The 2001 bowl season is finally upon us, and with less than one week until the first game begins, it's time to take a look at what this season brought us and what we have to look forward to in the next month or so. But before we move on, I want to again thank those of you who participated in this year's College Football Pick 'Em Contest, especially those of you picked the games each and every week. If you did not get a chance to play, I hope you will be involved in future contests on Jonathan's College Sports Website.SURPRISE, SURPRISE
Several college football teams surprised the nation in 2001. These teams were not expected to compete at the level they did and win as many games as they did. This award could go to any of the following teams: Maryland, Washington State, Fresno State, Colorado, or Illinois. Maryland was able to win the ACC in their first year under head coach Ralph Friedgen. The Cougars of Washington State were right there in the PAC-10 race until the final weeks of the season before falling to rival Washington and finishing the regular season with a 9-2 record. Fresno State looked for about two months as if they would be a BCS contender before falling to Boise State and Hawaii back-to-back, although QB David Carr was impressive throughout the season. Colorado missed the Rose Bowl by .05 points, finishing with a 10-2 record and Big XII Championship. Illinois finished the season with a 10-1 record and won the Big Ten over Michigan behind the solid QB play of Kurt Kitner. My vote for the 2001 surprise team would go to Maryland.
North Texas is going bowling in the first ever New Orleans Bowl. That wouldn't be such a problem except for the fact that they finished the season with a 5-6 record. Middle Tennessee, who finished tied with North Texas for the Sun Belt championship, has an 8-3 record but is sitting at home for the holidays. The Blue Raiders only conference loss was to North Texas, but that was enough to keep them at home this year. Now North Texas must play the Colorado State Rams in 2001's first bowl game. Ssomething tells me we won't see the fantastic finish for the year's first bowl game like we saw last year when Southern Miss beat TCU in the final minute on a long TD pass.
Which conference was the best this season? Well, it depends who you ask. And since you asked me, I'll tell you. In 2001, the Big XII was obviously the nation's top conference. There were four very for-real teams from the Big XII this year: Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas. Backed up by teams like Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Iowa State, and Kansas State, there weren't many off weeks in this conference. The PAC-10 and SEC were a tie for second place. The PAC-10 had a nice group of good teams: Oregon, Washington, Washington State, Stanford, and UCLA (for half the season). Southern Cal, Arizona, Arizona State, and Oregon State were good every now and then. The SEC had good teams like Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, LSU, and Auburn. Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama were good at times and dreadful at times. The Big Ten was way down this year, but the conference was still fairly competitive. The ACC went to the next-to-last weekend when Maryland beat NC State to win the title, and it was nice to see somebody besides Florida State win the conference. The Big East was dominated by Miami, although Syracuse had a chance to win if they had beaten Miami (though Miami pounded them by more than fifty points). C-USA was not as good as I expected, but the race was still decent. The WAC was carried by Louisiana Tech and Fresno State, while BYU dominated the Mountain West Conference. The second or third best team from the Sun Belt won the conference, and Middle Tennessee is suffering because of it (although they're to blame for slipping up against NTU).
As I said earlier, the bowl season is upon us. It's time to take a look at which bowl
games you'll want to check out and which ones you'd just as well miss (well maybe not
miss, because as that ESPN commercial says, it's the best time of the year). So here's a
look at the bowls, from 25-1, least entertaining to most exciting:
(25) New Orleans (North Texas vs Colorado State) -- Nothing like starting it off with a bang!
(24) Motor City (Toledo vs Cincinnati) -- The battle between the two Ohio schools won't mean much outside of that state.
(23) Las Vegas (Utah vs Southern Cal) -- This one is one Christmas day so who's going to be watching that close anyway?
(22) Alamo (Texas Tech vs Iowa) -- There will be some points scored in this one, but neither one of these teams are exactly fan favorites.
(21) Insight.com (Kansas State vs Syracuse) -- KSU has had a bummer season and Syracuse has quietly had a good season; makes for a dismal game.
(20) Independence (Alabama vs Iowa State) -- ISU is bowling again while Bama sneaked in, only problem is, they sneaked in to the beautiful metropolis of Shreveport.
(19) Humanitarian (Louisiana Tech vs Clemson) -- Clemson had a disappointing season, and they're playing the Bulldogs of LATech.
(18) Tangerine (NC State vs Pittsburgh) -- This is this bowl's first year, and they have a decent matchup to start with.
(17) GMAC Mobile (East Carolina vs Marshall) -- This should be another exciting game between two good QB's, but it doesn't compare with the big guys of college football.
(16) Peach (North Carolina vs Auburn) -- Both of these teams played really well in the middle of the season but fell of towards the end.
(15) Outback (South Carolina vs Ohio State) -- What's more boring than the same two teams in the same bowl for the second year in a row?
(14) Jeep Seattle (Stanford vs Georgia Tech) -- GT was a disappointment in 2001 while Stanford was probably a surprise to most; good cross-country matchup.
(13) GalleryFurniture.com (TCU vs Texas A&M) -- TCU proved something by beating SoMiss, and if they knock off in-state rival A&M, they'll finish 2001 with a bang.
(12) Silicon Valley (Fresno State vs Michigan State) -- FSU has one more chance to prove itself against a big-name opponent, this time MSU, who got here as an at-large.
(11) Sun (Purdue vs Washington State) -- Purdue has been overrated all year while WSU was underrated this year. They meet in El Paso.
(10) Music City (Georgia vs Boston College) -- Both of these teams played very well at times this season and provide a good East Coast matchup.
(9) Citrus (Michigan vs Tennessee) -- You would expect more from these two teams, but personally, I don't look forward to this game all that much.
(8) Gator (Virginia Tech vs Florida State) -- A rematch of the 1999 Sugar Bowl but not as anticipated as that game.
(7) Holiday (Washington vs Texas) -- Two traditional powers matchup in a game that should be very entertaining.
(6) Cotton (Arkansas vs Oklahoma) -- Arkansas's defense always keeps them in the game although OU should win this game.
(5) Liberty (BYU vs Louisville) -- If you like points, don't miss this one. 100 points is not anywhere close to impossible when you're looking at these two offenses.
(4) Orange (Florida vs Maryland) -- Maryland has been doing it all year, but this may be their biggest challenge, playing the Gators and Spurrier.
(3) Sugar (LSU vs Illinois) -- The Tigers have come on strong at the end, while Illinois and Kurt Kitner have played well all year.
(2) Fiesta (Colorado vs Oregon) -- These two teams just missed on the Rose Bowl and will provide an awesome game for New Year's Day.
(1) Rose (Nebraska vs Miami) -- The Fiesta should probably be here, but hey, this is the national championship game, and everybody will be watching!
Yeah, college basketball has begun, and the conference openers are less than one
month away. Before you know it, March Madness will be here! Best time of the year in
my opinion, especially those first two days of the first round. There's not much you can
tell from the season yet, but so far, Division I-A has twelve undefeated teams: Duke (8-0),
Marquette (9-0), Virginia (5-0), *Miami (8-0), Missouri (9-0), *Boston College (7-0),
Oklahoma State (9-0), Butler (8-0), *Ohio State (5-0), *Nebraska (6-0), St. Francis (NY)
(5-0), Mississippi State (8-0), and College of Charleston (4-0). The teams marked with a
(*) are having really good months because their football teams are also going bowling.