Six New Year's Bowl Games — 4 Winners, 4 Losers
On a scale of 1 to 10, the New Year's Six Bowl watching experience was probably about a 6.5, which is to say that it was a failure on every level, since college football's postseason has an enjoyment FLOOR score of about 7.5 or 8.0. In other words, it's really, REALLY hard to fuck up college football on New Year's Eve/Day.
Yet due in part to six games that weren't competitive at all, and in part to scheduling that was suspect at best and insulting at worst, the 36 hours or so that started with Houston thumping Florida State in the Peach Bowl and ended with Oklahoma State getting massacred by Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl were a colossal disappointment.
As mentioned, the six games had an average victory margin of 24 points, and the closest game was actually Houston's 38-24 win over the Seminoles. If you watched that game, then you know how "close" it actually was. (IN case you missed it, Houston dominated the entire afternoon.) The lack of drama was bad enough, but it was compounded by the sequence of the games, which on the surface made zero sense, until you realize that the m.o. of the bowls has always been to kowtow to the conference commissioners and bowl executives, and the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl just will never give up their New Year's Day kickoffs, common sense be damned.
So instead, we got the two playoff semifinal games starting on New Year's Eve afternoon, when many people were either a) at work or b) making plans to go out, leaving us with all of those meaningless New Year's Day blowouts in the aftermath of the playoff as opposed to during the anticipation build. Make no mistake, the damage of all these blowouts to interest level would've been mitigated significantly if they were part of a build to two climactic playoff games. Instead, they were the wake for two ho hum playoff blowouts, the spoon top stir an already angry pot for miffed college football fans.
The bottom line — what promoter puts the main event in the MIDDLE of their card? Promoters trying to please everybody BUT the fans, that's who. Let's do some winners and losers before I get even more pissed off.....
4. Houston's 2016 hype train
When it comes to the long hours invested by the College Football Playoff committee, one thing was certainly made clear after the New Year's Six bowl games — they were way the hell off on their ranking of the University of Houston from the time the first poll came out in early November. Every week, it seemed the Cougars were consistently four or five spots lower in the CFB Playoff poll than they were in the AP and Coaches poll. The Peach Bowl, a 38-24 rout of Florida State, was their closing argument in the court case that the Cougars should be a top 10 team headed into next season. 243 days until the September 3 opener against Oklahoma at NRG Stadium. Can't wait...
3. Dabo Swinney
Ask any college football fan who the best coach in college football is, and the first name that comes up will probably be Nick Saban, followed closely by Urban Meyer, and rightfully so. They're probably the two best in the business right now. Jim Harbaugh is right there, too. But if we're trying to round out a spot on the current Mount Rushmore, after Clemson's 37-17 win over Oklahoma in the semifinal, you have to have a spot for Swinney, especially if he goes on to win the national championship. Right now, he's working on five straight seasons of double digit wins and four straight bowl wins. Also, if you're looking for human reasons to root for Swinney, read Dan Wetzel's latest column about Swinney's rough upbringing. You'll become a fan.
2. Laquon Treadwell
This time last year, Treadwell was nursing a broken leg that he suffered late in a loss to Auburn. On Friday night, he caught three touchdown passes and even threw a 45 yard bomb in an "empty the playbook" Ole Miss fireworks show in the Sugar Bowl. Treadwell seems to have locked down the top wide receiver spot in the upcoming draft, as well, a nice comeback for a kid who, by all accounts, is a solid character guy.
1. Jacob Coker
In a game where the quarterback spotlight was on the opposing QB (Connor Cook, more on his sub 50 percent throwing ass in a second), it was Coker who seized the evening in the Cotton Bowl. With Michigan State focused on slowing down Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry (just 75 yards on 20 carries), Coker took advantage with razor like precision and bombs downfield. He finished the night going 25 for 30 with 286 yards and two touchdowns. CBS' NFL Draft website has Cook listed as the 18th best prospect in this senior class, and Coker at 280th. Looked the other way around on Thursday night.
4. This jackass standing behind Christian McCaffrey
It sounds weird to say this about a guy who finished as the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, but for the average "watch my alma mater and watch big games and that's pretty much it" college football fan, the Rose Bowl may have been the coming out party for Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey. The sophomore broke the single season total yardage record, but still needed a late run to get into the Heisman mix, in large part because 90 percent of America was asleep or drunk by the time his games kicked off this season. Against Iowa, McCaffrey made a statement on the first play from scrimmage, a 75 yard catch and run for a touchdown, and never stopped. He finished the night with 368 total yards, and with a lot of folks reconsidering how they voted for the Heisman. Unfortunately, McCaffrey's momentum for frontrunner status headed into next season may have been stifled by the jackass Jim Harbaugh lookalike in the background of this interview....
3. Connor Cook
The consensus heading into draft season seems to be that there are three quarterbacks atop a pretty underwhelming crop of signal callers this offseason — Jared Goff of Cal, Paxton Lynch of Memphis and Cook. Cook had an opportunity to make the biggest statement of the three with Alabama, the closest thing to an NFL defense, as his opponent. Even a game where he's merely competent and competitive would've been a nice notch in his belt. Instead, Cook was abysmal all day, going 19 for 39 and throwing two picks, including a backbreaker in the red zone right before halftime. Texans, please stay away from Connor Cook. Thank you.
2. The Big XII
In their perpetual uphill battle for respect on the Power Five landscape, it won't help the Big XII that its champion was beaten by 20 by the ACC Champion, and their runner-up was smoked by four touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl. The saving grace for the Big XII was Art Briles' coming up with an offense that managed to generate 700 total yards against a top ten team while using like eight different former wide receivers at quarterback, and TCU pulling the biggest comeback in bowl history against Oregon after Trevone Boykin was arrested just days before the Alamo Bowl.
Okay, so how did the complaints about playoff games on New Year's Eve translate into viewership numbers? Not well, if you're trying to sell advertising for ESPN. Courtesy of John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal...
Overnights: 9.9 for Cotton and 9.7 for Orange. Last year's semis were 15.5 for the early game and 15.3 for the late one.— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) January 1, 2016
Also, the Rose Bowl had its lowest rating (7.9) since it became part of the BCS in 1999, as did the Sugar Bowl (5.3). In related news, both bowls kicked off in their usual New Year's Day time slots, and the bowl execs at both venues appeared fat and happy.
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