Where have you been? I missed you. Happy New Year to all of you and a belated Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and whatever the appropriate phraseology might be for Kwanzaa — essentially three unrelated holiday concepts united by a common Julian month. But I digress.
Oh, yeah — I haven’t posted anything for three weeks, so it’s no wonder you haven’t stopped by. Sorry, but it always seems as if this time of year is replete with excuses for not writing. Moreover, I get writer’s block — there is so much to say, and yet here I sit with a blank mind.
Accordingly, this will be a loosely connected train of thoughts about the bowl season and the Capital One Bowl in particular. We left off with #11 Penn State and #13 LSU being selected as the combatants in the 2010 Tangerine Bowl.
OK, don’t get confused. I’m using throwback names here. It all started out with the Tangerine Bowl, which we Orlando old-timers used to call “The T-Bowl”. That was both the name of the stadium and the name of the minor bowl game that was played there. For some reason known only to the Florida Citrus Sports Association, the event and venue name was changed to the Citrus Bowl. Meanwhile, a new, even more minor bowl game, remarkably called the Tangerine Bowl, was invented. Since that time, of course, someone in the NCAA decided that amateur athletics was a big money game, so corporate sponsorships became all the rage. So, the Citrus Bowl, which in olden days used to be called the Tangerine Bowl, became the Capital One Bowl and the even more minor Tangerine Bowl became the Champs Sports Bowl. What’s in your wallet?
The Capital One Bowl is regarded by some as the creme de la creme of non-BCS bowls. On what basis that would be, this Turkey does not know. The only measure that makes sense in this pecuniary world of amateur competition is the amount of money paid out to competing teams. There are 34 bowl games this year. Jeez! Of these, five are BCS bowls: the Sugar, Orange, Rose, Fiesta, and Still Somewhat Mythical National Championship game. (I’m ignoring corporate sponsor names, because that sucks.) This year, BCS bowls pay $17 million, while the minor bowls range from $300,000 (the PapaJohns.com Bowl, in Birmingham) to $5,830,000 (the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, formerly known as the Peach Bowl, in Atlanta). The Capital One Bowl comes in second among wannabe bowls at $4,250,000.
So, perhaps the pissing contest among second-rate bowl games comes down to a combination of money plus being played on New Year’s Day? (The Peach Bowl takes place on New Year’s Eve.) Seems contrived to me.
Maybe it’s who has the better TV commercials, as long as we’re talking money here. The Capital One barbarians, brutish and dumb sounding with cockney accents (no doubt historically accurate recreations from original recordings of Attila the hun), are still smarter than those dumb cows whose Kindergarten scrawl on billboards urges us to “Eat more chikin.” Ahh, but maybe the barbarians can’t write at all. Yeah, good thought.
Nevertheless, $4,250,000 can support a lot of third-rate sports at Penn State, so this Turkey is all for it. After all, those sports programs — at least some of them, the ones whose events you get to attend gratis — are populated by real student athletes.
So, I’ve been watching lots of those pauper bowls, juiced by my entry in a pool that could net me a couple hundred smackeroos if my predictions work out well. After the first five games, I was thinking about how to save face — I had zero correct picks. Nada. Zilch. OMG. WTF?? But then again, I look at those forlorn stadiums mostly populated by some students wanting to party and parents of players there from a sense of obligation, if not familial pride, and I ask: How the hell can anyone successfully pick these damn games, and who the hell wants to travel to Detroit or Toronto in the dead of winter to attend a game between Marshall and Ohio, or USF and Northern Illinois?
(I’m doing better in the pool now. I’m in sixth place after last night’s games, poised to make my move.)
So, the bowl season heats up today with the Armed Forces Bowl, the Sun Bowl, the Texas Bowl, the Insight Bowl, and the aforementioned Chick-Fil-A Bowl. New Year’s Eve is the beginning of the major and almost major bowl games.
That brings us to Penn State and LSU. They’re pretty similar in terms of performance in their conferences as well as in their deficiencies on the field. Both lost all their big conference games to teams that would mostly wind up in BCS bowls. LSU (9-3) lost to Florida (Sugar Bowl), Alabama (SSMNC), and Ol’ Miss (Cotton), while Penn State (10-2) lost to Iowa (Orange) and Ohio State (Rose). Supporters of both teams had high hopes for a national championship this year (yeah, right!), and that was based on what? Optimism reigns supreme in August, but for the vast preponderance of college football teams, hopes are deflated before November. Such was the case for both the Bengal Tigers and the Nittany Lions. Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!
LSU has little offense to speak of. Between that and the fact that Penn State can put lots of pressure on a quarterback, this Turkey does not expect to see a huge number of points on the scoreboard under LSU’s moniker. To ensure this, the PSU defensive front seven must keep up the pressure in passing situations, because the Nittany Lions’ secondary sucks.
Penn State can score points if quarterback Daryll Clark is given enough time to throw the ball and if Evan Royster and Stephfon Green can get going. The key to both of those things happening is the Penn State offensive line, which is another area of suckage. So, look for frustrating performances on offense by both teams.
This will be exacerbated by crappy field conditions. The Citrus Bowl has been beaten up recently, serving as the venue for a state high school championship as well as the Champs Sports Bowl, played on Tuesday night. If you watched that game, you saw great clumps of sod being churned up on the field. Furthermore, we’re expecting a bit of rain here in Orlando over the next 24 hours, which encompasses game time. This might not be a major factor, but I’m just sayin’.
Last but not least, we have to touch on the horrible Penn State special teams. They were bad at the beginning of the season and didn’t seem to improve a whit through the final game. Jeremy Boone is a halfway decent punter, but if the other 10 guys can’t cover his punts, he’s not a weapon. The coaching brain trust seemed to be out of ideas when we last touched on this. The coverage on kickoffs is similarly crappy. Accordingly, the Nittany Lions cannot, must not kick off in the direction of Trindon Holliday, a track star who runs the 100m in 10 seconds. He’s only 5’5″ and 160 lbs, but he is greased lightning up the ass fast. If he gets the ball on a kickoff, given the crappiness of the kickoff coverage Penn State has exhibited all year and the fact that Collin Wagner cannot kick the ball deep, he’ll need a few missed tackles and a mere nine seconds to scamper past the Penn State goal line. No way, friends. That cannot be allowed to happen.
Let us hope for some wide open offense from both teams, so this one does not become a boring sphincterball sleeperfest.
Well, that brings us to our last Official Turkey Poop Prediction of the 2009-10 season. Current line on the game favors Penn State by 2.5, with an over/under of 43.5, suggesting a PSU win by about 23-20. This Turkey is so convinced that the Nittany Lions are going to win this one that I picked Penn State in the bowl pool and weighted it heavily. I’m sticking with the good guys on New Year’s Day. Penn State 24, LSU 20.
Thanks again and a big, hearty Happy New Year to all my readers. As those of you who have followed me for a while know, I write about other stuff besides football in the off-season. I’ll see you all down the pike.