BOWL GAME SELECTIONS
First, a look at the slate for the SEC and how it compares to the projections early Sunday here at Team Speed Kills.
BCS National Championship Game: Oregon vs. Auburn
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. TCU
Sugar Bowl: Arkansas vs. Ohio State
Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Stanford
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Connecticut
A lot of these games weren't exactly profiles in courage, given the BCS selection rules and the possible combinations.
Capital One Bowl: Alabama vs. Michigan State
AT&T Cotton Bowl: LSU vs. Texas A&M
Outback Bowl: Florida vs. Penn State
The Game Formerly Known as the Peach Bowl: South Carolina vs. Florida State
Gator Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Michigan [Illinois]
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Tennessee vs. North Carolina [N.C. State]
Liberty Bowl: Georgia vs. Central Florida
BBVA Compass Bowl: Kentucky vs. Pittsburgh
Two opponents wrong, which is more than I'd like, but I'll take it in return for getting every SEC team correct. I didn't see Michigan going ahead of Illinois, and the Music City always made me nervous because of all the sorting-out that had to take place among the second-tier ACC teams. But if we go by my first pass at projections, they were even further off, so the improvement between then and the Sunday picks was also encouraging.
"It was no surprise," senior defensive end Brandon Bair said afterward in the hallway of the Casanova Center. "You'd have seen great response if you would have seen us down at No. 4 or No. 5."
Um, okay. Killjoys.
Really, though, what did the sideburns groomer do?
Arkansas is going to a BCS bowl, as you might have already heard, and the Expats are among those pleased with the destination.
After years of fans fervently hoping for a breakthrough that would usher the Razorback into the top tier of the SEC, it's finally happened. And, although nothing is certain, they seem poised to make a nice stay there: rather than hoping to occasionally play above their level and knock off a highly-ranked team, they now expect to win every game.
The "stay there" part of that equation might prove difficult depending on when Ryan Mallett decides to move onto the NFL, but it's not an unlikely scenario that the Hogs will be there more often than not if this is an indication of what Bobby Petrino can do.
And at least the Expats thanked all the right people -- including the folks at Auburn.
This could make things a little bit more interesting
Nick Saban used to coach at Michigan State, as you might recall, and guess who almost played there. (Hint: He won a really big trophy last year.)
I grew up a Michigan State fan, so it will be very exciting for me and my family just to go out, play in the game and for them to watch it. But they (Michigan State) are the other team now.
Mark Ingram didn't play as well this season as last, but he can make up for it at least a little with a strong game against the team that used to be his favorite.
Saban is not the only coach with ties to the Spartans
This is shaping up to be a family feud.
[Bobby] Williams, who now coaches Alabama's tight ends, was Michigan State's head coach from 2000-02. He is one of four Alabama assistants who have worked at Michigan State. Offensive line coach Joe Pendry was the Spartans' offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach from 1980-81. Outside linebackers coach Sal Sunseri was the Spartans' linebackers/special teams coach in 2000. Offensive coordinator Jim McElwain was the Spartans' assistant head coach/special teams coach from 2003-05.
Mark Dantonio coached at Michigan State during Saban's time in the Up North conference. He's also a South Carolina alumnus, and would make a great replacement for Steve Spurrier in several years when the Head Ball Coach decides he's accomplished enough in Columbia. (Why would I mention that? Because I'm hoping Eric Hyman might read this and make a note of it.)
This really explains so much
The Outback Bowl gave an unintentional insight into its bizarre selection process in its comment on taking Florida over South Carolina.
"It really is a good thing to circulate the inventory when possible," said Outback Bowl president Jim McVay.
Yes, the Outback Bowl is basically run like a retail store. Which works just fine for retail stores, where merchandise has no intrinsic value other than how much money it can make, but maybe not so much for a sport. Again, most South Carolina fans are fine going to the Game Formerly Known as the Peach Bowl. (In fact, many seemed to think that the Peach had some sort of grudge against the Gamecocks for passing them by several times.)
And Mississippi State fans are probably happy to be going to a decent bowl game, making which decent bowl game a detail. But the Outback's continued insistence on being unconventional is going to cause a real uproar one of these days.
Steve Spurrier once rooted for Florida State -- really
Two interesting notes about Steve Spurrier's team heading to Atlanta. First: He wanted to return to the venue where his team just took part in the most lopsided SEC Championship Game in the event's history.
"We need to learn to play in the Georgia Dome," Spurrier said, referring to the idea of USC becoming a regular fixture in the SEC title game. "Our fans have got to understand we've got to compete and learn how to play in that place."
Which is an interesting point. If the team loses, it's still an opportunity to get a bit more experience in a major venue for SEC teams; win with a little bit less pressure, and it might prepare the team for a bigger game there. South Carolina clearly looked like it had a case of stage fright Saturday, so maybe the logic works.
Then there's this.
In fact, Spurrier admitted calling legendary coach Bobby Bowden about four or five years ago and wishing the Seminoles well in a game that Spurrier refused to specifically identify.
"It may make some Gators mad," Spurrier said, "but I don't have anything against Florida State."
Speculate way, ladies and gentlemen.
And all it cost you was an extra $750,000
Tennessee will face North Carolina in the Music City Bowl. Hey, you might think, didn't Tennessee just pay a lot of money to get out of a game with North Carolina next season? Yes, in fact, they did.
But, you see, Tennessee really wanted to play North Carolina all along.
"When we actually talked about potential matchups, we let them know that Carolina would be our first choice to play for a variety of reasons," UT athletic director Mike Hamilton said during a media teleconference. "One of those obviously is our fan base had expressed interest in playing Carolina after the cancellation of the series. We thought that would be a nice opportunity."
So fans can go to a neutral bowl site close to home to watch the game their football program decided to duck. And then they can pay for another ticket to watch their team take on mediocre MAC team Buffalo. Nice to know that the administration in Knoxville is looking out for the fans.
Rocky Top Talk focuses on significance
And they list several reasons why a bowl game can be important to a team -- and particularly this Volunteer team.
Tennessee now faces off against North Carolina in a game that has two significant meanings to the team: the first is practice time -- an asset that the Vols need perhaps more than any other team in the NCAA; the second is respect; after the carousel of coaches, the losing seasons, and the slew of various roadblocks the team has encountered, a bowl win against UNC would go a long way towards validating the November run that put Tennessee in the bowl picture at all.
Of course, they're not looking forward to "the unfortunate publicity" that will come with the whole rescheduling thing, but that's what happens when your athletics director acts like a coward. Florida fans should have some advice for you on that one.
Just wait until the bowl finds out the Knights aren't really the Big Ten co-champions
Central Florida and George O'Leary will be the Dawgs' opponents in the Liberty Bowl.
The Mayor looks at UCF's record against SEC and other BCS teams
It isn't good. But then again, there are plenty of reasons to think the same could be said of this year's Georgia team.
Dan Mullen issues slightly more persuasive non-denial denial
He's still not saying "I'm not going to Miami" or any of the things that would make things more solid, but Mullen sounded a lot of the right notes for a coach that is just using another job for leverage.
Right now we’re working on what we hope can be a deal that will suit everybody and get our program going in the right direction -- the direction it’s going right now for us -- in the long term. There are a lot of great things I think we can get done here at Mississippi State that I want to accomplish here at Mississippi State. I plan on being the head coach here for a long time.
Of course, "a long time" is a relative term -- a few weeks as Mississippi State's head coach might feel like a long time to some of those who coached in Starkville before Mullen. Still, it's sounding a lot better for the Western Division Bulldogs.
Because they really have enough depth to handle the loss
Jerrell Powe is heading to the NFL after what one could call a disappointing season in Oxford -- for the defense, not necessarily for Power.
I am in my prime right now and I feel it is in my best interest to start using my ability to earn a living for me and my family.
Cam Newton was instantly confused about why Powe couldn't do that in college.