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Bowl Notes, Part 2

by Mike Mitchell
updated 12/7/06

With 64 teams involved in 32 bowl games, you would think that there would be more first-time bowl participants. Middle Tennessee, however, is the only one.

Last season saw four first-timers with Akron, Arkansas State, Central Florida and South Florida. Of that group, only South Florida made it again this year.

The big news of the 2006 season are the teams that made it back to a bowl for the first time in five years or longer. Here are the teams, and the last year they made the postseason:

Rice, 1961
Ohio, 1968
Western Michigan, 1988
San Jose State, 1990
Central Michigan, 1994
Kentucky, 1999
East Carolina, 2001

South Florida and Troy are playing in just their second bowl game. Central Michigan, Northern Illinois and Rutgers are making their third postseason appearance.

Michigan leads the list of teams with consecutive bowl appearances at 32 years. Florida State is second on the list with 25, followed by Florida with 16 and Virginia Tech with 14.

The bowl season kicks off on Tuesday, December 19 with TCU and Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl. The Huskies feature Garrett Wolfe, the nation's leading rusher with 1,900 yards and an average of 158.3 yards per game. The Horned Frogs boast the nation's No. 4 rushing defense, allowing just 67.6 yards per game.

The early bowl games provide an opportunity for a nationwide audience to see teams and players that don't get much exposure.

That's especially true in the second bowl game when BYU meets Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl. Few people east of the Rocky Mountains have seen John Beck who has thrown for 3,510 yards with 30 TD's and just 6 INT's. Behind Beck, the Cougar offense is reminding people of its glory days with Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Ty Detmer and others.

Colt Brennan gets to display his QB skills when Hawaii hosts Arizona State on New Year's Eve in the Hawai'i Bowl. Brennan leads the nation in passing with 4,990 yards and is just one TD shy of tying the single-season touchdown pass record. David Klingler threw 54 with Houston in 1990.

Coaching Moves
I don't profess to know the inside scoop, but I'm having a difficult time understanding why Tom O'Brien would switch jobs from Boston College to N.C. State. Wolfpack officials are reportedly set to confirm an offer and an announcement could come as early as Friday. This seems like, at best, a lateral move. Given the current state of each program, I would even consider the N.C. State job as a step down.

O'Brien is 75-45 in 10 seasons with the Eagles and currently has that school on a 6-game bowl winning streak, best among all 119 Bowl Subdivision Teams. Despite that success, Boston College has unquestionably had a difficult time building a strong fan base. Perhaps, O'Brien just wants to be in the south where college football fans are rabid.

Rich Rodriguez' name pops up more frequently than those arcade rodents in Whack-A-Mole. Alabama is supposedly chasing him with big bucks while Miami Dolphins' head coach Nick Saban reportedly declined to meet with Crimson Tide officials.

Computer Hits and Misses
When UCLA beat USC on the last weekend of the season, it became just the fourth time in 14 years, and the first time since 2001, that the computer did not forecast at least one of the national championship game participants. The Congrove Computer Rankings projected USC and Texas in a BCS Title game rematch.

Still, the computer has predicted the national title match-up three times (1993, 1998 and 2005), and at least one contestant every year except 1994, 1997, 2001 and 2006. The team it picked to win the title did so three times (1993, 1998, and 1999), and lost in the title game four times (2000, 2003, 2004, 2005).

For 2006, it projected the exact regular season record of 7 teams, came within one victory on 30 others, and within two victories on 30 more teams.

The computer correctly picked the winner in 75.7% of all games played in 2006 while beating the spread in just under 52% of the games.

The computer had an .864 winning percentage straight up on WAC teams, but just .398 against the spread. In the Big Ten, it had winning percentages of .835 straight up and .592 against the spread. It had a .676 ATS mark with Independents and a .632 ATS winning percentage with ACC Atlantic teams.

On individual teams, the computer went 13-0 straight up with Louisiana Tech, and 12-0 with Oklahoma. It had just one loss with 21 other teams.

Against the spread, the computer was .500 or better with 75 of the 119 teams. It went 10-1 with Arkansas and Northern Illinois.

The computer's preseason rankings correctly tabbed the winners of the Big Ten, Big 12 North, Big East and PAC-10. Five more conferences or divisions were won by teams that the computer picked to finish second.