December 5, 2011 Yikes! Fourteen 6-6 Teams In Bowl Games?
I don’t know about you, but I’m already on Travelocity, checking out airline and hotel deals for New Year’s Eve in San Francisco! What could be better? Dinner at Restaurant Gary Danko, just off Fisherman’s Wharf………..Quail Stuffed with Foie Gras, Mushrooms, Quinoa, Savoy Cabbage, Cipollini-Pecan Chutney and a Bread Dumpling with a bottle of Chambertin Clos-de-Bèze, Domaine Robert Groffier 2009………then, a cable car ride to the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins and dancing, champagne and a midnight toast at the Top of the Mark! A grand evening made even more memorable following an afternoon at AT&T Park enjoying the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl clash between UCLA (6-7) and Illinois (6-6). Both powerhouses will come into this anticipated showdown minus their head coaches, Rick Neuheisel and Ron Zook, both fired, with their bands, cheerleaders and $85.00 Club sideline seats…………the Fighting Illini started the season at 6-0, then lost their final six, while UCLA got an NCAA exemption into the bowl game after dropping the PAC 12 title game to Oregon, 49-31, just after being stomped by Southern Cal, 50-0, at the LA Coliseum…………..“We’re thrilled to bring UCLA back to San Francisco,” bowl founder and chief executive Gary Cavalli said. “We are also extremely happy to have Illinois come to us and produce a Pac-12/Big Ten matchup for the first time in our history. Illinois brings a great tradition to the Bay Area and this is a wonderful chance for all the Fighting Illini alumni in Northern California to see their team as well.” The Buzz by the Bay can also be felt this week with the announcements that other college football machines with 6-6 records including Purdue, Marshall, Pittsburgh, Iowa State, Mississippi State, Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, Northwestern, Arizona State, Florida, and The Ohio State University are going bowling……….if New Year’s Eve in San Francisco is a bit beyond your means, let me suggest the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl on December 30 at LP Field in Nashville matching Mississippi State and Wake Forest after first enjoying Louise Mandrell’s Christmas Dinner Party at Opryland……….not for you? Well, then maybe the Meineke Car Care of Texas Bowl on New Year’s Eve afternoon in Houston at Reliant Stadium with Texas A&M (without fired head coach Mike Sherman) going helmet-to-helmet with Northwestern’s Mildcats of the Big Ten………….though Sherman will not be coaching the Aggies, he will be watching at home and mulling his next post and what to do with a reported $5.4 million buyout……………no? OK, go for the Big Apple then and America’s sports landmark, Yankee Stadium, on December 30 at the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, where Rutgers (8-4) tackles Iowa State, then New Year’s Eve at the Waldorf Astoria’s legendary Starlight Roof, where you can dance and recall the days when Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians performed “Auld Lang Syne” in the Grand Ballroom……………there are 35 college football bowl games this season again, including the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Beef O’Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl, the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl, and the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl. Back when I was a young publicist at the University of Colorado, a bowl game was widely regarded as a reward for a special season, one with, say, seven wins, and an upset or two. My first was the 1969 Liberty Bowl in Memphis, with the Buffs (8-3), smashing a dozen bowl records on the way to a 47-33 crushing of Bear Bryant’s Alabama Crimson Tide before 50,052 fans on December 13. CU had lost only to Penn State, Oklahoma and Nebraska along the way, and it was an honor to play in Memphis against Bryant. The players, coaches and staff got rings, watches and brought family. We were on national television with ABC and Bud Wilkinson and Chris Schenkel! It was heady stuff. But a year later, the Buffs went back to Memphis and were beaten by Tulane in the Liberty Bowl, 17-3. The Buff seniors had voted not to go to a bowl game after smashing Sugar Bowl-bound Air Force, 49-19, and ending Penn State’s 31-game unbeaten string with a 41-13 upset in Boulder in an up-and-down 6-4 season. But following the team vote, head coach Eddie Crowder told the Buffs that they might get Florida, LSU or somebody else, and it was worth going. The Buffs accepted, and were shocked later the next day when 7-3 Tulane, making its first bowl appearance in 30 years, was named as their foe……….star CU quarterback Jim Bratten went down with an ankle injury during practice in Memphis and the team had no offense behind backup QB Paul Arendt as 46,000 fans shivered in freezing temps. I got a seat on the band plane after the game to get away from the post-game night mood. Nobody was happy this time. But, there were only eleven bowl games, led by the biggies (Cotton, Orange, Sugar, Rose) and the Liberty, Sun, Gator, Bluebonnet, Tangerine, Peach and Pasadena Bowls)…………but it was ominous that 5-6 William & Mary got into the Tangerine Bowl and lost to 11-0 Toledo. So, now we have a lackluster BCS Championship rematch between LSU and Alabama, fans and coaches at Oklahoma State outraged, even with a superb test with Stanford looming at the Fiesta Bowl, an uninspiring match of 8-4 Notre Dame and Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl, and the speed or Oregon versus the mammoth Wisconsin offensive line in the Rose Bowl. Then we have the other 31 bowl games. But I’ll enjoy the December 28 clash between Air Force and Toledo at the Military Bowl at RFK Stadium in Washington for sure because the Falcons are special, winning the Commander In Chief’s Trophy and showing fans again that unique student-athletes can do special things. But fourteen teams with 6-6 records in bowl games, some with interim coaches, season-ending losing streaks, angry alumni and boosters, players who would rather be at home for the Holidays and snoozing television audiences? Wake me when it’s over.
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