Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 24 bowl menu, which, after a one-day reprieve, is back to just a lone game on Christmas Eve. And this lone game will feature one of the three teams (Hawaii, say hello to 5-7 Mississippi State, North Texas) that failed to have at least a .500 record in the regular season but will still be bowling and will further the very valid argument that there are way, way, way too may bowl games. Still.
WHO: Hawaii (6-7) vs. Middle Tennessee State (8-4)
WHAT: The 15th Hawaii Bowl
WHERE: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii
WHEN: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: There are 128 teams at the FBS level. Middle Tennessee State was 101st in scoring defense (34.4 points per game) in 2016 while Hawaii was 115th (37.5 ppg). Seven times in 12 games this season, the Rainbow Warriors gave up 40 or more points; the Blue Raiders did as much in six of their games. The status of MTSU’s starting quarterback, Brent Stockstill, is somewhat up in the air because of a broken collarbone suffered in early November, and is leading to some books keeping this game off the board as the sophomore, and son of the head football coach, has yet to be officially ruled out of the game. UH will be appearing in its first bowl game since 2010 — the 2010 Hawaii Bowl — and is looking for its first bowl win since 2006 — the 2006 Hawaii Bowl. MTSU, meanwhile, will be looking to snap a three-game bowl losing streak and trying to win its first postseason game since 2009. If you’re into draft evaluations and are searching for NFL sleepers, you might want to tune in just to watch running back I’Tavius Mathers. The 5-11, 197-pound senior has rushed for 1,504 yards and 16 touchdowns this season for the Blue Raiders, and has averaged 6.8 yards per carry. The Ole Miss transfer is also second on the team with 62 receptions out of the backfield — tied for second amongst FBS backs — and has three touchdown catches for good measure. One final fact that will in no way, shape or form affect the outcome of this game: Hawaii will become the first FBS team to begin its season outside of the United States (vs. Cal in Australia) and end it outside of the continental United States. So they have that going for it, which is nice.
THE LINE: Hawaii, +6
THE PREDICTION: Middle Tennessee State 44, Hawaii 31
It’s become a theory among some in the media that Butch Jones is conducting a social experiment or participating some sort of performance art. While that’s the more charitable and fun interpretation, I tend to think the Tennessee head coach is just frighteningly insecure and, thus, fighting for every inch of public approval he can in a likely doomed attempt to keep his job.
That approach has backed him into some verbal corners that, in the long run, make his job more difficult on himself.
I’m talking about the “Champions of Life” quote of last season or, in February, actually stating that he didn’t want 5-star players, he wanted 5-star hearts.
This season has seen Jones go on an odd rant blaming the media for negative recruiting and saying Tennessee had one of the best bye weeks ever last week.
It wasn’t one of the best bye weeks ever, because Tennessee lost at home to South Carolina, 15-9. And you’re not going to believe Jones’s explanation for why Tennessee loss. Scratch that. You will believe his explanation, and that’s the problem here, isn’t it?
Here’s the full quote.
Jones is 33-24 in his four-plus seasons in Knoxville, and 14-21 in the SEC. Those numbers will likely fall to 33-25 and 14-22 after Saturday, when the Vols face No. 1 Alabama. The end is likely near.
And here’s the grand irony of Jones’s everything’s-sunny-here p.r. strategy: his attempt to keep his job by stating blatantly cliche quotes in the state of the obvious will live on much longer than Jones’s actual tenure. Two and three years from now, when Jones is working on someone else’s staff or sitting on his buyout money, the next time an on-the-hot-seat coach says his team won the game everywhere except the scoreboard, we’ll see he Pulled a Butch.
Houston Nutt wanted money and an apology from Ole Miss. He’ll have to settle for the second of the two — and a largely different future for the program he used to lead.
It was Nutt’s lawsuit, remember, which exposed the documents that led to a Mississippi State fan finding Hugh Freeze‘s call to a Tampa escort service, which led to Freeze’s resignation, which led to… we have no idea what it will lead to, but, whatever that future is, it will be wildly different than if Freeze was still the Rebels’ coach.
Nutt amended his lawsuit in August to seek simply an apology from Ole Miss, and that apology finally came on Monday.
Each side released their own bitter, short statements.
Nutt will go on, with his apology but without any monetary compensation, while Ole Miss will play out the string of this season, hire a new coach, and move into a future that will be immeasurably different that the one it would have lived had it apologized to Nutt in the first place.
No. 12 Washington’s loss to Arizona State was a disaster on the field — for more reasons than one.
The Huskies not only put their College Football Playoff hopes in danger — they’ll need to sweep their next six games, including a finishing kick that calls for games against No. 22 Stanford, No. 15 Washington State and, presumably, No. 11 USC, two of them away from Seattle. But the road to get there became noticeably more difficult after losing two starters.
Left tackle Trey Adams suffered a torn ACL in his right knee, and cornerback Jordan Miller sustained a broken ankle. Head coach Chris Petersen confirmed Monday that both will be lost for the season. Miller is the third Husky this season to suffer a broken ankle.
The Seattle Times noted that Washington is also without another starting corner in Byron Murphy, who is expected to return later this year from a broken foot. The Huskies are expected to replace Miller with either a pair of true freshmen or a converted running back.
But Adams may be the bigger loss for the Huskies. A junior, Adams was widely expected to be a first round pick in this spring’s NFL Draft. It’s the second straight season Washington has lost a key player in the trenches to a season-ending injury; a year ago, it was linebackers Joe Mathis, who finished one sack away from the team lead despite playing in only seven games, and third-leading tackler Azeem Victor.
Maryland AD Kevin Anderson will not be the Maryland AD for the next six months.
Anderson announced Monday he will take a 6-month sabbatical to focus on “professional development.” That leave of absence will see him remain on his national committees with the NCAA and NACDA, the professional organization of ADs.
It was reported over the weekend that Anderson would be out completely as Maryland’s AD, but those reports were knocked down by the university.
Additionally, Maryland announced that former Georgia AD and current Terps associate AD/CFO Damon Evans will run the department in Anderson’s stead.