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Lessons learned during bowl season
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Forsyth County News


Feeling a bit of a letdown after the intense onslaught of Bowl Season?

Perfectly natural. After 35 games in 24 days, who wouldn’t feel underwhelmed by an evening that offers as its top college competition a basketball game between Kennesaw State and Mercer?

Using this lull before Recruiting Season heats up to advantage, we can take a moment to reflect on the Bowl Season just passed. Since these are student-athletes who’ve been competing, we should assess what we learned during Bowl Season:

 Alabama’s the best team in the country. Given a second chance, of course. Sorry. I have a real problem with a system that campaigns under the slogan “Every Game Counts” and then crowns its pseudo-champion under the slogan “Do Over.”

This situation makes college football worse than — choke — boxing. At least when Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier split their first two matches, we were granted the Thrilla in Manilla. Yes, LSU had a dreadful night last Monday, but no worse than Alabama’s kicker had in November.

The point being, the system under which Alabama emerged as the best team is hideously flawed. Does Alabama now look like the best team in the country? Yes. But try selling that in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Mark Richt cannot tell time. Has anyone in their right mind ever tried to run out the clock in three plays, with three-and-a- half minutes left and his opponent still holding a timeout?

Good gracious, you had just spent the better part of three hours proving that you couldn’t run into the middle of the Michigan State defense. You surely weren’t going to do so during the endgame with 10 Spartans in the box.

And guess what? If you toss an incompletion during that fateful final series, you get the ball back after MSU’s tying touchdown with more than 19 seconds left on the clock. But more than likely, a short pass works for the additional first down needed to truly run out the clock.

Tech has no clue how to close out a bowl win. Holding a two-touchdown lead into the fourth quarter, Tech proceeded to run 11 plays for 7 yards and no first downs on its first four possessions. This from a team that rolled up 392 yards of offense during the first three quarters.

“We should have put the game away in the fourth quarter,” coach Paul Johnson told the Associated Press. “We didn’t let up. We ran most of the same plays in the fourth quarter that we ran in the rest of the game.”

At least Johnson was as mystified as the rest of us.

Illinois hired the wrong guy. The Illini couldn’t wait to fire coach Ron Zook. They replaced him with Toledo coach Tim Beckman, obviously enamored with a wide-open Rocket offense that amassed 63 points in consecutive games last fall (going 1-1). Toledo, in turn, promoted offensive coordinator Matt Campbell to head coach.

The 32-year-old Campbell certainly looked like the youngest head coach in the country as he chomped away on his gum and called the plays that led to 42 points in a Military Bowl win over Air Force. Now if Campbell can just find a defensive coordinator. And learn to chew with his mouth closed.

Who are these guys? Quick: which conference compiled the best bowl record?

It’s a tie: Conference USA and the Mid-American Conference both went 4-1. That topped the Big 12 (6-2), the SEC (6-3) and the Big East (3-2). Included in those wins were Houston’s slamming of Penn State and SMU’s thumping of Pitt. Surprised? The little guys are better than we thought.

Hey, ACC: forget football! Not only did America’s premier basketball conference compile a pitiful 2-6 bowl record, it did so in style. Clemson’s 70 points allowed in the Orange Bowl set a standard for defense that Toledo could appreciate. Why did it take a week for defensive coordinator Kevin Steele to seek “other coaching opportunities” when viewers had grasped the need by halftime?

North Carolina held Missouri to 31 points. In the first half. The Heels came in sporting the second best run defense in the ACC. They held Mizzou to 337 rushing yards. Virginia completed the Defenseless Trinity, losing early and easily to Auburn, 43-24. This allowed viewers to catch Dick Clark’s New Year’s Eve countdown, an event whose outcome was far more in doubt.

That Big Ten bluster’s a mere zephyr. The Big Ten plays competitive football. Within itself, not with anyone else. Somehow, Big Ten teams garnered 10 bowl bids. They eked out four wins, all tainted.

Illinois allegedly beat UCLA. No one knows for sure, as no one watched the titanic battle of six-win teams with interim head coaches. Purdue edged Western Michigan 37-32 but needed two onside kicks and seven turnovers to do so.

Michigan beat Virginia Tech, a team that managed to lose to Clemson. Twice. Michigan State used Georgia’s largesse to beat the Dawgs in triple-overtime.

The six losses? All well-deserved, by an average margin of 12.5 points. Only Wisconsin and Ohio State stayed within a touchdown of their opponents.

And finally, one last thing we learned during Bowl Season:

Paul Johnson looks great in a sombrero.