I know that it’s been nearly a month since the bowl season, and nearly two months since my last post. I’ve been truant in the blogosphere. Another SEC -dominant bowl whooping went down and your Southern Blogger wasn’t around to detail it.
I had a good reason. I got injured. Playing whiffle ball with my nephew on Christmas. Yep I’m pretty tough. It was nothing too big at first, just a little soreness that turned into a big soreness, which turned into tendonitis. If you’ve never had the pleasure of tendonitis it sucks. I’d rather watch General Sherman eat cheese fries with ranch dressing while singing the Ohio State fight song than have tendonitis. So yeah, it sucks.
Add to that a little carpal tunnel symptoms associated with my injury and it makes it hard to draw and type. But I’m in physical therapy three times a week and trying to manage things. Well, slowly but surely I’ve drawn 14 pictures and have two posts worked up about the bowl season. It’s a bit outdated, and I’m out of practice but here goes…
Rising Again: Every Bowl Season
I love bowl season. It’s like hunting season only the “game” is Yankee running backs. It’s “put up or shut up time” where every year the SEC puts up with anti-South diatribes and accusations of cheating and then pummels the opposition causing them to shut up. And for the seventh straight year we proved once again who the best is.
One of my favorite blogs is Saturdays Down South. On one post a commenter mentioned “some of you guys equate the SEC with the Confederacy”. I think he was talking about me. Every time I see a Big Ten school get pummeled I fist pump like it’s 1863. It’s Gettysburg folks, only this time George Pickett is 6’6” and runs a 4.4 40.
This year we had nine of our fourteen (if you count Missouri) Southern armies/schools going up against the rest. The ESPN types, Oregon homers, Golden Domers, and Ohio State fans sitting on probation said “this year…THIS bowl season” would be different. It wasn’t. It never is.
Even Our Nerds Can Ball
The first game we had NC State versus Vanderbilt. This was clearly an undercard. First of all NC State is a Southern enough school on the right side of the sweet tea line but wrong side of the football is cooler than basketball debate. And they went up against Vanderbilt, not exactly the typical SEC school. They actually go to class…players too. Yeah, hard to believe.
But Vandy has gotten much better of late. They sent the Wolf Pack to the kennels and handed them a beat down. Since it was the Music City Bowl nobody really watched. Sad, because they missed seeing a real up and coming team. Even our nerds can ball.
Not Everyone Got the Memo
But like any great drama there was a bit of a scary moment when it looked like our braggadocio would backfire and I’d have to write a post defending Yankee football. Well…or at least go back to writing about barbecue. Three of our teams lost to non-SEC opponents. They let us down.
The first to backfire was perhaps the most excusable. LSU blew a big lead against Clemson. What makes it excusable is that Clemson is the most SEC-like (along with Florida State) of any non-SEC team. Clemson’s Boyd can throw and run and had experience in big games. Clemson usually wins their bowls and has a fast defense and good play calling.
But LSU had something too…a big lead going into the fourth quarter. Then the lead got smaller. And smaller. And smaller until LSU had the chance to escape with a victory by icing the clock. Cool Les, all you’ve got to do is throw in a few running plays and get a first down and you’re out of there. At worst, you can go three and out and leave a few seconds of the clock.
Well clocks and Les Miles don’t really go together. I don’t think he believes in the same space-time continuum that you and I do. He ran three straight passing plays and no first down. The space-time continuum if you will stopped long enough for Clemson to get the ball back and score.
Then there was Florida. They’re the so-called #3 team in the country. They were going up against Louisville of the Big East. This is like candy from a baby. Only stealing is a penalty and that’s what we found out Florida was good at…penalties.
As in three in a row….personal foul, personal foul, personal foul on the coach. Kind of hard to win when the other team is walking all over the yellow flag carpet into the end zone. Will Muschamp is a hothead and clearly he controls his players no better than his temper. Florida chumped out, embarrassing the SEC and breaking bowl pick ‘em pools everywhere (including mine).
Then came New Year’s Day. The SEC was a shocking 1-2 and people were starting to talk. Then Mississippi State and their no-neck coach down Southeast rolled into town to play the nerdiest school this side of the Commodores…the Theorizing’ Wildcats of Northwestern.
Northwestern hasn’t defeated a bowl opponent since Dewey defeated Truman or rather Truman defeated Dewey in an upset. I guess they were hungry. I guess they figured out an algorithm that forecasted their victory. Or perhaps they consulted the forced with their plastic light sabres or held a séance which guaranteed their offensive prowess. Or maybe…just maybe they figured that Mullen’s mullets were the most overrated team in the country with a baby schedule and hammered them.
I have to say of all the SEC losses that one was the best. I’m of the school of thought that you hold your nose and root for the whole conference…but still as an Ole Miss alumnus, this one was pretty funny.
The problem was, that left the SEC looking bad. All the usual network talking heads were jumping on the idea that this was a bad year for the SEC. But while the bulldogs were getting chased up the tree by the ‘Cats other better teams were taking care of business.
Taking Care of Business
In a well-predicted shootout the Georgia Bulldogs were duking it out with the Nebraska Cornhuskers. On the one hand Georgia could have been feeling a let-down after coming close to a BCS title shot after losing to Alabama. On the other hand, Nebraska is a pretty tough Northern football team with size, speed, good coaching, and NFL prospects.
In Georgia’s favor Mark Richt has a disciplined team. While he blew last year’s bowl he had his team prepared to air it out with the best of them. If you can hang with Alabama, well then you can hang with anybody. Also in their favor was Aaron Murray a pocket style passer with a first round draft selection to Oak-Cleve-land in his not too distant future. While Nebraska could air it out too, they didn’t have the defense that the Dawgs were bringing and the SEC notched it back up.
The Tackle Heard ‘Round the World
Simultaneously the South Carolina Gamecocks were in the ring with the winged helmets of Ann Arbor. We’ve been told that Meecheegan was coming back to their former glory and could hang with the SEC. Well they didn’t really hang very long early in the year when ranked #4 and getting stuffed by the Tide and well they didn’t hang in the end against Sakir Liner.
Funny thing about winged helmets. They can fly. At least when a player wearing one gets bulldozed by Jadeveon Clowney. In the greatest Southern defensive barrage since Fredericksburg Clowney got revenged on Michigan moments after the worst call in NCAA history (not involving Notre Dame). The referee had just called a first down after a fourth down play was stopped. The ball was six inches from the first down line. The chains were clear. Six inches. That was farther than Steve Spurrier’s face was from the ref after screaming and jumping up and down after that dubious pronouncement.
At that point the game was on the line and was the SEC’s bowl dominance. A Michigan win would be a strong blow for Bluecoated football fandom. And then came the next play. BOOM!!! In a split second I saw a Michigan player get flattened and then the ball come out in a fumble. Clowney had bowled over the line, crushed the Michigan running back forcing off the helmet ten feet in the air and then palmed the football. It’s like you’re playing nerf ball with some kid, taking it easy, and then that kid kicks you in a non-cool place to kick you. You catch your breath, get mad and well take the nerf ball from the baby.
It was 3-3
Johnny Bowl Season
The next game was to be a bellwether. In a matchup of former Big 12 foes the Texas A&M Aggies were going up against Bob Stoops (the shortest neck this side of Dan Mullen) and his Oklahoma Sooners. It was supposedly even. ESPN big-time Boomer Sooners said so. Well “shockingly” the folks in Bristol, CT were wrong again.
See Texas A&M had Johnny Football. Johnny Football not only plays quarterback, throws, and runs well, and had won the Heisman…no siree. Johnny Football composed symphonies when he was 6, cornered the stock market, solved the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while riding a unicycle and juggling, has a 7.2 GPA because he teaches his own classes, rescues cats from trees, and children from burning buildings and may in fact be a child of a deity. At least according to the play-by-play men.
Well one thing is for sure, Johnny Football and the Aggies completely gutted the Sooners. The wheels of the wagon fell off. Welcome to the SEC kid. We’re glad to have you.
Yep…Even Ole Miss
Now it was Ole Miss’ turn. Say what you want about us we win our bowl games even if they’re often bowl games no one else watches.
This however is a team on the rise lead by first-year coach Hugh Freeze aka Freezus. Freeze is the Mississippi reared Archie Manning hand-picked replacement for Houston Nutt. He’s a disciplinarian, a father-figure, a good recruiter, and an excellent play caller. In other words he’s the opposite of Houston Nutt.
Ole Miss was playing their own Big East opponent in Pitt but unlike Florida the Rebs didn’t take this game for granted even though this was in Birmingham, AL. While Birmingham has the failed iron industry and empty buildings that make any Pittsburgher homesick it is in fact much closer to Oxford, MS as the sea of red in the crowd showed. A 6-6 team played a 6-6 team but of course one of those 6-6 teams had played Alabama, Texas A&M, Georgia, and LSU.
It wasn’t even close. Sure the Rebs won a BCPM Bumpus Compass Bowl in a broken stadium, in a broken town, in a part of town you don’t want to be broken down in, on the bad ratings time slot of bowl season, with a trophy that looked like pretty bad aluminum modern art. All true. But we won and got to say “S-E-C, S-E-C, S-E-C”. Mississippi State didn’t get to do that.
5-3 with Alabama and Notre Dame to go. The ultimate North vs. South contest.
That’s coming next post. Soon I promise. – SB