So, first of all, no, we don’t know where Baker Mayfield has been when he was missing press avails the last couple of days. We know what you know: he’s been sick, apparently with something that’s going around. In the Greater Los Angeles area that could be, you know, Hep-B or leprosy. We’re praying it away.
Naturally, we have the undisclosed location where the Sooners are temporarily billeted staked out. But the Ventura County Sheriff has had a box truck parked there since Wednesday, like they’re trying to block our view or something. The local CBS affiliate owes us an update on that.
Mayfield’s full name is Baker Reagan Mayfield, incidentally. Just so you know.
We have Georgia staked out too, of course, but no one’s obscuring them with parked trucks, for whatever reason, so we have a clear view of the diseases they’ve got.
Life is coming at us fast.
Saturday 30 December
The Inner Circle’s next at-bat is on Monday, as the Bigs take over. But we need to get the full Booger-to-Bigger transition taken care of first.
Saturday morning, in about half an hour as this develops in composition, Louisville (8-4) hits the sod with #23 Mississippi State in Jacksonville in the Taxslayer Bowl. (Update below. This takes awhile.)
This is a certified Booger, and I mean cer-ta-FIED. Used to be the Gator Bowl, a thousand years ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth. (Technically, starting in 1946.) Since 1986, it’s been through sponsors Mazda, Outback Steakhouse, Toyota, Konica Minolta, and Progressive (Insurance), before settling on Taxslayer. It was originally the Taxslayer.com Bowl, and you know our rules.
In the past, Taxslayer has had free tax seminars to enliven bowl week, but we don’t find anything along those lines in the schedule of events. Seems like kind of a gyp, frankly.
The Booger cachet is strong with this one, however: Woody Hayes got fired in 1978 for hitting an opposing player (from Clemson) on the sideline during the (then) Gator Bowl.
Today we’re hoping for some pretty solid action from the Cardinals (-7) and Bulldogs. We’re leery, to say the least, of those 7 points. We’d frankly have a couple going the other way. (Update: ‘Dogs and Cardinals made a game of it, with MSU regaining the lead 31-27 late in the 4Q, and keeping it through an exciting final minute.)
Next up is one of our more august Boogers, the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, in which Iowa State (7-5; 2-0 vs. Oklahoma and TCU) will take on #20 Memphis (10-2; AAC West titlist). It’s a home stand for Memphis, explaining the Tigers’ otherwise unnatural 4-point give in the line. Iowa State is more likely to win, outweighing Memphis by probably an average of 30 pounds on the lines that matter. (That said, the Cyclones will be missing a couple of defensive backfield starters – Evrett Edwards and Kamari Cotton-Moya – who were big factors in slowing down OU and TCU. Both due to Young Guy Stupidity. So that’ll hurt.)
We hope you didn’t miss the Liberty Bowl Professional Rodeo on Wednesday, inside the friendly confines of the Agricenter Show Place Arena. Our personal favorite is the Barrel Racing, but the Steer Wrestling always keeps us on the edge of our seats, for sure.
(Update: Memphis has really kept this one close, but probably just lost their final opportunity with a whiff on 4th down, and down 21-20 in the final two minutes. Really fine effort from the Tigers, minus a few own-foot stomps.)
The crazy great-aunt of Bigger bowl games clocks in next in Phoenix. It’s finally time for the Playstation Fiesta Bowl, which this year features #11 Washington and #9 Penn State. The venue, of course, is fangled University of Phoenix Stadium, about which we had no idea that the amount of concrete poured to construct it would pave a sidewalk all the way from Phoenix to San Francisco. Our personal feeling is that it would be just like San Franciscans to want a sidewalk that ran to Phoenix. (We’d see Phoenixians being more meh about that.)
They’re streaming the Fiesta Bowl Parade live here at the moment, and we’re sure they’ll be running it again later if you’re now hooked up with the Taxslayer Bowl action. There’s an exciting sequence with horses and wagons underway.
But if you put it on your calendar, you won’t have to miss the 2018 Running of the Bills Duck Race (rubber ducks, you see, floating down a canal) on 10 March. Keep up that bowl spirit all year ‘round.
Washington and Penn State rarely play each other – apparently only two times to date, the last one in 1983. We’re thinking PSU here, and the Nittany Lion give is indeed 3. PSU’s last Fiesta Bowl appearance was in 1997. Just thought we’d throw that in.
Saturday night will bring more Power action with the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock in Miami, where #6 Wisconsin and #10 Miami (Da U) line up to give us a good show. Miami kind of ran out of gas toward the end of the season, but they do bring the O, and Wisconsin has finally found DC Jim Leonhard to get them bringing the #1 Insane D in the nation. There’s potential here.
There’s also potential in a little game day event you might miss if you’re not careful. The Orange Bowl RV Fan Fest features a Battle of the Burgers, at which the 2017 Orange Bowl Hall of Fame inductees (Barry Alvarez, Nebraska; Jack Fernandez, Miami; Ray Perkins, Alabama) will sample and judge the best burgers from four restaurants: two each in Florida and Wisconsin. Throw us into that briar patch.
On the field, the Badgers give 6.
Monday 1 January 2018
We kind of love that the Outback Bowl sneaks in on the NCAA season’s penultimate Day of Humongitude, just like it’s got some business. This one, of course, is in Ray-Jay in Tampa, where Michigan (8-4, and we’re warning you, Blue, we may have to give you a motto if you don’t get on the stick) will collide with South Carolina (8-4; motto: The Other USC). You’ll remember this as the Hall of Fame Bowl from 1986 to 1995.
When you hold a bowl game in Tampa, you can host events like “Clearwater Beach Day” with cheerleaders, which looks like some folks had a good time last year. There is also the somewhat ominous-sounding Tampa General Hospital Pre-Game Show at 11:20 AM Eastern on Monday, but investigation suggests that the hospital is merely a sponsor, and no medical demonstrations or interventions (or even soap-opera personal dramas) will be involved.
The Wolverines opened as 7.5-point favorites, but bettors are way expecting the Gamecocks to cover. We’re more with the opening, but seriously, Michigan, go buy yourself an offense.
A top bowl could hardly look more lopsided than the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, which will erupt next at Mercedes-Benz in Atlanta between #12 Central Florida (AAC Champion) and #7 Auburn (knocked off both #1 Clemson and #2 Georgia during the season). As much as we admire UCF, we have to admit we’re with the herd on this one.
We note, without additional speculation on that head, that Auburn has already won the “Battle for Bowl Week,” a series of all-in-good-fun athletic events followed by a lot of eating. (The eating, per se, doesn’t seem to be a competitive event.) The competition was tied at the end of regulation, however, and required a tiebreaker to decide.
Get ready to rumble. The drumbeat of the Biggest Bigs can be heard in the distance. War Eagle gives 9.5.
The Citrus Bowl Presented by Overton’s tees up our Inner Circle on Monday, with #17 LSU meeting #14 Notre Dame for what promises to be a heck of a game in Orlando. This one ought to be good. We’re confident that Coach O has exorcised the last of the Voodoo Hex from his offense, and hopeful that the improving nose for the ball has only gotten better on the defensive side.
Kidding aside, the Arsh are a good team, if low on the throwing. It would normally take some doing to prevail against their power legs, but we just learned this morning that a second starting RB, Deon McIntosh, has been removed from the lineup due to a rules violation. The loss of McIntosh and C.J. Holmes will definitely cut into Notre Dame’s fun.
LSU, meanwhile, will reportedly have RB Derrius Guice in the lineup. So stand back. This is a return trip for LSU, and Guice was last year’s MVP in a 29-9 win over Louisville.
Not all LSU activities are focused on the practice field or the nutrition table. Some are downright cultural.
— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) December 24, 2017
This one’s a pick’em. Geaux Tigers!
The 2 PM time slot (5 PM for you East Coasters) gets us to our final Inner Circle contestant on Monday, as #2 Oklahoma and #3 Georgia light up Pasadena in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual. There’s a whole big thing we have to get through first with the Rose Bowl Parade, which is always stuffed with Personalities, and these days with social-justice-themed floats. But we’ll manage.
It’ll bring a tear to your eye that the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame inductees this year include Mack Brown, Cade McNown, Charles Woodson and Dr. Charles West. So let’s have a standing O for them.
Meanwhile, the Rose Bowl Stadium parking lot opens at 4 AM for your tailgating convenience. Given that we’re talking a horde of fans from Georgia and Oklahoma, the tailgating is going to be epic. Send photos.
— Rose Bowl Game (@rosebowlgame) December 29, 2017
The game itself should give us chills, if the Oklahoma offensive line can keep Mayfield in business. Georgia’s terrific pass defense, led by QB-flattening linebacker Roquan Smith (this year’s Butkus winner), is the one that can stand up to Mayfield and his slippery opportunism. Mayfield can find a black hole where Stephen Hawking himself says there isn’t one, but the Bulldog secondary is the corps that can close it up before the ball gets there. The Sooner O-line will have to find a way to give Mayfield that extra half-second.
— Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) December 29, 2017
The Georgia O and Sooner D aren’t beanbag, but they’re working on it. There’s a reason you don’t hear as much about either of them. Maybe they’ll surprise us. Bulldogs are giving 2.5 at this hour.
The night caps off with a classic matchup of #1 Clemson with #4 Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, at the Mercedes-Benz Super Dome in New Orleans. (The smells alone from the tailgating at this one will put 10 pounds on you.)
We, personally, think Alabama (a) probably deserves to be there, and (b) still coasted in on reputation just ever so slightly more than performance. Their defense is still legendary and sick, for sure. It’s low on the linebacking seniority this year, however, and Clemson QB Kelly Bryant is a guy who can capitalize on that.
The X-factor for our money is – as so often – Dabo Swinney. Swinney is kind of the noumenon to Mike Gundy’s phenomenon: the abstract ideal of the coach who adapts before there’s any need to, just pacing the sideline looking like he’s got rabbits breeding preemptively in the locker room while the rest of the world still hasn’t thought “hat” yet.
Meanwhile, Tide QB Jalen Hurts brings his strengths and weaknesses, and Clemson has the best D line it’s had in maybe forever. We’re expecting a little more offensive frisk from the Tigers than from Alabama, but overall, a strong, exciting game. Both of the CFP semifinals have real promise this go-round. Tide’s giving 3.
— Clemson Football (@ClemsonFB) December 30, 2017
— Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) December 30, 2017