Dear Friends of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: November is normally a time of high anxiety in the bowl business.
It's a time when staff members and volunteers travel throughout the country to "scout" potential teams. A time when bowl directors plot possible matchups and various "what if" scenarios. A time when conference officials and athletic directors begin to lobby for their teams and make plans for prospective post-season trips.
It's also a time when important games are being played that affect national rankings and bowl matchups...games played by 20-year olds that can be decided by a pass interference call, blown extra point, or inopportune holding penalty. It's really a great time of year if you love college football. For those of us in the business, it's a time that gets your blood pumping, your adrenaline flowing, and your hairline receding.
Fortunately for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, our level of anxiety is quite a bit lower this year, thanks to the resurgence of Navy football and the qualify of teams in the Pac-12 Conference. As noted in my previous update, Navy won its bowl-eligibility-clinching sixth game last Saturday and we immediately invited the Midshipmen to play in this year's game. So with four weeks left in the season, one half of our matchup is already set. After five consecutive victories, Navy is now 6-3 with games remaining at Troy this Saturday, against Texas State at home on Nov. 17, and against Army in Philadelphia on Dec. 8.
Pac-12: Things are shaping up nicely for us in the Pac-12 as well. Last weekend's action was highlighted by Oregon's 62-51 win over USC, in which the Ducks racked up 730 yards of total offense, and UCLA's stunning 66-10 rout of Arizona. In other important games, Washington edged Cal 20-13 and Oregon State outlasted Arizona State, 36-26. I scouted the UCLA-Arizona game and asst. executive director Ryan Oppelt attended both Cal-Washington and OSU-ASU.
As you know, we have the sixth pick in the conference this year. Five teams are currently bowl eligible and ranked in the AP Top 25--No. 2 Oregon (9-0), No. 13 Oregon State (7-1), No. 16 Stanford (7-2), No. 17 UCLA (7-2) and No. 21 USC (6-3). Three teams are one win away, as Arizona, Arizona State and Washington all have 5-4 records. Since Arizona and ASU play each other, at least one is guaranteed to get eligible, and both have a remaining home game in which they will be favored (Arizona against Colorado this Saturday and ASU against Washington State next week). Utah has won two straight and, at 4-5, also has a legitimate shot at post-season play. So it appears likely that the conference will have seven or eight (or perhaps even nine) teams in the bowl mix.
This week: Navy hopes to extend its winning streak to six straight on the road at Troy, a team that scored 48 points last week at Tennessee. In the Pac-12, the marquee game features two Rose Bowl hopefuls--Oregon State at Stanford. Other games with bowl implications include the aforementioned Arizona-Colorado contest, plus Utah at Washington and Arizona State at USC.
Crystal Ball: Here are the latest prognostications regarding our bowl.
ESPN (Schlabach): Navy vs. Arizona
ESPN (Edwards): Navy vs. Arizona
Huffington Post: Navy vs. Washington
SI (Mandel): Navy vs. Arizona
National Football Post: Navy vs. Washington
CBS Sports: Navy vs. Arizona
Phil Steele: Navy vs. Arizona State
College Football News: Navy vs. Arizona State
USA Today (Myerberg): Navy vs. Arizona
USA Today (Smith): Navy vs. Washington
Off the Field: The entire Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl family was greatly saddened last week with the passing of our colleague and good friend, Gary Fazzino. Gary had been a member of our Board of Directors for the past six years. He was a terrific Board member and a tremendous supporter of the game. More importantly, he was a great man, community leader, husband and father. A former mayor of Palo Alto, he had served for many years as Vice-President for Government Affairs at Hewlett-Packard and for the past few years held the same position at Applied Materials. He will be sorely missed by his wife, Annette, twins Matthew and Julia, and all who were fortunate enough to know him.