So it is now time to embark on the final chapter in my mindless quest to compare Friday Night Lights plot lines to bowl games.
Before I jump into the comparisons, we need to get in the mood to discuss Friday Night Lights. That is, sappy, reflective and on the verge of tears.
The Rose Bowl Game Presented By Vizio, January 2nd, 5:00 PM, ESPN
Oregon vs. Wisconsin
By all indications, this should be one of the best games of the entire bowl season, if only because the Friday Night Lights tie-ins are just off the charts. Wisconsin has a tough, explosive offense that's led by an extremely talented dual-threat quarterback named Russell Wilson who transferred into the school this season from out of state. Hmmm..."an extremely talented dual-threat quarterback that transferred from out of state to play football." Yup, that's Ray "Voodoo" Tatum. Don't take my word for it, lets go to the video:
On the other side of the ball, Oregon is led by two players--quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James--that should give fans of the show flashbacks of Vince Howard and Luke Cafferty tearing up East Dillon's crappy, crappy excuse for a field. Not only do we have two of the best offenses in the country going at it, we have some of the most memorable characters from seasons 1 and 5 going head to head. This is what bowl season is all about (from a metaphorical Friday Night Lights perspective)!
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, January 2nd, 8:30 PM, ESPN
Oklahoma State vs. Stanford
This should be the most exciting game of the entire bowl season, and it will feature a big heaping dose of two of my favorite characters on the show.
Oklahoma State's most important football figure isn't the quarterback, the running back or even the head coach--it's a booster. Your official Buddy Garrity "Booster Who Is Just A Little Bit Too Involved With The Program" award goes to none other than Oklahoma State alum and notable oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens (with apologies to Phil Knight, who came in a close second). Based on name alone T. Boone sounds like he's either a huge booster for the Dillon Panthers or a character in a John Steinbeck novel. Pickens has donated more than $265 million to the school's athletic program including the single largest gift in collegiate athletic history of $165 million in 2005, which he donated on the condition that the school hire a certain athletic director of his choosing. Make no mistake, like Buddy Garrity, he has a life outside of being a football booster...but probably not much of a life.
Stanford is led by an extremely talented quarterback in Andrew Luck that for my money is a dead ringer for J.D. McCoy. Is anybody else with me on this? I've been pointing out the clear McCoy-to-Luck looks comparison for months but nobody else I talk to seems to see it. I feel like I'm taking crazy pills over here.
Allstate Sugar Bowl, January 3rd, 8:30 PM, ESPN
Michigan vs. Virginia Tech
Both of these schools kind of remind me of Tyra and Lyla in that, when they're good, they're really awesome, but when they're bad, oh wow...so bad. Michigan began the season with a really hot start by picking up an exciting win over Notre Dame in a game as thrilling as driving to your Dad's car dealership and smashing everything up because he committed adultery. But then in the middle of the season, they lost to an Iowa team they clearly outmatched in a performance nearly as disgraceful as cheating on your newly paralyzed former fiance with his best friend. Virginia Tech made it through the ACC with only one loss in a run as triumphant as beating the odds to get into your dream school by talking your way off the waitlist despite the fact that by all indications you were failing out of school only weeks earlier. But then in the ACC championship, they were crushed by Clemson in a game in which their play was almost as dishonorable as being complicit in the murder of a man at the hands of Landry. Landry! The odds are likely that the good sides of these teams will show up to the Superdome for this game, but if they don't, this BCS bowl threatens to be less entertaining than a Crucifictorious concert.
Discover Orange Bowl, January 4th, 8:30 PM, ESPN
Clemson vs. West Virginia
Both of these schools have young and exciting teams but it's their coaches that I think are straight out of a TV show.
Clemson's head coach may garner the most obscure FNL reference I've made thus far, but Dabo Swinney reminds me of the ever excitable Coach Stan Traub. Don't remember Stan? That's fine, I had to look up his name too. He's the guy that Coach Taylor invites onto the coaching staff at the beginning of season 4 whose general over-zealousness and love of football serves as comic relief for the majority of the final two seasons of the show. You know, that guy who screams a lot for no real reason? Well, imagine if he had landed the head coaching gig at a major college football program and they upset the defending national champions? I imagine his reaction might be something like this:
West Virginia's coach Dana Holgorsen has a sort of Tim Riggins "I'm Really Talented But Have Some Crazy Inner Demons" vibe about him. In May, Holgorsen, then the school's offensive coordinator, was escorted out of a casino at 3 AM on a Wednesday for "refusing to co-operate with casino management." Only days later, a local newspaper in West Virginia printed a story on Holgorsen that highlighted six separate alcohol-related incidents that he had allegedly be involved in. But that isn't even the most Riggins-esque part--Only about two weeks after that he was named the head coach of the team. Who else but Tim Riggins would be able to get away with that much shenanigans, and still be deemed talented enough to not get kicked off the team altogether? Coach Taylor pretty much accepted that Riggins for the handsome, handsome alcoholic hell raiser he was. It seems West Virginia would have done the same.
Allstate BCS National Championship, January 9th, 8:30 PM, ESPN
Alabama vs. LSU
Sporting events don't get much bigger than the National Championship, and similarly Friday Night Lights plot lines don't get much bigger than East Dillon vs. West Dillon, which is what we have here in this game.
Similar to the Lions and the Panthers, both LSU and Alabama are extremely talented and accomplished, and they just so happen to be neighbors, belonging to the same division in the same conference.
Alabama plays the role of West Dillon in this game partially because their coach Nick Saban reminds me a lot of Joe McCoy, J.D. McCoy's father. On the surface, both Saban and McCoy are smooth and collected. But once you get past the initial luster, there's the lingering feeling that both men might be sociopaths. Joe McCoy evolved from pushy father to man who will tear apart his family to win a football game. Nick Saban was accused by one of his former players last month of stepping over a player who was convulsing on the ground while he was head coach of the Dolphins. Suffice to say, he's not regarded as the warm fuzzy type. You may be inclined to question their tactics, but you can't argue with the results: Both teams have a long history of winning.
Alabama's running back Trent Richardson is a Heisman Trophy finalist whose bruising running style reminds me of another Panthers back who went on to play big-time college football: Brian "Smash" Williams. Smash was a fan favorite on the show for his humanizing antics and overall cool persona, and in a similar fashion Richardson has been among the most universally respected running backs in the country since his freshman season with the Crimson Tide in 2009. For Smash fans out their, Richardson is a player to keep your eye on in this game.
LSU on the other side of the ball is a little less conventional and traditional than their counterparts, but no less successful--much like the Lions in season 5. They're coached by Les Miles, who enjoys eating grass on the sidelines and is a fairly good microcosm of every bizarre, quirky person on the Lions coaching staff outside of Coach Taylor. LSU's best wide receiver, Reuben Randle, has about as much raw talent as Hastings Ruckle. Ruckle was the guy Coach Taylor recruited to play on the team during the fifth season premiere with one of my favorite lines of the entire series. Ruckle expressed reluctance to play football, explaining his family moves all over, to which Taylor responded "Well you live in Texas now. You love the game of football. You just don't know it yet."
LSU may very well have less talent than Alabama, but there's something endearing about the way they play as a team and seem to make big plays when it matters. Expect this game to end on a last second heave that stays in the air long enough for everybody attached to either team to evaluate the long road they took to get to that point and to ultimately conclude that the final score of the game is only a small number compared to the other vast experiences they've had in their lifetimes.
Oh and then the ball will get caught and everybody will hug and kiss and stuff.
So with that, my grand experiment of comparing bowl games to FNL plot lines has concluded.
Some may ask: Why have you neglected to cover every bowl game? It seems that you skipped over a few by just doing the BCS games for this post.
To that query I respond: Why did J.D. McCoy suddenly become a pretty cocky jerk in season 4 after being a really nice kid? So did Julie just...not do college? Why the hell did Landry have to kill a guy?
That is, many things in Friday Night Lights are either left unfinished or unexplained. It wouldn't be in the tradition of the show to breakdown and explain every game.
OK, that's my shoddy excuse for skirting on a few games, but if you're truly torn up about me not evaluating a game in terms of FNL plot-lines that you were hoping to watch, feel free to send me a tweet @Dan_Treadway and I will break down the contest of your choice in 140 characters or less. Try me.
Be sure to check back around NBA playoff time when I will be comparing the Miami Heat to a single important plot line from the movie Titanic.
And finally: Clear eyes, full hearts...