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Friday, December 31, 2021

#bowlbands - CFP Semifinal: Capital One Orange Bowl

 The Michigan Wolverines and Georgia Bulldogs will meet in the second semifinal in the Capital One Orange Bowl. Michigan made the playoff after beating archrival Ohio State in the final game of the regular season and Iowa in the Big Ten championship game. After spending the entire season at #1, Georgia dropped the SEC championship game to Alabama, but only fell to #3. The Orange Bowl matches a pair of Sudler Trophy winners: Michigan was the first to receive the honor, while Georgia was the first in the SEC. However, as is Orange Bowl tradition, both bands will miss halftime, as their recording artist halftime show will get fancy like Applebee's on a date night with Walker Hayes.

The two programs both have ties to bandsmen I admire. My high school's blue and gold may as well have been maize and blue under the direction of Paul Parets, who spent 36 years as director of the Alexis I. duPont High School Tiger Marching Band. Among the band's accolades with Mr. Parets at the helm were five trips to the Rose Parade, multiple trips to the Lord Mayor's New Year's Day parade in London, St. Patrick's Day parade in Ireland, and of particular note here, performances in the Orange Bowl Parade in Miami.

This past January, I lost a friend and colleague who passed unexpectedly in Dr. Dennis AsKew, who served as director of the School of Music at UNCG. I met Dennis when he was serving as the pep band director, and we connected over our love of athletic bands, including drum corps. He marched sousaphone for Georgia and loved his Dawgs. Dennis also attended Michigan.

Should Alabama win the other semifinal, the winner of this game will be headed for another dual Sudler matchup.



#bowlbands - CFP Semifinal: Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

The first semifinal matchup this New Year's Eve has been billed by most as David vs. Goliath. Cincinnati, the first Group of Five team to be included in the College Football Playoff, and they've got a tall task ahead of them in reigning champion and perennial power Alabama.

At the half and in the stands, the Bearcat Band will be facing the Million Dollar Band, and to say they've been there before would be an understatement. Bama's band may as well get the playoff logo (Clemson's band informed me that they're stickers) permanently affixed to their uniforms. Still, Cincinnati's band knows they're damn good, and will take the field as fearlessly as their team. However, the Bearcat Band will be taking the field without Director Christopher Nichter and Associate Director Nicholas Angelis, both of whom have been placed on leave for unknown reasons.

This year's Cotton Bowl is also a family affair: The Moorhouse family has a pair of brothers marching in both bands. Senior Christopher plays alto sax in the Million Dollar Band, while his younger brother Noah stayed local and marches the same instrument for the Bearcat Band.



For All the Mayo


On a gray, foggy, intermittently rainy day in Charlotte, I reunited with live football.

I was at the same bowl - then the Belk Bowl - in late 2019. Then 2020 was, of course, 2020, and despite a few games of interest nearby this past season, I kept my distance. But that streak broke today a short drive down I-85. While I had always intended to attend, I waited until the last minute to buy my ticket. Having planned on going to the Military Bowl parade while in Maryland earlier in the week, I had already been affected by one bowl cancellation, and hoped that the game in Charlotte wouldn't meet a similar fate.

The Duke's Mayo Bowl pitted North Carolina against South Carolina, at the crossroads of the Carolinas, and the bowl couldn't have asked for a better comeback after the 2020 season. With Columbia and Chapel Hill within easy driving distance - to say nothing of the untold thousands of Gamecocks and Tar Heels living in the Charlotte Metro already - the game was well attended and lively. The bowl's social media presence and the promise of a mayo bath (and a donation to charity) for the winning coach, added intrigue for the home viewers, even the irritable bowl syndrome folks who think there are too many meaningless bowls.

I saw the Mighty Sound of the Southeast most recently at the 2018 Belk Bowl; I haven't seen the Marching Tar Heels live since 2007 when USF played in Chapel Hill, though I've seen their pep bands plenty here in Greensboro. I was seated in the upper deck, TV side, on about the side 1 40 yard line, meaning South Carolina has about a 20 yard advantage on my ears, but even without that, it was clear they had superior sonic output. I also happened to be on the South Carolina side, so I only got UNC's band from the backfield.

While the well attended game was undoubtedly good for the bowl's coffers, it made it a bit tougher to navigate as a band fan. My experience with both bands was from my cheap seat perch, while in year's past I've been able to move down closer to both bands. Still, it was great to be out there live once more. For more, check out #bowlbands on Instagram and Twitter. Here's to 2022!

Friday, December 10, 2021

#bowlbands Rapid* Reactions

 (And by rapid, I mean that I'm going through them fairly quickly, not that they're coming immediately after announcements, because, well, yeah.)

First, I hope, as I always to, that the full bands get to attend each bowl game. My previous refrain was if an athletic department couldn't afford to send its full operation - band cheer, dance, etc. - to the postseason, they weren't equipped to compete at that level; however, I understand that programs were hit hard this past year with the pandemic, so I'm not nearly as critical now. 

One of the first things I typically go looking for any bowl season is dual Sudler matchups, and it's a slim slate - just three to start, with a fourth in the championship game if Alabama wins its semifinal game against Cincinnati. Beyond the other semifinal game, Michigan vs. Georgia in the Orange Bowl (where they won't do halftime), LSU meets Kansas State in the TaxAct Texas Bowl and Penn State and Arkansas will meet in the Outback Bowl.

The field at Raymond James Stadium will also see an in-state pairing as Florida plays UCF in the Gasparilla Bowl, just over a week prior. It will be Florida's second trip there this year, as the Gators played USF early in the season; UCF makes their way there every other year in the annual War on I-4. Two schools that call themselves Carolina also have a short trip ahead of them, as North Carolina and South Carolina will meet in Charlotte in the Duke's Mayo Bowl. I intend to be at the game, which will be the third name under which I will attend the bowl in Charlotte. I'll also make my way out to at least the parade, if not the game, for the Military Bowl while in Maryland for the holidays, meaning I'll catch North, South, and East Carolina.

The New Year's Six matchups are a mixed bag of familiar and unfamiliar. Both the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl will feature traditional tie-ins: Big Ten/Pac-12 and Big 12/SEC, respectively. #5 Notre Dame returns to the Fiesta Bowl for the third time since 2000, while Oklahoma State, who sat literal inches from making the playoff conversation much more interesting, returns for the first time since finishing #3 in the then-BCS standings following the 2011 season. But most seemingly out of place is the Peach Bowl. This year's game, which will feature a Pat Narduzzi-helmed, ACC Champion Pitt against Narduzzi's previous employer Michigan State, will host no southern schools for only the second time in the bowl's history, the other being Army vs. Illinois in 1985.

But fear not, Atlanta - the South is still coming through. The Sonic Boom of the South, that is, who will meet the Marching 101 in the Celebration Bowl, back after a pandemic hiatus. Both Jackson State and South Carolina State are making their first appearances as the SWAC and MEAC representatives, respectively. Jackson State in particular has been getting outsized attention for an FCS program generally and an HBCU specifically from sports media due to having Coach Prime - NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders - at the helm as head coach.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Swine Flew


I've only been to Cincinnati once.

Back in 2017, my wife ran the Flying Pig half marathon in Cincy, and we made a nice little family trip up for the weekend.

Today, pigs flew once again, as the Cincinnati Bearcats became the first Group of Five team to make the College Football Playoff.

Yes, they're already betrothed to the Big 12. And it took every single star aligning - including losses from all the right teams and a victory over the committee's #5 Notre Dame - for them to make their way in. But they're in. They're in for every Boise State, every TCU, every Utah, every UCF whose undefeated efforts were deemed not enough by the Powers That Be to this point. 

As a USF alumnus, Cincinnati has been a conference foe for longer than I've been a Bull, through the Metro, Conference USA, the Big East and the American. Under most circumstances, I'd consider them a rival. But this comeup is bigger than any individual rivalry. It's the shattering of the glass ceiling that has prevented any team from outside college football's college structure from so much as sniffing a championship.

It's entirely possible that Cincinnati gets the brakes beat off them by Bama in the semifinal. They wouldn't be the first - each year of the playoff has featured at least one semifinal blowout so far. Some would undoubtedly use it as evidence that Cincy didn't belong, but the fact is, they earned their way in and now have a chance at the unthinkable. This year's playoff field is notable in that beyond Bama, no other participant has won a championship in the 21st century. So while I'm excited to see Michigan and Georgia in the mix as well, I'm rooting for Cincinnati. Because in a phrase I haven't uttered a ton since the days of the Big East, we all we got.

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