Viewing interests for overloaded bowl schedule

By: Harry King
Published: Friday, December 14, 2018
Kentucky running back Benny Snell Jr. (26) runs with the ball during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi State in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
Kentucky running back Benny Snell Jr. (26) runs with the ball during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi State in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)

LITTLE ROCK — Designed to prevent gorging on December bowl games that will be forgotten in January, unsolicited rules are offered.

Built into the guidelines are can-watch exemptions for those who have a legitimate interest in such contests as Baylor-Vanderbilt in the Texas Bowl or Tulane-Louisiana-Lafayette in the Cure Bowl. Both games feature teams that were a combined 25-24.

The idea is to whittle down the 40 options and concentrate on the three games that will decide the national champion, plus a few others with Arkansas connections.

Start by eliminating the dozen games in which participants have lost a combined 10 or more games, knowing that removal of the rebranded Cheez-It Bowl (TCU vs. California) includes reservations about missing out on a 30-inch tall wedge of cheese telling more knock-knock jokes to some guy in a white lab coat.

Under the “who cares” category, dump games involving teams that won nine or more but failed to crack the College Football Playoff Selection Committee’s top 25. That group includes Appalachian State, Alabama-Birmingham, Buffalo, Utah State, Cincinnati and Georgia Southern.

Already, 18 games are off the table, although there are exceptions for special circumstances, including:

—Alums. However, claiming attendance at multiple schools requires proof of post-graduate work.

—Parents of students. Discussing football could lead to a conversation about GPA or social life on campus.

—Scoring wild card. A one-time exemption for those enamored with high-scoring games. Consider Memphis-Wake Forest (Birmingham Bowl, Dec. 22) or Missouri-Oklahoma State (Liberty Bowl, Dec. 31), both with an over-under of 74, second only to 81 for Alabama-Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 29.

On a more serious note, other than the CFP semifinals, contemplate adding Arkansas State’s game to the Dec. 29 TV schedule, plus Auburn the day before, and Kentucky on Jan. 1.

At the least, most Arkansas residents should be familiar with ASU coach Blake Anderson — 39-24 in five years in Jonesboro — and quarterback Justice Hansen, the Sun Belt Conference Player of the year in 2018 and author of 64 touchdown passes the past two years.

Tune into the Red Wolves’ game against Nevada in Tucson with the unimaginative “Arizona Bowl” moniker prepared to bail in the fourth quarter to make way for unbeatens Notre Dame vs. Clemson in the first national semifinal.

The day before, on Dec. 28, Auburn vs. Purdue at the Music City Bowl in Nashville piques the curiosity even though they have lost 11 games combined.

Undoubtedly, the hot-seat occupant in the 14-team SEC for 2019 is Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, the former Arkansas high school coach and Razorbacks assistant who many believe used the Arkansas vacancy last year as leverage.

He re-upped at Auburn for $49 million for seven years, but a 7-5 record vs. high expectations reverberated through the Plains, and offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey moved on to the same position at Kansas.

Malzahn, who controlled the offense in 2013-15, has hired Kenny Dillingham to replace Lindsey, but plans to call the plays and his preferences vs. Purdue might provide a clue about the look of Auburn’s offense next fall.

One of the current problems is that quarterback Jarrett Stidham is a good enough passer to opt for the NFL draft a year early, but does not run like Cam Newton or Nick Marshall, and Malzahn’s offense is at its best when the quarterback is as likely to keep as he is pitch or pass.

To that end, Bo Nix — the Alabama Player of the Year and son of former Auburn quarterback Patrick Nix — will be on campus soon.

Kentucky vs. Penn State in the Citrus Bowl is worth watching because the Wildcats rotate onto the Arkansas schedule in 2019 and the accomplishments under Mark Stoops illustrate potential rewards for sticking with a coach. Kentucky won four conference games his first three years, but has not been below 4-4 each of the last three years. This year’s 9-3 record includes ending a 31-game losing streak vs. Florida.

In Lexington next October, Arkansas will face quarterback Terry Wilson, who completed almost 68 percent of his passes and ran for more than 55 yards in five games as a sophomore.

Among the positives for Razorback fans, All-SEC running back Benny Snell could opt for the NFL draft and the unit that is No. 8 in the country in scoring defense includes more than a half-dozen senior starters.


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