Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Bowled Over: Happy (Meh) New Year.

As holidays go, I have to give New Year’s/New Year’s Eve a 5-meh rating.

Valentine’s Day. Saint Patrick’s Day. Easter. Memorial Day. Fourth of July. Labor Day. Columbus Day. Veterans’ Day. Thanksgiving. Christmas.

Yep. All the other major holidays have a lot more to commend them than New Year’s.

If you don’t watch the Tournament of Roses Parade, what’s there to do?

Well, you could watch some bowl games…

Thanks to my sister, Trish, I know that her alma mater, Northwestern, is playing in the Gator Bowl. I’d be more than happy to root, root, root for the Wildcats. But I do have this theory that, in general, an academically weaker school will beat an academically rigorous school. So NU is doomed, as they’re playing Mississippi State.*  And, by the way, that’s the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, thank you, as most bowls these days are sponsored.

Anyway, to test my academic theory, I looked through the results of the bowl games that have already been played.

The first on the numbingly long list of bowls that you’ve mostly never heard of was the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, which for me has the double whammy of being a bowl game I’ve never heard of, sponsored by a company I’ve never heard of. The final score – Arizona 49, Nevada 48 – neither proves nor disproves my theory, as I have no idea which school is “better”, and suspect that the near-tie score reflects that they’re pretty much even-steven.

It’s also hard to judge in a complete information vacuum the schools representing in the Famous Idaho Potato, San Diego County CU Poinsettia, Sheraton Hawaii, Little Caesar’s Pizza, R&L Carriers New Orleans, and Military Bowls. (Don’t quite know what the Military Bowl is, but none of the service academies played in it.)

Which was not the case in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, in which Air Force lost to Rice. Rice is a pretty good school, so I would have expected a loss here. But the Air Force Academy is presumably decent academically, even if they do have the reputation for being a bunch of religious zealots.

Moving on – and reinforcing if not proving my theory - Arizona State slaughtered Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

As for the Beef 'O' Brady's – another hunger-fighting – Bowl: just a few weeks ago, I’d heard of neither the bowl nor the University of Central Florida, which played in it. But I did read that UCF was voted the least academically rigorous school in the country. So it’s no wonder they beat out Ball State.

Then there were the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, in which Boise State outflanked the University of Washington. The Belk Bowl, in which Cincinnati trumped Duke.  The Bridgepoint Education Holiday – say what? - Bowl, with Baylor over UCLA. And the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, where Texas Tech beat Minnesota. ‘Nuf said.

Since rules are meant to be broken, I will point out that Ohio bested ULM in the AdvoCare V100 Independence – ditto on the say what? – Bowl. ULM you may well ask: University of Louisiana at Monroe. And not that Ohio, which like so many of the Division 1 “schools” fielding semi-pro/minor league teams for the benefit of the National Football League, is so full of geniuses. But I suspect that Buckeye-ville has a few more scholars than ULM.

Also along the exception to the rule line, Syracuse beat West Virginia in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. (Okay, I’m a Northeast snob. I’ve never tried to keep that a secret.)

In the Russell Athletic Bowl, V-Tech beat Rutgers in OT. This near tie makes sense in that these are both relatively decent schools, offering relatively decent degrees.. (Even though my Scarlet Knight of a husband would suggest otherwise.)

And how about the fact that two of the bowls are sponsored by undershirt companies: Glidan (I looked them up) and Russell Athletic? 

I am writing this post before all the scores are in, but, based on my belief that the better school will lose, my predictions for the later-in-the-weekend games are:

Texas loses to Oregon in the Valero Alamo Bowl. [Update: I wsa wrong. Texas narrowly edged out Oregon. As the flagship public universities for their states, both schools are no doubt reasonably decent. It’s just that UT has a more glowing academic reputation, maybe because people keep pointing it out as a proof point that Texas is, indeed, enlightened.]

The Vanderbilt Commodores should lose to NC State in the Franklin America Mortgage Music City – also known as The Mouthful – Bowl.

The Buffalo Wild Wings, Hyundai Sun, Autozone Liberty, Chick-fil-A Bowls are anyone’s guess. (I.e., I don’t have a gut sense about the schools playing one way or another: nothing really stands out.)

As for the bowl games that will be played today.

Oklahoma State beats Purdue in the Heart of Dallas.

Mississippi State topples Northwestern in the Gator Bowl. (Sorry, Trish.)

Michigan loses to South Carolina in the Outback.

I can’t pick a winner in the Capital One, the Allstate Sugar, or the Discover Orange, which is being played at the Mercedes Benz Superdome, formerly known as the just plain old vanilla Superdome. (But now that I think of it, my northern snobbery will kick in yet again, and I’ll say that Northern Illinois will lose to Florida State.)

As for the Rose Bowl, this is a toughie, as it pits Stanford (the Ivy of the West) against Wisconsin (which, along with Northwestern and Michigan, is an Ivy of the Midwest). Perhaps unfairly, I will assume that Wisconsin admits a few more lunkheads. So they’ll win.

For college football junkies, the bowls don’t end here.

There’s Tostitos Fiesta, in which Oregon should lose to Kansas State. This is in keeping with the rule of thumb that a school with “State” in its name is not as good as a school that’s The U of. Which makes the GoDaddy.com Bowl a bit of a perplexer: Arkansas State vs. Kent State. For sentimental, child of the 60’s reasons, I’ll say Kent State’s the better school, and, thus, will lose. AT&T Cotton could go either way. And Ole Miss will croak Pitt in the BBVA Compass.

All of this leads up, of course, to the BCS National Championship Game on January 7th. Alabama plays Notre Dame for the, errrr, National Championship.

Alabama vs. Notre Dame.

Hmmmm.

If my theory holds up, Notre Dame doesn’t have a prayer of a chance.

Personally, I don’t give a rat’s arse who wins any of these games. (Sorry, Trish.) As long as me and mine, and you and yours, have a healthy 2013.

Happy New Year!

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*Yes, I know that even the most mediocre of schools is more than likely to have some very bright students, and that most middle-of-the-road, not especially hard to get into schools will have plenty of them. (Trust me: I have experience here.) And even the most vaunted of institutions will have a few students who will remind you of nothing more than the Three Stooges doing their “Swinging Alphabet (Bee-ay-Bay)” routine. (Trust me: I have experience here, too.) Still, on balance, you’ll find brighter kids at Northwestern than at Mississippi State.

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