Okay, so bowl season doesn't "suck," per se. But the rather underwhelming slate of meager rations dished out in the first week or so of holiday pigskin action has done nothing besides induce sleep and winter doldrums. I busily masticate my teeth against the bevy of Christmas treats that I so happily shove down my throat without fear of being bloated or the future impact on my heart instead of salivating over the mid-major talent show on my television screen. What is a football fan to do?
However, there is nothing quite like coming home to a mother eager to spoil you after a long semester of blase dorm food, though. My stomach is still adjusting to real taste, apparently, but that's a digestive issue I'd rather not get into on a blog. Much too personal. Let's just say I have newfound sympathy for Grandpa Fries and his natural aversion to spicy foods. You spend enough time munching on food that doesn't shift beyond the colors white or yellow, and your stomach takes a beating when cilantro gets thrown into the mixture. Or somebody named "Donnie Bravo." On a lighter note, the wonderful Texas weather is quite the pleasant change from the incessant ice and snow storms plaguing the Midwest, so with weather, food, friends, and family, life is pretty good.
Except for the bowl games.
Not only are the games pitting no-name scrubs against their equally bland brethren, the games themselves are defying earlier projections and proving to be horribly unpredictable. These teams have no business playing in bowl games. I mean, who has really watched enough of Middle Tennessee State to know they are on a 7-game win streak and were likely to beat Southern Mississippi? Hell, I doubt I'm alone in saying that the dreadfully manipulative little green bars on ESPN's Pick 'Em game, signifying how the "nation" voted on each contest, influenced my decision more often than not with these early games.
I currently stand 3-3, which is a luxurious status when observed next to some of my less fortunate fellow competitors (cough Jared Kalmus cough), but still fairly distressing so early in the battle. But the score cannot measure my apathy, nor the fans' in most of these cases. Glorified high school stadiums filled with more empty bleachers then functioning hearts are the stars of the show, battling for attention alongside such obscure, laughable sponsors as Beef O'Brady's and an obnoxious battering of New Mexico tourism pimping. We get it, you live in a desert. Native American people used to live there. Can I gamble? That's all I need to know.
But the season got off on a twisted ankle with Fresno State's baffling performance against Wyoming and their proud band of toothless ranch-hands known as "Poke Nation" (I'm not even kidding). Despite the pitfalls of their kicker, who "wasn't recruited by anybody," Wyoming, bearers of the vaunted "poop and mustard" uniforms, ended up stifling the supposedly more talented Bulldogs 35-28 in double overtime. Fresno, fielding the best statistical running back in the country, had given some good teams close calls this year, including Boise State, and beat Illinois in the final game of the season with an incredibly flukey 2-point conversion attempt that was tipped at the line of scrimmage before falling into the hands of a confused o-lineman for the win. I had 32 confidence points on this game, so it was slightly crippling, but almost nobody picked Wyoming, a 6-6 Mountain West outfit (Mountain West > your conference), so the loss did not bludgeon my chances.
Next, I nabbed my first victory as Rutgers strutted into Orlando, Florida, home of their opponent UCF Golden Knights, and marched all over them 45-24 with an explosive offense and a chip on their shoulder that their sunshine enemies seemed to be lacking from the outset. Maybe it was the jovial poking fun at the perceived vast disparity in fan attendance from both schools, but Piscataway's finest showed up in full red glory and Rutgers stomped on Disney World's college football team. Unfortunately, I just thrashed and I sweated all afternoon, thinking that I picked UCF for home field reasons, before casually checking my computer that night and finding that, some how, I'd picked Rutgers. Must have followed the people's choice.
I didn't pick Middle Tennessee over Southern Miss, just because perpetual 1,000 yard rusher Damion Fletcher, Southern Miss' running back for the past 17 years, was likely to want to exit his college football career with a bang. But the Blue Raiders answered every score and every drive, and looked like the much better TEAM. BYU took a defeated Oregon State squad to the woodshed, which I somehow didn't pick, forgetting that the Beavers' hearts were absolutely torn out in the close loss to Oregon, playing for a Pac-10 title and a slot in the Rose Bowl. When you lose that much in such heartbreaking fashion, it's difficult to rebound and get motivated to play the Las Vegas Bowl against the Cougars and their hearty band of married Mormons
Finally, Utah polished up that sterling 3-0 Mountain West resume with a hard fought victory over a California team still lacking their best and most exciting player, tailback Jahvid Best, after a frightening concussion more than a month ago, when he was propelled a couple of feet into the air diving for a touchdown. That's too bad, cause he changes how Cal plays the game offensively. And SMU provided fans (fans?) with a long-deserved glimmer of light, winning (and playing in) their first bowl since before the NCAA gave them the "death penalty," in Hawaii no less. I figured June Jones would be comfortable in the ol' dump of Aloha Stadium, and have SMU perfecting the run-and-shoot offense. Plus, his freshman QB is a phenom, quite the stud. All this game basically imparts upon its viewers is that June Jones is a gifted coach with a knack for turning programs around, something that's more valuable in college than in the pros, and the WAC conference is probably the weakest in the country, evident by Nevada's treasure trove of 1,000 yard rushers and the fact that they almost knocked off Boise State. SMU ran roughshod in this one, exposing the West Coast as undisciplined, undersized, and, quite frankly, untalented.
I'm not impressed so far, but I hope good fortune awaits those who are patient.
So happy holidays, and let's hope I get back on track!