Monday, December 21, 2009

God's Guide to College Bowl Games*, 2009

Jesus fumbles?Here's your annual report of religiously affiliated schools whose football teams will be playing in bowl games during the next two weeks. Before I go further, I should congratulate Villanova, a Roman Catholic school, for winning this year's Division I-FCS Championship. In the FBS four sectarian universities will be participating in this year's postseason, and each represents a different tradition. Presbyterians and Baptists will be spending their Christmas break at home this year as Tulsa and Wake Forest each were one win short of bowl eligibility. But Mormons, Catholics, United Methodists, and Disciples have some interesting games to look forward to:

Latter Day Saints
#14 Brigham Young vs. #18 Oregon State in the Las Vegas Bowl, Tuesday December 22. The Cougars return to Vegas for the fifth consecutive season; this year they bring along a #14 ranking and impressive wins over Oklahoma and Utah. But the Rodgers Brothers and Oregon State, having just missed out on a Rose Bowl bid, may be the best team BYU has faced during this five-year run in the Las Vegas Bowl.

United Methodist
Southern Methodist vs. Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl, Thursday December 24. The United Methodist Church opposes the death penalty, and if you're familiar with the SMU football program, you understand why**. While the Mustangs were one of the best teams in the country in the early 1980s, they spent the first half of the decade on and off NCAA probation. When the NCAA found in 1986 that SMU was paying its players with a slush fund (and when boosters continued making payments after their indiscretions had been revealed), the association gave SMU football the "death penalty," cancelling the 1987 season and making it nearly impossible for the Mustangs to field a team in 1988. The punishment led to the downfall of the Southwest Conference and triggered a nationwide conference realignment. SMU has not played in a Bowl Game since. Until this year. Coach June Jones returns to Hawaii, where his team likely will get destroyed by Nevada and the Wolfpack's three 1,000-yard rushers. Nonetheless, with Syracuse's recent struggles, it's nice to see SMU playing football in December.

Roman Catholic
Boston College vs. #24 USC in the Emerald Bowl, Saturday December 26. It's only a matter of time before either the Pope or Doug Flutie issues an encyclical to American Catholics telling them to stop worrying about Notre Dame and instead to put their faith in the other Catholic school with a major college football program. Were it not for some last-minute heroics from Vanderbilt (and, I confess, some questionable calls) in the 2008 Music City Bowl, BC would be riding a nine-game bowl winning streak into San Francisco. Starting a new streak will be difficult against a USC team that is missing out on a BCS bowl for the first time in seven seasons, but the Eagles usually perform well in the post season.

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
#4 Texas Christian vs. #6 Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl, Monday January 4. Regardless what happens in Glendale, TCU—12–0 with wins over Utah, Clemson, and the aforementioned BYU Cougars and SMU Mustangs—will be God's college football champion. The Horned Frogs have a chance to finish #2 in the final polls, the best finish for a religiously affiliated school since Notre Dame finished second in 1989.

* I titled this post "God's Guide to College Bowl Games" because I thought it sounded catchy. God has not formally endorsed this guide.

** I wrongly imply here that The United Methodist Church disapproved of SMU's football team being punished so severely. In truth, the UMC's investigation of the Mustangs was more damning even than the NCAA's.


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