Bonesville: The Authoritative Independent Voice of East Carolina
Daily News & Features from East Carolina, Conference USA and Beyond

Mobile Alpha Roundup Daily Beat Recruiting The Seasons Multimedia Historical Data Pirate Time Machine SportByte™ Weather





Put your ad message in front of 1,000's and 1,000's of Pirate fans. Call 252.637.2944 for flexible options & rates.





Pirate Notebook No. 329
Monday, December 3, 2007

By Denny O'Brien

Postseason puzzlers punctuate 2007

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.


For the second year in a row, Denny O'Brien was a member of the voting panel for the Harris Interactive College Football Poll, commissioned by the Bowl Championship Series. O'Brien was nominated to the panel by Conference USA. The Harris Poll is a component of the BCS Standings, which also take into account the USA Today Coaches Poll and an average of six computer service rankings.

View O'Brien's final 2007 Harris BCS Poll ballot.

View the final 2007 BCS Standings.

Other Recent Items

BVL: Pirates shock George Mason
BVL: Final BCS Standings
Denny O'Brien's BCS Harris Poll Ballot
O'Brien: Postseason puzzlers punctuate 2007
Bradsher: Time trifles away as men dither
Myatt: USM didn't learn from ECU's mistake
Batten: Scotland star finds his spot at ECU
Bailey: GMAC Bowl holding its cards
O'Brien: Revised QB formula yields dividends

In the most puzzling college football season in recent memory, it’s perfectly fitting that the Bowl Championship Series ended in a mad scramble.

Closer to home, there was no shortage of head-scratching moments throughout the season, especially towards the end.

Here are some perplexing thoughts from the regular season’s final week:

Postseason politicking

Could you have picked a worse postseason scenario for East Carolina fans than the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl? Not unless a new bowl has been scheduled for Christmas Day in Antarctica.

Playing in Hawaii on December 23rd ensures that 99.9 percent of ECU fans must watch the game from their cozy living rooms. That’s unfortunate considering the increased enthusiasm that was tangibly displayed in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium this season.

If you had to pick which segment of the Pirates program performed the most consistently in 2007, the fan base takes that honor hands down. East Carolina averaged over 41,000 per game this season, and only the finale against Tulane drew under 40K.

Yet the fans seemed to be the forgotten man during the postseason positioning process.

When the GMAC Bowl decided not to release East Carolina for selection by other bowls, it was widely believed that the Pirates would be the selection should Central Florida take the Conference USA title. And it made sense, because most Oklahoma high schools would travel more fans than tiny Tulsa University.

So, what happened? Why would the GMAC Bowl pass on ECU when Tulsa was its only other option, and Bowling Green — another school without a reputation for traveling — was the MAC selection?

Who knows? But it’s no secret that East Carolina’s administration made it abundantly clear that it desired a visit to Waikiki Beach over Mobile Bay.

Aside from the most obvious reasons — destination, climate, and a luxurious vacation — the question is why?

Playing in Oahu limits fans from making the postseason trip, and bowl games are one of the prime opportunities to charm donors into making bigger financial commitments. Logistically, though, a trip to Hawaii isn’t feasible for most given the distance and proximity to Christmas.

Not the case with Mobile. With the game scheduled on a Sunday after New Year’s, fans would have plenty of vacation time at their disposal, though they’d be required to burn very little if any.

Competitively you also have to question why Hawaii was the preference. Of all the bowls allotted to C-USA, Hawaii easily provides the toughest possible opponent, and what many will suggest is an unrealistic scenario for a win.

Given ECU’s defensive shortcomings and special teams inconsistency, the Pirates are a definite underdog against Boise State. Outside of West Virginia and Virginia Tech, the Broncos are by far the most imposing opponent ECU will have faced and certainly the most diverse offensively.

Facing Bowling Green in Mobile would have been more forgiving. Heck, the Pirates are probably a decent favorite to finish with eight wins in that scenario, a definite sign of progress after notching seven W's last season.

Three years from now, fans will point to the overall record, not who ECU beat. If the latter includes Boise State, it’s a shame the Pirate Nation won’t be on hand to see it.

Jeff Bower’s firing

Smooth move, Southern Miss. In firing Jeff Bower, you not only terminated the best head coach in your program’s history, you dethroned the longtime King of Conference USA.

Good luck with the coronation of the next one. Because my guess is you’ve officially removed yourself from C-USA royalty, providing such a status exists.

If it does, the Golden Eagles program has had a virtual stranglehold on it since the league’s inception. And any explanation behind USM’s seemingly permanent spot atop the league standings starts and ends with its former head coach, whose name is etched in boldface within the definition of loyalty.

You certainly can’t attribute success to facilities. If it weren’t for Tulsa, “The Rock” would be the official armpit of C-USA, a dreadful eyesore complete with the bells and whistles of a rundown high school stadium.

Seriously, it makes Houston’s old digs look like a palatial setting.

Yeah, I know. Improvements are on the way. So, save your e-mails Southern Miss fans. Awfully nice of you to offer those luxuries to Bower, who was a master at operating a porterhouse program on a Happy Meal budget.

Ditto for location. Hardly anybody is rushing to relocate to Hattiesburg, and that should include any coach whose credentials mirror Bower’s.

While Bower wasn’t the first to experience success at USM, he is the only one to do so during the BCS era. Comparing anyone’s success two decades ago with what Bower accomplished is a complete apples and oranges experience.

Southern Miss wants to discard Bower’s 14-consecutive winning seasons and ten bowl berths in the past 11 years. In the process, USM likely will hire a coordinator who has never called the shots at a major program.

That includes the formation of an astute staff, implementation of a recruiting strategy, and humble glad-handing of overzealous boosters. Instead of a seasoned veteran overseeing that process, USM will likely break out the training wheels.

Where’s the logic in that?

Conference USA defenses

New rule that should be implemented by C-USA: First team to 40 wins.

That’s about the only way to prevent league games from exceeding the four-hour plateau.

While it’s tempting to attribute C-USA’s defenseless tailspin to offensive sophistication, a quick study of league performance in non-conference games suggests otherwise. C-USA offensive production took a nosedive when its schools stepped out of conference, and that spread universally from top to bottom in the league standings.

Take Central Florida. The Knights torched Tulsa for 44 points in the championship game Saturday, but managed only 12 against rival South Florida.

Memphis hardly did the conference proud when it scored seven against Sun Belt also-ran Middle Tennessee. And Tulane, boasting the nation’s second leading rusher, managed only 17 against Army’s soft ‘D’.

If C-USA is to be taken seriously as a viable football conference, its schools must make a complete 180 defensively. The league finished the season 13th in the Sagarin conference ratings (behind the MAC, Sun Belt, and I-AA Colonial), most of which can be traced to its abundant collection of miserable defenses.

Send an e-mail message to Denny O'Brien.

Dig into Denny O'Brien's Bonesville archives.

12/03/2007 05:12:46 AM

©2001-2002-2003-2004-2005-2006-2007-2008-2009-2010-2011-2012-2013 All rights reserved.
Articles, logos, graphics, photos, audio files, video files and other content originated on this site are the proprietary property of
None of the articles, logos, graphics, photos, audio files, video files or other content originated on this site may be reproduced without written permission.
This site is not affiliated with East Carolina University. View's Privacy Policy. Advertising contact: 252-349-3280; Editorial contact:; 252-444-1905.