2008 Golden Bowl Tournament: Fiesta Bowl and Thoughts on the BCS

If you are going to put value on the idea of a national championship (and honestly, I’ve actually been wondering if we were better off under the old system when we ideally didn’t care about the national championship), wouldn’t you rather have the Golden Bowl over the BCS?

We have four teams with legit claims for the National Championship. So much for the BCS ending national championship uncertainty.

In the Golden Bowl Tournament? In the very first round Utah and USC faced off – in Salt Lake, in snowy, blizzardy conditions – and the Trojans still prevailed. USC then proceeded to shockingly dominate Oklahoma in another road game in the second round.

As for Florida and Texas? They settled their differences ON THE FIELD, in the Sugar Bowl. Now, next week, the two remaining teams – Florida and USC – will settle this once and for all in the Golden Bowl. And this week, I’ll post the final college football rankings. Florida’s #1, and holds one of what’s now two lineal titles, so next week we’ll see if they can claim the Grand Slam. (BCS title, #1 in my rankings, holding any lineal title but preferably Princeton-Yale, and Golden Bowl title.)

But first, we have a Fiesta Bowl to take care of… (I’m wondering if it’s worth it to have this game. The Golden Bowl Tournament already lengthens the regular season, and while I had told myself that as long as I was adding four games for the Golden Bowl participants, there was little reason not to add two more teams in that group, the fact is that it IS one more game and it’s a little masturbatory. On the other hand, if the point of keeping the bowls is because we have 34 winners, not 1, I should give the semifinal losers one more chance to win. I may make a Da Blog Poll on this in the future.)

Fiesta Bowl: #5 Penn State v. #3 Texas
Personally, I don’t think, if you looked at it logically as opposed to looking at the body of work or playing it out on the field, you can even make a case that USC should deserve the national championship ahead of Utah. USC played in too crappy a conference, and even though both games were close home games for the winners, they did lose to a team that lost to Utah the next week.

But USC beat a good team in the Rose Bowl, one good enough to earn a VERY good seed in my tournament, and though it was too little too late, Penn State’s defense – which couldn’t stop Glen Coffee for the first half of the Alabama game, and had even less luck against Joe McKnight – finally found their defense again in the last game. What didn’t work against Mark Sanchez and McKnight, did work against Colt McCoy – and made people reconsider their snap picks for Florida in the Golden Bowl.

For three quarters it was at least plausible that the Longhorns could compete in this game, if practically unlikely. The Nittany Lions bent but didn’t break on defense, and on their first drive, Mickey Shuler caught a screen pass from Daryll Clark and took it 58 yards to the house. Texas managed to get downfield enough for a chipshot field goal on their next drive, but Stephfon Green gets a 73-yard touchdown off a draw on the Lions’ first play from scrimmage.

After that, the Longhorns start buckling down on defense, forcing a punt, but the offense can’t even make it into Lion territory, unlike on all their first-quarter drives. In fact, Texas’ defense outplays Penn State’s in the second quarter, forcing three-and-outs while Texas tacks on another field goal and has another blocked. The Longhorns enter the locker room with confidence.

But Penn State starts getting first downs again, and Texas doesn’t return to Lion territory until a drive that ends the third quarter. The Lions don’t score, but they put the game away in the fourth quarter, starting with a field goal, and preventing Texas from even getting a first down until their last drive of the game. With five minutes left Mack Brown and McCoy are already going for it on fourth down (down only two scores and on their own 23!), giving the Lions good field position to tack on a touchdown. Another fourth-down try leads to a quick touchdown pass to Green, the player of the game for his combined 133 yards running and catching with a touchdown for each, and by the time Texas finally gets a couple of first downs it’s pointless.
Final score: Penn State 31, Texas 6

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