Kragthorpe: Utah State just missed Orange Bowl bid
Until the playoff system goes into effect in two years, college football's bowl picks will lack the intrigue of college basketball's Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament.
Yet there was some drama Sunday, mixed with the usual what-ifs for a lot of teams including Utah State. Five observations about the schedule of 35 bowls:
Utah State barely missed an Orange Bowl bid.
The Aggies (10-2) finished No. 22 in the BCS standings. To earn a BCS invitation, they needed to be No. 14 or higher ahead of Northern Illinois. The No. 15 Huskies got in as a top-16 team from a conference lacking automatic qualification, because they finished ahead of the Big East and Big Ten champions.
USU easily would have made the top 14 with wins over Wisconsin and BYU, teams that beat the Aggies by a total of five points. Just beating Wisconsin, which escaped with a 16-14 win after USU missed a field goal in the last minute, may have done it.
As it is, the Aggies can watch the Rose Bowl with a mixture of pride and angst, knowing they outplayed a team that scored 70 points against Nebraska in the Big Ten championship game.
Louisiana Tech went from BCS consideration to nowhere.
USU contributed to the Bulldogs' demise. Tech was 9-1 and leading the pack of non-AQ teams before the Aggies beat them 48-41 in overtime Nov. 17. It got worse for the Bulldogs when they lost to San Jose State the following week. Then, athletic director Bruce Van De Velde, who once held the same position at USU, apparently got burned in his effort to land in a bigger bowl than the nearby Independence, which ultimately passed over Tech in favor of Ohio.
Tech alumni, including Karl Malone, are outraged about Van De Velde, who said the bowl gave him an deadline Saturday when other options were in play before Northern Illinois took a BCS spot from Oklahoma, for example.
USC is right where Utah was last December.
Amazing, to think that USC quarterback Matt Barkley's career will include only two bowl appearances, in San Francisco and El Paso, Texas. After the Trojans were kept out of postseason play for two years by NCAA sanctions, Barkley returned for his senior season and was rewarded by getting to do what Utah's Jon Hays did last year - meet Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.
Actually, Tech (6-7) has an even worse record this time, thanks partly to BYU. The Cougars can take pride in shutting down a Tech offense that had some success against Florida State in a 21-15 loss in the ACC title game.
The 2009 Sugar Bowl did wonders for one team.
With Utah having gone 13-12 the past two seasons, the Utes' Sugar Bowl win over Alabama seems more and more distant. Yet the Crimson Tide keep giving Utah credibility. Alabama is 48-5 since that night in New Orleans, with the potential for a third national championship in four years.
The Pac-12 bowl schedule is attractive.
USC aside, several bowls involving Pac-12 teams will be very interesting. Oregon vs. Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl is a matchup of teams that figured to be in the national title game - until each lost Nov. 17. Stanford vs. Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl will match two tough, physical teams. I also really like the pairings of Oregon State vs. Texas in the Alamo Bowl and UCLA vs. Baylor in the Holiday Bowl.