The Doc and Holly Anderson have been up to their ears in bowl games for the last two weeks, culminating in ... an imminently disappointing Jan. 1 lineup. Burned out on bowls and burdened by the yoke of nostalgia for New Year's Days past, they talked it out.
Matt. My original instinct for covering New Year's Day was to put together some kind of Viewer's Guide for navigating a day full of blockbuster games, but that's so ... 1996? There are really no decisions to make. I have no idea why the Cotton Bowl has migrated off the New Year's slate this year. But as for the others, even as a pro-playoff guy, there's nothing I hate the BCS for more than killing New Year's Day. This is worse than Christmas after your parents drop the Santa Claus bit.
Holly. For real. "Oh, your team is playing in a New Year's Day bowl game? How lovely! They are almost certain to be ranked anywhere from No. 10 to No. 30 to have earned such an honor! You must be so proud."
New Year's Day was just as hallowed a tradition as New Year's Eve, and now the Peach Bowl is a pejorative term. (Well, and doesn't exist anymore. Get off my lawn.)
Matt. I will vouch for the Rose Bowl under pretty much any circumstances, which I guess makes me the same sort of fogey (I also refuse to acknowledge the Bowl Formerly Known as the Peach's new incarnation, however savory I find their sandwiches). But USC-Penn State is the only game anyone needs to see. I'm not old enough to wax nostalgic about every single game being played on Jan. 1 and that's it. But it warms the cockles, it does, to have champion vs. champion in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2003, with the late sunset and all. I also happen to think Penn State will be pretty competitive, even if, like everyone else, my teeth chatter slightly when I think about the prospects of another Trojan blowout.
No way, though, can I vouch for Iowa, Nebraska, South Carolina or Clemson as New Year's-worthy teams. Clemson! Every one of them was blown out, left for dead and on the brink of disaster at some point this season, and none of them totally redeemed itself through any great deed (well, maybe Iowa). These are Alamo Bowl teams -- actually, the Alamo teams were better, as Northwestern beat Iowa and finished with a better record, while Missouri crushed Nebraska and represented the division in the conference title game. And the only reason I don't include Michigan State in that list of ne'er-do-wells despite being blown off the field in its biggest games against Ohio State and Penn State is that I suspect the Spartans are roughly on par with Georgia, a team I still like ... despite the Bulldogs being blown off the field in their biggest games against Alabama and Florida. Er. Never mind.
Holly. I can't make a case for any of those teams that's not preposterously thin. And what's more, I think Iowa's going to beat the pants off South Carolina, so if the Hawkeyes are that undeserving (and they are), what does that make the Gamecocks?
Matt. That makes the Gamecocks extremely lucky to play in a conference that managed to get its only two really good teams into the BCS even in a down year. This is why tie-ins should be more flexible. "Great season, Boston College. How are you enjoying your week with the eighth-place SEC opponent in Nashville? Sorry you don't travel so well."
I swear, I would not be complaining about this if the Cotton Bowl was where it was supposed to be. That's all I ask. I understand the BCS is a money-grubbing monopoly that must dominate an entire week's worth of primetime shares. That's its nature. But there's no reason to push the Cotton Bowl out of that ludicrous 8 a.m. kickoff or whatever it is.
And I thought they tore down the Orange Bowl? You mean there's still a game? I hadn't heard.
Holly. Exactly. The Cotton Bowl is the hangover game and should be treated as such. And we've got a greasy-delicious matchup this year in Ole Miss and Texas Tech.
I suppose, if I extrapolate far enough, I can blame the Orange Bowl on Bill Stewart. Just a few more instances of knowing how to coach a football team, and we'd be looking at West Virginia-Virginia Tech, a guaranteed higher draw for basically an in-state rivalry (they could carpool!), and a game with marginally smaller potential for driving us all to suicide out of sheer contempt.
But it's cool. I don't feel that strongly about it.
Matt. Which brings us to burning question No. 1: Will people watch the Orange Bowl just because it's the Orange Bowl? I mean, I will. But Cincinnati joins Wake Forest 2006 and Pittsburgh 2004 as possibly the most obscure BCS team in history. Last year it got walloped in the ratings by the Citrus Bowl, or whatever they're calling it.
Holly. And I will. But we're ... not normal. (Should I stick my head outside and find some real people?) It's New Year's Day, so "because it's on" goes a long way. I think that'll keep it in respectable ratings, but not by much.
Matt. It's on after the Rose Bowl, as well, which won't hurt. That brings us to burning question No. 2: Will Penn State score?
I'm joking, I think, but I have the utmost respect for this Trojan defense.
Holly. Or will the Trojans, racked with ennui after a nineteenth straight Rose Bowl appearance (this is unassailable fact and not to be questioned), show up sleepy? A USC friend of mine thinks a couple Sun Bowl appearances might be good for 'em.
Matt. Is your friend Bill Plaschke? My thinking is that USC more or less owns the Rose Bowl when not facing Vince Young. Michigan came in two years ago ranked third with as rocking a defense as you could imagine before Maualuga and Co. this year, and they're still picking chunks of Chad Henne out of the grass.
Let me put it this way: Which number will be higher, Penn State's touchdowns or the number of people Bo Pelini knocks unconscious in a fit of rage? Remember, Clemson in the Gator Bowl tends to bring out the worst in opposing coaches.
Holly. Bill and I had a falling-out a few years back. I don't like to talk about it.
Pffft, I'm just being contrarian to provide "contrast"; but I think USC'll roll, because the only thing worse than being "cruelly" "deprived" of a title game shot is losing your consolation prize to a flipping Big Televen team.
Matt. Does a Big Ten also-ran in the Ex-Citrus Bowl even qualify as a consolation prize for Georgia? Or is UGA's season just a crater after getting pantsed by Georgia Tech, no matter what?
Ten wins (assuming a win over MSU, whose defense has been ripped on numerous occasions) with a slew of injuries sounds like a fine year to me. Georgia fans ... they do not readily agree.
Holly. Georgia Tech on its own, maybe not a crater. Georgia Tech and an impending Knowshon departure? Yeah, that might do it.
Matt. Give me one New Year's wish for the road. I'm hoping against hope Nebraska comes out gunning the triple option, including at least one long run by a lumbering fullback who carries four defenders on his back before finally going down. But I've wished for that every Saturday for the last five years. If the Rose Bowl goes into the final minutes -- there hasn't been a dramatic Jan. 1 Rose Bowl since 2004, and something like 1996 before that -- that will be good, too.
Short of that, if USC or Penn State is so thoroughly dominant it launches a "split mythical championship" meme, 2009 will be off to a very nice start in my book.
Holly. I'd like one last glimpse of my favorite play in college football, the one where a lineman of at least 350 pounds gets to scoop up a fumbled or tipped ball and trundle in for a score. I want at least a hundred points scored in the title game.
And split titles? Ooooh. Gimme. You shouldn't have, Football Jesus! (There's a separate one for football.)
Matt. Somehow it always comes back to Notre Dame. Anyway, may He bestow upon us his blessings. Amen.
Happy New Year, blasphemer.
Holly. Back atcha, sir.