Hungover was I. It was New Year’s Day, and it was eight in the morning on New Year’s Day. And I’m a square, sure, but I’m not that bad a square, and my stomach was in a knot that would only be untwisted by coffee, a cigarette, or more booze. I opted for the first two, as I had an 11 a.m. game to cover for this newspaper. Who schedules a bowl game for 11 a.m. on the day after New Year’s Eve? The Outback Bowl, that’s who. The Outback Bowl. Tampa. I’ll tell you – at eight I was so not interested in crawling out of bed.

Paul Wong
David Horn

But I am a journalist, and my responsibilities are to The Michigan Daily and to you, the reader. So I shaved and showered and journeyed with my colleagues to Raymond James Stadium (hereafter RayJay).

All week I had been getting myself psyched about the prospect of free Outback Steakhouse food, and upon arrival I was outraged to find breakfast food. Breakfast food. Are they fucking kidding? It’s like going to a Bowl game sponsored by Dunkin’ Donuts and being served pasta. Breakfast food. Granted, it was 10:30, but I wanted my Bloomin’ Onion, and I did not care what God-like event coordinator decided that it was too early for Outback food. If I hadn’t been so tired I would have gone Michael Douglas (in “Falling Down”) on their ass, but for lack of energy, I buttered a bagel and let the carbs soak up what was left of my inside.

The game. Oh the game. I had chosen Florida against the 1-point spread in my Staff Picks, and was struggling all game with the conflict between winning Staff Picks and Michigan winning the game. When the Michigan offense sputtered early on, I resigned to a Tennessee-like thrashing at the hands of Florida and a leg-up in the Staff Picks scramble. Then Chris Perry and John Navarre decided to throw it down and began their journey toward playing for the national championship in 2004. That’s right. You’ve been thinking it and you’ve heard the whispers: There is no reason why this team shouldn’t be college football’s best team in 365 days.

What a delight. The day was made ever the more glorious when Texas beat Louisiana State by 15, assuring at least a tie for me in Staff Picks. Even more glorious still was watching Florida State play something resembling football against a Georgia team that I picked, in August, as the nation’s most overrated. So much for that. But does the fact that Florida State, Florida, Miami, Nebraska and Tennessee all lost mean that the ’90s are officially over? I couldn’t have imagined how satisfying it would be to see the teams that you loved to hate over the past decade fall one by one.

As for the rest of the bowl season, Rose Bowl East was a complete dud. That was definitely the game I was most looking forward to, and Iowa looked like they hadn’t picked up a football in, well, two months. I’m willing to give the Hawkeyes the benefit of the doubt and say that their play suffered primarily from their absurdly long hiatus.

Ohio State, of course, made it possible for the rest of the Big Ten to claim this season as our own, rather than just the Buckeyes’. Congrats though, boys. My hat is off to Jim Tressel, and I am giddy at the prospect of Ohio State-Michigan 2003. But just because Ohio State’s national championship was legitimate, thus suggesting the BCS’s legitimacy, let’s not forget that college football is still in dire need of a playoff. The BCS worked this time, sure. But as any dungeon master worth his salt will tell you, if you roll a 20-sided die enough times … uh… the right team will win it every once in a while. Sorry. That analogy broke down before I could stop it.

So, happy 2K3. May every bowl season be as entertaining as this one – BCS or not.

David Horn can be reached at hornd@umich.edu.

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