by John Furgele
It was perhaps the best non-BCS bowl game of the season and the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl, played in San Diego lived up to the hype as #11 Texas Christian beat #9 Boise State 17-16 before a disappointing crowd of 34,628 in San Diego.
TCU (11-2) came in as a slight favorite over the undefeated Boise State Broncos (12-1), who were trying to complete their second perfect season in three years. The game featured hard hitting defense and timely offense and was, “a solid college football game.”
The game was further proof that Boise State belongs in the Mountain West Conference, and pitting the Broncos against MWC heavyweights like Utah, Brigham Young, and TCU, as well as Colorado State, Air Force et al, would not only bolster the best non-BCS conference in the land, but would make Boise State even better than they already are. Boise State is not a one trick pony either. The Bronco basketball team made the NCAA Tournament in 2007-2008.
Notre Dame wore names on the back of the jerseys for the first time since the 1988 Cotton Bowl, and the Irish looked great in the Hawaii Bowl against Hawaii in a 49-21 victory, the first bowl win for Notre Dame since the 1994 Cotton Bowl. There have already been newspaper columns touting Notre Dame as a BCS threat in 2009. Please, let’s wait a minute. This is the same Notre Dame team that couldn’t beat Syracuse at home on Senior Day and couldn’t make a first down until late in the third quarter against USC, so to say that the Irish are on their way is a bit premature. One thing is for certain in 2009 and it’s that there will be no excuses for Charlie Weis and the Irish next fall. Your “young” team will now be a junior and senior laden lineup and if the Irish don’t go 8-4 or better, it will be because of talent, not youth.
The best bowl matchup this weekend will be the Meineke Car Care Bowl, which will pit 8-4 North Carolina against 8-4 West Virginia. Both teams are coming in angry with a lot to prove. North Carolina is rebuilding nicely under Butch Davis and if you told Davis his 2008 Tar Heels would finish the regular season 8-4, he would have secretly signed for it. But, it was the way they finished that probably has him and the team steaming. The Heels started 7-2, then dropped two straight before thumping Duke in their finale. A win here probably gets them thinking of an ACC title in 2009.
As for West Virginia, they were a disappointing 8-4. This was a team that had many starters coming back from a 11-2 team that thumped Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl last January, an Oklahoma team that has been selected to play in the BCS Championship Game this year. The Mountaineers have questions at the “coaching” position, mainly, is career assistant Bill Stewart capable of being a head coach? Star quarterback Pat White is 3-0 in bowl games and he would like to end a frustrating season with a bowl game win. Look for White to tote the ball a ton in a game that has sold out Ericsson Stadium in Charlotte.
Army has hired Rich Ellerson from Cal Poly to be its new head coach. Ellerson took Cal Poly to the NCAA 1-AA playoffs this year and is considered an expert at running the triple option offense that Army wants to keep running, only run it better. This year, Cal Poly played two 1-A opponents and could have won both games. They beat San Diego State 29-27 and in a one point loss at Wisconsin, their kicker missed three extra points and the Mustangs lost 36-35 in overtime. In their 49-35 1-AA playoff loss against Weber State, Cal Poly rushed 52 times for 363 yards, and against Wisconsin, the Mustangs rushed 59 times for 276 yards, a 4.7 yard average.
It’s a good move for Army. The job is not big enough to lure high profile assistants from BCS schools, but has enough of a profile to get top 1-AA coaches who are looking to get a 1-A head coaching job. Paul Johnson is the blueprint. He won at 1-AA Georgia Southern, then moved to Navy and enjoyed success there (running the triple option) and now is leading a 9-3 Georgia Tech team. Army will try this by hiring a successful 1-AA coach and see if he can work some magic at West Point.