Dear Friends of the Fight Hunger Bowl,
Last weekend proved to be another highlight reel for the Pac-12, as conference teams went 8-1 in non-league action.
Included were wins over three Big Ten opponents (Wisconsin, Nebraska and Illinois), one SEC team (Tennessee) and one ACC team (Boston College).
Perhaps most impressive was UCLA's 41-21 spanking of Nebraska in the Cornhusker's Memorial Stadium, one of the most difficult places to play in the country. The Bruins held Nebraska scoreless in the second half and scored 28 points in the third quarter behind quarterback Brett Hundley, who seems to get better every week. Washington and Stanford also chalked up road victories, as the Huskies dispatched Illinois in Chicago and Stanford beat Army at West Point. Oregon spotted Tennessee a touchdown and then scored 59 straight points en route to a 59-14 rout, while USC bounced back from the previous week's upset loss to WSU to dump Boston College, 35-7. Speaking of WSU, Mike Leach's Cougars won their second straight, beating Southern Utah 48-10, and now must be considered a potential bowl team.
Two games went down to the last play. Arizona State edged Wisconsin, 32-30, in a game marked by a bizarre ending. Badgers' QB Joel Stave, trying to take a knee and set up a game-winning field goal with 18 seconds left, bumped into one of his linemen as he went down to place the ball on the 15-yard line. An ASU player fell on the ball, thinking it might be ruled a fumble, while the clock continued to tick. By the time the officials set the ball and Wisconsin came to the line to snap it, time had run out, giving ASU a huge win.
In the only league game, Oregon State outlasted Utah in overtime, 51-48, as quarterbacks Sean Mannion (OSU) and Travis Martin (Utah) continued to shine.
This Week: Most Pac-12 teams conclude their non-league schedules, but a crucial early-season conference game pits No. 23 Arizona State against No. 5 Stanford in Palo Alto. The 2012 Fight Hunger Bowl champs from Tempe, riding high after their Wisconsin win, are eager to prove they belong among the Pac-12's elite. Elsewhere, in a game of great interest to our bowl, BYU hosts Utah in Provo. The Cougars, who upset Texas two weeks ago, are seeking revenge for a heartbreaking 24-21 loss to the Utes last year in their rivalry game. Four Pac-12 teams have byes, while Oregon State (San Diego State), Washington (Idaho State), WSU (Idaho), and UCLA (New Mexico State) all will be heavily favored against non-conference opponents. USC hopes to continue its resurgence against a difficult Utah State squad.
Crystal Ball: It's never too early for the experts to project bowl matchups. Predictions for our game continue to be all over the map. ESPN forecasters Mark Schlabach and Brad Edwards project BYU against Arizona and USC, respectively. The latest from Sporting News has BYU vs. Washington State, an intriguing possibility that would match two teams with Cougars as their mascot. So I guess that would make us the "Cougar Bowl?"
Off the Field: Since its founding 12 years ago, our bowl has generated over $140 million for the local tourism industry, according to estimates from San Francisco Travel (formerly the Convention and Visitor's Bureau). We're quite proud of the economic impact our game has had on the City, and we're also very proud of our six hotel partners.This year, the Westin St. Francis and the Grand Hyatt on Union Square will serve as headquarters hotels for our teams. The iconic St. Francis, now in its fifth year as a team hotel, will also host our annual Kickoff Luncheon the day before the game. The Grand Hyatt is in its third year as a team hotel, while a sister property, the Hyatt Regency, will serve as headquarters for the game officials for the second straight year. (The Regency previously served as a team hotel seven times). This year the participating bands will reside at the Marriott Marquis (another former team hotel) and the Hilton FIsherman's Wharf. The Nikko San Francisco is another key hotel partner, hosting Board of Directors meetings and our pre-season Bay Area College Football Media Day.
These hotels are a critical part of the bowl family. The quality of a team's experience at a bowl game is directly related to the quality of their experience at the affiliated hotels. We're very fortunate to have such outstanding partners, whose top-drawer facilities and "can do" attitudes have contributed greatly to our bowl's national reputation for hospitality. Our sincere appreciation to: Jon Kimball, Laura Pugh, Jessica Buletti and Rhamy Kirdani at the St. Francis; Mike Jokovich, Matt Spero, and Melita Martin at the Grand Hyatt; David Lewin, Judy Kronkhite, and Jeff Carlson at the Regency; Anna Marie Presutti, Desiree Hemmelgarn and Andrea Dabu at the Nikko; Scott Oliker and Bob Zimmerman at the Marriott; and the recently-departed Cara Allan (now at the Crowne Plaza San Francisco Airport) from the Hilton.