On today’s itinerary: deeply unserious highlights from Monday’s bowl games, plus ringing in 2014 with roses, bloomin’ onions, and photos of elite college athletes’ attempts at milkshake craftsmanship.
A Farewell to MACKtion
• Armed Forces Bowl: Navy 24, Middle Tennessee State 6. Quarterback Keenan Reynolds overcame two fumbles and an attempted eye-gouging by noted Blue Raiders unsportsmanlike conduct enthusiast Roderic Blunt to score a pair of touchdowns and lead the Midshipmen in rushing with 86 ground yards. Reynolds’s scores pushed him past the 30-plus single-season rushing touchdown mark, where he joined Barry Sanders and Montee Ball, as well as Colorado State’s Kapri Bibbs, who passed the milestone with the Rams in the New Mexico Bowl.
“It’s huge,” said Reynolds in the postgame press conference. “You just say the name Barry Sanders and you can stop right there. That is probably one of the greatest college football players there was. Just to be even in the conversation with guys like that is a humbling experience. I never thought I’d be in that category. But, like I said many times, it takes 11 guys to make a play go. So as much credit as I’ve gotten, it has to be shuffled to the offensive linemen and the A and B backs and the wide receivers, because those guys spring me.”
— SB Nation CFB (@SBNationCFB) December 30, 2013
From the Look At My Dumb Shoulders Bureau: Wave Ryder is off to become a naval aviator, which is awesome, but it’s still a shame that his college football career stopped short on this utterly bullshit targeting call.
• Music City Bowl: Ole Miss 25, Georgia Tech 17. Got a favorite YouTube video? One the context of which you’ll never know, but that you want to preserve in bronze and pass down to your children’s children’s children all the same? We do:
I’m really not sure I’d seen a kick hit the bottom of the crossbar before.
— Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) December 30, 2013
• Alamo Bowl: no. 10 Oregon 30, Texas 7. Marcus “Wingardium” Mariota told Holly Rowe after the game that he was out of shape after not being able to train at full strength because of injury, and that he was looking forward to using the multi-month layoff ahead to return all of his limbs to their full operational power. Mariota threw for 253 yards and a score and rushed for an additional 133 yards in the Ducks’ trouncing of Texas.
— The Oregon Duck (@TheOregonDuck) December 31, 2013
• Holiday Bowl: Texas Tech 37, no. 14 Arizona State 23. Land wars in Asia, facing a Sicilian when death is on the line, and making carefree predictions in games called by Joe Tessitore will get you the following: freshman quarterback Davis Webb, out of action for the Red Raiders since the first week of November, throwing for more than 400 yards and accounting for four touchdown passes in the first half alone; a big night for noted Mackey Award non-finalist Jace Amaro; Arizona State victimizing itself with a running clock at the end of a half of football; and a resounding win for the Red Raiders. Juuuuust like we drew it up.
Your New Year’s Rock-Poundin’ Eve
• AdvoCare V100 Bowl?: Arizona vs. Boston College. The former Independence Bowl — which we’re not yet prepared to stop calling the Independence Bowl, because even “Poulan WeedEater Bowl” has better cadence than this latest title — has seen some squirrelly conference combos in recent seasons, and this year we’ll be treated to a Pac-12 school and an ACC school some 2,600 miles apart meeting more or less in the middle. Personnel-wise, though, the Wildcats and Eagles might like one another if they got acquainted: Both rely so heavily on their featured running backs that this game could be over in two hours and change.
Only 2 RBs have been selected for AP first-team All-America since 1980. Since then never have those 2 players met in a bowl game.
— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) December 17, 2013
On Boston College’s side we have Andre Williams, whose 2,102 yards and 17 touchdowns earned him an invite to the Downtown Athletic Club earlier this month. On Arizona’s, we have last season’s leading FBS rusher, Ka’Deem Carey, who has racked up 1,716 rushing yards and 17 scores of his own in 2013.
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) December 12, 2013
Let this also serve as a final reminder to out-of-town visitors about Shreveport’s foremost charm: the ready availability of drive-through daiquiri stands.
The AdvoCare V100 Bowl kicks off at 12:30 p.m. ET on December 31, with coverage on ESPN and WatchESPN.
• Sun Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. no. 17 UCLA. Here’s another ACC/Pac-12 matchup, and an amusing culture clash that would make true appointment viewing in the form of a home-and-home series. After being mediocre (at best) last season at all the things at which VT teams are typically good, the Hokies at least recovered the “smothering defense” element of the BeamerBall equation this year, holding opponents to an average of just 17 points per game despite multiple key injuries. They do not, to put it charitably, need to be very good in order to put talented but frequently unprotected Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley’s tailbone on the turf. UCLA’s defense versus Virginia Tech’s offense, meanwhile, looks like such a mismatch from here that we’re not even interested in talking about it, which means the capricious spider-gods governing college football will see to it that Logan Thomas has a career day.
— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) December 27, 2013
And no matter which Bruins unit is on the field, keep one eye out, as always, for Myles Jack. UCLA’s two-way freshman phenom has racked up 71 total tackles as a linebacker, plus 267 yards (at a rate of 7.2 per carry) and seven touchdowns as a runner.
The Sun Bowl kicks off at 2 p.m. ET on December 31, with coverage on CBS.
• Liberty Bowl: Rice vs. Mississippi State. “The hell is a Rice Owl?” our hungover little brother asked one winter’s morning long ago. This year, it turns out the Rice Owls are 10-game winners (for only the third time in program history) and Conference USA champions.
— The Peabody Memphis (@PeabodyMemphis) December 30, 2013
The Liberty Bowl kicks off at 4 p.m. ET on December 31, with coverage on ESPN and WatchESPN.
This Is Where the Milkshake Photos Are
• Chick-fil-A Bowl: no. 24 Duke vs. no. 21 Texas A&M. DUKE IN A BOWL GAME DUKE IN A BOWL GAME CUE DUKE FOOTBALL FEELINGS COLLAGE HOW YOU FEELIN’ CUT I SAID HOW YOU FEELIN’?
— Chick-fil-A Bowl (@chickfilabowl) December 26, 2013
Yes, that is Duke playing in a bowl game against Texas A&M, and yes again, that is Duke with 10 wins and the better record. Unfortunately, that is also Duke with the kind of paltry defense, one that will be tasked with stopping Johnny Manziel as he tries to put on a show for the draft scouts. That said! Guess whose defense is also pretty terrible! A&M is currently allowing an average of 31 points per game; this is not the doormatty Duke squad of days gone by, and the Peach Bowl That Was could be the pointiest potential pointsplosion of the postseason.
To business: The Chick-fil-A Bowl effortlessly retains the title of highest bowl game milkfat content with its annual milkshake combine, pitting players from visiting teams against one another in feats of soda fountain showmanship.
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(Photos by Paul Abell, Abell Images)
The Chick-fil-A Bowl kicks off at 8 p.m. ET on December 31, with coverage on ESPN and WatchESPN.
First Football of 2014
• Gator Bowl: Nebraska vs. no. 22 Georgia. Allegedly, this matchup has sparked a chorus of yawns from Georgia and Nebraska fans, who were squeezing by each other at the hotel breakfast buffet last year for the Capital One Bowl.
Positive to not having a theme park in Jacksonville for this bowl game- I won’t have to deal with the humiliation of not fitting on a ride.
— Watts Dantzler (@wattsdantzler) December 28, 2013
At least the Bulldogs can get excited that there are only 60 minutes left in the season during which any more of their players can be grievously injured. Though just for good measure: Dawgs are a-barfing, a key defender is suspended, creating exciting new opportunities for unlikely heroes, and leading receiver Chris Conley was laid low by a sprained ankle earlier this week. Nebraska’s injury list hasn’t been nearly that long, but what entries there are have been significant — none more so than quarterback Taylor Martinez, whose Cornhusker career ended with a foot injury sustained against Minnesota. Backup Ron Kellogg has performed admirably in Martinez’s absence but will need to step it up in Jacksonville, if only to keep up on the scoreboard with Todd Gurley, who rumbled for 125 yards in the Capital One Bowl and is averaging 6.2 yards per carry since returning from a midseason ankle injury.
The Gator Bowl kicks off at noon on January 1, with coverage on ESPN2 and WatchESPN.
• Heart of Dallas Bowl: UNLV vs. North Texas.
Fun fact: The Winter Solstice is today and is the time at which the sun appears at noon at its lowest altitude above the horizon.
— Heart of Dallas Bowl (@HODBowl) December 22, 2013
Fun fact: The Heart of Dallas Bowl is a New Year’s Day bowl game played at the Cotton Bowl despite not being the Cotton Bowl, but [grinchy sniping short-circuited at thought of UNLV being in its first bowl since 2000 and UNT in its first bowl since 2004 and we’re not MONSTERS, and it turns out having your heart grow three sizes is actually quite uncomfortable].
The Heart of Dallas Bowl kicks off at noon on January 1, with coverage on ESPNU and WatchESPN.
• Capital One Bowl: no. 19 Wisconsin vs. no. 9 South Carolina. On New Year’s Day 2013, Jadeveon Clowney burst into the national consciousness — and Vincent Smith’s recurring nightmares — by nearly decapitating the Michigan running back in the Outback Bowl thanks to the blunt force of his body.
Clowney hasn’t done anything quite as captivating since, unless you have a fetish for high-speed moving violations, but he and the rest of the Gamecock defenders will have ample opportunity in Orlando to hone in on ground-based ball carriers. Wisconsin favors the run by better than a 3:2 margin, with backs Melvin Gordon (1,466 yards), James White (1,337), and Corey Clement (515) powering the Badgers to nine wins in head coach Gary Andersen’s first year. The Gamecocks, on the other hand, have allowed only a single hundred-yard rusher since mid-September, so who’s smashier, d’you reckon?
“Somebody told me the Gators were going to be home, so hopefully we can get some of them to come down here.” pic.twitter.com/NjAvWFaSyG
— Heath Cline (@heathradio) December 12, 2013
The Capital One Bowl kicks off at 1 p.m. ET on January 1, with coverage on ABC.
• Outback Bowl: Iowa vs. no. 16 LSU. If you’re into Goofus-vs.-Gallant duels, here’s a fine one: Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz is the kind of guy you can imagine eschewing deli mustard for plain yellow because he thinks the spicy brown kind is “asking for trouble”; LSU’s Les Miles, meanwhile, is the kind of guy who would stock his backyard lap pool with electric eels because he likes a challenge. What we’re most interested in here is seeing how good Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry can make a new quarterback look, following Zach Mettenberger’s ACL injury, with ample time to prepare. Replacement part Anthony Jennings performed capably in leading a come-from-behind victory against a bad Arkansas team in the regular-season finale, but the Tigers’ burden in Tampa will almost certainly fall mainly on running back Jeremy Hill (the SEC’s second-leading rusher with 1,185 yards and 14 TDs). That’s a sizable burden to be carrying against a Hawkeye run defense allowing just a hair more than 120 yards per game. Still, that’s not quite as sizable as a team dinner at Outback:
— Jared Aarons (@jaredaarons) December 27, 2013
The Outback Bowl kicks off at 1 p.m. ET on January 1, with coverage on ESPN and WatchESPN.
The BCS Games Are Already Upon Us, Speeding the Confrontation of Your Mortality
• Rose Bowl: no. 5 Stanford vs. no. 4 Michigan State. The granddaddy of them all begins, as always, with the granddaddy of all steaks — although what would granddaddy think of participation ribbon culture permeating the Beef Bowl?
Along with red meat, tiaras, and pitched battles waged among Pasadena residents and tourists for parade-day parking, a football game makes up a central component of the Rose Bowl experience. The Spartans and Cardinal arrive at college football’s most special bowl game following a season of bizarro plot twists: Michigan State’s loss to Notre Dame, Stanford’s to Utah, the Spartans’ deliverance of Ohio State’s first loss in two years under Urban Meyer, and the Cardinal’s defeat against USC, which reminds us: Do we owe Ed Orgeron something of a debt of gratitude for sparing an unready Internet the firestorm of bullheaded debate that would ensue with a one-loss SEC champ, a one-loss Big Ten champ, and a one-loss Pac-12 champ vying for one open title game slot?
The 100th Rose Bowl Game will be a picturesque, Red Team–Green Team affair, full to bursting with old-man football, promptly executed. If you get your milk delivered in glass bottles and travel everywhere by bicycle, only you refer to it as a velocipede, this is your game, and you will find much to appreciate on both sides from the likes of Tyler Gaffney, Shayne Skov, Jeremy Langford, and Darqueze Dennard. You may scoff at, but may not discount, the flashy feet of Cardinal return man Ty Montgomery. Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Fantasia is played this day by senior linebacker and team captain Max Bullough, who has been suspended for the Ever-Popular-and-Mysterious Violation of Team Rules.
The Rose Bowl kicks off at 5 p.m. ET on January 1, with coverage on ESPN and WatchESPN.
• Fiesta Bowl: no. 15 UCF vs. no. 6 Baylor. It’s Briles vs. Bortlesball, for all of the Tostitos, and with no offense meant to the very able and delightfully monikered Blake Bortles, just goggle at Baylor’s roster for a little bit and marinate for several tickling moments on the notion of Art Briles with Tevin Reese, Lache Seastrunk, and Glasco Martin returned to his chessboard and a lot of time on his hands in which to scheme against one of the country’s better defenses. We have prepared a moving feelings collage for the occasion:
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The Fiesta Bowl kicks off at 8:30 p.m. ET on January 1, with coverage on ESPN and WatchESPN.