There's a lot to get caught up on, so we'll just get to the most relevant topics of conversation.
Birmingham: Pittsburgh of the South, if Pittsburgh were Cleveland
Birmingham has many different areas. We stayed at the Residence Inn in Hoover, just south of the city, and that was definitely a choice spot to stay. Hoover has a lot of restaurants and a good mall in which to waste some quality time. The downtown area where the pep rally was held was good, but it didn't appear to be a very big area of things to do. It appeared that there were a few places but nothing else. We didn't visit the Lakeview District which included the Official Gamecock areas, but that's because we were too cold to anything else on the night we had planned to check it out. The only really bad part of the city was...
Legion Field is first of all in the worst part of town. Having grown up a hour outside of Orlando I've made many trips to the Citrus Bowl which is noted to be in a bad part of town, highlighted by the illustrious Orange Blossom Trail (aka: OBT). The area surrounding the Citrus Bowl would be considered upscale compared to the area around Legion Field. The actual stadium is actually fairly well maintained given it's limited usage (currently only hosts UAB home games and this bowl game), but it does on the whole leave much to be desired.
The Game Itself
There's really little I can say other than it was just a pathetic overall experience in terms of Carolina Football. The defense played well except a few bad plays and a blow coverage which still needed a great play by the receiver for Connecticut's first score. Special teams didn't nothing spectacular, but also did nothing negative to hurt the rest of the team either. The real story was the offense.
Connecticut was noted for having a bad defense, one that was ranked in the 70s nationally and hadn't allowed less than 24 points to a D-IA opponent since the 19th of September against Baylor. The Gamecocks gained only 76 yards on the ground, 56 of which was from QB Stephen Garcia who also fumbled on one of those carries. The run game was abandoned early on when a few attempts didn't gain much. The Huskies ran the ball 48 times in the game versus just 26 for Carolina, and only threw it 22 times to Carolina's 38. Garcia only completed 16 of those 38 attempts, but that doesn't truly tell the story of the passing game. Of the 22 incomplete passes most were either not catchable or thrown directly into the hands of receivers who then flat-out dropped them. It is relevant that Connecticut didn't really obtain any type of insurmountable lead from which Carolina had to turn to a straight passing game to try to come back until late in the fourth quarter.
Really the only thing I can say is it was a terrible effort in a terrible cold. Also, one hell of a catch:
Mutiny on the SS Leach
Most of this story does not need to be recapped, but if you don't know about the public series of events that led to Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach being fired read this. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that the Adam James incident was not the lone or even main reason for Leach's dismissal, but if you need a hint just keep in mind that AD Gerald Myers hired Bobby Knight to coach basketball for the Red Raiders. Clearly Texas Tech administration wasn't chiefly concerned with player treatment, which means there were other reasons. The reasons appear to be that Myers, an former basketball coach, was much more focused on building that program on campus. Keep in mind a new arena was built and Bobby Knight hired, but still it was Leach's football program that drew the fans while the basketball program barely drew flies. Leach became more powerful amongst the media, fans, and alumni than anyone else in Lubbock. It is likely the Leach was aware and used this power to finally negotiate a big extension last year. Leach actually paid for the trip to interview for the University of Washington job last year in order to drive home a point of needing an extension and raise. Myers and the brass in Lubbock seemed at the time to reluctantly grant Leach a great extension and raise following a 11-1 regular season in which their only loss came to Big XII South Champion and national runner-up Oklahoma. It is clear now that with that extension came a trap, which the sometimes controversial but always entertaining Clay Travis wrote about in an article. What happened was that Myers & Company made sure they set the trap as they threw out the bait. That this all happened to the son of an ESPN analyst made the story explode nationally as the rope was pulled, tightening around Leach's ankle and raising in the air dangling from a limb.
For Texas Tech it will be difficult to keep the program on top, but rumors are circulating that former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville could end up with the job. It will be difficult to keep the kind of momentum going that Leach started. Leach actually won more bowl games in his ten seasons than the program had won total prior to his arrival. 10 years, 10 bowl games, tough to match for Tech.
For Leach things appear to be far better off. Next off-season Leach will get a job at a school needing a personality and an offense, think Indiana, Illinois, Washington State, or Stanford if Harbaugh is hired away from Palo Alto. This season he is likely to either take the year off or maybe take some of the usual analyst positions, which is what I'm hoping for as he'd provide a lot of entertainment. Keep your sword swinging Mike!
While the Urban's kind of away, the Jimbo will definitely play
On December 31, 2009 a highly-touted recruit de-committed from Florida and committed to Florida State. Matt Elam, a safety who is ranked the top recruit in the state of Florida and fourteenth in the nation, changed his mind undoubtedly because of Florida coach Urban Meyer's strange week prior to New Year's Eve. There is no certainty regarding Meyer's situation in Gainesville right now, but Florida State's new-found stability with Jimbo Fisher at the helm is an asset of certainty right now. It is unclear if this shift is just a blip or if it is a sign of things to come. You should keep your eye on recruiting for Florida now for who they lose, who they don't get, and if Florida State beats them out for some of those prized recruits. The shift will only have great impact if recruiting this year goes crazy or if the Meyer situation drags in to future seasons, the second being much more likely than the first.
We have to just sit and wait at this point, but what can Meyer and his staff be telling recruits that makes any sense to anyone? If you were a recruit or a recruit's parents would you believe Meyer if he said he'll be back? All good questions, no real answers.
4 BCS Bowls, 3 Thoughts Each
Ohio State still has plenty of pride, and was tired of the criticism.
Oregon has their off days, but needs to avoid them in January.
First Big Ten Champ vs Pac-10 Champ Rose bowl in a decade was cleansing to the college football soul.
Departure of Tebow, Strong, and possibly Meyer didn't happen until after January 1st.
Cincinnati's defense was as advertised, but without Brian Kelly the offense couldn't compensate.
The smell was Cincinnati's football future burning in a blaze of glorious fail.
Boise State has a far better defense than anyone thought.
TCU's offense proved their downfall as they gave up a touchdown on a turnover and produced only 10 points.
It's important to not take from this that TCU was not national title worthy, but rather take that Boise is damn good.
Iowa is one heck of a bowl team, and the Big Ten completed their impressive bowl season.
Georgia Tech is a terrible bowl team, the ACC is awful, and that offense looked downright pitiful.
This game wasn't the best, but a vast improvement over recent editions of the bowl.
Wrapping It Up
I'll have a National Title review and some NFL Play-offs preview Friday or Saturday, until then...
Your moment of zen