It’s conference championship week in America, and aren’t you glad you don’t have to make decisions about the CFP? Wouldn’t want that job for anything this fall. Pretty much no matter what happens.
Tulsa will be playing in the marquee slot on Saturday evening, which ‘ardly hever ‘appens. So there’s that to pep things up.
Meanwhile, we feel sure there’s some reason to keep the lively ritual of the Melancholy Cancellations going. They’re doing it, at any rate. Seems like trouble could have been spared by just not scheduling some of these matches. But it all adds to the flavor. Someday there will be great trivia questions about 2020, like, “In what year was the football rivalry game for the Old Oaken Bucket scheduled, and then cancelled, twice?”
Louisiana-Monroe will not be playing at Troy on Thursday evening, we’re sorry to say. The action starts on Friday, with UAB at Marshall for the C-USA title.
And even though it’s conference title week, and the bowl games are not only starting but we already have our first Melancholy Cancellation!, Power 5 teams (SEC, Big 10, ACC, PAC-12) will be scurrying around this weekend having miscellaneous games for no apparent reason. Cats and dogs. Mass hysteria.
New #23 University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane, which beat Notre Dame 28-27 on 30 October 2010, will meet #9 Cincinnati in the marquee slot Saturday evening to compete for the American Conference championship. We’re so proud of the alma mater for pounding away to get to this point, we could bust. This is a long way from the nadir of 2018-2019. Joe Gillespie, the linebacker coach who fleeted up to DC before the 2019 season, has carried the load of the increasingly successful 4-3 to 3-3-5 shift, and Jermial Ashley (formerly a D-line coach with OK-State) has the juniors and seniors tackling like we haven’t seen in years. TU LB Zaven Collins is (unanimously) the AAC defensive player of the year, and 13 Tulsa D players have been named finalists for FBS defense awards. Woot!
The TU offense is the iffier proposition. They remind me of Oregon circa 2017: their go-juice doesn’t seem to kick in until midway through the 2Q. (Oregon has solved that problem this year by forgoing the go-juice entirely.) Tulsa can rack up the points when they get it together and stop dropping the ball all over the field. They’ve had comeback wins in several games this year, which won’t work well against Cincinnati.
That said, TU is in the reassuring position of having unusual depth at QB. Starter Zach Smith, and backups Seth Boomer and Davis Brin, have all performed well at need. If the line can come through with a half-second’s better protection than it has up to now, the Golden Hurricane has a shot.
The Bearcats, naturally, give 14. Did I mention they’re very good? Tough offense to contain. Tulsa’s strength is on D though. So proud of Tulsa for getting to the big one, however it goes on Saturday night.
New #10 Oklahoma and #6 Iowa State head to Cowboy Stadium (AT&T) in Arlington on Saturday morning for the Big 12 championship bout. If you know your Sooners, you know that 2nd-place OU is the point donor, by 5.5 in this case. If Oklahoma were playing the Green Bay Packers, the Sooner bettors would have them laying points. We’re worried about the run: the Sooners have mucho talent but haven’t been able to punch it reliably this year, and for what Lincoln Riley’s trying to do with the offense, it’s a shortcoming. There’s no getting away from that.
Iowa State has a monster field gobbler in RB Breece Hall; fortunately, the Sooner D does know how to tackle this year, when it can be bothered to remember. (Too often the guys seem to settle for their fascinating conference-tackling mode, where it looks like they all have a quick consult and a java-jolt during the play, coming to a firm conclusion only when the ball-carrier is already outrunning the safety in a score-making direction.)
Sigh. Consider the totem shaken.
New #21 Oklahoma State, having pounded Baylor into dust last week, awaits a bowl slot. The bowls are starting, but the whole slate isn’t made up yet. We assume the Pokes will get one.
For the fourth week in a row, Oklahoma has three FBS schools in the Top 25, with two of them going to conference title games. Lions lying down with lambs. It’s 2020.
Ohio also has two teams in conference title games – also one Power 5 and one B-list (Ohio State and Cincinnati). Alabama same-same, with the Tide and the UAB Blazers. Come to think of it, Indiana’s in there with Notre Dame and Ball State, and South Carolina with Clemson and Coastal Carolina. I suppose we have to add California with USC and San Jose State, for that matter. Good company. Wonder how often this happens.
Navy retired honorably from a tough season after the loss in the fog to Army last Saturday. We congratulate Army, and wish them well hosting Air Force to decide the Commander’s Trophy honors this Saturday. Naturally we extend the same wishes to the Falcons. Air Force gives 2.5. Aim high, men!
Virginia Tech bagged a most satisfying win against the Yahoos on the 12th to round off the season on a high note. Nicely done.
Nevada, we are thrilled to report, takes its frisky 2020 offense out for a spin in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on 22 December. We’ll preview the bowl games separately below.
LSU made heads explode all over FBS-dom by knocking off Florida last week, and gets in one last whack on Saturday hosting Ole Miss for the Storied Rivalry and the Magnolia Bowl trophy. The Rebels (4-4) are giving 2.5 for some dark and nefarious reason. LSU is 4-5, and we’d love to see them get to .500 on the season. (Of course, a Melancholy Cancellation is always a possibility too.)
Kansas State awaits word of its fate in the Inner Circle.
TCU rolled handily over Louisiana Tech (motto: “What’s a WAC? Never heard of it”) on Saturday last, and finishing 6-4 should have a good bowl shot. So watch this space.
Toledo edged out Central Michigan last week, 24-23, to finish a 4-2 season and head for the showers with a sense of accomplishment. Good job, Rockets!
Wyoming kicked its last in a narrow-ish loss to Boise State, to go 2-4 on a rebuilding season (with a couple of very disappointing Melancholy Cancellations). The Cowboys did get to play for the Bronze Boot though, and the Paniolo Trophy, and split the honors on those. Well done, Pokes.
#1 Alabama meets #7 Florida in Atlanta Saturday evening for the SEC title game (like anybody’s going to be watching them, with Tulsa at Cincinnati in the same time slot). Tide gives 17.
#2 Notre Dame (-10.5) and #3 Clemson will be in Charlotte, NC to decide the ACC championship.
#4 Ohio State and #14 Northwestern head to Indianapolis for the Big 10 title match, Buckeyes giving 20.
#5 Texas A&M will be at Tennessee to beef up the Aggies’ resume, giving 14.
#8 Georgia was going to host Vandy for no good reason, but it looks like wiser heads prevailed to schedule a Melancholy Cancellation.
Best of the rest (18-19 December)
We’re at seven Melancholy Cancellations for the week, and we’ll just mention now that one of them was to be our very first Booger Bowl. Yes, sadly, the Tropical Smoothie Café Frisco Bowl has bit the dust. It was going to feature SMU and UT-San Antonio on Saturday, but now we assume folks will just stay home, because you can shop and dine out anywhere in Texas (and both are better in Dallas and San Antonio anyway).
That said, you may be surprised at where Frisco does make a comeback in the calendar. Hold that thought.
Friday evening is not to sneeze at this week. As mentioned, U. Alabama-Birmingham and Marshall lead us off contending for the C-USA title, with the Thundering Herd giving 5.5.
Ball State and Buffalo will meet at Ford Field in Detroit for the MAC championship. We intrepidly peeked and note that Blitzkrieg Buffalo is giving 13.5.
Rounding off the evening, Oregon* will be at #13 USC for the PAC-12 title game. *Alert fans may be asking themselves, “What is Washington, chopped liver?” Explainer here:
The Pac-12 has, after consultation with Washington, made the decision to replace Washington with Oregon as the Pac-12 North Division team to face South Division champion USC in the Pac-12 Football Championship Game scheduled for Friday, December 18.
This decision was made under the Pac-12’s football game cancellation policy and Football Championship Game policy due to Washington neither having the minimum 53 scholarship student-athletes available for the game nor the minimum number of scholarship student-athletes at a position group, in each case as a result of a number of positive football student-athlete COVID-19 cases and resulting isolation of additional football student-athletes under contact tracing protocols.
Under Pac-12 Football Championship Game policy, the team with the next best record in the North Division, Oregon, will represent the North Division against South Division Champion USC.
Left Coast. 2020. Dogs and cats. Take your pick. USC gives a very informative 3. The Trojans look more alive than dead, which for the PAC-12 this year is distinctive, but that #13 ranking is a joke.
On Saturday, you won’t want to miss #19 U-LA-LA at #12 Coastal Carolina (near Dog Bluff, SC) for the Sun Belt championship. The Chanticleers are laying 3.5, as you’d expect, but we wouldn’t advise them to try the WCW moves on the Ragin’ Cajuns. That’s the kind of thing Cajuns will be more than ready for.
Mountain West action kicks in Saturday afternoon as Boise State (-6.5) and San Jose State collide in Las Vegas for the conference title. We deplore having to report that they’re not selling tickets for this one. (Contrast with the ACC game, where tickets at Bank of America appear to be going for $1,000 a pop.)
We are gratified to highlight the Storied Rivalry that will also meet on Saturday, with Minnesota heading to Wisconsin to play for Paul Bunyan’s Axe. This one was canked for COVID earlier in the season, but you gotta play for the Axe. I tell you what’s melancholy: the offensive stats racked up by the Big 10 teams this year. They seem to have settled a bunch of games without really piling up any yardage. Just an aside there as we survey the Badgers’ 12-point give.
Let slip the Boogers of war!
Crying havoc may have stalled out in Frisco on Saturday, but Monday is another day. We have to warn you: with COVID Rules and all-around 2020-ness, cain’t nobody do much of nothin’ at these bowl venues, so our usual spectating and long-distance drooling over the parade of local attractions won’t be coming to much this time around. We don’t expect to see fans riding high lines over other fans in Vegas eateries, for example, or epic three-phase pub crawls in Annapolis.
But some years you just have to cinch the belt in. And so, we’re off! – with our new lead-off Booger Bowl, the Myrtle Beach Bowl being held on 21 December in our new main place, Conway, SC. This one will feature Appalachian State and North Texas.
The first thing to know is that the Myrtle Beach Bowl is not to be confused with Myrtle Beach Bowl, which is a bowling alley entertainment complex.
The second thing to know is the simplest: Myrtle Beach is, you know, a beach. So how hard can it be to entertain yourself while you’re there for the game? We suspect the folks attending (and yes, they are selling tickets) have already figured that part out.
We, personally, would have to visit the USS Yorktown Museum at Patriots Point in nearby Charleston, dainty little 27,000-ton relic that she is.
Apparently, you can arrange to spend the night on board the old 1943-vintage carrier, which sounds like a really good thing for Dad and the kids to do. Paying to bounce all over the place at Big Air Myrtle Beach (not just trampolines! Battlebeam and Ninja warrior course!) is probably best left to that contingent as well.
But we wouldn’t for the world forgo The Simpsons in 4D. Not every town has one of those.
We think, if they hold this one more than once, the Myrtle Beach Bowl is going to soar past some of our most venerable Boogers in the Booger Cred sweepstakes.
The early line has UNT laying 19, and we’re really not convinced on that one.
On Tuesday 22 December we’ll get to enjoy our first Inner Circle bowl match when Nevada heads to Boise to meet the American’s Tulane in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
We love this one as much because it has been the uDrove Bowl, the Roady’s Truck Stops Bowl, the MPC Computers Bowl, the Crucial Technologies Bowl, and the Humanitarian Bowl as because it has been named, since 2011, for a starchy tuberous root crop. Rare is the bowl that decorates its online hotel-booking link with French fries.
Rarer still the bowl trophy with edibles piled in it. Booger don’t get no finer.
Tulane’s favored by 3.5 at the moment. Go Pack!
We are excited to report that the bowl in Boca Raton this year, which had previously shrunk from being the Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl to the mere Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl, is now the Roofclaim.com Boca Raton Bowl. This sounds like the most public-spirited of bowls, with a sponsoring service that everyone can appreciate and has probably needed at some point. Nutrition drinks are a matter of taste, but a tight roof is non-negotiable.
The Roofclaim.com hoe-down will be held the evening of 22 December at FAU stadium, featuring Central Florida and #17 BYU. UCF has been off its previous pace a bit this fall, but is still a good enough team to give BYU a real game. The Cougars give 4.
23 December brings a bowl we love, the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, in which Louisiana Tech (motto: WAC Lurks) will collide with Georgia Southern.
We are devastated to report that there will be no Dashing Through the Dome or Yoga in the Dome this year, due to COVID Rules.
These event attractions were massively popular in 2019, and the bowl hopes to offer them again in 2021.
Fans will just have to content themselves with the action on the field. LA Tech is favored by 4.
The night game on 23 December will see Memphis and FAU meeting for the Montgomery Bowl, which is certainly starting life out right as a Booger Bowl. You’re correct in thinking you’ve never heard of the darn thing. What it’s doing is placeholding for the also-never-held Fenway Bowl, which was supposed to start this year at Fenway in Boston (because why should the Yankees-affiliated Pinstripe Bowl have all the fun?), but won’t be doing so because COVID.
Instead, there will be a Montgomery Bowl in Montgomery, AL, just for this one year. Any Booger that starts out with this tangled a history is a sure thing. Even if it has to go through a period of being sponsored by a port-a-john company, it will survive.
The Montgomery Bowl doesn’t seem to have a website, but it does have a Twitter account with 19 tweets so far.
— Montgomery Bowl (@MontgomeryBowl) December 17, 2020
This one’s kind of all over the place in the oddsquad’s arena, but on balance looks to have FAU giving 10-ish.
On Christmas Eve – as we promised you earlier – we check in with Frisco, TX for, get this, the New Mexico Bowl.
Think about it. New Mexico’s governor has the state officially locked down tighter than a C-clamp torqued by Schwarzenegger, so the usual festival at Dreamstyle in Albuquerque is a non-starter this year. No problem; pack the bag and head to Texas, where they got it like that.
Naturally, a New Mexico Bowl in Frisco, TX needs to spread its wings a bit, and this one doesn’t disappoint. The Dreamstyle bowl annually showcases a New Mexico team, but both of them were lousy in 2020, and the bowl is in foreign parts anyway, so Hawaii – instead of playing as it always does in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve – will be in Frisco to square off with Houston. COVID has taken out the Hawaii Bowl anyway. Win-win. And win.
It appears to have taken a serious effort to assemble the multi-dimensional team for this New Mexico Bowl in Texas on the fly, but one interesting feature is the sponsorship of an Austin business called Tito’s, whose specialty is handmade vodka. Now, any fool can put out handmade vodka, but Tito’s also touts its COVID-19 hand sanitizer, its support for “racial justice,” and – the pièce de résistance – an Ugly Sweater with a suitably tasteless Tito’s theme, retailing for $50.
Some people go to Frisco for the football, of course. Houston is favored by 11.
As of now, the Camellia Bowl, also held in Montgomery, AL, is to be played on Christmas Day. It doesn’t have teams yet, but it should be a MAC-Sun Belt match-up. The event schedule is said to be coming soon, but we’re kind of guessing at this point there won’t be a lot on it. The Camellia Bowl has been charming us in recent years with its tribute luncheons for football greats and its sponsorship by Golden Flake, the variety chip-makers.
It’s a Booger we can get our heads into. We’ll let you know when the teams are identified.
Meanwhile, one last oh by the way. We would never think of leaving you hanging on the fortunes of our secret obsession, UMass football. The Minutemen ended a courageous FBS season 0-4, having dropped a couple of scheduled games to The COVID. UMass scored a total of 12 points over the season, to its opponents’ combined 161. We congratulate them for staying with it and never giving up.