Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bowl Week Two – December 29th – December 31st Games

Bowl week two for the blog only spans three days.  During these three days, almost one-third of all of the bowl games are played.  These are great days to just sit on the couch and watch all day before the New Year starts.  The blog continued its hot season picking against the spread in the early portion of bowl season going 7-3-1 through December 27th games.  The record straight up is 7-3.    

Let’s check out the games… 

Thursday, the 29th:
4:30 PM – Champs Sports Bowl: Florida State (-3) vs. Notre Dame (ESPN) – The first legit bowl matchup of the season (Finally!).  These are two of the biggest powers in college football going at it.  Florida State has had a disappointing season after high hopes in the preseason – mainly due to injuries.  Notre Dame also had BCS hopes to start the season – mainly because of their easy schedule though (not because of their talent).  Florida State’s defense will shut down the Irish.  Notre Dame has not come close to seeing speed like this on defense all year.  Notre Dame’s offense is already prone to mistakes, and I think they make several to the athletes on the Noles’ defense.  FSU 26-17.
8:00 – Alamo Bowl: Washington vs. Baylor (-9) (ESPN) – We’ve talked about Robert Griffin for two years on the blog.  He finally came through for us this year putting up phenomenal numbers.  He has the highest season passer efficiency rating in NCAA history before the bowl game.  On the other hand, excluding Washington’s final game versus Washington State, the Huskies’ defense gave up 65, 31, 34, 40, and 38 in the last five games.  Baylor will want to send Robert Griffin out right, which will also give Baylor a possible top 10 finish.  That doesn’t happen too often in Waco!  Da Bears 54-34.    
Friday, the 30th:
11:00 – Armed Forces Bowl: BYU vs. Tulsa (Over 55 Total Points) (ESPN) – This is a tough game to call.  It’s gonna be so close, especially when you consider both teams beat the only common opponent they have (Central Florida) 24-17.  I do see this game being a high scoring affair though.  Tulsa can’t stop the pass, and BYU has not played many explosive offenses comparable to Tulsa’s all year.  Give me Tulsa but take the over instead.  Tulsa 37-33.
2:20 – Pinstripe Bowl: Rutgers vs. Iowa State (Under 44.5 Total Points) (ESPN) – This one is gonna be an ugly game with no offense.  It is is Rutgers’ backyard though at Yankee Stadium.  Watch it just because of that.  Rutgers 17-14.
5:40 – Music City Bowl: Mississippi State (-7) vs. Wake Forest (ESPN) – Not very exciting at all.  Mississippi State has not lived up to Dan Mullen’s expectations (yes, he mentioned they could win the SEC West this year – hilarious!).  Wake Forest was dominated by Vanderbilt to end the season but beat Florida State earlier in the season.  I don’t get them.  When in doubt when you have to pick between an SEC and ACC team, ALWAYS go with the SEC.  Bulldogs 30-20.
9:00 – Insight Bowl: Iowa (+14) vs. Oklahoma (ESPN) – There is no way Oklahoma is excited about the Insight Bowl after being ranked #1 in the preseason.  On a side note, why do pollsters ever decide to rank a team #1 from a conference other than the SEC?  OU did have several key injuries throughout the year that did not help them out.  However, I can’t get Landry Jones’ pitiful performance against Oklahoma State out of my mind.  Kirk Ferentz always has his team ready for bowl games.  I was high on Iowa in the preseason, and they let me down.  I’ll give them one more shot…against the spread.  Uninspired Oklahoma 27-17.  
Saturday, the 31st:
11:00 – Texas Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Northwestern (+10) (ESPN) – The Aggies have had a disappointing season and Sherman got fired because of it.  Northwestern is always dangerous when Dan Persa actually plays.  Well, Persa is playing.  I’m calling for the upset.  Northwestern 40-35.
1:00 – Sun Bowl: Georgia Tech (-2.5) vs. Utah (CBS) – Utah lost to Colorado at home to end the season.  I like the Ramblin’ Wreck’s option attack.  Enough said.  Yellow Jackets 24-13.
2:30 – Liberty Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Vanderbilt (-1.5) (ABC) – Cincinnati QB Zach Collaros may be back to start this game.  He broke his ankle against West Virginia, and the Bearcats narrowly lost and then they lost again to lose their shot at a conference title and BCS berth.  Well, if Collaros plays here, this will be a close game.  He is a dynamic playmaker.  But he will unlikely be full speed.  Vanderbilt is really pumped about their 5th bowl game ever.  James Franklin has sold all the used cars he can on campus for one season, and the team has bought in…for now.  I’ll take Vandy but won’t be surprised if Cincinnati’s offense is explosive again with (if) Collaros back.  Vandy 33-28. 
Fight Hunger Bowl: Illinois vs. UCLA (+2.5) (ESPN) – Another sign there are way too many bowl games…two teams that played so poorly this year that the schools fired their head coaches are playing one another on New Year’s Eve.  Go stock up for the night instead of watch this one.  As Charles Barkley would say – “Turrible!”  UCLA 6-4. 
6:30 – Chick-Fil-A Bowl: Virginia (+3) vs. Auburn (ESPN) – Okay, somebody spill the beans.  What is going on at Auburn?  The DC goes to Central Florida to take the same position, the OC goes to Arkansas State to be head coach, and Michael Dyer is suspended for the game (and rumored to be kicked off the team).  How does the genius that is Gene Chizik get his team ready for this bowl game, especially after downgrading from last year’s national title bowl game?  On the other hand, you have a Virginia team that played way over its head this year.  I think Auburn gets outhustled and outplayed in this one.  Cavaliers 17-16. 
Week Three blog, including all BCS games, coming January 1!
Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Bowl Week One – December 17th – December 28th Games

Bowl season is here!  It now spans more than three weeks from now until January 9th as the NCAA allows more bowls…it’s almost like little league – everybody gets to participate as long as you win half your games.  This also creates some pretty crappy bowl matchups, which we will see a lot of starting out in the week one games.  If you didn’t catch my bowl game rules from last year, here they are again.

My Bowl Rules

There are always a few things that I take into consideration when analyzing these bowl games.  These sometimes make bowl games completely different than if the same two teams met in the regular season.  First, there is such a long layoff between regular season and bowl games, it can kill momentum a hot team has had over the last few weeks of the regular season. Second, as coaches leave or get fired, it affects the whole team, so I always take into consideration who has a coach leaving.  Historically, it has a negative effect on the team.  Finally, I always consider the teams who don’t want to be there.  Sometimes this is because they had higher expectations than the bowl they ended up in (think Oklahoma and Boise State this year).  Other times it is because some juniors and seniors already have one foot in the NFL draft and don’t want to get hurt or play hard in the bowl game.

The regular season was good to the blog.  “If I Were a Bettin’ Man…” portion of the blog went 18-10 record for the season against the spread.  SEC picks went 78-14 straight up this year.  National games went 68-41.  I am making a straight up pick and a pick against the spread for EVERY bowl game.  I will be happy with hitting 50% because of how unpredictable bowl season is.

Now on to the games… 

Saturday, the 17th:
1:00 PM – New Mexico Bowl: Temple vs. Wyoming (+7) (ESPN) – Not necessarily a stellar start to the bowl season here, but I do see the first upset of the bowl season here.  Wyoming’s strength of schedule is #88, and Temple’s is #121.  Temple has not really defeated any decent teams with a winning record this year.  Wyoming’ Coach Christensen signed a five-year extension with the team yesterday after he was rumored for other jobs.  This should give his team a lift in this one.  I’ll take his coaching over Temple’s Steve Addazio any day.  Cowboys 27-23.    
4:30 PM – Potato Bowl (I am not kidding): Ohio vs. Utah State (-1) (ESPN) – Every time I go with Coach Solich, he lets me down.  I remember Utah State giving Auburn all they wanted at the beginning of the year.  That’s all I need to know.  Utah State 24-21. 
8:00 – New Orleans Bowl: San Diego State vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (Over 59 Total Points) (ESPN) – San Diego State has been a disappointment to me this year.  I liked their QB Lindley and RB Hillman.  While they have not disappointed for the most part, they have not been able to put everything together.  Lafayette is playing in its first bowl game ever, and the game is not far from their campus.  They will have the home field big time.  I expect this one to be really high-scoring.  I think San Diego State wins out finally, but it will be close.  Aztecs 38-37.   
Tuesday, the 20th: 7:00 – St. Petersburg Bowl: Florida International vs. Marshall (+4) (ESPN) – Both of these teams started the year off with a bang but have progressively gotten worse as the season went on.  Marshall beat Southern Miss and Louisville early in the season but barely beat miserable Memphis and lost big to any decent CUSA opponents.  FIU beat the likes of Louisville and Central Florida early on and were even talking about an undefeated season after those wins.  Four losses later (3 in the Sun Belt), they are in this bowl game.  Two common opponents here: Louisville and Central Florida.  FIU is 2-0 and Marshall is 1-1.  However, both games have been pretty comparable scores.  These teams are pretty even on paper except for strength of schedule.  FIU had the #128 schedule in the nation (that means even some D1-AA schedules were tougher) and Marshall had #58.  I think that makes a difference in this game.  Neither defense is great; it could be a high-scoring affair.  Thundering Herd 31-28.    
Wednesday, the 21st: 7:00 – Poinsettia Bowl: TCU vs. Louisiana Tech (+10) (ESPN) – TCU has been on a roll including an upset victory over Boise State on the blue turf.  They have won seven in a row.  Louisiana Tech has been sneaky good this year.  They have also won seven in a row.  Three of Tech’s losses have been to Southern Miss, Houston and Mississippi State by a combined 9 points.  TCU barely missed being an automatic BCS qualifier and now they have to play in a bowl game before Christmas.  Some reward huh?  I think they will not be too excited to be here, while La Tech will be ready to go.  I’ll still take TCU to win straight up, but I like La Tech with the points.  TCU 30-27.
Thursday, the 22nd: 7:00 – Las Vegas Bowl: Arizona State vs. Boise State (-14 & Over 66 Total Points)  (ESPN) – If you would have told me after the first month of the season that these two teams would be playing in a bowl game at the end of the season, I would have bet you it would have been in a BCS bowl.  Arizona State started a slide in mid-October that eventually cost their coach his job,  The Sun Devils are definitely capable of playing with Boise State but without a coach and playing in Las Vegas, how much are they really worried about a football game?  Boise is very consistent although they had a stumble against TCU this year that ultimately cost them a title game shot.  Give me Boise and the over in this one as Kellen Moore finally plays his last college football game.  Boise State 48-30.
Saturday, the 24th: 7:00 – Hawaii Bowl: Nevada vs. Southern Mississippi (-6) (ESPN) – Southern Miss has a stout defense that was showcased in the CUSA Championship Game when they shut down Case Keenum and the Houston Cougars.  Nevada is the small conference version of the Georgia Bulldogs this year – a fraud.  They are 0-4 against teams with a winning record and 7-1 versus teams with a losing record.  USM’s Larry Fedora has decided to take the North Carolina job, which could affect the Golden Eagles some, but he has decided to stay with USM to coach the bowl game.  However, Southern Miss is just better and I’ll take them big in this one.  USM 35-14.
Monday, the 26th: 4:00 – Independence Bowl: Missouri (-5) vs. North Carolina (ESPN2) – The Tar Heels were below .500 in the mediocre ACC this year.  They have been very inconsistent.  I’m sure part of that is their coaching situation affecting them on the field.  They hired Larry Fedora for next year, but they have to get through this bowl game first.  Everett Withers, UNC’s interim head coach all year, interviewed for the full-time job and obviously didn’t get it, but he will stay on to coach the bowl.  This is a recipe for disaster for the Tar Heels – a disappointed interim coach who feels like he got the shaft from the school he is coaching in a bowl game.  Mizzou picks up a win in their last game before joining the SEC.  Mizzou 38-17.
Tuesday, the 27th:
3:30 – Little Caesars Bowl (Hot n Ready): Western Michigan vs. Purdue (Under 60 Total Points) (ESPN) – Wow, is this really a bowl game?  Find something else today.  Give me the under 60 total because only one Purdue game all year has went over this number, and I think Purdue will win straight up.  If Purdue wins, this one will not go over 60.  Boilermakers 24-23.
7:00 – Belk Bowl: Louisville vs. NC State (Under 44 Total Points) (ESPN) – Two of the hottest teams (from very average conferences) in the nation.  Louisville has won 5 out of 6 and NC State has won 5 out of 7.  These teams have a lot in common, including both are pretty damn boring to watch.  Keep in mind this game is in Charlotte, which I think can make a huge difference in this one.  NC State 16-14.
Wednesday, the 28th:
3:30 – Military Bowl: Toledo vs. Air Force (+3) (ESPN) – Another brutal one to watch.  Just know this.  The MAC already didn’t fare very well in bowls in recent history, and this year they put a record 5 teams in bowls.  Just a hint, but their conference is not better this year.  The Air Force running attack can give some of the best teams fits.  Air Force 26-23.
7:00 – Holiday Bowl: California vs. Texas (-3) (ESPN) – I can see this one going a lot like last time the Longhorns went to the Holiday Bowl in 2007.  Everybody was on Mack’s case, and they were actually underdogs versus Arizona State.  The Horns showed up to play and won by 18.  I think Texas will use this game to jumpstart next season after an average year this year.  Horns 33-16. 


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Week Fourteen – Championship Week

And the last week of the shortest regular season in sports is upon us.  Another great season, but once again way too short.  There is still a lot up for grabs for conference races and BCS bowl berths.  The experts think that it is a given that LSU and Alabama will play in the national title game with the only team that could possibly ruin the party being Oklahoma State.  With a big win over OU on Saturday and already a close computer ranking to Alabama, will it be enough to sway a lot of voters to put them ahead of Alabama and put them in the title game against LSU?  Okie State is currently 5th in both human polls.  With a win on Saturday, they could jump to #3 in each although that probably still won’t be enough.  And what if LSU loses to Georgia this week?  Does that affect their status?  Who knows – we will have to wait and see.  “If I Were a Bettin’ Man…” portion of the blog went 2-1 again last week for a 17-10 record for the season.  SEC games were 6-2 straight up last week (77-14 record on the season).  National games were 9-3 straight up last week (63-37 on the season).  The end of the regular season doesn’t mean it is the end of the blog for the year though.  Check back for bowl season.  I will break bowl season up into 3 or 4 posts and give a break down and pick (straight up and against the spread) on each game.  Now on to the games…

Friday: 6:00: MAC Championship Game: Northern Illinois vs. Ohio (ESPN2) – This gets the championship games started.  This will be a close one.  I like Frank Solich though.  Ohio 24-23.
7:00: PAC XII Championship Game: UCLA @ Oregon (FOX) – Well Rick Neuheisel finally got fired…right after he won the PAC XII South division*.  The Bruins were blasted by USC 50-0 last week.  The game is at Autzen Stadium.  When UCLA loses, they get blown away.  Well, they’re gonna lose here…and get blown away.  Hopefully, the petition they filed to be given bowl eligibility despite ending up 6-7 after this loss works out for them.  Quack Quack to the Rose Bowl 48-10.
11:00 AM:  C-USA Championship Game: Southern Mississippi @ Houston (ABC) – If the Cougars pull this home game out, they are likely headed to the Sugar Bowl as a BCS automatic qualifier.  I haven’t watched Southern Miss play much this year, but I did watch them lose to UAB.  Enough said.  Cougars 38-21.   
‘Kinda’ Big East Championship Game: Connecticut @ Cincinnati (ESPN) – If West Virginia won on Thursday night, Cincinnati is out of the Big East race, but this game can still affect the BCS automatic bid from the Big East.  If Cincy wins after a West Virginia win, West Virginia is Big East champ.  If Connecticut wins this game, Louisville is the Big East champs.  If Cincy wins this game and South Florida won on Thursday night, Cincy is your Big East champ.  Wow, that’s a lot of space talking about a conference champion who will get blasted in its BCS game.  Okay enough already…Cincy 28-13. 
1:00: Central Arkansas @ Montana (espn3.com) – Congrats to the UCA Bears on a first round win.  Now they travel to grizzly country to take on Montana.  Good luck with that.
2:30: Texas @ Baylor (ABC) – Robert Griffin is still in the Heisman race even if the award doesn’t mean much anymore.  A good showing against an overrated Texas could be his breakthrough.  I like the Bears at home.  After all, they beat the Horns in Austin last year.  Texas’ offense doesn’t have the punch to stay in this one.  Bears 34-26.
3:00: SEC Championship Game: Georgia vs. LSU (CBS) – See “If I Were a Bettin’ Man…” below.
3:30: Troy @ Arkansas State (espn3.com) – The 29th ranked and conference champs Red Wolves look to pick up their 10th win of the year.  Truly amazing.  They are a win here and a win in a bowl game away from being ranked in the top 25.  I never thought I would see the day.  Hugh Freeze for national coach of the year!  Hopefully he sticks around Jonesboro for a while, and this isn’t his last game as ASU’s head coach.  Howl Yeah 38-17.
7:00: ACC Championship Game: Clemson vs. Virginia Tech (ESPN) – This game has already been played in the regular season, and the ACC will once again have its championship game about half full I’m sure.  If their own fans aren’t interested, I am not either.  The Hokies get revenge and Clemson gets to that comfortable loss mark of 4 with one still to come in a bowl game.  Va Tech 31-30.
B1G Championship Game: Michigan State vs. Wisconsin (Fox) – There was a fake post on Craigslist this week looking for “seat-fillers” for Saturday night at an event in downtown Indianapolis where this game is being played.  People were asked to wear red or green, and they would be paid $75 for their trouble.  Needless to say no one in Big Ten country is that excited about their inaugural championship game.  On stubhub.com alone, there are over 5 pages of tickets under $50.  The game itself should probably be pretty good.  These teams played in the regular season, and you may remember it came down to a controversial Hail Mary pass completed for a touchdown by Michigan State at the buzzer.  I think Wisky gets revenge and a Rose Bowl bid to play Oregon, which will be an excellent game too.  Badgers 35-27. 
Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State (ABC) – Forget the two other 7:00 games mentioned above if you only have one TV.  This is the game to watch.  Points galore.  Bedlam just got kicked up a notch and look who the favorite is – OSU.  Okie State has the outside shot at the big game.  Oklahoma is finishing a disappointing season not living up to their standards.  The winner wins the Big 12 and gets an automatic BCS bid.  The home crowd will be tough to go against for the Sooners, but I think the underachieving Sooners show up for this one just to ruin the Cowboys’ season.  Sooners 45-42.
If I Were a Bettin’ Man… - Take all of the money you have made this year and double it up on this game.  MItB.  
SEC Championship Game: Georgia vs. LSU (-13) – If you have read the blog any this season, you know how I feel about both of these teams.  LSU is the best team in the nation, and Georgia is smoke and mirrors.  Aaron Murray is a very inconsistent QB who overthrows at least five passes a game.  Their running game is not much better because their freshman RB Isaiah Crowell can’t finish a game.  Georgia’s best win this year is either Georgia Tech or Auburn (they’ve won 10 in a row due to the cakewalk schedule they’ve faced).  Remember the last time the Bulldogs faced a swarming defense (that is not near as good as the LSU nasty boys they will see Saturday night)?  Try South Carolina (a narrow loss at home in which numerous Georgia turnovers set up easy scores for the Gamecocks) and Boise State (in the Georgia Dome too, Boise dominated the game and it wasn’t as close as the final score – a 35-21 Bronco win).  Geaux Tigers 34-10.
Enjoy your weekend!