Looking for some late June motivation? This was 9 years ago but MAN was this an awesome hit. The 2003 EV1.net Houston Bowl didn’t feature a lot of Navy highlights since Texas Tech won 38-14, but this will hit will live on for years. Texas Tech’s QB B.J. Symons actually lost a tooth. You can see him handing it to a coach at the end of the clip. To his credit, Symons didn’t miss a snap.
I’m looking forward to this season for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that I think I’ll actually be going to a fair number of games for once. South Carolina is too close for me not to go, so I’ll be there. I try to get to at least one game a year in Annapolis, and this year it’ll probably be ECU or Troy. Even the Army game is in Washington, so there’s no excuse for me not to go (assuming I can get a ticket). And if the Mids keep their bowl streak alive, that’ll be in Washington too.
I know some people aren’t big fans of the Military Bowl, and maybe I’d feel the same way if I was local. I’m not, though, so I love it. I love Washington. I love RFK, but that’s because I’ve been there enough to know the right seats to get (I TOLD YOU PEOPLE NOT TO SIT IN THE LOWER BOWL BUT YOU DIDN’T LISTEN). I love being so close to Annapolis, and with any luck there will be a home basketball game or two around the same time as the bowl game. How awesome would it be to pack Alumni Hall over Christmas leave with a couple thousand Navy fans in town for the bowl game? Someone should make a ticket package out of it. Damn I’m brilliant.
The EagleBank Bowl, briefly called the Congressional Bowl at first, has a new sponsor in Northrop Grumman. With a new sponsor comes a new name: The Military Bowl. A curious choice, considering that there is already an Armed Forces Bowl.
There’s so much going on in DC that there has to be a better name than “Military Bowl,” right?
I’m still processing my Texas Bowl thoughts, but in the meantime you can gaze upon a few of my pictures from the day. Special thanks to SeaLawyer for the phenomenal tailgate, however dampened it might have been by Air Force winning. Thanks also to Bags for the posh club seating.
Today was a lot more low-key than the last two. I took it easy this morning, basically sitting on the couch, watching Law & Order reruns, and writing about yesterday. Today was the team’s walkthrough at Reliant Stadium, which usually isn’t the most intriguing event in the world. I didn’t go, but fortunately for you all, Bill Wagner doesn’t share my lazy streak. He wrote about it, and his lunch with Chet Gladchuk, on his blog.
Just because I was a worthless blob today doesn’t mean there wasn’t any news. There was some big news, actually, as it was announced that the Texas Bowl was bought by ESPN Regional Television. It will still be run by Lone Star Sports and Entertainment, which is an arm of the Houston Texans whose job it is to put revenue-generating events into Reliant Stadium. That’s good news, because these guys know how to put on one great event. It’s clear that the bowl’s organizers have every intention of moving this game up the bowl ladder, and it’s already happening; next year, the game will be higher in the Big 12 pecking order (up to #5) and will begin an association with the Big Ten. I hope that doesn’t rule out a return trip for Navy down the road. Everything about this bowl has been first class, including tonight’s media reception, held at the Downtown Aquarium complex. I was eating beef wellington while I watched the 4th quarter of the Humanitarian Bowl. That’s living.
Tomorrow is game day. I get antsy if I don’t get to the stadium really early, so I’ll be heading out of here by 9:30 or 10:00 for the 2:30 kickoff. I have admission to the big Navy tailgate tent, but I’ll be making my rounds elsewhere too. It’s going to be a tough game for the good guys. Brady DeMell has to step in at center and deliver against a pair of Mizzou defensive tackles that are 6-1, 305 and 6-5, 290, respectively. Defensive end Aldon Smith is a freshman All-American with 11 sacks, and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is a Butkus Award finalist. It’s no surprise that this defense is 12th in the nation against the run. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready to stop the option, but it sure as hell doesn’t hurt. Against a defense like this, Navy is going to need big plays. Extended drives are going to be difficult, and the Mids are going to find themselves in a lot of 3rd and 6, 3rd and 7 situations. Whether these big plays come from long runs or Ricky’s arm, it doesn’t matter. But the Mids will need to find a way to score on 6-play drives, because 12-play drives are going to be tough to come by. Defensively, it’s all about stopping the run after the catch. Missouri isn’t the first great passing team Navy has faced this year, and Danario Alexander isn’t the first elite wide receiver. The Mids haven’t really stopped any of those teams. They have, however, been able to manage them, and they’ve done so with good tackling. Catches for 5 yards haven’t turned into runs of 40 yards, something Missouri does very well. They’re going to get their yards. They’re probably going to get a lot of yards. As long as those drives end in field goals instead of touchdowns, Navy will have a chance.
Not that you didn’t already know that Missouri was going to be a tough matchup. But the Mids have had their fair share of tough games this season, and they have played well. There’s no reason to believe that tomorrow will be any different.
I am a lazy person. Several different forces pull me in all kinds of directions, but laziness usually rules the day. Honestly, I don’t even like writing this blog. It’s a pain, although it’s worth it just to generate some discussion. Either way I’m definitely glad that the burden of meeting a weekly deadline is gone for a few months.
Don’t blame me; blame Newton. An object at rest tends to stay at rest, you know. That is until some external force acts upon the object; Newton’s first law applies to mediocre bloggers, too. I have sort of an internal scale. Doing nothing weighs the heaviest on the scale until enough crap piles up on the other side to make me feel guilty enough to say something about it. Now, with the EagleBank Bowl, Kaipo’s comments, Coach Jasper’s reaction, and Army’s new head coach, there’s just too much going on for me not to be writing. So no more excuses about Christmas (cook your turkey on the grill, it’s the best) or the awesome weather in Florida (top-down driving FTW!) or any other pursuits like “family” and “church” that keep me from posting here. Time to hop back into the saddle and get a-typin’.
We’ll start with the EagleBank Bowl, which we can break into two parts– the game itself, and all the bowl hoopla that surrounds it. First, the game. Unfortunately, being at the game, I did not record the game. I’ve watched the replay a couple of times on ESPN360, but there’s no video breakdown for you guys. (Sorry.) It also made it pretty much impossible for me to watch each play three or four times like I usually do, so this will admittedly be below the usual standard I set for myself for game recaps. But at a high level, it was clear that Wake Forest was determined to keep Eric Kettani from running wild on them the way he did in the first game. It was also clear that Coach Jasper expected this, which is presumably why he employed the heavy formation from the very beginning. With the problems the offense has had blocking on the perimeter this year, an extra lineman to block the likes of Aaron Curry is a wise strategy if you know you’re going to be running outside. It worked at times, but there were just too many missed blocks to move the ball consistently. That, and Wake’s defense is really, really good. Even considering all that, I felt that if the Mids would have scored at the end of the first half to go up 20-0, that probably would’ve broken Wake Forest’s back. Instead, they intercepted a hurried pass from Kaipo on the 2-yard line and started a 98-yard drive for a TD. A possible 20-0 halftime lead became 13-7, and the game’s momentum had turned.
Navy’s defense played well yet again, and helped give the Mids a 10-0 lead at the end of the first quarter thanks to a Rashawn King fumble return for a touchdown. (It felt really good seeing Rashawn run in for the score after the senior missed his last Army game following the loss of his father). The Deacs had a much better game plan this time around, though. Their running game was geared for more carries between the tackles than in the first contest. In the first game, I don’t think they expected Navy’s linebackers to be so fast. They had more success in the second game running straight at the Mids rather than trying to get around them. Riley Skinner played a much better game, too. The Mids weren’t able to pressure him the way they did back in September, and given enough time, his receivers were able to get wide open downfield. That led to the dreaded 3rd & long conversions we all hate. But the defense played well. It was a good game between evenly matched teams. If Wake was hoping to prove that the first game was a fluke, they didn’t.
I was a little bummed about the game for a while, but not too much. I guess I view bowl games a little differently than some of you. I want Navy to win, of course, but I’m much more concerned about getting there. I get way more wrapped up in regular season games. Bowl games, as far as I’m concerned, are a celebration of what the team’s already accomplished. Winning the game on top of that is just gravy.
Which brings me to part two of this little ramble-a-thon, the EagleBank Bowl experience. I can understand those of you who didn’t go to the game because of family obligations or a tight budget (especially this year), but screw the rest of you guys. I didn’t want to see a rematch any more than you did, but there’s no way that would keep me from going to the game. My celebration of Navy isn’t dependent on who they’re playing. I’m going to see Navy, not Team X. As for playing in Washington… How can you not have a good time in Washington DC? In the few days I was there I ate at a ton of good bars and restaurants, got out to Annapolis, saw tons of friends, and had the single most frightening cab ride of my life. All kinds of stories for the grandkids (except for the cab ride, the details of which shall never be repeated). For the more family-inclined, there’s a glut of monuments and museums, plus the Wizards and the Caps both played home games that week. Was it cold? Yes. But it isn’t like you’re going to the beach in San Diego in December, either. Washington is a fun city, especially when an 11:00 kickoff leads to a tailgate that starts at 9:30, starting what became 15 straight hours of drinking. OH THE HUMANITY. Well, 15 hours for some. Closer to 14 for me, because I spent the last hour nursing one beer and trying not to fall asleep while watching the Ravens-Cowboys game. I was one tired dude.
The bowl luncheon– which I did attend, despite my moaning and groaning about the price (viva la hookup)– was so-so. The food was good. I don’t know about $300 kind of good, but I don’t think any of the other bowl luncheons I’ve attended served filet mignon. John Feinstein was an entertaining speaker. Outside of that, it was the usual stuff; bands playing, cheerleaders cheering, team highlight reels, and coaches’ interviews. Wake’s team stood and applauded Navy’s seniors, which was a class move. The only real downside to the whole thing was the laundry list of preliminary speakers who rambled worse than I do. It was nice to see Napoleon McCallum, but other than that it was politician after corporate sponsor after politician. Politicians have a way of cramming a 30 second speech into 15 minutes, and it just kept dragging on. The best part for me was sitting at the same table as Dr. Fair, the head trainer for the team. His stories from his time at Oklahoma State were phenomenal.
Then, of course, there was RFK. I’ve read a few comments on the old lady that were less than complimentary. The only complaint I had was with the concessions; I got in line for a hot dog at halftime, and had moved a little less than half the distance to the counter by the time the third quarter kicked off. That was crummy. Other than that, I’m not sure what you guys look for in a stadium. I tried to give you all the good gouge about sitting in the upper deck. My seat was pretty much the Playstation angle, in the upper deck between the goalposts. It was a great view, which is all I really want. The field looked good and held up well, and bringing in the old PA announcer was a nice touch. Yeah, RFK is old and could use a bit of freshening up, but sitting in my seat and watching the game, I didn’t really notice. And yes, I’m biased, and I know that not everyone remembers RFK as fondly as I do. But still, I didn’t see much to complain about.
Speaking of complaining, I’m sure we were all a little disappointed to read about Kaipo’s postgame comments. Kaipo pretty much threw the rest of the offense under the bus. It’s easy to understand his frustration; a senior playing in his last game, hoping that if he doesn’t win, he at least goes down with his best effort. Apparently that isn’t what he thought he got from some of his teammates. That’s kind of what happens when you’re asked questions in the heat of the moment. Stuff like this can catch us, as fans, off guard sometimes. Fans– especially Navy fans– have a tendency to assume that the football locker room is this perfect little world where all is well and everyone gets along like family, united in purpose under hoo-yah Navy leadership. People forget that the team is made up of actual people. In the real world of actual people, with the foibles and frustrations of life, stuff like this happens. What was it that Paul Johnson used to say about working hard? About how the more time end energy you have invested invest in preparation for a game, the harder it is to accept anything other than success? None of this excuses what Kaipo said, but I’m not going to put him in the permanent doghouse for it either. They were heated comments after a frustrating, emotional loss. Coach Jasper’s response was fair, appropriate, and necessary, seeing as how he still has to coach the team that Kaipo is leaving behind. Frankly, I probably shouldn’t even be bringing it up this late after the fact. No need to harp on a dead issue.
A more pertinent topic is that of position changes. The shuffling of personnel is a theme of every offseason, and Bill Wagner is already reporting two potential moves that the coaching staff is considering: Clint Sovie to outside linebacker, and Jordan Eddington to fullback. Sovie’s potential move is not unexpected. He’s as fast as they come at the linebacker position, and with the emergence of Ross Pospisil and Tony Haberer inside, it makes it an easier move for Buddy Green to put Sovie’s speed outside to make up for the loss of Corey Johnson. The thought of Sovie, Pospisil, Haberer, and Ram Vela on the field at the same time is enough to make you want the 2009 season to start next week.
Eddington’s possible move from linebacker to fullback is a little more out of the blue. Physically, it’s a no-brainer; at 6-0, 230, Eddington fits the mold of fullbacks past. Plus, he’s fast. Not fast for a linebacker– just plain fast. A part-time running back in high school, Eddington was also a finalist for the state 100 meters crown on the track team. How often do you see that in a linebacker? About as often as you see a LB catch a kick returner from behind, which is exactly what Eddington did against Army. The building blocks are definitely there. The question is how long the coaches have to do the building; Eddington is a rising senior. How much can he pick up in one spring? Even if it doesn’t work out, though, at least it provides some competition for the spring and will make things even more interesting than they were already shaping up to be.
And finally, Army didn’t take long to find a replacement for Stan Brock, reaching out to the west coast to grab Cal Poly head coach Rich Ellerson. Upon the announcement of Ellerson’s hiring, you probably instantly recognized him as the coach who recommended Joe DuPaix to longtime friend Ken Niumatalolo. DuPaix was very successful as Ellerson’s offensive coordinator; would he leave Navy to rejoin his old mentor? Thankfully, no. DuPaix announced through Scott Strasemeier that he’s staying put. That’s good news; the last thing we need is for Army to grab one of the Navy assistants responsible for recruiting Texas. One minor crisis averted.
I’ll talk about the hire more when I do my annual “state of service academy football” pieces later this month. Right now I just want to hand out a few LOLs. Not over hiring Ellerson– he’s a good coach. No, at the moment I must laugh at the rampant inferiority complex that seems to exist at West Point vis-a-vis Navy. I’m sure describing it as such will get some people’s blood boiling, but I really don’t know what else to call it. There is an obsession up there about making sure they point out, unsolicited, how everything they do is better than Navy. An easy example of this would be John Mumford’s comments before the season about Collin Mooney’s superiority to Navy’s fullbacks. And now, we have this:
“They do things out of this triple option that I’ve never seen before,” said Cantelupe, a 1996 West Point graduate and 1995 co-captain. “What he runs I think is superior to what Navy runs. Throughout college football, if you look at who is running the most advanced triple-option football, it’s Ellerson if you see the things that he is doing.”
Now, there’s a few LOLable things here. First, why? Why even bother to make the comparison? It’s as if nothing is validated until it’s stuck in Navy’s eye first. Ellerson is a good coach, but apparently not good enough for some people to let his record speak for itself. Second, Cal Poly’s offenses are good, but what has Cantelupe not seen before? The forward pass? Strange, for a former defensive back. And third, all this talk about Ellerson running the “most advanced triple option…” blah blah. Ellerson is a defensive guy. Don’t get me wrong, he’s no idiot on the offensive side of the ball; he knows a good offense when he sees it, and he brings in coordinators who can run it. But it isn’t Ellerson’s offense. Hell, the architect of his 2007 offense that led all of I-AA is now the slotbacks coach at Navy. So if anyone here is worried that there’s some magical mystery offense that’s going to confound Ricketts Hall’s finest minds– which, by the way, led the nation in rushing for a fourth consecutive year– you’re being a bit ridiculous. At this level there’s rarely such thing as superiority of scheme; only of coaching within the scheme, and then executing it. There’s more than one way to skin a cat. Cantelupe should probably wait for Army to stop Navy’s “inferior” scheme once before labeling it as such. Anyway, less chest-thumping, more LOLs. I just don’t understand.
So that should get me caught up for now. The season’s over, so maybe I’ll have some time to get caught up on some things I’ve been meaning to do around here. Season recaps & awards, some more offensive breakdowns, a book review, some Navy history, a look at Georgia Tech’s success and its effect on the future of service academy football, and hopefully another charity fundraiser, among other things… Not to mention basketball heading into Patriot League play, plus lacrosse season. The season might be over, but all is not lost at The Birddog. Even if you kind of wish it was.
It was going to take a miracle to avoid a reatch with Wake Forest in the EagleBank Bowl. Unfortunately, I think Navy football spent its miracle budget for the year on the Temple game. What we all hoped to avoid has become official: Navy will be taking on Wake Forest on December 20th at RFK Stadium. Yeah, it sucks, especially for the Mids. It’s lousy for Wake Forest too, but at least for them it’s a shot at redemption. Navy, on the other hand, is forced to prove themselves on a test they’ve already passed. College football just shouldn’t have rematches. Half the fun of bowl games is playing someone you otherwise wouldn’t see, something we’ve been fortunate enough to have the last 5 years.
Wait… 5 years? Man, that’s crazy, especially for those of you who have been Navy fans for a while. Six straight bowl games. When you were sitting & watching Georgia Tech hang 70 on us in 2001, could you have possibly imagined that such a string of success would be right around the corner? Hell no. Not at Navy, where hard luck was a way of life. But with the right coach and the right players, a phenomenon was born.
Actually, that’s only part of the story. Right coach and right players, but also the right fans. There’s a lot of message board bravado about what “we” need to focus on if “we” need to win, as if the poster was part of the team. It’s a little ridiculous… Except when it comes to bowl games. Bowl games are the one area where fans can have a very tangible impact on the fate of the football team. Chet promised the Houston Bowl that Navy fans would deliver when he campaigned for the Mids to get the game’s at-large berth in 2003. And we did, 20,000 strong. Each year, Chet makes the same assurances to bowl committees; and each year, Navy fans back up his words. When Chet goes to the bargaining table looking for a postseason home for the team, his best leverage is us. That’s why 6 wins gave Navy a spot in Washington this year, Houston next year, and San Diego the year after that.
Which brings me to my greatest concern about playing a rematch with Wake Forest. Hopefully, ticket sales won’t suffer for it. Chet set his target at 30K tickets, which is ambitious even for a game played in our own backyard. But why not set the bar that high? It’s basically a Navy home game, and we have no trouble bringing 30K to Annapolis, right? Well, we’ll see. Hopefully people will get past their disappointment with the rematch and realize that no matter who we’re playing, you’ll have one more tailgate, one more reunion with friends, and one more chance to see Navy football before the long, long offseason. For those of us that don’t live in the area anymore, this game is a chance to get back to Annapolis, too. For me, I’m excited to see Kaipo one last time after he missed so much of this year. I’m optimistic; I didn’t buy my tickets until yesterday, and my seats are terrible. So they must be selling pretty well, right??
Anyway, what’s done is done. I’m sure most of you are miffed at how we ended up with Wake Forest, but really, it was kind of inevitable. Not that you won’t look for someone to blame in all this:
It looked like N.C. State was a possibility at first. It would’ve been nice to get to play Tom O’Brien and the Wolfpack. But N.C. State only finished 6-6, while nine other ACC teams finished 7-5 or better. NCAA rules dictate that a conference must place winning teams in its affiliated bowl games before any 6-6 teams would be eligible. Ironically, that rule exists because of a stunt pulled by the ACC in 2002 to put 6-6 Wake Forest in the Seattle Bowl. It sucks now, but it’s designed to help teams like Navy by ensuring that at-large bids are available for us should the need arise.
The ACC could have forced the Emerald Bowl or the Humanitarian Bowl to take Wake, right? I don’t know, maybe. But keeping your bowl partners from selecting the teams they want is a great way to end the business relationship between the conference and the bowl games.
Maybe Maryland’s exam excuse was a sham, and they just didn’t want to play Navy. Or maybe it was legitimate. Either way, it doesn’t matter. They weren’t going to fall to the EagleBank Bowl in the first place if the Humanitarian Bowl wanted to pick them ahead of Wake Forest (which they did).
The EagleBank Bowl Committee
So why didn’t the bowl committee try to work an exchange with another bowl game and another conference? Well, who says they didn’t? But you have to find a partner willing to deal. Those other bowl games don’t want Wake Forest any more than the 8 ACC bowls that passed on selecting the Demon Deacons when they had the chance. Besides, in this economy, local bowl games are a plus. I doubt the Wake administration wants to go somewhere else, even if their message board fans would disagree.
Anyway, I’m going. I want to see one more game at RFK. I want to see some friends, hit up the tailgate, and generally have a good time. That stuff isn’t dependent on who we play. Hope to see you there.
Before we get started– no, I haven’t forgotten about Northern Illinois. Yes, there will be a breakdown, and yes, you will be amazed at how such a seemingly boring game can become so interesting when you take a closer look. Unfortunately for you guys, I actually had the gall to spend Thanksgiving with this “family” thing I’ve been neglecting for a few months. Strangely, I even found it enjoyable, in an interacting-with-real-people-instead-of-the-magic-messages-that-appear-on-my-computer sort of way. It compelled me to seek more of it, and as a result I didn’t feel like writing here. Casting aside the internet for actual, breathing people? How lazy! What is this world coming to? But rest assured, I am ready to leave this “sunlight” I’ve been looking at for the last few days in order to return to soothing glow of the LCD screen on my laptop. In the end, face-to-face conversation just doesn’t measure up to hurling long-distance barbs towards people I don’t know, using a “series of tubes.”
The first order of business is our regular Tuesday look at the bowl situation. With the exception of the conference championship game, the ACC season is done. Instead of clearing up the EagleBank Bowl picture, though, the end of the season has brought more confusion. On the surface it would appear simple: 10 bowl-eligible teams in the ACC, 9 bowl slots available, everyone has a dance partner (except for the kid who picks his nose and smells funny). But no, it just doesn’t work that way. To break it all down:
- The team we all wanted, Virginia, lost to Virginia Tech and didn’t even become bowl eligible. So they’re out.
- North Carolina State would be a great pick for the EagleBank Bowl, but they finished 6-6. Bowl eligible, yes, but not until the other teams in the conference with a winning record are selected for bowls of their own. With 9 teams at 7-5 or better to go with 9 ACC bowl slots, that means the Wolfpack will have to look elsewhere.
- Bowls like teams that travel well and put fans in seats. They pick accordingly. With the last pick among the ACC’s bowls, it stands to reason that the EagleBank Bowl will get one of the teams with a poor reputation for bowl game ticket sales. That would mean Wake Forest, Miami, or Boston College. BC is playing in the ACC championship game, and by rule cannot fall any farther than the Music City Bowl. So they’re out too. Miami couldn’t even sell its half of the tickets when they played in the Fiesta Bowl for the BCS championship. But they’re still a name-brand team that can draw more local interest in a matchup than someone like Wake, so they’ll probably be scooped up, leaving us Wake Forest and the rematch nobody wants. But just as it looked like there was one card left in the Uno game and we’re going to lose, Chet pulls out the Draw Four Wild Card and keeps hope alive. Surprise! There’s a “no-rematch” clause in Navy’s contract with the EagleBank Bowl! That rules out the Deacs, which means that nobody’s left.
- The EagleBank Bowl’s dream matchup is for Navy to play Maryland. But Maryland ruled out the EagleBank Bowl months ago, stating that the game conflicts with the school’s final exams. Chet obviously thinks that Maryland just doesn’t want to play Navy. (“We have exams that week, too, but we’re going to show up,” Gladchuk said. “Everybody has an excuse why they can’t do this or can’t do that. We’re finding a way to accommodate the bowl’s situation.”) I don’t know how legitimate the whole exam excuse is, and I don’t really care. If Debbie Yow wants to take her team elsewhere, so be it. Chet’s comments remind me of remarks from Air Force athletic officials when they whined about the end of the Navy-Air Force basketball series a few years ago. There comes a point where one protests too much. So what if they don’t want to play Navy in a bowl game? I don’t want to play them either. It wouldn’t be the first time a team has used the “exams” excuse to avoid playing in a particular bowl game, anyway. A few years ago when TCU said they wouldn’t play in the GMAC Bowl because of exams, Navy fans applauded them for “having their priorities straight” and “remembering what matters.” We saw comments like, “Can you imagine Florida State turning down a bowl game for academic reasons? Good for TCU!” Meanwhile, Florida State is cranking out Rhodes Scholars while Maryland is doing just what TCU did. Maybe the ol’ USNA “we’re the only school that cares about academics” elitism should be toned down a bit. Obviously USNA sets a higher academic standard than other schools, but that doesn’t mean that everyone else just doesn’t care. Plenty of you have expressed reservations about the Army-Navy Game being moved to the same week as exams next year. This is no different. Yow is a backstabbing trainwreck of an athletic director who runs her department with the grace and delicate skill of a trash compactor. I don’t care for Maryland any more than I care for swimmer’s ear, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they didn’t want to play Navy. It also wouldn’t surprise me if things shifted around and they ended up in the game. Either way, sometimes you just have to let it go.
So where does all this leave us? First and foremost it means that we won’t be playing Wake Forest, which is all I really care about. Just how the new mystery opponent will be found, though, is anybody’s guess. Right now there would appear to be two possibilities. Either the ACC can force unwanted teams on its bowl games and send someone like Miami to Washington, or it could cut ties with the EagleBank Bowl for this year and let them go the at-large route. Neither is an appealing option for the conference; either you set one of your members adrift, or you damage the business relationship with your other bowls. I’m sure EagleBank Bowl officials want an ACC team, but with Navy set to bring so many fans the game is probably going to be a success no matter what. We’ll probably find out this weekend.
Anyway, on to the poll. Last week’s poll was about the term, “Middies.” My childhood memories consist mainly of two things: my dog, and hearing Brent Musberger call the Army-Navy Game for ABC. Musberger made almost excessive use of the term, but it wasn’t until I arrived at USNA that I discovered that it was deemed inappropriate by the arbiters of such things. It’s never bothered me, though, and I am pleased to see that it doesn’t bother most of you guys either. To me, “Middies” never felt derogatory. Instead it sort of felt old school; a nickname that recalls the days of Grantland Rice, when the Ivy League ruled college football and when the game’s traditions were in their formative stages. Sure, it isn’t as alpha-male intimidating as if we were called the NAVY GALACTUS DESTROYER OF WORLDSes, but intimidating nicknames are overrated. I do what I’m told and say “Mids” instead, but I don’t give a second thought to someone else saying “Middies.”
In this week’s poll, we’ll talk about Army. It is Army week, after all. The prevailing sentiment towards Army among Navy fans seems to be that most of us root for the Woops in every game but one. It’s understandable. A lot of us have crossed paths with other service academy graduates in our careers, and those are the only people who can really relate to our college experience. “We’re all on the same team” and whatnot. I, however, never really felt compelled to cheer for the other service academies. I can see why others do; I just don’t, and the reaction I get when I say so would make you think that I was rooting for al Qaeda. I guess I’m able to separate the football program from the school and service as a whole, while others don’t. Besides, why would I root for a school like Air Force that embraced a coach that never passed up an opportunity to denigrate Navy, and allows some graduates to do little more than coach football? The whole Alternative Service Option flap really soured me on West Point, too. The country needs the school, but I don’t see what that has to do with cheering for its football team. It’s an opinion that gets me labeled as classless more often than not.
So that brings us to this week’s question. Do you root for the other service academies? And if so, what do you think of those who don’t?
It’s Tuesday once again. But it isn’t just any Tuesday, of course. It’s the second Tuesday in November, otherwise otherwise known as Veterans’ Day here in the Land of the Free. Considering this blog’s audience, it’s a pretty meaningful day; at least a little more than to the average American, anyway. We give thanks to those who have served. Those of us who have served remember the brothers and sisters that joined us, especially the ones who have passed away. People like J.P. Blecksmith, who gave his life four years ago today at Fallujah. While we remember all veterans today, take a moment to also remember the anniversary of J.P.’s sacrifice.
In last week’s poll, I asked who you’d want to face in the EagleBank Bowl. Not surprisingly, Maryland was the winner, with 21% of the votes. Playing someone new doesn’t outweigh the chance for you Anne Arundel County residents to stir up a little rivalry with your neighbors, it seems. My personal preference, Virginia, came in second. I like Virginia for a few reasons. They were a regular on Navy schedules from the late 60s into the 90s; George Welsh didn’t feel right beating up on the alma mater every year, so he stopped playing the Mids. Playing the Cavaliers again would be a lot of fun for me. It would also be good for the EagleBank Bowl folks, who would love to see a local team bring a crowd to match Navy’s. Virginia Tech would also fit the bill there, but chances are that both Virginia Tech and the Terps will be picked up by other bowl games long before the EagleBank Bowl gets the ninth pick.
The picture is a little clearer after this weekend’s games. Eight ACC teams are now bowl eligible: Florida State, Wake Forest, Maryland, Boston College, UNC, Miami, Virginia Tech, and Georgia Tech. Virginia is one win away, at 5-5. Clemson, at 4-5, needs to win out to become bowl-eligible because they played two I-AA teams. They play each other next week, so only one of them will qualify. Duke is 4-5 and needs to win two out of their last three to be eligible.
The important thing to look at is their conference records. The “Boston College Rule” is an ACC rule that means that a bowl game can’t pick a team that’s more than a game behind the next highest team in the conference standings. So if UNC is 5-3 and Virginia is 4-4, a bowl game could choose UVa over UNC. If Virginia is 3-5, that bowl game would have to take UNC. Right now, Florida State and Wake Forest are both 4-2. Maryland, Miami, Virginia Tech, and UNC are 3-2. Georgia Tech is 4-3, Virginia is 3-3, Boston College is 2-3, Clemson is 2-4, and Duke is 1-4. Given all that, it’s hard to see how we won’t end up with Boston College or Duke. If Clemson manages to win out (they won’t), they will be with several other teams that will likely be at 4-4. They’ll get picked before they drop to #9. A bowl-eligible Virginia can’t finish any worse than 4-4 in the conference, either. There are a lot of games to be played, but it looks like the teams that don’t travel very well– Boston College and Duke– aren’t going to win enough games to force any bowl games higher up the ladder to pick them. So here’s what we gotta do:
- Root against Duke. Hard. They have to win 2 out of 3 against Clemson, UNC, and Virginia Tech, so hopefully this isn’t too much to ask.
- Root for Boston College. This is a tougher one. BC plays Florida State, Wake Forest, and Maryland, which is no easy stretch. If they win no more than 1 of those games, it’s pretty much a lock that they’ll end up in Washington if 9 ACC teams qualify.
- Root for Wake Forest to beat NC State this weekend. With 5 wins, there’s no way they can drop to #9.
After that, it’s a mess. If Clemson, Duke, and Virginia all fail to qualify– a real possibility– then we’ll start looking to the MAC.
But that’s enough of last week’s poll question. For this week’s question, we turn to basketball. It’s a huge weekend in Navy sports. By the time Monday rolls around, the basketball team will already have two games under their belts. The Mids play at Towson on Friday, then come home to play Howard on Sunday afternoon. You might think that expectations would be pretty high for Navy this year, considering that they broke through for a winning record and a second-place finish in the Patriot League last season. According to the preseason poll of coaches and SIDs, however, that’s not the case. Navy was picked to finish a rather absurd sixth in the conference.
Clearly, the loss of Patriot League POY Greg Sprink weighed heavily on the minds of the voters; enough that they didn’t think that Navy would be much of a team without him. I completely disagree. No one player will do everything that Sprink did, but the rest of the starting 5, plus the addition of Idaho transfer O.J. Avworo at point guard, should probably be even harder to defend. Don’t get me wrong; I have some serious questions about the program right now. Specifically, WHY IS EVERYONE LEAVING??? But for this year, I think Navy will be even better and should contend for the Patriot League title again.
Navy’s not the only team in the Patriot League with a lot of returning talent, though. American is the preseason favorite for a good reason. Who do you think will win the conference?