Friday, October 31, 2008

This Weekend in College Football: Week 10

Boo! In a hurry tonight, so let's get this over with.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Wisconsin @ Michigan State (ESPN): I still can't get over the virtual implosion of this Wisconsin team. MSU is coming off a huge win over Michigan and should (repeat, should) have no problem with the Badgers.
  • Northwestern @ Minnesota (ESPN2): The Big Ten's two most resurgent programs face off in an epic battle! Well, I don't know about "epic", but they are basically playing for 3rd place (along with Michigan State) behind Penn State and Ohio State. That said, NU suffered a really bad loss to a really bad Indiana team last weekend, so I have to go with the Gilded Gophers here.
  • Michigan @ Purdue (BTN): Michgian is bad this year, but unfortunately not as bad as Purdue. Wolverines should pick up a win.
  • Miami @ Virginia (Raycom/Gameplan): I don't know how this happened, but it turns out that Virginia is a decently good football team. Of course, they also got the SMQ Dr. Saturday kiss-of-death this week, but rational thought (insofar as it applies to the ACC this year) has to favor the Cavs. Also, it makes us look better, even if we do need them to lose.
  • Kansas State @ Kansas (FSN): Kansas isn't as good as everyone thought, but they are unfortunately good enough to beat KSU.
  • Auburn @ Mississippi (Raycom/Gameplan): I miss the days, of, oh, say, the last 4 years or so where this was an automatic pick. (Actually, it's probably more than that, but still.) Things look pretty bleak for the Tigers, losers of 3 straight, but the only pin of the cap of Ole Miss is the freak upset for Florida. Given this is probably about even, I'll take the home team here.
2:30: Pittsburgh @ Notre Dame (NBC): With South Florida's loss yesterday, suddenly Pitt's 5 game winning streak prior to losing to Rutgers last week is making me re-evaluate the Big East frontrunner. I think ND's got this one in the bag.

  • Georgia vs. Florida (@Jacksonville, FL; CBS): The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party name may not really make any sense (it assumes fans of either school can afford cocktails, baffling when you consider how much cheaper PBR, Steel Reserve, or Bud Light is) but it's still better than nothing, which is what it officially is now. This game is hideously difficult to pick. Though UGA's loss may be better, UF has really put things together and both sport blowouts against LSU in which they scored 50 points. Therefore, I will pick who I want to win (UF) and just say this game will be on my TV while I'm Slingboxin' the GT game.
  • Oregon @ California (ABC/Gameplan): Cal, I guess? Man I don't care about this game, but it probably could go either way.
  • Oklahoma State @ Iowa State (Gameplan/ABC): This game will end sometime Monday morning because Oklahoma State will not stop scoring until then. Seriously.
  • Florida State @ Georgia Tech (Gameplan/ESPN/ABC): "Fun" fact: since FSU joined the ACC in 1992, only two ACC teams have failed to beat them at least once. They, of course, Georgia Tech and Duke. Duke you can understand, but while GT hasn't exactly had a sustained run of success since then (see: 1993-1997), they also couldn't beat them with Joe Hamilton. GT's second best player in this time period, Calvin Johnson, never actually got to play the Seminoles because in their infinite wisdom the ACC put FSU and GT in seperate divisions, so they have not met since 2003. 2003 was, of course, my freshman year. Tech played FSU the week after the Auburn upset and led 13-0 going into the 4th quarter. FSU then scored 14 points and came back, winning 14-13. That is basically the series in a nutshell. Next to beating UGA, I cannot think of a sweeter win we could get this season.
  • Iowa @ Illinois (ESPN/ABC): Illinois, I guess? I'm in a hurry here.
  • Temple @ Navy (CBSCS): Navy, by a few touchdowns. Over/under on the number of pass attempts by the Midshipmen is about 3.
6:30: Washington @ Southern California (FSN): The line is something absurd, like 40 points or something? If I were a betting man, I still might take USC to cover.

7:00: Tennessee @ South Carolina (ESPN2): The other USC is less formidiable, and their opponent is slightly better. That isn't really saying much, though, for Tennessee. Spurrier-ball should prevail.

  • Texas @ Texas Tech (ABC): I don't need to tell you how big this game is, thanks to ESPN. Both these teams are really good. I can't really even think of any positives or negatives here except that Texas's schedule to this point has been superior. So for absolutely no rational reason, I like the Longhorns here.
  • Nebraska @ Oklahoma (ESPN): I don't have time to go link it, but as Dr. Saturday said this game sure isn't what it used to be. Especailly since Oklahoma should dominate here.
  • Texas Christian @ Nevada-Las Vegas (CBSCS): I think TCU is pretty legit, and so I'll take them here in this MWC road contest.
10:00: Arizona State @ Oregon State (FSN): Finally. ASU has been a disappointment, to say the least. I'd go into why, but I need to go so I'm taking the Beavers.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bowl Predictions, Week 2

As explained last week, this edition will just hit the high notes. To wit:
  • Still mainting the winner of the Big 12 versus the winner of the SEC will go to the national title game, provide they're undefeated. That will be a challenge for both Texas and Alabama. The biggest question probably is what happens if Texas Tech wins Saturday.
  • The SEC title game loser will probably end up in the Capital One Bowl, if I had to guess. This somewhat ironically means the loser of the the Cocktail Party this weekend is in a better position to go to a BCS bowl.
  • There is something to the argument the Fiesta could take, say, Utah but I think instead they'll take the safe bet of someone like Ohio State, who were not hit that bad in the rankings and should easily finish eligible for a BCS at-large.
  • The ACC saw a huge shakeup, with GT and VPI losing. This is bound to be the most volatile conference week-to-week.
  • Once again, the college football world will barely scrape by with enough bowl eligible teams. And I'm working under somewhat optimistic assumptions. I have yet to find any documentation on what the NCAA or bowls would do if there are not enough bowl eligible teams. Right now it's looking like a good payday for the WAC, MAC, and especially the Sun Belt.
  • Somewhat Non-Obvious Matchup of the Week: Car Care Bowl, Maryland vs. West Virginia. These two schools met every year from 1980 to 2007 but chose not to renew the rivalry in 2008. I don't know/remember if this is a named game or not, but nonetheless it should draw an enthusiastic crowd down in Charlotte.

Friday, October 24, 2008

This Weekend in College Football: Week 9

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong. And probably a little more hasty than usual.

  • Texas Tech @ Kansas (ESPN): I don't think it'll be terribly relevant if TTU misses all of their extra points, they should still win by a few scores.
  • Illinois @ Wisconsin (ESPN2): Wisconsin has been losing everywhere, and I doubt the skid will stop here. Though it's definitely hard to tell because UIUC lost at home to UMN last week, but I'll stick with them anyway.
  • Minnesota @ Purdue (ESPN Classic): I feel sorry for Joe Tiller. I've also heard there's some internal discord up in West Lafayette. Minnesota should roll.
  • Northwestern @ Indiana (BTN): Wooooo, another Big Ten game. Anyone notice that Northwestern is 6-1? It sufficies to say that they weill be 7-1 on Sunday.
  • Boston College @ North Carolina (Raycom/Gameplan): Big game for both teams. Can UNC recover from their loss last week and the loss of their key offensive player? Can BC stay afloat in the ACC Atlantic? No and yes, respectively.
  • Oklahoma @ Kansas State (FSN): Oklahoma is setting up nicely for a BCS run. Their next three games (this one, Nebraksa, TAMU) are very winnable, but at the end of the schedule be dragons in the form of TTU and Oklahoma State. I guess it goes without saying I like OU here.
  • Baylor @ Nebraska (Versus): Baylor showed some initial promise at the beginning of the year, but they've lately faltered. Then again, many teams will falter against the two schools with "Oklahoma" in their name. That said, this game is up in Lincoln and I've picked a lot of read teams so far so I'm going with the Huskers here.
  • Kentucky @ Florida (Raycom/Gameplan): Florida's already had a bad home loss this year. Hopefully for them they learned their lesson and take care of business going into the Cocktail Party next week.
  • Georgia @ Louisiana State (CBS): On paper, UGA should probably win this game. But there are several tangible factors, namely, 90,000 very drunk Cajuns. I'm going with the (admittedly) slight upset here and picking LSU.
  • California-Los Angeles @ California (ABC/Gameplan): Outside of USC and maybe Arizona (can't believe I just said that) this rest of the Pac-10 has been very unprediactable this year. That said, this is UCLA's 3rd road game of the year and they got blown out in their previous two. This might not be a blowout, but I will still take Cal.
  • Oklahoma State @ Texas (Gameplan/ABC): I don't really need to tell you how huge this game is, nationally and in the Big 12. Definitely no doubt that the Big 12 South is back after a couple years of the North domination. Now, as for the game, both these teams are good but Texas has some semblance of a defense, so I like them here.
  • Michigan State @ Michigan (ESPN2/ABC): MSU has not won in this series since 2001. A series of blowout and heartbreaks have followed, but if any year is going to be the year for the Spartans, I have to say this is it.
  • Virginia Tech @ Florida State (Gameplan/ESPN2/ABC): We (as in GT) badly need FSU to win here, even with FSU coming into Atlanta next week. That said, I'm not sure how confident I am picking either team. VPI has been winning their games with some combination of buggle gum and duct tape. FSU's rise to 5-1 hasn't been much better and they don't have a win significantly better than any of VPI's. There's not really any logical reason VPI should win here, but since I want FSU to win I'll take VPI.
  • Southern Methodist @ Navy (CBSCS): I was baffled when June Jones took the SMU job. I am even slightly more baffled now. Sure, SMU has more money, but in terms of college football prestige it's almost a lateral move. Needless to say, I'm picking Navy.
  • Virginia @ Georgia Tech (ESPNU): It's homecoming in the ATL, so naturally I went to the away game last week. Huge wins for both these teams last week. GT still looked disorganized on offense. Early in the 3rd quarter, they had a few chance to really salt the game away but failed, letting Clemson come all the back. But Tech did not fold (something that I saw pletny of the previous 4 seasons) and put together the winning drive. Will Tech be more consistent tomorrow against a resurgent UVA team? We shall see. Well, I probably won't since it's on das U but still.
6:30: Colorado @ Missouri (FSN): 1990 nevar forget!!! That said, despitre recent sturggle Mizzou should be heavy favorites here, and if hey are, I agree.

7:45: Alabama @ Tennessee (ESPN): Technically, tomorrow is the fourth Saturday in October, but nonetheless these two meet once again. A drubbing of Miss State last week has done little to reassure the orange-clad Volunteers, and for good reason. While I am not sure Alabama will finish undefeated, they should pull it out in Knoxville.

  • Pennsylvania State @ Ohio State (ABC): It's Penn State! It's Ohio State! It's Big Ten Primetime football! With that out of the way, I think OSU has a real chance here, especially with the game in Columbus. In my mind, this game is about a push. But if OSU falls behind early they are boned, in my opinion. That said, I think they have a real chance but I am picking PSU by the slimmest of margins.
  • Notre Dame @ Washington (ESPN2): I don't know if y'all noticed, but Washington is really bad this year. ND should have no trouble.
  • Southern Mississippi @ Memphis (CBSCS): Why does CBSCS show games like this? Can't they feature Tulsa or ECU or something? Seriously. Because I know nothing about these teams, I am taking Memphis.
10:15: Southern California @ Arizona (FSN): Is Arizona legitimite? They're certainly not terrible, though they feature losses to New Mexico and Stanford. Are they good enough to beat a USC that seems to have gotten their, er, stuff together? Probably not.

Bowl predictions should be on time this weekend. Enjoy your Saturday!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bowl Predictions, Week 1

Once again, the BCS standings are out and I've done my first bowl predictions of the season. Since this is the first week, I'll do a conference-by-conference breakdown of how I predict the bowls. After this, I'll just hit the high points.

Here's the direct link. Just open it up in another window and read the below as you go through the table.

Since it sets up everything else, I select the BCS teams first.
  • For the title game, I usually just pick the teams in the 1st and 2nd spots in that week's BCS standings unless I really, really think either of them will lose in the near future. At the moment, I have little reason to think either Texas or Alabama will lose.
  • The BCS slots conference champions into certain games. (Details are available on the bowls page.) Since the Fiesta and Sugar will lose their conference champions, they get first pick from the remaining auto-qualifiers and at-large teams. Though they went there last year, I am slotting Oklahoma into the Fiesta. They are a natural geographic fit and will auto-qualify if they win out. The Sugar goes next, and will probably take some sort of SEC team. The problem is picking which one. Here's the problem: the loser of the SEC Title Game will probably have 2, if not 3, losses. Say Florida wins the SEC East, for instance by winning out. This gives Georgia its second loss, but that will occur next week, giving them plenty of time to recover in the polls. If Alabama goes to the national title game, they will have to win the SEC, and in doing so will hand UF another loss, this time right before the BCS is selected. This puts Georgia and/or LSU in great position to recover - which makes this Saturday's game that much more important. I am, for now, projecting LSU to win that game and lock up a Sugar Bowl bid (provided they then lose to Alabama but otherwise win out).
  • The remaining conference champion auto-bids are slotted: VPI to the Orange, and Penn State and USC to the Rose. The Big East champion does not have an auto-bid and so is at the mercy of the remaining at-large selections.
  • At this point, there are two remaining auto-qualifiers (say, Pittsburgh and Utah) and 3 slots. The remaining bowls pick in reverse of when they are played, so the latest bowl goes first. This year, the order is 1) Fiesta 2) Sugar 3) Orange. Of course, with 3 remaining slots this means we need a BCS at-large team. Since each conference cannot have more than 2 teams in the BCS, this means that the SEC and the Big 12 cannot send another team to the BCS. So now any team in the top 14 of the standings with 9 wins can take a slot, and a well-traveling team that will probably be 10-2 and in the top 14 at the end of the year will be Ohio State. (If Penn State loses to OSU this weekend, just swap them here.) Next up is the Sugar, which will be stuck with what are, traditionally, the two least attractive auto-qualifiers - a mid-major and the Big East champion. Really Pitt and Utah could go either way here, but generally mid-majors have been picked last. At least they won't play each other this time around.
So, here's how the ACC breaks down:
  • I made a myraid of assumptions regarding the rest of the way for the ACC. There's too many to list here, but it mostly involves VPI winning out, and NC State losing out.
  • I am projecting a rematch of last year's ACC Title game, with BC losing again. Since the game is in Tampa this year, there should be less concern about a team going to Jacksonville twice. Once again, though, the "Peach" has the #2 pick of ACC teams and has what is probably their worst nightmare. I am projecting an optimistic win for GT, so they will have to pick from a small fanbase from the northeast that doesn't travel or a small fanbase from the South that doesn't travel well. (GT may actually travel "worse" from the Peach's persepctive because most Atlanta-based alums don't need hotel rooms.) While Tech has traditionally not performed well in Peach Bowls (I believe we are 0-3) I'm projecting us to go there anyway. (I selfishly generally want GT to go to the Music City or Peach since those are the closest available bowls when I'm at home for Christmas, but I digress.) Long story short, due to the ACC selection rules BC goes to the Gator.
  • Not so fast, though! The Gator gets its pick of the Big East, Big 12, or Notre Dame. If ND is bowl eligible I would bet they will go early this year. Since BC plays ND during the regular season, I am swapping GT and BC.
  • If my projections hold, Wake will go 6-2 in conference and earn a bid to the Champs Sports.
  • Now we get to the ACC 5/6/7 portion of this show, and I predict Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida State will all have 4-4 conference records. Withouth a naturally close bowl or decent traveling fanbase, Virginia gets exiled to San Francisco, and UNC makes an appearance in the Car Care Bowl and FSU makes a repeat appearance in the Music City Bowl.
  • This leaves 6-6 Miami and Maryland. Neither will travel well to Boise, but there is a bowl game in Washington, DC this year, so I'll send Miami to Boise and UMD to the new EagleBank Bowl to play Navy.
Big 12:
  • As explained above, I'm putting Texas and Oklahoma in the BCS. On a side note, let me just say I didn't project nearly as much as I did for the BCS and ACC.
  • Quickly, I put Oklahoma State and Texas Tech in the Cotton and Holiday Bowls. Yes, folks, the Big 12 South is back.
  • Missouri earns a trip to San Antonio and Kansas reclaims the Big 12's spot in the Sun Bowl this year, unless Notre Dame falls this far. (They probably won't, though.)
  • This leaves the last 3 teams from the Big 12 North likely to go at least 6-6: Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas State. K-State's schedule the rest of the way is brutal and they will need to pull a huge upset to get 2 more wins. So, the winner of Colorado-Nebraska will probably go to the Insight Bowl, with the loser going to Shreveport.
  • This also happens to leave me a team short for the Texas Bowl, unless something drastic happens (like ND dropping to the Sun with the Gator opting to take a Big East team). More on this later.
And now, the Big East:
  • This is not a conference I like to think about. With lots of non-conference games, it's hard to say where they will finish in the pecking order, and most of their bowls are terrible. Anyway, I projected Pitt to go to the BCS.
  • Since the Gator will probably take a bowl eligible Notre Dame and the Sun will take a Big 12 team, this leaves the 2nd place Big East team to float down to the Car Care Bowl. This is probably South Florida's spot to lose.
  • Let me reiterate that is is really hard to project a conference finish when the teams have hardly played each other. Like WVU is 2-0 in the Big East, but they played what are, by far, the two worst teams in the conference this year. Yet to most of us WVU has shown us nothing so far this year other than that Bill Stewart doesn't seem terribly competent. So just for the heck of it I am sending Cincinatti to Toronto.
  • This leaves UConn, WVU, and Lousiville as the likely other bowl eligible teams. I'll send them to St. Pete, Birmingham, and the at-large pool respectively.
Big Ten:
  • This conference is such a cluster**** that outside of Penn State and Ohio State it's nearly impossible to guess at this point who will beat whom. Minnesota and Northwestern are both 6-1, for crying out loud!
  • Michigan State seems like the 3rd best team in the league, so let's get them into the Capital One Bowl posthaste.
  • From here on out I am basically guessing because I am not really prepared to deal with a reality where Minnesota and Northwestern have 8 or 9 wins. Their game against each other will be really pivitol to their bowl position. I'll say UMN beats NU, so they go to the Outback and Alamo Bowls, respectively.
  • Even though they have yet to play other, Iowa and Illinois are the best bets to go at least 6-6 from the remaining teams, unless Wisconsin shows it can beat two other teams this year (I am assuming a win over Cal Poly).
  • This leaves the Big Ten without a team for the Motor City Bowl.
And now we come to Conference USA, with its shiny set of 6 bids this year:
  • Tulsa will probably challenge Utah for the mid-major bid this year, but Utah has momentum at the moment. But if they lose Tulsa and Boise are waiting in the wings. For now, I'll slot Tulsa into the Liberty.
  • So, of course, every other C-USA team has 3 losses. The conference has been the main beneficiary of the new bowls the NCAA keeps adding, though. so they need to fill spots.
  • I actually think Rice has a shot of going at least 7-5, and Houston as well. (Or 8-4 for one, 6-6 for the other, depends on who wins their game.) The problem is, I have no idea who else in this conference could go 6-6. I guess Memphis could, so I'll send them to New Orleans. Otherwise, if things go the way they're going C-USA will be two teams short.
The MAC:
  • Provided they run the table, and maybe even if they don't, Ball State can look forward to an at-large opponent up in Detroit.
  • After this, things get muddy. The MAC could really benefit from the other conferences' inability to field enough teams this year. Western and Central Michigan should qualify. Additional possibilites include Northern Illinois and Akron (and perhaps more, depending on how things shake out). For now, I'll slot the directional Michigans into the remaining MAC bids and keep NIU and Akron on stand-by.
The MWC:
  • The Mountain West is home to Utah, TCU, and BYU. If the Utes run the table they will probably be rewarded with a BCS bid.
  • Generally, contracts involving mid-major conferences don't really specify the place of the team, just the bowl pecking order. Sometimes bowls will trade amongst themselves to increase their attendance. For instance, it would not surprise me if TCU ends up in their own stadium for the Armed Forces Bowl no matter what, but for the time being I'll send them to Vegas.
  • This allows BYU to go to San Diego.
  • Air Force should be at least 7-5 and this end up in the aplty named Armed Forces Bowl. Where they went last year. (More reason for them to switch with TCU, I guess.)
  • New Mexico has a decent shot to get the 6-6 mark and play in, you guessed it, the New Mexico Bowl. Which is just fine by them. I doubt the MWC will produce any other 6-6 teams.
  • The Pac-10 will only send 1 team to the BCS this year unless USC sneaks back into the national title game, and even then no other Pac-10 team may be ranked high enough for the Rose to pick them.
  • Right now, 3 Pac-10 teams sit at 3-1: the two Oregon schools and perhaps the most improved team outside of Minnesota, Arizona. Of course, none of them have played each other yet. Based on history and bias alone, I'm going with Oregon, followed by Arizona, and then State.
  • From here, 3 more teams could possibly qualify: Cal, UCLA, and Stanford. I don't really see UCLA winning 3 more games, and Stanford has to beat Washington (doable) and Cal (somewhat less doable) to get to 6-6 without any major upsets. So I'm going with that for now because it makes my life easier.
  • This leaves the Poinsettia Bowl without a team.
Southeastern Conference:
  • I'm getting tired so let's make this quick. I already put Alabama and LSU into the BCS.
  • This leaves the runner-up from the SEC East, probably Georgia or Florida. Let's say it's Florida and stick them in the Capital One and send UGA to the Peach.
  • The problem now is who to send to the Outback and Cotton. There is a huge drop-off in prestige and/or bowl attractiveness after these first four. I generally like sending SEC West teams to the Cotton but I don't see any of the remaning SEC West teams finishing better than 6-6 unless Auburn stops sucking. So this leaves Vandy, South Carolina, or Kentucky. For now, I'll send USCe to the Cotton and Kentucky to the Outback.
  • This lets Vandy conviently fall to the Music City, and for now, Auburn to the Liberty.
  • This leaves us with two additional bowls to fill and a cast of very unlikely teams to make them: Arkansas, Ole Miss, Miss State, and Tennessee all need at least 3 more wins to get to 6-6. For now, I think the most likely candidate is Miss State, but mostly likely is they will all beat each other up and none will make it.
  • This leaves an opening for the bowl.
Sun Belt:
  • Troy had better win the damn thing this year, that's all I really have to say about that.
  • This year, the Sun Belt has agreements with the St. Petersburg,, and Independence Bowls to provide backup teams. Which is good, since the first two won't have a team from C-USA or the SEC. For now, I'm predicting Arkansas State and UL-Lafayette to go at least 6-6 to fufill this criteria. If the Sun Belt can get some other 6-6 teams, they will probably go to bowls as well.
And finally, the WAC:
  • Boise State will probably win it this year, and if they don't make the BCS my guess is they will stay home in Boise (though there's precedent for them going elsewhere off a strong year, like if they want a nice, tropical vacation, for instance).
  • Next, San Jose State and Fresno State will fight over who goes to Hawaii or New Mexico. Either way, they should fufill the WAC's two remaining autobids. I'm sending Fresno to Hawaii so SJSU avoids a rematch with Stanford.
  • I need just 1 more 6-6 or better team at this point so we don't end up with a lack of bowl eligible teams. Who will prevail? At 4-3, Nevada needs only 2 more wins and with Hawaii and Louisiana Tech on the schedule they could definitely get it. Hawaii itself could also win 3 or 4 more games, which would get them a Hawaii Bowl bid and likely kick San Jose to the at-large world. For now, I think Navada has the path of least resistance. But like the MAC, the WAC could do pretty well for themselves this winter.
So this leaves us with 4 bowls without teams: Poinsettia, Motor City, Texas, and Armed Forces. The 4 teams I have to spare are Louisville, NIU, Akron, and Nevada. I like Nevada to stay on the West Coast, so I'll put them in San Diego. Since another MAC team can't go to Detroit, this leaves Louisville. And I think you can take it from here.

Anyway, that does it for week 1! Join me next week, as hopefully things will clear up just a little.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

There Goes Another Piece of My Childhood, Part 2

For most of the 90's, the Braves's "Big 3" was commonly thought of as Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz.

In time, of course, the group aged and separated for various reasons. All are (for the time being) still in baseball, but the "era" of the Big 3 is definitely over.

Much less exalted was the quintet of announcers TBS employed for most of the 90's: Skip Caray, Joe Simpson, Pete van Wieren, and Don Sutton. They're listed in the order they were paired in, and this is important because when the Braves were still on TBS the pairs often switched from TV to radio (and vice versa) in the middle of the 5th inning. Skip and Pete were the play-by-play guys, with former ball players Joe and Don providing the color analysis.

This arrangement gradually died earlier this decade, as TBS let Don Sutton go (he's now stuck doing color for the Nationals). Also a factor in Don leaving was TBS taking in former Cubs play-by-play announcer Chip Caray, who was (in)famously let go. With Chip on-board, TBS gradually began reducing TV time for Skip and Pete, though fan demand eventually was able to bring Skip back.

The Braves were sold by AOL/Time Warner and TBS, eager to acquire those lucrative playoff games, agreed to MLB's demand to stop showing Braves games nationally, presumably to sell more MLB Season Ticket packages. The Braves's TV rights were bought up by FOX for syndication only throughout the South, and they only brought Joe Simpson with them. Skip got to keep doing games that were still on WTBS and its offspring, WPCH (Peachtree TV) before his departure earlier this year.

Despite these factors, I was still just a little surprised today to see that Pete was hangin' them up. Yes, I know that he says it wasn't because of any of those items I listed above. At any rate, this is a tremdous loss for broadcasting in Atlanta.

It's hard to quantify how much losing two play-by-play guys really means to me as a Braves fan. I've watched so many games in my short life it's probably safe to say I've listened to them more than anyone else outside my immediate family. Growing up, I would watch every game possible and if I couldn't watch it I'd try to listen to it. (As far as I know, the Braves still have the most extensive radio network of any baseball team. Heck, they even have an affiliate in the Virgin Islands.) On my drives to and from Tech each August and May I would look-up ahead of time which radio stations had the game on my route just to make sure I caught it. On Wednesdays when the games were on FSN (and before they got the current announcers) I'd sometimes even try to listen to the game on the radio.

It baffled me when I saw that Skip was not on the ballot for this year's Ford C. Frick award, and next year if neither Skip nor Pete are finalists I will really start to wonder what's going in the minds of the panelists and voters.

Friday, October 17, 2008

This Weekend in College Football: Week 8

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Georgia Tech @ Clemson (ESPN): I will actually be at this game. Not really sure what to expect here. Will Clemson be rejuvenated with a new coach and, presumably, a new offensive philosophy? Will the mobility of Willy Korn make up for the huge deficiencies in their offensive line? (Also note that GT has one of, if not the best defensive lines in the ACC.) Too many variables here, and I just hope that GT will play through a surely re-energized fanbase and get the job done.
  • Purdue @ Northwestern (ESPN2): NU got their first loss of the season last weekend against Michigan State. Meanwhile, Purdue has lost 3 straight and has failed to beat a single BCS opponent. Have to go with Northwestern here.
  • Wisconsin @ Iowa (BTN): Wisconsin. Next!
  • Texas Tech @ Texas Agricultural and Mechanical (FSN): Anyone noticed how bad TAMU is this year? Seriosuly. TTU rolls.
  • Wake Forest @ Maryland (Raycom/Gameplan): Which Maryland is going to show up this week? Beats me! For the sake of my sanity, I'm picking Wake and moving on.
  • Nebraska @ Iowa State (Versus): Bad Big 12 matchup of the day! Both these teams are winless in the conference and Nebraska has lost 3 straight. Nebraksa has a narrow overtime loss to Texas Tech last week, while ISU lost by 28 to Baylor. I like the Huskers here.
  • Vanderbilt @ Georgia (Raycom/Gameplan): My brain says UGA but my heart is hoping for a repeat of 2006.
  • Mississippi @ Alabama (CBS):

    This game will be close, for awhile. Then, eventually, Houston Nutt will find a way. A way to lose.
  • North Carolina @ Virginia (Gameplan/ABC/ESPN2): I'm not buying into the UVA hype just yet. They may have themselves a QB, and UNC is missing some crucial parts. I still think they pull it out in Charlottesville, though.
  • Ohio State @ Michigan State (ESPN/ABC): Important game for OSU on the come back trail, yet again. But to be completely honest I don't know who can beat them on their remaining schedule except for Penn State. Which, notably, is next week. So the only way OSU loses is if they overlook MSU and are preparing for Penn State.
  • Kansas @ Oklahoma (ABC/Gameplan): Is Kansas a good football team? Yes. But are they as good as Oklahoma? No.
  • Southern California @ Washington State (FSN): Wazzou is really, really, really bad. USC should be able to beat these guys with their backups.
  • Pittsburgh @ Navy (CBSCS): Despite, you know, the entire season I am not really sold on Pitt at all. So I'll take Navy and the upset.
4:30: Michigan @ Pennsylvania State (ESPN): As you can tell, I'm tired and writing these previews with even less analysis than usual. My apologies. At any rate, has Michigan looked bad these past two weeks or what? Penn State rolls into their huge game against OSU next week.

7:00: Oregon State @ Washington (Versus): Does OSU hang 66 like they did on Wazzou last week? Maybe, but it will probably be more in the 40-50 range.

  • Missouri @ Texas (ABC): Is this game as significant as it looked to be last week? Probably not. But is it still important? Yes. However, with the game in Austin I have to favor the Longhorns.
  • Louisiana State @ South Carolina (ESPN): Don't look, but USC has won 4 straight. The reason why you shouldn't look is because they haven't beaten anyone of note. In fact, I won't even say who, that's how unnoteworthy they are. LSU should roll.
  • Virginia Tech @ Boston College (ESPN2): GT badly, badly needs VPI to lose this game. For reasons I can't quite figure out, VPI is actually a slight underdog here, but I'm not buying. I think VPI will win, though I'll be rooting for BC.
  • Indiana @ Illinois (BTN): Hey, it's exactly kind of game that should be on the Big Ten Network! And that's why I'm not going to watch it. Illinois wins.
  • Texas-El Pas @ Tulsa (CBSCS): Tulsa scores 60 and wins.
That's all for now. Bowl predictions probably won't be up until Monday evening, but I'm looking forward to getting back on that old horse.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

"All Predictions Wrong"

That's the mantra of my weekly predictions column, but so far this season I've actually acquitted myself fairly well. To wit:
Week 1: 16-11
Week 2: 13-1
Week 3: 11-4
Week 4: 12-4
Week 5: 12-8
Week 6: 15-3
Week 7: 9-8
Total: 88-39 (69.3%)

However, I've also said some fairly wrong things over the course of these 7 weeks. Last weekend, for instance, I was wrong about almost all of the morning slate.

Anyway, I wanted to do a wrap-up column here but I'm feeling pretty tired. Bowl predictions return next week, so look forward to that.

Friday, October 10, 2008

This Weekend in College Football: Week 7

Busy again, so let's get down to business.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Texas vs. Oklahoma (@Dallas, TX; ABC): It's still the Red River Shootout to me. With more fans for each side than ever (the Cotton Bowl just finished renovations to expand capacity to 90,000) this will hopefully be a close game. Neither of these teams has been even remotely challenged this year, but I am going to go ahead and drink the Sooner Kool-Aid.
  • Minnesota @ Illinois (ESPN): How does Minnesota not suck this year? Granted, they've only played 2 opponents worth talking about (and went 1-1) but still. At any rate, Illinois is still better than Indiana and should have no problems with the Gophers.
  • Iowa @ Indiana (BTN): Now this was the kind of game the Big Ten Network was made for! Iowa has 3 straight losses to heavyweights like Pitt, Northwestern, and Michigan State. Indiana also has 3 straight losses, but to Ball State, Michigan State, and Minnesota. Hard to tell who will suck less here. My general policy is to avoid picking Iowa as much as possible, so I'll go with the Hoosiers. And yes, I know Ball State is 6-0, but their best win is a tossup between Indiana and Navy, so...
  • East Carolina @ Virginia (Raycom/Gameplan): Virginia scored 13 points (combined) against UConn and Duke. Then they hung a 31 spot on Maryland. The ECU bandwagon is officially sunk, so this sounds like a good time for UVA to start losing again. Yarr.
  • Colorado @ Kansas (ESPN2): It's your other entirely too early Big 12 game! CU is coming off two straight dismantlings admistered by FSU and Texas. (By the way, Monday was the 18-year anniverisary of the 5th down.) KU rolls.
  • South Carolina @ Kentucky (Raycom/Gameplan): If you've never had the opportunity to experience the, er, magic of the Daves, all these games are streamed online. Kentucky very quietly go to 4-0, but they didn't play anyone and couldn't quite top Alabama last week. The Visor has reeled off 3 striaght, but against Wofford, UAB, and Ole Miss. (At some point this season, it'll be nice to not have to say "they haven't played anyone yet.") Anyway, Kentucky looked fairly competent last week and it's at home, so why not? (That's some hard hitting analysis right there, folks.)
1:00: East Michigan @ Army (ESPN Classic): Not only did Army actually win last week, they beat a DI-A opponent, and pretty badly at that. (The victim was Tulane, and the score was 44-13.) Tulane may or may not be better than New Hampshire, but that's beside the point. Eastern Michigan lost 4 straight, getting drubbed by even the two MAC teams they played. However, a last minute touchdown put them past Bowling Green, so here we are. They're probably the better team, but this is enough of a toss-up (I hope), so I'll pick the sentimental favorite, Army.

3:00: Nebraska @ Texas Tech (FSN): Over/under on points scored by Texas Tech alone should be around 50 or so. I'd still take the over.

  • Arizona State @ Southern California (ABC/Gameplan): Gee, thanks, ABC for still showing football games in standard definition in 2008! This is one of the most messed up coverage maps I've ever seen, too. See that blue patch in southern Tennessee and northern Alabama? That's where I'd be if I were back at home. I can gauruntee that, no matter what, no one in the South gives a damn about Arizona State or Southern Cal, at least in terms of wanting to watch them as opposed to the two other games that are actually in HD. Oh, and USC wins by a few touchdowns. They're baaack!
  • Ohio State @ Purdue (ESPN/ABC): Purdue still doesn't really trust this "defense" thing. Ohio State should take care of business here.
  • Notre Dame @ North Carolina (Gameplan/ESPN/ABC): A-C-C! Well, maybe. I think UNC's schedule has actually been slightly tougher, but they're still lacking their starting QB. Then again, they seem to have found a new one. Both these teams have pretty sudden turnarounds from last year, both programs being labeled as sleeping giants, needing only the right coaching to spring forth. So they're both 4-1, and just to spite Lou Holtz, I will pick UNC.
  • Michigan State @ Northwestern (ESPN2): I think NU's luck runs out against the Spartans.
  • Texas Christian @ Colorado State (CBSCS): Against teams that aren't currently ranked #1 in the country, TCU has been putting up a lot of points, and I don't see that stopping here.
  • Gardner-Webb @ Georgia Tech (No TV): So Tech will probably start its 3rd string QB here. (Also, for the final time, this game was supposed to be up in West Point. Army backed out right before last year's game.) Those actually attending the game will be in for a treat - this game will not be on live TV anywhere, which means no fat dude in a red jacket stopping play after turnovers and punts. As for the QB thing, well, I'm not worried. Nesbitt's hamstring still hurts, but I suspect he will see some game action, even if for a drive or two. Clavin Booker will probably get the start, and he's certainly earned for being a team player if nothing else. (Rumor is Jaybo Shaw got a minor concussion last week against Duke.) As for Mr. Demaryius "BeBe" Thomas, he doesn't quite have Calvin's height (6'3" versus 6'5") but he still towers over many corners. Calvin also never had a 200 yard game at Tech, or an 88-yard reception. Is BeBe as good as Calvin? Of course not, but he's darn close which provides a huge asset in this offense. Most teams can't afford to leave him one-on-one, but because of the run game they will often have little choice.
  • Louisiana State @ Florida (CBS): A rare evening game with Uncle Verne, and I'm looking foward to it. (Of course, it's at 5:00 here, which is hardly the evening, but still.) Like many matchups of elite SEC teams, this should feature precious little offense. The problem for UF at the moment is that they are totally lost on offense and defense. (Yes, I am aware that they beat Arkansas 38-7. Arkansas is that bad this year.) That said, LSU hasn't looked bad all year, even though they almost lost to now OC-less Auburn. Will the SEC eat its own children this year, or will LSU go on to the Game of Destiny against Alabama? I say the latter will probably occur, just so Alabama can beat them to spite me.
  • Pennsylvania State @ Wisconsin (ESPN): My opinion on this game is this. Wisconsin is not as good as everyone thought they were before they lost 2 straight. Penn State is 6-0. I'll take the safe pick.
  • Oklahoma State @ Missouri (ESPN2): I don't know what the over/under on this game is, but take the over. And also take Mizzou, though I have a gut feeling it might come down to who gets the ball last.
  • Boise State @ Southern Mississippi (CBSCS): Unless they are jetlagged, Boise State should come out on top here. USM might keep it close, so if you can take your eyes off LSU-Florida or OSU-Mizzou for a second (though I would be afraid of blinking during the latter game), give this a shot....
10:15: California-Los Angeles @ Oregon (FSN): ...because it'll probably be better than this game, at any rate. Both these teams found some mojo against hapless Washington State (enroll now, try out for QB tomorrow!) but Oregon then went and had the unfortunate chance of playing a USC that actually showed up for the game. I'll still take the Ducks here, though.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

"" Means "Truth"

I check the official BCS website every once in awhile to see if there's any news I need to know about for the bowl predictions.

I also check it because as the official mouthpiece of the BCS, it enjoys posting, shall we say, pro-BCS articles. Needless to say, if their frontpage turned into this I wouldn't be surprised:

Friday, October 03, 2008

This Weekend in College Football: Week 6

Been busy as hell this week, not much say. Let's get started.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong. Also, expect plenty of typos.

  • Pennsylvania State @ Purdue (ESPN): I still don't think Notre Dame is a very good football team. Mostly, what does that say about Purdue? Mostly that they don't really do the "defense" thing very well, having given up 31 points per DI-A game and 38 to Notre Dame. Sure, ND is scoring some points this year, but not at the same clip as Penn State. PSU should handle this one.
  • Iowa @ Michigan State (ESPN2): Iowa has lost two straight to the juggernauts known as Pitt and Northwestern. Michigan State is on a roll after an early loss to Cal. What I want to know is: wasn't the Big Ten network supposed to save us from this crap? MSU rolls.
  • Duke @ Georgia Tech (ESPNU): I toyed with starting a separate column to preview the week's upcoming GT game, since I probably write more analysis about GT than all the other games combined. Anyway, in case you haven't heard Duke doesn't completely suck this year. They are coming off a demolition of a very, very terrible Virginia team and have faced this offense before in the Navy game. So what's to watch here? For the Duke offense, it begins and ends with Thaddeus Lewis. His completion percentage is 61% this year, up from 55% last year, mostly thanks to new head coach David Cuttcliffe. He's thrown 7 TDs to 2 interceptions, also an improvement over the past two years. And these percentages are not for lack of attempts. Against Navy, he threw the ball 35 times, and against UVA 32 times. Are they the best passing team in the country? No, but they are by the best passing offense we've seen this year. Will they run the ball? Not much. Fortunately, Tech's passing defense is much improved this year (8th, in fact) especially helped by improved secondary play from Jahi Word-Daniels and doubly so by Morgan Burnett, who is rapidly becoming the ballhawk safety we all hoped he'd be. Tech can also use it's all-ACC defensive line to get pass pressure by rushing 4 men, and is almost certainly the best front 4 Duke has faced all year. If Micheal Johnson is firing on all cylinders for this game, he will use at least 2 blockers by himself. (We've talked about MJ in the past on this site. Against Miss State he blocked a FG and got a sack and was just generally all over the field.) As mentioned above, Duke played Navy and may be somewhat more well-prepared than other opponents that will face Tech this year. Also, starting QB Josh Nesbitt will also miss the game due to a hamstring he strained against Miss State. While backup QB Jaybo Shaw is more than capable of running a proficient option offense (as demonstrated two weeks ago), he lacks the raw athleticism of Nesbitt, especially as a passer. Thanks to the bye week, though, several players on both sides of the ball will return. Overall, the attitude on the boards is cautious optimism, and I tend to agree. On the flip said, Vegas says Tech by 12. So I'll let you draw your own conclusion.
  • Indiana @ Minnesota (BTN): Oh, wait, the Big Ten Network exists to show these kind of games. So apparently UMN doesn't suck this year? I'm still trying to get a handle on that, of course, they also haven't beaten anyone, but it's still an improvement over last year's bunch that lost to North Dakota. Meanwhile, Indiana does have a bad loss to Ball State and took the expected beating from Michigan State. So for the first time in a long time, I'm picking the Golden Gophers.
  • Boston College @ North Carolina State (Raycom/Gameplan): NCSU has had a relatively tough schedule so far, but they got absolutely destroyed last week by USF. Meanwhile, BC still hasn't really, um, played anyone since losing to GT. I've seen nothing to make me think NCSU will win another game this year, though, so I'm taking BC.
  • Oklahoma @ Baylor (FSN): How long will we keep this #1? I'm going to go ahead and say until at least next week. OU should take care of business here, but at least this edition of Baylor has a chance to make it interesting.
  • Kansas @ Iowa State (Versus): With all the choas in this great, big, confusing world, it's nice to know there's at least one constant, and that's Iowa State being terrible. Jayhawks roll.
  • Florida @ Arkansas (Raycom/Gameplan): Okay, Ole Miss is not exactly lighting the world on fire this year. Unlike Arkansas, though, they've at least had a chance to win all their games. Arkansas beat Western Illinois and UL-M by a combined 7 points, and then went on to lose to Alabama and Texas by a combined score of 101-24. Florida gets back on the national title horse with a win here, and I think they'll come through.
2:30: Stanford @ Notre Dame (NBC): Notre Dame has re-discovered this year that to win football games, you usually need to outscore your opponents. Stanford, meanwhile, hasn't lost to any obviously inferior opponents, but with the game in South Bend I'll give the edge to the guys in gold hates and then move on.

  • Kentucky @ Alabama (CBS): Kentucky had a joke of a non-conference slate and was still about a yard away from suffering a loss to Hail Mary-happy MTSU. They roll into what is (unfortunately) a very re-energized Alabama fan base, and probably into a loss.
  • Illinois @ Michigan (ESPN2/ABC): Michigan is an enigma this year. Lose to Utah, barely beat the non-"da U" version of Miami, and then lose to Notre Dame. Oh, and then come out and beat Wisconsin. While I would argue Wisconsin beat themselves, Michigan still had to execute on offense to win, and that's the first time they've really proven they can do so this year. Illinois's blemishes are much better - losses to Mizzou and Penn State, though they decisively lost both. This is usually where I look up the odds to see what Vegas thinks, and they have no clue - the line is Michigan by 3. I'll take the Wolverines due to the home field advantage as well, but you never know when one of Zook's teams will suddenly decide they don't suck again.
  • Texas Tech @ Kansas State (Gameplan/ABC): The Big 12's back baby, and it's all a lot more like the Red Raiders than the power rushing attacks of old. (Well, unless you're OSU.) Whole K-State is the only college football squad that contains any members of my extended family (to my knowledge), I'm gonna have to take the Leach Band O' Pirates, er, Raiders here.
  • Arizona State @ California (ABC/Gameplan): Cal's back! After losing to Maryland they came back to everyone's favorite stadium on the Heyward Fault and demolished Colorado State 42-7. Arizona State's season, meanwhile, is kind of down the tubes after that OT loss to UNLV a few weeks ago, followed by their dismantling by UGA. I'll take Cal here.
  • Florida State @ Miami (Gameplan/ESPN2/ABC): The over/under on this game is a mind-boggling 42. Unless FSU suddenly found a QB and Miami fired Nix, I would definitely take the under here. And Miami, because have you seen FSU this year?
  • Southern Methodist @ Central Florida (CBSC): CBS needs to put a little more effort into choosing C-USA games, methinks. I debated even putting this on here, but I get this channel and it is technically a game between DI-A teams. Both of whom are in C-USA and have 2 wins between them. Oh, and O'Leary's starting to feel the heat at UCF. And SMU still sucks. And...ugh. Do I have to pick someone here? Hold's heads, SMU wins.
4:00: Navy @ Air Force (Versus): Clash of the service academy titans! The winner here, as with the past several years, pretty much wins the Commander-in-Chief's trophy. Navy has victories over two BCS conference opponents (even though one of them is Rutgers), while Air Force lost to the only decent team it has played (Utah). I'll go with the Midshipmen here.

6:00: Auburn @ Vanderbilt (ESPN): It's Auburn! It's Vanderbilt! It's your SEC PRIMETIME GAME OF THE WEEK! Growing up with the Daves I've always had a special place in my heart for Vanderbilt football and it's nice to see they're making another run at bowl eligiblity after almost getting over the hump in 2005 and 2007. Unfortunately, it looks like the foundation of this year's edition of the Commodores isn't built very well. As the linked article points out, Vandy is last in the SEC in several categories except for turnover margin, which pretty much means they're getting really lucky. So will the luck run out? I have to think, yes, it will. (That said, Vandy still has games against Miss State and Duke and while neither team is a pushover, per se, they should win at least one of the two.)

  • Texas @ Colorado (FSN): It's Texas! It's Colorado! And I don't care! Longhorns roll, setting up the GAME OF THE YEAR OF THE WEEK next week in Dallas.
  • Connecticut @ North Carolina (ESPN2): While I will be rooting for UConn because of one of the best football-player written blogs I've ever read, I think UNC will win here.
7:30: Washington @ Arizona (Versus): Arizona is 3-1? When did that happen? Of course, that includes a loss to New Mexico and a win over UCLA, which lends a certain air of unpredictability. The main focus is here is whether either of these coaches will be employed by their teams at the end of the season. I would say it's worse for Willingham, since no one really expects Arizona to not suck. And I expect it for that to continue.

  • Ohio State @ Wisconsin (Gameplan/ABC): Wisconsin is still a good football team, but not nearly as good as everyone thought they were after letting Michigan make a huge 4th quarter comeback. Meanwhile, OSU has hit the road to top-10 recovery these past two weeks with methodical victories over Troy and Minnesota. In my mind, the only stumbling block for OSU here is Wisconsin's massive homefield advantage, which will have had the mjaority of the day to get "prepared" for the game. Playing into this is freshman QB Terrelle Pryor, but he also has a security blanket back in Beanie Wells. I will go ahead and pick OSU here but will not be surprised if Wisconsin prevails.
  • Oregon @ Southern California (ABC/Gameplan): I would say USC is back on the trail to the top-10, but they never left. That has to be one of the worst polling mistakes I've ever seen. At any rate, back in the safe confines of the coliseum against a team that is desperately running out of QBs they should win this time.
  • Rice @ Tulsa (CBSCS): Uh, sure, Rice. Why not?
9:00: Missouri @ Nebraska (ESPN): We've all seen the replays over-and-over again from the Nebraska "das boot" game a decade ago. That is a seriously unlucky end zone for Mizzou. Fortunately for them, Nebraska isn't very good this year. Mizzou and Chase Daniel prevail.