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Dreams For MAC Teams Do Come True

Who'd have thunk Frank Solich and Steve Addazio would be responsible for stoking the fires of hope

I have the seen the light. The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (that is actually the name) showed us that a MAC team can have their one shining moment on the football field.

Watching Ohio’s win over Utah State made me realize two things: my lack of a social life on a Saturday night, and that should have been Ball State.

It was hard to visualize what Ball State missed out on by not going to a bowl game. I saw it once Coach Frank Solich was nervously trying to answer questions in an interview while his players held a Gatorade bucket with his name on it.

The Ohio Bobcats won a bowl game for the first time in school history. They won during primetime TV on ESPN. On a Saturday with little else happening in the world of sports.

Ohio’s win is easy to downplay. The only fans there were the marching band and cheerleaders. The title of “Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Champions” is not something fans can be proud of with a straight face.

For a Ball State fan I am happy to see a MAC school like Ohio and Temple win a bowl game. It is great for the conference especially if it is a win over BCS team (Get it done Western Michigan).

But for Ohio, a team Ball State beat on their field, I felt jealous. I did not think the Cardinals win over the Bobcats was even among its top three performances of the season (Army, Eastern Michigan, Indiana, Ohio in that order) as the offense sputtered in the Ohio game.

Watching Ohio players splash their coach just made me picture Ball State in the same spot. Imagine Sean Baker and Joshua Howard trying to dunk Coach Pete Lembo after an amazing bowl win. Travis Freeman and Briggs Orsbon holding up the trophy while wearing “Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Champions” hats.

Before Ball State fans start spiking the eggnog it’s important to note Ohio threw away the MAC Championship game in the same way Congress trashes tax dollars. They bounced back in a smaller scale of what Ball State did from two years of Stan Parrish. It took Solich seven years to build the program in Athens to where it is now compared to one year for Lembo in Muncie.

I am still in college and I know for a fact that Ball State will win a bowl game in my life time. It may be some crazy sounding title that does not exist yet like the “Waste Management Bowl,” but Ball State will win a bowl game. No matter the name it will be a glorious moment where students, alumni, and random people in Muncie will say “That’s my school.” What Ohio and Temple fans felt Saturday is coming towards Ball State.

For God sakes I hope it is sooner rather than later.

(Note: The first column by Nathan Pace as a staff writer. If they only get better from here we’re all in for a treat – Ed.)

2009… Get Ready for the History Books

Best ever? In the running.

In the words of the Grateful Dead, “What a long strange trip it’s been.” Things lately that are worth talking about…

  • Alabama Brings a Title Back Home: When Nick Saban was hired in 2007, most Crimson Tide fans felt it was only a matter of time until Alabama was celebrating another national championship. The number that thought Saban would do it within 3 years was significantly smaller. Some will say it was a tainted victory as Colt McCoy was injured moments into the contest, but a win is a win, and very few will remember the details like that years into the future. What will be remembered, though, is the fact that Nick Saban has now won 2 titles at 2 different schools and appears on the verge of building a Camelot of his own in Tuscaloosa.
  • Pete Carroll Takes His Show on the Road: In recent years, the closest thing to an Emperor in college football has been Pete Carroll in Los Angeles. With no NFL team in town, a resurgent Trojan program, and recruiting classes that rival some of the best in the history of the sport, Carroll was building a dynasty at USC that was cementing him as one of the best coaches in the game. Now, amid rumors that NCAA sanctions are looming and after arguably one of the most disappointing Trojan campaigns in recent memory, Carroll has bolted for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. Perhaps it was Carroll’s way of leaving before more mediocre years occurred. Perhaps Carroll is attempting to get out of town before the NCAA drops the proverbial hammer on the Trojans for Reggie Bush and apparently Joe McKnight. No matter what the reason, the fact that Carroll is leaving creates one of the most coveted job openings in all of college football, and one can rest assured that the coaching dominoes that for the moment appeared somewhat secure are about to be reshuffled all over again.
  • Tommy Tuberville’s Texas Opportunity: The arguments about whether or not Mike Leach should have actually been fired, whether or not Adam James and his father are telling the truth, and whether or not being placed in a shed is good for your concussion are best left to the legal beagles and such, not smarmy sports blogs. What is certainly open for question though is Tech’s hiring of Tommy Tuberville to build upon the Leach legacy and the program that the crazy pirate rebuilt from the ground up. If I was Tuberville, I would be guardedly optimistic. I have a stable of athletes, I have a great recruiting base, and I have a team that knows what it’s like to win. Unfortunately, I’m in the toughest division of one of the two best conferences in football, I’m second-best in the state I reside in after the Longhorns, and I have an offense built specifically for someone else’s scheme and a defense which leaves much to be desired. I’m sure Tuberville was ready to return, but I cannot believe this is going to be a successful venture.
  • The Bowl Gods Wanted Blood, and Got It: For anyone who thought they knew college football, the 09 Bowl season was clearly an exercise in humility. No conference went undefeated, but none went winless either, proving again that an epidemic of parity is alive and well in college football.

A little later today we’ll have our final polls of the season, our CBS Sports Blogpoll ballot, and the SEC Power Poll. We’ll also have the announcement of the OTP Bowl Challenge Winner, and what they have won… aside from bragging rights. OTP has been on a bit of a break the last couple weeks as we savored not only the Holidays and the time away from things like our actual jobs, but we also wanted to simply enjoy the last few games of 2009’s season. Now that we’ve done that, it’s full steam ahead. We’re a few weeks away from signing day, and that’s when 2010 really begins for us. We need to close out 2009 with things like our Cardinal Senior Sendoffs, the evaluations of our preseason predictions, Edge’s superb stat work, and a look at the things that made 2009 an exciting time. That’s this week… and next week… it’s go time for ’10. Buckle up…

Bowl Pick ‘Em Reminder!

Reminder to all who read here that if you haven’t already entered in the Bowl Pick ‘Em for OTP, then you need to hop this link to do so. The group ID is #6856. You don’t need a password or anything, but be creative with the team name. We like that kind of thing.

If you have already entered, but haven’t filled out your picks yet, you need to do that by Saturday, as that’s the first Bowl. Get ’em in or be mocked and ridiculed.

Champion of the league gets a mini-helmet of the team of their choosing and a $10 Scotty’s Brewhouse gift card. Feel free to take your mini-helmet to the bar with you as you stuff your face with loaded waffle fries and dill chips. Chicks dig mini-helmets almost as much as they dig a man with fingers coated in sour cream and nacho cheese.

Don’t Look Now… Kentucky Matters in Football

You would think that a team that is headed to their 4th consecutive Bowl trip, vying for their 4th consecutive Bowl win, who just clocked their 4th straight winning season wouldn’t need to do any sort of spin job to make people take notice. You would think that the fans of that program would be ecstatic, joyous, and football crazed after so many decades of futility. You would think a program that ranks 7th among the 62 teams with 13 or more Bowl appearances in terms of winning percentage would be the talk of the town. In Kentucky’s case this season, you would think wrong.

Those who don't believe... go stand in the corner

This isn’t the first time we’ve said it, it won’t be the last time we champion it, but the dream that Kentucky fans have had for years is finally coming to fruition, and yet, most in the fanbase approach the football Cats with an apathetic sort of indifference. They will point to the Mississippi State, Tennessee, and South Carolina games as empirical evidence that this team is unworthy of celebration. They will dream of what the record could have been had those three games resulted in Ws instead of Ls, and wistfully long for a 10-2 record instead of the respectable 7-5 that Kentucky ended up. Has Kentucky fans become copies of Notre Dame faithful? Have we forsaken the reasons for celebration in pursuit of the next brass ring, however unattainable it may currently be? Worse yet, have Kentucky fans become Louisville? Most Cardinal faithful sit by and watch their program transition from BCS Bowl penthouse to Big East outhouse in record epic time without so much as a care from the majority of their fanbase. Kentucky is going in the opposite direction, yet the fan result is ultimately the same.

On December 27th, Kentucky will face Clemson in Nashville at the Music City Bowl. Is this a premier Bowl destination? Traditionally, no. But let’s not lose sight of the opportunities this Bowl provides. All year long non-SEC fans have pointed to Kentucky and labeled them a middling mediocre team relegated to the margins in a power conference they do not belong in. In the Music City Bowl, Kentucky can showcase itself against a BCS conference runner up, and while the ACC is hardly the SEC, it is still an automatic qualifier and with several Top 25 programs. Kentucky can showcase its defense, its much maligned defense at times, against one of the most exciting and energizing players in college football in CJ Spiller. Minimizing Spiller will be challenging, but whether or not Kentucky can do it is not the primary question. It is whether or not doing it will matter in the eyes of our SEC peers.

As Kentucky’s 2009 season unfolded, and wins were achieved against Auburn and Georgia on the road, the feeling throughout the SEC blogosphere seemed always poised and ready to take a passing swipe at Kentucky as a fraud. Certainly their failure to beat Tennessee and Mississippi State contributed, but to base a season on two bad games is just as dangerous as basing it off two good ones. Was Kentucky the class of the SEC this season? Of course not. That mantle is reserved for Florida and Alabama. The second tier held for LSU and Ole Miss. It’s that third level, composed of the Tennessees, the Georgias, the South Carolinas and the Auburns that all seem hesitant to welcome any other members into their club. Will a Music City Bowl win change that? I can’t say for sure, but my guess is a resounding no.

So with the blog peers and the rest of college football decidedly content to relegate Kentucky to the Pile-O-Mediocrity, it becomes imperative for the fans of this program to rally. They, and they alone, will be responsible for championing this team, supporting this program, and standing behind the coaching staff that made it all possible. Grumbling about losses while ignoring the monumental wins, complaining about recruiting while forgetting the talent this staff has brought, and losing the current success for potential future bright spots and the hurry to get there is a disservice to the staff, the team, and the coaches that have brought Kentucky back from the ashes. The time to demand excellence will soon be upon us. For now, we should all be content to enjoy Nashville, support these Cats, and celebrate a 4th consecutive Bowl win.

Bowl Swag

Enjoy the Sugar Bowl... have a recliner.

Bowl players and staff get not only the honor and glamor of representing their school in the postseason, they also get a little bit of free stuff to take home with them. This year, is no exception, but it does seem a bit smaller than years past, and frankly, even some of the biggest Bowl games are a little on the cheap side when compared to their counterparts that may not be as prestigious.

For example, the BCS National Championship game featuring Texas and Alabama gives away a $500 Sony gift suite with Trek and Garmin, a Fossil watch, a New Era 59Fifty hat, and a Ogio Politan laptop pack. Not bad, and I guess a matter of personal preference, but the Texas Bowl seems to have much better booty, though the Sugar Bowl’s recliner is up there. The Texas Bowl is giving away a $300 Best Buy gift card, a Fossil watch, an Under Armour shirt and hat, a Bowl T-shirt, and an Under Armour backpack plus a sweet ass belt buckle. Perhaps the Bowls think that the teams in the major Bowls are already getting paid enough by the boosters and friends of the program that no fancy gifts are needed.

The Sports Business Journal has the full list here, and take note of the Hawaii Bowl. All you get is a Hawaiian shirt. I know it’s paradise, and essentially a tropical vacation, but the Alabamas and Texases of the world get Sony gifts while all Nevada and Southern Methodist get is a ridiculous touristy shirt? Awesome. I’m sure the BCS is behind this and further doing this to keep the mid-majors down. Yes… let’s go with that.

(HT: Chris Littman at The Sporting Blog)

This Is Why We Turned Down Boise’s Offer

I remember back in late November, when Ball State allegedly had an offer on the table to travel to Boise, ID and play Boise State in the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl. I also remember writing this. Of particular note…

Financially, the game would be a disaster…

That was my argument against playing in Boise, as it had nothing to do with who or where, but more about how. A program on the ropes against financial stability simply could not afford a Bowl game like Boise was offering. I was scoffed at, said there was no way it would be that bad, and that Ball State, to quote one person, “was making themselves look like bitches”.

So imagine the small sense of smug “I was right” I felt when reading the Wiz’s new column, profiling the epic financial disaster that fellow MAC member Northern Illinois is mired in after their Independence Bowl game against Louisiana Tech. A financial disaster that checks in at right around the $154,000 mark.

When I wrote openly about BSU and Boise, one of the things I noted was all the little trivial stipulations from a Bowl game. There’s the cost of travel for those beyond the team, like the cheerleaders and pep band, equipment travel, etc. It isn’t cheap and it certainly isn’t cheap to a place like Boise, which has some of the most high cost requirements for bowl participation. Of course, most just simply dismissed those out of hand with a “It can’t be THAT expensive!” Well, NIU seems to think otherwise. The biggest reason for the loss? A 10,000 ticket gap in allotment and sold. Which certainly would have happened had BSU headed west.

NIU will have enough funds to cover the costs, but mark my words, and it will be sooner rather than later, teams will begin to choose not to go to Bowl games at all if it comes with a $150k sticker, especially with the state of the economy and the general budgetary shitshows that are higher education budgets. I know there are non-dollar benefits like admissions, alumni support, etc. that come with a Bowl, but I think you’ll find anyone that can make an argument that it’s $150k worth.

Granted, BSU probably played their way out of the Boise game with the MAC Championship bed shatting, but it’s still nice to sit back and say, “I told you so.” So…

At Least Not Many People Saw Ball State’s GMAC Turd

It’s not a secret that BSU laid a giant turd in the GMAC Bowl. The walloping they took at the hands of Tulsa made many ask some pretty valid questions about the Cardinals, the MAC, and their (at the time) 12-1 record. The good news for BSU is that in the grand scheme of the Bowls, not as many people watched that implosion as most of the other Bowl games. The ratings… in pretty chart form!

Of course, had BSU still been undefeated, the ratings would have been significantly higher, but to have a Tulsa-BSU GMAC game finish 7th lowest in the bowl season is a bit surprising. There’s many reasons why that happened, not the least of which includes being on a Tuesday night, on ESPN, etc. Of course a counter argument could be made that it should have drawn considerably higher considering it was the only football game in town that particular night.

In terms of other MAC teams, BSU drew 3rd best out of 5, which is again surprising considering, on paper, this was the best matchup out of all the MAC bids. The highest? Central Michigan’s loss in the Motor City Bowl.

The other piece of good news for the Cardinals is that despite their low ratings against Tulsa, it still was better than the January 08 edition of the GMAC Bowl. This year’s game drew a 70% increase in viewers. That is the 4th highest jump for a Bowl Game in the 08 Bowl season. The rest:

Not surprisingly, the MAC was largely not watched, most notably to the perceived quality of the conference and their less than spectacular matchups across the board. The MAC finished 10th out of 11 as a conference for ratings. The tops? The Big 12.

Ball State has had some success this season on the field, but with it’s continued success in the televisions of homes across the country, this could serve well to get the Cardinals a little more face time with the general population via ESPN. Recruits care about being on television, and at least now there is some tangible evidence that people WILL watch BSU. Of course, just don’t compare those numbers to the rest of college football.

Overall, the Bowls themselves saw a 3% jump in average viewership from last year. When taken into consideration that 2008 had 2 more Bowls on the schedule than last year, that’s great. But while the number of people watching the Orange Bowl and Rose Bowl was high, in comparison to previous years it was not a successful endeavor for either. It was the lowest rated Rose Bowl in 6 years and the lowest in 15 years for the Orange. Ouch.

(Image hat tip to: The Wiz of Odds)

Bowl Pickin’

To spread some love amongst the blogosphere this Holiday Bowl Season, OTP participated in several Bowl Pick ‘Ems spread across all sorts of formats. Some were with fellow BSU fans, others were hosted by sites or people we respect immensely in the blog scene. Here’s how we fared:

Pool: Rocky Top Talk’s
Hosted by: Rocky Top Talk, a fantastic Tennessee site that was one of the first sites on the net to link to us. Joel and crew do a fantastic job on all things blog related, and the team over there are some of the only UT fans we can stomach.
Record: 17-17
Results: 10th out of 47
Thoughts: Lost a 30-pointer on Bama and a 34-pointer on CMU, 25 and 26 on BYU and Troy respecitvely. Serves us right for picking our conference brethren and other mid-majors. RTT used FunOfficePools.com and I like the layout quite a bit.

Pool: BSUFans.com
Hosted by: Uh… bsufans.com
Record: 17-17
Results: 3rd out of 21
Thoughts: Same story as above. And we picked against Kentucky, which means something terrbile karmicly I’m sure.

Pool: Ja’Larry Bird’s Disciples
Hosted by: Clay Travis, who if you’re not reading on a semi-regular basis you are missing out on something. Go now.
Record: 20-14
Results: 58 out of 236
Thoughts: The largest pool we were in. Between Ball State, Troy, Texas Tech, and CMU, we lost 118 points. Thanks, BSU.

Pool: BHGP Championship
Hosted by: BlackHeartGoldPants, one of the funniest college football blogs on the net.
Record: 21-13
Results: 3rd out of 76
Thoughts: Texas Tech, Cincinnati, and Bama all screwed us in this one. This is one we were actually ahead in with 3 games to go.

So two bronze medals for us here at OTP. Huzzah!

Immediate GMAC Bowl Thoughts

Sweet merciful Jesus. I’m not sure that I could have scripted the epic fuckbucket of failure that walked out of the stadium in Mobile, AL tonight. It’s just a few hours old and I’m still a jumbled pile of feeling. Pissed? Sure. Disappointed? Yup. Embarrassed? Absolutely. Feeling like an Ohio State fan? A little.

As I said in our GMAC preview, BSU had to play well enough to win. That sounds simple, and almost too easy to really count as a piece of wisdom, but based on the metric tonnage of sheer awfulness that masqueraded as Ball State Football in the MAC Championship Game, that seemed to be asking a lot. As I sit here after the assthrashing is complete, it apparently was too much to request that Ball State play better than a mediocre 2A Indiana high school team.

Amidst the carnage of this 45-13 beating, Tulsa was able to pretty much do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, and however they wanted. The BSU offense was stagnant, the defense was spectacularly shitty, the special teams were ordinary at best, and perhaps worst of all, this team just seemed eager to quit, shower, and get their asses out of there. Truly a shame.

I’ll have a little bit better perspective tomorrow and an actual breakdown of the game itself, but this team has a lot of soul searching to do before spring practice. If Stan wants this fanbase to support him despite his quick hire, he had best stop getting his ass handed to him and looking totally and completely outcoached. If Nate wants to go to the NFL, then go. But I find it to be no coincidence that as soon as he began to mention the draft he suddenly didn’t have the focus and success that he used to (and for the record, leaving now would be the worst decision possible, regardless of whatever “advice” Nate is getting from his brother Jose).

The bottom line is the clock is already rolling on 2009, and I can only hope that the underclassmen on this team are as upset as I am about ending this season the extraordinarily awful way that they did.

Harsh? Probably. But this team basically told every fan that bothered to watch them that each and every backhanded snide comment made about them was absolutely true. They played a universally regarded “good” team for what some will consider the first time all season and got the shit kicked out of them. Nate Davis fumbled his way right out of guaranteed money in the NFL like the overrated choke artist he was alleged to be. Ball State played like a joke tonight and exactly the way any small time pretender would have. They played like a team that loaded up on soft scheduling and a subpar conference. All the awful bullshit that got spewed all season long just got signed off on and roundly verified through 60 minutes of play that I’m embarrassed to say I witnessed. Congrats, boys, you just confirmed what everyone already thought.

Congrats to Tulsa, they beat our ass tonight.

Cardinal Liveblog: GMAC Bowl Edition

Out here in the fields
I fight for my meals
I get my back into my living

I don’t need to fight
To prove I’m right
I don’t need to be forgiven

Don’t cry
Don’t raise your eye
It’s only Cardinal Liveblog!

Tonight. 7:30 or so. Comment and relish in the Ball State-ness of Tuesday night football. What else are you going to do? Work? Raise a family? Right….