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SMQ Bowl Blitz Viewer's Guide: The Sun Bowl vs. The Music City Bowl

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Yes, one kicks off an hour in front of the other. But you think these previews write themselves? Consolidate or die tryin'.

This odd couple is the first of the slew of games trying to get in before the final weekend of 2006 is consumed entirely with attention to New Year's plans and doctoral theses on pro playoff scenarios. If you're actually free to watch either, note that neither is on the NFL Network: you, the viewing consumer, are confronted with an actual regular season-style choice.

Site Inquisitor: These are the ones located in:

    a) Nashville and Dallas       
    b) Memphis and Dallas
    c) Nashville and El Paso
    d) Detroit and Tampa
    e) None of the Above

If you said c) Nashville and El Paso, you know your bowls, and possibly have a relationship with country music bordering on `unhealthy.'  For SMQ's money, the entirety of required knowledge of either of these destinations is this: in El Paso ("Not Mexico"), for a small fee, one can schedule a "party" with this terrifying yellow thing in a sombrero and sheriff's badge known as Amigo Man (literally, "Friend Man"). Why anyone within 100 miles of the city would not use his lifetime supply of ironic tolerance to take advantage of an absurd monstrosity created specifically for such self-aware goofy yuks, SMQ doesn't know and doesn't want to know, but he is uplifted by its mere existence. Get your beautiful Amigo Man pins here.

The Venues: SMQ will not even pretend the Sun Bowl is not a badass-looking stadium, a raw, rough, wild West sonofabitch of an arena seemingly dug at random into the middle of miles of unbroken terrain with the nation's most obtuse-angled seating, unrelenting mountains towering overhead and, he's just going to assume without screwing up his vision by actually checking, old school, skin-ripping, ACL-shredding Astroturf. Combined with that setting and the game's 70-year-old history, a sponsor most closely associated with use on the diamond-patterned neck wattles of Jack Palance types and the labored "Oh my!" call of whichever decrepit, constipated announcer CBS ships out there, the Sun Bowl's dusty, musty mediocrity just feels like genuine tradition, you know?

[Actually, the crew will be the relatively youthful Craig Bolerjack, Steve Beuerlein and Sam Ryan. The stadium is virtually downtown - ed. Ah. But in my mind, everything in El Paso exists in a Marty Robbins time warp, regardless. I see. - ed.]

Against that venerable tradition is the literally months-old LP Stadium, named for Nashville-based wood building products business Louisiana-Pacific (located neither in Louisiana nor along the Pacific coast), which agreed to pay $30 million in July to stamp its name on the former Adelphia Coliseum - or, since Adelphia Business Solutions filed for bankruptcy, just "The Coliseum," which confused and angered foreigners in futile search of the Roman version in the interim.

What, decks? Sections? The Sun Bowl don't need no stinkin' sections.

Formerly Known As: The first Sun Bowl game in 1935 was played in El Paso High School Stadium by the champion of a likely violent league known as the Border Conference to raise money for the local Kiwanis Club, but didn't pick up its first sponsor, John Hancock Insurance, for half a century. Wells Fargo and now El Paso-based Helen of Troy Limited, under which title sponsor Brut is manufactured, have picked up the tab since. At no point, far as SMQ can tell, has it ever been known as anything other than the Sun Bowl.

The Gaylord (heh) Hotels Music City Bowl presented by Bridgestone has more sponsors than that in its current name alone, which doesn't include its alignments with American General Life and Accident and before catching on with its two current presenters. It has, at least, hung on to the "Music City" designation, for now.

Primal compulsion assures id will watch for...
Missouri and Oregon State combined for 17 wins in relative anonymity, the only opportunity the Beavers had to play in front of the country coming in the wee hours of the trash-strewn finale at Hawaii (seriously, what is going on out there with the litter all over the field? Debris was visible piled up behind the end zones in the Hawaii Bowl, too). Chase Daniel hardly represents the passing threat Colt Brennan did there, but the former's all-purpose abilities and similar talent at spreading the ball around (five players with at least 30 catches, two more with double digits) make the Tigers not much less difficult to defend overall. There's this Yvenson Benard for the Beavers, in search of consecutive 1,300-yard
seasons, but SMQ isn't sold because Benard again averaged under 4.5 per carry (certainly adequate but nothing special) and didn't even play in the team's greatest triumph, against USC, when backup Clinton Polk had exactly 100 on the Trojans in his only start. Overall, it's just an average running game, but Missouri's 60th-ranked run defense can yield to average.

Points seem even more inevitable in Nashville, where everyone's bloodlusty eyes will be tuned to James Davis and OMG C.J. Spiller! in hyperdrive against the 112th-ranked UK run defense, but also where Kentucky's Andre Woodson can make his case as the best quarterback in the SEC - at least one all-conference team has already said "Eri-who? JaMarca-what?" in the big junior's favor after a shocking season in which he essentially doubled his passing yards (from a measley 1,644 to 3,216) and nearly quintupled his touchdowns (6 to 28) in the process of posting seven games with at least three touchdowns and holding interceptions steady (up one in 138 more attempts than `05, from six to seven). At Kentucky, and not from an individual playing for Rich Brooks and named Tim Couch, that's fine work. As important will be the presence of Rafael Little, an injury casualty for much the season who was an all-purpose maniac (185 total yards per game) upon his return in the last three weeks, though, oddly, like Benard for OSU, he didn't play in his team's biggest win, over Georgia.

You don't know this face, but you probably should.

Socially-conscious superego will instinctively resist...
Woodson's merits seem greater when considering he managed seven wins while compensating for the worst BCS conference defense this side of Stanford: 112th vs. the run, 118th vs. the pass and overall, 101st in scoring. Kentucky was fourth nationally in positive turnover margin and still finished 104th in scoring defense, allowing 40 in the eleventh game, a supposed gimme, to UL-Monroe. That is atrocious. And James Davis and C.J. Spiller are, well, not atrocious. And where Woodson's safety is concerned, Clemson is not only a tough pass rushing team with Gaines Adams et al, but pretty good against the pass in general (fourth in pass efficiency D).


...why not start on replacing your Christmas garden additions with a few brither early Spring pastels? Might SMQ recommend Argyranthemums, which are already two shakes from being in season? The lavender Primrose Cyclamen might well remain in bloom on into February, but unless you prefer to lay wood chips as temperatures drop and risk a late start reestablishing those cornerstone annuals, it's certainly best to move on from the holiday motif.

What Else is On
You have no life. But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy these actual non-gridiron alternatives to momentarily fill the void eroding your inner soul:

1 p.m. - Animal Planet - When Animals Talk
Examining methods of communication used by different species of animals, including birds, primates, cetaceans, amphibians and insects. Interviews include primatologist Jane Goodall and dog expert Stanley Coren. 120 mins. TV-G

Featuring the world's first translation of beaver: "Why is everybody always laughing at me?"

1:30 p.m. - Cartoon Network - Squirrel Boy
Trojan Rabbit, Endangered Species Twist: Rodney runs away from home after Archie the pet rabbit proves he's more perfect than Rodney; Rodney takes advantage of everyone when he learns he's an endangered species and must be catered to. 30 mins. TV-Y7

2:30 p.m. - MTV - The Real World
Brooke talks to Davis about her depression and anxiety, and later has a breakdown. In other events, Brooke puts Tyrie in the doghouse, then calls her mom and asks to go home; Colie's diagnosed with mononucleosis, and her housemates worry for their health because they've all either kissed her or shared drinks with her. 30 mins.

3 p.m. - WGN Superstation - America's Funniest Home Videos
A man encounters a hive of bees; a performing dog refuses to cooperate on stage. Also: sports videos set to music; people exhibiting risky behavior who get their just desserts ("Nincompoop Corner"); accidents in slow motion with commentary by host Tom Bergeron. 60 mins. TV-PG.

Subjective Watchability Rating

Click here for the Watchability Scale.

It may or may not ultimately be that close, but for producing a pair of BCS conference winners with intriguing young talent, at least one significant win apiece off-the-charts shootout potential, the Music City Bowl garners three boxes:

Worth an afternoon or evening, if there's nothing better to do, until it gets out of hand.

SMQ is interested in whether Woodson can keep the `Cats in the general vicinity of Clemson, which is only possible if his defensive counterparts play somewhere in the neighborhood of their effort at Tennessee, when UK gave up just 17 and had a chance to win late. Maybe for a half. But Clemson is too good on both sides of the ball (13th total offense, 12th total defense without two borderline star linebackers all season) - how did this team end up 8-4 again? On paper, the Tigers are outstanding. But back in the real world, they're also going to be safest against Kentucky's attack scoring gobs, which with Davis and Spiller shouldn't be a problem. But one never knows, does one? One does not.
Clemson 41, Kentucky 28

And for bringing us two little-seen but productive units that won at least two-thirds of their games, put on admirable showings in their respective conference races and possibly sport rather mysterious stars-in-waiting for giddy offseason speculation, the Sun Bowl earns high marks with four boxes:

Worthy of note, preparation and attention

Tempo will dictate the advantage here, the slow down game being more up Oregon State's alley. Seems odd, maybe, to say that about a PAC Ten team against a bunch of salt-of-the-earth Big Twelvers, but the Beavers are far less married to the spread than Missouri and more comfortable pounding Benard as often as necessary and using controlled passing to Sammie Stroughter and Joe Newton that will serve to keep Daniel at bay and prey - as Texas A&M did against Mizzou while thoroughly dominating time of possession - on turnovers.
Oregon State 30, Missouri 24