Friday, October 31, 2014

This Weekend in College Football: Week 10

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

11:30: Air Force @ Army (CBS): Air Force should be able able to seal up their first Commander-in-Chief's Trophy since 2011 in this one.

  • Wisconsin @ Rutgers (ESPN): The pain doesn't look likely to stop for the Scarlet Knights just yet, who are presumably reeling aftre consecutive blowout losses to Ohio State and Nebraska. Fortunately for them, though, they get Indiana next week.
  • Maryland @ Pennslyvania State (ESPN2): Maryland may represent the best offense Penn State has seen all year, which isn't really saying much, which I think leads to their inflated defensive numbers.
  • Oklahoma @ Iowa State (FS1): Oklahoma's season is lessened by losing two out of their last three, but not so much so that they're suddenly vulnerable to Iowa State or anything.
  • Duke @ Pittsburgh (ESPNU): Eight plays, five fumbles lost. I've made posts about luck on the football field in the past, but that one really takes the cake. I'll talk about it more when I talk about Tech, though. For now, with the way Duke is playing I'm just not sure who they're going to lose to the rest of the season. There's nothing about Pitt that makes me think they'll take it to Duke.
  • East Carolina @ Temple (ESPNEWS): East Carolina has taken care of business in the American so far, and while this isn't the completely awful version of Temple from, well, most of their history, I don't think they'll present much of a challenge for ECU.
  • Central Florida @ Connecticut (CBSS): A team that could challenge ECU, maybe, is Central Florida, who should no issues dispatching a terrible UConn. I mean, seriously: UConn averages 14 points a game.
  • Louisiana-Monroe @ Texas Agricultural and Mechanical (SEC): Texas A&M got to the meat of their schedule three weeks ago, and they blinked. Consecutive losses to the Mississippi schools were bad enough, but then there was the complete meltdown against Alabama last week. Suffice it to say, UL-Monroe may be exactly what the Aggies need right now.
  • Northwestern @ Iowa (BTN): Neither of these schools scores a lot of points, and neither allows a lot. It figures to be a tight, low-scoring contest, which I figure probably favors Iowa.
  • North Carolina @ Miami (ACC): UNC squeaked out a win over Virginia last week, while Miami went out and pasted Virginia Tech last Thursday. It's hard not to favor Miami's ability to play, like, any defense at all.
  • Boston College @ Virginia Tech (ACC): Even though they're 4-4, VPI's bowl streak is in very serious trouble. The only sure win on the schedule looks to be Wake Forest. I don't think they'll beat Boston College, but this is probably a better bet for them than UVA or Duke.
1:00: Washington @ Colorado (Pac12): Colorado isn't as tire fire awful as they were the past few years, but man that defense is still pretty bad, and UDub is a team that is capable of taking advantage.

  • Western Kentucky @ Louisiana Tech (FSN): The Hilltoppers will throw the ball, but they can't defend it. Louisiana Tech is moer balanced and looks like a better team overall. It also gives them a chance to get to 5-0 in the Conference USA East division, which would really put them in control.
  • North Carolina State @ Syracuse (ACC/RSN): Boy howdy, FSU sure made NC State look good back in September, didn't they? Of course, they've done that more than a few times in recent weeks, but anyway since then the Wolfpack have lost four straight and it hasn't really been that close (even if you exclude the 41-0 shallacking from Clemson). But, again, Syracuse may be what they need. The Orange aren't bad enough that they have no chance, it's just from where I sit I think that NC State has a better than good chance of winning.
  • Georgia vs. Florida (@Jacksonville, FL; CBS): Florida fans could use more than a few cocktails at this point, I'd guess. I just don't see any chance for the Gators in this game whatsoever.
  • Purdue @ Nebraska (ABC/ESPN2): For most of this season, I've been stuck thinking that Purdue is as awful as they've been in the recent past.
  • Texas Christian @ West Virginia (ABC/ESPN2): This is, admittedly, not a game I had exactly circled on the calendar at the start of the year. I think West Virginia will give them a fight. I think they will give them a hell of a fight. But goodness me TCU's only loss was to the only team that could keep up with them, and they only lost by three. The rest of the schedule since then is a trail of devastation. I kept checking on their game last week just to see them break 80. It was ridiculous. I like them, even in the craziness of Morgantown. (Probably a good thing for them it's not at night, though.)
  • Virginia @ Georgia Tech (ESPNU): So, yeah, five fumbles. One calculation put the odds of forcing five fumbles in thirteen possessions at 0.00245%. Okay, so those are pretty low odds. The odds of recovering all five? Too low to be expressed as a percentage, because it's about a 1 in 1.3 million chance.
    As for this one, well, it's hard to say. The defense remains a huge issue, though it's hard to say how bad they were last week what with the being up 28-0 5 minutes into the game and all. Virginia's offense doesn't scare anyone per se, but with how bad our defense is it doesn't need to be scary. The Cavs are coming off two straight close losses to Duke and Carolina, so they will certainly be in the mood to get back on a winning streak, especially if they want to make a bowl.
  • Brigham Young @ Middle Tennessee State (CBSS): It's gotten pretty ugly for the Cougars after losing their all-everything quarterback. Is it bad enough to lose to a former Sun Belt team? That's really the big question here. BYU can still score against not so great defenses, but in their currently four game losing streak they haven't allowed less than 30 (though one of those went to overtime). Hard to say, but tentatively taking the Stormin' Mormons.
  • Indiana @ Michigan (BTN): Michigan's offense is lost, lost in the woods with no compass, and a missing shoe. Their hated athletic director resigned today. A loss to Indiana, which doesn't seem unlikely, would probably result in Brady Hoke not being too far behind.
  • Kansas @ Baylor (FS1): Man, at least Kansas is as awful as they've been for most of the past few years. Makes these things easy. Baylor should be able to score however many they want here.
  • Houston @ South Florida (ESPNEWS): USF isn't horrible, they're just not good. I don't think it'll be Houston by much, but it'll be Houston in the end.
  • Kentucky @ Missouri (SEC): Well, both these teams have beaten Vandy and South Carolina, so I think they're actually kind of even. I'm giving a slight edge to Mizzou, though.
4:30: Southern California @ Washington State (Pac12): I don't think USC will have a problem, per se, but I think this one might not be as comfortable as you might expect given the records.

  • Auburn @ Mississippi (ESPN): Well, this one isn't going to end 10-7, I feel pretty good about saying that. Auburn had a bit of trouble with South Carolina last week as well. At any rate, let's not bury the lede too much more: this one is a fight to stay in national title contention. At Ole Miss, and with that defense, I think the Rebels may gut it out, but I think this one is pretty much even.
  • Old Dominion @ Vanderbilt (ESPNU): Vandy could very well lose this game, I'm not even kidding. I'm not going to predict that, but I wouldn't be surprised.
  • Colorado State @ San Jose State (CBSS): The Rams are kind of legit, huh? I wonder if they want that game from Boise back in September back. They should be able to handle the Spartans.
7:15: Arkansas @ Mississippi State (ESPN2): Both these teams can score, but I think Miss State can score better, if that makes any sense. The Bulldogs should remain undefeated.

  • Stanford @ Oregon (FOX): Stanford can't score, and while they have an awesome defense, Oregon just figures to be too much. I expect this one to be tight at the half and then Oregon gets out to a comfortable lead by the end of the game.
  • Texas @ Texas Tech (FS1): Red Raider fans might be wondering if they can get a refund on their recent coach purchase. Alas, they cannot, and so they will charge out again with a less-than advertised offense. The Longhorns' offense, meanwhile, is nearly nonexistent, and so I think they'll probably lose. Maybe.
  • Tennessee @ South Carolina (SEC): Tennessee isn't awful, but they're still a notch below even this diminished South Carolina side.
  • Notre Dame vs. Navy (@Landover, MD; CBS): I think Notre Dame will lose at least one other game. This isn't it. (But enjoy the last of a rare CBS triple-header!)
  • Illinois @ Ohio State (ABC): Don't look, but after an upset of Minnesota last weekend Illinois is 4-4. They might even make a bowl if they're not careful. The Buckeyes don't have much to worry about in this one unless they get caught looking forward to Sparty next weekend.
  • Oklahoma St @ Kansas State (ABC): K-State keeps doing it... and they should keep on keeping on until they run into TCU next week.
  • Arizona @ California-Los Angeles (ESPN): Well, one of these teams wasn't taken to double overtime by Colorado last weekend, so I'm taking Arizona.
  • San Diego State @ Nevada (CBSS): SDSU has one of those "hasn't played anyone with an offense" sort of high-ranking defenses, so it's hard to cite that as a factor here. Tentatively going with Nevada in this one.
  • California @ Oregon State (Pac12): Cal might have the most exciting 4-4 record in college football, thanks to an awesome offense and a defense that can keep anyone on it. That said, Oregon State might be not good enough that they can't score on every drive, which could be fatal.
10:45: Wyoming @ Fresno State (ESPN2): This one might be good for halftime entertainment more than anything else. Just sort of picking Fresno.

11:00: Utah @ Arizona State (FS1): This is very quietly a must-watch game. Arizona State is at the fringes of national talk, but Utah is very quietly 6-1. The numbers make these teams look about even. I'm very slightly going to give the edge to the home team.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Bowl Predictions 2014: Week 2

Okay, let's do this right this time. As usual, the latest predictions are here.

We'll start with the playoff.

Playoffs? We're talking about playoffs? Are you kidding me?

Jokes aside, we pretty much have to start here because it require me to pretty much guess what 12 people I don't know are going to do. I did my projections again through the end of the season, and my #1 and #2 seeds wound up being pretty easy: ACC Champ Florida State and SEC Champ Alabama. From there, it gets much more difficult.

Consider the following teams: 1-loss Big 12 Champion Baylor, 1-loss Big 12 runner-up TCU, 1-loss Pac-12 Champ Oregon, and 1-loss Mississippi State. I have Baylor in as my #3, and to me for the four seed it comes down to Oregon and Mississippi State. This is an extremely tough debate for me, but at the end of the day I think Mississippi State is the better team and I gave them the nod. Fortunately for me, the next few weeks will probably change everything, though if I had to guess it'll just be a different jumble of teams involved in the handwringing.

Anyway, as it turns out, when it comes to just predicting who goes to what bowls, that's the easy part. I put FSU and Mississippi State in the Sugar Bowl and sent Alabama and Baylor out west. No, the hard part is figuring out who the at-large teams for the Peach, Fiesta, and Cotton Bowls are.

Here's the deal with the non-playoff playoff committee controlled bowls. First, there's the Orange Bowl. Since it's not a play-off site this year, and the home of the ACC champion, it must take another ACC team. I picked ACC title-game runner-up Duke, since I don't have them losing until then. If Duke has more than 2-losses after the ACC title game, then it'll be Clemson. The ACC's opponent in the Orange bowl is "the highest ranked team from the SEC, Big Ten, or Notre Dame". Based on my projections, my guess is that even with two losses Mississippi will be the highest ranked team that meets the criteria.

So after that you still have some teams that must go to at-large slots, namely, Oregon, Michigan State, and East Carolina (as the projected highest ranking team from the "non-contract" conferences). This also means three more teams have to come from somewhere. TCU is the only remaining 1-loss team in this scenario, so we have to dip into the pool of two-loss teams. I project this pool to consist of Ohio State (Big Ten west runner-up), Nebraska (Big Ten title game loser), Arizona State (Pac-12 title game loser), and Notre Dame (I have them losing to Arizona State now).

There's nothing that actually says the committee has to prefer TCU over any of the 2-loss teams, but to make things easier for me I picked them anyway. I then went ahead with Notre Dame and Ohio State, because really if we're all about the money, it's hard to beat those two.

So these are my committee-controlled matchups:
  • Peach Bowl: Michigan State vs. Notre Dame. Traditional foes that won't meet again for a while.
  • Fiesta Bowl: Oregon vs. Ohio State. Rematch of the 2009 Rose Bowl.
  • Orange Bowl: Duke vs. Mississippi. Well, it's what the contract says.
  • Cotton Bowl: TCU vs. East Carolina. Well, they have to put ECU somewhere.
  • Rose Bowl: #2 Alabama vs. #3 Baylor.
  • Sugar Bowl: #1 Florida State vs. #4 Mississippi State.
 Well, if nothing else, the BCS was at least easier to predict.

With Duke in the Orange Bowl, Clemson is slam dunk for the Russell Athletic Bowl slot. From there it's basically guessing at this point what the bowls and conference will do. I'd like to think the ACC won't send us out to El Paso again just yet, and I could definitely see Miami getting sent to New York City for brand purposes. Other than that, the ACC won't have enough teams to fill in its slots, but that could (and probably will) change, especially in terms of the teams from the Coastal.

Big Ten
I don't see any way Michigan makes a bowl, which should make it easier to fire Hoke (provided that he isn't fired before the end of the season). Supposedly in the new Big Ten lineup the Holiday Bowl is on equal footing with the Citrus and Outback bowls, but that seems really unlikely to me, so I sent Nebraska and Wisconsin to Florida and shipped Maryland to San Diego. Other than that, there's also a weird sharing agreement with the ACC for the Music City and Taxslayer Bowls. For now, I'm just guessing that the ACC will go to Jacksonville and the Big Ten to Nashville, but that could easily change. Another oddity is the San Francisco Bowl, and I don't mean in terms of its name (since it's 50 miles away in Santa Clara, but at least it'll be in a football stadium now). I figure Northwestern gets sent out west, setting up a brainy matchup with Stanford.

Big 12
Despite losing to them, I have Oklahoma getting the Alamo nod over Kansas State. Otherwise, this one was by the book. I was able to sneak in a Oklahoma State-Texas A&M game in the Liberty Bowl, though.

With only one playoff team, these projections actually have the Pac-12 having two extra teams. In this case, I figure California and UCLA to go 6-6 and get left behind. Any major conference at-large candidate will have somewhere to go, though, and as it turns out I only barely had enough teams anyway. Now, I didn't say that they'd get to go anywhere cool. I matched UCLA with Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl and California with Cincinnati in the St. Petersburg Bowl (now sponsored by Bitcoin, by the way1). I don't think you can go wrong with Arizona State versus either Oklahoma or Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl, though. Also, thanks to not having enough teams, I'm projecting Southern Cal to face Arkansas State in the Cactus Bowl. I am pretty sure whoever administers that bowl his praying that the Big 12 doesn't get two teams in the playoff (which is why that happened).

The SEC will also be short of teams, due mostly to getting three teams into the playoff. I don't know if the committee will be so bold as to break the two-teams-per-conference precedent set by the BCS, but as I explained with the Orange Bowl, they may not have a choice. Also, even though it says SEC 2-7, I suspect some of those bowls are "more equal" than others (especially the Outback Bowl). I have Auburn losing a couple more times and winding up there to face Wisconsin, which would definitely be a fun contrast of two teams that like to run the ball but in completely different ways.

Everyone Else
No real surprises anywhere else. I put the extra Sun Belt and MAC teams to work, but we'll see if that holds up. If it doesn't, it would a little fun to see what happens, but I'm not really projecting any teams to meet the "too few bowls" criteria. (Though it does remind that I need to figure out who the top five schools in APR are for this season.)

As usual, everything will probably be different next week.

Update (10/28): After some more research, Georgia Southern (along with Old Dominion and Appalachian State) will only be bowl eligible if there are not enough teams. Since in the scenarios for this week that is actually the case, it doesn't affect anything, but I'll note it properly in future weeks.

Friday, October 24, 2014

This Weekend in College Football: Week 9

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Texas @ Kansas State (ESPN): It's pretty clear at this point in the season that Texas just is not a good football team, near-upsets of Oklahoma notwithstanding. In fact, at 3-4 I don't actually have them going to a bowl, I just don't currently see three more wins on their schedule. If they want to have a chance, upsetting K-State would be a good, but unlikely, start.
  • Rutgers @ Nebraska (ESPN2): With the rise of 14-team conferences, an issue that I think is really starting to become a problem is intra-conference scheduling. Right now the difference in the Big Ten west is that Nebraska had to play Michigan State and Minnesota will not. (See also: Duke in the ACC, which dodges both Clemson and Florida State.) Either way, Rutgers should not present a significant hurdle for the Huskers.
  • Minnesota @ Illinois (ESPNU): Speaking of Minnesota, this week they get the hapless Illini.
  • Memphis @ Southern Methodist (ESPNEWS): Memphis.
  • Maryland @ Wisconsin (BTN): Wisconsin has only played two conference games so far, which makes it difficult for me to figure out exactly how good they are. The defense appears stingy, but they gave up 24 to LSU and 28 to Illinois. Maryland, meanwhile, isn't much easier to judge. They've beaten Indiana and Iowa, but got shellacked by Ohio State. So Maryland is probably safely in the mid-tier of Big Ten teams, but this game will probably show if Wisconsin can roll with Nebraska, Ohio State, and Michigan State or not. Tentatively going with the Badgers.
  • Alabama-Birmingham @ Arkansas (SEC): Don't look, but the Blazers are 4-3. Probably won't help them much against the Razorbacks, though.
12:30: North Carolina @ Virginia (ACC): Who's going to win the ACC Coastal? Well, Duke, probably, but nonetheless the question isn't quite academic yet. UVA is 4-3 but only sports an okay offense. UNC is 3-4, but they sport one of the best offenses in the country paired with one of the worst defenses. I like the Tar Heels, by a little.

1:00: San Jose State @ Navy (CBSS): San Jose State isn't completely awful this year and this edition of Navy probably isn't going to shock anyone, but I still like the Midshipmen.

2:00: California-Los Angeles @ Colorado (Pac12): So much for national title darkhorse UCLA, eh? Either way, they'll get bowl eligible against the Buffs.

  • Mississippi State @ Kentucky (CBS): Not a problem for the Bulldogs unless they're caught looking ahead to their opponent two weeks from now.
  • Texas Tech @ Texas Christian (FOX): Based on the way they're playing this year, this one does not look to be setting up well for the Red Raiders at all.
  • Michigan @ Michigan State (ABC): Michigan already has problems scoring points, so this is really the last thing they need to see right now. I don't see a lot of hope for the Wolverines.
  • West Virginia @ Oklahoma State (ESPN): Two teams, opposite directions. West Virginia is 3-1 in conference, 5-2 overall, coming off a potentially season-defining upset of the fourth-ranked team in the country. (And they didn't just beat Baylor, they controlled the game.) Oklahoma State is 3-1 in conference, 5-2 overall, and just got absolutely pasted by TCU. It's hard not to pick WVU in this scenario.
  • Oregon State @ Stanford (ESPN2): Stanford University is one of the top research universities on the planet. 59 people associated with Stanford are Nobel Laureates. Stanford raises more money than any other school, and Stanford graduates founded several of the largest companies in the world. So, surely with those resources, they could figure out a way to score some touchdowns. Fortunately for the Cardinal this week, Oregon State doesn't really score a whole lot either, so they should be able to eke out a victory.
  • Georgia Tech @ Pittsburgh (ESPNU): So last week, before the game, I saw some sobering stats about our defense on a pace (i.e., per-play) basis. Basically, since the offense tends to hold the ball and limit opponent's possessions, it makes the per-game stats for the defense look better than they actually are. For instance, Miami had seven non-garbage time possessions. Baylor usually has that many possessions in a half. Well, after giving up 48 last week they aren't fooling anyone anymore.
    On a per-game scoring basis, Pitt has the 14th ranked defense in the country. But the counter to that is they haven't exactly been playing Oregon, Baylor, and Mississippi State. The best offense they've faced this season is Virginia's at 74th nationally, and they haven't faced anyone who runs the option. But with the tire fire that is the Georgia Tech defense right now, we can probably make anyone look good, so it will probably be up to the offense again to get ahead and stay ahead.
  • Florida Atlantic @ Marshall (FS1): I feel bad for the Thundering Herd, but while I'm pretty confident they're going to go undefeated they just don't play anyone. Seriously, not even, like, Vanderbilt or Colorado or someone.
  • Boston College @ Wake Forest (ACC/RSN): In three ACC games, Wake Forest has scored 20 points. Ouch.
  • Nevada-Las Vegas @ Utah State (ESPNEWS): I feel for the Aggies, but after a tough, low-scoring loss to Colorado State last week the schedule softens up considerably is before they face Boise State in what will probably be a pivotal Mountain West matchup.
  • Vanderbilt @ Missouri (SEC): Vandy picked up their second win of the season last week, beating Charleston Southern 21-20. In short: what the hell happened in Nashville? I just feel like this can't be explained by a coach leaving.
5:00: Temple @ Central Florida (CBSS): I hope you don't like points, because neither of these teams are especially inclined to score and generally inclined to play defense. I've got UCF winning like 10-7.

6:00: Arizona @ Washington State (Pac12): I actually kinda think Wazzou will ruin someone's Pac-12 season in the same way I think Arkansas is going to ruin someone's in the SEC, though obviously via completely different methods of attack. But until such a time, it's pretty hard to actually pick them to win, you know?

7:00: Syracuse @ Clemson (ESPNU): I feel pretty good about Clemson's chances in this one.

7:15: Mississippi @ Louisiana State (ESPN): On traditional stats, these two teams look pretty similar, but man the advanced metrics love Ole Miss the same way a tailgater in the Grove loves bourbon. Nonetheless, it's the first of many potential pitfalls in the knife-fight SEC West, but looking at the numbers, it's pretty hard to pick against them at this point.

  • Alabama @ Tennessee (ESPN2): The Third Saturday in October is on the fourth Saturday this year, but those are just the breaks in this modern era of conference scheduling. Neither date would make much difference in the likely outcome, though.
  • South Carolina @ Auburn (SEC): I just hope that after he retires, sportswriters continue to to go to Steve Spurrier for snarky quips about his rivals. He had this to say about Auburn, AL earlier this week: "The loveliest village on the plains is what they used to call it." Seriously, one of those Stanford guys should also figure out the Futurama head-in-a-jar technology while they're at it.
    Anyway, while Spurrier will almost certainly win the battle of snarky quips, his team's odds of winning the football contest are pretty slim.
8:00: Ohio State @ Pennsylvania State (ABC): That Ohio State loss to Virginia Tech back in September is starting look pretty weird now, right? That's the thing with September losses, though. Either way, Penn State is reeling after consecutive losses to Northwestern and Michigan, and the fact that this your ABC primetime game says more about the quality of the last this week more than anything else.

10:00: Southern California @ Utah (FS1): I think this going to be my standard boilerplate for USC this rest of the season: on paper they should win this game, it's just a matter of their starters holding up because the Trojans have basically no depth.

10:45: Arizona State @ Washington (ESPN): This should be a fun, late-night contest for you folks out East, but I think in the end Sun Devils will win.

Bowl Predictions 2014: Week 1

It's that time of year again.

Of course, there are a ton of changes for 2014, with the demise of the BCS and the rise of the playoff. Unfortunately, I don't have time to do the justice that needs to be done for the new process (or, compared to the previous regime, the lack of process).

As usual, I will remind you that these predictions are... predictive. My methods haven't changed since last year, at least in terms of how I do the predicting part. In short, I look at every team, figure out if they can get to six wins, if they can then go into detail and predict their final record, and then slot them into the the appropriate bowls. At this point in the season, this still involves a lot of guesswork, so oftentimes the Week 1 predictions don't wind up being all that correct.

I don't have time to break these down in detail right now, so that will wait until next week. Until then, the predictions are right at their new 2014 URL.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

This Weekend in College Football: Week 8

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Kansas State @ Oklahoma (ESPN): I was fully prepared to write that K-State was going to wind up being easy for the Sooners, but I was too hasty. My main argument was going to be that the Wildcats hadn't seen anything like the Sooner attack, but I forgot that they held Auburn to 20 in their narrow loss a month ago. So there's plenty to suggest both defenses are good, and that both offenses are all right. I still have the Sooners in the end, though.
  • Iowa @ Maryland (ESPN2): Iowa had a relative offensive explosion against Indiana, putting up 45 points. It's hard to see them doing the same again in College Park, though.
  • Baylor @ West Virginia (FS1): While it's tempting to write this will be a fun, high-scoring contest, the truth is that it's much, much more likely for that to be true for one of these teams, and that team is Baylor.
  • Tulane @ Central Florida (ESPNU): UCF isn't, like, really that good or anything. Tulane, though, is worse.
  • South Florida @ Tulsa (ESPNEWS): These are two of the worst teams in FBS, which makes this game a bit of a coin flip. Tulsa is slightly better at offense, so I'm going to go with them.
  • Texas-San Antonio @ Louisiana Tech (FSN): LaTech just dropped double-nickels on UTEP, and it's hard to see the Roadrunners' dreadful offense keeping up.
  • Purdue @ Minnesota (BTN): Neither team plays offense particularly well, but Minnesota's defense is good enough for them to get away with it. Purdue, not so much.
  • Syracuse @ Wake Forest (ACC/RSN): Syracuse didn't get quite as blown out by Florida State as Wake did, so I guess I'm going to go with them.
12:30: Virginia @ Duke (ACC): So much for the "Mike London is So Fired" watch. That said, I don't think the Cavs really play offense well enough to surpass the Blue Devils' attack, but the differences between these teams are slight and this could wind up being a pretty close game.

  • Texas Agricultural and Mechanical @ Alabama (CBS): The wheels have fallen off the new-look Alabama offensive bus the past couple weeks. Fortunately for them, perhaps, is the Texas A&M defense coming to town. TAMU will definitely want this to turn into a shootout, and even though this is a flawed Alabama defense this year I'm not sure that it will happen.
  • Rutgers @ Ohio State (ABC/ESPN2): Rutgers picked up their first Big Ten win last week against Michigan, but other than that there's nothing to suggest that they can do much against the Buckeyes.
  • California-Los Angeles @ California (ABC/ESPN2): UCLA was expected, coming into this season, to field one of the premier defense in the country. That... is hasn't exactly happened. Against Cal's attack, it's going to continue to not happen. Fortunately for them, the same thing that keeps Cal's opponents in the game applies here: the Bears' defense, which is atrocious. I like the Bruins, but only by a little.
  • Michigan State @ Indiana (ESPN): Say, remember that time the Hooisers beat Mizzou? Yeah... it should be a walk-over for Sparty.
  • Clemson @ Boston College (ESPNU): I'm still getting used to the idea that Boston College isn't completely terrible, so it's still too soon for me to entertain the idea that they might beat Clemson.
  • Kansas @ Texas Tech (FSN): After four straight losses, including three in conference, a visit from the Jayhawks may be exactly what the doctor ordered.
  • North Carolina State @ Louisville (ACC/RSN): Since they made a game of it against FSU, NC State has suffered a 41-0 loss to Clemson and a 30-14 loss to Boston College. Against a stingy Louisville defense, the situation does not seem likely to improve for Jacoby Brissett and Co.
  • Cincinnati @ Southern Methodist (CBSS): SMU had a relative offensive explosion last week against ECU, but they still lost 45-24. To give you an idea of how bad it's been, that's also their closest loss of the season. On a three-game schnide themselves, this is exactly what the Bearcats need right now.
  • Oklahoma State @ Texas Christian (FS1): The last game in what might be the toughest 3-game stretch anywhere in the country, TCU looks to sweep the state of Oklahoma. With the four point win over Oklahoma and a three point loss to Baylor, that puts TCU at a differential of +1, which is about as narrow as things get. Fortunately for them, despite the #15 ranking, Oklahoma State is still easily the easiest of the three opponents. Provided TCU keeps their focus, they should have to trouble facing K-State three weeks from with a 7-1 record.
  • Georgia @ Arkansas (SEC): It's just a matter of time before the punishing Arkansas attack ruins someone's season. I think they'll win one their remaining games against Georgia, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss, I just have no idea which. Given that, I'm still going with Georgia here.
6:00: Colorado @ Southern California (Pac12): It's hard to say on a week-to-week basis how USC is going to do. They've certainly got the talent, but with like 60 scholarship players they lack depth. That said, it shouldn't be a problem against the Buffs.

  • Tennessee @ Mississippi (ESPN): I guess I have to start believing these Mississippi schools, huh? That said, it is a much easier task against the Tennessees of the world. 
  • Missouri @ Florida (ESPN2): If you thought last week's game against LSU was dumb, this game may even worse. I guess I'll take the Gators?
  • Georgia Tech @ North Carolina (ESPNU): Well, it happened. After putting together perhaps their best game of the past few years against Miami, we managed to play one of our worst against Duke. We didn't do anything particularly well, but it's come to light that the defense is really pretty bad. UNC is having their fourth or fifth disappointing season in a row, but that doesn't mean they aren't playing. Well, more accurately, they are at least playing offense. They gave Notre Dame everything they wanted in a 50-43 shootout last weekend in South Bend. The problem is that giving up 30+ is pretty routine for the Tar Heels defense.
    Given those things, the game is likely to resemble the 68-50 shootout from the last time we visited Chapel Hill, hopefully with the good guys on the right side of it again.
  • Utah State @ Colorado State (CBSS): If the Aggies were at full strength, this would project to being a pretty even matchup, but alas, given the way things are I have to go with the Rams.
  • Kentucky @ Louisiana State (SEC): Kentucky is 5-1 and likely ecstatic about it, while LSU is 5-2 and disappointed. That said, this is easily the best team Kentucky has faced so far this year, and I'm leaning pretty heavily toward things getting back to normal for them over the new few weeks.
  • Nebraska @ Northwestern (BTN): Look, I know Northwestern has the 11th ranked scoring defense in the country, but their offense is bad, Nebraska's defense is just as good, and their offense was only stopped by a probably great Michigan State defense. So I just don't see it, Northwestern. Sorry.
  • Notre Dame @ Florida State (ABC): Since the scares against Clemson and NC State, FSU has reverted to type, with that type blowing out weak ACC competition. Notre Dame, not so much. Though both sport easy victories over Syracuse, Notre Dame struggled against a pretty good Stanford team, which is okay, but then against a not-so-good North Carolina team. Unlike Stanford, Florida State is actually capable of scoring touchdowns in the red zone, which means that if Jamesis Winston is still thinking about football at all (one story I read earlier this week noted wryly that Winston's decision making is apparently vastly better on the field than off it) I don't think the Domers have the offense to keep up.
  • Washington @ Oregon (FS1): After the Ducks' offensive like performance on Thursday night against Arizona, most assumed their game against UCLA would be the sack-pocalypse, but it turned out to be a comfortable Oregon win. Most are excited for this game because U-Dub has been the only team so far to contain the prolific Cal attack. Unlike Cal, though, Oregon actually fields a somewhat competent defense, which would be trouble for the relative pedestrian Husky attack. I like the Ducks in this one.
10:15: Nevada @ Brigham Young (ESPN2): Hey, I said watching Nevada was fun, not that they were good. BYU is still definitely the favorite here, but it's going to be closer than I would've projected a month or so again.

  • Stanford @ Arizona State (ESPN): This is a game of opposites: Arizona State's good offense versus Stanford's great defense, and vice versa. If the Sun Devils can score, say, three touchdowns they have a pretty good chance, but I don't like their chances of doing so.
  • Hawaii @ San Diego State (CBSS): The Aztecs field a pretty legitimate defense, and this isn't exactly the Hawaii offense of yore here. I like them at home.

Friday, October 10, 2014

This Weekend in College Football: Week 7

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Georgia @ Missouri (CBS): Mizzou bounced back from their shocking loss to Indiana with a shocking win over South Carolina. Nonetheless, Todd Gurley or no, Georgia is still the favorite here.
  • Texas vs. Oklahoma (@Dallas, TX; ABC): Oklahoma's loss to TCU last weekend has put them out of many's minds, yet somehow I think the shocking blowout loss to Texas last year may still be in the craw of many a Sooner.
  • Florida State @ Syracuse (ESPN): The 'Cuse is 108th nationally in scoring offense. Sure, it's one thing to only score 15 against Notre Dame, they're good. But only 6 against Louisville? Also there was that whole "double overtime" thing with Villanova. Yeah, I like FSU's chances here.
  • Illinois @ Wisconsin (ESPN2): Wisconsin lost to Northwestern last week, but that's still better than losing by 11 to Purdue.
  • West Virginia @ Texas Tech (FS1): Texas Tech didn't exactly blow away their weak no-conference opponents, so three straight losses to stronger foes is not a huge surprise. West Virginia is not great, but they still appear to be made of sterner stuff.
  • Indiana @ Iowa (ESPNU): Indiana through five games: win, loss, win, loss, win. So far, it doesn't seem to have mattered who the opponents were, as they were Indiana State, Bowling Green, Missouri, Maryland, and North Texas, respectively. So, just going to go ahead and call a loss to Iowa this week and a win over Michigan State next week.
  • Tulsa @ Temple (ESPNEWS): This is one was easier to call than I was expecting, Temple all the way. (And seriously, we should've realized Vandy was in huge trouble. What business does a SEC team have losing by thirty to Temple?)
  • Middle Tennessee State @ Marshall (FSN): Marshall undefeated watch: odds still look pretty good. Of course, the closest margin in any of their five wins so far is a 15 point win over Miami (the MAC one) in their opener, so basically I have the Herd in all their remaining games until further notice.
  • Rice @ Army (CBSS): Rice actually compares pretty favorably for Army, which is a nice way of saying that they're both pretty low in terms of national rankings. Fun fact: Army is dead last in passing. They don't throw the ball a lot, but still. They average 50 yards a game less than Georgia Tech does, which are themselves ranked only six spots higher. Either way, at least the Black Knights do one thing sorta well, so I'll take them here.
  • Northwestern @ Minnesota (BTN): I suspect ESPN wishes they had known both these teams were going to knock off traditional Big Ten powers a couple weeks ago. Also, the vagaries of television scheduling, even when it's only done 12 days in advance like it is in college football. Either way, both these teams sort of operate the same way, at least in the sense that will they don't score a lot of points, they also give up even less. I'll again apply the "at least Minnesota does one thing well Northwestern doesn't", and that's run the ball, so I'll take the Gophers.
  • Louisiana-Monroe @ Kentucky (SEC): While the world is a more exciting place when the Ragin' Cajun's are okay, it's just not in the cards against this maybe not awful Kentucky squad.
  • Cincinnati @ Miami (ACC/RSN): Why Miami's offense is anything other than "Give Duke Johnson the ball 30-40 times" is a complete and utter mystery to me, but I am very thankful that's the case. Either way, Cincy's 114th ranked defense may be just the salve Miami's maturing offense needs. I've got the Canes here.
12:30: Duke @ Georgia Tech (ACC): I remember the last time we lost to Duke, because I watched the trainwreck live. We got blown out 41-17. That 2003 Duke team wound up going 4-8. These days, though, the Blue Devils are made of sterner stuff. After losing to us last year, Duke suffered an arrow loss to Putt and then one their next six conference games in a row, including wins over Virginia Tech and Miami. They got throttled by an ascendant FSU in the ACC Championship Game, but then they gave Johnny Football and Co. all they wanted on New Year's Eve in what was probably the best bowl game last season. This year, they raced out a 4-0 start again, easy wins over the likes of Elon, Troy, Kansas, and the same Tulane team we struggled against. However, two weekends ago they were throttled by Miami.
With a bye week to lick their wounds, though, it's hard to discount them. As much as I love researching matchups over the years, it's not really super relevant to today's players that Tech has won 10 in a row dating back to when they were in middle school. Hopefully, though, we can turn last year in a warning. Even though we beat them soundly, these guys aren't your younger self's Blue Devils. They're still an obstacle in the Coastal, and we will pay for it if we take them lightly.

  • Oregon @ California-Los Angeles (FOX): Unless Oregon found some offensive linemen, like, between the couch cushions or something like that, it's hard to see how they're going to stand up to UCLA's defense. (For the sake of analogy, let's assume it's a really big couch.) Of course, UCLA did lose to Utah last weekend, so this matchup has probably lost a bit of its luster. Oh, and that UCLA defense? Yeah, not actually that good. Then again, neither was Arizona's, and they were good enough to harass Marcus Mariota all night. All night, I was being reminded that he was a Heisman candidate and one of the best quarterbacks in all the land, but man, he didn't really look that way. Shows the importance of the big guys. At any rate, I guess I'm taking the Bruins.
  • North Carolina @ Notre Dame (NBC): Carolina got throttled by VPI last weekend, 34-17. So much for being a dark horse ACC front-runner, once again. The Domers should win easily.
  • Auburn @ Mississippi State (CBS): Good job against TAMU last weekend. I really mean it. But this is an Auburn team with a second-year starter and with an apparently scary defense. Yes, I know yours is good as well, but nonetheless someone has to lose here, and I think it's going to be you guys. Sorry.
  • Texas Christian @ Baylor (ABC/ESPN2): Every few years, Gary Patterson unearths an offense to go with his usually good defense and TCU comes out and surprises people. Like, say, Oklahoma. Of course, they had some special teams help last week as well. This game was actually pretty tight last year, as well, with the Bears only winning by 3. That said, with home field, I have Baylor winning again.
  • Michigan State @ Purdue (ABC/ESPN2): Sparty should be able to breathe easy in this one.
  • Louisville @ Clemson (ESPNU): Louisville's defense rates highly, yes, but they haven't seen an offense like this year. I think Clemson prevails handily.
  • Boston College @ North Carolina State (ACC/RSN):With a loss last week to Colorado State, I think BC's win over Southern Cal now belongs pretty firmly in the "fluke" category. NC State must've been hungover last week, as they got demolished by Clemson to the tune of a 41-0 shutout. (Seriously, only 154 yards of offense? That takes some doing.) That said, I guess I'm still more apt to buy what the Wolfpack are selling.
4:00: Oklahoma State @ Kansas (FS1): I took my computer algorithms and theory course when I was doing a study abroad program in Barcelona eight years ago. At the end of the term, the professor asked us to write down what grade we thought we deserved and then turn it in. As far as I heard, he assigned us what we wrote down. The ploy worked on me, at least, because I wrote down 'B' and got that. I felt that while I was giving myself the benefit of the doubt, an 'A' would've just been downright dishonest. Anyway, what I'm trying to say here is that Oklahoma State can pretty much name their own score here.

  • Alabama @ Arkansas (ESPN): The cracks in the armor are starting to show a big in the Tide, but fortunately for them Arkansas is exactly the wrong team to exploit those weaknesses. Arkansas is the kind of team that Nick Saban defenses are built to stop.
  • Washington @ California (Pac12): While it's cool that we're excited about Cal and all, it's still helpful to remember that their defense gets burned so often that I'm surprised they were let back into the state after last weekend, what with the high fire risk here and all. ... sorry about that. Anyway, I maybe a win here and I'll start believing, but for now I've got the Huskies.
  • Pennsylvania State @ Michigan (ESPN2): Last week, I said that if you love points, you should watch the Cal-Wazzou game, and boy howdy, neither you or I were disappointed, that's for sure. Well, if you hate points and like watching the slow moving wreck that is Michigan football this year, then you'll like this one. Seriously, Penn State is going to win like 9-3 or something.
  • East Carolina @ South Florida (ESPNU): Put it this way, if ECU loses another game this year I'll be pretty surprised.
  • Houston @ Memphis (CBSS): I'm still coping with the idea that Memphis is not completely terrible, which is good, because they'll probably win this one.
7:30: Louisiana State @ Florida (SEC): Should be a good rebound of LSU after last week's debacle. Either way, Florida just can't score, even enough to keep up with LSU's pedestrian offense.

8:00: Connecticut @ Tulane (ESPNEWS): Well, at least ESPNEWs is conveniently bunched together, at least on my cable system, with all the other sports channels, which means that this is probably still going to be a better bet than watching commercials. Tulane, for the hell of it. Also, anything can happen at night in New Orleans...

9:00: Mississippi @ Texas Agricultural and Mechanical (ESPN): Yeah, so I'm not going to dance around this: I have both Mississippi teams losing. At night, at Kyle Field, with TAMU looking to get back on track? I don't think good Dr. Bo is going to make it to the stadium this time.

10:15: Air Force @ Utah State (ESPNU): I like Air Force in this one.

  • Southern California @ Arizona (ESPN2): Arizona passed their first test last week, and it would up being decisive. I have them favored again here, but USC is still plenty talented, just shorthanded. If they can build a lead in the first half, it may be tough for the Wildcats to recover. If it's close, they'll pull away in the end.
  • Colorado State @ Nevada (CBSS): Folks, the Rams have two wins over Big 5 teams. Sure, they were Boston College and Colorado, but that still counts. I like them to keep it up here.

Friday, October 03, 2014

This Weekend in College Football: Week 6

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Ohio State @ Maryland (ABC): At least judging from results, both these teams really above even. Which means we have to go deeper, and that's where it starts to fall apart for the Terps.
  • Texas Agricultural and Mechanical @ Mississippi State (ESPN): While Miss State was able to prevail against LSU last weekend, I thought (and still presently think) TAMU was better anyway, struggles with Arkansas aside. It's fair to say the Bulldogs haven't seen anything like what TAMU is going throw at them (in some cases, literally) and I'm not sure they can keep up.
  • Purdue @ Illinois (ESPN2): Illinois is... bad but Purdue is just so inept that it's basically impossible to pick them.
  • Iowa State @ Oklahoma State (FS1): Iowa State is still terrible, so at least some things are constant.
  • Southern Methodist @ East Carolina (ESPNU): SMU has been one of the worst teams in football so far this year, while ECU has lived up to their darkhorse billing. I don't think it's going to end well for the 'stangs.
  • Marshall @ Old Dominion (FSN): I thought ODU was pretty alright, but they lost to MTSU last week, so I'm going to go with Marshall getting to 5-0.
  • Ball State @ Army (CBSS): Army, when you lose games to Yale, I'm going to have a hard time picking you even against 1-3 MAC teams. That's just the way it is. I'm sorry.
  • Florida @ Tennessee (SEC): Given all the vitriol, you probably wouldn't think that Florida is 2-1 with that one loss coming to Alabama, but yeah it's hard to disagree with the idea that Will Muschamp isn't going to last the season. Meanwhile, the conventional wisdom is that the Volunteers look leagues better this year, even if it's not reflected in the results. Well, here's your chance Vols, now reach out and grab it.
12:30: Virginia Tech @ North Carolina (ACC): When it comes to the ACC Coastal, no one is ever truly out of it, at least not in the first week of October. So both these teams have chances to recover from exceedingly disappointing starts. That said, UNC has looked downright bad so far, while VPI has at least been competitive in their two losses. Going with the Hokies.

2:30: North Texas @ Indiana (BTN): Ah, Indiana. One week you're beating Missouri, the next you're losing decisively to Maryland. What do I do with you? I'll still pick you to beat North Texas, I just wish I could feel better about it.

  • Stanford @ Notre Dame (NBC): Stanford is awful in the red zone, but the reality of this game is that I don't think either offense is going to factor much into it. I actually have the Cardinal in this one.
  • Alabama @ Mississippi (CBS): This is likely the biggest game in Oxford in... a long time. Nonetheless, it's hard to see how Ole Miss stacks up against the Alabama machine, especially now that it has a legitimately threatening offense. If Ole Miss is going to prevail, though, it'll be against the seemingly-suspect Alabama secondary.
  • Oklahoma @ Texas Christian (FOX): Boy howdy, lots of undefeated teams playing each other this weekend, but that's the magic of conference play. Not that either of these teams has a feather in their cap, per se. TCU is only allowing 7 points per game, but they've only played three games and one of those was against SMU. The Sooners seem more legit overall, but I guess we'll find out out for sure.
  • Baylor @ Texas (ABC): I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self that he'd pick Baylor in a game at Texas and not really even think twice about it.
  • Wake Forest @ Florida State (ABC): Florida State has found ways to make it interesting against Wake in the past, but as usual no sane person would ever call it.
  • Wisconsin @ Northwestern (ESPN2): About the only chance for Northwestern here is to build up a big lead early and try to force Wisconsin out of their ground-and-pound game plan. This seems... unlikely.
  • North Carolina State @ Clemson (ESPNU): Both these teams have relatively fresh close losses to Florida State possibly on their minds. NC State and the antics of Jacoby Brissett electrified many last weekend, while Clemson had many opportunities and let them slip away. Overall, I still think Clemson is the better team, and they will need to play like to salvage their season.
  • Navy @ Air Force (CBSS): Air Force posted a solid win over Boise State last week, which signaled two things. One, Boise is probably coming back down to Earth. Two, Air Force is pretty good again, while Navy has struggled at times this year, most recently posting a loss to Western Kentucky. Air Force are definitely my favorites right now to win the Commander-in-Chief's trophy.
  • Kansas @ West Virginia (FSN): I keep having to remember that Charlie Weis was the head coach at Kansas, and just when I realized that, they fire him! Thanks for nothing, Jayhawks. Also, WVU wins in a walkover.
  • Vanderbilt @ Georgia (SEC): Todd Gurley has 610 yards rushing on the season. Vanderbilt has 510. This does not bode well for the Commodores.
  • Oregon State @ Colorado (Pac12): There's nothing that really makes me sure that Oregon State has an edge over the Buffs, but... it's just that I'm not going to call Colorado to win anything until proven otherwise.
  • Louisiana State @ Auburn (ESPN): The yearly edition of Tigers vs. Tigers is back. I think the Auburn offense is still just too good for LSU to keep up, especially after the issues they showed against Miss State a couple weekends ago.
  • Texas Tech @ Kansas State (ESPNU): K-State's offense is potent enough to exploit the truly awful Red Raiders defense.
  • Memphis @ Cincinnati (CBSS): So Cincy went out for their first real game last week and got shellacked by Ohio State. Meanwhile, Memphis is 2-2, with the expected result against Ole Miss and a surprisingly game loss to UCLA. Nonetheless, still difficult to pick them here, so going with Cincy.
  • Michigan @ Rutgers (BTN): I almost have to think the Wolverines are relieved this game isn't taking place in Ann Arbor. It's a bit late to weigh in on this now, but the handling of what happened in game last weekend and afterward is nothing short of an unmitigated disaster. On the field, the Michigan offense is as well. Rutgers isn't good or anything, but they're certainly going to be more into this game than Michigan probably is.
  • Arizona State @ Southern California (FOX): That loss to Boston College will probably continue to be a bit of an albatross for USC. Arizona State just got pasted last week by UCLA, but I'm not sure they're really that bad? Still going to pick USC, but I don't feel at all good about it.
  • Miami @ Georgia Tech (ESPN2): It would be wonderful if we could flash back to 2008 for a second, eh?

    I picked that spot because it shows a good job of the kind of holes we had that night. Of course, since then, Tech has dropped every contest to Miami, usually due to just plain superior talent. Can we prevail this year? I honestly have no idea. Miami certainly was able to leverage their talent against Duke, and Duke Johnson is as advertised. Meanwhile, Tech finally had a decent game against VPI, but I wouldn't exactly want to play against FSU or Alabama or someone right now, either.
  • South Carolina @ Kentucky (SEC): Kentucky may be just what South Carolina needs right now.
  • Pittsburgh @ Virginia (ACC/RSN): Going into the year, I thought for sure I wouldn't pick UVA in any game. Yet it's Pitt with the inexplicable loss to Akron, so here we are.
  • Nebraska @ Michigan State (ABC): The best two teams in the Big Ten face off, and it's not really even close. Against their schedules so far, both these teams have dominated on both sides of the ball (with the exception of Sparty's loss to Oregon), so this is will be a real test for both. I'm going with Sparty, but that's mostly just a guess.
  • Nevada-Las Vegas @ San Jose State (ESPNEWS): Both these teams are bad, but SJSU has been slightly less bad.
  • Utah @ California-Los Angeles (ESPN): So the Utes followed up their triumph against Michigan with... a loss to Washington State. Whoops. At any rate, this game could be close, but I expect UCLA to pull it out.
  • Boise State @ Nevada (CBSS): I think I actually like Nevada here? Maybe?
  • California @ Washington State (Pac12): I HOPE YOU LIKE POINTS. Saturday night, Pullman, anything could happen. Well, anything involving offense, anyway. A perfect nightcap, if you ask me. Going with Wazzou here.