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Monday Grab Bag

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No, no, not again. The worst result of last year's mythical championship game was the growth and perpetuation of this absurd notion of superior "SEC speed," based not on the collective 40 times and shuttle drills of hundreds of players on a couple dozen teams that make up the SEC and Big Ten, but on a handful of plays in a single game that was decidedly outside the season-long patterns of both participants, and not demonstrably decided by "speed" (unless you're willing to suggest Tennessee and Arkansas were done in a week earlier by "speed," too, which was at least as plausible). These conferences need to play more often.

Anyway, then, the foolish geographical chest-thumping only lasted a few days before the onset of the offseason relegated it to the safe obscurity of message boards and occasional comment thread. This time, do not expect the partisan sons of the South to fall quiet at any point over the next month prior to the Buckeyes' "rematch" (ugh) with LSU; for a sampling of the inane vitriol to come, check this comment thread, or any SEC board, or let the usually sage Gator fans at Saurian Sagacity sum it up in a series of smug that doesn't even apply to their own team:

Ohio State? Tiger Bait.
Congrats to the Bayou Bengals on their bid to the BCS Championship game. Maybe next year we'll get to see OSU get trounced by a third SEC team but I'd prefer it to be the Gators again.

A Friendly Wager
Since Ohio State is to go from "Gator-Bait" to "Ti-Gah Bait" in only 1 year's time, here is a little friendly bet for our conference mates - can you beat the Buckeyes worse than we did?

The "line" is 27 points. We know LSU is going to win - but can the Tigers top a 27 point margin?

Taking all wagers.

Fun Fact: No SEC team has EVER lost a BCS Title game, the only conference undefeated in BCS title play.
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Wow, that 3-0 record truly shames them all.


If Ohio State wins, I'm sure we'll be reminded of "Big Ten Brains."
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One would think the false sense of inevitability that followed Ohio State prior to last year's championship (or USC the year before that, or that very, very fast Miami team in 2002, or, I don't know, LSU, Ohio State, West Virginia, USC, Oregon, Michigan, Oklahoma, California, Florida or LSU again prior to stunning upsets over the last three months) would demonstrate the virtues of humility to fans everywhere, and lead them to stop for a second to recognize - last year's anomalous championship beatdown is a great example of this - that anything can happen in one game, on one night, and "anything" will not necessarily reconcile itself with the accumulation of disparate performances that precedes it. It only adds to the accumulation; it doesn't define it. Based on everything we know from the dozen "samples" on both sides leading up to last January, that Florida team couldn't beat that Ohio State team by 27 points again in a whole season of trying. There's a reason the Gators were underdogs, and it's not because they kept the fast guys under wraps when squeaking out wins against South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

Based on everything we know from both teams' performances this season, Ohio State and LSU should be a close, hard-hitting game between two of the few teams that still operate largely from traditional two-back sets on offense and do not hesitate to run old-fashioned isos, counters and traps into the line. It's an interesting collision of style and persona between loose cannon Les Miles and icy, understated mercenary Jim Tressel, and their emphases on emotion, "poise" (as Miles likes to repeat to his oft-flagged charges) and discipline. But it will be decided by the side that executes and catches the right breaks under the specific set of circumstances that unfold on Jan. 7, at which point, of course, that team will be instantly refashioned into gold-drenched superheroes with inherent abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Naturally: We are the champions! These are the myths we make.

But the athletes, the speed, all of that is a given. LSU and Ohio State have both turned in top ten recrutiting classes each of the last four seasons. They've all got the athletes. They've all got the speed. The differences in raw talent on this level are nil. This championship, like all championships, will be about combining management, strategy and execution in the moment, and probably a bounce or timely flag or two. Not as catchy as "SEC Speed," but anything more precise than wrongheaded, bumper sticker hubris rarely is.

The White Whale on D-Day. The fight has been a long one, comrades, a hard, bitter struggle through much difficulty, hardship and oppression, but a press conference is scheduled later today in Westwood that should officially seal the fate of Karl Dorrell as head coach at UCLA, and thus validate the Quixotic journey that has defined the daily, single-minded obsession of Bruins Nation for years. The L.A. Times reports the university is already searching for Dorrell's successor:

The search for a new UCLA football coach has begun, even as current Coach Karl Dorrell awaits his fate.

Dorrell will be fired and a short list of candidates has been assembled, sources familiar with the athletic department said Sunday.

Boise State Coach Chris Petersen is said to be the first choice of Athletic Director Dan Guerrero, with Texas Tech Coach Mike Leach and former NFL coach Steve Mariucci considered among the other top candidates. Representatives on behalf of the UCLA athletic department have contacted all three, multiple sources said.

Former Washington and Colorado coach Rick Neuheisel will not be considered for the job, according to one of the sources.
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Well, no Neuheisel, but Mike Leach in Hollywood? Yes, please. Leach's teams in dusty, mud-rain-drenched outpost Lubbock have been better every season than Dorrell's Bruins, and vastly more exciting despite less overall talent and less exposure in the middle of the Big 12 South.


You'll get `em at the next job, coach.
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I'm a little worried about Nestor and his boys at BN, though, who have poured so much time, energy and bandwidth into getting Dorrell fired that, with the moment of blissful truth finally upon them, they find the future without their nemesis empty and devoid of meaning. They like Peterson, Mariucci and Leach there. What are they going to write about and bump from the diaries if not venomous (yet usually very true) rants exposing the Doofus for the milquetoast underachiever he is? Be careful what you wish for, BN...

New Mexico Bowl for the New Mexicans! For the second straight year, the second year of the game's existence, the New Mexico Bowl has tabbed - surprise! - New Mexico as one of its participants, this time to face 6-6 Nevada, which almost beat both Boise State and Hawaii in WAC play, falling to both on the last play of the game.

This is just one of the things I learned from perusing the complete bowl schedule. Other amazing insights:

• The PapaJohn's.com Bowl - it's not sponsored by the pizza company, but the Web site of the pizza company - features possibly the most lopsided matchup in postseason history, according to Jeff Sagarin, who ranks 9-3 Cincinnati  13th in his PREDICTOR ratings. The Bearcats' opponent, my beloved Southern Miss, comes in at 84th, below I-AA Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois, Richmond, Delaware, Appalachian State and Massachusetts.

• The Motor City Bowl sets up a much-anticipate rematch of Purdue and new MAC champion Central Michigan, which lost by 23 points in West Lafayette in September after allowing 24 and more than 300 yards total offense to the Boilermakers in the first quarter.

• Boise State loses the WAC championship in a hostile environment in Hawaii...and gets to go back to Hawaii, to play East Carolina in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. The Pirates will be traveling about one-fifth of the entire circumference of the Earth.

• The two best pre-New Year's Day games, as usual, will be the Holiday, matching Texas and Arizona State, and the Peach Chick-Fil-A, between Auburn and Clemson. I can't think of a better bowl pairing: Atlanta is equidistant between Auburn and Clemson, and it had better stock up on the orange Tiger gear.

• Who's excited for 6-6 Colorado and 6-6 Alabama in the Independence Bowl? Nothing says "reward for a mediocre season" like dodging bullets in the cold on the way to the crumbling stadium off I-10 I-20 in beautiful Shreveport, especially for Tide fans, because they were just there last year!

• Wake Forest meets this year's Wake Forest, UConn, in the CarCare Bowl. Neither team will actually score - they'll just wait for the other side to turn it over in opportune field position. Prediction: a scoreless tie in regulation followed by a 33-30 Wake win in eleven overtimes, all ending in field goals.

• The Sun Bowl pits South Florida against Oregon in a sea of hideous green that seemed a lot more appealing a month ago.

• Best team not in a bowl: Troy. The Trojans entered Saturday's de facto Sun Belt championship game against Florida Atlantic at 8-3, having beaten Oklahoma State and the entire Sun Belt and only lost to SEC powers Florida, Arkansas and Georgia. But Howard Schnellenberger's FAU Owls pulled out the road upset and the automatic bid to the New Orleans Bowl, where they'll play Memphis in the first postseason game in school history on Dec. 21 while Troy stews in the snub.