Sports Outside the Beltway

Are you ready for some bowling? II

No I’m not talking about some middle aged man propelling a ball at some objects at the end of a lane, but the games that climax every college football season. Bowl season officially starts this afternoon, here are the matchups for all the college football fanatics out there.

Note- I gave the shortened name version of all the upcoming games. Also I listed what broadcast network would be televising the game and what time they would be coming on the air. All times are Eastern Standard.

Dec 19

New Mexico- Fresno State vs. Wyoming 4:30 p.m. ESPN
St. Petersburg- Central Florida vs. Rutgers 8 p.m. ESPN

Dec 20

R+L Carriers New Orleans- Southern Miss vs. Middle Tennessee 8:30 p.m. ESPN

Dec 22

MAACO Las Vegas- Oregon State vs. BYU 8 p.m. ESPN

Dec 23

Poinsettia- Utah vs. Cal 8 p.m. ESPN

Dec 24

Sheraton Hawaii- Nevada vs. SMU 8 p.m. ESPN
Dec 26

Little Caesars- Marshall vs. Ohio 1 p.m. ESPN
Meineke- Pitt vs. North Carolina 4:30 p.m. ESPN
Emerald- Boston College vs. USC 8 p.m. ESPN

Dec 27

Music City- Kentucky vs. Clemson 8:30 p.m. ESPN

Dec 28

Independence- Texas A&M vs. Georgia 5 p.m. ESPN2

Dec 29

EagleBank- UCLA vs. Temple 4:30 p.m. ESPN
Champs Sports- Miami vs. Wisconsin 8 p.m. ESPN

Dec 30

Humanitarian- Bowling Green vs. Idaho 4:30 p.m. ESPN
Holiday- Arizona vs. Nebraska 8 p.m. ESPN

Dec 31

Armed Forces- Houston vs. Air Force Noon ESPN
Sun- Oklahoma vs. Stanford 2 p.m. CBS
Texas- Navy vs. Missouri 3:30 p.m. ESPN
Minnesota vs. Iowa State 6 p.m. NFL Network
Chick-fil-A- Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee 7:30 p.m. ESPN

Jan 1

Outback- Northwestern vs. Auburn 11 a.m. ESPN
Capital One- Penn State vs. LSU 1 p.m. ABC
Gator- West Virginia vs. Florida State 1 p.m. CBS
Rose Bowl- Ohio State vs. Oregon 4:30 p.m. ABC
Sugar- Cincinnati vs. Florida 8:30 p.m. FOX

Jan 2

International- South Florida vs. Northern Illinois Noon ESPN2 South Carolina vs. UConn 2 p.m. ESPN
Cotton- Oklahoma State vs. Ole Miss 2 p.m. FOX
Liberty- Arkansas vs. East Carolina 5:30 p.m. ESPN
Valero Alamo- Michigan State vs. Texas Tech 9 p.m. ESPN

Jan 4

Fiesta- Boise State vs. TCU 8 p.m. FOX

Jan 5

FedEx Orange- Iowa vs. Georgia Tech 8 p.m. FOX

Jan 6th

GMAC- Central Michigan vs. Troy 7 p.m. ESPN

Jan 7th

BCS National Championship Game- Texas vs. Alabama Jan. 7 8 p.m.

Some random notes on the above 34 games

*- 19 of the 34 games are not scheduled till Dec. 31st or later. I guess college football fanatics are expected to flip channels very quickly on those 3 days(Dec 31-Jan 2) when 15 games are being aired.
*- What a downer must it be for Oregon State players and fans. A few weeks ago they were one win from a Rose Bowl trip. Instead they lost to Oregon and are playing in a minor bowl before Christmas.
*- The NFL network televises a college football game. I guess that’s the cable sports equivalent of the Sci-Fi channel showing wrestling….
*- The bowls are now set where now certain conference finishers are locked into the same bowl games every year. I understand why the current system is done, but I prefer the day when bowl games would have greater variance from year to year. The Peach bowl would usually invite a ACC or SEC school but they could be creative, like when they invited Army and Illinois. Wouldn’t a SEC team against BYU or Wyoming be nice for a change?
*- Bobby Bowden’s farewell game is against the same school(West Virginia) that he left before coming to Florida State. I do know FSU and WV have played at least twice previously in bowls during the Bowden-Florida State era.


Alabama gives Nick Saban a contract extension through 2017

The Crimson Tide went 12-2 in 2008. From AP-

Pledging his commitment to Alabama for the rest of his coaching career, Nick Saban signed a contract extension Saturday that will keep him in charge of the Crimson Tide football program through the 2017 season.

Saban, accused by some of being a coaching nomad and not willing to set down roots, said prior to last season that there were “no other horizons” for him in the coaching profession. This latest deal would appear to be another clear indication that he has dug in at Alabama.

I never thought of Saban as a coaching nomad. His namesake, the late Lou Saban, was the ultimate nomad in college football coaching.

Alabama officials had been working on a contract that would not change Saban’s base salary over the next several years, but would award him with a three-year extension, bumping up his total financial package to an average of more than $4 million per year.

Saban is scheduled to make $3.9 million this year. His original eight-year contract was worth $32 million and escalated each year. He’ll go to $4.1 million in 2010 and is scheduled to make $4.2 million in each of the final three years of that deal (2012, 2013 and 2014).

A long term contract locks in Saban in Tuscaloosa for a long time. It comes with disadvantages, which to me outweigh the advantages. A coach may underperform or bring scandal to the school. The University will then, and often with good reason, want to move on but are restrained from doing so because of the cost of buying out a coach’s contract.

Alabama football fans, no disrespect to my friend and owner of this blog James Joyner, seem fickle to me. They want the Bear Bryant days back and when a coach doesn’t live up to these high expectations, they soon long for the next candidate. That is just my humble opinion.


NFL Draft 2009 – Round 1 #6- Cincinnati Bengals- OT Andre Smith

The Bengals go for a lineman to protect QB Carson Palmer.

Espn writes- We feel Smith is more suited to play right tackle because there are some concerns about his overall quickness, footwork and pass-protection skills. With that said, Smith is the best run-blocker in this year’s offensive tackle crop. Although we still believe Smith has some developing and maturing to do he brings excellent value at this pick.


Are you ready for some bowling?

No I’m not talking about some middle aged man propelling a ball at some objects at the end of a lane, but the games that climax every college football season. Bowl season officially starts this Saturday, here are the matchups for all the college football fanatics out there.

Dec 20
Eaglebank Bowl- Wake Forest vs Navy
New Mexico Bowl- Colorado State vs Fresno St
MAGICJACK ST. PETERSBURG BOWL- Memphis vs. South Florida
PIONEER LAS VEGAS BOWL- Brigham Young vs Arizona
Dec 21
Dec 23
Dec 24
SHERATON HAWAII BOWL- Hawaii vs Notre Dame
Dec 26
MOTOR CITY BOWL- Florida Atlantic vs. Central Michigan
Saturday, December 27
MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL- West Virginia vs. North Carolina
Champs Sports Bowl- Wisconsin vs. Florida State
Emerald Bowl- Miami (FL) vs. California
December 28
Independence Bowl- Northern Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech
PAPAJOHNS.COM BOWL- North Carolina State vs. Rutgers
Valero Alamo Bowl- Missouri vs. No. 23 Northwestern
Tuesday, December 30
PACIFIC LIFE HOLIDAY BOWL- Oklahoma State vs. No. 17 Oregon
Texas Bowl- Western Michigan vs. Rice
Wednesday, December 31
Sun Bowl- Oregon State vs. Pittsburgh
GAYLORD HOTELS MUSIC CITY BOWL- Boston College vs. Vanderbilt
Insight Bowl- Kansas vs. Minnesota
CHICK-FIL-A BOWL- LSU vs. Georgia Tech
Thursday, January 1
OUTBACK BOWL- South Carolina vs. Iowa
CAPITAL ONE BOWL- Georgia vs. Michigan State
Gator Bowl- Nebraska vs. Clemson
Rose Bowl- Penn State vs. USC
Fedex Orange Bowl- Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech
Friday, January 2
Cotton Bowl- Mississippi vs. Texas Tech
AUTOZONE LIBERTY BOWL- Kentucky vs. East Carolina
January 3
INTERNATIONAL BOWL- Buffalo vs. Connecticut
January 5
TOSTITOS FIESTA BOWL- Ohio State vs. Texas
January 6
GMAC Bowl- Ball State vs. Tulsa*
January 8

That’s 34 games, 68 schools spread over a period of 20 days for those of you keeping score at home. An ample supply of college football for any fanatics out there.

A few notes

*- There are a few bowl games remaining without corporate names in their title. Gator, Sun, Texas, Independence. Were these games unable to find sponsors?
*- Will Oklahoma St. and Oregon combine for 70 pts or more in the Holiday Bowl? This annually has been of the most high scoring affairs.
*- Oh how has the Orange Bowl dropped. A game that featured early triumphs of Joe Paterno led Penn State, Nebraska and Oklahoma in their glory days, the first major bowl appearance of Florida State, and the all time classic 84 battle between Nebraska and Miami, has Cincinnati and Virginia Tech playing this year. I’m sure they are talented football teams, but how many people are drooling to see them play in a prime-time network slot?
*- Arizona and BYU meet in a bowl 30 years after the former left the WAC conference for the higher profile Pac Eight(Now Ten, Arizona State joined also)
*- Vanderbilt makes a rare bowl appearance. Congratulations to Commodore fans, but this is a sign of how bowls are grown way out of proportion. 6-6 college teams get bids. When I was growing up I could remember Florida State going without a bowl in 1978 even though they finished the season 8-3.

It is my humble opinion that bowl season has gotten out of hand. Someone may say what’s the big deal? If someone wants to start a bowl game and there are two schools willing to play in it, does their records matter. A good football isn’t only a contest between stars at big name schools.

All true, but how much public money is spent on these affairs? Many of the teams are state universities who get funded by taxpayers. Then there is the game itself where police have to be taken from other tasks to work the day or night of the game or paid over-time.

With the economic downturn right now, you have to wonder if there will be less bowls in the near future. That would depend on how long a deal a corporate sponsor signed on for. I wonder how many fans of some schools plan to make a bowl trip. Are there 1,000 or more FAU Owls willing to journey from Florida to Michigan in December to watch the team play? Even if I were a Owl fan and had money, I’d stay home.

Enjoy the games.


Alabama Screwed in Both Polls

The University of Alabama Crimson Tide went into the weekend ranked #2, having beaten then-#9 Clemson and then-#4 Georgia on the road thus far this season.  The #1 ranked team, Oklahoma, got beaten by #5 Texas.   So, Alabama’s #1, right?

Not so fast.

Texas leapfrogged five spots to take the #1 spot in both the AP and USA Today polls.

It’s a travesty.

Look, Texas could well be the best team in the country.  Then again, there was a strong argument to be made that Alabama was that two weeks ago when it pummeled Georgia in the dogpound.  It’s simply a joke, though, for them not to move up while being undefeated, having beaten two top ten teams, and playing in the top football conference in the land.

Gentry Estes says the Tide may be better off at #2, which I find rather dubious.  He’s right, though, that “At this point, there is no way Alabama could win out and not find itself in the BCS title game.”

There’s still a lot of football to play.  Alabama hasn’t been ranked #1 during the regular season since 1980.  They won the 1992-93 national championship by going in as the #2 team and whomping then-#1 Miami and the Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torreta.   But they deserved the top spot given their performance this year so far.


College Football Rankings Stink

The USA Today Top 25 College Coaches’ Poll is out.  Here are the rankings for September 28:

LSU (1)
Texas (1)
10. (tie)
10. (tie)

Explain to me how Missouri, who hasn’t played anybody of note, is ranked #3 and ahead of Alabama, Penn State, and Texas?

Missouri has beaten, in succession, Illinois, Missouri Southeastern, Nevada, and Buffalo.  Frankly, if they cancelled the football programs at those last three schools, nobody would notice.  It’s been a complete joke of a schedule thus far and Missouri’s not exactly a storied program.

Alabama, on the other hand, opened the season in a neutral site game against Clemson, then ranked in the top 10, and just went in to Athens and destroyed then-3rd ranked Georgia on their home field.  I can understand putting Oklahoma, also a storied program who plays against tough competition, ahead of Alabama, who has come off a bad season.  But Missouri?!


Alabama Whips Georgia 41-30

Alabama went into Athens a decided underdog against #3 ranked Georgia and stunned everyone with a 31-0 blowout in the first half.  The defense took the second half off, giving up 30 points — it would have been 31 had Georgia not gone for and missed a 2-point conversion.  Thankfully, the offense managed to add another 10 and hold on.

The AP’s Paul Newberry, who either didn’t watch the game or only cared about the outcome rather than the process, saw it much differently than this Alabama fan.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban gestures to the fans as he leaves the field after defeating Georgia 41-30 in an NCAA college football game in Athens, Ga., Saturday, Sept. 27, 2008. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) Forget the blackout. This was an early knockout. Backed by a dominant defense and John Parker Wilson’s accurate passing, No. 8 Alabama raced to a stunning 31-point lead by halftime against self-destructing Georgia and held on to beat the third-ranked Bulldogs 41-30 Saturday night, establishing Nick Saban’s team as a national championship contender in his second season.


Alabama (5-0, 2-0) is poised to move up at least three or four spots when the new poll comes out Sunday, and the Tide certainly looked as impressive as anyone all year in winning decisively on the road against a team that started the season at the top of the heap.

Wilson went 13-of-16 passing for 205 yards and a touchdown, while Glenn Coffee ran for two scores in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score. Georgia scored two touchdowns in the waning minutes.

Not even the most optimistic Alabama fan could have expected Saban, who won a national championship at LSU, to turn the Tide so quickly. This again looks like a program more in keeping with the tradition of Bear Bryant, not Saban predecessor Mike Shula.

Looking for a motivational edge, Georgia came out wearing black jerseys, and most of its fans at 92,000-seat Sanford Stadium also took part in the “blackout.” But the biggest cheers came from the white-clad Alabamians sprinkled throughout the massive stands.

Georgia showed some disturbing tendencies even while winning its first four games, and those sure came back to bite the Bulldogs. They were flagged twice in the opening half for roughing the passer, crucial but familiar mistakes for a team that already was the most penalized in the SEC. Also, an offensive line featuring two freshman and two sophomores was no match for Alabama’s massive front led by 365-pound Terrence Cody.

Knowshon Moreno got only nine carries for 34 yards, and quarterback Matthew Stafford spent much of the game running for his life as Georgia’s 11-game winning streak ended.

The Bulldogs actually made Alabama a little nervous in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, closing to 31-17 on Prince Miller’s 92-yard punt return. But the Tide calmly wrapped it up on the next possession, driving 51 yards in eight plays for Leigh Tiffin’s second field goal.

Oddly, both Newberry and the ESPN game announcers repeatedly refer to an early pass interference call on Georgia as a critical play in the game.  In reality, that “mistake” was absolutely the right move on the part of the Georgia defender, saving a sure touchdown and forcing Alabama to drive fifteen yards to achieve a result they would otherwise have had easily.

I’m obviously thrilled by the outcome.  After the season opening win, also in Georgia, against then-highly ranked Clemson, I thought this team had a chance to knock off the Bulldogs.  I had no idea, though, that they’d dominate them so thoroughly in the first half.

My only fear is that the second half letdown bodes ill for the team’s ability to focus against some of their lesser opponents in upcoming weeks.  In college, which lacks a playoff system, you can’t have a bad week if you want a shot at a national championship.


Alabama Rolls Over Clemson, 34-10

Doug Benc/Getty Images  Nick Saban watched the Crimson Tide dominate No. 9 Clemson on Saturday.The Alabama Crimson Tide came in as heavy underdogs against the #9 ranked Clemson Tigers but surprised everyone by dominating the game from start to finish.


Nick Saban may face his toughest task yet: Holding down runaway expectations for his inexperienced Alabama team. Crimson Tide’s $4 million-per-year coach gave Alabama backers a reason to think big Saturday night, leading ‘Bama to a thorough 34-10 beating of No. 9 Clemson 34-10 at the Georgia Dome.

“Nobody can be satisfied with a one-game performance,” Saban said. “This will be a challenge for our team and it’ll be interesting to see how they respond.”

Still, as the Alabama band broke into Queen’s “We Are The Champions,” at the end, you had to wonder if they were honoring the Crimson Tide’s past, with 12 national titles and years of dominance in the Southeastern Conference under Bear Bryant, or gazing into the near future.

“It’s still early. We still got a long way to go,” cautioned quarterback John Parker Wilson, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third. “But we’ve got a good group of guys here who can do it.”

The statistical comparison was overwhelming:

Team Stat Comparison
1st Downs 25 11
Total Yards 419 188
Passing 180 188
Rushing 239 0
Penalties 6-40 6-43
3rd Down Conversions 11-17 1-9
4th Down Conversions 0-0 1-2
Turnovers 0 2
Possession 41:13 18:47

It’s worth pointing out that Clemson’s vaunted offense was held to a measly field goal, with 7 of the 10 Tiger points coming on a kickoff return.

ESPN’s Ivan Maisel thinks Alabama is ahead of schedule after a disappointing first year for head coach Nick Saban:

Alabama coach Nick Saban wanted to play No. 9 Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic for a lot of reasons. He wanted the national prime-time exposure of the opening Saturday night. He wanted his No. 24 Crimson Tide to have a presence in this recruiting hotbed. He wanted his young team — 14 freshmen on the two-deep — to play in a bowl-like atmosphere.

Saban, in sum, wanted this game in order to prepare his team for a future when they would be ready to contend for championships. In the wake of Alabama’s 34-10 victory, that may have been Saban’s only miscalculation.

Future? The future is now. If Alabama continues to play as well as it played Saturday night, the Crimson Tide will play in the Georgia Dome again this season — in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game.

It’s an exciting start to the season. Clearly, Saban has done wonders in recruiting. But Alabama faces an absolutely brutal schedule, playing at Arkansas, at #1 Georgia, at #18 Tennessee, at #7 LSU, and closing the regular season at home against #10 Auburn. If they can even win three of those games, it would be a spectacular year. Even that, though, wouldn’t be enough to guarantee them a spot in the SEC title game, let alone the BCS championship game.


John Mark Stallings Dead at 46

John Mark Stallings with dad Gene StallingsJohn Mark Stallings, the son of former Alabama head football coach Gene Stallings, died Saturday morningat the age of 46.  Gentry Estes of the Mobile Press-Register notes that, “He suffered from Down syndrome, and became an unforgettable part of the Crimson Tide’s football family during his dad’s successful tenure in the 1990s.”

Mal Moore, Alabama’s athletics director, issued a statement on behalf of the ‘Bama family:

“I’ve known John Mark Stallings his entire life,” Moore said. “I want to extend my deepest sympathy to Coach Stallings, Ruth Ann and the entire Stallings family. For someone who never played or coached a game, I think John Mark may have touched more Alabama fans than any other person ever did. I would like to thank the Stallings family for sharing their love for John Mark with all of us.”

John Mark was indeed a fixture at the Capstone during his dad’s too-short tenure there.  He’ll be missed and all of Bama Nation’s hearts go out to the Stallings family.


Alabama Shut Out in Draft?

NFL Draft 2008 Logo Paul Gattis of the The Huntsville Times reports that, “no Alabama players have been taking after 173 picks and none are on draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.’s list of best available players remaining in the pool.”

So I flipped through the history books and discovered this bit of history Alabama is making this year: Alabama has never had its first player taken in the draft this late. The closest was Kerry Goode in 1988. He was the 167th pick of the draft, taken in the seventh round.

At this point late in the draft, you start to wonder if guys like Wallace Gilberry, Simeon Castille and DJ Hall would be better off not getting drafted so they can sign free agent deals with teams that might be good fits for them.

Indeed, I’d love for the Cowboys to grab Simeon Castille and DJ Hall. They’ve got needs at safety and wide receiver that they’ve failed to address in the draft so far. Those guys are real athletes and have a better chance of making the squad than some of the guys who the Cowboys have already picked.

Gentry Estes observed yesterday that, “Alabama has not had a first-round draftee since 2000″ and it has now been two consecutive drafts since the Tide had a player taken on the first day. Truly a comedown for the Capstone. My guess is that this will chance quite soon now that Nick Saban is on board.


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