College Football Bowl Round-Up: The Good News, Bad News, and The Future - John U. Bacon College Football Bowl Round-Up: The Good News, Bad News, and The Future - John U. Bacon
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College Football Bowl Round-Up: The Good News, Bad News, and The Future

This season, four Michigan college football teams qualified for bowl games, and a fifth, Ferris State, made it to the finals of the Division II playoffs. But when all five teams lost their last game, it left thousands of fans in despair. Today we consider the good news, the bad news, and the future for these teams. 

The latest college football bowl season might have gone worse for in-state teams – but it’s hard to imagine how. 

First, the good news: four state schools were invited to bowl games this year, while Ferris State got to the final game of the Division II playoffs. 

Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan both earned bowl invitations in the same year for only the second time in their long histories — but it all went downhill from there. Eastern lost on a last-second field goal to Georgia Southern in the Camelilia Bowl, followed by Western getting blown out by Brigham Young in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. 

The Michigan Wolverines’ historic ten-game winning streak ended when they were waxed by arch-rival Ohio State, 62-39 – the most points Michigan has ever allowed in regulation. That cost them a shot at the Big Ten title, and a likely spot in the four-team national playoff. 

Instead, they got the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta, which for decades had been a middling bowl game for the likes of Indiana and Purdue. While the Peach Bowl had recently been elevated to a Super Six game, which include the Sugar, Orange, and Rose bowls, it didn’t feel like it for most Michigan fans, who stayed away in droves. Likewise, four starting players opted to skip the Peach Bowl to stay healthy for the NFL draft. 

Nonetheless, the game provided the seventh-ranked Wolverines a great chance against the tenth-ranked Florida Gators to remove the bad taste left from the Ohio State game. 

In the first half, the two teams exchanged the lead before going to the locker room with Michigan trailing just 13-10. 

But, like the Ohio State game, midway through the third quarter, a costly Michigan turnover opened the gates for the Gators. They proceeded to score 28 points that half, while holding Michigan to five. That left the Wolverines to ponder another embarrassing loss: 41-15. 

This predictably caused pundits and plenty of fans to conclude that the sky is falling, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is a failure, and the Wolverines will never return to the promised land – just the kind of overreactions college football games generate every weekend. 

There’s no spinning the blowouts against Ohio State and Florida, where Michigan looked outcoached and outclassed. But those losses don’t erase Michigan’s ten-game winning streak, either, fueled by the nation’s best defense over that stretch. This season the Wolverines dramatically improved their offense, thanks to transfer quarterback Shea Patterson and an offensive line they sent from a liability to an asset. 

Michigan will lose some key players to graduation and the NFL draft, but the cupboard will still be stocked next season. After the demoralizing finish, hope seems a hard sell in Ann Arbor, but when objectivity returns, the future will look bright again. 

As miserable as Michigan fans might be right now, the Spartans would trade for their lot. After Mark Dantonio resurrected the program by winning 11 games or more five times in six years, the Spartans have fallen back to mediocrity. The reason: an offense that averaged an anemic eight points a game the last four games  – capped by a loss in the lowly Redbox Bowl by the score of 7-6. Remember, this was football, not baseball. 

If Dantonio doesn’t fire his play caller, Dave Warner, don’t expect any improvement next year.  

True, all four in-state teams lost their bowl games. But on the bright side, ESPN made lots of money on every one of them. 

Guess that’s not much consolation, after all. 

* * * * * 

Please join the conversation, but remember: I run only those letters from those who are not profane or insane, and who include their full name.

The Great Halifax Explosion: A World War I Story of Treachery, Tragedy, and Extraordinary Heroism, a National Bestseller, is now out in paperback. It has also cracked the top ten in New England and the Great Lakes. It’s now #11 in the South, and #21 nationwide. We’re already on our third printing of the paperback. Get ’em while they’re hot! You can order signed copies from Nicola’s Books and Literati. 

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Radio stuff: On Friday mornings, these commentaries run at 8:50 on Michigan Radio (91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit and Flint, and 104.1 Grand Rapids), and a few minutes later,  I join Sam Webb and Ira Weintraub LIVE from 9:05 to 9:25 on WTKA.com, 1050 AM.

I also join Michigan Radio’s great Cynthia Canty on her afternoon Stateside show every Monday for a few minutes, and occasionally on NPR’s Morning Edition, and the afternoon Here & Now show. Check ’em out!

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5 comments Leave a comment  

  • Jim January 4, 2019 at 10:02 am

    I love your comments. I graduated in ’96; and it seems like every year otherwise intelligent Michigan fans lose all perspective and start sharpening the pitch forks at some point in the season or other.

    Reply
  • Charlie Kastraba January 4, 2019 at 10:27 am

    Message (Required)John, thank you always giving us a very positive outlook on a game and a season. Coach Harbaugh made some great offensive changes after the 17 season, particularly with the O-Line, and he will do the same after this 18 season. Thank you and GO BLUE
    Charlie Kastraba

    Reply
  • Doree S January 4, 2019 at 1:18 pm

    Hiya John,
    Am sure you had as much fun w Teddy over the holidays as we did w our 1 yr old grandson!
    As the admin of a Coach FB page, I have an observation to make:
    (sorry for mixing politics w sports, especially if I am being offensive to your point of view) nevertheless; I see an alarming yet significant correlation between the H Haters and tRUMP supporters.
    I wonder if that has anything remotely to do w the fact that he teamed up w Michelle and her healthy eating platform? Not to mention I read that he considered inviting Pres O and her to be honorary game captains. Though in his defense, he also mentioned inviting the then candidate and eventual “winner”.
    I also heard that the GOP nominee upon hearing he was being considered, disrespected the Wolverines by saying (or tweeting?) that he would not ever set foot on the campus let alone in the stadium!
    Just sayin… #goblue
    PS: have a story to tell about the person that I had you sign the copy of A Halifax…for but NBD

    Reply
  • Scott L. Gibson January 4, 2019 at 3:16 pm

    John, I always enjoy your comments and observations on Michigan football. Allow me to share my views with you and your readers. (1) The offensive line needs to improve and improve a lot, especially the right side of the line. Against OSU and Florida, our running game and pass protection were were not up to the challenge. (2) Stop using Bo Schembechler’s playbook. Bo had the O line that could move people. (Remember Mike Kenn, Billy Dufek, etc?) (3) Statistically we may have the top defense in the country, but against OSU and Florida that defense did not show up. Giving up over 100 points in two games is ridiculous I’m sure Don Brown would agree. I saw my first M game in 1952 and for the past 45 years I have held season tickets. I love Michigan, but a season that began with so much promise and ended with a complete collapse is very hard to accept. I talk with a lot of former college and professional players and they all seem to agree that problem begins with the O line. Hopefully, Ed Warriner can get the job done.. Go Blue.

    Reply
  • john w minton jr January 4, 2019 at 6:58 pm

    For some reason, MICHIGAN forgot to show up against Ohio State and Florida. Probably thinking of the NFL
    draft instead of graduation. Now that they are playing for a farm team, with not much concern about Dear Old Siwash, results tend to be uneven. Michigan is better, but the days of the student-athlete and tradition are history.

    bomberjohn5

    Reply

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