Playing a game of Bowl-der-Dash
The Forde-Yard Dash presents an abridged postseason version, Bowl-der-Dash, sprinting through what we've experienced so far this bowl season:
Worst Trend: Lame-Duck Coaches
Utah (1) was led by the new coach at Florida (2).
Pittsburgh (3) was led by the new coach at Stanford (4).
LSU (5) was led by the new coach of the Miami Dolphins.
Miami (Ohio) (6) was led by the new coach at Indiana (7).
Oklahoma State (8) was led by the new coach at LSU (9). (We didn't know it at the time, but we certainly suspected.)
Notre Dame (10) and Florida (11) were led by one-game interim coaches from the fired previous staff.
So now that we've seen how to screw up nearly 25 percent of the bowl games, what can be done about it? Here's The Dash's suggestion: Shove back the National Letter of Intent signing date by a month.
Is there something magical about the first Wednesday of February as the signing date? Something so special that it can't be moved to, say, the first Wednesday in March?
The biggest reason schools charge into the hiring-firing process in November and December is because they want the next guy on board for the stretch drive of recruiting season. A rejiggering of the recruiting calendar, pushing more of the contact period until after the bowl season, would alleviate some of that panic and allow teams to prepare the way they should for their bowl games.
Certainly, the coaches would not like their recruiting time extended by another month, until it's right up against spring football. And The Dash is not na´ve enough to think that all schools would cease with the in-season hiring and firing. But something needs to be done to restore some of the focus on the big games at season's end.
Best Trend: Conference Parity
It mirrors the national parity, and it ceases the annual fan chest-beating over having the best league. Nobody's sure who has the best league this year.
No conference has had a dominant bowl season, and no conference -- other than the hard-luck Sun Belt (14), which went 0-2 -- has completely flopped. Best conference record to date goes to the Big 12 (15), which is 4-2 pending the Orange Bowl. Worst non-Sun Belt record goes to the Big East (16) and MAC (17), both at 2-3. Every league has had its moments to crow about, and its moments to eat crow.
Rose Bowl (18). The Texas-Michigan game was a classic in every sense, with the exception of Lloyd Carr (19) bollixing the use of his timeouts at the end. Congrats to the Longhorns for proving their BCS worth.
The Capital One Bowl (20), which might have had the most dramatic finish in bowl history. Not only was Iowa's 56-yard touchdown bomb on the final play an incredible stunner, but it was nice that it came with a poetic twist: fifth-year senior receiver Warren Holloway (21), on his final play of college football, caught his first touchdown pass -- one they'll be talking about forever in Iowa City. Holloway's catch was the warmest moment of bowl season.
Best Setup for 2005
Team Division: Louisville (22), which beat a game Boise State (23) team 44-40 in the Liberty Bowl. The Cardinals can use momentum from that win as they enter the Big East with a likely preseason top 10 ranking. And they're keeping Bobby Petrino (24) around for another season. They may not like him anymore, but they can use his acumen for a crucial season.
Player Division: Texas quarterback Vince Young (25) isn't as fast as Michael Vick, but he's taller and just as elusive. His incredible performance in the Rose Bowl will make him a Heisman Trophy favorite alongside next year alongside Adrian Peterson (26) and Reggie Bush (27).
Coach Division: Texas Tech's Mike Leach (28). When the Red Raiders destroyed heavily favored California (29) in the Holiday Bowl, it was the final validation of Leach's fearless passaholic offense. Leach's name came up for a few other jobs this season, but next year he could be the hottest candidate out there for an upgrade.
Most Underrated Bowl Game
The GMAC Bowl (30), in which Bowling Green (31) and Memphis (32) scored 87 points and showcased the glorious skills of Falcons quarterback Omar Jacobs (33). If you want a dark-horse candidate for the '05 Heisman, try the guy who threw 41 touchdown passes this season, including five against the Tigers.
Most Overrated Bowl Game
The Sugar Bowl (34), which featured two very good teams playing one boring football game.
Most Inspiring Performance
Arizona State (35), which overcame the injury to star quarterback Andrew Walter (36) to upset Purdue (37) in the Sun Bowl.
Least Inspired Performance
Notre Dame (38), which looked absolutely horrible in all phases of the game while getting run over by Oregon State (39) in the Insight Bowl. Wonder how they'll blame this one on Ty Willingham (40)?
Pat Forde is a senior writer at ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.