Wednesday, December 20, 2006

BOWL PREVIEW: The Papajohns.com Bowl

Finally, after a few games that could be intriguing or mind-numbingly boring, we reach ... matchups that are almost certain to be mind-numbingly boring. But this being bowl season -- and these, ahem, "games" being the only opportunity to view college football for at least 24 hours, I knew where I'm going to be -- and you're going to be.

First up is the Papajohns.com Bowl. Yes, that's the Papajohns.com Bowl -- because plain old Papa John's isn't hip enough for the youngsters. And because bowls have to have the worst possible name, and throwing the ".com" on there just made it golden.


Next year's new bowl sponsor.

To say this game is about career advancement wouldn't be fair. To say either of these coaches is going to stay put for, say, the duration of incoming freshmen's scholarships? Well, that might be a stretch. Jim Leavitt has done a good job with a fairly new Division I-A team in a nominal BCS conference at the University of South Florida.

And, well, just listen to what one of Skip Holtz's players -- yes, that Skip Holtz -- had to say about rumors of his coach leaving East Carolina University: "All the work he's put into the program, and the Pirate Nation, we knew that he was at least going to be here another four, five years before he goes to some big program or the NFL."

Now, that's commitment for you.

Bowl: Papajohns.com Bowl
Location: Birmingham, Alabama. Called the "Pittsburgh of the South" to make you think the city is nicer than it is.
When: Dec. 23, 1 p.m ET, ESPN2
Purported reason for existence: To match a team from the Big East and a team from Conference USA as part of an experiment to see just how dull college football can be.
Real reason for existence: Much like Papa John's itself, the bowl gives you something that's barely edible, but is quick and ready when you need it to satisfy your hunger.


When there's nothing else to eat, it'll do.

Teams: East Carolina v. University of South Florida.
Interest level: Those Michael Jackson trial re-creations on E! You shouldn't watch, but you probably will. And you'll hate yourself when it's over.
Key player for ECU: Kasey Ross, whose four interception returns have gone for 128 yards. Ross also has 3.5 tackles for loss and has broken up seven passes.
Key player for USF: QB Matt Grothe has accounted for more than 3,100 yards of total offenses, though his 1:1 interception-to-TD ratio leaves something to be desired.
Winner: USF. It's not that ECU is coached by a Holtz. Okay, that's part of it. But if you look at the two teams' schedules, Southern Florida has shown more this season. And the always-scurrilous common opponent comparison goes to the Bulls, who beat West Virginia while the Pirates played the 'Eers close but ultimately lost.

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