Dec. 29, 2014
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - -- Both the Notre Dame and LSU travel parties hopped on the General Jackson Showboat Saturday night and cruised down the Cumberland River for the Music City Bowl welcome party.
In addition to a dinner filled with traditional southern fare (ribs, brisket, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, corn bread), each team competed in a hot chicken eating contest and original song competition.
Notre Dame director of player development Duke Preston served as the Irish eating competition general manager. He selected freshman Tyler Newsome, freshman Pete Mokwuah, freshman Quenton Nelson, freshman Daniel Cage and sophomore Marquise Dickerson. The Irish contingent and five LSU players were charged with eating as many Hattie B's Hot Chicken tenders as possible in three minutes with no water. Notre Dame claimed the victory, out-eating the Tigers 25-19. Nelson tied for the individual title with six tenders, but lost a one-minute tiebreaker to LSU's Alex Cheramie.
Notre Dame and LSU competed with local musicians in an original songwriting and performance competition. Notre Dame freshman Sam Bush, sophomore John Montelus and junior Scott Daly put up a good fight with their Fighting Irish-themed number, but the Tigers prevailed overall.
After the event, the two teams' staffs and administrators were welcomed to a reception at the Nashville Hard Rock Café's private Reverb Room and rooftop lounge. Players were given a few hours to explore more of the city's famed Lower Broadway district.
-- While the Irish did not play Saturday, two of the team's opponents from 2014 did as Arizona State defeated Duke in the Sun Bowl and USC topped Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. Notre Dame's opponents stand 4-1 thus far in bowl games. Rice (Hawai'i Bowl vs. Fresno State) and Navy (Poinsettia Bowl vs. San Diego State) also have won their bowl games, while North Carolina (Quick Lane Bowl vs. Rutgers) lost its contest.
-- Courtesy of the local newspaper, The Tennessean, here are five things you probably didn't know about the Music City Bowl: n It has had five other names. It began as the American General Music City Bowl in 1998 when the game was played at Vanderbilt Stadium while LP Field (then Adelphia Coliseum) was still under construction. The name changed in 1999 to HomePoint.com Music City Bowl when the home furnishings website took over as the corporate sponsor. The next two years the game was without a corporate sponsor and was simply known as the Music City Bowl. In 2002, it became Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl and then changed in 2004 to Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl Presented by Bridgestone until 2009. It has been the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl since 2010.
n It had the 14th-highest attendance (52,125) among all bowls in 2013-14. Attendance for bowl games has been on the decline the past four years. Last year's average attendance for 35 bowls was 48,989, which was down 7.5 percent from an average of 52,961 in 2009-10. The average attendance for the past four Music City Bowls has been 58,069.
n It had an average annual impact on the local economy of $18.9 million over the past four years. Bowl officials say the game had a $19.6 million impact on the city in 2013, which was a 41 percent increase compared to 2012. In its 16-year history, the bowl has had nearly $250 million in direct economic impact on the Nashville area.
n It has a new payout of $5.5 million. That is up from $3.4 million in 2013. In the first Music City Bowl (1998), Alabama and Virginia Tech split a total payout of $1.5 million. A common misconception is that the bowl distributes the payout equally to both teams. That is not the case. Bowl officials do not reveal the amount each team receives.
n It is known for having underdogs pull off upsets. The most significant upset came in 2006 when Kentucky, a 10-point underdog, beat Clemson 28-20. Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson was named the MVP after completing 20 of 28 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns. Another big upset came in 2002 when Minnesota, a seven-point underdog, beat Arkansas 29-14. The Gophers relied on five field goals by Dan Nystrom, who became the Big Ten's all-time leading scorer during the game. In 2001, Boston College was a four-point underdog when it surprised Georgia with a 20-16 victory. In 2005, Virginia beat Minnesota 34-31 despite being a six-point underdog. In 2008, Vanderbilt, making its first appearance in a bowl since 1982, was a four-point underdog to Boston College and pulled off a 16-14 upset.
-- Since LSU prefers its white jerseys at home, the color scheme for the Music City Bowl proved an easy one. The Tigers will wear white and Notre Dame will wear its home blue jerseys.
-- Notre Dame has sold virtually all of its allotment of 8,000 tickets (as has LSU) and a crowd in the neighborhood of 60,000 fans is anticipated Tuesday at LP Field.
-- Listening and eating are two popular pursuits in Nashville--and you can't combine those two any better than at The Row, a local spot in the West End area. There's homegrown live music, 24 local beers on tap and an eclectic menu that features barbeque, fried pickles and plenty of other southern favorites.
-- It's a bit unusual to have both participating bowl teams staying at the same hotel--however, considering the Gaylord Opryland Resort has 2,711 guest rooms, the two teams' room blocks are nowhere near each other.
-- The Sunday schedule for the Irish squad featured a 10 a.m. brunch, special teams meetings at 2 p.m. followed by offensive and defensive position meetings at 2:20 p.m. The team headed to the Tennessee Titans' indoor facility for a 90-minute practice that began at 4:40 p.m. with the outside temperature at 41 degrees. The Irish players had been slated to take in the first hour of the Titans' game vs. the Indianapolis Colts, but the inclement weather scratched that plan on a wet, dreary day in Nashville.
-- Notre Dame vice president and athletics director Jack Swarbrick, head coach Brian Kelly, their wives and several other Notre Dame administrators attended the SunTrust VIP Dinner Sunday night sponsored by the Music City Bowl. The dinner included the Music City Bowl board of directors along with both head coaches and athletics staffers from both Notre Dame and LSU. Held at the rotunda of the Country Music Hall of Fame in downtown Nashville, the event included entertainment by Wynn Varble, an award-winning Nashville singer-songwriter who authored "Have You Forgotten" and "A Little More Country Than That" and has been nominated for song of the year by the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.
-- Monday's agenda includes an Irish team photo at LP Field at 11 a.m. The Notre Dame and LSU squads will attend the Coaches Luncheon at the downtown Wildhorse Saloon, then both head coaches will take part in a final press conference at 1:30 p.m. at LP Field.