Sunday, January 09, 2011

Bowl Games 2010: The Last One

First, let me apologize for missing Friday's Division I Football Championship Game. Congrats to Eastern Washington.

As for my other bowl predictions, well, after going 6-0 on New Year's Day, well, I've gotten a lot worse off. I'm doomed to finish around .500 again, it seems.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Monday, January 10
8:30: Auburn vs. Oregon (BCS Championship Game @ Glendale, AZ; ESPN): This was the hardest single game for me to pick. Usually, that title goes to games like the Bowl, which feature teams from conferences that I frankly don't see a lot of. But in this case this was because these teams are really a lot alike.
Both have a scorched Earth offense that tends to leave opponents in its dust. Oregon is #1 in total offense, while Auburn is #7, while Auburn is #4 in scoring offense (the Ducks are #1 in that category as well). Both these teams primarily run the ball, as they're 4th and 5th in the country in rushing (Oregon and Auburn, that is) but merely 49th and 67th in passing.
You already know Auburn's offense. It starts and ends with Cam Newton. Comparing with Oregon's primary two offensive weapons, Newton outpassed Devon Thomas and only had 200 yards less rushing than LaMicheal James. There's a reason why he was a shoe-in for the Heisman, folks.
So what about defense? Ah, that's where I think the difference will be made. Auburn ranks 54th in the country in scoring and total defense, while Oregon is 12th and 25th, respectively. 54th isn't terrible, but it isn't great, either. Auburn's faced only one other top-10 offense this year, and that was Arkansas. The final score of that game was 65-43, a testament to not only both teams' lack of a defense but also Auburn's resiliency. Arkansas led 43-37 at the start of the 4th quarter but Auburn rallied back and without Ryan Mallett Arkansas wasn't able to respond, as Auburn went on to score 4 unanswered touchdowns. Auburn had many moments like this throughout the year, but at a certain point the offense (by which I mostly mean Newton) was able to respond.
Oregon, meanwhile, had only to only really sweat it out a few times this year. They were down early to Stanford, but rallied and defeated the Cardinal 52-31. Then there was the game in Berkeley, where Cal had the Ducks well and truly on the ropes. They won only 15-13, which is the only time they've been held under 30 all season.
So where am I going with all that? Well, for starters, I'm starting to think 38-34 may not be enough points for this game. But that said, I'm picking a narrow Oregon victory here. I think the Ducks's somewhat more well-rounded offense (I say "somewhat" because I recognize it's basically two guys to Auburn's one) can overwhelm Auburn's average defense. Auburn may be able to respond on offense, but I think Oregon can make enough stops to win.
(On a side note, it's remarkable how young these teams are. The heart of Oregon's offense are sophomores. While Newton is junior this his first full year starting, and the guy Auburn fans will point out that I didn't mention at all - Micheal Dyer - is a freshman and almost had a 1000 yards rushing.)
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Auburn, as you may recall, won last year's thriller of an Outback Bowl, 38-35 over Northwestern. Oregon got blindsided by last year's version of the Jim Tressel bowl game offense, losing 26-17 to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.

However it ends up, 2010 has been a fun year in the world of college football, as usual (even if it wasn't all that great for me, personally). Hopefully I can get around to wrapping things up later this week.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Bowl Games 2010: Cleaning Up

My disaster of a picking season continues as we cover the last six games before the championship.

Fun fact for this set of games: only the Cotton Bowl features two teams that have previously met. Increasing college football's connectivity is always fun, and is probably the most interesting part of bowl season for me.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Monday, January 3
8:30: Virginia Tech vs. Stanford (Orange Bowl @ Miami, FL; ESPN): This is one of the games I struggled the most with, hence the 3 point VPI margin. Sure, Stanford could just up and blow these guys off the field. They even might! But part of VPI's rise from the ashes after the first two games of the season has been their defense and special teams, which in a way is what you would expect. Well, and that Tyrod Taylor guy helps too. He may've progressed the most out of any ACC quarterback this year.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Stanford lost last year's Sun Bowl to Oklahoma, 31-27. That was their first bowl game since 2001. VPI walloped Tennessee in last year's Chick-fil-a Bowl 37-14 and has been in a bowl every year since 1993.

Tuesday, January 4
8:30: Arkansas vs. Ohio State (Sugar Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): Ohio State is also kind of overrated, in my opinion. They missed the other good Big Ten teams outside of Wisconsin, whom they lost pretty thoroughly too. Arkansas can throw the ball around and over OSU's secondary and should net a solid win.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Arkansas beat ECU 20-17 in last year's Liberty Bowl. OSU meanwhile as appeared in a bowl every year since 2000, including the multiple national title games. They won last year's Rose Bowl 26-17 over Oregon.

Thursday, January 6
8:00: Middle Tennessee State vs. Miami ( Bowl @ Mobile, AL; ESPN): Why is this game being played now? Hell, why are any of these games being played this late? Who knows! Anyway, provided Miami (of Ohio) isn't too broken up about losing their coach I think they should be able to beat a MTSU team that just hasn't rediscovered the spark that made them look like Sun Belt contenders last year.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Miami recovered from last year's 1-11 disaster and is in the first bowl since the 2004 Independence Bowl, which they lost 17-13 to Iowa State. This is MTSU's 3rd bowl ever, and they (by which I mean Dwight Dasher" beat Southern Miss 42-32 in last year's New Orleans Bowl.

Friday, January 7
8:00: Texas Agricultural and Mechanical vs. Louisiana State (Cotton Bowl @ Arlington, TX; FOX): Mostly going with TAMU here because of their crazy new offense and because of the way LSU lost a big game to Arkansas at the end of the year. But it's been a month and a half since then, perhaps they've gotten over it? Or maybe, like their coach, they're too crazy to care?
Previous meetings: It might come as a surprise, but these two have met 48 times, including a series between 1986 and 1995. Their first meeting was in 1906, which TAMU won 22-12. TAMU also won the 1995 game 33-17, but LSU holds an all-time 26-19-3 lead in the series.
Last bowl game: LSU's been to a bowl every year since 2000 and lost last year's Capital One Bowl 19-17 to Penn State. TAMU has an on-again, off-again thing with bowl games but they've got a streak again, since they lost to UGA in last year's Independence Bowl, 44-20.

Saturday, January 8
Noon: Kentucky vs. Pittsburgh (BBVA Compass Bowl @ Bimingham, AL; ESPN): I have no idea why I picked Pitt. I wish I could change it. Anyway, the only plausible reason is that UK is extremely mediocre and maybe Pitt will rally around the 'stache one last time, provided he's coaching this game. (Because, well, their new coach probably isn't. If he's still the new coach then.)
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Kentucky are the kings of the low-tier SEC bowls, having been to 4 straight, including 3 Music City Bowls and one Liberty Bowl. They lost last year's Music City Bowl to Clemson 21-13. Pitt won last year's Car Care Bowl 19-17 over UNC.

Sunday, January 9
9:00: Boston College vs. Nevada (Fight Hunger Bowl @ San Francisco, CA; ESPN): Boston College's primary problem ally has been their inability to score points. I don't think that's going to change here. Nevada should cap off a almost very great season with a win here.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: BC has been to a bowl every year since 1999, but since joining the ACC they've had to worry greatly about their destination. They lost last year's Emerald Bowl (i.e., the old name of this game) to USC (yes, that USC) 24-13. Nevada's been to a bowl every year since 2005, which is not a bad streak at all. They got blown out in last year's Hawaii Bowl by SMU, 45-10.

Well, that's it until the national title game. Until then...