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Michigan Rolls; Harbaugh Rises; Football Rules TV; Bowls Questioned; George K's Folly; Rodgers Rants

It wasn't the game we expected.

After two thrilling, down-to-the-last-play semi-final games, Michigan overpowered Washington in the College Football Championship, 34-13.

Washington came into the game with the great offense, Michigan with the great defense.

Yet it was the Wolverines who exploded out of the gate, scoring 14 quick points to put the Huskies in a big hole. The Michigan running game was simply unstoppable all night, piling up over 300 yards.

And Washington quarterback Michael Penix, Jr., in our mind the best player in the country this year, was battered, bruised and beaten. Under pressure all night, he was off target on several throws, had some important drops, and one big gain called back by a penalty. 

So it ended with Jim Harbaugh's finest moment. The coach who turned around the programs at Stanford and with the NFL 49ers, had never before won the big one, falling short in the Super Bowl. His Michigan team overcame his two three-game suspensions and a sign-stealing scandal, went 15-0 and won the school's first natty in 26 years.

His best quote after the game was a nod to his father, Jack Harbaugh (who won a national FCS title at Western Kentucky), and brother John, coach of the NFL Baltimore Ravens: “I can now sit at the big person’s table in the family! My dad won a national championship, and my brother won a Super Bowl. It’s good to be at the big person’s table from now on.”

Harbaugh is a great coach, and it will be interesting to see if he returns to the pro game after winning it all at his alma mater. Our guess is that he will be coaching in the NFL next season for the Chicago Bears, Las Vegas Raiders, LA Chargers or Washington Commanders.

Washington will live to fight another day under its impressive coach, Kalen DeBoer.

And ironically, the Huskies and Wolverines will be in the same Big Ten Conference next year, and these teams will meet again in Seattle on Oct. 5.

Football Rules TV: According to a Sportico summary of the final TV ratings of 2023, the NFL had 93 of the 100 most-watched telecasts of the year. The top 20 rated shows were all NFL games, led by the Super Bowl at No. 1.

Three college football games were also included in the top 100, meaning that football was responsible for 96 of the 100 highest rated TV shows in 2023.

The four non-football shows: Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the President's State of the Union Address, the Academy Awards, and an episode of Next Level Chef.

The NFL is definitely trending upward. Five years ago, the league had 61 of the top 100 shows; the number had climbed to 82 last year.

The three college football games that made the cut were Ohio State vs Michigan, the SEC Championship and last years CFP title game between TCU and Georgia.

In terms of other sports, the UConn-San Diego State NCAA championship basketball game checked in at 101, the Kentucky Derby at 106, the fifth game of the NBA finals (Heat-Nuggets) at 120, and the final round of the Masters Tournament was 131. 

Baseball has been falling in TV popularity, with game 5 of the World Series the top rated broadcast at 140.

Bowl Futures: ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit, who maintains that he is a "bowl guy" and a "bowl junkie," is pretty downbeat about the future of post-season games not involved in the forthcoming College Football Playoff:

"I think you eliminate the bowls. Nobody wants to play in them. Don't play bowls. Just have the 12 teams--we'll get excited about those--and if you want to add maybe five or six more bowls outside of that, then do five or six. But we're getting to a point where it's ridiculous. We're putting 6-6 teams in bowl games nobody cares about. If players don't want to play in them, hell with it, don't have bowl games anymore."

Herbstreit is right, to a point. The transfer portal and NFL draft preparation have caused an increasing number of players to opt out. And there are too many games (42) and too many 6-6 teams playing in them. 

As we pointed out in our bowl preview, "This year's bowl field includes 20 teams with 6-6 records and one with a 5-7 mark. Think how much better the schedule would look if a 7-5 record was required to reach the post-season."

It's ironic that an ESPN announcer would suggest eliminating the bowls, since his network owns and operates 17 of them. Bowl games are now basically TV content and fill about 150 hours of programming during the holidays. As long as they provide content and continue to draw advertisers and decent viewership--which they did this year despite the defections--the games will stay.

Draymond Returns: Though he'll never admit it publicly, I'll bet Warriors' owner Joe Lacob is disappointed with NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who reportedly talked Draymond Green out of retiring during his recent suspension.

Green is in the first year of a four-year contract that will cost Lacob's Warriors more than $100 million. That's a lot of money for a guy who has become more of a distraction than a difference-maker on the court. And it also makes trading Green very unlikely. 

What team wants to inherit that kind of financial obligation for a guy whose skills have declined and who is ejected and suspended on a regular basis?

Curry's Burden: Speaking of the Warriors, the burden on Steph Curry to carry his team down the stretch in close games is becoming very heavy. 

What no one is talking about is the number of times Curry has missed shots or turned the ball over in the closing seconds of many of the Warriors' recent heart-breaking losses, including several in games where they have held 18 point leads in the second half.

Opposing teams know that Curry will be the player the Warriors depend on to take the last shots and try to create something out of nothing. So he's increasingly finding himself double teamed in critical situations, leading to forced shots and, in many cases, bad turnovers.

They need another player to step up. Both Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins, who've done it at times in the past, have been in shooting slumps for much of the year.

The Warriors need to turn the page and give the bulk of the playing time, and more end-of-game responsibility-- to youngsters Jonathan Kuminga, Trace Jackson-Davis, Brandin Podziemski and Moses Moody.

Delusional George: In comments at the Washington-Texas CFP semi-final game, disgraced Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff, who presided over the destruction of the conference, told Yahoo Sports and 247 Sports:

"Happy for the kids. They don't deserve all the nonsense going on around them. We were focused in rebuilding football. Took 2 1/2 years. I wish it would have happened quicker. If some of our schools would have been a little more patient, it would have paid off."


It's bad enough Kliafkoff tries to take credit for "rebuilding" football, when his contribution was non-existent, but to blame schools for not being "more patient" is to re-invent history.

George K had nothing to do with the conference's fantastic football showing this year. Washington, Oregon and Oregon State got no additional resources from him or the conference to put together their outstanding seasons. And the conference had nothing to do with USC's collapse, either.

As for the schools' alleged lack of patience, in truth they waited over a year for Kliavkoff to deliver a media deal, and the one he finally presented--an all-streaming, subscription based proposal from Apple TV--was an embarrassment.

He's either delusional, or he's trying to keep the remaining Pac-2 schools (Washington State and OSU) from firing him for cause, which would cost him the balance of his existing contract--a reported $3.7 per year for the next three years.

Rodgers Off the Rails: New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the former Cal and Green Bay Packers' star, has been dabbling in conspiracy theories and approaching whack job status in recent years.

Rodgers' most recent controversy involves late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, who's been critical of the quarterback's anti-Covid vaccine stance and his subsequent dishonesty about whether or not he'd been vaccinated. 

Last week Rodgers alleged Kimmel's name would be included in an unsealed list of associates of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

"For the record, I've not met, flown with, visited, or had any contact whatsoever with Epstein, nor will you find my name on any 'list' other than the clearly-phony nonsense that soft-brained wackos like yourself can't seem to distinguish from reality," Kimmel said. "Your reckless words put my family in danger. Keep it up and we will debate the facts further in court."

In a press conference a few days later, Rodgers said the Jets needed to "flush the bullshit' to be successful.

Perhaps he was looking in the mirror.


Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//

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