Looking back at the bowls

Going into Wednesday night’s Sugar Bowl featuring Louisville and Florida, the NCAA gridiron landscape had produced 29 college bowl games.

Here at the newspaper, we have only a handful of games left in our annual college bowl picks. From what I’ve figured out, the good news is I can’t lose. However, fellow scribe Steve Hemmelgarn isn’t letting me off too easy – although he really should’ve picked Syracuse and more on that in a moment.

Going into the bowl picks I had a lead of four games versus Hemmelgarn, which is now three. We have three different picks left since I took Oregon, Arkansas State and Notre Dame. He has Kansas State, Kent State and Alabama.

I guess when I say Hemmelgarn should’ve picked Syracuse, I honestly should include myself on that side of the ledger as well. However, sometimes when one goes back and looks at things in hindsight it’s always easier to second guess and be a backseat driver.

What I did not know and perhaps many of you also had zero clue about was the following fun little stat – West Virginia University is now 0-3 all-time in football contests played on Dec. 29.

Aside from the mostly forgettable game this past Saturday, which was Dec. 29, WVU also was handed a 35-30 loss by Georgia Tech in the 1997 Carquest Bowl.

The first loss in WVU history on Dec. 29 came back in 1972 during the Bobby Bowden era. One person I know who probably hasn’t forgotten a lot about that day is ex-Mountaineer kicker Frank Nester, who still resides in Ravenswood. On that fateful day, Nester booted field goals of 27 and 39 yards to give WVU an early 6-0 cushion in the Peach Bowl, but N.C. State rolled to a 49-13 win.

I still can’t believe WVU failed to register a third down conversion in the game. Although I’m still looking, I would like to know the last time the ‘Eers have failed to do that and which college team was the last to accomplish such a feat during a bowl game.

Unfortunately, it looks like WVU might be the only team to have zero conversions on third down this bowl season. However, honorable mention awards must go out to Mississippi State, which was 1 of 11 in a 34-20 loss to Northwestern, as well as UCLA. The Bruins went 1 of 17 on third down in its 49-26 loss to Baylor.

Obviously, limiting penalties, converting opportunities on third down and taking care of the football are keys for any team, no matter the level of competition.

Thus far in the 29 postseason games, there have been six finals where the teams had the same number of turnovers. The record for teams who won the turnover battle in the other games is 17-6.

In games where the outcome was decided by seven points or less, the team winning the turnover battle is 6-3-1. Central Michigan’s 24-21 win versus Western Kentucky was the push in those 10 games as it marks the only current bowl affair where neither squad turned it over.

Contact Jay Bennett at jbennett@newsandsentinel.com