Saturday, November 29, 2014




THWG Thought of the Day: 11/29

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

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

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

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

We ... are ... smarter.

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

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

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

Friday, November 28, 2014

This Weekend in College Football: Week 14

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Michigan @ Ohio State (ABC): It's hard to see Michigan really doing anything to win this game. Their offense is simply too bad, and Ohio State is firing on all cylinders right now.
  • South Carolina @ Clemson (ESPN): This pick is basically conditional on Deshaun Watson's status. If he plays, and preferably, starts, then I think Clemson can snap their losing streak. Otherwise, the Gamecocks should prevail.
  • Kentucky @ Louisville (ESPN2): Louisville's had a good run so far this season. Up in Lexington, the good times were rolling, including two SEC wins and a narrow overtime loss to Florida, up until they got dismantled 41-3 by LSU back in mid-October. They've lost five straight since then, and none of them where close. Louisville will probably make it six.
  • West Virginia @ Iowa State (FS1): Really the only surprising result for the Fightin' Holgos in their current three game losing streak was the semi-bizarre loss to Texas. Other than that, they gave TCU and K-State way more than either wanted. They should get off the schnide against Iowa State.
  • Illinois @ Northwestern (ESPNU): In a battle for bowl eligibility, there can only be one winner. And that winner will probably not be Illinois.
  • Cincinnati @ Temple (ESPNEWS): Temple's surprised me before, but it's hard to see how they stack up against Cincy.
  • North Texas @ Texas-San Antonio (FSN): Absolutely no clue. I was going to go North Texas but F+ says UTSA has a 76% chance of winning, so...
  • Rice @ Louisiana Tech (CBSS): This is the vastly more interesting C-USA West fight than the one above, as the winner gets the right to face Marshall. That winner seems much more likely to be LaTech.
  • Georgia Tech @ Georgia (SEC): To Hell With Georgia.
  • Purdue @ Indiana (BTN): With two in-state teams with identical 3-8 records and 5+ game losing streaks, this is basically a tossup to me. Purdue, I guess?
  • North Carolina State @ North Carolina (ACC): UNC's offense figures to just be too much for NC State.
  • Syracuse @ Boston College (ACC/RSN): I think BC is a pretty solid team, and they figure to handle the 'Cuse pretty easily.
1:00: Utah @ Colorado (Pac12): The Pac-12's newest members face off, but as I've mentioned before, their trajectories since joining the conference are vastly different. This Colorado team, despite being 0-8, isn't as awful as it's been, but they're still pretty bad. The Utes should win easily.

  • Notre Dame @ Southern California (FOX): Notre Dame has been exposed a bit in their current three-game losing streak. While Southern Cal isn't great or anything, they do have the talent to compete and I don't think Notre Dame is good enough at this point to punish them for their lack of depth. I have the Trojans as a slight favorite.
  • Mississippi State @ Mississippi (CBS): Speaking of collapses, what happened to Ole Miss last weekend? Well, for starters, they managed to turn the ball over six times, which is a pretty good way to ensure that you'll lose 30-0. Miss State still only has the one blemish on their record, while the Rebels are playing only for pride now with three losses. This Egg Bowl doesn't look as appetizing as did two weeks ago, that's for sure. At any rate, I have the Bulldogs in this one.
  • Michigan State @ Pennsylvania State (ABC/ESPN2): One team not suffering a post-big-loss hangover is Michigan State. Since losing to Ohio State, they've pounded Maryland and Rutgers into a fine dust. They figure to do the same against Penn State.
  • Baylor vs. Texas Tech (@Arlington, TX; ABC/ESPN2): I'd say it's getting weird at Texas Tech vis-a-vis the situation with their former defensive coordinator, but weird stuff happens there a lot, so let's say it's getting downright ugly. Baylor should win easily.
  • Florida @ Florida State (ESPN): It's tempting to say that Florida will get up for this rivalry game the same way they did against Georgia, but let's face it: that one game is the only time all year Florida has displayed any sort of offensive competence. (Well, and against Eastern Kentucky last week, but that doesn't count.) Florida's defense is good enough to keep it close, but FSU will probably keep doing what they've been doing.
  • Rutgers @ Maryland (ESPNU): Maryland, probably.
  • San Jose State @ San Diego State (CBSS): I don't have any good reason to pick San Jose State here, so I won't. I do bet that Boise wishes any of the teams on this side of the MWC table were better going into next week's title game, though.
  • Minnesota @ Wisconsin (BTN): It's hard to see how Minnesota is going to be able to stand up to Wisconsin's brutal rushing attack.
  • Kansas @ Kansas State (FS1): It's hard to see how Kansas will put up a fight against K-State at all.
  • Connecticut @ Memphis (ESPNEWS): Given that they're favored to lose to Memphis, that Fiesta Bowl must seem like a distant memory to Husky fans.
  • Tennessee @ Vanderbilt (SEC): I continue to lack an explanation for how awful Vandy is this year, so I'll just stick to picking against them.
4:30: Brigham Young @ California (Pac12): I've been calling for Cal to win this one in the bowl predictions, mostly because that makes things slightly easier. In reality, this one projects to be pretty close. I'll stick my guns and lean toward Cal.

  • Pittsburgh @ Miami (ESPN2): Dear Miami: what the hell happened against Virginia last weekend? Obviously you're still favorites and still my pick in this one, but seriously.
  • Wake Forest @ Duke (ESPNU): At least what happened to Duke last week is somewhat explainable, and trust me, I'm quite happy it happened. Duke's been sliding a bit, but a game against Wake Forest is a decent way to right the ship, as it were.
7:45: Auburn @ Alabama (ESPN): Barring another crazy special teams play, as hilarious as it was, it's difficult to see Auburn getting a win here. Auburn's defense just isn't good enough to provide the resistance to Alabama's offense that they need to have a chance.

8:00: Oregon @ Oregon State (ABC): Weird things can always happen in this Civil War, but believe me that doesn't really project to be the case this year.

10:15: Utah State @ Boise State (ESPN2): Boise has improved as the season's gone on. Utah State has been putting on a pretty brave show for most the season in light of what happened to their all-everything quaterback, but the dream figures to end on the blue turf.

  • Washington @ Washington State (FS1): It's been a rough second year for Mike Leach out in Spokane, and UDub doesn't figure to make it any less so.
  • Nevada @ Nevada-Las Vegas (ESPNU): It's not often you can say a 6-5 team is obviously better than another, but when your opponent is 2-10, this is one of those times. Nevada.

THWG Thoughts of the Day: 11/28

First, a classic:

Like Wake Forest or Maryland or somebody... 

And some selections from our last victory in Athens...

And some quality animated GIFs, though from unrelated bouts of UGA misery:

To Hell With Georgia

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

This Week in College Football: Week 14

It's a special Turkey Week edition! As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

7:00: Ohio @ Miami (ESPN2): The Bobcats need this one to get to bowl eligibility. I think they'll get it.

  • Louisiana State @ Texas Agricultural and Mechanical (ESPN): If this were last year's TAMU team, then I'd probably have them in this one. Of course, LSU's offensive woes came to a head last week when they lost 17-0 to Arkansas. Oh, the Tigers' defense did the job, as they held the bruising Arkansas rushing game to under 100 yards, but the offense just did nothing the entire game, only producing one trip to the red zone. (The result was a missed field goal.) TAMU, meanwhile, followed their potentially season-saving win over Auburn with a loss to Mizzou. With their offensive inconsistency, it seems entirely possible that they will be shut down by LSU's still pretty good defense entirely.
  • Texas Christian @ Texas (FS1): Texas is certainly playing a lot better in the back half of this season, but good enough to beat a regrouped TCU? Probably not.
11:00: Northern Illinois @ Western Michigan (ESPNU): Friday morning MACtion! A potentially good one too. NIU wins the MAC East outright if they win, due to having a tiebreaker over Toledo. WMU would need some help, as they have a head-to-head loss against the Rockets. Make that a lot of help because Toledo plays relatively hapless Eastern Michigan, so it's unlikely they'll lose. I like the Huskies just slightly here.

  • Nebraska @ Iowa (ABC): The heat is on Bo Pellini after last week's loss to Minnesota, but another 9-win season looks rip for taking against the Hawkeyes.
  • Central Florida @ South Florida (ESPN2): UCF's offense isn't great, but USF's is even worse. Should be an easy win for the Knights.
  • Western Kentucky @ Marshall (FS1): Marshall definitely had took close of a call against UAB last weekend, but they should have less trouble here. They'll face Rice or Louisiana Tech next weekend to see if they can reach 13-0.
  • Houston @ Southern Methodist (CBSS): SMU still possesses the worst scoring offense in major college football. How bad is it? They're averaging less than 10 points per game. That's pretty bad. Houston should have no trouble with their cross-town rival.
2:30: Arkansas @ Missouri (CBS): Arkansas did it again last weekend, and they did it in style with a 30-0 demolition of Ole Miss. And you know what? I think they'll do it again against Mizzou.

  • Arizona State @ Arizona (FOX): I've actually had the Sun Devils all the way since I started doing bowl predictions, so no reason to back off now I suppose. Otherwise, this one projects to be very close.
  • Stanford @ California-Los Angeles (ABC): Cal was bad enough and Stanford's defense good enough for the Cardinal to prevail, but UCLA is good enough that I don't think that's going to work again.
  • Colorado State @ Air Force (CBSS): While Air Force always presents a challenge, I think Colorado State is legitimately good team at this point.
8:00: Virginia @ Virginia Tech (ESPN): Honestly, I think this game is around a coin flip, except for last week's 0-0 debacle against Wake Forest by VPI. (Wake won 6-3. In double overtime.) Based on that, I pretty much have to take the Cavaliers, don't I?

8:30: East Carolina @ Tulsa (ESPNU): The season started with such promise for the Pirates, but alas. They should still be able to handle Tulsa though.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Bowl Predictions 2014: Week 5

They're hot and fresh, that's right, it's another edition of bowl predictions.

Unfortunately, there wasn't as much news as I'd hoped, mostly because a lot of bowls are apparently going to wait until December 7 to reveal their picks. Hopefully there will be some more news next week. Until then, let's continue to speculate!


I have another helpful graphic:
It's in alphabetical order this time, so it doesn't reflect the current rankings or the order in which I do the conferences or anything. Based on this, I'd still generally agree that Alabama, Oregon, and Florida State are going to be the top three (but boy howdy are FSU making it hard on themselves).

The question, really, is that #4 slot. And I think there are four candidates:
  • Mississippi State: the current leaders in the clubhouse, but I'm writing this before this week's rankings. They can't be real excited about Auburn, Ole Miss, and LSU's play of late.
  • TCU: currently ahead of Baylor, but that could change if Baylor beats Kansas State this weekend.
  • Baylor: needs to beat Kansas State, but I think that point their win over TCU just has to count for something, right? We'll find out in due time, I guess.
  • Ohio State: sort of playing their way in, especially with Minnesota playing well. Problem for them is that they still sport by far the worst loss on this list, so they still need a lot of help.
I still like Baylor the best, but if they beat Kansas State like I project and then are still out next week, I will have to revise my predictions.

After that, I started trying to logically do the access bowl spots. It's still a guess (other than TCU, Ohio State, and Mississippi State), but I did at least use this week's rankings to get an idea. The question of how to treat championship game losers is still around, though, but that's why I have things like Clemson in the Orange Bowl over Georgia Tech. (GT can do themselves a large favor by beating UGA, though.)

Other Things of Note

Let's do this bullet-point style.
  • Sorry, Marshall, but it's just not going to happen. 
  • That said, I'm going with Colorado State because they are a) currently higher ranked and b) have better wins than Boise. Problem for the Rams is still that pesky loss to Boise that will keep them out of the Mountain West title game. We'll see what happens if and when the committee decides to rank either of them.
  • Texas Bowl: Texas-Texas A&M. It has to happen. Has to!
  • Speaking of former Big 12 rivalries, how about Missouri-Nebraska in the Citrus Bowl?
  • It's difficult to tell how teams that are going to fire their coaches will fare in the new bowl scenarios. I bumped Florida down because of this.
  • I feel like I really need a year with this thing to figure out how it will shake out. Hopefully next year will have a little less uncertainty. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

This Weekend in College Football: Week 13

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Quick note, though: there several teams playing FCS opponents this week. I will list those games, but they will have no or very short summaries.

  • Minnesota @ Nebraska (ESPN): I don't think the Gophers have anyone prone to rushing for 400 yards, so the Cornhuskers should be safe in this one.
  • Pennsylvania State @ Illinois (ESPN2): I suspect this will be Tim "Eight Wins" Beckman's penultimate game as head coach of the Illini.
  • Kansas @ Oklahoma (FS1): Good on you for winning last week, Kansas. This one is likely to be a bloodbath.
  • Northwestern @ Purdue (EPSNU): I'm not going to lie, this weekend's slate of games is pretty brutal. I have Northwestern in this one, but not by a lot.
  • Southern Methodist @ Central Florida (ESPNEWS): I actually watched the end of SMU's game against Tulsa last weekend, because it was on TV and SMU had a wire-to-wire lead going into the last minute of the fourth quarter. They then proceeded to lose. I suspect they will lose again.
  • Texas-San Antonio @ Western Kentucky (FSN): Western Kentucky all the way in this one.
  • Fordham @ Army (CBSS)
  • Eastern Kentucky @ Florida (SEC)
  • Charleston Southern @ Georgia (SEC)
  • Rutgers @ Michigan State (BTN): Sparty took down the Terps 37-15 last weekend, now the other Big Ten newbie is probably about to get tthe same treatment.
  • Indiana @ Ohio State (BTN): Does Indiana have another surprise in it? Probably not.
  • South Alabama @ South Carolina (SEC/FSN): South Carolina.
  • Virginia Tech @ Wake Forest (ACC): First, hats off to Virginia Tech and North Carolina. While both were picked to finish ahead of us in the ACC, they did their parts by chipping in and giving Duke their second and third conference losses, and allowing us to advance to Charlotte. Thanks! Anyway, Wake is still awful, but the Hokies are so offensively inept that they'll probably make it closer than it should be.
  • Yale @ Harvard (NBCSN)
1:00: Washington State @ Arizona State (Pac12): While I'd love a crazy upset here, I'm not banking on it.

  • Louisville @ Notre Dame (NBC): They don't really have manuals for how to recover from losing to Northwestern in overtime. Louisville will probably not provide any sort of closure, but I think the Domers will escape with a win and then get wrecked by USC next weekend.
  • Mississippi @ Arkansas (CBS): Well, Arkansas finally pulled off their upset last week. I'd think it's likely that things will be back to normal in this one.
  • Boston College @ Florida State (ABC/ESPN2): FSU is a nineteen point favorite, so you definitely want to take BC to cover here. Otherwise, I imagine FSU will do its usual thing, i.e., trail for a substantial portion of the game and then wake up and win.
  • Wisconsin @ Iowa (ABC/ESPN2): I have a feeling it may be Iowa's turn to have their rush defense statistics get obliterated.
  • Arizona @ Utah (ESPN): The numbers are slightly in favor of Utah, and while I like the Utes plenty, I just like the Wildcats a little better.
  • Syracuse @ Pittsburgh (ESPNU): Pitt's running back has been in awesome in their past three games. Problem? They've lost all of them. That said, Syracuse is the easiest game in this stretch and should give the Panthers a ray of hope for bowl eligibility going into Miami next weekend.
  • Texas Tech @ Iowa State (FSN): I'd say the wheels are coming off for Texas Tech, but at least they didn't lose to Kansas. I'll stick with the Raiders.
  • Georgia State @ Clemson (ACC/RSN): Clemson's offense is terrible without Deshaun Watson, but they won't need him here.
  • Maryland @ Michigan (BTN): Maryland is thoroughly mediocre enough that Michigan can probably get a win here, but I'm not confident about it.
  • Stanford @ California (FS1): This one might be worth watching just because it's a match up of total opposites. On one hand, a team that can't stop anyone to save their lives. On the other, a team that can't score. Which will prevail? Can Cal gut out a close win, or are they capable of shredding the Cardinal like Oregon did and making it a moot point? I'm going with the Bears in a slight upset.
  • South Florida @ Memphis (ESPNEWS): I'm having trouble adjusting to this universe where Memphis is a 19-point favorite over anyone, but here we are. Already at 7-3, I think they'll get to 9.
  • Western Carolina @ Alabama (SEC)
4:30: Colorado @ Oregon (Pac12): Very quietly since the loss to Arizona, Oregon has looked like, well, Oregon again. This trend should continue against the Buffs' awful defense.

  • Miami @ Virginia (ESPN2): As long as they're not too deflated by allowing FSU to come back last weekend, this should be an easy win for the 'Canes.
  • Samford @ Auburn (ESPNU)
  • Oklahoma State @ Baylor (FOX): This one probably looked better at the beginning of the year than it does now. The Bears should win in a romp.
  • Missouri @ Tennessee (ESPN): I think it says a lot about the year South Carolina is having that both these teams beat them. It's not really a safe pick, per se, but I'm still taking Mizzou.
  • Vanderbilt @ Mississippi State (SEC): Still trying to figure out what happened to Vandy, because the same thing seems to be happening at Stanford (though at least they still play pretty good defense). Clanga in a romp.
  • Southern California @ California-Los Angeles (ABC): Like all three of USC's loses, I suspect in this one their lack of depth will come home too roost and UCLA will be able to eke out a win the end.
  • Cincinnati @ Connecticut (CBSS): They're very thankful that basketball season has started over in Storrs.
10:15: Boise State @ Wyoming (ESPN2): A win here will ensure that Boise continues to confuse what Group of Five team will get into the big-money bowls, so I'm sure that's what'll happen. But also tune-in because hopefully Wyoming will be wearing some horrendous combination of brown and mustard yellow.

  • Fresno State @ Nevada (ESPNU): Nevada just looks like a better all-around team than Fresno does. This will probably end the Bulldogs' shot at a bowl.
  • Oregon State @ Washington (Pac12): UDub is still searching for that elusive seventh win (which they need for bowl eligibility since they're playing a 13-game schedule). The odds look good they'll find it here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Bowl Predictions 2014: Week 5

The predictions are up. Let's discuss them briefly.

The Playoff
Here's that chart again:
This chart isn't really in any sort of order. The predictions page reflects my final seeds. FSU is basically only in because I figure the committee will lend considerable weight to an undefeated schedule. If FSU loses at all their resume will put them definitively out. The fact that the team they play in the ACC Championship Game will have the best record of any team they face all season is a huge problem for the Seminoles.

At this point no team other than Oregon is going to get in from the Pac-12.

Overall, I don't think there's room for a two loss team unless all hell breaks loose, and well, that could happen, but I'll deal with it if we get there.

I personally value the number of "good wins" above all else, so the seeds are a combination of what I think is important and what I'm guessing the committee will think is important. Since they haven't shown a willingness to put FSU at #1, and indeed dropped them to #3 last week, I think they'll be in the top four if they win out for sure, but anything other than that isn't guaranteed. So I put them at #3, behind Alabama and Oregon.

Then the question is, who is #4? Your contenders are Baylor, Mississippi State, TCU, and Ohio State. This is a horrifically close call, but figures that in year one of this new thing we'll already get a pretty strong case for an eight-team playoff. (Then again, that probably just means we'd be arguing about who #8 is.) I went with Baylor. The following arguments are in their favor: they're co-Big 12 Champions with TCU, they beat TCU head-to-head, and also have the same good wins TCU has. I like them over Miss State and Ohio State because they have better wins than both (in TCU) and Ohio State's loss to Virginia Tech becomes more inexplicable every week.

A lot can happen, though. Here's each team's remaining schedule:
  • Alabama (projected #1): West Carolina (W), Auburn (I'm predicting a win), if they finish tied or better than Miss State, they will go to the SEC Championship where they will probably play Missouri or maybe Georgia. They will be favored against either, but neither provides a huge resume boost at this point. (Hey, remember that time Mizzou lost to Indiana? The Hoosiers are probably going to be transitive SEC East Champs.)
  • Oregon (projected #2): Colorado (probable win), @Oregon State (probable win, but on the road in what is sometimes a wacky rivalry game), Pac-12 title game, probably against UCLA, but also could be against Southern Cal, Arizona St, or Arizona. For best win purposes, Oregon probably would prefer to face UCLA. Facing USC is probably the worst case.
  • Florida State (projected #3): Boston College (probable W), Florida (probable W), Duke or Georgia Tech. FSU probably really wishes that Oklahoma State wasn't have a down year, as that would really help them in the strength of schedule department. 
  • Baylor (projected #4): Oklahoma State (probable W), Texas Tech (W), Kansas State (very tough W). TCU handled K-State pretty easily, but nonetheless that gives them the biggest potential prize on anyone's remaining schedule. The flip side of that, of course, is that gives them the hardest schedule in this group.
  • Texas Christian: Texas (probable W), Iowa State (W). Not much else to say about this one, but boy howdy did TCU make it interesting against Kansas last weekend or what? For now, I'll chalk that up to playing a bit down to their opposition, but they won't be able to get away with that against Texas.
  • Ohio State: Indiana (W), Michigan (probable W), Big Ten championship game, probably Wisconsin. The Buckeyes stalled a bit against Minnesota last weekend, but they'll be able to get things tuned again with their remaining regular season schedule. That said, I suspect they will really wish that, say, Baylor and FSU lose. Probably Miss State too, for good measure.
  • Mississippi State: Vanderbilt (W), Mississippi (?), SEC championship only if they win out and Alabama loses to Auburn. The game against Ole Miss will be tough, but I have them winning it. Playing in the SEC Championship wouldn't give them a boost in and of itself, it would just give them the title "SEC Champion", which may count for a lot at the end of this thing.
As for the other "access bowls", they remain a guesswork. East Carolina's loss to Cincinnati last Thursday eliminated them from contention for a spot, so for now I've slotted Colorado State there. Who and where they will play remain a mystery to me.

Next week I hope that research will enable to start eliminating a lot of the guesswork, but with conferences holding more of the cards now, even the usual "representatives from these bowl games were there" articles won't help as much as they did in the past.

Friday, November 14, 2014

This Weekend in College Football: Week 12

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Ohio State @ Minnesota (ABC): With last week's solid win over Michigan State, Ohio State is now solidly a contender. The loss to Virginia Tech will continue to dog them, though. However, they should have no such issues with the Gophers.
  • Clemson @ Georgia Tech (ESPN): The first time we play Clemson at home since 2011 and it's... at noon? I mainly don't like it because that means it starts at 9:00am out here on the west coast, but still, I never much cared for noon starts as a student either. If this were a night game, I bet it'd be sold out.
    At any rate, let's analyze the game itself. By most measures, this appears to be a tossup. Vegas has the visitors by three and the advanced stats have us by by around a touchdown. The average score in this series over 77 games has a margin of about 6 points. Of course, last year Clemson won by 24 (and it wasn't really that close), and the year before by 15, which arguably has much more of a bearing on this year's result. For starters, last year's Clemson defense that forced 6 punts is largely back, especially in the all-important defensive line. Even though I don't think it makes a difference, but Clemson this year didn't get a lot of extra time to prepare for the offense (just an extra day, basically). The main key for us that we're much more efficient offensively this year. Last year, we only rushed for 248 yards, due partially to the talented defensive line of the Tigers but also simply because we were in a 20-0 hole in the 2nd quarter and started throwing the ball. That said, if we rush for less than 300 yards again, we'll probably lose again.
    And then there's the defensive side. If you didn't know better, you'd think the defense has improved over the course of the season, but they really haven't. Our defense at this point has pretty much started relying entirely on generating turnovers. Interceptions are a matter of skill, but fumbles are a matter of luck. This defense still has trouble generating pressure, and still has trouble covering anyone. As usual, our hopes are pinned on the offense, which will be praying for the defense to generate just one stop, in all likelihood. (One or two defensive stops was basically the balance in the Carolina game, as you might recall.) The defense's job will be that much tougher with Clemson's dynamic freshman QB (Deshaun Watson) back in the mix after an injury.
    Really the only thing I've seen over the past six years that really stops this offense other than itself is elite defensive line talent. Our offensive line does not employ the beefiest men, valuing some measure of agility over the portly run blockers of a traditional offense. They can block most of the guys they face, and since we do run the option, that means they can leave a guy unblocked and either scamper up to the second level to block a linebacker or defensive back, or they can throw a double-team on a particularly troublesome guy. Problem is when you have elite talent, event the usual refrain of "just option the guy" (i.e., just don't block him and use him as the option key) has problems because these guys can be fast enough to either chase the play from behind or blow up both options at the point of attack.
    This is a fun game (well, in retrospect usually) and a fun rivalry, usually, although it seems like we always win close in this series and lose big. Let's hope it approximates something closer to the former tomorrow.
  • Temple @ Pennsylvania State (ESPN2): I think Penn State's got this one.
  • Virginia Tech @ Duke (ESPNU): We need Duke to lose this one very badly, but I just don't see how it will happen.
  • Army @ Western Kentucky (CBSS): It's not a good year for Army when they're not the favorite against the Western Kentuckys of the world.
  • Iowa @ Illinois (BTN): Iowa, probably?
  • South Carolina @ Florida (SEC): Florida has put together by far the best two games of their season the past two weeks. The first, the rout over Georgia, was a genuine surprise; the win over Vanderbilt, less so. That said, this has been something of a lost season for the Gamecocks, with people even starting to whisper about Spurrier's job security. I really have my doubts about that, but what I thought was a sure South Carolina win a few weeks is now completely up in the air after last week's overtime loss to Tennessee. I don't think this one will be very high scoring, but I will give a very, tiny slight edge to the Gators.
12:30: Pittsburgh @ North Carolina (ACC): Pitt is back after a bye week but still sitting on two straight losses to us and Duke. Pitt is probably the better overall team, but if that Carolina offense gets rolling Pitt may not be able to stop them. I'll take Pitt though.

2:30: Rice @ Marshall (FSN): Marshall should still remain undefeated, though this will instantly be their best win of the season. With East Carolina's loss to Cincy, the race for that non-Power 5 spot is now wide open.

  • Texas Christian @ Kansas (FS1): I fear for Kansas in this one. TCU are 29 point favorites. I would probably still pick them.
  • Wake Forest @ North Carolina State (ACC/RSN): NC State may have less trouble with Wake than Clemson did last week, if I had to guess.
  • Washington @ Arizona (FOX): Thanks to an extra home game due to the Hawaii Rule, UDub is not bowl eligible yet at 6-4. They probably won't get it here.
  • Northwestern @ Notre Dame (NBC): Notre Dame finally did the courtesy of picking up their second loss, and even to Arizona State like I had predicted. That was nice of them. They will probably be pretty ready to vent some frustration on Northwestern, though.
  • Mississippi State @ Alabama (CBS): Well, the rubber meets the road here. I've been calling for Alabama to be #1 in the Playoff, and it hinges a lot on getting this victory. Miss State's defense is good, but Alabama should find a little more breathing room for their attack than they had last week at LSU. I think this game will actually be relatively wide open, but in the end the Tide defense will make more stops and gut out the win.
  • Nebraska @ Wisconsin (ABC): Nebraska is the 1-loss team no one is talking about, unless they're talking about teams that no one is talking about. Others have also presciently pointed out over the past few weeks that Nebraska may regret the conference move a bit in hindsight, after all, TCU and Baylor are generating way more national buzz than Nebraska or anyone else in the Big Ten for that matter. What would really help the Huskers though is to get a win here. They're slight underdogs but I've had them winning here in the bowl predictions for a while now.
  • Oklahoma @ Texas Tech (ESPN): Texas Tech sports one of the worst defenses in the country. This... may get ugly.
  • Memphis @ Tulane (ESPNU): Memphis is poised to be one of the American's co-champions, and I suspect Tulane will be able to do little to stop them.
  • Georgia Southern @ Navy (CBSS): Folks, I think Georgia Southern is pretty legit. They're going to win the Sun Belt this year, except that they're technically still in transition and thus not even bowl eligible unless there aren't enough teams. They will almost certainly give Navy a run for their money but I'm not sure I can quite pull the trigger on saying they'll win.
  • Indiana @ Rutgers (BTN): These are two extremely mediocre teams. I'm go with Rutgers by a nose.
  • New Mexico @ Utah State (ESPNEWS): When he was a broadcaster, Bob Davie said he would run an option offense, and by golly if he isn't running an option scheme out of the pistol formation, Chris Ault-style. Utah State is probably going to beat them, though.
  • Kentucky @ Tennessee (SEC): This seems like a good occasion to give a quick shoutout to my Mom, who waited in line in unseasonably bitterly cold temperatures for a chance to get some extremely rare products of Kentucky on my brother and I's behalf. Even worse, it didn't work out. Sorry. At any rate, I actually have Kentucky in this one, but these teams are pretty even I think.
6:00: Utah @ Stanford (Pac12): I think Stanford's lack of offense will let them down again in this one.

7:00: Nevada-Las Vegas @ Brigham Young (ESPNU): Not a lot of hope for UNLV in this one.

7:15: Auburn @ Georgia (ESPN): The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry is back. Who will win? I have no idea, really. Both these teams can move the ball, that's not really the issue. Georgia's defense was solid all year until the nigh-inexplicable collapse against Florida, while Auburn hasn't really slowed anyone down since September. Of course, it's worth pointing out that Georgia has yet to face any of the elite offenses in the SEC, and they did give up 70 points in two weeks against teams that ran the ball down their throats (Arkansas and Florida). Auburn's attack is the strongest and most well-rounded they've faced all year, so I'm giving a slight edge to the Tigers.

  • Texas @ Oklahoma State (FOX): Speaking of things I didn't imagine a few weeks ago, I've actually got Texas here.
  • Missouri @ Texas Agricultural and Mechanical (SEC): Mizzou's best win of the year is still the not-as-good-as-it-looked at the time win over South Carolina. TAMU beat Auburn last week, but it wasn't a sure thing. The key for these Tigers, as it was for the Tigers before them, will be trying to exploit TAMU's woeful defense, but it's not clear to me that they can. I've actually got A&M in this one.
  • Florida State @ Miami (ABC): All Miami has done since losing to us is, well, look like Miami, really. They've dominated their opposition since, and in 9 games Duke Johnson has over 1200 yards rushing. (I still think he was sorely underutilized against us.) I've said it before, but I'll say it again: this is not last year's Florida State team. I still think they're going to win, though.
  • Louisiana State @ Arkansas (ESPN2): I still say Arkansas is going to beat someone they shouldn't this year, but I lack the guts to actually make that call.
  • South Florida @ Southern Methodist (CBSS): SMU is bad enough to even lose to the USFs of the world.
  • Michigan State @ Maryland (BTN): Sparty will be out for blood against the halfway-decent Terps, and I suspect they'll get it.
10:00: North Texas @ Texas-El Paso (FS1): A national audience? Sure, why not, it'll give you some live football during the half-time of FSU-Miami. Also, I have UTEP.

10:15: San Diego State @ Boise State (ESPNU): Boise gets a chance to continue to make their case for the Other 5 spot.

10:45: Arizona State @ Oregon State (ESPN): The Beavers aren't really very good this year. I would definitely think Arizona State covers the nine points here.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Bowl Predictions 2014: Week 4

Okay, the new predictions are up. Let's do a quick overview.

The Playoff
So this is the scenario I was faced with when I was done projecting everyone's record:
You can see what I wound up with on the page. I decided that taking the four best teams would be the committee's top priority, and given that, I had to take Mississippi State over Oregon.

As for the other access bowls, this week I put Clemson in over Duke. With Auburn loss this past weekend, my projected loss to Alabama will give them three losses overall, and I think the committee will probably eschew 3-loss teams if there are enough 2-loss teams. So I matched Clemson up with Nebraska.

East Carolina is still my best guess for the Group of Five slot. They'll have two losses but they will still have the best resume of any of the available teams. It pains me to see Marshall not get a chance, but those are just the breaks. (Speaking of Marshall, for the past few weeks I've tried to use the Heart of Dallas Bowl to give them a matchup with a major conference foe, but that may not work out if there aren't enough Big 12 teams.)

The other access bowls were about matchups. I liked the idea of having a "Rose Bowl in Exile", if you will, between Ohio State and Oregon, so I put that in Dallas. The Peach will wind up falling on the sword, as for lack of better ideas I gave them UCLA and East Carolina. Hopefully the next couple of weeks will clear things up on this front.

I'm now projecting Notre Dame to lose three games, which means they fall into the ACC's bowl hierarchy. Notre Dame doesn't get a lot of games against SEC teams, so I figure they'll slot into one of the ACC's matchups against a SEC team. In this case, I sent them to the Music City Bowl.

This causes headaches for the rest of the league, but in the end I was able to accommodate everyone. As a side note, I think this will be a very tough year for the Belk Bowl to get a North Carolina team, but then again the matchups are out of the hands of the bowls now anyway (for most conferences). With Utah slotting into the Sun Bowl, one of my goals was definitely to avoid a rematch of the 2012 Sun Bowl with them and Georgia Tech. Also, Miami went to the Sun Bowl in 2010, which is still relatively recent.

Big 12
Right now the Texas-Oklahoma State looks like it will determine which team gets to go a bowl game. Based on recent play, I picked Texas to go to... the Texas bowl.

Big Ten
I tried to avoid sending Rutgers to the Pinstripe bowl because they went there last year, and besides, I figure Penn State is close enough. (Also, Penn State fans should be happy about getting to go to any bowl, considering.)

I tried to create a Washington-Boise State matchup in the Las Vegas Bowl, except it causing other issues. I also then had the bright idea to look up Boise's upcoming out-of-conference games, and sure enough they're going to kick off the 2015 season against the Huskies. So that's out.

Otherwise, with three Pac-12 teams getting into the Committee-controlled bowls that throws a bit of a wrench into the works. It's worth noting that the way the whole thing is set up every year there will be at least one of the Power 5 conferences getting three teams in.

Missouri (you know, the team that lost to Indiana a while back) is probably going to win the SEC East, mostly because (like Duke in the ACC) they dodge all the contenders from the SEC West. Georgia, meanwhile, has a permanent rivalry game against what I'm sure will be a pissed-off Auburn team this coming weekend.

(Dear Mike Slive: before you retire, consider my advice. It would have really helped your conference this year!)

So what's probably going to happen is this awkward situation where Missouri is going to get blasted by Alabama or Mississippi State in the SEC Championship game, but they'll still be 10-3 at that point so out of obligation the Citrus Bowl will take them. Meanwhile, the SEC West, having beat each other up to the point where LSU and Ole Miss have three losses (and Auburn four) probably won't send any more teams to the Committee bowls.

But hey, there's still four weekends of football left to be played. A lot can happen, and this will probably all be different next week.

Friday, November 07, 2014

This Weekend in College Football: Week 11

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Georgia @ Kentucky (ESPN): I still have no idea what happened to Georgia last week, but suffice it to say, I don't envy Kentucky right now.
  • Iowa @ Minnesota (ESPN2): Minnesota! You were having such a nice little season, and then you had to go lose to Illinois. Oof. Iowa, meanwhile, managed to score 48 (48!) points against Northwestern last weekend, surely making several Iowa fans dizzy in the process. I'm giving a slight edge to Iowa.
  • Wisconsin @ Purdue (ESPNU): This one might get ugly for the Boilermakers.
  • Baylor @ Oklahoma (FS1): I'm not entirely what's going to happen in this one. Looking at the stats, these teams are pretty even, but Oklahoma has one more loss. I consider this a tossup, basically. I'm going with a minor upset for the Sooners.
  • Texas-San Antonio @ Rice (FSN): It's hard to see how UTSA has much of a chance here, but the advanced stats say this is about even. I guess we'll have to just wait to find out.
  • Southern Methodist @ Tulsa (CBSS): This is probably SMU's best remaining chance to win a game this year, but I'm not seeing it.
  • Pennsylvania State @ Indiana (BTN): Penn State has now lost four straight, but I still have them as slight favorites over the Hooisers.
  • Georgia Tech @ North Carolina State (ACC): NC State managed to reverse their four game slide finally with a touchdown win over Syracuse. Meanwhile, GT is coming off their most complete effort since the Miami game, dominating an inferior Virginia team from start to finish.
    The main worry for us is going to be NC State's dynamic Jocaby Brissett, who could certainly do plenty to exploit our defense. The defense played better against Virginia last week, but they were arguably one of the worst offensive teams we've played all season. Watching the game, the UVA offense did very little to help itself.
    On paper, the NC State defense looks overmatched, sporting one of the worst run defenses in the country. The key for the Jackets will be to take advantage of this and, as usual, give the defense plenty of room.
  • Duke @ Syracuse (ACC/RSN): It's hard to see how Syracuse will keep up with Duke.
  • Notre Dame @ Arizona State (ABC): I've had Notre Dame losing this game in my bowl predictions for several weeks, so I'm not going to back down now.
  • Texas Agricultural and Mechanical @ Auburn (CBS): It's hard to see how TAMU is going to win this one.
  • Michigan @ Northwestern (ESPN2): I wouldn't expect a lot of points in this one. Michigan also needs this one pretty badly to get to a bowl, so I'm sort of thinking that means they probably won't get it.
  • West Virginia @ Texas (FS1): It's hard to see how Texas is going to score enough points to keep up with the Mountaineers.
  • Tulane @ Houston (ESPNU): Tulane just isn't very good.
  • Iowa State @ Kansas (FSN): I wouldn't recommend watching this one. Iowa State is slightly less awful, though.
  • Connecticut vs. Army (@New York, NY; CBSS): UConn had an out-of-nowhere upset of Central Florida last weekend. If they lose to Army, it won't be out-of-nowhere, per se, but it would still be pretty surprising.
4:00: Washington State @ Oregon State (Pac12): I wouldn't have had Wazzou has a favorite before one of their all-time best quarterbacks broke his leg last week, so...

6:30: Virginia @ Florida State (ESPN): Florida State will have to work pretty hard to inject any drama into this one.

  • California-Los Angeles @ Washington (FS1): UCLA upset Arizona last weekend, but nonetheless they remain a solidly "good" team. I think UDub could give them some problems but I still have the Bruins in the end.
  • Hawaii @ Colorado State (ESPNU): Of the many teams hoping for a shot at the Group of Five slot for the big money bowls, Colorado State was definitely helped by East Carolina's loss last weekend. Problem is, their loss to was to another team vying for that slot: Boise State. Either way, no big problems are anticipated for them against Hawaii.
  • Boise State @ New Mexico (CBSS): I'll give Bob Davie credit for sticking his what he said when he was a commentator and indeed running a spread option offense at New Mexico. Other than that, I got nothing for this, Boise should win easily.
7:15: Louisville @ Boston College (ESPN2): Boston College may be the most surprising 6-3 team in college football, but I think they'll probably drop to a slightly less surprising 6-4 after this.

  • Kansas State @ Texas Christian (FOX): This is one is a tossup to me. I think these are both pretty good teams with good offenses. Kansas State has a better defense, but TCU's offense is that much better than K-State's. I'm basically guessing TCU.
  • Florida @ Vanderbilt (SEC): I figured Florida would win this one regardless, but boy howdy was that game against Georgia satisfying to watch.
  • Ohio State @ Michigan State (ABC): This one projects to be close, but honestly, I like Sparty a lot here. Michigan State has just been more well-tested than the Buckeyes. Keep an eye on it, though.
  • Alabama @ Louisiana State (CBS): Game of the day, most likely. Did you know that Les Miles is the only current SEC coach to have beaten Nick Saban twice? Of course, that fact is somewhat tempered by the fact that a lot of SEC coaches haven't been around long enough to try to beat Saban twice, but still, at night, in Baton Rogue, it's all about the Les Miles Reality Distortion Field. What could happen? I have no idea. But I'm going with Alabama anyway.
  • Colorado @ Arizona (Pac12): The Buffs have zero conference wins so far, and with their remaining schedule being Arizona, Oregon, and Utah that doesn't figure to change.
10:00: Oregon @ Utah (ESPN): Since their loss to Arizona over a month ago, Oregon has done a lot more to look like a top team than they did up to that point, culminating last week's demolition of Stanford. Utah has certainly been game this season in the Pac-12, but it's hard to see them keeping up with the Ducks.

10:30: San Jose State @ Fresno State (CBSS): Why should you stay up to watch two sub-.500 Moutain West teams play? I have no idea, but hey, this one should be close. Giving a slight edge to the Spartans.

Bowl Predictions 2014: Week 3

Okay, as announced previously the predictions are up. Since it's so late in the week already I'm not going to go too deep into it this time, though there haven't been any results that would change anything.

The Playoff
The one thing is that I don't really care for waiting around until Tuesday for the CFP Poll to be released. Also, since I'm doing a predictive set of, well, predictions the poll doesn't contain that much relevance to me.

What relevance I can try to glean, though, is perhaps how the committee thinks. Right now, the committee's top 10 is:
  1. Mississippi State
  2. Florida State
  3. Auburn
  4. Oregon
  5. Alabama
  6. Texas Christian
  7. Kansas State
  8. Michigan State
  9. Arizona State
  10. Notre Dame
Which makes sense. The two undefeated teams are at the time, followed by a pretty defensible ranking of the 1-loss teams. I don't think anyone is screaming bloody murder about this, except for maybe Notre Dame fans. (As the joke goes, though, Notre Dame's best "win" might be their narrow loss to Florida State.)

So what can we tell, though? Well, most metrics have Mississippi State as a better team than Florida State. In fact, many advanced stats don't think very highly of FSU at all. This definitely isn't last year's utterly dominant FSU team. Last year FSU had only one game decided by less than a touchdown: the win over Auburn in Pasadena.This year, they've had two, and Clemson took them to the brink. (If anything, Clemson probably should have won that game.) The main difference is the defense, which simply suffocated opposing offenses, while this year they have been slightly more porous.

That said, Miss State has been somewhat shaky since their dog became the top in college football. After a decisive win over Auburn in early October, the Bulldogs have since struggled a little with Kentucky and Arkansas.

But, again, these are major college football's only two undefeated teams, and any poll conducted by humans is going to put them at the top. I can't blame them for that.

And again, what I'm interested in is what will happen.

My prediction for the end-of-season top six is:
  1. Florida State, as the only undefeated team left
  2. Alabama, as SEC champions, having beaten Mississippi State and Auburn
  3. Mississippi State, with their only loss being to Alabama
  4. Oregon, Pac-12 champions and a win over Michigan State (and necessarily Arizona State)
  5. Michigan State, Big Ten champions (best predicted wins: Nebraska twice, Ohio State)
  6. Kansas State, Big 12 champions (best predicted wins: TCU and Baylor)
Obviously, a lot can change between then and now. But the conventional wisdom seems to be that the committee is valuing best wins over best losses, and if that holds, then I think my top six is reasonable.

Filling out the other "access bowls" remains difficult. I will probably switch out Clemson for Duke at some point. I still have East Carolina as the Group of Five representative, because I have no clue who to put there even though they lost to Temple.

I need to work on the weekend TV guide, so I will eschew the conference breakdowns this week.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Hat Has a Great Want For You To Exercise Your Suffrage

We need to invent that Futurama head-in-a-jar technology for Les Miles, because I need him to coach football forever.

I keep trying to figure out how I would describe him to someone who doesn't pay attention to college football. I think I would probably say, "he has a very interesting take on English vocabulary, syntax, and grammar".

I'd be remiss if I didn't link EDSBS's take on this.

The bowl predictions are up, I'll write about them in a bit.