Bowl Notes: "No-Win Situations"
by Mike Mitchell
This year's bowl season presents a good number of intriguing matchups but, like every year, it also leaves some teams stuck in 'no-win situations".
To me, such a situation exists when one team has a far superior record than its opponent, or a much higher ranking, or a much loftier national profile.
In my opinion, here are this year's "no-win situations".
The bowl season opens with TCU (10-2) taking on Northern Illinois (7-5) in the Poinsettia Bowl. The Horned Frogs are ranked 13th in the CCR Top 119 while the Huskies clock in at No. 52. A win by TCU over NIU does nothing to prove whether the Horned Frogs do, or don't, belong among the nation's higher-ranked teams. This is clearly a "no-win situation" for TCU.
Conversely, Boise State has an almost "no-lose situation". The undefeated Broncos get to battle a good Oklahoma team in the Fiesta Bowl. If Boise State wins the game, they are a huge winner in the nation's perception. If they lose by less than a couple of touchdowns, they still earn some measure of respect.
The same can not be said for Oklahoma. The Sooners must be looking at this as a game in which they are out to salvage their pride. First, by all right, they feel they are an 11-1 football team and not the 10-2 team printed on their record. The loss at Oregon was, pitifully, a sham propagated by horrible officiating. Now, they face a team that has never played in a major bowl game but is ranked higher than the storied Sooners. Many Oklahoma fans, I'm sure, believe nothing less than a rout is required for them to be satisfied.
Texas is in a "no-win situation in the Alamo Bowl versus Iowa. The Longhorns are 9-3 and a year removed from a BCS title. Back-to-back losses to end the season, to Kansas State (45-42) and Texas A&M (12-7), eliminated them from any chance at a return to the title game. The Hawkeyes are just 6-6, and only managed to go 1-5 in their last six games. Iowa enters the Alamo Bowl on a three-game losing streak.
Iowa, however, has everything to gain. A win would rescue it from a disastrous season and prevent the Hawkeyes from closing the year with a losing record and a four-game losing streak. A loss by any amount of points would shock no one.
Rutgers is faced with a "no-win situation" in the Texas Bowl against Kansas State. To begin with, they have to feel dumped on for getting knocked all the way down to an upstart bowl game after being just one win away from clinching an automatic berth in a BCS bowl. That loss to the Mountaineers dropped the Scarlet Knights from a game that pays roughly $14 million per team, to a game that pays about $750,000 per team. Ouch.
Rutgers enters the game with a 10-2 record and the national Coach of the Year in Greg Schiano. Kansas State enters the game with a first-year coach and a 7-5 record. The Scarlet Knights' goal is to avoid defeat and, if at all possible, win by at least three touchdowns.
Clemson is also in a "no-win situation" in the Music City Bowl against Kentucky, if for no other reason than the double-digit spread that says everyone outside of the Bluegrass State expects a Tiger romp.
South Carolina is in a "no-win situation" against Houston, even though the Cougars are 10-3 and the Gamecocks are just 7-5. It boils down to conference affiliation in this game with the SEC expected to trump CUSA. This isn't the kind of bowl game that Steve Spurrier was used to prepping for at Florida. In fact, he used to poke fun at these "lower level" bowls, especially if Tennessee was in one. (He must be giggling up a storm at the thought of Bobby Bowden coaching Florida State in the Emerald Bowl).
The irony is that these no-win situations provide a great reason to watch these games.