Yesterday, we looked at some teams with extra motivation entering this bowl season. Now, let us look at several teams who are ready for the season to end.
Teams Ready for a Vacation
1) Arizona St. (+14) (6-6) vs. Boise St. (11-1) - After a terrific 5-1 start to the 2011 campaign had the Sun Devils positioned perfectly for a spot in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game, Dennis Erickson’s squad lost 5 of their last 6 to slide their way to a 6-6 finish. The late season collapse cost Erickson his job and left the players with the dreaded “lame duck head coach.” Now they must rebound to play a Boise St. team who was one missed FG each year away from being undefeated two years in a row. The talent is certainly there for Ariz. St but if they don’t bring a full effort, this could be a bloodbath.
2) Southern Miss (-6) (11-2) vs. Nevada (7-5) - Southern Miss pulled off the biggest upset of the C-USA season by thrashing previously undefeated Houston in the title game. Afterwards, they expected to be heading to the Liberty Bowl (as is customary for the C-USA champion) with their head coach Larry Fedora. Since that day, the Golden Eagles have lost their head coach to UNC and will now be playing in the Hawaii Bowl, in a move that the school’s AD called “disappointing.” Hard to imagine a great effort from this SMiss team who already won their Super Bowl in beating Houston.
3) Oklahoma (-14) (9-3) vs. Iowa (7-5) - The preseason #1 team in the country hit some injuries and several roadblocks on the way to the national title game. After starting 6-0, the Sooners finished the season 3-3 including an embarrassing loss to rival Okla St. in the season’s final week. Oklahoma entered that game still having a shot to win the Big 12 and secure a spot in the Fiesta Bowl. The loss drops them all the way down to the Insight Bowl against an unspectacular Iowa team. It’s hard to believe that Stoops’ crew will come with a full effort here and I expect Iowa to give them a tight ballgame.
4) Tex A+M (-10) (6-6) vs. NWestern (6-6) - If it weren’t for 4!! 2nd-half collapses, this season and Mike Sherman’s job could have been salvaged; nonetheless, TAMU enters this game against a feisty Wildcat squad without their coach and falling far short of their preseason expectations (#8 AP, #9 USA Today). Despite their disappointments this year, Sherman’s firing was a surprise to his players and their effort might fall short in this game without him.
5) Illinois (-2.5) (6-6) vs. UCLA (6-7) – On October 9, Illinois was 6-0 and ranked 16th in the country. Since then, they have not won a single game and head coach Ron Zook was (finally) fired. To add to their issues entering this game, OC Paul Petrino left to join the Arkansas staff. So, to summarize, Illinois is coming off a 6-game losing streak and are replacing two coaches. UCLA has its own issues (see the firing of Neuheisel) but they showed in the Pac 12 Championship game that they would at least put up a fight in a bowl game. Expect a pathetic effort from a backsliding Illini team.