- Ivan Maisel, ESPN Senior Writer
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1. West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen told me that he enjoyed his first Christmas without work since 1999. The Mountaineers don’t play in the Orange Bowl until Jan. 4. Then Holgorsen pointed out that early bowls present scheduling problems not only for players dealing with final exams, but for coaches trying to prepare a team and recruit. The recruiting dead period didn’t begin until Dec. 18. The more a team wins, the later it gets to play in the postseason.
2. USC performed masterfully in staging junior quarterback Matt Barkley's decision to return to the Trojans in 2012. The press conference with a marching band couldn’t have been more different than the lack of hubbub at Stanford a year ago when Andrew Luck spurned the NFL. Stanford is not USC -- the schools take pride in their differences -- but it seems to me, in a season when the 11-1, No. 4 Cardinal fell short in beauty contests for the BCS and the Heisman, that the Farm could use a little more Troy.
3. Missouri finished with four straight wins, including a rout of North Carolina, 41-24, in the Independence Bowl. But don’t get carried away with the Tigers as they head into the SEC. The Tar Heels came in as an underachieving team with a lame-duck interim head coach. More important, Missouri went 1-1 in overtime, 1-1 in games decided by four points or fewer, and 5-4 in the Big 12. The Tigers beat the five league teams they finished ahead of, and lost to the four teams they finished behind. Mizzou, thy name is mediocrity.