Bowl matchmakers kick off year in style


The TV Repairman:

OK, let's stop arguing about which team rules the college football roost (that's a circa 1930s cliche, young 'uns) and get to work.

Notre Dame, you give Florida a buzz and set up a game for next Saturday. Florida State and Wisconsin, you do the same. The winners play the following week for the works.

If it's true that a majority of folks want a national championship playoff, with no help from the NCAA and not much from the Bowl Coalition on New Year's Day, we ended up with a near-perfect and exciting quarterfinal.

Look at the scores: 18-16, 24-21, 21-16, 41-7. Oops! Well, at least that latter tally will quiet those bumpkins who figure three or four tough assignments in an 11-game schedule earns them the shot at the title if they luck into an undefeated season.

While the combatants in the Rose, Orange, Sugar and Cotton bowls weren't the absolute top of the line as voted by the coaches and media, they were awfully close . . . and perhaps the best bowl day ever did prove a couple of things:

The lucrative 18-bowl game system can be maintained with the spotlight still falling where it belongs, on the four biggies Jan. 1. And just three additional games wouldn't put a whole lot of people out much.

Besides, with conferences increasing in size and splitting into divisions with league title games the coming thing, virtually no team would be shut out of an opportunity to go all the way.

All in favor. . .

Here's what a morning, afternoon, evening and night of scribbling through eight ballgames produced on The Repairman's estimate sheet:

* If based on merit, the Big East officiating crew, which worked the Orange Bowl, should be assigned to the Blue-Gray all-star game next year. Even mild-mannered Dick (See No Evil) Enberg noted, "There have been some curious calls in this game."

* You have to like the thoroughness O. J. Simpson brings to his job as a sideline reporter. After reporting a guy had broken his arm, Juice informed us, "He will not return to the game."

* ABC analyst Dick Vermeil set a personal record by referring to 137 players as "an outstanding young man."

* What is it with those Darth Vader masks all those defensive linemen are wearing these days?

* How come the Fox Network, charged with the responsibility of providing NFL games for the biggest markets next season, didn't get a little practice in by picking up a minor bowl or two?

* Until sideline reporter Andrea Joyce breathlessly revealed, "The Virginia coaching staff wants more pressure on Boston College quarterback Glenn Foley," I wasn't sure George Welsh had made the trip to the Carquest Bowl.

* Boy, that guy Dr. Jerry Punch wouldn't let Michigan star Tyrone Wheatley alone about coming back for his senior year or heading for the pros, would he?

* Wonder what Miami's defensive coordinator thought about his pre-game comment that "We laugh about that 'Desert Swarm' business," after Arizona's defense had done its thing. Isn't it amazing how well behaved and subdued the Hurricanes were both on and off the field?

* Statistics usually go in one ear and out the other or simply bounce off the temples. But here's one that stuck: About 46 percent of the plays run against Arizona's defense went for no gain or a loss. Steel Curtain West.

* Studio host Hannah Storm said, "It's Virginia 13, Boston College 10, at the half." Well, it was BC 17, Virginia 13, with 3:42 remaining, but who was counting? Obviously not NBC.

* It's still hard to figure what sideline commentator Joe Spagnuola was doing hawking little chunks of the AstroTurf at Tennessee's Neyland Stadium for $19.95 during big underdog Penn State's snuffing of the Vols.

* Speaking of commercials, does it strike you as strange that Janine Turner is on camera more than the product in Chevy Geo ads? But who's complaining?

* Tim ("Smashmouth Football") Brant finally found a play-by-play announcer to match him word-for-word in the annoyance department: Mark Jones.

* Would someone please explain how Wisconsin could beat out Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State and three other bowl teams from the Big Ten and still end up as a seven-point underdog to UCLA?

* Why does Virginia subject itself to postseason embarrassments (this one in half-filled Joe Robbie Stadium) when everyone knows the Cavaliers' season ends in early November annually?

* The top Keith Jackson-ism of the day was "Stick a fork in that thing [the pigskin], it's walking around," after three straight turnovers in the Rose Bowl game.

* Classifying performances by conference is a risky business. No sooner did Brent Musburger point out how well Big Ten teams were doing when one recalled Michigan State and Iowa getting belted in the Alamo and Liberty bowls.

* If the claims are right that Notre Dame can get any player it wants in the recruiting wars, how come it ends up with a punter who kicks the ball anywhere from 18 to 33 yards (with the roll)?

* Granted, a lot of folks had been waiting most of the day for Florida State and Nebraska to get it on for No. 1, but when NBC opened up the customary super-hype about the game's importance, it seemed a bit overdone after a couple of weeks of daily stories and nine hours of watching. Tee it up and go!

* A lot of analysts had good days, chief among them Todd Christiansen, Cris Collinsworth, Dan Fouts and Bob Griese. The other guys, Bob Trumpy, Dick Vermeil and Tim Brant, didn't.

* Nebraska had an offensive line that looked like a bunch of 20-cubic-foot refrigerators lined up in a showroom, yet continually attempted to run the ball wide against Florida State's well-known pursuit. Maybe Tim Brant is right when he indicates too many media people didn't play the game and don't understand it.

* We've all known deprivation, but can you imagine Nebraska's defensive end Trev Alberts not having a TV in his room until this his senior year? The guy's a caveman, I tell you, and he proved it by playing with a dislocated elbow.

* Say what you want, but I tell you it provided a nice snuggly feeling knowing there was a Virginia State policeman keeping order on the Virginia Tech side of the field during the Poulan/Weed Eater Independence Bowl game. You never know when five or six guys are going to come down out of the stands and attack 80 beefy gridders in full combat regalia.

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