Saturday, February 27, 2016

Women in Sports: What We Still Haven't Learned

by The Rabbi, OTSL Video Editor/Producer

I am a chauvinist.

Yes, I know that's a very harsh first line, to say such a thing about myself, but the truth of the matter is this: you are all chauvinists too.

Why you might ask?  It is simply because of the fact that we have not treated women right in sports.

For all of the good advances we have seen over the last few years, most notably the hiring of Becky Hammon by the Spurs as the NBA's first female full-time assistant coach and the hiring of Kathryn Smith as the NFL's first full time female assistant coach, we have treated the woman's place in the world of pro and amateur sports even worse than before.

Before we get to the issues at Tennessee (the reason I'm writing this column) let's just look at a few reasons why our treatment of women in what is a male-dominated field is still tremendously wrong.

A little over a year ago, the NBA got into a little bit of hot water when, after a game, Chris Paul (who is only the head of the National Basketball Players Association) criticized a female ref after calling a technical foul which Paul thought he didn't deserve.  Postgame, Paul said about the technical foul, "That's ridiculous. If that's the case, this might not be for her."  The technical was one of many the Clippers received in that game in which they were routed.  If that were a male ref calling the foul, would the situation have been the same?  I doubt it.  Even if it was, the person who is the spokesman for NBA Players should not be saying things like that.  

Last year, ESPN employee and former softball star Jessica Mendoza became the first female to be a color commentator for an MLB Playoff game (and she did the job well enough to get asked back into the Sunday Night Baseball booth this year).  While this was a moment that was celebrated by many, there were some people who were outraged that a woman was taking what some called a "man's job" and what's even more disgusting was a tweet by Atlanta sports host Mike Bell saying this:

"Yes tell us Tits McGhee when you're up there hitting a softball you see a lot of 95 mile an hour cutters"

Bell got suspended for this tweet, but a short suspension doesn't hide ignorance.

Finally, let us take a look at what's going on at Louisville.  The accusations made by a former prostitute a little less than six months ago that between 2010-2014 Louisville basketball players and recruits were at dorm parties where strippers were the entertainment provided by a former assistant coach.  Also, some of the (non-college) girls at these parties were having sex with these former players after that same assistant coach paid for it.  So they were, in a not so nice term, whored out. 

There were two dozen of these such parties.  Louisville has a self-imposed postseason ban this year because of this, with probably more to come from the NCAA.  You know, because the only people that should be punished are the kids who probably had NOTHING to do with these allegations.

So from those three examples we've established that players and media personalities think a woman's place in a male-dominated game should be non-existent, other than to provide "entertainment" to those "hard-working" male athletes and coaches.

Then there's the University of Tennessee, a school with so many sexual harassment allegations it showcases those examples as well as any male "pig" ever could.  I'm not even going to mention Peyton Manning in this article.  The allegations of what he did to a female employee of UT in 1996 just solidify this even more.  Let's stay more recent.

First, as you may have heard, a lawsuit is currently being filed by EIGHT former female UT employees basically saying that the institution "created a culture that enables sexual assaults by student-athletes, especially football players, and then uses an unusual, legalistic adjudication process that is biased against victims who step forward."

It's a huge claim, one that has examples going back to the 1990's, which includes claims from last Spring that a Vols football player, accused of sexual assault, had his suspension lifted just to take finals, so that same player could be eligible to play the next season.  That same player’s lawyers allegedly were ALLOWED to contact witnesses that were going to be called during UT's investigation.

Second, three years ago, an alleged rape allegation against then UT football player Marlin Lane was essentially never disclosed because of pressure that was put on his alleged victim by fellow UT students and administrators.  Even though the rape claim against Lane was never reported (and he was suspended while the allegations were still pending for Spring games and summer practices), details have come out that the woman never pressed charges because she was threatened on Twitter, and even threatened over the phone by Lane's girlfriend.

Finally, a year and a half ago, another UT student was claimed to have been raped by football players A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams.  That night, another fellow player, Drae Bowles, drove the woman to the hospital as she was hyperventilating and crying.  What happened to Bowles next by players and coaches is beyond disgusting.

One linebacker allegedly beat up Bowles and punched him in the mouth, two other players (including Lane) said "people get shot for that sort of thing", and even (still currently as of this writing) head coach Butch Jones called Bowles "a traitor".  So, even the people who want to stand up for the rape victims are outcasts.

Tennessee could have done the honorable thing and taken these allegations as seriously as they should have been, but what would have been smart about that?  Instead, all 16 of Tennessee's head coaches had a press conference earlier this week, in a move that screamed PR at its worst level, to basically say why women were just "as equal" at UT as all the men were.  Examples of statements included:

"It's amazing to me to see the support of our female athletes," said Vols women's basketball head coach Holly Warlick, a move that came after a UT media relations assistant halted an interview last week with one of her star players about the allegations.

"Our competitors are using (the culture perception) against us," head coach football Butch Jones said.  This cites what the interview was REALLY about, telling recruiters that everything is going to be OK.  Don't believe the truths!

Finally, this gem, “These stories aren’t being told,” said softball co-coach Karen Weekly. “That’s why we’re here today — because we want people to hear the positives.” 

Yeah, that's about all that was for.

While everything in that press conference was all about the rosy picture going on at Knoxville (male coaches even come to women's games!), the crux of the matter wasn't mentioned till 25 minutes into the love-fest (neither was the lawsuit nor the damning allegations) and it was mentioned indirectly by a reporter asking a question, not by any of the coaches themselves.  In addition, those allegations against Butch Jones weren't revealed until 48 hours after the press conference, which just solidifies the disingenuous tone of the PR fest to begin with.

So, as we reach the end of this column, here's a little recap about what we've learned about the culture of women in sports (and all of these examples have taken place or have been revealed in the last 14 months):
  1. If a woman does all the things a man does in a position of power like referee, be prepared for extra scrutiny.
  2. Women are subjected to online bullying, regardless of how good of a job they do, just because they are a woman.
  3. A woman's main place in the male dominated college world is to be used as sexual escorts or victims.
  4. When it all comes down to it, the rights of victims only come second to a school's athletic success.  

While the allegations that have recently come out against Louisville and Tennessee reveal an abusive culture related to football and basketball on campus, rest assured they are most likely not the only colleges or even professional sports teams where this exists.

This may resonate with you, the reader, or it may not, but the fact that this isn't more of forefront issue in the world of sports or the fact that we don't care about this more as a society makes all of us…chauvinists.   


Saturday, February 13, 2016

THAT OTHER STORY TO COME OUT OF SUPER BOWL 50

by The Rabbi, OTSL Video Editor/Producer

If you watched media coverage in the two days after the Super Bowl, all we heard was about Cam Newton.  Why didn't Cam Newton dive for that fumble?  Why did Cam Newton say nothing to the media?  Why is Cam Newton so cocky?

One more question should be asked:  Why are we focusing on the QB of the team that lost Super Bowl 50?

What the winners did (oh by the way, that would be the Denver Broncos) in the NFL's Golden Game was extremely historic.  Historic in so many different ways, that when people look back at this Super Bowl 50 years later (Super Bowl 100?  Perish the thought) they’ll shake their heads in disbelief.

The Denver Broncos made history by being the first Super Bowl team to win having less than 200 yards of total offense.  That last sentence is just mind boggling to me.  When you looked at the field on Sunday, fans had a very good idea that we saw a shell of the Peyton Manning who played in three previous Super Bowls.  What we didn't know was this wasn't a shell of a former great, this was basically a shell fragment. 

Peyton, who seemingly had one job on the field in managing the game, was responsible for one interception and one fumble.  It got so bad in the second half for Manning, that it kind of looked like in my view that Head Coach Gary Kubiak didn't let him do ANYTHING.  Not even a pass over ten yards.  The best pass that Manning threw, especially in that second half, was the two point conversion he threw to make the score 24-10.  It was probably the last pass of his career.

Emmanuel Sanders was virtually the only reliable target for the Hall of Fame QB (he had almost four times as many receiving yards as anyone else did Sunday night).  The running game was decent enough, as CJ Anderson went for 4 yards a carry (23 for 90yards).  All those numbers and the fact that the offense for Denver was basically two people makes it even more amazing that the Broncos were not only leading the entire game, they didn't look like they were in trouble.

Now, we get to the Defense of the Super Bowl Champions.  Orange Crush is not even the best way to describe this unit right now, but only because they are SO much better than their predecessors ever were.   On Sunday, they hit Cam Newton 13 times.  Eight Broncos got to the QB who ran the league's number one offense in 2015.  As you all know by now, the chosen one got sacked six times on the night (they also sacked Ted Ginn Jr. once), with Denver's bookend Outside Linebackers Demarcus Ware and Von Miller getting credit for 4.5 of them.  The only other team to get seven sacks in a Super Bowl?  The 1985 Chicago Bears. 

This postseason Denver got to their opponent’s QB 33 TIMES, which is an unbelievable stat considering the other two signal callers they manhandled were Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, who are responsible for five Super Bowl wins.  When you take into account Von Miller's two strips of Cam on Sunday, the final score of the NFL's Golden Game should really read as: Broncos Defense 14, Panthers 10.

Since the 2000's the NFL has been a game dominated by offense.  “You can't win a game without a great QB performance” people always say.  Super Bowl Sunday proved different.  Since 2000, I've only truly seen two Super Bowl winning performances that have been on par with Peyton Manning's on Sunday:  Trent Dilfer in Super Bowl 38 for the original team who won with only defense, the Baltimore Ravens (153 yards, 3 sacks, 1 fumble); and Big Ben Roethlisberger in the last anniversary game for the NFL, Super Bowl 40 (9-21, 123 yards, 2 INT's).  Being responsible for a single TD (Dilfer throwing, Big Ben running) in their respective Super Bowls was really the only positive thing either of them did.  Peyton really can't even take any credit for that.

That Sunday showed us things we've never seen before from a WINNING team in a Super Bowl.  Whether it be because of the Broncos own futility on offense or their amazing defense; either way, it’s truly historic.  And either way, the DENVER BRONCOS are the TRUE story of Super Bowl 50, not the Carolina Panthers.

Or you know, we can talk more about how Cam is a sore loser again, your call.  

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Rolling With The Underdog?

By The Rabbi - OTSL Producer/Video Editor

There's only one number you need to know going into Super Bowl 50, and that number is TWO.

Why 2?  TWO is the number that showed what the Carolina Panthers public perception was for most of the season.  TWO is the number that signified the 20 consecutive regular season wins as a fluke to the public.  TWO is the number that made the Panthers look like a product of just a really weak NFC.  TWO is the number that reminds people that the Panthers were a 7-8-1 division winner a year ago.  TWO is the number that had people believing Cam Newton isn't even a Top 10 QB in the NFL, and that's a CRAZY thing to think now.

Okay, so let me tell you what the number 2 actually represents:  it was the opening Vegas gambling line of Panthers-Cowboys in Week 12.  The Panthers were 10-0 going in the game and the rumblings of a 16-0 regular season were getting louder.  Carolina had built up a reputation as a big game team and was about to prove their worth against a Cowboy team whose QB, Tony Romo, would be starting in his 2nd game back from surgery.

Were the Panthers favorites in this match up going in?  They were not.  It seemed crazy at the time even though the Panthers were on the road in this game and it seems much crazier now.  There have been a ton of doubters for this Panthers team all season, are there are a ton of different reasons why.  

They're not the sexiest team in the NFC.  The Packers have the history and fans; the Seahawks had the two consecutive NFC championships before this season; the entire NFC East (even this year) is more watchable to the average Joe than a singular Panthers game.  

They are still very weak at the skill positions to the public.  RB Jonathan Stewart had a great year, but he was always known as the slightly better portion of a backfield timeshare until 2015.  WR's Ted Ginn, Jr. and Jerricho Cotchery?  Please, they're just other teams castoffs, is what many said before this year.  Greg Olsen wasn't a #1 TE in many people's eyes, because only two tight ends in the NFL were worthy of that distinction:  Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham.  Many people thought this team was done when its leading receiver from 2014, Kelvin Benjamin, got injured in training camp.

Then of course there's Cam Newton, now the very likely NFL MVP.  He was always considered a pretty good QB, but one that still needed to prove himself worthy of that Number ONE Overall draft pick distinction in 2011 for a ton of different reasons.  He had many injuries (which is to be expected for someone who moves as much as Cam does); he was always known as a out of the pocket QB (when the NFL these days embraces more in the pocket QB's); and he was just not considered as much of a leader (like a Brady, a Manning, or a Rodgers).

Unless you've been living under a rock, you all know by now how the Panthers proved the doubters wrong.  They beat the sexy Seattle Seahawks on the way the NFC Championship.

They had the skill positions: Stewart was the main back in the NFL's #2 rushing offense; Ginn had the best year of his career, Cotchery proved he was still a viable wideout, Olsen had his 2nd straight 1,000 yard receiving season and developed into the 2nd best TE in the NFL behind Gronk.

Finally there's Newton:  He was injury free in 2015; threw only TWO INT's from the pocket in his last 10 games and he is now one of the most vocal leaders in the NFL.

So, what happened in that Week 12 game vs. the Cowboys?  Carolina won EASILY 33-14.  Jerricho Cotchery was the team's leading receiver in that game; Newton was responsible for almost 230 all purpose yards plus one touchdown; and Cowboys QB Tony Romo through three INT'S and was re-injured by the very stiff Panthers defense.

The opening line for Super Bowl 50?  Panthers by 3.5.  The public perception changed big time from just TWO months ago, as the betting public moved the line a full TWO points.  Now Carolina is favored over Denver by 5.5, and that line might grow even more.

Do not doubt the Panthers; they're not anyone's number TWO anymore.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

I Hate Nick Saban, But...

By The Rabbi - OTSL Producer/Video Editor

His smug, arrogant personality and coldness to reporters reminds me of a college version of Bill Belichick.  The smugness is unbearable.  His constant rumors about going to the NFL also make me hate his existence in the college game.

However, the man's presence is necessary to the game.  If last night didn't reaffirm it, I can definitely say it now: he is by far the best coach in the modern game.

I know all the talk by people who are going to talk about his place in the history of college football, will be about how he's better than Bear Bryant, but I don't care.  Comparing Saban and Bryant is like comparing apples and oranges.  Comparing anyone in the non BCS/CFP era to anyone before is somewhat unfair.

As an LSU fan, the hatred I have for Saban is legitimate, but I can still respect the man.  In a very stacked SEC, Tricky Nick always finds a way to make his team rise above all the rest.  Four titles in seven years is a hell of an accomplishment.  When you realize why he didn't win those other three years it is even more amazing.

2011: Cam Newton emerged as a dynamic talent, and yet Auburn still needed a huge second half comeback to beat the Tide in their regular season game.

2013: The "Kick Six" against Alabama in a game where either team could have won kept the Tide from the National Title game and sent Auburn to play Jameis Winston and the Florida State Seminoles.

2014: This remains a mystery.  I have two theories, though.  
  1. Ohio State really snuck up on the college football world.
  2. Alabama didn't prepare and treated the National Semifinal the wrong way.   
Either way, this was an anomaly.

Let's not forget that Tim Tebow might have cost the Tide a title or two as well while he was at Florida.

In watching Nick Saban win his 5th national title Monday night, I saw him do a few things we have seen before.

1.  Establish the Running Game 

Sure, Derrick Henry had a quiet second half, but the establishing of him in the first half allowed Alabama to throw the ball, a lot, in the second half, torching a Clemson defense that hadn't been torched like that in any game this season.

2.  Play to his QB's strengths 

Yes, AJ McCarron did start a playoff game this week (and did enough to win), but the three previous QB's behind center for the Crimson Tide basically amount to one good player COMBINED in the NFL.  Greg McElroy is already working for the SEC network; McCarron is not even the most well-known person in his own household; and although Jacob Coker did have an amazing second half, he doesn't show enough confidence to play QB in the NFL.  He held onto the ball WAY too much at times last night, but as always, Saban figured out a way to overcome it and made Coker look like a Heisman finalist in the second half.

3.  Out-coach your opponent

There's a BIG reason why Nick Saban doesn't lose to any of his former assistants and is now 5-0 when playing for a CFP/BCS National Title.  He's the best coach on the field.  Dabo Sweeney is a young coach who looked really good last night, for about three quarters.  Saban pulled out all the stops, especially going all Sean Payton with a surprise onside kick after tying the game at 24 (yet another face slap to the state of Louisiana).  

Which leads me to the one final thing in my praising of The Devil in college football coach form, the way he adapted to what Clemson gave him last night.  He didn't have the best player on the field in Glendale (that would be Tigers QB Deshaun Watson) and his team never showed they had the better unit on the field - be it offense or defense - until the 4th quarter.  However, the adjustments Saban made led to what truly might be the best of his five national title victories.  Saban needed to find ways in the second half to win himself a title and that's when he called for the onside kick; the multiple downfield passes; and screen plays that carved up the Tigers secondary.  As I said on the OTSL Twitter feed during the game, when Alabama plays at it's best, you just can't beat a Saban-led team.  Clemson brought their A-Game and still came up a bit short.

That's why Nick Saban is the best coach in the modern college game, as much as I wish it wasn't so.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Bowl Season - New Year's Eve Edition

By The Rabbi - OTSL Producer/Video Editor

I’ve been a little lazy with my bowl preview; Christmas and other stuff has gotten in the way.  However, we are now in the REAL part of bowl season.  New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day have been remade as huge bowl days in America.  I don’t need to give you a reason to care about these games, you should care about all of these games over the New Year’s holiday.  So, let’s see what we have in store for the New Year’s Eve portion of the holiday, with the two national semifinals also being played on this day:

Peach Bowl: (18) Houston vs. (9) Florida State (-6.5)
Florida State has been a team that, with Jameis Winston at QB, has been used to making playoff appearances and national title games.  Now?  This team is back in the position they were at before the boy wonder came to Tallahassee:  good but not necessarily good enough.  They are the beneficiary (or loser) of having to play the Group of 5's, New Year’s Six nominee in Atlanta.

The Seminoles are here because they lost the biggest game on their schedule (a 23-13 loss to Clemson) AND because they had their big upset along the way (to Georgia Tech).  They ended the season hot, including a stone cold beat down of their in-state rival Florida 27-2.  The transfer of Everett Golson was supposed to keep this team in the national title picture, but Golson disappointed and he’s not even here for this game.  Sean Maguire - last year's #2 QB - is leading the team and is putting up numbers similar to Golson's.  The defense for FSU is a lot better than they were months ago though, and Houston hasn’t seen a defense like this.

Houston gets this big bowl as a big reward for the work they did in the AAC.  The AAC had FOUR ranked teams at points this year (3 in the final CFP standings), and Houston was their champ.  If not for a letdown against UCONN, the Cougars would be coming into this bowl with an undefeated season.  Their coach, former Ohio State Offensive Coordinator Tom Herman, has made this offense more dynamic in 2015.  Their QB, Greg Ward Jr. - who is as much of a weapon with his feet as he is with his arm - has led the offense to 10 more points per game this year as compared to last year and if you get into a shooting match with them, you are could be in serious trouble.

FSU was in a similar situation three years ago going up against an upstart Northern Illinois team.  They dominated that game and Jimbo Fisher isn’t the type of coach to lose games like this.  

The Pick:  FSU 31, Houston 20

Now, for the co-main events.

Orange Bowl: (4) Oklahoma (-3.5) vs. (1) Clemson
Yup, you read that right.  Oklahoma, a team coming out of the much maligned Big 12, has a week longer of rust (or rest depending on your point of view) before facing the SAME EXACT TEAM they lost to in last year in the Russell Athletic Bowl 40-6. The Sooners are the favorite in this game, but both teams are different than they were last year.

For Clemson, it’s about belief, and much more importantly, the "Us Against The World" mentality the team has had in 2015.  They finally beat Florida State for the first time in a while, and also ground out (and I really mean ground out) a close victory versus Notre Dame earlier in the year.  Their coach Dabo Sweeney has prided the team in two major things:  dancing and proving everyone wrong.  Pretty much 50/50 with that.

On the field, Deshaun Watson has been the star that almost everyone thought he would be when he was recruited by the Tigers.  He showed some improvement operating in the pocket this season (although he only averaged 12 yards a completion, which is slightly below what you want from under center these days) and more importantly, made fewer mistakes.  That leadership from the QB position made Watson a Heisman Trophy finalist, though he finished a distant third.  Watson didn’t play in last year’s bowl game and now leading freshman receiver Deon Cain will not be in the game either, due to a drug suspension.  Still this team has enough depth at the WR position that Cain's absence should not be a big deal.  What is a big deal however, is Clemson’s defense.  The Tigers love to blitz and is one of the nation’s best in getting sacks and stopping the run.  They live in their opponent’s backfield.

Oklahoma put up offensive numbers that are Big 12-worthy, but played just enough defense to make others take notice.  In their games against TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma State, they had a good enough defensive scheme to slow each down, though all three having injuries to their regular starting QB’s when they played the Sooners no doubt helped.  Deshaun Watson is the most talented QB the Sooners will have to face.

However, the most talented QB on the field, in my opinion, is Baker Mayfield.  He had almost 4,000 yards of total offense (rushing and passing) and he was as good, if not better than every QB in the country; especially in the final half of the college football season.  Mayfield has the same dual threat capability that Watson does, but he does get sacked. A LOT.  34 times this season.  That does not bode well when facing a Clemson team that (as I said) lives in their opponent's backfield.

After all of that, I hate to say it, but I agree with the crowd.  Oklahoma will outlast Clemson in this one and move onto the national title game in Arizona.

The Pick: Oklahoma 35, Clemson 31

Cotton Bowl: (3) Michigan State vs. (2) Alabama
Alabama had their “Come to Jesus” game early in the season: a Week 3 loss to Ole Miss.  Michigan State has had about five “Come to Jesus” moments this season; not limited to, but highlighted by  a last second win at Rutgers; a win over Ohio State without their starting QB; the longest drive of the college football season to beat Iowa to win the Big 10; and of course the Michigan screw up on a punt which gave the Spartans a walk-off win midseason.  Though these two teams met back in the 2010 Capital One Bowl (where Alabama dominated 49-7), the Spartans are a much different program now.

Connor Cook has the leadership that is desperately needed in this game.  However, since suffering a shoulder injury in November, he hasn’t been giving the Spartans the production they have come to expect from their Senior QB.  Cook’s bowl game performances have been so solid, that hopefully the 25 days of rest leading up to this game for the Spartans will make Cook’s shoulder (and by extension his game) whole again.  Many teams have stayed in the game with Alabama this year and a healthy Cook can blow a game open.

Michigan State's defense is CLEARLY lacking in comparison to Alabama's, but the Spartans have been able to take care of mediocre QB play this year.  Sorry to say Crimson Tide fans, but Jacob Coker is the embodiment of mediocre QB play.  The Spartans can make a team one dimensional, which is the biggest thing MSU has going for them in this game against Alabama.

The Flip Side of that coin is that 'Bama's one dimension is a FREAKIN' Heisman trophy winner in RB Derrick Henry.  He gets 30+ carries a game (though only 14 in the Ole Miss loss) and will be the man Michigan State will game plan their entire defensive scheme around stopping.  They did a good job stopping Ezekiel Elliott in their win over Ohio State, but Elliott only got 12 carries in that game.  Henry has already gashed one Big 10 team in Dallas (the Tide beat Wisconsin here on opening Saturday) and he just might do it again.

There are not enough words to describe just how GOOD this Alabama defense is.  There are LOADS of NFL Talent on this team and that talent has shined brightly (we're talking megawatts here) on the field this season.  The key is going to be whether Connor Cook can outplay Jacob Coker by a wide enough margin to keep this really game close.  My Prediction is no.  I think Michigan State plays into Alabama’s hands and the dream season ends for Sparty.

The Pick: Alabama 31, Michigan State 17

NEXT UP:  The New Year’s Day games.  That post is going to be a lot less wordy.  I swear.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Bowl Season - Part 2

By The Rabbi, OTSL Producer and Video Editor

Welcome to Part 2 of my Bowl preview, and thankfully, I only have one game to put in for Monday so I'm putting in a short week!  I know, I'm lazy.

Miami Beach Bowl

Western Kentucky (-2.5) vs. South Florida

1.  Why should I care about this game?

Because the inaugural Miami Beach bowl in 2014 that featured Memphis and BYU, two teams who looked a lot better this season.  That game also featured a massive brawl that was one of the pre-CFP highlights of the Bowl season.  So, as we establish, fighting is more exciting than talent.

2.  Who should I watch for?

While South Florida likes to run, we'll focus on enough runners in future columns.  Western Kentucky has Brandon Doughty, who led the nation this year in completion percentage at 71.9% and had 45 passing touchdowns.  Should make this another high scoring bowl, whether it's high scoring on only one side remains to be seen.

3.  Main storyline?

This is a damn good game for the 2nd day of bowl season.  South Florida was in the mix for the AAC title, and Western Kentucky won every game in the C-USA and by double digits.  Western Kentucky is, in my opinion, right behind Memphis and Houston in non Power 5 conference talent.

4.  At stake?

More for the coaches I think is at stake.  For Western Kentucky, Jeff Brohm has taken the team to newer, dominant heights (they competed really well in their only 2 losses to Indiana and LSU).  For South Florida coach (and former Western Kentucky QB and head coach) Willie Taggert, a chance to get a signature victory against his former team, and some traction in the all of a sudden ultra tight AAC.

5.  Who wins?

Western Kentucky continues their run of big bowl games.  WKU 49, South Florida 35

Coming up in the next post:  Part 3, looking at the games on Tuesday, featuring one of my favorite college football stories of 2015:  Temple.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Bowl Season- Part 1

By The Rabbi, OTSL Producer and Video Editor

I love college football, and I truly love bowl season.

There might be 40 games (involving FBS teams), and that might be too much for all of you.  I don't care.  I truly love it.

So, because this bowl season is crazy and we haven't seen blog posts on here for a while, I'm doing a bowl preview, day by day of this very long bowl season.

I base each bowl preview with 5 questions:

1.  Why should I care about this game?  

I know I care but I need to give a reason for you to care.

2.  Who should I watch for?

It's the postseason, and if you're not playing for that ridiculous CFP trophy, you care about your draft stock, plain and simple.  

3.  What's the main storyline?

This seems a little like #1, but I can give you a thing to watch with the game.

4.  What's at stake?

Again, if you're not in a national semifinal, I have to let you know why we have this game to begin with.

5.  Who wins?

I'll even include gambling lines, if you're into that sort of thing.

Ready, set, analyze!

Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Arizona (-8) (6-6) vs. New Mexico (7-5)

1.  Why should I care?

Bet you didn't know this match up is Rich Rodriguez vs. Bob Davie!  That's kind of like Michigan vs. Notre Dame (although they didn't even come close to coaching there at the same time)!

2.  Who should I watch for?

Well, since OTSL's Sean Roman's favorite player for Arizona in Scooby Wright is out, and Arizona QB Anu Solomon might not play either, let's go with Wildcat safety Will Parks, the highlight in a defense that tried to hold up the injury machine that was Arizona's offense this year.

3.  Storyline

Arizona's motivation:  on one hand it's hard for a team with many returning players starting bowl season after playing in the Fiesta Bowl a year ago, however, the team that beat them in that Fiesta Bowl was New Mexico's conference rival, Boise State.

4.  Motivation

Arizona doesn't want to end the season 6-7 (and has a ton of people coming back in 2016), New Mexico would like to do their namesake bowl a little bit of justice.

5.   Who wins?

We'll go mild upset here:  New Mexico 38, Arizona 28

Las Vegas Bowl
No 22 Utah (-2) vs. BYU

1.  Why do I care?

Why shouldn't you care?  This is the holy war!  They were rivals for a long time (played til 2013), when Utah dropped BYU for Michigan as an out of conference opponents.  I always love it when old rivals meet together.  It is so damn awkward.

2.  Who should I watch for?

The person you saw on the first full day of college football, and that is BYU's QB Tanner Magnum.  He won two straight games with a Hail Mary, and had 21 total touchdowns on the season.  Pretty good for a guy who replaced Taysom Hill to start the season due to injury.

3.  Storyline

So many!  Bronco Mendenhall's last game as BYU head coach?  The Holy War restarting up in Vegas?  Brent Musburger calling the Holy War in Vegas?  SO MANY OPTIONS!

4.  Stakes

Both teams want a high note ending to seasons that could have been much better.  Utah was a good candidate to win the Pac 12 until they lost to USC and UCLA.  BYU lost their next two games after that pair of Hail Mary's and ironically they were to two common opponents of Utah:  Michigan (Utah won, BYU got drilled) and UCLA (BYU actually played them better).

5.  Who wins?

I think it's really close, but I think BYU hasn't played an opponent this caliber in a while:  Utah 31, BYU 20

Camellia Bowl
Appalachian State (-7.5) (10-2) vs. Ohio (8-4)

1.  Why watch?

Simple:  you probably remember when you were a kid (8 years ago!) when Appalachian State beat Michigan in the upset heard round the world.  Well, this team is all FBS grown up now, and they've won 17 games since joining the big leagues in 2014.

2.  Who to watch?

Mountaineer QB Taylor Lamb.  He's only a sophomore, but has become one of the nation's better young QB's.  29 TD's to 8 INT's?  More of that please.  Of course, like most App St. QB's, he runs too.  8 games with 20 yards rushing or more?  Yes please.

3.  Storyline?

Can the Mountaineers handle being favorites?  Very rare you see a Sun Belt team get favored over a MAC team by so much, but this program seamlessly has transitioned from 1-AA to 1-A (FCS to FBS) without a problem.  Will this be the first step to even bigger things?

4.  Stakes?

Appalachian State was one loss away from being conference champ, win here could make season 3 in the FBS the first one where they get regular season hardware.  Ohio needs to just get some consistency, trying to add a 4th straight victory (although it came after three straight losses).

5.  Who wins?

Get to know the 'Neers, they're here to stay:  App St. 35, Ohio 17

Cure Bowl
San Jose State (-2) (5-7) vs. Georgia State (6-6)

1.  Why watch?

Well, despite that 5-7 record next to San Jose State, these are two fun programs to watch, and you can tell your friends you watched the Inaugural Cure Bowl, the THIRD bowl to take place in Orlando.  Yes third.

2.  Who to watch?

Senior QB Nick Arbunkle of Georgia State.  Over 4,000 yards passing, and should very likely break the Sun Belt conference's single season passing record in this game.  Might be a bench warmer in the pros too, since he knows the pro style down in Atlanta.

3.  Storyline

I love bowl season, but this is the first of THREE teams that are forced into a bowl with a losing record (due to there not being enough over .500 teams).  Big time proving ground for the Spartans.

4.  At Stake

For San Jose State it's momentum:  they come into the bowl on a 1-3 skid and get a huge lifeline to end their season.  For Georgia State it's making sure they end their year with a FIFTH straight victory, very impressive for a team that didn't win a single game against a FBS team in 2013 or 2014.

5.  Who wins?

Eh, San Jose State 28, Georgia State 24

New Orleans Bowl (There is an actual sponsor, but they don't pay us)
Arkansas State (9-3) vs. Louisiana Tech (-2) (8-4)

1.  Why watch?

Remember how I sang the praises of Appalachian State before?  They still lost to Arkansas State  The Sun Belt winners and the C-USA team are going to score, score, and score some more.

2.  Who to watch?

Jeff Driskel.  If that name means something, it's because he used to be the QB at Florida who transferred to try to end his college career on a high note.  He did with 24 TD's and over 3,500 yards.  Why couldn't he have done that in Gainesville?

3.  Storyline

I'm curious to see Louisiana Tech play a bowl game at the Superdome.  They haven't played in this bowl before although you think they would have.

4.  At Stake

To prove who's the more stable ballclub of two teams who have played a ton of "minor" bowls over the last few years.  Feel like that Group of 5 team just might come out of one of these two conferences one of these days.

5.  Who wins?

Arkansas State 31, Louisiana Tech 24.

On our next episode:

The Miami Beach bowl.  Played in Marlins stadium, we might see better athletes than the Marlins have and certainly better football than the Dolphins or the 'Canes.