Friday, 12/22 Quick Hitters: Looking ahead to the next week of bowl games – what does a win mean for UofA & Rich Rodriguez?

Late Thursday night it was announced that legendary sports broadcaster Dick Enberg passed away at the age of 82. His career was one all sports broadcasters dream of: the voice of 8 Super Bowls, the Olympics, March Madness, tennis championships, Major League Baseball, college football, golf, horse racing and so much more. Unfortunately I also remember him as the play-by-play voice of two of my least favorite sports games of all-time…Super Bowl XXXII (Broncos over Packers) and the Arizona-Illinois Elite 8 matchup in 2005. Truly an elite talent who provided a soundtrack to many memorable moments in so many different sports. Rest in peace to one of the all-time greats…”OH MY” what a loss.

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Due to the Christmas holiday and the fact that I’ll be filling in for Roc & Manuch (weekdays 3-6pm) on 1580 The Fanatic several days next week, this might be the last college football-related blog I write before UofA’s bowl game next Wednesday. I wanted to further explain the importance of what a Foster Farms Bowl win would mean to Rich Rodriguez and Arizona.

-Arizona Athletic Director Dave Heeke hasn’t said A WORD about Rich Rodriguez’s job status since the end of the regular season. By some firsthand accounts, he was fuming mad while walking off the Sun Devil Stadium field after the Wildcats imploded in the second half to lose to their in-state rivals. So ultimately the question now is – how safe is Rodriguez’s job if Arizona loses to Purdue? Let’s be honest, the Boilermakers are a team the Wildcats should beat fairly convincingly.

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My answer to the above question is…a loss to Purdue puts Coach Rod on a broiling hot seat heading into 2018. Anything less than 8 wins with a healthy star QB in Khalil Tate would probably cause Heeke to make a change. In fact I’ll take it a step further, I wouldn’t be surprised if RichRod were let go DURING the 2018 season if things began to unravel. With the early signing day (in December) the new reality in college football, assembling a full coaching staff by early-December is a must.

And if Arizona wins convincingly over Purdue as I expect, all is status quo for next season. I expect Heeke to then praise Rodriguez and hype the fact that Arizona should be a top-25 team to begin 2018. As we saw with Auburn’s win over Alabama and the impact on coach Gus Malzahn, who instead of considering the Arkansas job, received a sizable contract to stay as Tigers coach, one game CAN mean everything.

-So why do I think Arizona will win, 47-35 next Wednesday? Because the offense will be humming like a fine-tuned machine in part due to Tate and RBs Nick Wilson and JJ Taylor. I understand that Purdue’s rush defense is solid…but Rodriguez will pull out all the stops in order to make sure the Wildcats offense can’t be stopped. I expect imaginative play calling and while defensively they might have their issues, the Wildcats should be able to simply outscore 1st year head coach Jeff Brohm’s Boilermakers.

Looking ahead to every bowl game from this Friday through next Thursday, here’s a quick thought on each:

-I hope the Bahamas is friendlier to my radio partner, Charlie Wulf’s University of Ohio Bobcats football team than it was to my Arizona Wildcats basketball team. UAB didn’t have a football team a year ago and while it’s a nice story that they made the Bahamas Bowl, I expect the Bobcats to steamroll the Blazers on the ground.

-Wyoming QB Josh Allen was once projected as a top-3 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft…now the latest mock drafts I’ve seen don’t have him going in the top-32. Here’s a chance to leave scouts drooling once again over his potential. Beat Central Michigan in impressive fashion in the Idaho Potato Bowl and a subpar 2017 season might be forgotten.

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-The Birmingham Bowl got a good one – high-scoring Texas Tech and South Florida face off in what should be a dandy. I’m going with the Bulls though who want to end accomplished QB Quinton Flowers’ career on a high note.

-How Army is going to stop San Diego State’s 2,000 yard rusher, Rashaad Penny in the Armed Forces Bowl is beyond me. Aztecs roll with ease and slow down the Black Knights’ running game in the process.

-Appalachian State beat Toledo last year in the Camellia Bowl. This year the tide will turn in the Dollar General Bowl; the Rockets’ passing attack will hum its way to 350+ and 4 TDs.

-Fresno State is hungry under former-Cal coach Jeff Tedford and almost beat Boise State in back-to-back weeks to win the Mountain West championship. Houston is probably just happy to be playing in Hawaii. Always take the more motivated team…

-Utah’s (coach) Kyle Whittingham is 10-1 in bowl games. Sorry West Virginia, without your regular QB, Will Grier, you don’t stand much of a chance in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

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-I didn’t watch many Duke or Northern Illinois games this year so other than predicting a Blue Devils victory in the Quick Lane Bowl, there’s not much else I can tell you.

-I’ll be at the Cactus Bowl on Tuesday night and I’d be shocked to see UCLA QB and potential #1 overall pick, Josh Rosen suit up for the Bruins (especially playing for an interim coach, Jedd Fisch). In the meantime the Bruins have been SO bad against the run all season and Kansas State runs it very well. Who do you think I’m picking here? Give me the motivated Wildcats to defeat the transitioning Bruins.

-Florida State really has no desire to play for an interim coach in the Independence Bowl (considering I picked them to be the National Champs, I can’t blame them) but the talent disparity against Southern Miss will be too much for the Golden Eagles to handle. And wait, on Thursday a Reddit user found that FSU shouldn’t even be bowl eligible! How did the NCAA not figure that out? Still doesn’t change my pick though…

-If Boston College’s QB, Anthony Brown, hadn’t torn his ACL towards the end of the season, I would’ve easily picked BC to beat Iowa in Yankee Stadium’s Pinstripe Bowl. Instead give me the Hawkeyes and their solid D to bottle up the Eagles rushing attack.

-It’s too bad the Texas-Missouri matchup (in the Texas Bowl) is on at the same time as UofA-Purdue as I’m very interested in this one. Can UT’s Tom Herman get a mild upset victory over an offensive juggernaut in Mizzou to kickoff what should be a successful 2018 for the Longhorns? Don’t be surprised if this is one of the more entertaining games of next week’s action.

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-I want to pick Virginia to beat Navy in the Military Bowl…but then I just realized that the Midshipmen are playing on their home field in Annapolis, Maryland. I’ll reluctantly still pick the Cavaliers but I’m far from confident.

-Three great games close out the Thursday night, all involving ranked teams. Oklahoma State, if star QB-WR combo Mason Rudolph and James Washington play, should beat a feisty Virginia Tech team in Orlando’s Camping World Bowl. What scares me is VTech was down 24-0 to Arkansas in last year’s bowl matchup before running off a 35-0 second half.

Washington State in bowl games is always a giant question mark. Michigan State west of the Mississippi (River) is also a question mark. Since I believe that very good defenses usually beat very good offenses, I’ll take the Spartans in a small upset in the Holiday Bowl.

TCU gets a virtual home game in San Antonio’s Alamo Bowl against a Stanford team whose star RB Bryce Love will be hard to slow down. Call me crazy – I’m predicting this is Cardinal coach David Shaw’s last collegiate game before he takes an NFL job…yet I’m still taking the Horned Frogs who are a more complete team than Shaw’s Stanford squad.

College Football Bowl Season – Week 2 Best Bets
Regular Season: 39-35-1
Bowl Season: 2-3
San Diego State -6.5 vs. Army
Fresno State +2.5 vs. Houston
Kansas State -1.5 vs. UCLA
Arizona / Purdue Over 65.5 Total Points
Texas / Missouri Over 60.5 Total Points

Have a Merry Christmas to all who celebrate!

To read previous entries of my blog, click here. Also make sure to follow me on Twitter @eacohen83.

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