MNW: Oh man, it's Christmas Weekend! I'm not gonna lie: with Vikings-Packers on Saturday the 23rd, I don't know how much dedicated bowl-watching time I'm going to get. And that bums me out, because the 23rd and 24th have some of the quirky must-see games that I really love about bowl season.
Take, for example, the Birmingham Bowl. Why is Texas Tech, a P5 school, forced to go to Birmingham fucking Alabama to play a bowl game? Because there are too many bowl-eligible teams [/pours some out for Western Michigan and Buffalo]. And too many bowl games. But this is happening! A Texas Tech team that loves to ~run~ pass-and-shoot, facing a South Florida team that has little-to-no interest in playing defense but can sure put up a lot of points. That said, the O/U on this one is only 67. What am I missing? Is this _not_ going to end at least 45-42?
Jesse: Yes, definitely count me in for this game. To put what you’re saying into actual numbers, South Florida is 16th (38.3 PPG) nationally in scoring offense and Texas Tech is 26th (34.3). When adjusting for Road or Neutral sites, that goes to 2nd (43.2 PPG) and 12th (36.5 PPG) respectively. Tech is also allowing 31.8 PPG and South Florida is allowing 22.5 (weirdly decent). No matter what, this should be remarkably fun. Kliff Kingsbury and Charlie Strong offer very different coaching profiles, but both - in theory - could be successful if given the right tools.
That said, give me Strong over Kliff. There is something super fun about this group of Bulls - originally recruited by Willie Taggart more or less - and I think Quinton Flowers is going to destroy whatever remains of Texas Tech’s defense. What say you?
MNW: You know, I'm inclined to agree with you on Flowers. But there's something about the Tech offense against a USF defense that allowed 20 to UConn and 31 to ECU... Like you said, the Red Raiders are the best offense--besides UCF--that the Bulls will face all year.
Per Viva the Matadors, too, TTU slowed opposing "running" QBs like Flowers: "Arizona State’s Manny Wilkins had 25 rushing yards, Kansas State’s Skylar Thompson had eight, and Texas’ Sam Ehlinger had 35. The only dual-threat quarterback to really hit hard Texas Tech was TCU’s Shawn Robinson, who gained 84 yards in ten carries."
I just wanna take one moment to note that I think it was really fucking stupid of Kliff Kingsbury to bench QB Nic Shimonek ahead of the Texas-Texas Tech game in favor of younger lefty McClane Carter. Like...his job's on the line, and that's the "coaching move?" Nah. Shimonek is a flawed QB (what Air Raid QB isn't) who struggles against decent defenses (no TDs against Iowa State or TCU) and can get sloppy with the ball, but... 30 TDs vs 8 INTs. Add to that the comeback win against Texas (he fucking saved Kliff's job!), and I want to see Shimonek go out guns blazing. This is Texas Tech, after all...
Jesse: I’m still trying to understand the allure of Kliff Kingsbury in general. He seems to be a bright enough offensive star, but as a head coach, he’s like… I don’t know, maybe Mike Leach light at best? That’s fine. Let’s move on before I get lost in his eyes and somehow move to Lubbock. Tell me more about the Armed Forces Bowl. San Diego State can run the ball, Army can run the ball, and well, that’s about all I know. Should I tune in just to see Rashaad Penny?
MNW: As a Nebraska fan, you of all people should want to watch this game. You've got the pro-style running of Rashaad Penny against the beauty that is a service academy running the option. I'd set the over/under at 20 passes today.
There's not necessarily a "good story" wrapped up in the Armed Forces Bowl, beyond it being Army playing football, but these are two programs that have quietly become something approaching mid-major players. San Diego State and Rocky Long are one of the best two teams in the Mountain West, and Jeff Monken has turned Army into winners of the Commander-in-Chief Trophy in his fourth season. It's just two quality programs who play good football.
I won't rub the Northern Illinois loss in too much, because...yeah, we've all been there. But this San Diego State club welcomed Stanford to the Q, where they beat them 20-17. Next year they head up to the Farm in the return leg, but also play host to Arizona State. Am I alone in thinking that's kind of weird that they get that many home games with P5 schools?
Jesse: Remember that time your favorite P5 team went on the road with a G5 to a not-so-great environment so that you could lose? Me neither. Nebraska had home and home with Southern Miss as the one-off that I can most remember and we more or less peaced out of that by paying them enough to fire a coach. I suppose there’s a value to schools like ASU and - to an extent - Stanford for riding into Southern California for some recruiting reasons, but that’s pretty dumb of the ADs who are trying to win championships.
MNW: Speaking of "pretty dumb," it's...the Dollar General Bowl?
Appalachian State! Toledo! Primetime on Saturday night, comin' at you live from Ladd-(Fruity) Peebles Stadium in sunny Mo'beel, Alabama! Logan Woolside and the MAC Champion Rockets can put up points by the dozens, and Terry Swanson's no joke on the ground. Meanwhile...Appalachian State. Solid Sun Belt team, definitely won double-digits a couple years back, and actually (speaking of) hosted Wake Forest in Boone this year, losing by 1 to the Demon Deacons. Line's Toledo -7. You taking a chance on this one?
Jesse: Do I take a chance on the over? Because yes. The Rockets are actually one of my favorite teams to watch in that somehow, losing Matt Campbell hasn’t really been a big deal and Toledo is maybe actually sorta kinda good? I don’t know. Logan Woodside is super fun to watch throw to Diontae Johnson who has 13 TD catches this season. I’m sure there’s something interesting here where you tell me Appy State has a defense, but Toledo is going to score and that’s just going to be good old fashioned Fun Belt on MACTION goodness right there.
Also, since we’re here, do you think either of these coaches should be getting the call up to the big boy conferences soon? Jason Candle - as I mentioned - has three very successful years at Toledo and Scott Satterfield has proven his success as he’s gotten Appy State to the FBS. What say you? Either of these guys roaming a sideline near us soon?
MNW: I think if I'm betting money on this one, you're right -- I'd take the over 61.5 but leave the rest alone. App State remains sneaky good under Scott Satterfield, at 35th in S&P+ (38th on offense and 36th on defense). Five players have run for touchdowns, Taylor Lamb is sporting a 27:6 TD:INT ratio and has taken just 8 sacks all year, and DL Tee Sims is a backfield monster (9.5 sacks, 13.5 TFL). Toledo could be in for a nasty surprise if they can't hold off the Mountaineers' rush.
I'm happy you asked the coaches question, because...yes and no. For Jason Candle, I am waiting 3-4 years to make sure that he's winning with his own players, not Matt Campbell's. He's only ever been at Toledo (moving up the ladder since 2009) and D-III powerhouse Mount Union (2003-2008), so removed from the Rust Belt, I'd have my concerns. So in 1-2 more years, if he's still got Toledo pushing 10 or so wins every year, yes. I'm hiring him to fill the opening at Purdue when Jeff Brohm becomes the Louisville head coach.
Satterfield...that's tougher. I was mildly surprised he didn't get a serious look last year, after guiding the Mountaineers to two consecutive 10-win seasons. They stepped back slightly to 8 wins this year, but Appalachian State has a reputation for good offenses and actually does play some defense too. I'd take him to hop to an ACC mid- to lower-tier school (say Wake Forest or NC State) within a year or two, if a position opens up. Or, who knows, if AppState's fortunes go south, maybe he'd be an interesting offensive coordinator choice somewhere in the upper tiers of P5 play.
Sometimes I almost feel bad that half of what we talk about in these matchups is not the good things those programs have done that year, but rather when their coaches will inevitably lose. Life as a mid-major, I guess.
Jesse: Until there is proof that success at the highest level can be achieved in these G5 schools, they are going to see their coaches poached to death. Sad reality of a really subjective playoff system. But that topic is probably for another day. Alright, let’s finish off our fun little trip around the Pre-Christmas bowls in a place that I’d love to be this year - the Hawaii Bowl. On one side you have the Fresno State Bulldogs who play defense. They’re holding opponents to the 16th fewest yards per game and 9th fewest points per game nationally. They’ll collide with a rebuilding Houston unit who had some regression without Herman. Sure, they still can score points, but I think the initial favor has to go Bulldogs, right?
MNW: Huh, is that what Fresno does? I would've figured Jeff Tedford and company would've been a high-flying offense. But whatever, that's cool, I guess I could watch a 17-14 defensive struggle-fest in the Hawaii Bowl (though I would prefer it be a 47-44 shootout, just as I prefer the Bahamas Bowl to be.
Really, this is an impressively-even matchup. Fresno is 25th in S&P+, while Houston is 29th. The Cougs dealt with some bad bounces in one-score losses to Texas Tech, Memphis, and Tulane (win expectancy above 50% in all three) after a season-opening win at Arizona, and appear to have now settled on third QB D'Eriq Hill, who's undersized but can run with it really, really well (8 TDs already).
Speaking of QBs, the Bulldogs brought in former Oregon State QB Marcus McMaryion on a grad transfer, and it jump-started a competent year of offense, in which McMaryion and a trio of underclassman running backs have churned forward for yards slowly but surely.
I dunno, though. Which of these two are you feeling? If this game hits the under, I'm taking Fresno. If it hits the over, I'm taking Houston. I guess I'd lean to the Bulldogs, but Houston's a game opponent.
And...I mean, we're hoping the over here, right? Is that just the default bowl preference--a shootout--or do various bowl games have certain reputations; i.e., that the BitCoin MagicJack Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl of St. Petersburg is the shittiest, most God-awful football on an awful field?
Jesse: I feel bad about it, but I’ll just come out and say it. I root for shootouts in general. I realize defense wins championships and good defenses can be as entertaining as good offenses, but if we’re being real about it all, college football is rarely low scoring because of wonderful defenses. It’s usually more just inept offensive approaches. So, I might as well be entertained by fast skill position guys running around making defenders look dumb.
Anyhow, to your question, I think that bowls generally do have reputations. Like, the Bahamas Bowl is going to be insane, the Gasparilla Bowl has a ridiculous name always with generally nothing interesting otherwise, the Idaho Bowl hurts your eyes, and the Alamo Bowl is a blowout. But that in mind, I think we’re just hoping for a quick escape where kids are enjoying some sunshine in the Hawaii Bowl. The bad hawaiian shirts, the stupid announcer comments, and what - I hope - will be an even game. There won’t be much else on so might as well watch some football.