Last night, Bobby Bowden’s two touchdown underdog Florida State Seminoles (8–4) pulled a 27–22 upset over #5 Virginia Tech (10–2) in the inaugural ACC championship game, earning the Seminoles an automatic Orange Bowl selection. Their opponent: the Penn State Nittany Lions.
This portends some effusively maudlin sports journalism centered on the aging coaches of the two squads, Bowden and JoePa. This is Sunday supplement material: great human interest angles.
The old boys have much in common. At various times of late, fans and pundits had been speculating that time had passed them by, that they had each lost their coaching edge. Both men have now made their statements to the contrary, Paterno with a Cinderella season, and Bowden with last night’s impressive upset against topnotch opposition after a three-game losing streak. Two old coaches, who both have sons in the booth coaching offenses, with both men having long suffered criticism for the implicit nepotism and family dynasty building inherent in hiring their sons as assistant coaches, will be analyzed, lionized, and vilified by the hypercritical sports press. Some stories will be sweet; others will be sour. The age angle certainly will be brought to the fore.
In fact, it has begun already. Last night, toward the conclusion of the ACC Championship game, ABC announcer Brent Musburger, a man with a word for any occasion, called the potential Orange Bowl match-up “the AARP Bowl.”
But the sentiment on ABC and ESPN today is pure euphoria, claiming that this year’s collection of BCS matchups is the best ever.
The two coaches are neck-and-neck for the lead in all-time games won, with Bowden slightly in the lead 359–353. Paterno has had 20 bowl wins and Bowden, 19. They both have earned two mythical national championships. These similarities will be much ballyhooed over the next month.
And, of course, the two geezers are bound to utter many eminently quotable, curmudgeonly bon mots.
For example, during the post-game TV interview after the ACC Championship game last night, the ABC field reporter, prodding for a reaction, mentioned to Bobby Bowden that the likely Orange Bowl opposition would be Paterno’s Nittany Lions. Bowden seemed genuinely surprised. “Is that what it looks like?” he asked. Then, he added jokingly, “I might not show up!”
It didn’t take Joe long to go one up. Today, during the ABC BCS Bowl Selection Anything-for-Money Extravaganza, John Saunders said to Paterno that the true stars would be Bobby and Joe. The Paterno response was, “I hope it doesn’t come down to where it’s Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno because he can’t run and I run slower.” However, later, on an ESPN show, Joe must have forgotten his earlier stance on that subject. “But I think I’m faster than he is,” he said.
This Turkey decided that he wouldn’t be going to the Orange Bowl, because he cannot bear to listen to that damn Seminole war chant for a whole evening.
Don’t be so damn smug!
So, it will be #3 Penn State (10–1) vs. #22 Florida State (8–4) in the 2006 Orange Bowl.
I’m already hearing some whining about the supposed low level of bowl opposition for Penn State. Let us not be so damn jaded! Florida State will be a tough opponent. The moaning reminds me of a similar circumstance when the tables were turned.
It was our first year in the Big Ten, and Penn State (9–2) wound up in second place, having lost to only Ohio State and Michigan. We were selected for the CompUSA Citrus Bowl (now the Capital One Bowl) here in Orlando. The opponent was Tennessee (10–1). The Turkey attended that game. In the parking garage elevator before the game, the Great Gobbler was surrounded by orange clad Tennessee Volunteer fans. They were grumbling, “It’s a shame we couldn’t be matched up with some better opposition!” I just smiled. There was no way Penn State was going to lose that game. In the end, it was Penn State 31, Tennessee 13, but it wasn’t nearly that close. Those Tennessee fans never knew what hit them. They surely went home with their orange tails between their legs.
So, don’t be so damn smug. The Turkey detests this kind of grousing.
It will be a good game. Against the Big Ten, Florida State has an 8–1–1 record. Against Penn State in bowl games, they’re 1–0–1. The Seminoles were last #1 in 1999 and they haven’t finished out of the Top 25 since 1986. So, I repeat, don’t be so damn smug!
Also, please remember that there are a helluva lot of people out there who believe that Penn State is overrated at #3. We still have something to prove.
I’m going to enjoy this game.
Oh, and by the way, please shut the hell up about the officiating in the Michigan game. Enough, already! We lost to Michigan and that’s that. By a similar quirk of fate, absent a fourth and 15 miracle completion, we could have easily lost to Northwestern and then who knows which way the season would have gone? So, be grateful for being where we are. Do not be a Barry Walters. (He’s a guy in Allentown, Pennsylvania who is still whining about the loss to Miami in 1991.) The Orange Bowl will be hard fought and the winner will be deserving.