Scott D. Pierce: Lundquist foresees good matchup in Sun Bowl
Verne Lundquist is not just the television voice of the Sun Bowl, he's a member of the Sun Bowl Hall of Fame.
"What that means is I've been there a long, long time," the CBS sportscaster said with a laugh. "But even I wasn't there the last time Utah played in the game."
The Utes, who meet Georgia Tech in the 78th annual Sun Bowl on Saturday at noon MST on CBS/Ch. 2, last played in the El Paso event in 1939, beating New Mexico 26-0 a year before Lundquist was born.
"It only seems like I've been around that long," he added.
This will be Lundquist's 10th time calling the game and he "feels like I'm part of the tradition."
The Sun Bowl has more tradition and more history than any bowl but the Rose. It's been on CBS since 1968, the network's second-longest sports contract (trailing only The Masters, which dates to 1956).
The Utah-Georgia Tech matchup doesn't exactly scream tradition. The two teams have met only once before, in the 2005 Emerald Bowl, which Utah won 38-10.
"But I think it's interesting," Lundquist said. "My partner, Gary [Danielson], is pleased because we just did two option teams for the Army-Navy game, so he gets to segue right to Georgia Tech. And Utah, the last few years they've developed one of the more admirable programs, I think, in Division I. They certainly opened some eyes when they beat Alabama" [31-17 in the 2009 Sugar Bowl].
Lundquist is CBS' lead announcer for its coverage of Southeastern Conference football, "and the way Utah handled them came as a shock to a lot of people down there."
The veteran sportscaster said he's looking forward to a contrast of offensive styles in the game, and the matchup of Georgia Tech's triple-option against Utah's defense.
"I think both teams will score points. It should be a good game," he said.
It's not a top-tier matchup Utah is 7-5, Georgia Tech is 8-4 but it looks pretty good compared to the nine bowls that feature at least one team with a 6-6 record. In three of those games, both teams came in at .500 or worse UCLA is 6-7 heading into the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
Lundquist, who's been doing college football play-by-play for four decades, would like to see a playoff system, even if it comes at the expense of some of the bowls.
"The world doesn't need 35 bowls," he said. "Without casting aspersions and getting a lot of angry emails, I won't mention any. But we all know where they are. We could cut the bowls in half."
A self-professed college football "traditionalist," Lundquist doesn't like all the realignment that is changing the face of the sport.
"I think we've lost an enormous amount," he said. "The idea that Texas and Texas A&M will not play again for the foreseeable future, I find painful.
"I think we're losing something that has fascinated and charmed us about college football for all of our lives. The fact that Nebraska-Oklahoma are not regularly scheduled anymore, that's not good for the sport. And I'm really having trouble wrapping my arms around Boise State and San Diego State in something called the Big East. That just doesn't make any sense to me at all."
He said Utah "clearly" belongs in the Pac-12, but Lundquist was taken aback when told that the Utah-BYU rivalry isn't currently scheduled past 2012.
"Is that right?" he said. "If that happens, that's anything but a good thing."
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. His Sports on TV column runs Mondays and Wednesdays. Contact him at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.