Save the disparaging remarks about college football bowl games, how there’s too many or they’re inconsequential. We’ve all heard them, and most of them are lame.
Look, we’re all in favor of a college football playoff. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy bowl games on the side. Even when a playoff is implemented, even a larger playoff with more teams, the bowls can and will go on.
They’ll be the NIT to the playoff’s March Madness. They’ll be an appetizer to the main course.
By all means, get rid of some of the bowls with teams sporting .500 records or worse (ahem, Georgia Tech). But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with lower-tier bowls featuring teams with winning records.
If you’re a football diehard, you want to watch as much football as possible in whatever and whichever form it comes in. You want to see future NFL prospects.
What else are you going to do on Saturday afternoon? Go Christmas shopping at some crowded mall?
Enjoy the bowl games for what they are, a celebration of football and an American holiday tradition. Here’s what to watch for this weekend…
New Mexico Bowl, 12 p.m. CT on ESPN
The skinny: Saturday’s game in Albuquerque features the No. 1 and No. 2 rushers in the nation, Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey and Nevada’s Stefphon Jefferson. That alone is worth your time. Both touch the ball an average of more than 21 times per game while gaining more than 140 yards per game. Furthermore, both teams are allergic to good defense. Arizona’s is ranked 12oth in the nation in total defense; Nevada is ranked 112th against the run. The defense that steps up with a couple stops or a couple turnovers on Saturday will give their team a huge leg up.
Arizona 2013 draft prospect: quarterback Matt Scott––Scott’s playing time was sparse prior to 2012, before Rich Rodriguez became the new sherrif in town. Scott only got to play for one year in RichRod’s system, but it’s been a productive one. The 6-3, 196 lb. senior threw for over 3,200 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for 485 yards on his way to earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors.
Nevada 2013 draft prospect: tight end Zach Sudfeld––At 6-7 and 255 lbs., Sudfeld is a big target. He had only one reception in each of 2010 and 2011 but came on big time as a senior with 43 catches for over 500 yards and six touchdowns. For a Nevada team that relies so much on the run, Sudfeld can play a big role in both run blocking and helping to take pressure off the run game with a few receptions.
Prediction: There’s less talent on the defensive side of the football at Nevada. That will give Arizona the edge in a game that should be a high-scoring affair regardless. Wildcats win 42-35.
Potato Bowl, 3:30 p.m. CT on ESPN
The skinny: Utah State comes into Saturday’s game with one of the best seasons in school history. They lost 16-14 to Wisconsin and 6-3 to BYU, both games with late missed field goals. Following those losses, the Aggies dominated the WAC with wins that included wins against surprisingly good teams in Louisiana Tech and San Jose State. Toledo, meanwhile, finished tied for second in the MAC East standings, but with a victory, can come up a 10-win season, an accomplishment worth celebrating for teams in the MAC.
Utah State draft prospect: running back Kerwynn Williams––Utah State is becoming a running back factory rather suddenly. They put Robert Turbin and Michael Smith in the NFL this year and will put Williams there next year. Williams doesn’t have a big body at 5-8 and 190 lbs., but he’s multi-talented. He has over 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground and added another 43 receptions for 663 yards and five TDs through the air.
Nevada draft prospect: safety Jermaine Robinson––Robinson’s senior season ended with a first-team All-MAC selection. He has eight career interceptions, four of them returned for touchdowns. At 6-2 and 205 lbs, he has the size for the NFL. He’ll be needed to help stop Williams and Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton.
Prediction: Utah State is just better on both sides of the ball. Toledo has some decent talent on offense with running back David Fluellen and quarterback quarterback Terrance Owens, but the nation’s eighth-ranked scoring defense should hold them in check. Aggies win 36-20.
This week’s exclusive player interview is with Utah State cornerback Will Davis who has been invited to the Senior Bowl and whose Aggies won the WAC this season.
Question: Utah State is clearly trending in the right direction by making it to back to back bowls and winning the conference this year. Where does this team stack up against other teams in school history?
Davis: Honestly, we’ve done a lot of things that have never been done in this program since… never. Of course, our goal is to be the best to ever come through Utah State. I think every team, every year should have that frame of mind, but I definitely feel like this year we’ve accomplished that. I think another win in this bowl game would definitely seal the deal, and I think a lot of people would agree. If we’re not the best, we’re close. It’s arguable either way. I definitely think we’re the best to ever come through here. I think Coach A is definitely the one to do that.
Question: You take on Toledo in the Potato Bowl. Can you give a scouting report on the Rockets? What makes them a dangerous team?
Davis: They’re a balanced offense. They got a running back that’s run for nearly 1,500 yards, and they got a receiver who’s caught over 1,000 yards and then they got another receiver who’s right there, over 900 yards on the season. So they’re a balanced team and they definitely, with all the numbers, you definitely know they put up points. At the same time, I don’t think they’ve ever come up against a defense as good as ours all year. But they’re dangerous. They’ve got a dual-threat quarterback who can run. They’re legit. You got to respect that. You’ve got to respect the numbers, no matter what conference that’s in.
Question: About you personally, what is the best thing you bring your team, your biggest strength as a football player?
Davis: I just feel like personally, me, I just want to be a playmaker, a game-changer. That’s one thing I’ve always wanted to take pride in. When you make interceptions, which coming in the last five games I’ve had one, I think three out of those five have been in the red zone, which is huge. That’s a game-changer right there, interceptions in the red zone takes away their points and gives the ball right back to our offense. That’s big.
Question: You’re the nation’s leader in passes defended. What’s your secret?
Davis: To be honest, I’m very aggressive when it comes to route running and stuff like that. When the ball’s in the air, I pull the trigger and jump routes a lot. When I pull my trigger like that, I break and I just go. I think that’s one thing, I can get out of breaks quick and that’s something that’s helped me out a lot. I think that why I’ve got a lot of passes defended. I think at the end of the season, I led the nation in passes defended, so I knew I was at the top at the end of the season, which was a goal of mine to get. To get up there, I loved it. I’m glad I was up there, and that’s what I wanted. I go off my instincts, and if I think it’s going to happen, I believe it’s going to happen. I’m just going to go.
Question: You’ve been invited to the Senior Bowl. What does it mean to be invited to the biggest all-star game in college football?
Davis: It’s crazy. I remember the day they announced it and getting the envelope. My heart stopped when Coach A gave me the envelope, and I was like, ‘Man, this is crazy’ and the fact that it really happened. I’m so excited, and I’m so glad that I got in. It’s a huge honor to be considered one of the top seniors in the nation. I don’t even know how to explain it.
The Wisconsin Connection
There’s a lot of speculation about who the new head coach will be at Wisconsin and not a lot of concrete details.
On Thursday, Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated fanned the flames by saying Al Golden of Miami was “mulling a decision” but later reporting that Golden would stay at Miami in a series of tweets summed up at CollegeFootballTalk.com.
Not long later, Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com reported that Oregon State’s Mike Riley would interview with Wisconsin. An Oregon State beat reporter followed up by saying Riley took a phone call from Wisconsin but has not interviewed with them. Social media chatter is that Riley’s buyout clause in his contract is in excess of $10 million making it highly unlikely he’d leave the Beavers.
The coach that continues to make the most sense is Chris Petersen of Boise State.
Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin’s athletic director and interim head coach for the Rose Bowl, said on his monthly radio show on the Badger Sports Network that he’d like to have new head coach before Christmas.
The timing would be perfect for Petersen to wrap up his time with the Broncos in the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday Dec. 22 and then make his exit the following day.
With news that the seven Catholic basketball schools are leaving the Big East, that conference’s future is more uncertain than ever. Boise State is leaving the Mountain West for the Big East beginning in 2013 and has to be very wary about recent developments.
Other names popping up on the Wisconsin radar aren’t very flashy, making it more and more likely that Alvarez could continue to be the Wisconsin head coach beyond just the Rose Bowl, at least for another year until the Badgers find a better fit as head coach. Sounds like Bill Snyder at Kansas State.
What Happened Before Saturday
When Tommy Tuberville jilted Texas Tech for Cincinnati, it left the door open for the native son to return home.
Okay, Kliff Kingsbury might not be a native of Lubbock, but he’s an alum, one of the most revered quarterbacks in school history and now the new head coach at his alma mater.
Kingsbury was Mike Leach’s first quarterback at Tech and a key character in the popularization of the Air Raid offense, a system that also produced Packers quarterback Graham Harrell and a host of others putting up other-worldly passing stats.
As a coach Kingsbury mentored Case Keenum as Houston’s quarterback coach and co-offensive coordinator in 2010 and 2011. All Keenum did was become the NCAA record holder in career yards, completions, touchdowns and total offense.
Holding the same position (sole offensive coordinator) at Texas A&M in 2012 under head coach Kevin Sumlin, Kingsbury coached Johnny Manziel on his way to the Heisman Trophy, showing that his track record, albeit brief, has been incredibly successful.
The marriage between Kingsbury and Texas Tech will be perfect, a pass-first coach going to a place where they’ll expect nothing less than a offense that passes all day long.
Kingsbury may have a lot to prove at only 33 years old, but if his offenses are anything like those as a player at Tech and then as a coach at Houston and A&M, that’s a good base to build from.