Jake Shaw's weekly column on the bowl system, Tweet of the week, and buying/selling.
If a word cloud were formed from all my writing over the past few weeks, a two-word phrase would get the largest font size:
Cluttered around "Bowl Eligible," in varying font sizes, would be words/phrases like win; Manziel did it again; loss; interception; David Ash is great; tackles; comeback; David Ash is terrible; forced fumble; never mind, Ash really is great; third-down conversions; finally Lache Seastrunk is playing; turnovers; Tech is best in Texas; nevermind what I wrote last week; sacks; and several other dozens of words and phrases that regularly appear in my columns, previews and recaps.
But out of them all, Bowl Eligibile would stand out the most. This time of year, that's all that matters. It's what's motivating many a coach and player right now -- the chance to extend the season, play a neutral-site game in a different venue, get extra practice time and, most importantly, get a free gift bag. And that's why I mention bowl eligibility so often.
Only four teams in Texas -- one-third of the state's FBS population -- has attained bowl eligibility with three weeks left in the 2012 regular season. Yet only one program, UTEP, has been eliminated from postseason contention.
That leaves seven other Texas teams still hoping to play their way into the postseason (more on that later). And I hope that never changes. Not the seven teams trying to make a bowl part -- I hope in the next five to fifteen years, when college football finally wises up and moves to an 8- or 16-team playoff, the bowls don't go away.
A lot of critics think there are too many bowls right now. Why reward a .500 team with a postseason trip? My reply is, Why not? What's the harm? It certainly doesn't upset a fan base, which gets one more chance to see their favorite team, perhaps in a city they've never had the chance to travel to.
A trip to Shreveport for the AdvoCare v100 Independence Bowl -- which has gone through sponsorships (remember when it was the Poulan Weed-Eater Independence Bowl?) like celebrities go through spouses -- might not seem like much to a casual fan, but I equate that to an 8-12 seed in the NCAA basketball tournament. Programs are overjoyed when they get an at-large bid to March Madness, not because they think it gives them a shot at a title, but simply because they're in the postseason. They get to see their team one more time before they have to wait 6-7 months before they see them again.
Another argument against bowls: They don't always make for compelling TV. That's often true. But nobody is forcing you to watch them. Be honest, what would you rather watch, Dancing with the Stars, or the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl (which, for the record, Marshall won 20-10 over FIU last season)? Televised college football is never a bad thing.
Ask any athletic director, and they'll tell you bowl games need to stick around. When Texas went 5-7 just two years ago, I guarantee you DeLoss Dodds would rather have been answering calls from angry fans from New York City, home of the Pinstripe Bowl, rather than in Austin. There's a reason Baylor, Rice, Houston and North Texas are digging deep right now, trying so hard to beat the odds and reach the postseason.
I do hope, for the sake of college football, the forthcoming four-team playoff eventually moves to 8 or 16 teams. This year, just as almost every past season, proves that limiting the chances for a championship to 2-4 teams is downright foolish. But if a playoff would come at the expense of bowl games, well, you'll find no bigger BCS supporter than me.
Long live the bowls.
ODDS AND ENDS
> Irrational fan of the week: Truly a sign of the apocalypse, a devoted Texas A&M fan, using the screen name "Pablo Serna" on Texags.com, has urged his Aggie brethren to … gasp … cheer for Texas in its season finale at Kansas State. His rationale? A KSU loss could knock Collin Klein from the Heisman lead and open the door for Jahnny Manziel.
Pablo Serna writes: "Longhorns beat KSU... Give JFF Heisman in the process. I gotta feeling…"
I think PabloSerna's point is very rational. If I believed a win by my most hated ex-rival (Texas) would deliver the Heisman to a player on my favorite team (A&M), I'd go out and buy a burnt-orange t-shirt for some extra good karma. The ramifications of a Texas win pale in comparison to the benefits it could bring. It could help Manziel win the Heisman and possibly get an SEC team into the national championship game.
So here's where the irrational part comes in. On the same thread, from a user called Cdet85:
"Wait.........your asking me to pull for the whorns to defeat the No. 1 team in the country, in their house, so Johnny can have maybe an oustide chance at the Heisman? Knowing full well he will be the front runner next year? And with that win, the whorns use it to counter the significiant strides we've made in recruiting?
Are you fricking kidding me? No.
You have to dig deep to find strength to cheer for your rival, but in some cases, it's completely necessary. Manziel has tons of momentum going. A&M will most surely win out, and Manziel will likely put up more video game stats in those wins. So one the only things stopping Manziel right now -- the only thing preventing an unprecedented win for a freshman -- is Collin Klein and KSU going unbetean.
Aggies, if you want that Heisman, repeat after me: Hook 'em Horns. (Feel free to throw up afterward.)
> Week's Top Tweet: Tommy Tuberville can be adamant all he wants, but I have to take exception to the paraphrasing of his comments from this tweet by the Avalance-Journals's Don Williams:
Tuberville was adamant that he did not slap Oliver. Said he does not appreciate anyone using that term to describe the incident.— Don Williams (@AJ_DonWilliams) November 12, 2012
It was a slap. There's not a better or more accurate word to describe it. It may have been accidental, and it surely wasn't premeditated, but that doesn't mean it did not happen.
It surprises me quite a bit that this hasn't gotten more attention. At least one national columnist thinks Tubervile deserves a suspension. I guess the guys at ESPN have been distracted by the circus surrounding the Lakers to focus on this incident. Had this been a coach at a program in contention for a title -- or at a program like USC, which ESPN for some reason can't ever get enough of -- Outside the Lines would be wrapping up its second episode about it.
At the very least, Tuberville deserves a public reprimand from the university, and possibly from the Big 12's offices. No matter what word you use to describe the action of Tuberville's hand swiftly knocking off the headset of an assistant coach, the powers at be have failed to show that such behavior is intolerable.
> My Power Poll ballot
This is what I turned into the DCTF offices for the latest edition of the Power Poll.
1. Texas A&M — Anyone who votes Texas A&M anywhere else needs immediate psychiatric help.
2. Texas — Just a shame the two teams at the top of the power poll aren't playing on T-Day.
3. Texas Tech — Surprised there hasn't been more fallout from Headset Gate.
4. TCU — The offense just couldn't match the defense's strong effort against the Heisman frontrunner.
5. Baylor — Is it Baylor's turn to shock the No. 1 team in the country? The Bears must be close to perfect to have a chance.
6. SMU — A win Saturday would get the Mustangs bowl eligible while knocking out Rice.
7. Rice — Two games left against Texas programs, two wins needed to salvage the season.
8. Houston — UH has now lost three of four, those losses coming by an average of 28 points per game.
9. UTEP — The end of the Price era draws closer to its end.
10. North Texas — Like both Houston programs, North Texas must win out to get bowl eligibile.
11. Texas State — The Bobcats nearly upset the team that nearly upset the Aggies.
12. UTSA — Somehow Eric Soza has gotten better post-injury.
> Buy/Sell: Seven Texas programs still have a chance at getting bowl eligible (there's that phrase again). Today, I'll buy or sell each program's chances of making it to the postseason:
> Baylor: Sell. I believe Baylor can win two of its final three, the likely scenario being wins over Tech in Dallas and OSU in Waco, but I just can't back that prediction. Baylor lost its chances by no-shows against TCU and Iowa State. Had Baylor won one of those two, I'd buy in a heartbeat.
> Houston: Buy. It's not with a whole lot of confidence that I'm buying into the Coogs. It all hinges on Saturday's game at Marshall. Houston has been awful on the road, so it must change that tendency. I believe it will, and if that happens, UH will wrap up a bid by beating Tulane at home the next week.
> North Texas: Sell. The Mean Green could get a break against ULM this weekend, as starting QB Kolton Browning might not play because of injury. But even if UNT can win Saturday, I still think a loss to Western Kentucky in the final game will be the death blow to UNT's bowl chances.
> Rice: Sell. I'm going to pick the Owls to beat SMU at home on Saturday, but Rice will come one game short of a bowl trip with a loss at UTEP to close the season.
> SMU: Sell. No, my picks aren't all that positive, but I'm going with my gut feeling and not what I would like to see. In a perfect Texas football world, Rice would beat SMU and UTEP, but SMU would beat Tulsa in the finale, allowing both to go bowling. I'm predicting the exact opposite, though the SMU/Rice game is 50-50.
> Texas State: Sell. Needing to close the season with three wins, I expect the Bobcats to get eliminated this weekend at Navy. See me this time next week if Texas State upsets Navy; at that point, I'll definitely buy into the Bobcats' bowl hopes.
> UTSA: Sell. The Roadrunners need two wins. One will come against Idaho this weekend. A win over Texas State would then do the trick, but I think Texas State is the better program right now and will win on the road in San Antonio.
As you can see, my optimism is pretty low right now. But there's a reason for it. All of the above teams, except for maybe Texas State, have lost games they could've or should've won. Had they done that, they wouldn't be in this conversation. Failing to take care of business earlier in the season will cost these schools bowl berths.
> Leftovers …
The team I wouldn't want to be this weekend? Western Carolina, which travels to Alabama Saturday to face a very, very angry Nick Saban. This is an example of the SEC scheduling that really befuddles me. We're nearing the end of the season, and we have games like Bama/Western Carolina and A&M/Sam Houston this weekend. Then there's Florida, which closes the season with three straight non-conference games. Would love to see the SEC change this, as well as add an extra conference game -- playing just two cross-divisional games per year leads to a watered-down schedule and results in teams playing programs from the other division far too infrequently. The SEC schedules have not been determined beyond 2013, but it could be 3-5 years before A&M plays Tennessee, for example. …
If the Heisman committee needed one more voter, my ballot would be: 1) Collin Klein 2) Kenjon Barner 3) Johnny Manziel. I'm not one to vote for the best player from an undefeated team, but remove Klein and Barner and their schools are not in the BCS title hunt. If one of their teams loses, I'd likely drop them below Manziel. …
I swear this is my last comment on Manziel for the day, but I still wonder what's going through the heads of both his backups (namely Jamiell Showers) and the current 2013 QB commitments for A&M. On one hand, they have to love what's going on on the field. On the other, Manziel will likely be here for three more years, so Aggie quarterbacks not named Manziel at Texas A&M will have to witness what's on the field from the bench until 2016, when Manziel has used up his eligibility. I could see at least one potential transfer or decommitment. …
Baylor's Terrance Williams hasn't had his big games in the past two weeks (if you can call averaging 114 yards per game "not big"), but he better get serious Biletnikoff Award consideration. If he has 100-yard games in his final three contests, he should win it outright, even if Baylor doesn't make a bowl. He's only 16 yards behind USC's Marqise Lee for the national lead, but Lee has played in one more game. Williams should surpass him with even below-average games. …
The game I'm looking forward to that's hardly on anyone's radar: Louisiana Tech hosting Utah State. The WAC programs are a combined 17-3; the winner gets the last ever WAC crown. Will be interesting to see how La Tech's No. 1 offense does against Utah State's No. 12 defense. Louisiana Tech QB Colby Cameron, by the way, hasn't thrown an interception since the bowl loss to TCU last year. …
Amazing what has happened to the two CUSA programs that played for the conference title last year. West winner Houston is 4-6, while East winner Southern Miss is winless at 0-10. Both lost their coaches to BCS programs after their 2011-12 seasons. We all know what Kevin Sumlin is doing at his new home, and Southern Miss certainly misses Larry Fedora, too. Fedora is 6-4 at North Carolina this year but can't play in a bowl because of past misdeeds by the previous coaching staff. …
Isn't it time the Big East considered a name change? And what's with giving your divisions the names "Red" and "Blue"? Let's try to keep politics out of sports, please.
Contact Jake Shaw by email whether you loved, hated, were excited by or depressed by this column.
Jake Shaw is a special contributor to TexasFootball.com