By Wayne Phillips
Sports Editor Emeritus
As hard as the hit was, I thought Michigan running back Vincent Smith's head was in the helmet that went rolling backward after he was hit by South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney in Tuesday's Outback Bowl football game.
In what would rank right up there with the hardest lick I've ever seen one football player lay on another, Clowney's blow jarred the pigskin free from the Michigan runner and Clowney recovered the ball.
After watching a full day of games on Tuesday, and many of the other bowl games this season, that hit by Clowney is thus far the highlight of my bowl-watching.
Clowney, who was recruited hard by the University of Tennessee and it appeared for awhile that the Vols might land the big kid from South Carolina, has been a defensive standout all year for "the ole' ball coach" Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks.
His Outback Bowl blast came after the most bizarre call I've seen made by the officials in many years.
Michigan ran a fake punt for four yards or so to near the first down marker. The chains were brought out to measure, and it was apparent on television that the ball was a chain link short of the first down stick.
But the man in the white hit signaled first down anyhow, without getting down and looking like most officials do.
Spurrier was unhappy, but he handled it much better than I expected him to. I really thought he would come totally unglued.
Maybe the ref had a bad back. I don't know. But it all worked out for the Gamecocks.
I guess that call made Clowney mad, because on the very next play, he totally blew up Michigan running back Smith, the ball was knocked loose, Clowney recovered, and the Gamecocks went on to win the ball game.
SEC HATERS ARE LOVING IT
OK, so those conferences that have been taking it on the chin the past few years by the Southeastern Conference have to be loving every minute of this bowl season.
Going into tonight's Cotton Bowl between Texas A&M and Oklahoma, the SEC is 3-3 in bowl games, with South Carolina, Georgia and Vanderbilt the winners. LSU, Mississippi State and Florida are the losers.
After tonight, Ole Miss has a bowl game with Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon, and of course Alabama meets Notre Dame in the BCS championship on Monday.
The biggest surprise has to be Florida's loss to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday. The Gators approached the game, or at least it appeared that way on television, that they really didn't care to be in New Orleans, prompting a friend of mine on Facebook to note that "Has it really come to this, that you can't get fired up to play in the Sugar Bowl."
That's not taking away anything from Louisville, who obviously wanted to win, and they did, which makes you think that UT's efforts to land Louisville Coach Charlie Strong were certainly warranted.
LSU's loss to a good Clemson team was a mild surprise. Mississippi State's loss to Northwestern might have been expected as it seemed the cowbell-ringing Bulldogs faltered in the second half of the season.
Georgia and South Carolina looked good in wins over Nebraska and Michigan. And Vanderbilt? Hand it to them. They had a fantastic year. But beating North Carolina State? I don't know so much about that. Remember, Tennessee beat NC State the first game of this season, and we know how the year turned out for the Vols.
TOO MANY BOWLS?
Too many bowl games?
You bet. It's really hard to keep track of the games without keeping a TV guide handy. If a team gets six wins during the season, chances are they're going to a bowl.
But I don't care. Why? Because when the bowl games are over, college football is over. And we have to wait until August or September to watch it again. To me, that's just sad.