College Football Bowl Season: Three Things That Mattered From Day One

    What mattered in Day One of the college football bowl season? Louisiana Tech's Kenneth Dixon, the 5-7 team, and the great overall first day.

    December 20, 2015

    What three things – and more – mattered in Day One of the college football bowl season? Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Dixon, the 5-7 team, and the great overall first day.

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    Just Enjoy These Early Bowls For What They Are

    Don’t pretend the early bowl games are going to change the world. There’s no real meaning in these games for next year – these bowls are all self-contained entities. Just say, “thank you, Opening Day,” and go on your way.

    Last year the bowl season started out with a brutal run of yuck. The bowls started to get more interesting as the days went on, but if you remember – and hopefully you don’t – the Group of Five team on Group of Five team action was just plain boring. Compare that to the five excellent games that kicked this whole smorgasbord off with BYU vs. Utah turning fun, Appalachian State beating Ohio on a walk-off, San Jose State fighting to get by a game Georgia State team fighting in its first ever bowl, Louisiana Tech getting epic offensive days from QB Jeff Driskel and RB Kenneth Dixon, and starting out with a fun and wild New Mexico Bowl battle between Arizona and New Mexico.

    It was fun. In the midst of college basketball games that don’t mean anything, a soulless NFL matchup – that actually turned out to be pretty good – and a bunch of NBA games, if you like college football at all, the effort in all five of the first games set the bar high.

    It was Saturday and it was college football. Dog the bowl system all you want, but these were worth the watch.

    Louisiana Tech’s Statement

    That whole Something To Play For things tends to matter.

    Louisiana Tech played in the New Orleans Bowl like it really, really wanted to show how good it was. It played like a program that wants to matter more in the 47-28 win over Arkansas State.

    For Jeff Driskel, it was about proving to the world that he’s actually a good quarterback. The former Florida starter came up with a terrific year under Skip Holtz, but to finish up his career at the site of the stunning 2013 Sugar Bowl loss to Louisville was his bright, shining moment throwing for 458 yards and three touchdowns ripping apart an Arkansas State pass defense that makes lots and lots of picks and big plays.

    Meanwhile, RB Kenneth Dixon was shooting for the all-time touchdown mark – you’re up, Keenan Reynolds when Navy plays Pitt in the Military Bowl – while trying to up his draft stock. He showed the NFL scouts he could play through bumps and bruises, could catch and make big things happen, and he could make defenses look silly in open space with 102 rushing yards, two scores, and six catches for 113 yards and two scores.

    5-7 This, Bowl Snobs

    Just a hunch I had coming into the bowl season – go with the 5-7 teams that feel disrespected and have something to prove to the world.

    This won’t be the last time teams with losing records are in the bowl mix. If San Jose State’s Cure Bowl attitude was any indication, being 5-7 might be a plus.

    I couldn’t really decide on the Cure Bowl between Georgia State and San Jose State, but in the end, the Spartans apparently were really, really happy just to be playing another football game again, and that could make the difference in the Quick Lane Bowl when Minnesota faces Central Michigan and in the Foster Farms when Nebraska takes on UCLA.

    The Gophers are probably better than the Chippewas – that whole Big Ten thing over the MAC might matter – but they got a reprieve. They got to play more football when it seemed like the season might be over after a clunker of a second half of a season. Nebraska sort of knew it was going to get the APR exemption when it lost to Iowa to finish the regular season 5-7, but the motivation is going to be there.

    Why is UCLA going to care about this game after not being among the Pac-12 elite at the end of the season?

    Brilliant Observations From The Day Of Bowls

    – San Jose State’s Tyler Ervin, New Mexico’s Lamar Jordan, Appalachian State’s Marcus Cox, and Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Dixon. Why do you watch bowl games between teams you don’t care a lick about? Sometimes you get to see some of college football’s best players, and then you realize you sort of wished you watched them more.

    – Apparently, don’t turn the freaking ball over. That should be obvious, but BYU had to do something epic just to make it interesting late after turning the ball over five times in the first quarter. Arkansas State thrived on turnover margin all year, but it was a -3 against Louisiana Tech. In all, none of the five winners lost the turnover battle. So far, teams that lost the turnover margin are 0-3, while the other two games were even.

    – It’s just never fun to be a coach. Utah’s Kyle Whittingham just closed out a tremendously successful year that started out with a win over Michigan and ended with a victory over its most hated rival. The Utes won ten games, came up with a bowl victory, and all was right with the world. Was he happy? Nope. His program is built to piledrive teams like BYU that screw up early, and yet his Utes had to fight to survive after getting up 35-0. He’ll remember almost losing more than he’ll remember the big win.

    – Yeah, great, Appalachian State PK Zach Matics. Be excited that you closed out your career with a walk-off field goal, but it was a 23-yarder you needed to hit because you missed two makeable ones earlier. It was a fun moment for the program, but it was also a two-foot putt.

    – Remember, Louisiana Tech RB Kenneth Dixon set the NCAA all-time touchdown mark despite a mega-sophomore slump scoring just five times in ten games. That’s one more touchdown than he had against Arkansas State.

    – What would Arizona have been if Scooby Wright had been in one piece all season long? With 15 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss, he looked and played against New Mexico like a guy who knew he was playing his final college game. But he always plays like that.

    – Against Arizona, New Mexico became that most dangerous of all bowl teams – the one that’s not afraid to do a bunch of quirky stuff because it’s a bowl game and it’s not supposed to win.

    – Bob Davie didn’t get the win, but he and New Mexico deserved the good performance on a big stage. A loss is a loss, but the Lobos looked and played well after years of pushing to get back among the living. Davie is a good coach, and it all might be starting to pay off.

    – The good – Arizona won its bowl game 45-37 over New Mexico. The bad – Arizona needed to fight to win its bowl game 45-37 over New Mexico. The offense worked, but the RichRod defense was the RichRod defense, even with Scooby Wright being Scooby Wright.

    – WKU vs. USF in the Miami Beach Bowl should be fun, but compared to the opening Saturday, there might be a tough run of offensive games – Akron vs. Utah State, Temple vs. Toledo, and Boise State vs. Northern Illinois – before the fireworks start going off again.


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