Sunday, February 26, 2017

Bowl Games 2016: Epilogue

Once again, I need to get this out of the way before moving to our World Cup qualifying content and a special project I've been working on for a while.

I wound up going 22-19, a solid 53.6%. That puts me at 320-258 since 1999, or 55.36% overall. I'm still slightly better than a coin flip, woo!

Again, we won't quite be on our summer hiatus yet. See you soon!

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Bowl Games 2016: Final

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Monday, January 9th
8:30: Clemson vs. Alabama (College Football Playoff Championship Game @ Tampa, FL; ESPN): I looked over the post I made for this matchup last year and, well, most of it still applies. So let's break this down by unit.
The place to start is the unit that's been in the news for most of the past week: the Alabama offense. Coordinated by Lane Kiffin for most of the past three years, culminating with this season's relatively wide-open offense headed up by a mobile freshman quarterback. This is not the Alabama blueprint we've come to be familiar with. However, Alabama has yet to face a defensive line the quality of Clemson's, except maybe for LSU. The final score in that game? 10-0. There's also the reason they've been in the news: Lane Kiffin by all accounts wanted to continue to coach Alabama in the playoffs before heading off to his new gig, but was forced out. Subsequently, the Tide promoted one of their video room guys, former Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian, to offensive coordinator. Since he wasn't a coach, he wasn't on the sidelines on gamedays and (was supposed to have) had little contact with the players at all. It's easy to speculate on the impact this will have, but that's all I'd be doing. So I'll just stick to figuring it'll make some difference either way.
The Clemson offense, meanwhile, returned Deshaun Watson and virtually all their skill players from last year's team. While at times lacking focus this season, they responded emphatically when it mattered, as Ohio State found out last week. Again, the chess match in this game is the Clemson offense versus the Alabama defense.
The Tide defense is practically legendary at this point. There simply isn't a better defense in college football. But if there's anyone that's not scared of these guys, it's Clemson. They put up 40 last year and nearly won the game. Will Saban and go be prepared to counter them this year? How will they respond to things Clemson hasn't done before? We saw how that went for Ohio State last week.
The Clemson defense isn't as well know, but they're almost as good, especially on the defense line. They lived in the Ohio State backfield most of last week. I figured the Buckeyes had a giid chance in that game because they'd have the athletes to do what most ACC offensive lines couldn't, which is block them. I was dead wrong. Ohio State looked confused and disoriented most of the night along the line, which made the Buckeye offense dead in the water. The question is, can I talk myself into thinking the Alabama offensive line can block them? I'm not sure.
For all the hand-wringing about the playoffs going into this game, it definitely feels like we got the best two teams in one place. Few other teams this season were as dominant on both sides of the ball. And from watching the games last week and thinking about it for the past week, I have talked myself into a slight Clemson upset. They've got plenty of experience, and they're going to be motivated to take care of business this year.
Previous meetings: Obviously, the most recent meeting between these two was in last year's game, which Alabama won 45-40. Unfortunately for the Tigers, that still means they haven't beaten Alabama since October 25, 1905 and they're 3-13 against the Tide all time.
Last bowl game: Technically, their previous round matchups against Ohio State and Washington, respectively. See that post for the details.
Announcers: Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit

Monday, January 02, 2017

Bowl Games 2016: Happy New Year!

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Monday, January 2nd
1:00:
  • Iowa vs. Florida (Outback Bowl @ Tampa, FL; ABC): This one o'clock timeslot doesn't look terribly enticing, if I'm being honest. First, we have two offensively challenged teams, though one seems to act as though it has slightly shackles than the other. Somehow, that team is Iowa. But it's about picking your poison, and the poison for this game is that there will probably be a lot of head-scratching, over-conservative playcalling.
    Previous meetings: Three, and mostly in bowls of recent vintage. The first was a 14-6 Florida win in the 1983 Gator Bowl. The second was a 37-17 win in the 2003-04 Outback Bowl. The third was in the 2005-06 Outback Bowl, a 31-24 Florida win.
    Last bowl game: This is Iowa's fourth straight bowl, going back to the 2013-14 Outback Bowl, where they lost to LSU 21-14. Last season they got pasted 45-16 by Stanford in the Rose Bowl. As for the Gators, this will be their third straight post-season appearance. They defeated East Carolina 28-20 in the 2013-14 Birmingham Bowl, and last season they lost 41-7 to Michigan in the Citrus Bowl.
    Announcers: Mike Patrick and Ed Cunningham
  • Wisconsin vs. Western Michigan (Cotton Bowl @ Arlington, TX; ESPN): Whereas the problem with this game is that, well, if it's anywhere close I'll be absolutely stunned. Yes, Western Michigan is 2-0 against the Big Ten, but that was against an undersized Northwestern and an awful Illinois team. Wisconsin is one of the biggest teams around, and their defense is elite. If the Badgers treat this game seriously (potentially a big if), I don't think it'll be close.
    Previous meetings: As one might guess, this Big Ten vs. MAC matchup has been played a few times, but not many more, with meetings in 1963, 1981, 1988, and 2000. Wisconsin has won all of them, except for a 24-14 win for Broncos in 1988. Otherwise, it's been all Badgers
    Last bowl game: This is Wisconsin's 15th straight bowl appearance, tied with Boise State for the sixth longest streak. Correspondingly, you need to go back to a 31-28 win over Colorado in the 2002 Alamo Bowl to find the beginning of this run. They edged Southern Cal 23-21 in last season's Holiday Bowl. For the Broncos, this is their third straight appearance. They lost 38-24 to Air Force in the 2014 Potato Bowl and beat Middle Tennessee State 45-31 in last season's Bahamas Bowl.
    Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Brock Huard
5:00: Pennsylvania State vs. Southern California (Rose Bowl @ Pasadena, CA; ESPN): Don't look, but it's entirely possible the best team in the second half of the season was the University of Southern California Trojans. They rolled off eight wins to close the season, including a close win over a resurgent Colorado and a score-makes-it-look-closer-than-it-was 26-13 win over Washington in Seattle. Even if you're as skeptical of "momentum" as I am, it's hard to deny this team is hot. Yet, if we apply the same metrics to Penn State, we see they won nine in a row to close the season, including wins over Ohio State and Wisconsin. The main difference would seem to the manner in which these teams earned their best wins, but that's ultimately beside the point. Both these teams are young and have all the reasons in the world to go into this game and make a statement, and I expect a contest that's the opposite of those at the 1:00 slot. I have USC, but not by much.
Previous meetings: Nine! The first was all the back in the 1922-23 Rose Bowl, which Southern Cal won 14-3. Fast forward to the 1981-82 season for their next meeting, a 26-10 Penn State win in the Fiesta Bowl. A regular season series was played six times from 1990-2000, and then their last meeting was in the 2008-09 Rose Bowl, a 38-24 USC win. The Trojans hold a narrow 5-4 series lead.
Last bowl game: This is Penn State's third straight bowl game. They beat Boston College 31-30 in the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl and lost to Georgia in last season's Taxslayer Bowl. USC, meanwhile, probably doesn't like to reflect much on the 2012 Sun Bowl, what with the 21-7 loss to Georgia Tech and all. Nonetheless, that was the start of their current five game bowl streak, with the most recent entry being a 23-21 loss to Wisconsin in last season's Holiday Bowl.
Announcers: Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit

8:30: Auburn vs. Oklahoma (Sugar Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): Oklahoma is here because the Sooners won 10 games and had losses to Houston and Ohio State, which are both legitimate losses. They then Boomer Soonered their way through the Big 12, emerging unscathed with an undisputed conference title. Auburn is here because the Sugar Bowl is designated for the highest ranked available SEC team, and, well, every SEC team other than Alabama had at least four losses. Auburn's four losses wound up being the most respectable compared to Tennessee and Florida, so here they are. Suffice it to say, I have Oklahoma all the way here.
Previous meetings: Just one, and in this 1971-72 edition of this game. The Sooners won 40-22.
Last bowl game: This is Auburn's fourth straight postseason game, going back to the 2013-14 BCS Championship Game, where they lost 34-31 to Florida State. Last season they pasted Memphis 31-10 in the Birmingham Bowl. The Sooners own the country's fourth longest streak of postseason appearances, with this being their 18th consecutive one. Their streak began with the 1999 Independence Bowl, which they lost to Ole Miss 27-25. Last season, they were defeated 37-17 by Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
Announcers: Brent Musberger and Jesse Palmer

Friday, December 30, 2016

Bowl Games 2016: Riding Out 2016

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Saturday, December 31st
11:00:
  • Louisville vs. Louisiana State (Citrus Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ABC): This game is a tough assignment, if you ask me. Louisville, of course, still has their all-everything player, and while the LSU offense certainly showed signs of life later in the season, missing Fournette is still big. Furthermore, Louisville did somewhat inexplicably lose to Kentucky, a loss that could provide a blueprint for LSU. Despite all this, I still like the Cardinals a lot here.
    Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
    Last bowl game: This is Louisville's seventh straight bowl appearance, dating to the 2010 Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl. They beat Southern Mississippi 31-28. They defeated Texas A&M 27-21 in last season's Music City Bowl. This is LSU's 17th straight bowl appearance, which is the nation's fifth longest streak. The streak started with a 28-14 win over Georgia Tech in the Peach Bowl, and the most recent addition was a 56-27 win over Texas Tech in the Texas Bowl.
    Announcers: Dave Pasch and Greg McElroy
  • Georgia Tech vs. Kentucky (Taxslayer Bowl @ Jacksonville, FL; ESPN): Speaking of Kentucky, here we are. In a season characterized by uneven offensive performances and a horrid defense, Georgia Tech kept going and wound up making enough plays to beat Georgia. This matchup would seem to be pretty good for us, but the defense just remains so incredibly suspect that I have to remain nervous.
    Previous meetings:
    19, and none since Tech left the SEC in the early 60's. Remember that in the early day of college football conferences, teams had a lot more flexibility to set their own schedules. and Kentucky was not one of Tech's major opponents. The longest streak of consecutive games was 1935 through 1942. Anyway, the first meeting was a 3-3 tie in 1923. The last meeting was a 23-13 Tech win in 1960, and the Jacket have an 11-7-1 overall series lead.
    Last bowl game: GT, of course, used to own the third longest bowl streak in the nation. Unfortunately, last year's 3-9 disappointment ended the streak with the 2014 triumph in the Orange Bowl, a 49-34 lead over Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl. This is Kentucky's first bowl game since a 27-10 loss to Pitt in the 2010-11 BBVA Compass Bowl, which was the last in a five-year streak of their own.
    Announcers: Mark Jones and Rod Gilmore
3:00: Alabama vs. Washington (Peach Bowl @ Atlanta, GA; ESPN): And so it begins. For the first game of the playoff, we have a game that pretty much everyone assumes will be a blowout. And frankly, if Alabama doesn't win a national title it'll be a huge upset. They are simply bigger, stronger, and deeper than the rest of the field, where "the rest of the field" is the entire FBS. The only other team Washington played that approached Alabama's talent level was Southern Cal, and the Huskies wound up losing 26-13. Don't get me wrong. I think it'd be great of UDub pulled this off and I will be rooting for them. I just... don't see it happening.
Previous meetings: Four. The most famous, of course, was the first: the 1925-26 Rose Bowl, where Alabama hung on for a 20-19 win. They met in the regular season in 1975 and 1978, and the last was the 1986 Sun Bowl, all Alabama wins. The Tide are 4-0 overall.
Last bowl game: Bama has the eight largest streak in the nation, at 13 straight games. Indeed, you'll need to go back to the 2004 Music City Bowl to find the start of that run, a 20-16 loss to Minnesota. Yeah, the Tide doesn't really go to bowls like that anymore. Last season, they blasted Michigan State 38-0 in the Cotton Bowl and then beat Clemson 45-40 to win the college football playoff. This is Washington's seventh straight bowl game. The game that started that run was the 2010 Holiday Bowl, a 19-7 win over Nebraska. Last season, they beat Southern Mississippi 44-31 in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Announcers: Joe Tessitore and Todd Blackledge

7:00: Clemson vs. Ohio State (Fiesta Bowl @ Glendale, AZ; ESPN): I think this game will be as close as the other game will be a blowout. I see the matchups across the board as strength-on-strength, with maybe the only edge being at quarterback (that is, with Watson being better). Thing is, this Clemson team is not nearly as dominate as last year's version was, with a tendency to play up or down to their competition. Even if that holds up here, I still see the Buckeyes doing what Louisville and FSU couldn't do to this Tigers, and that is put them away.
Previous meetings: Two, and both in bowl games. Clemson won 17-15 back in the 1978 Gator Bowl as well as 40-35 in the 2013-14 Orange Bowl.
Last bowl game: Yep, at this point in bowl season, you start getting into streak territory. Clemson has a 12 game streak, going back to the 2005 Champs Sports Bowl, where they beat Colorado 19-10. Clemson's streak would be six games longer in the modern bowl landscape, but back in 2004 there just wasn't room for a 6-5 Clemson team. Last season, of course, saw a 37-17 win over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl and a 45-40 loss to Alabama in the college football playoff. The Buckeyes would also have a long streak, but the sanctions on the 12-0 2012 team prevented that. And so, their current four game streak dates to the 2013-14 Orange Bowl, mentioned above. Last season, they beat Notre Dame (which went 4-8 this year) 44-28 in the Fiesta Bowl.
Announcers: Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit

Bowl Games 2016: Indulgence

Friday, December 30th is the only day other than the first of bowl season that there are five games in one day, thanks to the separation caused by New Year's Day falling on a Sunday. (And somehow, only three of them are on ESPN!) So check the schedule and read up below to see what to expect.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Friday, December 30th
Noon: Texas Christian vs. Georgia (Liberty Bowl @ Memphis, TN; ESPN): I'm almost certainly biased, but I haven't really seen anything out of Georgia that shows they have the offensive aptitude to keep up with a Big 12 team. But hey, who knows, maybe Kirby and Co. will have figured it out by now! (Probably not.)
Previous meetings: Three, and they're all Georgia wins, unfortunately. The first was in the 1941-42 Orange Bowl, 40-26 win for UGA. This was followed by regular season meetings in 1980 and 1988, again easy Georgia wins.
Last bowl game: This is TCU's third straight bowl game. They beat Ole Miss 42-3 in 2014's Peach Bowl. Oregon lost to them last season in the Alamo Bowl, 47-41. This is Georgia's 20th consecutive bowl game, dating to the 1997-98 Outback Bowl, a 33-6 win over Wisconsin. They beat Penn State in last season's Taxslayer Bowl, 24-17.
Announcers: Beth Mowins and Anthony Becht

2:00: North Carolina vs. Stanford (Sun Bowl @ El Paso, TX; CBS): The Cardinal closed the season with five straight victories, but it's hard to say whether that was due to Christian McCaffrey getting healthier or the schedule drastically easing up. (See the fun fact below.) However, they won't have their star for this game and Carolina represents by far the biggest challenge for them since October. And indeed, without McCaffrey, it's hard to see how the Stanford offense will be able to keep up with the Tar Heels.
Previous meetings: Just a home-and-home back in 1997-98. Carolina won the first 28-17, but the Cardinal took the second 37-34.
Last bowl game: This is UNC's fourth straight bowl game. They beat Cincinnati 39-17 in the 2013 Belk Bowl and lost to Baylor in last year's Russell Athletic Bowl, 49-38. This is Stanford's eight consecutive bowl game, going back to a 31-27 loss to Oklahoma in the Sun Bowl. They demolished Iowa in last season's Rose Bowl 45-16.
Announcers: Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson
Fun fact: The Cardinal had a seriously front-loaded schedule. In their first seven games, they played six teams that made bowl games (the lone exception being Notre Dame, which went 4-8 this season). Stanford also lost by a combined 86-22 score to teams from the state of Washington this year. 

3:30: Nebraska vs. Tennessee (Music City Bowl @ Nashville, TN; ESPN): So for various reasons, I do the predictions you see in the page way before I do any of these writeups. Sometimes that gets me in trouble, such as for this game where I picked the Vols to win by 10 points. I would have to think my main argument would involve Tennessee barely losing to Vandy by Nebraska getting blown out by Iowa.
Previous meetings: Just two, and only in bowl games. The first was the 1997-98 Orange Bowl, which the Huskers won 42-17. They followed up with another win in the 1999-2000 season with a 31-21 win in the Fiesta Bowl.
Last bowl game: This is Nebraska's ninth straight bowl game. They started things off by beating Clemson 26-21 in the 2008-09 Gator Bowl. More recently, they defeated UCLA in last year's Foster Farms Bowl 37-29. This is Tennessee's third straight bowl game. The Vols beat Iowa in the 2014-15 Taxslayer Bowl 45-28, and then beat Northwestern 45-6 in last season's Outback Bowl.
Announcers: Tom Hart and Andre Ware

5:30: Air Force vs. South Alabama (Arizona Bowl @ Tuscon, AZ; CI/ASN): First, this game doesn't have a real TV deal, so see the link below to figure out where you can watch it if you're so inclined. Second, South Alabama may have had the oddest season of team FBS team this year. Get this: they started the season with an upset win over Mississippi State. Okay, sure, that happens sometimes. Then they lose in pretty convincing fashion to two other Sun Belt teams and beat FCS Nicholls State by a point. Naturally, they follow this up by laying a 42-24 beatdown on a pretty good San Diego State team. The Jaguars then went on to have a thoroughly mediocre Sun Belt season and wound up going 6-6 and getting in thanks to a lack of bowl teams, since they have two FCS wins. At any rate, this game is going to be a blowout: the one I predicted with Air Force as the winners or the one that makes no sense but, hey, they did it to a Mountain West team once already...
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This is Air Force's third straight bowl game. They beat Western Michigan 38-24 in the 2014 Potato Bowl and lost 55-36 to Cal in last season's Armed Forces Bowl. This is South Alabama's second ever bowl appearance. Their first was a 33-28 loss to Bowling Green in the 2014 Camellia Bowl.
Announcers: See here for more broadcast information.
Fun fact: This barely even feels like a bowl game. I appreciate trying new things as well as not being controlled by ESPN, but not having a real TV deal and a matchup permanently involving a Sun Belt team doesn't seem to be a winning formula? If I had to guess which bowl game was closest to the chopping block, it'd be this one.

8:00: Florida State vs. Michigan (Orange Bowl @ Miami Gardens, FL; ESPN): I think FSU is pretty good and I also think this game will be close. But I still think Michigan is one of the best teams in the country and I expect them to prove it tonight.
Previous meetings: Just two, and neither in bowl games. The first was a 20-18 Michigan win back in 1986. Second was a 51-31 win for FSU back in 1991.
Last bowl game: I get to say this once again: Florida State has the nation's active longest bowl streak, with this being their 35th straight postseason appearance. In 1982, Florida State beat West Virginia 31-12 in the Gator Bowl. With a modern amount of bowls, the streak would actually be 40 games, but a 6-5 season in 1981 and an 8-3 record in 1978 didn't get them into a bowl. Last season, they lost 38-24 to Houston in the Peach Bowl. Michigan beat Florida 41-7 in last season's Citrus Bowl.
Announcers: Steve Levy and Brian Griese
Fun fact: I'm sure this won't come up on the broadcast at all, but the starting quarterback for Michigan in that 1986 game? A one Jim Harbaugh.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Bowl Games 2016: Hitting Stride

A quick preview of the mid-week games. The full schedule can be found here.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Wednesday, December 28
2:00: Pittsburgh vs. Northwestern (Pinstripe Bowl @ New York, NY; ESPN): Pitt is everyone's favorite transitive conference champion, with wins this season over Penn State and Clemson. They're also just a darn good football team. They run about as tricky of a rushing offense as you can get without being a, you know, option team. Except for when they did it to us, it's been fun to watch. The Wildcats, meanwhile, don't have a lot going for them. I've got Pitt all the way here.
Previous meetings: Six! The first was a 16-7 Pitt victory back in 1949. The last was also a 21-14 Pitt win back in 1973, but overall the series is even.
Last bowl game: This is Pitt's ninth straight bowl game, going back to the infamous 2008 Sun Bowl, which they lost 3-0 to Oregon State. Last season saw a 44-28 route at the hands of the Naval Academy in the Military Bowl. Northwestern did much to generate Tennessee's preseason hype this year by losing 46-5 to the Vols in last season's Outback Bowl.
Announcers: Ryan Ruocco, Mike Golic, and Mike Golic Jr.

5:30: Miami vs. West Virginia (Russell Athletic Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ESPN): You might remember the Hurricanes from their mid-season 4-game swoon that took them out of ACC contention, but sandwiching that stretch on either side is a four game stretch of pretty good football. They recovered from a bad loss to Notre Dame (who, again, went 4-8) to absolutely shellack Pitt and start the 4-game win streak that closed out the season. WVU, meanwhile, went 10-2. This definitely garners some respect, but the two games they lost to the Oklahoma teams weren't really even close. That said, I think this still could be a pretty fun and close matchup, so I have the 'Canes as a slight favorite.
Previous meetings: Their first meeting was all the way back in 1942, a 21-13 Miami win. However, the bulk of their 19 meetings were when both were in the Big East from 1991-2003. Miami won the last meeting 22-20 and has a commanding 16-3 series lead.
Last bowl game: This is da U's fourth straight bowl game, going back to a 36-9 loss to Louisville in the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl. They lost 20-14 in last year's Sun Bowl to Washington State. WVU has a bunch of gaps in their history, but more often than not they've been in bowls since 1993. In their currently active streak, this is their third straight bowl and the eked out a 1-point win in last year's Cactus Bowl, beating Arizona State 43-42.
Announcers: Dave Pasch and Greg McElroy

8:30: Indiana vs. Utah (Foster Farms Bowl @ Santa Clara, CA; FOX): If not for their end-of-season swoon (losing 3 of their last 4), I'd have the Utes as a much larger favorite here. The problem is that I don't see Indiana providing much of a threat despite their "CHAOS TEAM" moniker, which scored the all of... zero upsets this season. (At least, with the benefit of hindsight.) So, yeah, I have the Utes.
Previous meetings: I'm going to be honest, I was expecting to say "none" but it turns out this is the third. Indiana's only win was a 31-7 rout back in 1975. Since then, a home-and-home in 2001 and 2002 produced 28-26 and 40-13 Utah victories.
Last bowl game: The Hoosiers lost last year's Pinstripe Bowl 44-41. This is the third straight bowl for the Utes. They beat Colorado State 46-10 in the 2014 Las Vegas Bowl, and then beat BYU in a Sin City Holy War 35-28.
Announcers: Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt

9:00: Kansas State vs. Texas A&M (Texas Bowl @ Houston, TX; ESPN): I have a K-State as a favorite here almost entirely because of the way these teams closed out the season. The Aggies lost three of their last four, including somehow to both of the Mississippi schools and got pounded in what turned out to be DACOACHO's coronation. K-State turned a narrow loss to Oklahoma State into motivation with wins over Baylor and TCU on the road and taking care of business against the Jayhawks. I like K-state a lot here.
Previous meetings: 15, most of which, as you might imagine, came after the then-Big 8 absorbed the Southwest Conference before the 1996 season. For the first, though, we have to go back to 1912, a 13-10 K-State victory. The last meeting was a cracker of a game as well, a 53-50 K-State overtime win. Overall, TAMU has a slight 8-7 series lead.
Last bowl game: This is K-State's seventh straight bowl game, going back to a 36-34 Pinstripe Bowl loss in 2010 to Syracuse. They lost to Arkansas 45-23 in last year's Liberty Bowl. This is TAMU's eighth straight bowl game, going back to the 2009 Independence Bowl, where they lost 44-20 to Georgia. Last season they lost 27-21 to Louisville in the Music City Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Fleming and Jesse Palmer

Thursday, December 29
2:00: South Carolina vs. South Florida (Birmingham Bowl @ Birmingham, AL; ESPN): I'd guess the only reason to watch this game is for the schadenfreude of an SEC team getting pounded by a team from the AAC. And if South Carolina does somehow win this game, that means their defense totally shut down USF and the final score will be 9-3. Maybe only reason to watch this one is if you're a college football degenerate like me. I have USF all the way.
Previous meetings: Just one, a regular season game back in 2004. South Carolina won 34-3.
Last bowl game: South Florida lost last year's Miami Beach Bowl to Western Kentucky, 45-35. South Carolina saw a respectable bowl streak come to an end last year, so their last bowl game was the 2014 Independence Bowl, wherein they beat Miami 24-21.
Announcers: Eamon McAnaney and John Congemi

5:30: Virginia Tech vs. Arkansas (Belk Bowl @ Charlotte, NC; ESPN): As it turns out, I'm not sure the Razorbacks were "inconsistent" this year, more "just not very good". The Hokies, barring one upset in Blacksburg (woo!) and a bizarre game in the Carrier Dome, were ahead of schedule in Year 1 of the post-Beamer era and I think they'll be motivated to keep it going here
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This is VPI's 24th straight bowl game. They have the second longest active streak, dating to the 1993 Independence Bowl. (They beat Indiana 45-20.) Only Florida State has a longer streak. Fittingly, they beat Tulsa in last year's Independence Bowl 55-52. This is Arkansas's 3rd straight bowl game. They beat Texas 31-7 in the 2014 Texas Bowl and beat K-State 45-23 in last season's Liberty Bowl.
Announcers: Mike Patrick and Ed Cunningham

9:00: Oklahoma State vs. Colorado (Alamo Bowl @ San Antonio, TX; ESPN): If Colorado's QB is healthy in this game, then the Buffs stand a much better chance here than they did in the Pac-12 title game. I'm basing my pick on that assumption, so it could change at the last minute. Either way, these are both pretty good teams and I hope the margin is as close as I'm predicting.
Previous meetings: These former Big 8 foes have met 46 times. It'd probably be more, except that they wound up in separate divisions when the Big 12 was formed, so after 1997 they only met six times. Otherwise, they played every season from 1960 through 1997. This first matchup was actually in 1920, where Colorado won 40-7. The last was in 2008, which Oklahoma State won 31-28. The Buffs hold a 26-19-1 series lead.
Last bowl game: This is Oklahoma State's 11th straight bowl game, dating back to a 34-31 victory over Alabama in the 2006 Independence Bowl. They lost 48-20 to Ole Miss in last year's Sugar Bowl. This is Colorado's first bowl game as a member of the Big 12. Their last postseason appearance was the 2007 Independence Bowl, where they lost 30-24 to Alabama.
Announcers: Adam Amin and Mack Brown
Fun fact: I just had to close with this series of tweets from ESPN play-by-play man Adam Amin.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Bowl Games 2016: Let Us Begin

Yes, there's been several bowl games already, but this week will contain the bulk of the games, and we'll start to see teams from the power conferences. All in all, it's starting to get exciting (well, sort of). Again, if you'd like to see my current progress and also just the TV information, see here.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Monday, December 26
11:00: Miami vs. Mississippi State (St. Petersburg Bowl @ St. Petersburg, FL; ESPN): I don't like applying the "OH" or "FL" tags for the two Miamis, generally hoping that context clues will provide what you need to know. Unfortunately, this bowl does have an ACC affiliation, so to be clear: it's the one from Ohio. Anyway, Miss State is 5-7, but let's face it, they should beat all but one, maybe two, MAC teams everyday and twice on Sundays. Miami is not one of those MAC teams.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This is Miami's first bowl game since the 2010-11 Godaddy Bowl, where they beat Middle Tennessee State 35-21. This is Miss State's seventh straight bowl game, going back to a 52-14 win over Michigan in the 2010-11 Gator Bowl. The Bullldogs beat NC State 51-28 in the Belk Bowl last year.
Announcers: Dave LaMont and Rene Ingoglia

2:30: Maryland vs. Boston College (Quick Lane Bowl @ Detroit, MI; ESPN): No, remember that Maryland is in the Big Ten now. (I occasionally still have trouble with this, but more so for Nebraska.) Anyway, these two teams are pretty even: occasionally good defense and not a whole of offense. I have BC as a slight favorite.
Previous meetings: These teams have met 11 times, which seems low until you remember that BC only joined the ACC in 2004. Indeed, the two had only met twice before being conference mates from 2005-2013. BC has won the last 3 straight and is 8-3 overall, the most recent being a 29-26 win.
Last bowl game: This is the first bowl for the Terps since the 2014 Foster Farms Bowl, a 45-21 loss to Stanford. BC also last went to a bowl in 2014, losing 31-30 to Penn State in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Announcers: Mark Neely and Ray Bentley

5:00: North Carolina State vs. Vanderbilt (Independence Bowl @ Shreveport, LA; ESPN2): Well, this is probably the most fun game of the day just by default. For starters, I count Shreveport, Louisiana as one of college football's more ridiculous bowl venues. Secondly, these are both teams that are coming in hot, winners of two of their last three, including season ending victories over bitter rivals. So if you're taking advantage of Boxing Day sales, then you may want decompress with this one on. Also, it'll probably rain a lot in the second half. Fun! I've got the Wolfpack as a slight favorite.
Previous meetings: Just two. The first was in 1946, a 7-0 Vanderbilt win. The last was the 2012 Music City Bowl, which Vandy also won, 38-24.
Last bowl game: This is the Wolfpack's third bowl game in a row. They lost last year's Belk Bowl to Mississippi State 51-28. This is Vandy's first bowl since the 2013-14 Birmingham Bowl, where they defeated Houston 41-24.
Announcers: Mike Couzens and Cole Cubelic

Tuesday, December 27
12:00: Army vs. North Texas (Heart of Dallas Bowl @ Dallas, TX; ESPN): I have a mental block about this game. Army is like a 10 point favorite. Yeah, sure, North Texas isn't good or anything, but Army lost to this team by 17 points at home! Look, I'm a stats-oriented person and I know that head-to-head isn't the best indicator of the quality of these two teams two months later. But, still, 17 points! I have the Mean Green here.
Previous meetings: Five, beginning in 1996-7, 2009-10, and then earlier this season. Army had won the first four, but UNT won back in October 35-18.
Last bowl game: This is Army's first bowl game since the 2010 Armed Forces Bowl, wherein they defeated SMU 16-14. UNT's last bowl game was this very game, back in the 2013-14 season. They defeated UNLV 36-14.
Announcers: Allen Bestick and Mike Bellotii

3:30: Temple vs. Wake Forest (Military Bowl @ Annapolis, MD; ESPN): Yes, Virginia Maryland, Wake Forest did actually qualify for a bowl game! Unfortunately for them, Temple is actually pretty good. I have the Owls all the way here.
Previous meetings: Just one, way back in 1930. Temple won 36-0.
Last bowl game: This is the second straight bowl game for the Owls. As far as I can tell, this is the first ever set of back-to-back bowls for them. They lost last year's Boca Raton Bowl to Toledo 32-17. This is Wake's first bowl game since the 2011 Music City Bowl, where they lost 23-17 to Mississippi State.
Announcers: Jason Benetti and Kelly Stouffer

7:00: Minnesota vs. Washington State (Holiday Bowl @ San Diego, CA; ESPN): I find Wazzu to be one of the most vexing teams in college football, right down to how to spell their nickname. Regardless, it seems likely that they'll run through and throw over Minnesota while the Gophers will be unable to return fire.
Previous meetings: Five, and all in the regular season, somewhat surprisingly: 1965, 1971, 1976, 1982, and 1988. Wazzu holds the 3-2 advatnage and won the last matchup 41-9.
Last bowl game: This is Minnesota's fifth straight postseason game, going back to the 2012 Car Care Bowl, which they lost 34-31 to Texas Tech. They beat Central Michigan in last year's Quick Lane Bowl 21-14. Washington State beat Miami (the one from the ACC) in last year's Sun Bowl, 20-14.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Brock Huard

10:15: Boise State vs. Baylor (Cactus Bowl @ Phoenix, AZ; ESPN): Boise.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This is the seventh straight bowl for the Bears, going back to a 38-14 loss to Illinois in the 2010 Texas Bowl. They beat North Carolina 49-38 in last year's Russell Athletic Bowl.
Announcers: Rece Davis, Joey Galloway, and David Pollack