Sunday, December 04, 2016

Bowl Predictions 2016: Final

At least, the final edition of the predictions are available. I'll note that they're not neccessary set in stone. After I wake up this morning, I will begin scanning my newsfeeds for any updated information as the dominoes of the bowl games fall into place. So let's hit the highlights:
  • I redid a lot of the ACC's bowl games to reflect two things. First, it seems likely that Georgia Tech will get a bid to the Taxslayer Bowl, 10 years after our previous appearance in what was then the Gator Bowl. (Hopefully it goes better this time.) I was also persuaded by the arguments for the Backyard Brawl in the Russell Athletic Bowl, but if the RAB isn't then Virginia Tech probably slides up into that slot.
  • I'm sticking to my guns with regards to the top-4 for the playoffs: Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Washington. I think the only argument is for Penn State over Ohio State. Even if this gets weird later today, the damage will only be contained to the CFP-controlled bowls, unless Washington winds up in the Rose. 
  • I made some other changes based off rumors, like Houston playing San Diego State in the Las Vegas Bowl. They came form ESPN folks, though, and they own almost all the bowl games, so if anyone has an inside track, it's them.
That's all I have for now. I've explained my process before, and I'm out of things to explain. All that's next is to wait.

Friday, December 02, 2016

This Weekend in College Football: Week 14

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

7:00: Ohio vs. Western Michigan (Mid-American Conference Championship @ Detroit, MI; ESPN2): By any reasonable measure, Western Michigan should win easily. However, I can't help but think back to the 2013 MAC title game, where an unranked Bowling Green beat an undefeated Northern Illinois 47-27. That said, yeah, you can't reasonably pick against the Broncos here.

9:00: Washington vs. Colorado (Pac-12 Championship @ Santa Clara, CA; FOX): Strangely, an upset here probably results in overall less intrigue, since Colorado will just slide right into the Rose Bowl. Instead, all the drama is in the Huskies winning. That said, a win here would give Washington a pretty solid victory for the ol' strength-of-schedule, and they would be a conference champion. Would that be enough to ensure their spot? I think so. And while I think these Buffs are pretty good, I think Washington is just a bit better.

  • Temple @ Navy (American Athletic Conference Championship; ABC): If you like keeping the ball on the ground, this is the game for you. Featuring two of the best rushing attacks in the country, passing will be at a premium. That said, I think the Owls are better matchup for Navy than South Florida would've been, and I think they'll be able to prevail at home.
  • Louisiana Tech @ Western Kentucky (Conference USA Championship; ESPN): If you like to see the pigskin spending most of the afternoon in the air, well then good news! Featuring two attacks that absolutely like to fling out it around, consequences be damned, this game figures to be a rollicking good 62-58 kind of time. In that scenario, I like the Hilltoppers.
  • Troy @ Georgia Southern (ESPN2): Southern enters this game on a four game losing streak that doesn't figure to stop there.
  • Kansas State @ Texas Christian (FS1): With the two teams otherwise through the rest of the Big 12 schedule, they enter pretty darn close when it comes to most statistical categories, so I figure this a coin flip. In that case, I like K-State's chances.
12:30: Oklahoma State @ Oklahoma (FOX): It's Bedlam! And honestly, I don't figure this one to be especially crazy. Oklahoma has been pretty good this year! While Oklahoma State is 8-1 in conference, they haven't exactly dominated the way the Sooners have (seriously, as fluky as that Central Michigan loss was, they should've also lost to Texas Tech). I've got the Sooners all the way here.

3:30: Baylor @ West Virginia (FS1): West Virginia.

4:00: Alabama vs. Florida (Southeastern Conference Championship @ Atlanta, GA; CBS): Seriously, SEC, just move Alabama (and Auburn) to the East and be done with it. Bama should roll.

7:30: Arkansas State @ Texas State (ESPN2): Texas State is basically the Rutgers of the Sun Belt, so the Red Wolves should roll easily.

7:45: San Diego State @ Wyoming (Mountain West Conference Championship; ESPN): the Aztecs ventured up to Laramie two weeks ago and had a chance to tie with the clock expired with an extra point. Instead, they opted for the two point conversion, which failed. Since then, both these teams have fallen backward into the game. SDSU's position as West champs was never in any doubt, but they lost to Colorado State last week kinda badly (63-31!). Wyoming, meanwhile, is here mainly because Boise State had the courtesy to lose to Air Force the day before they got bowled over by New Mexico. So, basically, I don't know what to expect here, except that the San Diego State players are probably going to be very, very cold, with the temperature expected to be somewhere around 20 degrees (Fahrenheit!) at kickoff. So good luck with that, and I like Wyoming here.

  • Clemson vs. Virginia Tech (Atlantic Coast Conference Championship @ Orlando, FL; ABC): Hey, remember that time North Carolina totally recovered an onside kick to have a chance at beating Clemson in the ACC title game last year? All I'm saying is that, for maybe only the third or fourth time all year, the Tigers need to come to play, lest they need to get bailed out again. It's not a good look.
  • Wisconsin vs. Pennsylvania State (Big Ten Championship @ Indianapolis, IN; FOX): So, yeah, this is totally the Big Ten title game we all expected a few weeks ago. Well, okay, it half is, since Wisconsin is pretty good and was a pretty expected pick to win the Big Ten West at that point. Instead, it was the East not holding up its end of the bargain, the circumstances of which we're all familiar with at this point. So who's going win this game? I have to say, I'm still skeptical on Penn State. Yes, they beat Ohio State, but (for the umpteenth time) the transitive property does not apply to college football. Also, it wasn't like the Nittany Lions went out there and dominated the Buckeyes: they were outgained by over 200 yards and needed some special teams luck to win the game. On the balance, the Badgers' defense was second only to Michigan's in the Big Ten. They're a force to be reckoned with, and in a different year Wisconsin would be coming into this undefeated. I like the Badgers here.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Bowl Predictions 2016: Week 7

First, a link.

And now, business. First off, many of these predictions are not as accurate as I'd like for the week after Thanksgiving. While all the controversy is closer to the top of the College Football Playoff rankings, the real uncertainty is due to two teams: Western Michigan and Navy.

Western Michigan, as you may know, are currently undefeated heading into their MAC title game tilt with Ohio Friday night. Navy will play in the AAC title game against Temple on Saturday. CMU is currently ranked 17th, while Navy is ranked 19th. The Playoff rankings are relatively opaque, which is sometimes a good thing (they seem more willing to move teams around based on new data, unlike the traditional polls), but also a bad thing because it makes it harder for us to predict. (And, frankly, we should know what their criteria are instead of having to guess at it.) I don't think it's especially likely that a 2-loss Navy would jump an undefeated Western Michigan, but the point is no one knows for sure. The result, currently, is chaos. The worst-case scenario is that the Committee decides that they need more data, thus meaning we all have to wait for Navy to play Army next weekend. In essence, it's entirely possible that almost every MAC, AAC, or bowl with at-large slots will be unable to fill its spots until December 11th, possibly affecting the bowls that kick off the following Saturday.

In other words, there's probably a lot of bowl officials going "I love our country, but... it'd really work out out if Navy lost on Saturday" right now. 

  • I just re-shuffled some of the Sun Belt bids, so the these predictions are fresh as of about 10 minutes ago.
  • Fun times in the ACC bowl hierarchy, where some unexpectedly 6-6 teams and a Louisville loss to Kentucky have shuffled things up. Let's just go down the list:
    • Clemson's in the playoff if they beat Virginia Tech, nothing's changed there. They'll be either a 2 or 3 seed if they're in, I think.
    • Me, and just about everyone else, is now putting Florida State in the Orange Bowl over Louisville. Look, I don't agree with it, but maybe the Cardinals just should've taken care of business at home.
    • Since four Big Ten teams are going to get into the CFP-controlled bowls, one of them is going to be in the Orange Bowl. And if one of them is in the Orange Bowl, then an ACC team gets in the Citrus Bowl. So that's where Louisville will wind up if they miss out on the Orange Bowl.
    • The Russell Athletic Bowl gets the first ACC selection after that mess, and I think they'll take the top team on the board, Virginia Tech.
    • Next up is the ACC mid-tier consisting of the Taxslayer Bowl (probably no Music City this year), Belk Bowl, Sun Bowl, and Pinstripe Bowl. Right now, I'm going with the obvious geographic fits for the Pinstripe (Pittsburgh), Belk (North Carolina) and Taxslayer (Miami). So that leaves the Sun to pick from 8-4 Georgia Tech and the ACC's three 6-6 teams. I'm going with the Jackets for that one. About the only thing that I think could change is Tech to the Taxslayer and Miami to the Sun, but that's about it.
  • As with last year, it's basically impossible to predict where the 5-7 teams will end up. We can, however, pretty safely say a bowl eligible 6-7 Hawaii will end up at the Hawaii Bowl, but it's not official yet. Here are your potential APR 5-7 teams, in priority order:
    • North Texas
    • Texas/Mississippi State
    • Northern Illinois
That's about it for now. Stay tuned Saturday night, when the last predictions will go up before we transition to game previews. (Hopefully.)

Saturday, November 26, 2016





THWG Thought of the Day: 11/26

Men, Georgie's a fine football team, a very fine football team. Georgie's bigger and faster than we are. Probably a little tougher, too.

That's okay, because we're smarter than they are.

Now, let me tell you what's going to happen. That Georgie team's going to come running out of the tunnel screaming and foaming at the mouth and smashing one another upside the head just to get warmed up.

We won't do any of that. While they waste their energy, we'll conserve ours. I've told you that they're bigger, faster, and tougher than you. That's true. But we do have that one big advantage.

We ... are ... smarter.

Think about what I teach you. Play field position. Play great defense. Make no mistakes on offense. Be great in the kicking game. Do that and we'll keep it close.

As the game goes on, they'll start to get tired because they wasted so much energy in the beginning. Because we're smart, we'll have plenty of energy left, and at some point in the fourth quarter they'll make a mistake.

When they do make that mistake, we'll get the football. And when that happens, I'll think of something and we'll win!
Coach Bobby Dodd, as told by Bill Curry

This Weekend in College Football: Week 13

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Michigan @ Ohio State (ABC) (41˚, clear): Once again, I'll be doing weather for each of these games, though I can go ahead and sum it up here: it'll be chilly-to-cold in most places but clear, with overcast conditions in the northeast and rain throughout most of the day on the West Coast.
    Anyway! Here's a wonderful demonstration of why having rivals in the same division is still pretty neat. Of course, it could be slightly neater if either Michigan or Ohio State were still undefeated, but what can you do? Either way, theses are still two of the best teams in college football, though each has their weaknesses. I personally think this game is going to be tight and low-scoring. Both teams sport pretty good defenses, and the best player on the field will be one of Michigan's linebackers (Jabrill Peppers). Both have had difficult with their offenses in the past few weeks, and Ohio State's run game has really been kind of lacking all year. I view this game as kind of a coin flip, and earlier in the week I picked Michigan. I'm not terribly convinced either way, though.
  • Kentucky @ Louisville (ESPN) (47˚, clear): In mid-September, I think most of us who follow college football thought Mark Stoops was going to get fired, but then the Wildcats put together a respectable season against the very soft underbelly of the SEC East. So, naturally, they get to face a frustrated Louisville after a close loss to Houston. Good luck with that!
  • Virginia @ Virginia Tech (ESPN2) (41˚, clear): Over in the other Commonwealth, VPI sort of won the Coastal by default, but that means the pressure is off and, yeah, I think they're going to pound UVA.
  • Kansas @ Kansas State (FS1) (55˚, clear): Like I said the other day, I still really miss KU-Mizzou, but I'm okay with this game being moved to rivalry week for now. But yeah, I think K-State's got this.
  • Purdue @ Indiana (ESPNU) (45˚, clear): Nothin' like playing Purdue to get that necessary sixth win...
  • Rutgers @ Maryland (ESPNEWS) (49˚, clear): [substitute "Purdue" with "Rutgers"]
  • Georgia Tech @ Georgia (SEC) (62˚, clear): To Hell With Georgia
  • Illinois @ Northwestern (BTN) (44˚, clear): So Illinois is slightly better than Purdue and Rutgers, but not by much. Northwestern should also get to 6.
  • Central Florida @ South Florida (CBSS) (78˚, clear): I think this one could be pretty tight, but USF is just on too much of a roll this year. Also, USF needs this game to stay in the AAC East title hunt.
12:30: Syracuse @ Pittsburgh (ACC) (40˚, overcast): At least Pittsburgh is holding up its end of the weather bargain. Shouldn't matter either way against the 'Cuse, though.

3:00: Boston College @ Wake Forest (ACC/RSN) (53˚, clear): BC's 30-0 win over UConn last weekend says a lot, lot more about the current state of UConn football than it does about the Eagles, who still struggle to score points, and that doesn't figure to change against Wake Forest.

  • Notre Dame @ Southern California (ABC) (60˚, rain): After this game Notre Dame will be 4-8 and it will be fantastic. But chin up, Domers, the Cowboys are good this year, and the Yankees are finally rebuilding a little bit!
  • Auburn @ Alabama (CBS) (63˚, clear): so my parents don't live in Alabama anymore, which means I'm not there this week like I usually am. I can't say I miss it too much, but one thing I do miss the absolutely frenzy about this game that engulfs the whole state. That said... I think this will probably be kind of a boring game? It's in Tuscaloosa and Alabama is just too dominant this year.
  • Michigan State @ Pennsylvania State (ESPN) (42˚, overcast): Sparty showed some signs of life in its past two games, pasting Rutgers the way everyone is pasting Rutgers this year and then losing a tight game to Ohio State. Will the Buckeyes be watching this game the lockers under Ohio Stadium, hoping for an upset? I'm not sure about that part, but I can say a little more definitively that the odds are pretty long here. Yeah, Penn State's schedule other than Michigan and Ohio State has been pretty easy, but they've also beat most of those opponents pretty soundly. I like the Nittany Lions here.
  • Duke @ Miami (ESPN2) (79˚, clear): Duke may be playing for bowl eligibility here (more on that later today or Sunday), but it doesn't look good against a rejuvenated Miami squad.
  • West Virginia @ Iowa State (FS1) (54˚, clear): Iowa State needs to be taken seriously, but as long as can do they should be able to take care of business in Ames.
  • Navy @ Southern Methodist (ESPNU) (62˚, partly cloudy): Navy's got the AAC West in the bag already, but they should be able to close out conference play with a statement and a potential shot at hosting the AAC title game (depending on who wins the East).
  • Mississippi State @ Mississippi (SEC) (55˚, clear): I think recent years have made us forget that this is was pretty much the norm for the Egg Bowl in most years. Losing 38-18 to Vandy is never a good look, but I still like the Rebels here.
  • Minnesota @ Wisconsin (BTN) (48˚, partly cloudy): Paul Bunyan's Axe is also for the Big Ten West there year, but let me be clear: if Minnesota wins this will be a huge upset.
  • San Jose State @ Fresno State (CBSS) (55˚, rain): Of all the games at this timeslot, this sure is a game that you could watch. I'm going with SJSU.
  • Tulane @ Connecticut (ESPNEWS) (46˚, clear): Tulane, mostly because I'd like to see them win.
  • Oregon @ Oregon State (Pac12) (47˚, rain): Well, this is probably the most low-key Civil War in several years (I'm not even sure I'll be able to watch it here, I should probably check that). At any rate, I'm picking the Beavers here, because why not?
5:30: Florida Atlantic @ Middle Tennessee State (beIN) (55˚, partly cloudy): Going with MTSU here.

  • California-Los Angeles @ California (ESPN2) (55˚, rain): UCLA has a litany of issues, yes, but frankly I think they're still probably a better team than Cal. Going with the Bruins over the Bears here.
  • Western Kentucky @ Marshall (ESPNU) (41˚, partly cloudy): This used to be one of those sneaky-good fun games, but the Thundering Herd are 3-8 on the year and 2-5 in Conference-USA, so the odds are not looking good for them.
  • Utah @ Colorado (FOX) (51˚, partly cloudy): If they gave "comeback of the year" awards to teams, the Buffs would win in a landslide. I think they'll complete their rise with a win here and a meeting with Washington next week in Santa Clara.
  • South Carolina @ Clemson (ESPN) (53˚, clear): I think Clemson is as good and as flawed as either, say, Michigan or Ohio State, but they're still miles ahead of a punchless South Carolina.
  • East Carolina @ Temple (ESPNEWS) (45˚, partly cloudy): If Temple wins this game, they'll be playing next week in Annapolis for the AAC title, otherwise Navy will have to go to Tampa. That said, I don't figure ECU to offer up much resistance.
  • Tennessee @ Vanderbilt (SEC) (46˚, clear): Well, Vandy sure did a good job of beating up a very injured Ole Miss team last weekend. Will lightning strike twice for the Commodores? I'm figuring no.
  • Florida @ Florida State (ABC) (57˚, partly cloudy): It's going to be completely up to the Gators' defense to keep them in this game, and I'm not sure they can really stave off FSU's attack for a full 60 minutes.
  • Rice @ Stanford (Pac12) (54˚, rain): Stanford.
9:00: Colorado State @ San Diego State (CBSS) (60˚, rain): If it weren't for their bizarre loss to South Alabama, the Aztecs would definitely be in play for the Group of Five bowl slot. Instead, they should be able to take care of business here.

  • Wyoming @ New Mexico (ESPN2) (48˚, clear): Speaking of taking care of business in the Mountain West, the Cowboys should be able to do so here.
  • Utah State @ Brigham Young (ESPNU) (41˚, chance of rain): Apparently this does have rivalry game name ("The Old Wagon Wheel"), but nonetheless the Cougars figure to roll.
I will try to get a bowl predictions update up late tonight or early Sunday, so stay tuned!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

This Week in College Football: Week 13

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

7:30: Louisiana State @ Texas A&M (ESPN): It's late November, which means if nothing else we'll start getting some fun weather conditions, so I'll be noting them for all games. (Keep in mind all forecasts will be as of early Thursday morning.) It'll be around 60 in College Station tonight. As for the game, well, it's not Texas-TAMU, and really, the story here may be the coaches more than anything else. (Especially since Leonard Fournette reportedly didn't even make the trip.) DACOACHO probably isn't going to be retained as head coach of LSU, and while I don't think A&M will fire Sumlin, his seat is getting a bit warm. All that said, I like the Bayou Bengals here.

  • Houston @ Memphis (ABC): (60 degrees, clear) Memphis was still respectable this week, but the Cougars have got their grove back after beating Louisville last weekend.
  • North Carolina State @ North Carolina (ESPN): (63 degrees, cloudy) While NC State pulling off the upset here would greatly help my bowl team predicament, I don't think they can quite hang with Carolina's offense.
  • Northern Illinois @ Kent State (CBSS): (40 degress, overcast) Not much at stake in this MAC matchups, but I like Huskies.
2:30: Arkansas @ Missouri (CBS): (48 degrees, clear) I... think it's rational to miss the KU-Mizzou rivalry? Either way, Arkansas hopes to, and should be able to, turn around a disappointing end of the season here.

  • Nebraska @ Iowa (ABC): (40 degrees, clear) Iowa is a slight favorite here, but I'm not buying it. I'm going with the 'Huskers.
  • Washington @ Washington State (FOX): (44 degrees, chance of rain) And this is what you're going to watch on Friday. The Apple Cup is fascinating for many reasons. For instance, not very mean years ago this game featured 1 win combined by these two teams. For another, I can't think of a more marked contrast between two teams' locales than between the gorgeous waterfront locale of Husky Stadium in Seattle and the relative moonscape that is the Palouse.
    Photo from the Seattle Times
    Tellingly, I couldn't find a decent aerial photo of Martin Stadium. Anyway, the point is, these two places couldn't be more different. I have hard time of thinking of any other intra-state rivals that are as distant. (I guess it depends on how you view the various California rivalries).
    As for the game itself, well, here's the situation. I still think Washington is in the playoff if they win out, i.e., this game and the Pac-12 title game against Colorado or USC. I also still think Washington is pretty good, dismantlings by USC nonwithstanding. On the other side, we have Wazzu, which as you know by now spent the beginning of the season losing to Eastern Washington and Boise State. They also lost to Colorado last weekend, but that's respectable this year.
    If there's another team in the Pac-12 the Huskies resemble, it's probably Colorado, even though they'll be missing one of their d-line stars, I still like them to win this one. The fact the game will kick off at 12:30 local time probably also helps them.
  • Texas Christian @ Texas (FS1): (65 degrees, clear) In perhaps the worst firing ever, just in terms of the process, Charlie Strong is out. Both teams are sliding into the end of the year and a bowl bid is on the line. With all the drama around Austin, Charlie Strong is either going to get carried off the field or actually fired after the game. I'm betting on the latter.
  • Boise State @ Air Force (CBSS): (54 degrees, clear) For Boise to have any shot at the Cotton Bowl, they need to win this game and hope Wyoming loses to New Mexico. I suspect they can take for business on their end.
4:00: Louisiana Tech @ Southern Mississippi (ESPNEWS): (72 degrees, clear) Southern Miss isn't, like, bad, this year, but they aren't very good either. LaTech should win. (But you'll have something to put on during halftime of the Apple Cup, at least.)

5:00: Toledo @ Western Michigan (ESPN2): (41 degrees, chance of rain) These are the two best teams in the MAC, and it's not even close. The question is whether Toledo is anywhere close to Western Michigan, who have beaten every opponent on their schedule (except for Northwestern) by at least two touchdowns.

6:00: Baylor vs. Texas Tech (@Arlington, TX): (dome) Texas Tech

8:30: Cincinnati @ Tulsa (ESPN2): (48 degrees, clear) I don't really see how Cincy will score enough to keep up here, or how Tommy Tuberville will retain his job.

9:30: Arizona State @ Arizona (ESPN): (69 degrees, clear) We'll wrap up with the Territorial Cup, which, well, the nicest thing I can probably say about this game is that Arizona probably only has any sliver of a chance because it's a rivalry game.