Posted on January 11, 2019, in The Team by MaizeAndBlueWahoo.

Right now there's nothing going on in football but transfer portals and last-minute recruiting to see if there's anyone left to sign in the "regular" signing period.  I should be talking hoops from now til April.  But, I can't quite let go of that bowl game.  One more football column, then.

You remember how it felt when the basketball team started unexpectedly Cavalanching opponent after opponent and we were all kind of looking at each other going "wha?"  If Bronco and company didn't reprise that feeling just a bit for you, then you might be officially jaded as hell.  Even without Deebo Samuel, South Carolina is not an incompetent team.  Far from it.  But the coaches put together a gem of a defensive gameplan, and had Jake Bentley chucking everything three feet higher than it needed to be.  More than once it was because some defender was launching himself in the air and Bentley's only choice was between an overthrow and a bat-down.

This is why I say bowl games aren't meaningless.  If anything, they feel more meaningful than they really are.  The annals of football history are loaded with teams that had great bowl wins and then came back to earth in the fall with a splat.  Or vice versa.  But those eight months of good feelings are when you do your recruiting, so all the feels can actually turn into tangible results.

When we first landed Bronco and saw his methods, Tony Bennett comparisons flew fast and furious, followed by "that's not really fair to him" going equally fast and furious.  Both were right, really; it's hard to deny the parallels in the way they teach, so it shouldn't be too surprising to see the lessons take root.  You can see it in the way this team plays.  They're smart and disciplined, and it allows our brain trust to outcoach the guys on the other sideline.  It's really working.

2019 will be full to the brim with optimism.  Everything from the schedule to the continuity at quarterback to the return of Bryce Hall points upward.  More importantly, though, expectations are going up just as quickly.  What if I said that any future season in which Bronco was at the helm and we didn't go bowling was a disappointment?  That's easy to do and probably just as unfair as comparing Bronco to Tony Bennett before he'd even coached a game.  But it's also just as hard to deny.

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Bronco Mendenhall