Ahh. New Year's Day. The Rose Parade, and then a day of nothing but college football. The best teams in the nation paired up at various bowl games around the country for no real obvious reason. That was the old tradition. The new one created a four-team playoff and kept some of the bigger bowls and their prime matchups. The 'New Year's Six' as ESPN (which has the television rights to all of them) calls them, were all duds. Who knew that the best games of the weekend would be played on January 2?
Of the big half-dozen, three were played on New Year's Eve, and two of those were the playoff semifinal games. The scores were 38-24, 37-17, and 38-0. New Year's morning you had 44-28, followed by a Stanford 45-16 thrashing of Iowa in the Rose Bowl (at least Christian McCaffery was fun to watch, setting all kinds of bowl records) and a 48-20 Sugar Bowl. The first of the six was the closest, and who had Houston beating Florida State? This was also the only time all weekend where there was more than one game on at a time, so you were likely switching back and forth (I was at work). The average margin of victory in the six games was 24 points, and the biggest blowout was Alabama's 38-0 win vs. Michigan State, and the Spartans were ranked third in the country. Borr-ring. 'Bama's lead at halftime was only 10-0, so there was a reason to keep watching before switching to Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin on CNN and watching the ball drop in Times Square.
Football is supposed to be over when you go to bed New Year's Night, but not anymore. Sure, there's the National Championship Game in a week and a half, but January 2 was a Saturday, with plenty of room to squeeze in four more bowl games (there were actually 40 of them this year—something like two-thirds of all college football teams get bowl bids, but that's a topic for another year). Georgia edged out Penn State 24-17 in the TaxSlayer Bowl (not making that name up) and Arkansas provided the only blowout of the day, 45-23 over Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl. Then came the Alamo Bowl, which put all of the New Year's Six to shame. Sure, many TVs changed channels when Oregon led 31-0 at halftime, but TCU came back, tied the game 31-31 at the end of regulation, and won 47-41 in triple overtime. If you hung around after that (I watched college hoops), you saw West Virginia beat Arizona State 43-42!
Next year, New Year's Day is a Sunday, which means the Rose Bowl will be played the following day (originally a Pasadena tradition, but now it would also conflict with the NFL). Good thing, though. At least this time, it seems January second is the best college football day of the year.
And the band played on: If you watched the Rose Bowl, and noticed that ESPN inexplicably pulled away from coverage of the Stanford band during halftime, here's why. While there was nothing obscene, the band, notorious for its irreverence, made fun of opponent Iowa with a fake cow roaming around on the field. The formation was of a sad farmer, and they were playing a jingle from a dating website that caters to single farmers looking for love. An earlier formation depicted a corn maze. Iowa players all have a sticker on their helmets with the initials A.N.F.(for America Needs Farmers). ESPN, likely not exactly sure what was going on and afraid of what might happen next, went to an aerial view of the Rose Bowl, and then pointed the cameras even further away, into the sun and perhaps toward the Pacific Ocean.
Watching the playoffs: The networks that bring you the bulk of the NFL games every week continue to get squeezed from playoff coverage. Last year, ESPN was given a wild-card round playoff game, and this year, not only to they get one, but it will be simulcast on ABC. NBC, home of the weekly Sunday night broadcast, gets two games this year instead of one (one in the divisional round for the first time). That leaves CBS with three playoff games and Fox with two. Also this weekend, both AFC games will be played on Saturday (Kansas City at Houston, 1:20pm PT, ESPN/ABC; Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, 5:15pm PT, CBS), and both NFC games (Seattle at Minnesota, 10am PT, NBC; Green Bay at Washington, 1:40pm, Fox) on Sunday instead of one game from each conference both days. CBS still gets the AFC Championship game and Fox has the NFC. CBS has the Super Bowl this year, February 7 at Santa Clara.
The great outdoors: A crowd of 67,246 in Foxboro, Massachusetts proves that outdoor hockey lives, but it seems the NHL Winter Classic has lost a little bit of luster. The Montreal Canadiens beat the Boston Bruins 5-1, on a pretty normal 40-something degree day. If outdoor games are kept to a minimum, the event will continue to be special, but having about a half-dozen games in football stadiums and ball parks last year was a bit of overkill. However, over nine thousand showed up last month in Sacramento for a minor league game between Stockton and Bakersfield. That game was played after being rained out the previous night.
Waiting for the Hall call: Ken Griffey Junior figures to he a shoe-in for Hall of Fame induction this summer, and speculation ahead of this week's announcement is if he can be the first-ever unanimous selection. He likely won't be, but in his first year of eligibility, could get 99 percent of writers votes. Other interesting players to watch are steroid era superstars Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds, and catcher Mike Piazza, who was close to induction last year . There have been rumors about Piazza and PED use, but nothing more than that. Like Griffey, closer Trevor Hoffman, with over 600 lifetime saves, is in his first year of eligibility. The announcement will be made Wednesday at 3pm PT (on MLB network).
Ballin' old school: Instead of the number one announcing crew of Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas, ESPN went with the venerable Brent Musberger and Dick Vitale in tonight's college basketball showdown between top-ranked Kansas and number two Oklahoma. Vitale mentioned their combined age is 152 and he wasn't exaggerating. Both are 76. And, oh by the way, Kansas won 109-106 in triple overtime.