Addressing the Utah situation, OSU's wasted talent and more (cont.)
What coaches elevated their stock the most during the bowl season? I would have to give my vote to Houston Nutt. He may be the best big- game coach not named Carroll.
Nutt would certainly be at the top of my list. It's hard to believe Ole Miss is only a year removed from going 0-8 in the SEC. I knew Ed Orgeron had left a fairly stocked cupboard ripe with potential, but never in a million years would I have guessed before the season that Nutt would beat Florida, LSU and an 11-1 Texas Tech team in a bowl game. Clearly, you can see why Arkansas ran him out of town.
Four others who raised their stock:
Kyle Whittingham, Utah: For whatever reason, it's taken this long for Whittingham to escape from the shadow of Urban Meyer. While Meyer may have recruited QB Brian Johnson, he won four-straight bowl games playing for Whittingham, and this was an entirely Whittingham-coached team that went into the heart of SEC country and dominated the SEC runner-up.
Chip Kelly, Oregon: All indications are that Mike Bellotti will officially give way to his "coach in waiting" this spring, and Kelly seems more than ready. Watching his offense steamroll Oklahoma State with a first-year QB in much the same fashion the Ducks did with Dennis Dixon last year, it's clear Kelly is the primary reason Oregon won 19 games the past two years.
Gary Patterson, TCU: The Horned Frogs have been winning 10 games and going to bowls for years, but for whatever reason people have never really taken notice of Patterson. The Poinsettia Bowl game against Boise State was one of the biggest he's coached in, and fans across the country saw first-hand just how good that TCU defense really is.
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern: The Wildcats ultimately lost in overtime to Missouri, but not before Northwestern's defense -- one of the worst in the country for years prior to this one -- held Chase Daniel to 200 yards passing and three interceptions. I think most people came away from that game realizing the 34-year-old Fitzgerald is starting to get things cooking in Evanston.
Can you tell me why the Fiesta Bowl became one of the "big bowls," while the Cotton Bowl, with much more history (and, previously, prestige), has languished?
Well, the Fiesta Bowl may be younger (started in 1971), but it began gaining prestige well before the advent of the BCS. It launched itself into the upper-tier when it brokered one of the most anticipated games of all time, No. 2 Penn State's upset of No. 1 Miami at the end of the 1986 season. There was no official national-title game then, and because the Fiesta Bowl wasn't obligated to any conference partners like the other major games, it was able to broker a deal to pit the two undefeated independents.
Meanwhile, the Cotton Bowl lost much of its cachet when the Southwest Conference disbanded in 1995. For nearly 60 years, the Cotton Bowl was to the SWC champion (more often than not, Texas) what the Rose Bowl is to the Pac-10 and Big Ten champions. When the SWC got swallowed up by what is now the Big 12, the Fiesta replaced the Cotton in what was then the Bowl Alliance and aligned itself with that league. (Note that this also hurt the Orange Bowl, which for so long had played host to the Big 8 champ -- usually Oklahoma or Nebraska -- but the Orange has been able to maintain its BCS affiliation.)
There's been talk that the Cotton Bowl might be able to elevate its status now that it's moving into the Cowboys' new stadium. That may be true to some degree, but as long as there remains a BCS/non-BCS hierarchy, any bowl outside that alliance is always going to be regarded as "second tier."
What is the difference between the Under Armour All-America Game and the U.S. Army All-American Bowl? Why would a player choose one over the other?
The biggest difference is that one is a three-hour ad for Under Armour, and the other is a three-hour ad for the Army. But basically, the folks at ESPN, clearly miffed that someone else in the sports universe thought of something before they did, started the Under Armour game last year as part of their greater emphasis on recruiting. Now, from what I can tell, organizers for the two (with heavy involvement by their associated recruiting analysts) basically just fight over the various, elite recruits to get them to play in one over the other, much like the shoe companies have long done in basketball with their various camps.
It's sick, it's dirty and I can't even bring myself to watch them.