Tag:Holiday Bowl
Posted on: January 12, 2011 3:17 pm
 

What I Learned in the Pac-10: Bowl Edition

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The Pac-10 goes 2-2 in its four -- yes, just four -- bowl games. Wrapping up:

1. Oregon still has to prove it can outfox teams outside the conference. For all of Chip Kelly's undeniable brilliance at the Oregon helm, the last three times the Ducks have stepped out of conference to face quality defensive opposition -- and frankly, we're being generous by even including Auburn in that discussion -- they've scored 8, 17, and 19 points (against Boise State, Ohio State, and the Tigers, respectively). Those totals are a far, far cry from the Ginsu job the Ducks have performed on the Pac-10 the past two seasons, and they beg the question: what kind of kryptonite do defensive coordinators outside the league have that those inside it don't?

To be fair, it may be a simple matter of preparation; all three of the above teams had far longer than the typical work week to watch film and prep for the Duck tempo. And the torrent of TV-dictated stoppages in bowl games didn't do anything to help Oregon's attempts to wear down the Buckeyes or Tigers from a stamina standpoint. But the root of Oregon's problems in these games doesn't have anything to do with either of those issues; it's that they've simply been destroyed at the line of scrimmage. Whether it's Boise's Ryan Winterswyk, OSU's Cameron Heyward, or now Nick Fairley, the Ducks have had no answer for the elite linemen on the other side of the ball.

No one will argue that the Duck offensive linemen aren't well-coached, athletic, quality players. They've been good enough to win two Pac-10 titles and 22 games in two years. But to take the next step and win Oregon's first national title, Kelly may have to find a way to upgrade his offensive front all the same.

2. If they can keep the staff intact, Stanford's not going anywhere. Or at least, not far. No one will argue that Jim Harbaugh wasn't the driving force behind the Cardinal's unfathomable rise to 12-1 and beyond-impressive 40-12 demolition of Virginia Tech (remember that despite their short-week loss to James Madison, the Hokies had ripped through an improved ACC without even being seriously challenged), but that doesn't mean he was the only force. Andrew Luck will return in 2011 as the hands-down, no-debate best quarterback in the nation. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman has already drawn head coaching interest and has learned directly under Harbaugh the past three seasons. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio just finished overseeing the biggest single-season defensive improvement in the conference, if not the countr. And Harbaugh's recruiting prowess means the cupboard should remain well-stocked for the next few years.

2010 may be the high-water mark for the program all the same. But if both Roman and Fangio are retained -- and it seems likely they will be, if one or the other is named head coach -- don't expect much of a drop-off in the near future, even with Harbaugh in San Francisco. The team on display at the Orange Bowl was clearly constructed well enough to withstand the loss of a single pillar, even if it happened to be the biggest one.

3. Arizona doesn't really "do" that whole bowl game scene, man. The Wildcats' appeared to have taken an important step forward during the 2009 regular season, coming within one overtime loss against the Ducks of a Rose Bowl berth. But then they took a big one back with a 33-0 shellacking at the hands of Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. This year, Mike Stoops needed a solid performance in the Alamo Bowl to wash out the taste of the 'Cats' season-ending four-game losing streak, and instead his team laid another colossal egg, meekly succumbing to Oklahoma State 36-10.

With victories or even respectable performances in those two bowls, Stoops would still have his team firmly established as one of the "up-and-comers" in the Pac-10. As is, 2011 isn't a make-or-break year for Stoops just yet ... but another iffy regular season followed by a third bowl faceplent would mean 2012 certainly would be.

4. Washington had a winning season. OK, that's not really something we "learned" as much as something that simply happened, but it's as close as we'll get since we're not sure there really was anything to learn from the Huskies' 19-7 win over Nebraska in this year's edition of the Holiday Bowl. Certainly it was a thrill for Jake Locker and the other Husky seniors to go out with a win, and after a disappointing year for coordinator Nick Holt's defense, holding the Huskers to a measly 7 points -- after giving up 56 to them in Seattle during the regular season -- will provide some optimism for next year. But with the Huskers visibly unfocused and unmotivated for a bowl game they'd played the year before against a team they'd already flattened during the regular season (and Taylor Martinez still not 100 percent), it's questionable how much an accomplishment the win really is. And with the face-of-the-program Locker departed, it's equally questionable how similar next year's Huskies will look to this year's.

So: it's a nice story for Washington. But it doesn't tells us much, if anything, about the Huskies going forward.

Posted on: December 31, 2010 9:21 am
 

Bowl Grades: Holiday Bowl

Posted by Chip Patterson

Washington used 268 rushing yards to wear down Nebraska and win the Holiday Bowl 19-7


WASHINGTON

Offense: Jake Locker scared Washington fans (and football fans, really) when he went down for a slide and didn't come up after taking a hit from a Nebraska defender. Many thought concussion, or possibly worse. He walked off the field, and was cleared to return, but many doubted if he would maintain his reckless running style the rest of the game. Locker set the tone of offense with his toughness as he continued to pound the ball right at the Nebraska defense. Between running back Chris Polk (177 yards, 1 TD) and Locker (83 yards rushing, 1 TD) the Washington offensive line cleared the way for both talented runners to wear down the Nebraska defense. GRADE: B+

Defense: Phenomenal. The Huskies defense absolutely flew to the ball in the open field, keeping the potent Nebraska offense from breaking the big play like they did so many times in their meeting earlier this season. Mason Foster made a name for himself, picking up 12 tackles and 2 sacks in easily one of the most impressive individual defensive efforts so far this bowl season. Without Washington's efforts on defense, the offensive opportunities would not have been set up. Credit is due to head coach Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Nick Holt for getting this Washington defense fired up and ready to make a statement on Thursday. GRADE: A-

Coaching: Steve Sarkisian and the Washington Huskies made a statement with their dominant victory in the rematch with Nebraska. The game was won in the trenches, with Washington dominating the offensive and defensive lines. In these bowl games, it seems that many times it comes down to who wants the win more. There was no doubt on Thursday that Sark had his boys fired up and ready to go get some revenge. GRADE: B+

NEBRASKA

Offense: With Taylor Martinez' injury/benching, Bo Pelini's conflict with the talented freshman quarterback may have hit a point of no return. After Nebraska made a very public stand regarding the involvement of Martinez' father, some began to speculate that Pelini might be driving the family away from the program. With Thursday night's unimpressive offensive outing, there will surely be some reconciling to do if Martinez plans to inherit the starting job for 2011. Martinez, along with the rest of the Nebraska rushing game, looked flat and unaggressive in comparison to the Washington defense. Some predicted that Nebraska may not "bring it" against Washington due to disinterest, and it looked like that's exactly what happened on offense. GRADE: F

Defense: One of the strongest aspects of Nebraska's defense is the secondary, and Washington chose to isolate the front seven by running the ball right at the Cornhuskers. Similar to the offensive line, the defensive line looked a step slower and a yard off the entire game. The secondary did their part, even kept Locker from completing a single pass in the first half. But when Washington moved to the running game in the second half, the clock moved and the yards were amassed. Nebraska had no answer. GRADE: C-

Coaching: I'm not blaming the offensive inefficiency on the coaching staff, but the whole team looked flat. We started to predict that Nebraska may be disinterested in the game, if for no other reason based on the off-field incidents in the weeks leading to Thursday's Holiday Bowl. Combine the off-field incidents with Pelini's conflict with the Martinez family, and I find it hard to believe that hindsight will show proper preparation for this game. GRADE: F

FINAL GRADE: The display from Nebraska was fairly disappointing, but it was good to see Jake Locker have a strong finish to his career. His decision to return for his senior year was doubted by many, and his draft stock has likely fallen from where it was a year ago. But he got to lead his team to an impressive postseason win to finish a memorable career. GRADE: B
Posted on: December 23, 2010 3:47 pm
 

CBS Bowl Bonanza: Alamo Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen as part of the blog's Bowl Bonanza series. For tonight's Poinsettia Bowl preview, click here .

The Basics: Oklahoma State (10-2) vs. Arizona (7-5), Dec. 29, 9:15 EST

Why You Should Watch: Because it's the Alamo Bowl, silly, the same game that gave us Texas Tech's stirring comeback against Michigan State last year, that saw Northwestern just miss out on their first bowl win since 19-dickety-two against Missouri in overtime, that unleashed this madness on us at the end of Michigan-Nebraska ... all in the past five years. And this year, we've got maybe the bowl season's best matchup of wide receivers in Justin Blackmon vs. Juron Criner, the carnival-worthy facial calisthenics of Mike Stoops, and one final chance to see Dana Holgorsen's flying circus at Oklahoma State before he takes his act to Morgantown. That ought to be enough.

Keys to Victory for Oklahoma State: More than maybe any school in the country other than Michigan, the Cowboys win by simply outscoring their opposition. With Holgorsen's unit ranked No. 1-with-a-bullet in the FBS total offense (and a robust third in scoring) but the Poke defense coming in 90th (and yielding a combined 98 points in their two losses), the pressure is permanently on the Cowboy attack to put points on the board. Anything less than 30-35 points, and the Cowboys will be cutting it awfully close.

The good news is that with arguably the best running back-wide receiver combo in the country in All-Americans Kendall Hunter and Blackmon (not to mention revelatory quarterback Brandon Weeden and his 32-to-13 touchdown-to-interception ratio), even the well-coached Wildcats may not be able to stop from Oklahoma State from hitting that mark. The bad news is that with as much time to prepare as Stoops and his staff will have, it seems unlikely the Cowboys will manage a 40- or 50-point explosion, either. That means the Cowboys will have to come up with at least a few stops, and that starts up front with a run defense that actually finished an impressive 27th in the country in yards-per-carry allowed at 3.57. Leading that charge was first team All-Big 12 senior linebacker Orie Lemon, who led the team in tackles and tackles-for-loss, but he was helped by an experienced (three senior starters) and deep defensive line that had four different members record at least 4 tackles-for-loss.

The front seven will have to be at its best to keep the pressure off of a secondary that ranked 115th in the country in defending the pass, but if the Cowboys can force just a handful of third-and-longs,even their defensive backs (particularly senior corner Andrew McGee)   should be able to make enough plays to let Weeden, Hunter, and Blackmon win the game.

Keys to Victory for Arizona: On paper, the Wildcats don't have a whole lot going for them in this game. They come in riding a four-game losing streak that dropped them to 7-5, with the Cowboys at a stout 10-2; they have further to travel and will do so with dramatically less fan support; their last bowl "effort" was the 33-0 debacle against Nebraska in last year's Holiday Bowl.

But they do have Criner, a 6'4", 210-pound beast who quietly racked up 1,197 yards to finish as the nation's seventh-leading receiver. They also have Nick Foles, who equally quietly led the Pac-10 in passing yardage at 291 yards per-game, completed 67 percent of his passes, and finished in the national top 30 in both yards per-attempt and QB rating. And there's plenty more targets where Criner came from; eight different Wildcats finished with 20 or more receptions. Given the weakness of the Cowboy secondary, a huge night from Foles, Criner, and the rest of the 'Cat passing game could allow Arizona to keep up with an offense even as explosive as the Pokes.

And defying the West Coast stereotype, the Wildcats are also perfectly competent on defense, finishing as one of only 27 teams to allow fewer than 5 yards per-play. The triumvirate of Ricky Elmore, Brooks Reed, and Justin Washington (23.5 combined sacks, 33 tackles-for-loss) give them a dynamic defensive line that should be capable of slowing Hunter's interior running. If they can do that, a well-prepared back seven plays over their heads against Blackmon and Weeden, and Foles goes off, the Wildcats could very well pull off the upset.

The Alamo Bowl is like: the onslaught at the Alamo itself, at least when either offense is on the field; the overmatched and outmanned secondaries are going to come under a hail of football fire from their better-armed opponents, and will hope to simply survive until their compatriots on the offensive side of the ball can come to their rescue. If the quarterbacks and receivers play up to their capabilities, this year's Alamo Bowl will -- like its namesake -- definitely be something to remember.


Posted on: December 9, 2010 10:54 am
Edited on: December 9, 2010 11:00 am
 

Nebraska starting DT suspended for bowl game

Posted by Chip Patterson

As Bo Pelini's name gets tied to high-profile job openings (rumors which athletic director Tom Osborne was quick to squash), Nebraska still has the task of preparing for their last postseason bowl game as a Big 12 representative.  Nebraska was given no preferential treatment with their bowl bid, falling to the Holiday Bowl December 30 in San Diego.  Not only is the caliber of the game an insult to the Big 12 North division champions, but they are facing a Washington team they handily defeated 56-21 earlier this season.  Oh yeah, that game was in Seattle.  So if the focus is not completely there in Lincoln, it would not be a huge shock.

But there is a difference between lack of focus and lack of judgement.  Sophomore defensive tackle Baker Steinkhuler received a one-game suspension from Pelini for a drunk driving arrest earlier this week.  The hometown standout from Lincoln Southwest High School has started all 13 games for the Cornhuskers in 2010, and will watch the rematch with the Huskies from the sideline.  His absence may not have a difference in the outcome, but you'd hate to be left with "What If's" in the situation that Jake Locker explodes and leads Washington to the upset in his final game.      
Posted on: December 8, 2010 12:07 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2010 12:10 pm
 

Sugar, Sun Bowls sell out

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The economic slump has taken its toll on ticket sales and attendance figures for any number of bowls over the past couple of seasons -- no, John Q. College Football Fan does not want to spend his hard-earned cash visiting Detroit at the end of December to watch the Little Caesar's Bowl -- but that doesn't mean that with the right matchup in the right setting, fans still won't flock to their team's postseason destination.

Exhibit A: the Sugar Bowl has already sold out . It's the Sugar Bowl, sure, but getting to New Orleans from Columbus isn't the easiest of hikes, and while no one will accuse Arkansas fans of being any less fervent in their devotion to their football team than fans at their fellow SEC schools, they also simply don't have the numbers of an Alabama, Florida, or LSU. If it's taken less than 48 hours or so to sell out the Superdome, that's not bad.

But, yes, it is still the Sugar Bowl. And yes, it's the Hogs' first trip there in ages and the Buckeyes have one of the nation's largest followings. It's not bad, but it's not impressive. What might be, though, is Exhibit B: the Sun Bowl, in El Paso, Texas, has also sold out . It's even done so in record time, exhausting its ticket supply in less than 24 hours to break last year's mark by nearly nine days, and that's despite El Paso's less-than-desirable proximity to crime-ridden Juarez hampering its image as a tourist destination. (If you can't make it in person, remember that you can always watch the Sun Bowl at 2 p.m. EST Dec. 31, exclusively on ... wait for it ... CBS!)

That's what having two name-brand teams in Miami and Notre Dame set to renew the most famous and consequential rivalry of the late 1980s will get you, we suppose. (That the Irish declined to play a bowl game of any kind last season probably helps, too.) What happens if you're not pairing the 'Canes and Irish? What happens if you're pairing, say, a 6-6 Pac-10 mediocrity with a Big 12 opponent that 1. just crushed its legions of fans with a devastating championship game defeat 2. played in that same bowl game last year 3. obliterated that same Pac-10 team in that team's stadium earlier this season?

What happens is you have the Holiday Bowl and its Nebraska-Washington matchup, and you are also not going to see all that many Husker fans there :
The Nebraska athletic ticket office still has about 5,000 tickets for sale to the public, something that probably wouldn't have been the case had the Huskers made it to another bowl against another team.

"Last year we had two planes full within our first four days," [travel agent Vicki] Grieser said. "There's not the same interest, and we think it's mainly because of the opponent ... When I first heard Holiday Bowl I said, 'Oh, that's not so bad. People love San Diego.' But when it was against Washington people are thinking twice about it."
In many cases, yes, the economy will be to blame for bowl struggles. But as the Holiday is proving, there's often a lot more to it than that.

HT on Holiday story: DocSat .


Posted on: November 30, 2010 5:52 pm
 

Cotton Bowl takes Texas A&M

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The first major bowl domino to fall has fallen, as the Cotton Bowl has announced via Twitter that Texas A&M has accepted an invitation to play in the Jan. 7 game against an SEC opponent to be named later.

The announcement doesn't come as much of a surprise: our J. Darin Darst had the Aggies pegged for Arlington in this week's edition of CBS's bowl projections. Their likely opponent? LSU , which would set up a matchup of two of the country's most explosive defensive lineman in Drake Nevis and Von Miller and a pair of thunderous running backs in Stevan Ridley and the red-hot Cyrus Gray . A&M might have a sliught leg up thanks to their familiarity with the Cowboys Stadium setting; the Aggies have already played their twice the past two seasons in nonconference matchups with Arkansas .

With the Cotton having made its decision, the other top-tier Big 12 bowls look likely to fall in line with the rest of Darst's projections, if Oklahoma defeats Nebraska in the Big 12 title game: the Sooners to the Fiesta , the Huskers to the Alamo , Oklahoma State to the Holiday , and Missouri to the Insight . A Huskers victory could send the Sooners to San Antonio, or cause other shake-ups down the line.

 
 
 
 
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