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2011 Bowl Notes and Facts

Computer says 23-of-35 games to be decided by less than a TD

by Dave Congrove
December 13, 2011 (Updated 12/14/11)

The 2011 bowl season presents 35 games over a 24-day period stretching from Saturday, December 17 through Monday, January 9. And according to the computer (Congrove Computer Rankings) 23 of those contests will be decided by a touchdown or less. When it comes time for the crown jewel, known as the BCS Championship game, the computer projects LSU as a 4.16-point winner over Alabama. No matter which teams wins that game, the SEC is guaranteed to secure its 6th straight national title.

PREVIEWING THE EARLY BOWLS:
The bowl season kicks off with a triple-header this Saturday (December 17) on ESPN. Unfortunately, two of those games have two of the computer's eight widest anticipated margins of victory. Temple is favored by 10.92 over Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl, and San Diego State is a 9.46-point computer pick over Louisiana-Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl. In between those games, Utah State is this season's tightest forecasted winner with just an 0.11-point cushion over Ohio University in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, formerly the Humanitarian Bowl.

Louisiana-Lafayette is one of this season's biggest bowl success stories. The Ragin' Cajuns are making their first-ever bowl trip after virtually every preseason prognosticator had them pegged to finish last in the SUn Belt. Instead, they finished 3rd with records of 8-4 overall and 67-2 in the conference for their best finish since going 8-3 in 1993.

After a two-day absence of games, the bowl season resumes on Tuesday, December 20 when FIU makes its second consecutive bowl appearance as a 5.61-point choice over Marshall in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Golden Panthers were surprising 34-32 winners over Toledo last year in their debut.

The next night highlights a pair of outright champions from non-automatic BCS qualifier conferences as perennial Mountain West champ TCU takes on unexpected WAC titleholder Louisiana Tech in the Poinsettia Bowl. TCU captured its third straight undefeated MWC title in its final year in the conference as it moves to the Big East - no, wait - Big 12 next season. Louisiana Tech last won the WAC in 2001, but did so this year under second-year head coach Sonny Dykes.

TCU came within two BCS spots in the rankings of capturing a second straight BCS bowl bid. The Horned Frogs were the highest-ranked champions of a non-automatic qualifier conference but only finished 18th in the final BCS Standings. The defending Rose Bowl champions needed to be ranked at least 16th to gain automatic entry.

The last 8 Mountain West champions have gone through their respective conference schedules unscathed and there haven't been co-champions of the league since its first year of existence in 1999 when BYU, Colorado State and Utah shared the crown.

The WAC title was somewhat up for grabs after Boise State's defection to the Mountain West, which didn't work out too well for the Broncos. Boise State is relegated to the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas for the second straight season, thanks to a 1-point home loss to TCU on a missed field goal. The situation was eerily similar to its 2010 demise at Nevada. This year's loss ultimately cost the Broncos the MWC title and a BCS bid. It also ended several ridiculous winning streaks such as 35 home wins, 65 regular season home wins, and 47 conference home victories. As a member of the WAC from 2001-2010, Boise State was 40-0 in home conference games and had not lost on the blue turf to a conference foe since a 1998 season-ending loss to state rival Idaho as a member of the Big West.

Boise State (11-1) will face a 6-6 Arizona State team that will be playing its last game with Dennis Erickson as head coach. The Broncos are a whopping 16.03-point favorite in the December 21st contest, representing the computer's second-highest forecasted winning margin of the 2011 bowl season.

COMPUTER SUCCESS:
The computer's preseason rankings correctly tabbed the winners of the Big East (West Virginia) and PAC-12 (Oregon). It also nailed the division-winners of the ACC Coastal (Virginia Tech), Big Ten Leaders (Wisconsin), C-USA East (Southern Miss) and PAC-12 North. And it correctly picked BYU as the top Independent, though it had the Cougars and Notre Dame each going 11-1.

The rankings pegged the exact final record of 11 teams before a single snap was taken. It missed by just one win or loss on 37 other teams, and two wins or losses on 30 more teams. That means it came within two wins or losses on 65 percent of the 120 FBS teams.

This year was the toughest-ever for preseason forecasting conference champions and division-winners. None of the major magazines or websites picked Clemson to win the ACC, Oklahoma State to take the Big 12, TCU to win the Mountain West, Arkansas State to win the Sun Belt, or Louisiana Tech to take the WAC. And only The Sporting News picked LSU to win the SEC while everyone else, including the Congrove Computer Rankings, picked Alabama. (source: Stassen.com).

BOWLS CUT IT CLOSE - AGAIN:
When bowl selection time came around only 72 teams were available to fill 70 bowl slots - same as last season. Western Kentucky (7-5) and Ball State (6-6) were the only schools left out this year after Western Michigan and Temple were omitted last year. UCLA was granted a waiver to get in with a 6-7 record due to its 7th loss occurring in the PAC-12 Championship game.

Miami, Fla. was eligible but took itself out of the running due the ongoing NCAA investigation into problems stemming from its association with convicted ponzi scheme felon Nevin Shapiro. And Southern California is serving out the final year of its NCAA-imposed bowl ban.

BOWL FACTS:
New Names
Meineke Car Care switches its sponsorship from Charlotte to Houston. As a result, the "Meineke Car Care Bowl" becomes the "Belk Bowl", and the "Texas Bowl" becomes the "Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas".

The "Humanitarian Bowl" in Boise becomes the "Famous Idaho Potato Bowl".

Bowl First-Timers
Louisiana-Lafayette is the only school making its very first bowl appearance. The Ragin' Cajuns have been a 1-A or FBS member since 1973.

The proliferation of bowl games over the last several years has made it easier for teams to achieve bowl eligibility and five of the last six seasons have seen one team break through. FIU did so last year (Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl), Buffalo in 2008 (International Bowl), FAU in 2007 (Motor City Bowl), and Middle Tennessee in 2006 (New Orleans Bowl).

2 Who Have Never Been
These teams have never played in a major college bowl game:
Louisiana-Monroe
Western Kentucky

First Time In A Long Time
Of the teams that made it this year, these had the longest wait to get back to a bowl game:
Utah State, 1997 (hasn't won a bowl game since 1993)
Arkansas State, 2005 (has never won a bowl game)
Virginia, 2007 (hasn't won a bowl game since 2005)

Waiting To Return
These teams have the longest continuing current streaks of bowl absence:
New Mexico State, 1960
Kent State, 1972
Eastern Michigan, 1987
Duke, 1995

Bowl Appearance Streak
These teams have the longest continuing current streaks of bowl appearances:
Florida State, 30
Florida, 21
Virginia Tech, 19
Georgia, 15
Georgia Tech, 15

Bowl Winning Streak
These teams have the most consecutive bowl victories (last season of a bowl loss in parenthesis):
Auburn, 4 (2005)
Mississippi, 4 (2000)
Mississippi State, 4 (1998)
Rutgers, 4 (2005)
USC, 4 (2005)

Note: Utah had its 9-bowl winning streak snapped with a 26-3 loss to Boise State in last season's MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. That was the longest such streak in the nation at the time.

Georgia had its 4-bowl winning streak snapped with a 10-6 loss to UCF in last season's Liberty Bowl.

Bowl Losing Streak
These teams have the most consecutive bowl losses (last season of a bowl win in parenthesis):
Northwestern, 8 (1948)
Georgia Tech, 6 (2004)
Ball State, 5 (Never)
Michigan State, 5 (2001)
Ohio, 5 (Never)
Texas A&M, 5 (2001)
UTEP, 5 (1967)
Minnesota, 4 (2004)
Western Michigan, 4 (Never)

Note: Nevada snapped its 4-bowl losing streak with a 20-13 win over Boston College in last season's Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. It was Nevada's first bowl win since 2005. The Wolf Pack was the only team last season to snap a bowl losing streak of 4 games or longer.

Bowl Winless (at least 1 appearance)
Ball State, 0-5
Ohio, 0-5
Western Michigan, 0-4
Akron, 0-1
Arkansas State, 0-1
Buffalo, 0-1
Kent State, 0-1
UAB, 0-1

Note: UCF was 0-3 before defeating Georgia 10-6 in last season's Liberty Bowl.

Best Bowl Winning Percentage
(Minimum 20 appearances. Source: College Football Data Warehouse)

USC, .667 (32-16)
Penn State, .651 (27-14-2)
Mississippi, .636 (21-12)
Oklahoma State, .619 (13-8)
Florida State, .615 (23-14-2)
Auburn, .611 (21-13-2)
Oklahoma, .602 (26-17-1)
Georgia, .598 (26-17-3)
Alabama, .595 (33-22-3)
Boston College, .591 (13-9)

Most Bowl Wins
Alabama, 33
Southern Cal, 32
Penn State, 27
Georgia, 26
Oklahoma, 26
Tennessee, 25
Texas, 25
Nebraska, 24
Florida State, 23
Georgia Tech, 22
LSU, 22
Auburn, 21
Mississippi, 21
Ohio State, 20

FBS vs. FCS:
All of the FBS-FCS games have been played and FBS teams finished the season 91-6 (.938) to raise their record to 638-55 (.921) vs. the FCS since 2003.

Here are the results of the FBS losses to FCS schools this season:
9/24: North Dakota St. 37, Minnesota 24
9/24: Sam Houston State 48, New Mexico 45 (OT)
9/24: Southern Utah41, UNLV 16
9/17: Indiana State 44, Western Kentucky 16
9/3: Richmond 23, Duke 21
9/3: Sacramento State 29, Oregon State 28

93 FBS teams played at least one FCS foe this year and four of those schools played two such games - Air Force, Eastern Michigan, N.C. State and Wyoming.

STREAKS:
LSU - 14 straight wins overall and 17 straight home wins. The Tigers face Alabama in the BCS Championship game in New Orleans on January 9.

Arkansas State - 9 straight wins overall and 8 straight conference wins. The Red Wolves play Northern Illinois in the GoDaddy.com Bowl on January 8 in Mobile, Alabama.

Northern Illinois - 8 straight wins overall, 8 straight conference wins and 15 straight home wins. The Huskies play Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl on January 8 in Mobile, Alabama.

TCU - 24 straight conference wins. The Horned Frogs play Louisiana Tech in the Poinsettia Bowl on December 21 in San Diego.

Virginia Tech - 13 straight wins in true road games (at opponents' venue). The Hokies face Michigan on January 3 in the Sugar Bowl.

Kansas - 10 straight losses overall. The have completed their season.

Tulane - 10 straight losses overall. The Green Wave have completed their season.

New Mexico - 21 straight road losses. The Lobos have completed their season.

Mississippi - 14 straight conference losses. The Rebels have completed their season.

WHO'S COACHING WHO?:
The coaching carousel may turn out a record year for changes at the top. Many teams will be led in the bowl season by an interim head coach. North Carolina and Ohio State will be led by coaches who spent the entire 2011 season with "interim" preceding their title and now find thermselves as lame ducks. Arizona State and Southern Miss will simply be led by lame duck head coaches. Here's the list of who's coaching who at the schools where changes have been announced: ("i" denotes "interim")

Arizona State - Dennis Erickson
Arkansas State - (i) David Gunn, offensive coordinator
Houston - (i) Tony Levine, assistant head coach
Illinois - (i) Vic Koenning, defensive coordinator
North Carolina - (i) Everett Withers, interim head coach for the entire season
Ohio State - (i) Luke Fickell, interim head coach for the entire season
Penn State - (i) Tom Bradley, interim head coach since November 9
Pittsburgh - (i) Keith Patterson, defensive coordinator
Southern Miss - Larry Fedora
Texas A&M - (i) Tim DeRuyter, defensive coordinator
Toledo - Matt Campbell, promoted from offensive coordinator
UCLA - (i) Mike Johnson, offensive coordinator

For a complete and up-to-date list of coaching changes, go to Coaching Changes.



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