama vs Miami
1991 – Miami vs Washington
1990 – Colorado vs Georgia Tech
1989 – Miami vs Notre Dame
1988 – Miami vs Notre Dame
1987 – Miami vs Florida State
1986 – Miami vs Penn State
1985 – Oklahoma vs Michigan
Can anyone in their right mind look at this list or what is happening to the traditions of college football right now and tell me this would not be a better solution? Give a round of applause to John Cooper as he has long been advocating this method and get the bowls to go back to the way they were.