Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Nerd Bowl

Maybe it is time to add a standardized test to the bowl festivities. Most major sports conferences have a smallish, private school that boosts the average SAT score, but usually serves as nothing more than a free "win" on the football schedule.

Apparently, these academic "doormats" didn't get the message.

Stanford has always been one of the most academic prestigious schools in the nation. A half-dozen years ago, the football program was a mere afterthought, with some pundits even calling on them to disband it as a worthless cause. Now, however, they have gone to through BCS bowl games in a row. If not for a few missed kicks last season, they would have been 3-0 in these bowls. The victory this year in the Rose Bowl was the first Stanford Rose Bowl victory since Nixon was president. Stanford has a young hot-shot coach who also happens to be an alum, and doesn't plan on going anywhere.

Northwestern is the private oddity among the big public schools in the Big-10. This season they won the Big-10s lone New Years Day game. This also happened to be Northwestern's first bowl victory since someone named Truman was president. If not for a few blown forth quarter leads, Northwestern could have been undefeated. (With just a couple small breaks for the Cardinal and Wildcats, we could have seen a truly "nerdy" national championship game.) Like Stanford, Northwestern is led by a young alum for a coach.

The SEC's nerd school also got in the action. Vanderbilt won its bowl game to rack up 9 wins, a number that has not been seen since World War I. While the coach doesn't have ties to the school, he did bolt from a "coach in waiting" position at Maryland to go to Vandy. He will be a much more likely "flight" risk than the other two.

In Texas, Rice also had a bowl win. The only "nerd" school that didn't win its bowl game was the ACC's Duke. It was, however, Duke's first bowl appearance in 17 years, so you need to start somewhere. Notre Dame is joining in the ACC (playing 5 ACC football games, and fully joining in all other sports.) They are a top 20 private school. This year they just happen to be playing for the national championship.

In this years US News rankings, Stanford is #6, Duke #8, Northwestern #12, and Rice, Vanderbilt and Notre Dame are tied for #17. They make up all the schools in the US News top 20 that play top division college football.

It almost seems that the "scholar" is coming back to "scholar-athlete", with top-flight football universities actually fielding top-tier football teams. The schools have now got a new pitch for recruits: You can go get a top notch degree with endless possibilities - and if that doesn't work out, there is always the NFL.

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