Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Go to a Bowl Game

Every year at this time, though oddly not in this year for some reason, you hear about some team that went 6-5 or 6-6 and whose fans say, "We should turn down a bowl because we don't deserve one." Rarely does any actual football team agree, and it would be utter foolishness to turn down an opportunity to go to a bowl game.

OK, let's say you're 6-6 and you've been invited to the Independence Bowl to play another 6-6 team. Have you had a great season? Well, no. Is anyone other than your fan base, some die hard conference followers, and the other team's fan base going to be really interested in watching? Probably very few people. Will you really be "salvaging" your season with a win? No. Will a loss, giving you a losing record, make the season an unmitigated disaster? Well, here I think the answer is "not really." The season is already a disaster and a loss in the bowl game won't make a hill of beans of difference.

But a bowl game gives you something. It gives you two weeks of practice, essentially another Spring Practice session. For teams not really playing for very much, this is an excellent opportunity to get young players a lot of reps, which they haven't really gotten since August. This is an excellent building block for the next season.

Back in February, in one of my first ever blog posts, I said of Spring Practice, "It is said that the typical player will make the biggest improvement he will ever make during his first Spring Practice." The bowl practices aren't exactly like Spring Practice, where the previous year's seniors are gone and the team is focused exclusively on trying to prepare for the following season, but it is a nice head start. You have an extra week of practice, so you aren't strictly installing a game plan for the next game like is typical during the season.

When installing a game plan during a game week, a team is pretty much limited to getting its regular rotation of players the practice reps. With an extra week of practice (and especially with a less than colossal matchup) there will be more instruction, more drilling, and more reps for the younger players. This is a valuable asset that non-bowl teams will not get.

It also rewards your players, who get to go to a new city (yay Shreveport!) and get some swag for their season. Granted, Rose Bowl swag is a lot nicer than I-Bowl swag, but hey it's free stuff that you can legally give your players. If you tried to do it without a bowl game, the NCAA would come and kick you in the groin.

It is my recollection, though I haven't actually looked it up, that Notre Dame once declined to go to a bowl game because they did not believe they deserved it. This was utter foolishness and it did nothing but hurt them.

I overheard some talking head saying that a win in a bowl game also gives a team momentum heading into the next season. While this may be true, I am doubtful of this particular alleged benefit. I'm not going to do an exhaustive study on the win percentage of teams that won bowl games last year versus that of teams that lost bowl games versus teams that did not participate in bowl games. Let me just say that in the National Championship game, we have a matchup of a team that won a bowl game versus a team that lost it. In the Rose Bowl we have a bowl winner versus a team that did not go to a bowl game. In the Fiesta, we have a team that won its bowl game versus a team that lost its bowl game.

The 2003 LSU team that won the national championship was coming off a loss in the previous Cotton Bowl (incidentally, our only recent bowl loss). The 2007 LSU team that is playing for the national championship is coming off a bowl win, but Ohio State is coming off a blowout bowl loss. Eh, if there's a correlation, it is not clear to me.

But anyway, if you get invited to a bowl game, be happy and go play it. College football tightly restricts and regulates practice time, and going to a bowl game gives you significantly more of it than you would otherwise have. Take advantage of it.


gerry dorsey said...

some good points...but like everything i say its a case by case basis. i'm looking at an alabama team that will be floundering into their bowl game. that lost their last 4 heading into their bowl game. and they will be doing all of this extra practicing with all of the same players who have developed poor attitudes (this herd will be thinned out) who are not buying into "the saban way." finishing with 5 straight losses and a losing season doesn't benefit much of anyone.

in a vaccuum i would say you are correct, but we are so rarely in a vaccuum.

Poseur said...

Let me add that I absolutely hate anyone who utters this phrase: "there are too many bowl games."

Really? What is the problem with more football games? Bowl games are essentially meaningless exhibitions except for the title game. And I'm supposed to be upset there are still 32 more college football games? Why? I love college football and will watch all 32 of those games becuase it's MORE FOOTBALL.

gerry dorsey said...

there are too many bowl games.

have fun watching florida atlantic/memphis, new mexico/nevada, tulsa/bowling green, and whatever 2 bowls are on the nfl network (i think one of them is okie state/indiana), b/c i'll be doing something else...like catching up on sleep.

ChainWhip said...

Didn't LSU lose to Iowa on a last minute blown coverage in Saban's last game in 2004?

Richard Pittman said...

Yeah, I conveniently forgot that one.

Poseur said...

you call yourself a college football fan? Heck, the biggest duds are probably the BCS games, which look pretty damn uninteresting save WVU v. Oklahoma and maybe VT v. Kansas.

but you're not interested in ASU v. Texas? Indiana going to its first bowl game in 15 years to play a pretty exciting Okie St team? Penn St trying to salvage Big Ten pride against A&M? Upstart UCF against Miss St? these are fun games. Heck, Utah-Navy should be a blast.

ALL bowl games are meaningless except one. Every single one. But the chance to get more football is great. I'm a football fan. I like watching football. Will there be duds? Sure. Just like any weekend of football. But there will be unexpected great games as well.

BTW - you should watch Tulsa v. Bowling Green. neither team can play defense, both have pretty good QB's, and it should be an incredible shootout. It might be the most entertaining game of the bowl season. Seriously. I'm looking forward to that one just as a fun game to watch. Don't be such a stick in the mud. Football is supposed to be fun. It's not my fault Bama is depressing.

gerry dorsey said...

well since you apparently completely ignored about half of my comment...i plan on watching most of the games you mentioned. i probably won't watch utah/navy, just like i didn't watch army/navy. i used that time to get shit done so i could watch quality football later in the day. and i won't be watching the okie st/indiana b/c i don't get the nfl network. i don't not watch certain games b/c they are meaningless, but b/c they are subpar football.

and i'm not depressed at all, much less about bama football. a 2 loss national champion is a little depressing. i would also be depressed if i had so little going on in my life that i watched every single one of these bowl games.

Poseur said...

You mentioned four games as unwatchable. At least 3 of them have interesting subplots or should be a fun game.

Indiana-Okie St has IU's return to bowl eligibility for the first time in 15 years. OSU is a fun team to watch anyway.

FAU-Memphis won't be the greatest game ever but I am curious to see FAU, a team I've never seen before and has never been to a bowl game.

Tulsa-BGSU should be a fun shootout and I'll certainly watch that. I'm looking forward to it, actually.

Admittedly, Nevada-NMU looks to be a snoozer. As does ECU-Boise St. And the potential gut stomping of Oregon St-Maryland (but who knows?)

So I didn't ignore the second half of your comment. In fact, I even addressed one of the games you dismissed as not worth watching as a specific game I was looking forward to.

So, I'll say it again. Stop being a stick in the mud. Bowl games are fun. It's free football.

gerry dorsey said...

you're right. i'm sure the ratings and attendance of these games will be through the roof.

i'll tell you what. you watch these craptastic bowls, come on here and blog about it, i'll read it (or maybe not) to find out what happened, and everyone's happy.