Name: The Emerald Bowl. Our fingers really just wanted to keep typing here--whaaa? No improbably clunky secondary sponsor? No long modifiers? No Pioneer Purevision Bell Helicopteredness?--but that's it. The Emerald Bowl, brought to you by Chan Gailey.
Actually, as we'll remind you several times during this preview, Chan Gailey is not involved in this game. Florida State is playing in this game. The Emerald Bowl. Without their band, whom they've outsourced.
Motto: Umm..."We're nuts about football?" None visible on their respectable website, which does mention that Florida State is playing in the game. The website also brags about being the only matchup between the ACC and the Pac-10, and, well, good for them for that, since prior Emerald Bowls featured the Mountain West versus the ACC, games either serving as grim confirmation of the Mountain West's drastic talent deficit (losses to Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Navy) or nasty revelation re: a major program's ability to show up for a bowl two thousand miles away from home (Georgia Tech's humiliation in 2005.)
Since it doesn't have a motto, we'll just supply one free for them: "Featuring Florida State!" They already have the t-shirt, which we've already purchased and framed in our bathroom:
Did we mention Florida State's playing in the Emerald Bowl?
Fake Bowl? Not really--think of it as the Chik-Fil-A Peach Bowl of the West Coast, an upstart bowl whose competent management, slick promotion, and sound invite strategy give it a robust profile for a bowl game only five years in existence. (In retrospect, the Utah/Georgia Tech invite of last year was brilliant. It helps that Utah won, of course.) The corporate partners list features just what you would expect of a well-run bowl game in the Bay Area: a newspaper, luxury hotel, gourmet food supplier, IT company, and a rubber fist emporium.
(That's what Portal One is, right?)
On a side note, we'd give our left kidney to make the trophy for this game a rubber fist awarded by ten men in hot pants wearing angel wings. In fact, we'd even root for FSU just to see this trophy handed to a vomiting and pale Bobby Bowden.
Intrusive Corporate Sponsor: Emerald Nuts, the snack-food subsidiary of Diamond Foods, which is itself a joint venture between Matsumura Fishworks and Tamaribuchi Heavy Manufacturing Concern. We give the crown of least intrusive sponsor to Emerald, since their name doubles nicely as a sponsor and title. They also do not insist on shoehorning their name and product into the full title like some people we know. (Pioneer Pure Vision Whores.)
The wonder of corporate copywriting does strike again on the site:
The Emerald Bowl exemplifies the spirit of exercise and vitality -- just like the healthful, contemporary products brought to consumers by Diamond Foods.
We love contemporary products. Especially canned food and penicillin, though the day we quit drinking mead is the day you can revoke our Viking license, friend.
Tradition Rating: Around since 2002, a youngster, for sure, but still more venerable than the New Orleans Bowl. Since 2002 was announced as the year of autism, we give the Emerald Bowl a tradition rating of Hug Machine.
And you thought Mike Tirico was "the hug machine."
Setup: ACC vs. Pac-10. One of the real value buys of the bowl season, not only does the Emerald Bowl pair an ACC and Pac-10 matchup rarely seen, it does what bowls are best for: pairing two teams of similar profile who've never actually played each other before. One of those teams, in case you didn't realize, is Florida State. The other is a UCLA team still buzzing from a desperate choke-out of USC, the game allowing Florida to play in the national title game. While Florida State plays in the Emerald Bowl.
Location. San Francisco, a name not synonymous with college football but, instead, with the consumption of one's own farts.
Matchup quality: Gourmet almond quality for half the price, here. We kept waiting for Jarvis Moss and company to incinerate the turnstile tackles of Florida State in the Florida/FSU game. This never happened, but those wanting to see a nearly grown man yanked down by the collar ten times in a night may want to tune in: UCLA's pair of defensive ends, Justin Hickman and Bruce Davis, each have 12.5 sacks. Xavier Weatherford--the two headed tackling dummy under center for Florida State--will get abused to the degree of second-degree felony tonight. Florida State's offensive disorder has killed qb productivity with bad protection and predictable routes all year. If Hickman presents a shadow of the menace he displayed when we saw him at Notre Dame--he vaulted a lineman on one play, a sight lesser quarterbacks than Brady Quinn would have crapped pants at--FSU's woes will continue.
We would type something here about a running game if they had one, but Florida State does not have one and has not for three years. Did we mention they're playing in the Emerald Bowl? UCLA's mini-line is light in the weight department, and could in theory get pushed around. Florida State is incapable of such brawn, though, and their offensive coordinator doesn't like to worry about petty things like blocking and such.
UCLA's completed the handiwork of a coach who doesn't quite have a handle on how to headcoach properlike just yet: an offensive juggernaut in '05 became a defensive team long on pop and shy on points in '06. A middling offensive team at best, they're saddled with another problem in a mild but persistent case of quarterback surplus. Ben Olson is back for the bowl game. Patrick Cowan, his backup, beat USC in a game decided largely by his refusal to make mistakes and his ability to scramble for key third-down yardage. Either one will get serious punishment dealt out to them by Florida State's defense, the lone unit on the team with any semblance of past Seminole glories.
What to watch for: Concussions and punting, most likely. Florida State's offense will hand UCLA ten points easy; combine that with Patrick Cowan's scrambling, tons of dumpoff passes to the versatile Chris Markey at running back, and a game plan designed to eke out yards and dare Florida State to score, and UCLA will nab the Pac-10's first bowl victory. FSU should score a few points off the legendary Jeff Bowden rainbow jump ball pass--so pretty!--but UCLA should be able to thrill to the site of FSU's offense drowning slowly in the second half. No worries on entertainment value, though: they'll be plenty of extremely violent hits between the two superb defenses, which is all one can ask for in a bowl game the day after Christmas. It should be fine viewing, even for those of you not addicted to FSU snuff films like we are.
Did we mention Florida State's playing in the Emerald Bowl?