Let’s not make LSU’s trip to the Texas Bowl something it’s not.
It’s not part of the College Football Playoff or even one of the CFP’s big six bowls, a game the Tigers had a real shot at before their three-game November skid.
It’s a bowl game that exists because people can’t get enough college football and ESPN has programming to fill. These days, if you have six wins — or sometimes not — you are guaranteed a postseason reservation.
LSU is so giddy about its 8-3 season that it came within about $17 million in buyouts from firing its coach. Texas Tech is so thrilled where the program is after going 7-5 (4-5 in the Big 12), movie-star-handsome coach Kliff Kingsbury gave the boot to three defensive assistants.
Careers and fortunes aren’t going to be made or wrecked by what happens in Houston the night of Dec. 29.
Both teams and their coaches are either past that point, or whatever was going to happen to them (LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron being retained or let go, for example) isn’t going to change significantly because of this contest.
It’s a bowl game that will be played for the reason so many bowls will be played, something we forget about in the context of steaming mad, deep-pocketed boosters and coaches who are paid like real movie stars:
It’s supposed to be fun.
In that sense, this Texas Bowl fits the bill.
It’s a game that offers a compelling contrast of styles. The Red Raiders are No. 2 in the nation in total, scoring and passing offense. Their defense is the kind of defense that gets three of its coaches fired, 125th nationally against the run and 126th in yards allowed — and we all know what LSU does best.
Alley Broussard, your 250-yard single-game rushing record may indeed finally fall into Leonard Fournette’s talented clutches.
It’s a great destination for both teams’ fans. Houston is the biggest LSU alumni base outside of Louisiana, and it has to be huge for Texas Tech grads as well. It’s a day’s drive from both campuses. As such, a sellout of 71,054-seat NRG Stadium seems likely. LSU recruits metro Houston like it’s a Louisiana parish, and certainly Tech hits the Bayou City hard, too. The days of free advertising both programs will get in Texas A&M’s backyard can only help the Tigers’ and Red Raiders’ causes.
So what if this is the off-Broadway of bowl destinations? People will watch and people will come, to see Texas Tech throw and Fournette run.
A year from now, both programs will be disappointed if they’re not somewhere better, and should be. But for today, you are where you are. And for LSU and Texas Tech, it could be somewhere much less desirable.
Fournette to NYC?
Voting for the Heisman Trophy ends Monday afternoon, after which finalists will be invited to New York for Saturday’s announcement of the winner.
The Heisman folks invite three to six finalists annually based on how the voting goes, so it’s impossible now to say how many will get the call.
Whatever happens, here’s hoping Fournette will be one of them.
Fournette isn’t going to win the Heisman. His chances nosedived with LSU’s three-game November losing streak.
But he still leads the NCAA in rushing yards per game (158.3), still ranks third in rushing yards (1,741) despite having played one or two fewer games than his rivals and is tied for fifth nationally with 18 rushing touchdowns. As far as the eye test goes, Fournette is, for my money, still the best back in the college game, with moves and acceleration that frontrunner Derrick Henry of Alabama doesn’t have (or perhaps need).
Fournette suffered from the loss of two of his best blockers — fullback J.D. Moore and tight end Dillon Gordon — and kept plowing along, although at a diminished rate. That isn’t his fault.
On ability, character and demeanor, Fournette deserves to be there, to receive the accolades accorded a player of his singular abilities, as the player who instigated a jersey and helmet auction that drew a $101,000 bid for South Carolina flood relief. What other Heisman candidate affected the world around him in such a positive way?
You figure of course Henry will go — and win. Easy to anticipate invites for Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. People like to vote for the best player on the best team.
Dalvin Cook of Florida State, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds are also deserving candidates. If they go instead of Fournette, it will be hard to argue.
But here’s hoping, for Fournette’s sake, that enough candidates will get the call that he has a seat on the Heisman ceremony front row. He’s earned it.