Sports Outside the Beltway

College Bowl Game Overload’s John Walters has an amusing column entitled “The Spirit of 7-6” on last night’s Emerald Bowl matchup between FSU and UCLA.

When did college football’s postseason become a walk-a-thon? When did two programs walking the .500 tightrope and with almost no chance of sniffing the final AP top 25 poll become worthy of a post-game podium and a trophy nearly as heavy as a female cheerleader?

Florida State (your ACC Atlantic Division 5th-place finisher) defeated UCLA (your Pacific-10 4th-place squad) 44-27 in the fifth annual Emerald Bowl this evening, thereby sending both teams home for the 2006 season with 7-6 records. There are 32 bowl games dotting your television listings between December 19th and January 8th, and the Emerald Bowl is definitely… one of them.


[T]he great drama in this evening’s game was whether Seminole head coach Bobby Bowden, now in his 31st season in Tallahassee, would finish the year sub-500 for the first time since his first season in Tallahassee. There’s more than one way to make history in a bowl game.

Indeed. I have, so far, watched zero of the bowl games. The college football season seemingly ended months ago and they’re still playing consolation games. Eventually, they will get around to playing the BCS Championship game, featuring teams that have been idle for weeks.

My Alabama Crimson Tide plays this afternoon in the Independence Bowl against Oklahoma State. Both teams had pathetic 6-6 seasons. Indeed, Alabama’s coach was fired seemingly ages ago and the Tide will be led by Interim Coach for Life Joe Kines.

Birmingham News writer Jon Solomon provides some statistics:

Seven 6-6 teams advanced to bowls this year, and four teams – including Oklahoma State – had only five victories against Division I-A opponents. Alabama and Miami added to their resumes with two victories each against winless teams.

Fifty-four percent of the 119 I-A teams are now in bowls. Television ratings and bowl payouts show there is interest.

One argument made for bowl games is they provide a reward to players for their season. Yet six-win seasons by Alabama and Miami rewarded their coaches with pink slips. “If we come out (today) with a win, I think it will be a mark for this team because we’ve been through it all,” Alabama running back Kenneth Darby said. “This season wasn’t perfect, but at least we come out with a 7-6 record. That would be a winning record, as far as I’m concerned.”

Bear Bryant wouldn’t agree, methinks. I suppose I’ll watch the game but, frankly, who really cares? Finishing 7-6 is hardly anything to cheer about.


NFL Draft 2006 – Round 1 #28 – Jacksonville Jaguars – TE Marcedes Lewis

The Jags are on the clock. Goose projected them taking USC running back LenDale White, who would seem a steal at this point.

The pick: Marcedes Lewis, TE/UCLA

An interesting pick and apparently consistent with many mock drafts seen by Mel Kiper. Lewis was rated #34 on the Goose board. Frankly, a potential superstar running back to bolster the fragile Fred Taylor makes more sense.


Florida Routs UCLA to Win National Championship

Pat Forde has an excellent roundup of Florida’s trouncing of UCLA to win the NCAA Tournament.

For five straight years, Florida’s marches through March were short and not terribly sweet. The Gators were always in the NCAA Tournament — and always back out after the first weekend. This time, Florida stayed until the end, and in the process, scorched Bracketville to the ground. The final embers were still smoking here late Monday, after the Gators put a Zippo to UCLA’s britches, 73-57.

The Bruins might own dances past, but this waltz was all blue and orange. A program that couldn’t finish became a juggernaut that couldn’t be beaten, and only once could even be threatened. Florida won its games in this dance by 26, 22, four, 13, 15 and a sweet 16 points. The 16-point average margin of victory was the highest by a champion in five years.

The onslaught was capped off by an unprecedented title-game beatdown of a higher seed. The last time a lower seed won on the Biggest of All Mondays by this many points? Never, at least since they started publicly seeding teams in 1979. “I felt like we were going to win this game by a large margin when we came in,” versatile wingman Corey Brewer said. “Nobody gave us any respect all year. We proved it. We took our respect.”

Actually, respect for the Gators mushroomed over the past three weeks, to the point that they were the common-sense favorite entering the Final Four. But they had to endure the America’s Team talk before playing George Mason, then got an earful on Sunday about how were they ever going to penetrate that UCLA defense.

“All our guys heard about for the last day and a half was how great defensively UCLA is,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “I don’t think our basketball team got a whole lot of credit about how good they are defensively.”

They get all the credit now, after turning this Final Four into a crashing anticlimax to a riveting tournament.


Five People of Seven Million Picked Right Final Four

NYT reporter Michael Schmidt says not to feel bad about blowing your NCAA brackets this year. You are not alone.

Know anyone who has the Final Four intact in the office pool? No way.

After all, not one top-seeded team made it. The last time that happened was 1980. Who could have picked the Patriots — not Tom Brady & Company, but the ones from George Mason?

Was there a secret to making sense of possibly the most unpredictable N.C.A.A. tournament? For Russell Pleasant, a 46-year-old software engineer from Omaha, it took a lucky mistake. When he filled out his bracket earlier this month, he thought George Washington would reach this weekend’s Final Four. Instead, he ended up picking George Mason, round after round after round, all the way to Indianapolis. Now, he finds himself a rare survivor among millions of broken hearts with busted brackets across the nation. In’s 2006 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Challenge, Pleasant had one of the four entries among three million with U.C.L.A., Louisiana State, Florida and George Mason in the Final Four.

Last season, 4,172 people picked all four teams in’s pool. But last year’s Final Four featured a more predictable lineup: two top-seeded teams, North Carolina and Illinois; a fourth-seeded team, Louisville; and a fifth-seeded team, Michigan State. At, none of the two million brackets submitted this year had all four teams. In the Yahoo Sports pool, just one of more than a million entered had all four.

Even with the ridiculous number of upsets this year, I would have figured dozens of people would have gotten the Final Four right just through the law of large numbers. Five people out of seven million? Wow.

Update: Josh Lewin is currently in 4th place in ESPN’s pool. Sadly, he picked UConn, eliminated by George Mason this weekend, to win the whole thing.


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