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BOWLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL '06-'07: THE NEW ORLEANS BOWL

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Name: R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, propped into existence by ESPN, a.ka. the ESPN2 Bowl Version 1.0

Motto: "There's No Place Like Dome!" Marketing fees for that slogan: $35,000 dollars, payable in cash, money order, or bars of platinum, which is probably what New Orleans-type Master P would pay them in if he's behind all of this. It's a slogan to make you say UGGHHHHHH!!!

The fee for the marketing department's use of Microsoft Paint, btw, will be too expensive no matter what it is:


And...there. That'll be $7,000, please.

Fake Bowl? You betcha, hatched entirely by ESPN2 with the sponsorship of a trucking company and, to our eye, no other visible local sponsors. (They probably attempted to reach FEMA, but got a message saying they'd return their call in three to forty days or so.)

Intrusive Corporate Sponsor: R and L Carriers, truckers extraordinaire. It's a sure sign of antiglamour when the sponsor's name has to be looked up, but it's even better when you find out they're being swindled and bragging about it. From their corporate history:

R+L CARRIERS now serves a total of 49 states plus Canada, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Umm..yeah. That road to Puerto Rico is a rough one. Driven it plenty of times. Someone's pulling the wool over your eyes, R and L! Hornswaggling you! Bamboozling you! And you're bragging about it on your website! You can't drive to Puerto Rico! Or the Dominican Republic!

Whatever. We couldn't care less. Let us know when you get that sweet cargo route to Fiji. That's how you ended up being the front for the ESPN2 Bowl version 1.0.

Morons.

Tradition Rating: In effect since 2001, making it a hoary, venerable fake of a bowl in comparison to greenhorn games like the Poinsettia Bowl. (But still fake.) 2001 was a poopy year for us, but at least we learned that Coldplay existed, since we were jonesing for something like Radiohead, but without balls or single points of musical interest. Which was just great, man. Tradition rating: Coldplaytastic.

Setup: Conference USA versus Sun Belt. (crickets. tumbleweeds....)

FEEL THE VIBRATION!!!

Location. New Orleans, who desperately needs the business and attention a bowl game can provide since Katrina took eighty years off the city's civilization progress rating. The only bonus is that after years of only hinting at exotic danger and decay, New Orleans may present the offer of legitimately intimidating decay and alleged danger, though how much danger lurks in the still depopulated city is debateable.


New Orleans: funny with fangs.

Matchup quality: Butt chops? Short ribs? Tripe? Somewhere in between? In the quest to evenly space out the remaining dribs and drabs of the college football season, ESPN has cobbled together this matchup of two teams with the pulling power of one of those shitty toy hovercrafts from the back of Boy's Life: two 7-5 teams, Rice and Troy, fighting it out in the dingy hollows of the Superdome on ESPN.

(Frankly, even the gift bag sucks. An Aeropostale jacket? Has "Dick in a box" made Color Me Badd retro cool again? And "Noise suppressing headphones"? How about just telling the players half of them are going to end up working with heavy machinery the rest of their lives, eh?)

Both teams do have some minor degree of intrigue about them, though. "Plucky" Troy (mandatory modifier whenever talking about Sun Belt team) played Georgia Tech and Florida State respectably before going on a bender through the conference, winning the Sun Belt in a comeback against the MTSU Blue Raiders. The defense will be soup-strainer solid, but the offense features Omar Haugabook, who in addition to having a great name ain't bad under center. (He certainly can take a hit, since Georgia Tech and Florida State both tattooed him every third play or so, to the point where we feared for his frontal lobes in those games.)

Rice went 7-5, an underacknowledged accomplishment coach Todd Graham deserves huzzahs and hip-hips for. Capital work, sir. It helps to have Major Applewhite in the embryonic stages of his likely illustrious coaching career hitting the d-pad for your offense. Prior to his arrival, Rice's offense lolled in the bottom ten in the country. They improved exponentially this season: wide receiver Jarrett Dillard had 20 td receptions by himself.

What to watch for: Jarrett Dillard, who could do bad things against Troy. The upsell on this game is the potential for bowl season's first real shootout, since neither Rice nor Troy seems to pay much attention to stopping anyone, or even really holding serve. We'll be the over here and wager on the first real contest of the bowl season, since the trunkings of both NIU and Oregon in the prior two bowls constitute a trend we'd like to will out of existence. Troy and Rice gleefully burn off the etoufee weight in a track meet Rice eventually wins by a score of 41-38ish.