Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Michigan's victory gives Big Ten a boost

Michigan’s 524-yard effort in a 41-35 Capital One Bowl defeat of Florida was more than a farewell gift to coach Lloyd Carr.
If Carr was pleased, Fox TV executives ought to be downright thrilled with the outcome of that game because it adds drama to Monday’s Ohio State-LSU meeting in the BCS championship game.

Before New Year’s Day, top Big Ten teams hadn’t demonstrated they could handle speedy teams from the Southeast. Florida’s rout of Ohio State in the BCS championship game last year and Appalachian State’s stunner at Michigan severely damaged the Big Ten’s reputation.

By running circles around the Florida defense, Michigan raised the Big Ten’s profile and instantly made Ohio State-LSU more appealing.

- In another SEC-Big Ten meeting, new Duke head coach David Cutcliffe gave the Blue Devils reason to be excited in his final game as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator.

Under Cutcliffe’s direction, Erik Ainge passed for 365 yards in a 21-17 win against Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl. College football history is full of examples of departing coaches who bumbled their way through bowl losses when they stayed around to coach their old teams.

Mark Richt, who’s turned out to be an excellent head coach at Georgia, might have set the standard in the Orange Bowl in January of 2001. He stayed to work as Florida State’s offensive coordinator, and Florida State lost 13-2 to Oklahoma with the national title on the line.

Cutcliffe fared much better. After saying his plan for Wisconsin was in place when he was hired at Duke, Cutcliffe wound up with a win, impressive numbers for Ainge and extra publicity for Duke.

- I gained respect for former San Diego Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts while listening to him work the Holiday Bowl on the radio and the Armed Forces Bowl on television.

Unlike most former jocks, Fouts calls play-by-play rather than providing color analysis. That’s not an easy job, and Fouts does it well, sprinkling in informed opinions while telling viewers what’s going on in the game.

- Though the college coaching carousel isn’t done turning yet, it’s surprising that the name of East Carolina’s Skip Holtz hasn’t been mentioned much in connection with jobs in BCS conferences.

Arkansas, Georgia Tech and West Virginia would have been three logical places for Holtz to receive consideration. But if he doesn’t get it after this season, adding a Hawaii Bowl win to his resume before the holidays only will enhance his attractiveness in future years.

- ACC fans surely have noticed the conference’s losing bowl record.
Virginia’s 31-28 loss to Texas Tech in the Gator Bowl dropped the ACC to 2-5 in bowl season. The season included news of a huge academic scandal at Florida State that didn’t help the image of that school or the league.

- The ACC can take some consolation, though, in the fact that four of the losses came by margins of seven points or fewer, with Virginia Tech still to play Kansas in Thursday’s Orange Bowl.

–Ken Tysiac


Anonymous said...

Michigan's victory may have given the Big Ten a boost, but it was small and short-lived. Instead of focusing on two games to compare the two conferences, the bigger picture must be assessed. The SEC has more teams in bowls and has won more of those bowl games than the Big Ten. Michigan lost at home to App State and Ohio State lost at home to Illinois which got embarrassed by USC. No matter the outcome of the bowl games, the Big Ten is a soft conference with mediocre teams this year. It's pretty obvious who is the better conference.