All posts by Matt Hubert

Bowl Season Breakdown

Chanukah has eight nights. Christmas has twelve days. And this year, bowl season is 32 games and 19 days long. So put your dislike of ridiculous sponsorship and lack-of-a-playoff related frustration aside because those battles will have to wait.

We have sponsors and bowls galore, and unless you’re planning to stage a coup, you might as well embrace what college football has to offer: games, and plenty of them. The bowl season provides college football fans with the opportunity to watch 32 games giving 64 teams one last chance to end their season on a winning note.

Everyone knows what’s at stake on Jan. 7, but what about the other 31 games leading up to LSU and Ohio State in the Allstate BCS National Championship game? For those involved in a college bowl pick ‘em poll or those simply looking for an excuse to feed their football hunger throughout the holiday season, here’s a quick look at each game leading up to the championship.

Jump to: Dec. 20-26 Dec. 28-31 Jan.1-7

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, Thursday, Dec. 20
Utah vs. Navy

Navy beat Notre Dame for the first time in 44 years this season. Their quarterback, Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, gives fits to both spellers and defenses, helping the Midshipmen put up numbers rivaling the letters in his name. Meanwhile the Utes are riding a six-game bowl winning streak.

R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Friday, Dec. 21
Florida Atlantic vs. Memphis

Florida Atlantic’s football program is younger than your average kindergartener. Their program began in 2001. Memphis battled back from a 2-4 start and the tragic shooting death of defensive lineman Taylor Bradford in October to become bowl eligible. Bowl, Saturday, Dec. 22
Southern Miss vs. #22 Cincinnati

A tale of two coaches in this one: Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly was named Big East Coach of the Year in his first season with the Bearcats. On the opposing sideline, Southern Miss will be playing its last game under Jeff Bower, who resigned Nov. 26, and may have been forced out by the school.

New Mexico Bowl, Saturday, Dec. 22
Nevada vs. New Mexico

New Mexico lost in the inaugural New Mexico Bowl last season. Nevada, who boasts a top-20 scoring offense, suffered two point losses to each of the WAC’s two best teams, Boise State and Hawaii.
Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl, Saturday, Dec. 22
UCLA vs. #17 BYU

BYU is playing in their third consecutive Las Vegas Bowl. Last season they defeated Oregon 38-8 in the game. The Bruins topped BYU 27-17 on Sept. 8, but finished the season winning just four of their final ten games. UCLA is also the only bowl team who lost to Notre Dame this season.

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, Sunday, Dec. 23
#24 Boise State vs. East Carolina

This is only the second year since the bowl’s inception in 2002 that Hawaii will not play in the Hawaii Bowl. Boise State will make a rare return trip to Honolulu. The Broncos lost to Hawaii 39-27 in November. Most teams would welcome two trips to the Aloha State, but the Broncos are disappointed after they wowed the nation with a Fiesta Bowl upset victory over Oklahoma last year. East Carolina is looking for their first bowl victory since 2000.

Motor City Bowl, Wednesday, Dec. 26
Purdue vs. Central Michigan

Purdue finished with a 3-5 conference record but the Boilermakers are still playing in a bowl game. Their opponent is a Central Michigan team looking for revenge. Purdue handled team 45-22 on Sept. 15.

Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, Wednesday, Dec. 26
#11 Arizona State vs. #19 Texas

The Sun Devils’ only two losses came against a Dennis Dixon-led Oregon Ducks team and the Pac-10 Champion USC Trojans. Texas is 1-2 all-time in the Holiday Bowl.

Champs Sports Bowl, Friday, Dec. 28
#14 Boston College vs. Michigan State

The Eagles were ranked as high as number two this season before dropping three of their final five. Quarterback Matt Ryan’s Heisman hopes were vanquished along with BC’s shot at the BCS. Ryan’s final collegiate game comes against a Spartan squad making its first bowl appearance since 2003 under first-year coach Mark Dantonio.

Texas Bowl, Friday, Dec. 28
TCU vs. Houston

Houston is fourth in the nation in total yards, but they will play the game without their coach, Art Briles, who left for Baylor. TCU won their last two games by a combined 36 points in order to secure bowl eligibility.

Emerald Bowl, Friday, Dec. 28
Maryland vs. Oregon State

Both of these teams made noise this season by knocking off high-ranked opponents. Maryland defeated tenth-ranked Rutgers and later eighth-ranked Boston College. Oregon State beat number two California and state rival, number 17 Oregon.

Meineke Car Care Bowl, Saturday, Dec. 29
#25 Connecticut vs. Wake Forest

Emeka Okafor and Tim Duncan will not be in uniform for this one. Neither will Ray Allen or Randolph Childress. It turns out these schools play football this time of year, too. Despite skidding to a 1-2 finish, UConn finished as co-champions of the Big East. As for the Demon Deacons, they managed to overcome an 0-2 start to earn back-to-back bowl berths for the first time in school history.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Saturday, Dec. 29
Mississippi State vs. UCF

Sylvester Croom has coached Mississippi State to its first winning season since 2000. The school’s reward is the Liberty Bowl where they’ll meet Central Florida and the nation’s leading rusher, Kevin Smith, who has rushed for 2,448 yards and 29 touchdowns on the year.

Valero Alamo Bowl, Saturday, Dec. 29
Texas A&M vs. Penn State

The legendary Joe Paterno brings an underachieving Nittany Lions team to the Alamo Bowl. Penn State beat just one ranked opponent all season (Wisconsin). They lost badly in a showcase game against number one Ohio State and also missed opportunities to move up in the conference with losses against Illinois and Michigan. Texas A&M finished its season on a high note, knocking off Texas to end a three-game conference losing streak.

PetroSun Independence Bowl, Sunday, Dec. 30
Colorado vs. Alabama

This is a Jekyll and Hyde game for you. Colorado beat Oklahoma but lost six games, including a 47-20 drubbing versus Kansas State. Alabama also went 6-6. They beat Tennessee, played LSU tough and then lost to Mississippi State, Louisiana-Monroe and Auburn to end the season.

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, Monday, Dec. 31
Air Force vs. California

After beginning the season 5-0 and being ranked number two in the country, it’s safe to say Golden Bears fans were not dreaming of a trip to the Armed Forces Bowl, but their season began to tailspin after a loss to Oregon State. They won just one of their final seven games. At 9-3, Air Force had its first winning season since 2003.

Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl, Monday, Dec. 31
Fresno State vs. Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets’ best win was a 13-3 victory over Clemson back in September. Fresno State’s best win? Probably a 49-41 victory over Nevada on Oct. 6. Needless to say, both teams would like to go out with a bowl victory.

Sun Bowl, Monday, Dec. 31
#21 South Florida vs. Oregon

The Ducks have been anything but mighty since losing Dennis Dixon. Oregon was 8-1 and ranked number two in the country when they faced Arizona on Nov. 15. Dixon went down with a knee injury. The Ducks lost 34-24 and proceeded to drop their final two games as well, looking like a shell of their former selves. Without Dixon, and now unranked, the Ducks meet another team who rose to number two this season, South Florida. Their rise in the ranks also fell with a three game skid, but they rebounded to win their final three games, averaging 48 points per game in the three wins.

Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl, Monday, Dec. 31
Florida State vs. Kentucky

Kentucky was another basketball school making news on the gridiron this season. Their three overtime defeat of LSU was undoubtedly the signature moment of the team and quarterback Andre’ Woodson’s rollercoaster season. After throwing for 36 touchdowns this season, Woodson will likely face an FSU team decimated after being caught in an academic scandal.

Insight Bowl, Monday, Dec. 31
Oklahoma State vs. Indiana

The last time Indiana played in a bowl game, quarterback Kellen Lewis was five years old. This year he led the team to wins over conference opponents Minnesota, Iowa and Purdue. Oklahoma State Coach Mike Gundy reminded everyone earlier this season that he’s a man, he’s 40, so he may actually remember Indiana’s last bowl appearance. His team will look to rebound from their last game, an embarrassing 32-point loss against Oklahoma.

Chick-Fil-A Bowl, Monday, Dec. 31
#15 Clemson vs. #23 Auburn

Clemson went 4-3 against bowl teams this season. They won five of their last six and are very familiar with Auburn. These teams have fought 45 times since 1899. Auburn’s season included a victory against Florida and a 35-point loss to Georgia, but it won’t be complete without a bowl victory. Auburn has won four of their last five bowl games under coach Tommy Tuberville.

Outback Bowl, Tuesday, Jan. 1
#16 Tennessee vs. #18 Wisconsin

The Vols rebounded after losing two of their first three games this season to win the SEC East. Wisconsin will hope a healthy P.J. Hill can run wild against Tennessee. Hill ran for more than 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns on just 217 carries this season.

Cotton Bowl, Tuesday, Jan. 1
#6 Missouri vs. Arkansas

No one took a more dramatic fall during the final week of the regular season than Missouri. After losing to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship, Missouri dropped from number one in the nation to number six and missed out on a BCS bowl bid altogether. They’ll have to settle for the Cotton Bowl where they’ll meet Arkansas. As a subplot, Heisman trophy finalists Chase Daniel and Darren McFadden will go head-to-head in this game.

Capital One Bowl, Tuesday, Jan. 1
#12 Florida vs. Michigan

One year ago Michigan fans griped about Florida’s inclusion in the BCS Championship instead of them. After the Gators dominated Ohio State and Michigan fell to USC, those complaints were forgotten. Now many of the main pieces of that Wolverine team, including coach Lloyd Carr and running back Mike Hart get their shot at Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow and the Gators, in what will be their final game for the maize and blue.

Konica Minolta Gator Bowl, Tuesday, Jan. 1
#20 Virginia vs. Texas Tech

Texas Tech makes the New England Patriots offense seem tame. Exaggeration? Not really. Quarterback Graham Harrell has thrown for 5,298 yards and 45 touchdowns while completing nearly 73 percent of his passes. Leading receiver Michael Crabtree has caught 125 balls for 1,861 yards and 21 touchdowns. Needless to say, Chris Long and the Cavalier defense will have their hands full in this one.

The Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi, Tuesday, Jan. 1
#7 USC vs. #13 Illinois

Illinois has not been to the Rose Bowl since 1983. USC was there as recently as 2005 when it lost a 41-38 thriller against Texas for the national title. For Illinois, this game is a reward for a surprise season that featured an upset of number one Ohio State. For USC, it’s a consolation prize after being knocked out of the national championship picture by unranked Stanford way back in October.

Allstate Sugar Bowl, Tuesday, Jan. 1
#5 Georgia vs. Hawaii

This is the biggest game ever in the career of Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan. Oh, it’s also the biggest game in the school’s history, playing a top-five opponent in a BCS bowl. The undefeated Warriors earned this spot. Will the Bulldogs, winners of six in a row, become victim to the underdogs from the island, or will Goliath squash David this time around?

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Wednesday, Jan. 2
#4 Oklahoma vs. #9 West Virginia

The Sooners thought they played their way into the BCS championship with a win over number one Missouri in the Big 12 championship game. West Virginia played itself out of that game by losing the season finale to unranked Pittsburgh. They still have a dynamic offense led by Pat White and Steve Slaton but will be without recently departed coach Rich Rodriguez.

FedEx Orange Bowl, Thursday, Jan. 3
#3 Virginia Tech vs. #8 Kansas

The Hokies only lost twice this season, but one of those losses was a 41-point beatdown against LSU. The Jayhawks lost just once but played just two ranked teams all season. Needless to say, several teams are unhappy that the Jayhawks received this invite.

International Bowl, Saturday, Jan. 5
Ball State vs. Rutgers

Playing after New Year’s Day usually means big things, unless you’re in this game. In the second edition of the International Bowl, teams that combined to go 14-10. But Rutgers coach Greg Schiano did make headlines when he proclaimed he was staying at Rutgers rather than going to coach Michigan. The Scarlet Knights have their coach’s support, if nothing else.

GMAC Bowl, Sunday, Jan. 6
Tulsa vs. Bowling Green

This BCS championship appetizer should feature plenty of excitement. Both teams rank in the top 18 in the country in passing yards. Tulsa’s Paul Smith will look to add to his 42 passing TDs.

Allstate BCS National Championship Game, Monday, Jan. 7
#1 Ohio State vs. #2 LSU

(For Matt’s picks of all 32 games, check out his bowl pick ’em blog post)

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Wolverines Get Rich: Rich Rodriguez named as the new football coach at the University of Michigan

The University of Michigan Wolverines football program never settles for less. But when Louisiana State University Head Coach Les Miles refused Michigan’s offer to be their next head coach, many maize and blue faithful worried about the future.

If Miles, a former player and coach at Michigan under Bo Schembechler, didn’t want the job, what did that say about the winningest program in college football history?

In short, it signified that Big House smash-mouth football had grown stale. That’s why the hiring of Rich Rodriguez, formerly the coach at West Virginia, should be welcomed as a breath of fresh air in Ann Arbor.

Rodriguez, 44, likely didn’t settle for less either. Lloyd Carr made $1.5 million this past season. And while the terms of Rodriguez’s new deal at Michigan were not announced, all indications are that he will bring in well over $2 million per year as coach of the Wolverines.

Spread the wealth, Rich

Since 2005, Rodriguez’s teams at West Virginia have gone 32-5 and 2-0 in bowl games. Over the same span the Wolverines have gone 26-11 and 0-2 in bowl games. Rodriguez’s Mountaineers have dazzled opponents with his version of the spread-option offense, and the coach intends to bring that plan of attack with him to the Big Ten.

It will be a new brand of football for the Wolverines, who operated a more traditional pro-style offense under Coach Carr, featuring a power running game and strong-armed quarterback.
Now it’s a matter of finding players to fit the new coach’s scheme starting at quarterback. Freshman Ryan Mallett received valuable playing time this season at Michigan, but the 6’6”, 247-pounder does not fit the typical mold of a spread offense quarterback. While the Michigan faithful may not want to see Mallett jettisoned from Ann Arbor, the arrival of a prized recruit could lead to his departure.

Terrelle Pryor of Jeannette High School in Jeannette, Pa., is considered the number one quarterback prospect according to He also had a suddenly renewed interest in attending Michigan once he learned Coach Rodriguez was the new coach. If Rodriguez succeeds in landing Pryor, the Wolverines will be on their way toward making this transition a successful one.

Time for a change

The change of pace could not come at a better time for the Wolverines. Their 2006 season came crashing down with losses to Ohio State and USC. Then the Wolverines, who began the 2007 season ranked number five in the nation, opened with back-to-back home losses. First, they suffered a shocking defeat against Appalachian State and then a 32-point blowout loss to Oregon.
In the four game losing streak that spanned two seasons, the Wolverines were exposed. For all their star power, Michigan was deficient in at least one key area – team speed – and programs across the country were blazing past them on the field and in the polls.

Coach Carr was and is part of the Michigan family. He followed in Bo’s footsteps and played a traditional, conservative style of football that won games, conference titles and even a national championship in 1997. But that was ten years ago. And his last victory over Ohio State? That came in 2003.

As much as Michigan is about tradition, the program needed a jumpstart. Along with the departing Coach Carr, the Wolverines will lose a heap of leadership from this year’s team: Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Jake Long, Shawn Crable and Jamar Adams headline a star-studded list of departing seniors.

That’s why Rodriguez’s hiring makes sense. The fact that he may have been the third candidate offered the position after Miles and Rutgers’ Greg Schiano is irrelevant. And the fact that he comes from outside of the Michigan family is not a bad thing.

With a big contract comes big expectations

Next year was going to be a rebuilding season regardless of the coach. Look for growing pains to surface early in 2008 as a young team tries to learn a new system. In fact, expectations should be tempered for the next two seasons while Rodriguez implements the new scheme and brings in fresh recruiting classes to fit his style of play.

His first few seasons at West Virginia were likewise lackluster, but after he brought in the athletes capable of running his system at a high level of efficiency, the Mountaineers took off. So while patience is not often practiced when it comes to college coaches, Rodriguez deserves two years free of frustrated fans calling for his head.

Clearly Rodriguez knows how to recruit talent (see: White, Pat and Slaton, Steve). Now that he can sell the tradition of the Big House and the Wolverines, he has no excuses. He should be able to land several top prospects each year and build the Wolverines back into a contender by 2010.

That will be his third season as coach, which means he’ll have three years of recruiting classes on the roster. By that point, his style of play should have them punishing teams throughout the Big Ten. Within four or five years, Rodriguez needs to have the Wolverines in the hunt for a national title.

Those are reasonable expectations for a school that has more wins than any other in the history of college football. Michigan fans don’t just crave success – they demand it. And for the maize and blue faithful, success is defined by winning national championships. Rodriguez’s hefty contract means he is being charged with delivering that success. Michigan fans will not be satisfied with anything less.

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