Friday, December 30, 2016

Bowl Games 2016: Riding Out 2016

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

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

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

Bowl Games 2016: Indulgence

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

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Bowl Games 2016: Hitting Stride

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

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Bowl Games 2016: Let Us Begin

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

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 19, 2016

Bowl Games 2016: No Stopping Until Christmas Day

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Monday, December 19
2:30: Tulsa vs. Central Michigan (Miami Beach Bowl @ Miami, FL; ESPN): Something to watch if you're working this week, I guess? I don't really see CMU standing much of a chance against the Golden Hurricane.
Previous meetings: Two. In 1986, Tulsa won 42-6, but a year later the tables were turned with a 41-18 Central Michigan win.
Last bowl game: Tulsa lost last year's cracker of an Independence Bowl 55-52 to Virginia Tech. This is CMU's third straight bowl game. They lost last year's Quick Lane Bowl 21-14 to Minnesota.
Announcers: Allen Bestwick and Mike Bellotti

Tuesday, December 20
7:00: Memphis vs. Western Kentucky (Boca Raton Bowl @ Boca Raton, FL; ESPN): This should be a fun game. Both of these teams like to score, all else be damned. Main factor may be the weather: there's a chance of rain and both of these teams prefer to move through the air. Unlike, say, most of the rest of the country, temperatures won't be an issue: expect the upper-70's at kick-off. I'm very slightly leaning toward the Tigers.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This is the third straight bowl for the Tigers. They lost to Auburn 31-10 in last year's Birmingham Bowl. The Hilltoppers are now on a three game streak. They beat South Florida 45-35 in last year's Miami Beach Bowl.
Announcers: Dave LaMont and Desmond Howard

Wednesday, December 21
9:00: Wyoming vs. Brigham Young (Poinsettia Bowl @ San Diego, CA; ESPN): I found this game really hard to call. Yeah, BYU is 8-4, but they don't have an real notable wins, that is, they don't have any wins over Boise State or San Diego State. Wyoming's resume is not exactly sterling, either. As is often the case in this situation, I have a feeling it'll be close. I'm leaning toward Wyoming.
Previous meetings: This one goes back a ways, to 1922 specifically when the teams met twice. Later, of course, both teams would be in the WAC and the Mountain West, but they haven't met since BYU's 25-20 win in 2010. The Cougars lead the overall series 44-30-3.
Last bowl game: Wyoming's last bowl game was the 2011 New Mexico Bowl, which they lost to Temple 37-15. This is the 12th bowl game in a row for the Cougars, dating back to 35-28 loss to Cal in the 2005 Las Vegas Bowl. Last season, the Holy War was renewed in Sin City, but the Cougars lost 35-28.
Announcers: Jason Benetti and Kelly Stouffer

Thursday, December 22
7:00: Colorado State vs. Idaho (Potato Bowl @ Boise, ID; ESPN): POTATO BOWL! Long-time fans (uh, let's pretend fans should be plural and move on) of this site know about my deep-seating affection for this game. And who knows, this one could be best one since the last time Idaho played in this game (see below)! Unfortunately, I'm predicting a sort-of easy victory for Colorado State. The Rams have really come on as the season progressed and while this season has been wildly successful by Idaho standards they're still, well, Idaho. (That said, if the Vandals win they should get a Mountain West invite. Seriously.)
Previous meetings: Seven relatively sporadic meetings. These teams first met in 1969, with the Rams winning 31-21. The series was renewed again in 1971, 1973, 1976, 1992, 2009, and finally 2010, with the Rams winning 36-34. Overall CSU holds a 4-3 series lead.
Last bowl game: This is CSU's fourth straight bowl game, going back to a 48-45 victory over Washington State in the 2013 New Mexico Bowl. Last year, they lost 38-23 in the Arizona Bowl to Nevada (the ultimate "too many bowls" bowl game, seeing as how both teams are in the Mountain West). This is Idaho's first bowl game since a memorably crazy 43-42 win over Bowling Green in the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Neal and Matt Stinchcomb
Fun fact: This is Idaho's third ever bowl game, and they've never played in anything other than the Humanitarian/Potato Bowl. Less fun is the potential for this to be Idaho's less ever bowl game. The Vandals have faced difficulty finding a conference since the dissolution of the WAC for football, and next season will be their last before dropping back down to FCS.

Friday, December 23
1:00: Eastern Michigan vs. Old Dominion (Bahamas Bowl @ Nassau, Bahamas; ESPN): I wonder if there's any prop bets on the amount of time Steve Levy and Mack Brown actually spend talking about this game. Either way, bowl games a novel concept for both of these teams, much less leaving the country, so maybe this one could be fun? I have ODU as a slight favorite.
Previous meetings: Surprisingly, these two teams should be pretty familiar with each other. Old Dominion won 17-3 in 2014 and 38-34 in 2015.
Last bowl game: This is Eastern Michigan's first bowl game since the 1987 California Bowl, where they beat San Jose State 30-27. This is EMU's second ever bowl appearance. This is Old Dominion's first ever bowl game, though the school has only been a full FBS member since last season.
Announcers: Steve Levy and Mack Brown

4:30: Louisiana Tech vs. Navy (Armed Forces Bowl @ Fort Worth, TX; ESPN): For most of the season, Navy accumulated wins and brought their game to all-comers. But then the last few games of the season happened, especially the loss to Houston. If there's a team that I'd think could regroup coming into bowl season, it'd be these guys, but nonetheless I keep seeing LaTech receivers running 4-verts right past too slow Navy defenders. 
Previous meetings: Just two. Navy won 32-14 in 2009 and 37-23 in 2010.
Last bowl game: This is LT's third straight bowl game, going back to a 2014 win over Illinois in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Last season, they beat Arkansas State 47-28 in the New Orleans Bowl. This is Navy's fifth straight bowl game, going back to 62-28 loss to Arizona State in the 2012 Fight Hunger Bowl. Last season they beat Pittsburgh 44-28 in the Military Bowl. Navy's streak would be 14 straight bowl games but for a 5-7 campaign in 2011.
Announcers: Roy Philpott and Tom Ramsey

8:00: Ohio vs. Troy (Dollar General Bowl @ Mobile, AL; ESPN): Troy may have been the best team in the Sun Belt this year, but I don't know what to make of their chances against a MAC team. That said, Ohio is pretty milquetoast, so I've got Troy, but barely.
Previous meetings: Just one, back in the 2010 New Orleans Bowl. Troy won 48-21.
Last bowl game: The Bobcats lost last year's Camellia Bowl to Appalachian State 31-29. This is Troy's first bowl appearance since the 2010 New Orleans Bowl, where they beat Ohio 48-21.
Announcers: Clay Matvick and Dusty Dvoracek

Saturday, December 24
8:00: Hawaii vs. Middle Tennessee State (Hawaii Bowl @ Honolulu, HI; ESPN): Maybe sip on a daiquiri and pretend your fireplace actually sounds like the sound of rolling waves as you watch this game? And since Hawaii's playing in it, maybe there'll actually be people there this year? Also, since when did Mark May do games anymore? I thought he was a studio guy for ABC's coverage now? Maybe his name came up in the "gets to go to Hawaii" in the ESPN company lottery this year. Either way, I have MTSU has a pretty clear favorite here.
Previous meetings: Just one, back in 1993. The Rainbow Warriors won 35-14.
Last bowl game: It's been awhile for Hawaii. Their last bowl game was a 62-35 loss to Tulsa in the 2010 edition of this game. MTSU lost 45-31 to Western Michigan in last year's Bahamas Bowl.
Announcers: Chris Cotter and Mark May

Friday, December 16, 2016

Bowl Games 2016: Opening Slate

Predictions are being gradually updated on the site, but they may not be complete by the time games kick-off on Saturday. Nonetheless, let's get this thing started.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Saturday, December 17
2:00: New Mexico vs. Texas-San Antonio (New Mexico Bowl @ Albuquerque, NM; ESPN): Bowl season kicks off featuring good ol' Bob Davie's option-lovin' Lobos facing off against what figures to be an outmatched team somewhat ironically nicknamed the Roadrunners. (We'll overlook at that New Mexico lost to Rutgers earlier this year.) I like Davie and Co. at home.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This is New Mexico's second straight bowl game. They lost last year's edition of this game 45-37 to Arizona. For the Roadrunners, this is the first bowl game in the school's history at FBS, dating back to 2012.
Announcers: Adam Amin and Mack Brown

3:30: Houston vs. San Diego State (Las Vegas Bowl @ Las Vegas, NV; ABC): Look below, and yes sir, that's Brent Musberger released from his SEC Network house arrest and let loose in Vegas. If you need to get wasted during the middle of a Saturday afternoon, take a swig anytime there's an on-air gambling reference. As for the game, this is basically going to come down to whether not Houston shows up. If we get Oklahoma or Louisville Houston, then the Cougars win this one going away. If we get SMU Houston, well, it could get interesting. It's easier to predict the former scenario than the latter scenario.
Previous meetings: Two, back in 1972 and 1973. Houston won both games, 49-19 and 14-9.
Last bowl game: This is Houston's fourth straight bowl game, dating back to the 2013-14 Birmingham Bowl. With some 1-year gaps filled in, the streak would go all the way back to 2003, but alas. They defeated Florida State 38-24 in last season's Peach Bowl.
Announcers: Brent Musberger and Jesse Palmer

  • Toledo vs. Appalachian State (Camellia Bowl @ Montgomery, AL; ESPN): If it weren't for that pesky bunch to the north and west of them, Toledo would be the team we'd be talking about out of the MAC this year. Alas, the Rockets have to settle for second best, and, as I'm predicting, a win over a potentially feisty Appalachian State team.
    Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
    Last bowl game:
    This is Toledo's third straight bowl game. They beat Temple in last year's Boca Raton Bowl 32-17. The Mountaineers beat Ohio in last year's Camellia Bowl, 31-29.
    Eamon McAnaney and John Congemi
  • Central Florida vs. Arkansas State (Cure Bowl @ Orlando, FL; CBSS): I don't care if Monday's blue, Tuesday's grey and Wednesday too
    Thursday I don't care about you, it's Friday I'm in love
    Monday you can fall apart, Tuesday Wednesday break my heart
    Thursday doesn't even start, it's Friday I'm in love

    Saturday wait, and Sunday always comes too late
    but Friday never hesitate...
    I don't care if Monday's black, Tuesday Wednesday heart attack
    Thursday never looking back, it's Friday I'm in love
    Monday you can hold your head, Tuesday Wednesday stay in bed
    or Thursday watch the walls instead, it's Friday I'm in love
    Saturday wait, and Sunday always comes too late
    but Friday never hesitate...
    Dressed up to the eyes, it's a wonderful surprise
    To see your shoes and your spirits rise
    Throwing out your frown and just smiling at the sound
    and as sleek as a shriek spinning round and round
    Always take a big bite, it's such a gorgeous sight
    to see you in the middle of the night
    You can never get enough, enough of this stuff
    It's Friday I'm in love

    I've got UCF here.
    Previous meetings: Just one, back on October 5, 1991. UCF won 31-20.
    Last bowl game:
    UCF had a pretty solid streak going before last year's season-long debacle. Their last bowl game was the 2014 Bitcoin Bowl, where they lost 34-27 to NC State. This is Arkansas State's sixth straight bowl game, dating back to the 2011-12 Bowl. They lost last year's New Orleans Bowl to 47-28 to Louisiana Tech.
    Carter Blackburn and Aaron Taylor
9:00: Southern Mississippi vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (New Orleans Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): For reasons elaborated on below, this is essentially the Ragin Cajun Bowl. They'll get 30,000 folks there easy, but Hattiesburg isn't too far away either (just up I-59!) and if there's an early season bowl destination that sells itself, it's New Orleans. Hopefully the on-the-field action will live up to the action off of it. I'm also predicting some temporarily bummed out Cajuns.
Previous meetings: This depends on how you definite it, but counting only games where both teams are considered "major" (i.e., equivalent to FBS), they've met 20 times since 1974, and Southern Miss is 16-4 in that time. When one or both of the teams was non-major, though, you can also include around 30 games between 1923 and 1974. So, basically, it depends on who you ask, but either way the Golden Eagles hold a sizeable lead.
Last bowl game: The Golden Eagles appeared in last year's Heart of Dallas Bowl, losing 44-31 to Washington. The Ragin' Cajuns had a nifty four-year bowl game streak snapped last season, their last appearance was a 16-3 win over Nevada in the 2014 New Orleans Bowl. They have never appeared in any other bowl game.
Announcers: Jason Benetti and Rod Gilmore

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Bowl Predictions 2016: Final

At least, the final edition of the predictions are available. I'll note that they're not neccessary set in stone. After I wake up this morning, I will begin scanning my newsfeeds for any updated information as the dominoes of the bowl games fall into place. So let's hit the highlights:
  • I redid a lot of the ACC's bowl games to reflect two things. First, it seems likely that Georgia Tech will get a bid to the Taxslayer Bowl, 10 years after our previous appearance in what was then the Gator Bowl. (Hopefully it goes better this time.) I was also persuaded by the arguments for the Backyard Brawl in the Russell Athletic Bowl, but if the RAB isn't then Virginia Tech probably slides up into that slot.
  • I'm sticking to my guns with regards to the top-4 for the playoffs: Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Washington. I think the only argument is for Penn State over Ohio State. Even if this gets weird later today, the damage will only be contained to the CFP-controlled bowls, unless Washington winds up in the Rose. 
  • I made some other changes based off rumors, like Houston playing San Diego State in the Las Vegas Bowl. They came form ESPN folks, though, and they own almost all the bowl games, so if anyone has an inside track, it's them.
That's all I have for now. I've explained my process before, and I'm out of things to explain. All that's next is to wait.

Friday, December 02, 2016

This Weekend in College Football: Week 14

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

7:00: Ohio vs. Western Michigan (Mid-American Conference Championship @ Detroit, MI; ESPN2): By any reasonable measure, Western Michigan should win easily. However, I can't help but think back to the 2013 MAC title game, where an unranked Bowling Green beat an undefeated Northern Illinois 47-27. That said, yeah, you can't reasonably pick against the Broncos here.

9:00: Washington vs. Colorado (Pac-12 Championship @ Santa Clara, CA; FOX): Strangely, an upset here probably results in overall less intrigue, since Colorado will just slide right into the Rose Bowl. Instead, all the drama is in the Huskies winning. That said, a win here would give Washington a pretty solid victory for the ol' strength-of-schedule, and they would be a conference champion. Would that be enough to ensure their spot? I think so. And while I think these Buffs are pretty good, I think Washington is just a bit better.

  • Temple @ Navy (American Athletic Conference Championship; ABC): If you like keeping the ball on the ground, this is the game for you. Featuring two of the best rushing attacks in the country, passing will be at a premium. That said, I think the Owls are better matchup for Navy than South Florida would've been, and I think they'll be able to prevail at home.
  • Louisiana Tech @ Western Kentucky (Conference USA Championship; ESPN): If you like to see the pigskin spending most of the afternoon in the air, well then good news! Featuring two attacks that absolutely like to fling out it around, consequences be damned, this game figures to be a rollicking good 62-58 kind of time. In that scenario, I like the Hilltoppers.
  • Troy @ Georgia Southern (ESPN2): Southern enters this game on a four game losing streak that doesn't figure to stop there.
  • Kansas State @ Texas Christian (FS1): With the two teams otherwise through the rest of the Big 12 schedule, they enter pretty darn close when it comes to most statistical categories, so I figure this a coin flip. In that case, I like K-State's chances.
12:30: Oklahoma State @ Oklahoma (FOX): It's Bedlam! And honestly, I don't figure this one to be especially crazy. Oklahoma has been pretty good this year! While Oklahoma State is 8-1 in conference, they haven't exactly dominated the way the Sooners have (seriously, as fluky as that Central Michigan loss was, they should've also lost to Texas Tech). I've got the Sooners all the way here.

3:30: Baylor @ West Virginia (FS1): West Virginia.

4:00: Alabama vs. Florida (Southeastern Conference Championship @ Atlanta, GA; CBS): Seriously, SEC, just move Alabama (and Auburn) to the East and be done with it. Bama should roll.

7:30: Arkansas State @ Texas State (ESPN2): Texas State is basically the Rutgers of the Sun Belt, so the Red Wolves should roll easily.

7:45: San Diego State @ Wyoming (Mountain West Conference Championship; ESPN): the Aztecs ventured up to Laramie two weeks ago and had a chance to tie with the clock expired with an extra point. Instead, they opted for the two point conversion, which failed. Since then, both these teams have fallen backward into the game. SDSU's position as West champs was never in any doubt, but they lost to Colorado State last week kinda badly (63-31!). Wyoming, meanwhile, is here mainly because Boise State had the courtesy to lose to Air Force the day before they got bowled over by New Mexico. So, basically, I don't know what to expect here, except that the San Diego State players are probably going to be very, very cold, with the temperature expected to be somewhere around 20 degrees (Fahrenheit!) at kickoff. So good luck with that, and I like Wyoming here.

  • Clemson vs. Virginia Tech (Atlantic Coast Conference Championship @ Orlando, FL; ABC): Hey, remember that time North Carolina totally recovered an onside kick to have a chance at beating Clemson in the ACC title game last year? All I'm saying is that, for maybe only the third or fourth time all year, the Tigers need to come to play, lest they need to get bailed out again. It's not a good look.
  • Wisconsin vs. Pennsylvania State (Big Ten Championship @ Indianapolis, IN; FOX): So, yeah, this is totally the Big Ten title game we all expected a few weeks ago. Well, okay, it half is, since Wisconsin is pretty good and was a pretty expected pick to win the Big Ten West at that point. Instead, it was the East not holding up its end of the bargain, the circumstances of which we're all familiar with at this point. So who's going win this game? I have to say, I'm still skeptical on Penn State. Yes, they beat Ohio State, but (for the umpteenth time) the transitive property does not apply to college football. Also, it wasn't like the Nittany Lions went out there and dominated the Buckeyes: they were outgained by over 200 yards and needed some special teams luck to win the game. On the balance, the Badgers' defense was second only to Michigan's in the Big Ten. They're a force to be reckoned with, and in a different year Wisconsin would be coming into this undefeated. I like the Badgers here.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Bowl Predictions 2016: Week 7

First, a link.

And now, business. First off, many of these predictions are not as accurate as I'd like for the week after Thanksgiving. While all the controversy is closer to the top of the College Football Playoff rankings, the real uncertainty is due to two teams: Western Michigan and Navy.

Western Michigan, as you may know, are currently undefeated heading into their MAC title game tilt with Ohio Friday night. Navy will play in the AAC title game against Temple on Saturday. CMU is currently ranked 17th, while Navy is ranked 19th. The Playoff rankings are relatively opaque, which is sometimes a good thing (they seem more willing to move teams around based on new data, unlike the traditional polls), but also a bad thing because it makes it harder for us to predict. (And, frankly, we should know what their criteria are instead of having to guess at it.) I don't think it's especially likely that a 2-loss Navy would jump an undefeated Western Michigan, but the point is no one knows for sure. The result, currently, is chaos. The worst-case scenario is that the Committee decides that they need more data, thus meaning we all have to wait for Navy to play Army next weekend. In essence, it's entirely possible that almost every MAC, AAC, or bowl with at-large slots will be unable to fill its spots until December 11th, possibly affecting the bowls that kick off the following Saturday.

In other words, there's probably a lot of bowl officials going "I love our country, but... it'd really work out out if Navy lost on Saturday" right now. 

  • I just re-shuffled some of the Sun Belt bids, so the these predictions are fresh as of about 10 minutes ago.
  • Fun times in the ACC bowl hierarchy, where some unexpectedly 6-6 teams and a Louisville loss to Kentucky have shuffled things up. Let's just go down the list:
    • Clemson's in the playoff if they beat Virginia Tech, nothing's changed there. They'll be either a 2 or 3 seed if they're in, I think.
    • Me, and just about everyone else, is now putting Florida State in the Orange Bowl over Louisville. Look, I don't agree with it, but maybe the Cardinals just should've taken care of business at home.
    • Since four Big Ten teams are going to get into the CFP-controlled bowls, one of them is going to be in the Orange Bowl. And if one of them is in the Orange Bowl, then an ACC team gets in the Citrus Bowl. So that's where Louisville will wind up if they miss out on the Orange Bowl.
    • The Russell Athletic Bowl gets the first ACC selection after that mess, and I think they'll take the top team on the board, Virginia Tech.
    • Next up is the ACC mid-tier consisting of the Taxslayer Bowl (probably no Music City this year), Belk Bowl, Sun Bowl, and Pinstripe Bowl. Right now, I'm going with the obvious geographic fits for the Pinstripe (Pittsburgh), Belk (North Carolina) and Taxslayer (Miami). So that leaves the Sun to pick from 8-4 Georgia Tech and the ACC's three 6-6 teams. I'm going with the Jackets for that one. About the only thing that I think could change is Tech to the Taxslayer and Miami to the Sun, but that's about it.
  • As with last year, it's basically impossible to predict where the 5-7 teams will end up. We can, however, pretty safely say a bowl eligible 6-7 Hawaii will end up at the Hawaii Bowl, but it's not official yet. Here are your potential APR 5-7 teams, in priority order:
    • North Texas
    • Texas/Mississippi State
    • Northern Illinois
That's about it for now. Stay tuned Saturday night, when the last predictions will go up before we transition to game previews. (Hopefully.)

Saturday, November 26, 2016





THWG Thought of the Day: 11/26

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

This Weekend in College Football: Week 13

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Michigan @ Ohio State (ABC) (41˚, clear): Once again, I'll be doing weather for each of these games, though I can go ahead and sum it up here: it'll be chilly-to-cold in most places but clear, with overcast conditions in the northeast and rain throughout most of the day on the West Coast.
    Anyway! Here's a wonderful demonstration of why having rivals in the same division is still pretty neat. Of course, it could be slightly neater if either Michigan or Ohio State were still undefeated, but what can you do? Either way, theses are still two of the best teams in college football, though each has their weaknesses. I personally think this game is going to be tight and low-scoring. Both teams sport pretty good defenses, and the best player on the field will be one of Michigan's linebackers (Jabrill Peppers). Both have had difficult with their offenses in the past few weeks, and Ohio State's run game has really been kind of lacking all year. I view this game as kind of a coin flip, and earlier in the week I picked Michigan. I'm not terribly convinced either way, though.
  • Kentucky @ Louisville (ESPN) (47˚, clear): In mid-September, I think most of us who follow college football thought Mark Stoops was going to get fired, but then the Wildcats put together a respectable season against the very soft underbelly of the SEC East. So, naturally, they get to face a frustrated Louisville after a close loss to Houston. Good luck with that!
  • Virginia @ Virginia Tech (ESPN2) (41˚, clear): Over in the other Commonwealth, VPI sort of won the Coastal by default, but that means the pressure is off and, yeah, I think they're going to pound UVA.
  • Kansas @ Kansas State (FS1) (55˚, clear): Like I said the other day, I still really miss KU-Mizzou, but I'm okay with this game being moved to rivalry week for now. But yeah, I think K-State's got this.
  • Purdue @ Indiana (ESPNU) (45˚, clear): Nothin' like playing Purdue to get that necessary sixth win...
  • Rutgers @ Maryland (ESPNEWS) (49˚, clear): [substitute "Purdue" with "Rutgers"]
  • Georgia Tech @ Georgia (SEC) (62˚, clear): To Hell With Georgia
  • Illinois @ Northwestern (BTN) (44˚, clear): So Illinois is slightly better than Purdue and Rutgers, but not by much. Northwestern should also get to 6.
  • Central Florida @ South Florida (CBSS) (78˚, clear): I think this one could be pretty tight, but USF is just on too much of a roll this year. Also, USF needs this game to stay in the AAC East title hunt.
12:30: Syracuse @ Pittsburgh (ACC) (40˚, overcast): At least Pittsburgh is holding up its end of the weather bargain. Shouldn't matter either way against the 'Cuse, though.

3:00: Boston College @ Wake Forest (ACC/RSN) (53˚, clear): BC's 30-0 win over UConn last weekend says a lot, lot more about the current state of UConn football than it does about the Eagles, who still struggle to score points, and that doesn't figure to change against Wake Forest.

  • Notre Dame @ Southern California (ABC) (60˚, rain): After this game Notre Dame will be 4-8 and it will be fantastic. But chin up, Domers, the Cowboys are good this year, and the Yankees are finally rebuilding a little bit!
  • Auburn @ Alabama (CBS) (63˚, clear): so my parents don't live in Alabama anymore, which means I'm not there this week like I usually am. I can't say I miss it too much, but one thing I do miss the absolutely frenzy about this game that engulfs the whole state. That said... I think this will probably be kind of a boring game? It's in Tuscaloosa and Alabama is just too dominant this year.
  • Michigan State @ Pennsylvania State (ESPN) (42˚, overcast): Sparty showed some signs of life in its past two games, pasting Rutgers the way everyone is pasting Rutgers this year and then losing a tight game to Ohio State. Will the Buckeyes be watching this game the lockers under Ohio Stadium, hoping for an upset? I'm not sure about that part, but I can say a little more definitively that the odds are pretty long here. Yeah, Penn State's schedule other than Michigan and Ohio State has been pretty easy, but they've also beat most of those opponents pretty soundly. I like the Nittany Lions here.
  • Duke @ Miami (ESPN2) (79˚, clear): Duke may be playing for bowl eligibility here (more on that later today or Sunday), but it doesn't look good against a rejuvenated Miami squad.
  • West Virginia @ Iowa State (FS1) (54˚, clear): Iowa State needs to be taken seriously, but as long as can do they should be able to take care of business in Ames.
  • Navy @ Southern Methodist (ESPNU) (62˚, partly cloudy): Navy's got the AAC West in the bag already, but they should be able to close out conference play with a statement and a potential shot at hosting the AAC title game (depending on who wins the East).
  • Mississippi State @ Mississippi (SEC) (55˚, clear): I think recent years have made us forget that this is was pretty much the norm for the Egg Bowl in most years. Losing 38-18 to Vandy is never a good look, but I still like the Rebels here.
  • Minnesota @ Wisconsin (BTN) (48˚, partly cloudy): Paul Bunyan's Axe is also for the Big Ten West there year, but let me be clear: if Minnesota wins this will be a huge upset.
  • San Jose State @ Fresno State (CBSS) (55˚, rain): Of all the games at this timeslot, this sure is a game that you could watch. I'm going with SJSU.
  • Tulane @ Connecticut (ESPNEWS) (46˚, clear): Tulane, mostly because I'd like to see them win.
  • Oregon @ Oregon State (Pac12) (47˚, rain): Well, this is probably the most low-key Civil War in several years (I'm not even sure I'll be able to watch it here, I should probably check that). At any rate, I'm picking the Beavers here, because why not?
5:30: Florida Atlantic @ Middle Tennessee State (beIN) (55˚, partly cloudy): Going with MTSU here.

  • California-Los Angeles @ California (ESPN2) (55˚, rain): UCLA has a litany of issues, yes, but frankly I think they're still probably a better team than Cal. Going with the Bruins over the Bears here.
  • Western Kentucky @ Marshall (ESPNU) (41˚, partly cloudy): This used to be one of those sneaky-good fun games, but the Thundering Herd are 3-8 on the year and 2-5 in Conference-USA, so the odds are not looking good for them.
  • Utah @ Colorado (FOX) (51˚, partly cloudy): If they gave "comeback of the year" awards to teams, the Buffs would win in a landslide. I think they'll complete their rise with a win here and a meeting with Washington next week in Santa Clara.
  • South Carolina @ Clemson (ESPN) (53˚, clear): I think Clemson is as good and as flawed as either, say, Michigan or Ohio State, but they're still miles ahead of a punchless South Carolina.
  • East Carolina @ Temple (ESPNEWS) (45˚, partly cloudy): If Temple wins this game, they'll be playing next week in Annapolis for the AAC title, otherwise Navy will have to go to Tampa. That said, I don't figure ECU to offer up much resistance.
  • Tennessee @ Vanderbilt (SEC) (46˚, clear): Well, Vandy sure did a good job of beating up a very injured Ole Miss team last weekend. Will lightning strike twice for the Commodores? I'm figuring no.
  • Florida @ Florida State (ABC) (57˚, partly cloudy): It's going to be completely up to the Gators' defense to keep them in this game, and I'm not sure they can really stave off FSU's attack for a full 60 minutes.
  • Rice @ Stanford (Pac12) (54˚, rain): Stanford.
9:00: Colorado State @ San Diego State (CBSS) (60˚, rain): If it weren't for their bizarre loss to South Alabama, the Aztecs would definitely be in play for the Group of Five bowl slot. Instead, they should be able to take care of business here.

  • Wyoming @ New Mexico (ESPN2) (48˚, clear): Speaking of taking care of business in the Mountain West, the Cowboys should be able to do so here.
  • Utah State @ Brigham Young (ESPNU) (41˚, chance of rain): Apparently this does have rivalry game name ("The Old Wagon Wheel"), but nonetheless the Cougars figure to roll.
I will try to get a bowl predictions update up late tonight or early Sunday, so stay tuned!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

This Week in College Football: Week 13

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

7:30: Louisiana State @ Texas A&M (ESPN): It's late November, which means if nothing else we'll start getting some fun weather conditions, so I'll be noting them for all games. (Keep in mind all forecasts will be as of early Thursday morning.) It'll be around 60 in College Station tonight. As for the game, well, it's not Texas-TAMU, and really, the story here may be the coaches more than anything else. (Especially since Leonard Fournette reportedly didn't even make the trip.) DACOACHO probably isn't going to be retained as head coach of LSU, and while I don't think A&M will fire Sumlin, his seat is getting a bit warm. All that said, I like the Bayou Bengals here.

  • Houston @ Memphis (ABC): (60 degrees, clear) Memphis was still respectable this week, but the Cougars have got their grove back after beating Louisville last weekend.
  • North Carolina State @ North Carolina (ESPN): (63 degrees, cloudy) While NC State pulling off the upset here would greatly help my bowl team predicament, I don't think they can quite hang with Carolina's offense.
  • Northern Illinois @ Kent State (CBSS): (40 degress, overcast) Not much at stake in this MAC matchups, but I like Huskies.
2:30: Arkansas @ Missouri (CBS): (48 degrees, clear) I... think it's rational to miss the KU-Mizzou rivalry? Either way, Arkansas hopes to, and should be able to, turn around a disappointing end of the season here.

  • Nebraska @ Iowa (ABC): (40 degrees, clear) Iowa is a slight favorite here, but I'm not buying it. I'm going with the 'Huskers.
  • Washington @ Washington State (FOX): (44 degrees, chance of rain) And this is what you're going to watch on Friday. The Apple Cup is fascinating for many reasons. For instance, not very mean years ago this game featured 1 win combined by these two teams. For another, I can't think of a more marked contrast between two teams' locales than between the gorgeous waterfront locale of Husky Stadium in Seattle and the relative moonscape that is the Palouse.
    Photo from the Seattle Times
    Tellingly, I couldn't find a decent aerial photo of Martin Stadium. Anyway, the point is, these two places couldn't be more different. I have hard time of thinking of any other intra-state rivals that are as distant. (I guess it depends on how you view the various California rivalries).
    As for the game itself, well, here's the situation. I still think Washington is in the playoff if they win out, i.e., this game and the Pac-12 title game against Colorado or USC. I also still think Washington is pretty good, dismantlings by USC nonwithstanding. On the other side, we have Wazzu, which as you know by now spent the beginning of the season losing to Eastern Washington and Boise State. They also lost to Colorado last weekend, but that's respectable this year.
    If there's another team in the Pac-12 the Huskies resemble, it's probably Colorado, even though they'll be missing one of their d-line stars, I still like them to win this one. The fact the game will kick off at 12:30 local time probably also helps them.
  • Texas Christian @ Texas (FS1): (65 degrees, clear) In perhaps the worst firing ever, just in terms of the process, Charlie Strong is out. Both teams are sliding into the end of the year and a bowl bid is on the line. With all the drama around Austin, Charlie Strong is either going to get carried off the field or actually fired after the game. I'm betting on the latter.
  • Boise State @ Air Force (CBSS): (54 degrees, clear) For Boise to have any shot at the Cotton Bowl, they need to win this game and hope Wyoming loses to New Mexico. I suspect they can take for business on their end.
4:00: Louisiana Tech @ Southern Mississippi (ESPNEWS): (72 degrees, clear) Southern Miss isn't, like, bad, this year, but they aren't very good either. LaTech should win. (But you'll have something to put on during halftime of the Apple Cup, at least.)

5:00: Toledo @ Western Michigan (ESPN2): (41 degrees, chance of rain) These are the two best teams in the MAC, and it's not even close. The question is whether Toledo is anywhere close to Western Michigan, who have beaten every opponent on their schedule (except for Northwestern) by at least two touchdowns.

6:00: Baylor vs. Texas Tech (@Arlington, TX): (dome) Texas Tech

8:30: Cincinnati @ Tulsa (ESPN2): (48 degrees, clear) I don't really see how Cincy will score enough to keep up here, or how Tommy Tuberville will retain his job.

9:30: Arizona State @ Arizona (ESPN): (69 degrees, clear) We'll wrap up with the Territorial Cup, which, well, the nicest thing I can probably say about this game is that Arizona probably only has any sliver of a chance because it's a rivalry game.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Bowl Predictions 2016: Week 6

The new predictions are now up.

Provided I did the math correctly, there are currently 65 bowl eligible teams. That means we need 15 more, but where will they come from? Let's list out every team on the cusp.

I'll just go in order of the ESPN standings page.
  1. Southern Methodist (5-6): The Mustangs have to play at Navy this Saturday, the odds of them getting to 6-6 are pretty slim.
  2. North Carolina State (5-6): They play North Carolina on Friday, which isn't impossible for the Wolfpack, but again, I'm not feeling good about it.
  3. Texas Christian (5-5): TCU still has two games to play, against Texas and Kansas State. I think I'll win one but not the other, with my money on Texas.
  4. Texas (5-6): Since I have TCU beating Texas, well, that pretty much knocks the Longhorns out. Shouldn't have lost to Kansas!
  5. Indiana (5-6): If only all of the above teams could get to play Purdue with bowl eligibility on the line! I like the Hoosiers chances.
  6. Maryland (5-6): See above, but replace "Purdue" with "Rutgers".
  7. Northwestern (5-6): See above, but replace "Rutgers" with "Illinois".
  8. Texas-San Antonio (5-6): The Roadrunners appear to be pretty evenly matched with Charlotte, so it could be kind of a tossup. I'm giving UTSA the edge, though.
  9. North Texas (5-6): So the Mean Green wrap up with UTEP, which is two wins worse in C-USA than North Texas but not that obviously worse. I'm still giving them a slight edge.
  10. Southern Mississippi (5-6): The Golden Eagles will play Louisiana Tech on Friday, and I just can't favor USM over LaTech.
  11. Army (6-5): Army played two FCS teams this year, so one of the wins doesn't count toward bowl eligibility, so if they lose to Navy (as predicted) in a few weeks then their record for bowl eligibility will actually be 5-6. That said, they'd almost certainly get picked as a 6-6 team, if they want to.
  12. Arizona State (5-6): The Sun Devils will play their arch-rivals Friday night, but they should prevail. 
  13. Vanderbilt (5-6): The Commodores will end their season against Tennessee, but as one of the schools in the APR Top 5 they'll almost certainly get a bid at 5-7.
  14. Mississippi (5-6): I suspect Ole Miss are slight favorites in the Egg Bowl, and I imagine they'd get in at 5-7, but still, it'd make everything a lot easier if they win like they're supposed to.
  15. South Alabama (5-5): USA only needs to win one of their two remaining games against Idaho and New Mexico State, which, well, they should be able to win one of those.
So, yeah, that's exactly 15 teams, and the odds of all of them winning over the next two weeks are probably somewhere near zero. I have 9 of them as legitimate favorites, so that would still leave us, and everyone, short 6 teams. I supposed it's entirely possible all of these teams get bids, but so far I haven't done a lot of research for the potential 5-7 teams (other than Army and Vanderbilt).

In this week's edition, I also started doing Internet research to try to figure out what teams are favored to go where, but with so much uncertainty it's difficult right now. Next week should be a little more fruitful.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

This Weekend in College Football: Week 12

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Wisconsin @ Purdue (ABC): It doesn't get much easier for the Badgers, as they should continue to cruise through the non-Michigan/Ohio State portion of their schedule.
  • Ohio State @ Michigan State (ESPN): One upside of my trip to Columbus last weekend: being around a bunch of Ohio State fans as it gradually dawns on them that they no longer control their own destiny in the Big Ten East. Better hope Sparty finds a sudden burst of competence sometime after this game, Buckeyes!
  • Kansas State @ Baylor (ESPN2): Baylor.
  • Oklahoma State @ Texas Christian (FS1): Oklahoma State has made it tough on themselves as of late. Yes, they handled West Virginia, but since they've beaten K-State by 6 and Texas Tech on a missed extra point. (I don't mean they won by a point, which they did; the margin literally was a missed extra point on what was thought to be the tying touchdown by Texas Tech.) And now they roll into Forth Worth, where I still have them pegged as the favorite, but with major reservations.
  • Texas-San Antonio @ Texas A&M (ESPNU): Welcome to SEC Cupcake Weekend, where most of the SEC doesn't even play other FBS teams, unlike TAMU here. In accordance with our long-standing policy, I don't list FCS vs. FBS matchups, so this is one of the few SEC games listed here.
  • Maryland @ Nebraska (ESPNEWS): Fun fact: Maryland and Nebraska lost to Ohio State by the exact same score (62-3). I still have the Huskers here, though.
  • Louisiana-Lafayette @ Georgia (SEC): This is definitely a game that it taking place in Athens, Georgia this weekend. Yep.
  • Iowa @ Illinois (BTN): You know, I'm not sure I'd be much more inclined to watch the Big Ten Network, even if I did get it in HD. I'll go with Iowa here.
  • Virginia @ Georgia Tech (ACC): You can pick an number of recent events to point out that you didn't see that coming, but even considering its relative unimportance, last week's update of VPI was pretty shocking. Yes, Virginia Tech's offense was awful, but we did generate actual pressure on the defensive line; started three freshman offensive linemen, which then played its best game as a unit on the season; and, oh yeah, our backup short-yardage QB had a 50+ yard touchdown run. It was good, vintage stuff, though it makes me terrified of what might happen when we play the Hokies next year.
    As for this game, hoo boy, the potential for a let down feels high, eh? I don't know if I'd call it a trap game (can 6-4 teams really have trap games?), but I'd like to think the focus will be there on Senior Day. I don't expect the team to suddenly be a lot better than they've been over the course of the season, but let's hope something was learned in Blacksburg last wekeend.
  • Miami @ North Carolina State (ACC): I wrote last week that the Canes seemed to get their early-season mojo back, and sure enough, they beat Virginia by three scores. I expect the trend to continue here.
1:00: Florida @ Louisiana State (SEC): The odd timeslot and network placement for this game should tell you that yep, this was the game that was rescheduled. I still don't know what magic was worked to both make this game happen and at Baton Rouge, but we'll take it. Check your local listings to see if you get this instead of UL-Lafayette and Georgia. Also I like LSU.

2:00: Oregon @ Utah (Pac12): After two straight blowout losses to Southern Cal and Stanford, Oregon's at 3-7 and effectively done.

3:00: Duke @ Pittsburgh (ACC/RSN): Pitt's a good team! The only really shocking thing about their upset of Clemson was that they did in Death Valley, so I'll give them credit for that. About the only thing that could stop them against the Blue Devils is a let-down.

  • Missouri @ Tennessee (CBS): Tennessee.
  • Washington State @ Colorado (FOX): If I told myself back in September that this would be the late-season Pac-12 game you need to have circled on your calendar (along with the Apple Cup), I would've said you were a lot crazier than any of the scenarios presented in those Chick-fil-a "chicken for breakfast" commercials. Yet, here we are. With a win, Colorado also ensures the Pac-12 South comes down to their clash next week against Utah. I suspect there will be plenty of reasons to look forward to that one.
  • Virginia Tech @ Notre Dame (NBC): Okay, so yeah, losing to Georgia Tech isn't really the best look this season, but chin-up Virginia Tech! You're still much improved over last year, and you'll get a chance to soothe the sting of the loss by pasting the worst Notre Dame team in a decade.
  • Florida State @ Syracuse (ABC/ESPN2): I still have FSU running the table, so...
  • Texas @ Kansas (ABC/ESPN2): I don't think there's a number of points Texas could run up on the Jayhawks that would have any effect on Charlie Strong's job status after the season, and perhaps more damningly, I don't think Texas's dysfunctional offense is really capable of shellacking anyone anyway. (They're still going to win, though.)
  • Indiana @ Michigan (ESPN): I like the idea of Indiana as TEAM CHAOS as much as the next person, but they beat Maryland and Rutgers by a combined 12 points and lost to Penn State by two touchdowns. Also included are losses to Wake Forest and Northwestern. The Hoosiers are just, like, not really that good this year.
  • Texas Tech @ Iowa State (FS1): So Texas Tech needs to win out against Iowa State and Baylor to get to 6-6 and maybe keep Kliff Kingsbury employed. I'd say odds are good they win on or the other (and probably this one), but not both.
  • Buffalo @ Western Michigan (ESPNU): So Gameday's at this point, but who watches Gameday anymore? I still might if I lived in on the East Coast, I'm not getting up at 6:00 AM to watch 3 hours of people talking about football. At any rate, the boat will continue to be rowed.
  • Northwestern @ Minnesota (BTN): These teams have been excruciatingly similar in Big Ten play so far, mostly in that they're both 4-3 and have scored 201 and 199 points, respectively. Since it's at Minnesota, I'll give the edge of the Gophers.
  • San Diego State @ Wyoming (CBSS): And here's where Boise is pinning their hopes after Wyoming's triple overtime 69-66 loss to UNLV last weekend. San Diego State is probably actually the second best team in the Mountain West despite a bizarre loss to South Alabama (seriously, the Jaguars beat Mississippi State and SDSU and are 1-5 in the Sun Belt). I have them as the favorites here, which should get the Aztecs a match with Boise in a couple of weeks.
4:00: Navy @ East Carolina (ESPNEWS): Like the Florida-LSU game, this game was also pushed back due to Hurricane Matthew. Unlike that game, though, I don't have any doubts about who's going to win, and it's not going to go well for the Pirates versus the government.

  • Southern Mississippi @ North Texas (beIN): I'd say Southern Miss is just a touch better than UNT. A touch.
  • Stanford @ California (Pac12): It's the Big Game! Much like their last opponent, Cal also doesn't really have a defense, and Stanford put up 52 on Oregon. It doesn't figure to go much better for the Bears, but hey, it's a rivalry game, so there's always a wildcard factor.
  • Clemson @ Wake Forest (ESPN): Yes, Clemson lost to Pitt, and yes, the Tigers didn't really look great in the process, but like I said above, Pitt is pretty good. Wake, however, is just good, and it's going to cost them here.
  • Arkansas @ Mississippi State (ESPNU): A 38-10 loss pretty much has me saying "so much for Novembert" but I still like the Razorbacks here.
  • South Florida @ Southern Methodist (CBSS): I'm going to be honest: I don't like SMU's chances here.
7:30: Arizona State @ Washington (FOX): USC is enjoying a resurgent second half, Arizona State, not so much. Washington gets back into shape here.

  • Oklahoma @ West Virginia (ABC): Morgantown. Night. Right now (as of 7:30 AM, Eastern) the forecast for kickoff is 38 degrees with a 30% chance of snow. Football weather! I still like the Sooners, but boy howdy the conditions will be ripe to ignite some couches.
  • Tulsa @ Central Florida (ESPNEWS): If there were a "comeback team of the year" award, UCF would probably win it. I'm not sure it'll be enough against this high-flying Tulsa team, though.
  • Mississippi @ Vanderbilt (SEC): The only other conference game of the day in the SEC! Ole Miss rallied to beat Texas A&M after taking the redshirt of their freshman quarterback, who came into his own in the 4th quarter. The task will be easier against the Commodores.
  • Pennsylvania State @ Rutgers (BTN): The Big Ten Network apparently is the home of games that figure mostly to be akin to a trainwreck. Hopefully those rights fees are worth the brand dilution of having Rutgers in your league! (... they probably are, but still)
10:15: New Mexico @ Colorado State (ESPN2): If you, like me, prefer 6-6 teams in bowl games over 5-7 teams, you really need Colorado State to win this game.

  • Southern California @ California-Los Angeles (ESPN): Though there's basically nothing about UCLA's season to indicate this, I have a feeling the Bruins will be able to keep it close until USC pulls ahead in the 4th quarter. Also, this game is always worth a peek due to the color uniforms for both teams and the immaculate Rose Bowl field.
  • Air Force @ San Jose State (CBSS): If you're into bowl eligibility, well, this isn't the game for you, since Air Force is 7-3 and SJSU is 3-7. I think that's about what you need to know about this one.
  • Arizona @ Oregon State (Pac12): Seriously, the bottom of this column is particularly dire. These two teams have a combined 4-16 record. Oof. Uh, Beavers I guess?

Friday, November 18, 2016

2018 World Cup Update: Jurgen Klinsmann Memorial Edition

So it's three days since the US lost one of the most embarrassing games I can recall them playing, a 4-0 humiliation at Costa Rica. (And this is after I had flown to Columbus and back to watch them lose their first home qualifier in fifteen years.) The best thing I can say about this title is that I hope I'm wrong and we'll still qualify easily without having to fire the coach, but frankly I agree with... just about everyone now in saying that US needs a new face on the sidelines.

And in the future, let's maybe not assume a coach can survive nearly two full cycles. For whatever reason, it just doesn't seem to happen.

Anyway, I've updated the status of every team page with the latest results from this most recent international window. No one has been eliminated, but we could see a couple in March. Notably, though, no one is on the verge of qualifying. Depending on how things shake out in the AFC, we could see some teams qualify next June, but for everyone else it'll be around Labor Day next year.

Let's take a quick glance at each confederation.

The final twelve entrants from Asia are halfway through the qualification cycle. In Group A, it's race between the three favorites. Iran is currently topping the group with 11 points, followed by South Korea with 10, and then Uzbekistan with 9. Some combination of those three will make it through, but the question is which one will finish where.
  • Iran's five remaining matches feature three home games against China, Uzbekistan, and Syria. They'll be favorites in all three. However, they also have to go on the road to Uzbekistan and South Korea. I think they'll get at least 7 points from their home games, which puts them at somewhere between 18 and 24 points overall.
  • South Korea will play on the road three times, against China, Qatar, and Uzbekistan. They've already played all three at home and while they did win all those matches, it wasn't terribly convincing. The only gimme is the home game against Syria, as they also have Iran at home. They've been so inconsistent they could get somewhere between 3 and 15 points from these matches, I think. In other words, they may comfortably qualify, or they could wind up in Tashkent next September really needing a result.
  • Uzbekistan will also play on the road three times, versus Syria, Iran, and China. They'll be favorites in two of those three, but it will be really tough for them to get out of Tehran with any points. They also get Qatar and South Korea at home. I'd estimate they'll get somewhere been 4 and 12 points, but I feel a bit better about their chances than I do for South Korea.
Over in Group B it's not early as obvious how it's going to go down, but the favorites would seem to be in a bit of trouble. Right now Saudi Arabia and Japan are tied with 10 points, followed by Australia and the United Arab Emirates with 9. The Blue Samurai and Socceroos still have some time to make up some ground, but they also still have to play each other. We'll check back in on this in March.

There was some action in Africa this time around, but each team so far as only played 2 of 6 matches, so there's a ways to go, and qualifying there doesn't resume until next August. Some quick reactions, though:
  • Algeria is currently tied at the bottom of Group B with a single point.
  • In Group D, South Africa scored a pretty solid upset at home by beating Senegal 2-1.
  • In Group E, Egypt got some payback against the team that eliminated them last time around by beating Ghana 2-0 in Alexandria. The Pharaohs currently lead the group with 6 points, while the Black Stars have only 1.
You know about what happened to the US already, so let's talk about everyone else:
  • Last Friday every away team won their match, though the only one that was anything near a surprise was probably Panama 1, Honduras 0.
  • Los Canaleros then went back home and kept Mexico at bay, earning a 0-0 draw.
  • Trinidad and Tobago are so far playing the "sixth team that doesn't really belong" role with a 2-0 loss at home to Costa Rica and then a 3-1 loss on the road against Honduras.
Again, we're just two games into ten overall, so we'll have more in the spring.

Oceania's wacky qualification format means two teams didn't even play this time around. The most shocking thing was probably New Zealand's scoreless draw on the road against New Caledonia, but nonetheless the All-Whites should have this round wrapped up by the end of March. They'll meet the winner of Group B in August.

They Europeans have played only 4 matches of 10, so we'll see them again in March. A quick survey of the groups:
  • In Group A, it looks like the Dutch are back, just behind France's 10 points with 7 of their own. The question is if the Swedes will continue to stick around.
  • Group B is going to come down to Switzerland or Portugal. Right now the difference is Switzerland's win at home to start the campaign, The two won't meet again until the very last match of the round in October.
  • Germany remains completely in control of Group C, but hey, they at least put on a good show at San Marino last weekend (they won 8-0 in front of crowd of 3,500). Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan are fighting it out for the second spot, though the former did beat the latter 4-0.
  • In Group D, the Welsh have now drawn three straight games at Austria, versus Georgia, and versus Serbia. The group remains tight between Ireland, Serbia, and Wales.
  • In Group E, Montenegro's darkhorse qualification campaign suffered a 3-2 setback in Armenia. Poland continued to cruise and Denmark, 4 points behind and in third place, continues to fight to stay in the mix.
  • In Group F, England beat Scotland 3-0 and remains at the top of the group, but clustered right behind them are Slovenia, Slovakia, and Lithuania.
  • Yes, Israel is currently just a point behind Italy and Spain with 9 points, but that already includes a loss at home to the Italians and they have to play two three more times. Group G may come down to Italy's road game at Spain next September.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina stayed alive in Group H by picking up a point on the road against Greece, but this still Belgium's to lose.
  • Last but definitely not least, they're Group I, which remains the last predictable. Croatia did beat Euro 2016 darlings Iceland, but that was at home. There's still a lot of games to be played here.
 That's about it for now. Look for this column again in March!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Bowl Predictions 2016: Week 5

Get 'em while they're... only a couple days old?

Anyway, yes, at lot of stuff happened, but frankly most of the scenarios I outlined last week are still in play. Really, most of the changes you see in this week's predictions are because of two things. First, Texas A&M lost to Ole Miss. Second, Auburn lost to Georgia. So long, the SEC's best hope of getting three teams into the CFP-controlled bowls! (TAMU could still do it, but I don't see them beating LSU at this point.) Of course, that leaves me in the rather uncomfortable position of putting four (4!) Big Ten teams in those selfsame bowl games, so... check back next week when I hopefully have something more reasonable.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

This Weekend in College Football: Week 11

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • South Carolina @ Florida (CBS): Neither of these teams is especially, er, gifted offensively, but I have a hard time predicting success for South Carolina's very young quarterback against a reasonably good Florida defense.
  • Baylor @ Oklahoma (ABC/ESPN2): Sooners.
  • Pennsylvania State @ Indiana (ABC/ESPN2): The Hoosier's are the Big Ten's weekly trap game, and probably one of the hardest remaining contests for the Nittany Lions. That said, State's been playing at a high enough level that they should win.
  • Mississippi State @ Alabama (ESPN): Yes, the Bulldogs upset Texas A&M, but that's about where this train figures to stop.
  • West Virginia @ Texas (FS1): People are saying that this is a game that could save Charlie Strong's job, but I'm pretty sure around Texas it's thought that you should probably be beating West Virginia regardless. That said, I don't really see Texas winning here.
  • Cincinnati @ Central Florida (ESPNU): Speaking of fired, I think it's getting pretty close to the end of the line for Tommy Tuberville at Cincy.
  • Southern Methodist @ East Carolina (ESPNEWS): I don't have a read on this game at all, so I'm going to default to ECU.
  • Iowa State @ Kansas (FSN): Hey, it's a team Iowa State should probably actually beat!
  • Kentucky @ Tennessee (SEC): While I'd like to see Kentucky win the SEC East as much as anyone, realistically I have to go with the Vols.
  • Northwestern @ Purdue (BTN): Northwestern.
  • Tulsa @ Navy (CBSS): The Golden Hurricane can put their fair share of points, but I still like Navy here.
12:30: North Carolina State @ Syracuse (ACC): There's probably only a couple of teams that have had more confusing seasons than NC State, but I still like them here.

2:00: Miami @ Virginia (ACC/RSN): The Cavs should continue to help the Canes get their mojo back.

  • Army vs. Notre Dame (@San Antonio, TX; NBC): Notre Dame is super, really, not very good this year. Not even in the "oh, they're overrated" sense, they're bad. Army, meanwhile, is enjoying a pretty good season for Army. Unfortunately, I still have to go with the Domers in the Alamodome.
  • Auburn @ Georgia (CBS): It's the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry, mostly because the South's Oldest Rivalry is between North Carolina and Virginia. All that said, goodness me Georgia is so very mediocre this year, while Auburn is suddenly a machine. This shouldn't be close.
  • Pittsburgh @ Clemson (ABC): Pitt has some good interior linemen and a couple of very good running backs, but none of this should present an obstacle to the Tigers.
  • Ohio State @ Maryland (ESPN): So I'm actually in Columbus, OH this week. I was here for the US-Mexico game which, uh, didn't go so well. But I will probably be watching this one on TV with a bunch of Buckeye partisans, and I suspect they'll at least go home happy with this one. That said, this Maryland team isn't as terrible as they've been the past few years.
  • Illinois @ Wisconsin (ESPN2): Wisconsin.
  • Texas Tech @ Oklahoma State (FS1): Both of these teams can score, and then add in that anyone can score against the Red Raiders, and, well...
  • Georgia Tech @ Virginia Tech (ESPNU): Speaking of teams with no defense, it's us :(
    I don't really have anything against Paul Johnson. I think he's a good fit for this team and the school. But, practically speaking, I would understand if he got fired after this season, mostly because the main reason I don't think he'd get fired is that the athletic department is currently paying two people to not coach basketball for us. Unlike, say, Charlie Strong, I don't think Johnson is really even on the hotseat, but I would expect the heat to start getting turned if things don't go well against UVA next weekend.
    All that said, I do think Ted Roof is gone after the season, regardless. It was generally thought this year's defense couldn't be much worse than last year's, and we've been proven spectacularly wrong. Given that many issues seem to come down to coaching rather than talent (and remember, this is college, you can't fire the players), I don't see how he retains his position.
    So, yeah, this game! Well, VPI looks pretty good this year, but they've hit some occasional speedbumps that provide just a sliver of optimism up in Blacksburg. Just a sliver.
  • Vanderbilt @ Missouri (SEC): Am I actually about to pick Vandy in a SEC game. Yes I am!
  • Tulane @ Houston (CBSS): Houston.
4:00: Stanford @ Oregon (Pac12): I suspect there were many that circled this date on their calendar, and, well, things don't always go according to plan. I still like Stanford there, though.

  • Louisiana State @ Arkansas (ESPN): I've been learning a lot about the Golden Boot this week, namely, that the trophy is actually gold and it weighs a lot. Either way, I don't think effects of Novembert will really take hold here and I like LSU.
  • Wake Forest @ Louisville (ESPN2): Look, Wake is halfway decent this year, but the only drama in this game is when Louisville will pull Lamar Jackson.
  • South Florida @ Memphis (ESPNU): I've been predicting Memphis will win here in all my bowl projections, so let's stay consistent.
  • Boise State @ Hawaii (CBSS): The Broncos venture to Hawaii, hoping to stay relevant in the MWC Mountain division race. I think they will.
  • Southern California @ Washington (FOX): Game of the Week! USC has rapidly improved (almost as much as Auburn) and is the best team by pure talent that UDub will face the entire rest of the season. I think the Huskies will get past this, but their defensive chops will be truly tested.
  • Mississippi @ Texas A&M (SEC): Both these teams are now down a starting quarterback, but I still like TAMU here.
  • Minnesota @ Nebraska (BTN): Technically, these two rivals are tied in the Big Ten West, but I think Nebraska should win easily.
8:00: Michigan @ Iowa (ABC): Speaking of winning easily, oof this could get ugly.

9:00: Oregon State @ California-Los Angeles (Pac12): UCLA has to be one of the most disappointing teams of 2016, right? The schedule offers a bit of a reprieve, as they should still be able to beat Oregon State.

10:00: Colorado @ Arizona (FS1): The #pac12afterdark window kicks off with, well, a likely easy Buffs victory. But still!

  • New Mexico @ Utah State (ESPN2): I'm about to type that I'm picking New Mexico, which feels weird, but here we are: I'm picking New Mexixco.
  • Colorado State @ Air Force (ESPNU): I don't think the Falcons are really all that good this year, while I still like the Rams.
  • California @ Washington State (ESPN): Things figure to get trippy up on Pullman. Expect yards, expect points, but still expect a Wazzou victory.
  • San Diego State @ Nevada (CBSS): Aztecs.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Bowl Predictions 2016: Week 4

I'm going to avoid any snarky remarks about being better at this than some notable professionals in the predictions business and cut right to the chase.

I've always liked ESPN's Bubble Watch feature for the NCAA tournament, and in some ways, this is a similar exercise. So let's go conference-by-conference and assess their chances. The full predictions, as usual, are here.

Win and they're in the CFP:
  • Clemson (6-0 ACC, 9-0 overall): Clemson closes with Pitt, Wake Forest, and South Carolina. They would have to lose to both Pitt and Wake Forest to miss out on the ACC Championship Game, which would also deny them a chance at the playoff. If they win out, they're in.
CFP bubble:
  • Louisville (6-1, 8-1): they close with Wake Forest, Houston, and a potential SEC East champion Kentucky. They figure to win all three, but Clemson has to lose twice for them to have any shot at the ACCCG and, therefore, the playoff. They do, however, figure to take the ACC's spot in the Orange Bowl, so it's not all bad.
Bowling: Florida State, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, North Carolina

Work left to do:
  • Miami (2-3, 5-4): The Canes finally got out of their post-FSU funk by demolishing Pitt 51-28. They figure to win out against Virginia, NC State, and Duke.
  • Pittsburgh (2-3, 5-4): Pitt just needs to win one out of Clemson, Duke, and Syracuse, and, well, 7-5 looks pretty likely.
  • Georgia Tech (2-3, 5-4): we just need to win one of Virginia Tech, Virginia, Georgia. I'm not sure how good I feel about it, but I currently have us in.
  • Syracuse (2-3, 4-5): the Orange have to win two out of NC State, Florida State, and Pitt. I think they'll be lucky to win one.
  • North Carolina State (1-4, 4-5): their loss to Boston College really hurt their chances a few weeks back. I like them against Syracuse, but they close with Miami and North Carolina.
  • Boston College (1-5, 4-5): I should probably rank BC higher, because they might have the best chances of the 4-5 teams. Yeah, they'll lose to FSU, but then they get UConn and Wake Forest. That said, Wake is improved this year BC still has trouble generating offense. If they win in Winston-Salem, it'll be an upset.
  • Duke (0-5, 3-6): not dead yet, but that figures to no longer be the case after a visit from the Tar Heels Saturday.
Big 12
CFP bubble:
  • Oklahoma (6-0, 7-2): figures to be the Big 12's Sugar Bowl rep. Too many things have to happen in front of them to make it into the actual playoff.
  • Oklahoma State (5-1, 7-2): I'm currently projecting the Big 12 to only get one team into the CFP-controlled bowls. Provided neither lose before then, the Bedlam winner figures to make it into the Sugar Bowl.
  • West Virginia (4-1, 7-1): it's a long shot for the Mountaineers to make it to a CFP-controlled bowl. If they beat Oklahoma in Morgantown, they would then need the Sooners to turn around and win Bedlam in order for them to win as Big 12 champs.
Bowling: Baylor

Work left to do:
  • Texas Christian (3-3, 5-4): I like the Horned Frogs the best out of the group we're about to go over, but that mostly just means I like them to go 5-4 in-conference and not 4-5. But that'll be enough.
  • Kansas State (3-3, 5-4): K-State figures to make it to 6-6 since they get to play Kansas. Anything beyond that is a reach.
  • Texas (3-3, 5-4): See above, but they do also play TCU at home.
  • Texas Tech (2-4, 4-5): the Red Raiders need two, and they'll probably have to go through Iowa State and Baylor to do it. I think they can, but it'll be a close thing.
Big Ten
Win and they're in the CFP:
  • Michigan (6-0, 9-0): they'll get two more warmups, but then they'll have two tough games in quick succession. First, they're going to Columbus this year. If they get past the Buckeyes, they'll probably get to play Wisconsin again in the Big Ten Championship Game. They beat the Badgers 14-7 at home the first time around.
  • Ohio State (5-1, 8-1): if they beat Michigan, then they'll also have the same Badger issue. Either way, the loser of the Michigan-Ohio State game is going to the Rose Bowl.
CFP bubble:
  • Pennsylvania State (5-1, 7-2): since the Nittany Lions don't figure to lose again, I have them as slight favorites to get a 3rd spot for the Big Ten in one of the CFP-controlled bowls. 
  • Wisconsin (4-2, 7-2): of the three teams atop the West division, I like the Badgers the best to win out and clinch the division (since they beat the other two contenders). That said, it's an open question how the Committee would treat a 10-3 BTNCG loser against a 10-2 Penn State. I mean, after all, that means all three of Wisconsin's losses were to some combination of Michigan and Ohio State. It may depend on if and how they lose. Of course, the ultimate chaos scenario is if they win the BTNCG...
  • Nebraska (4-2, 7-2): to even be in this discussion, Nebraska needs Wisconsin to lose to one of Illinois, Purdue, and Minnesota, and then for us to have selective amnesia about that time they lost 62-3 to Ohio State, and then for them to upset those selfsame Buckeyes or Michigan in the BTNCG. Yeah... 
Bowling: Minnesota

Work left the to do:
  • Iowa (3-3, 5-4): Iowa gets to play Illinois, which bodes well for them getting to 6 wins. Which is totally what they're paying Kirk Ferentz some unholy sum of money for, right?
  • Indiana (3-3, 5-4): they Hoosiers only need to win one more, but it's going to come down to the end, since they get to play Penn State and Michigan before finishing with Purdue.
  • Maryland (2-4, 5-4): that's right, the Terps! They fails a similar predicament, though, with Ohio State and Nebraska lined up before Rutgers.
  • Northwestern (3-3, 4-5): by far the easiest schedule, but they need to win two of Purdue, Minnesota, and Illinois.
  • Illinois (2-4, 3-6): at trip to Madison this weekend should end their hopes.
  • Purdue (1-5, 3-6): the Boilermakers would have to win out against Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Indiana. Yeah, that's not happening.
Win and they're in the CFP:
  • Washington (6-0, 9-0): their bonafides will continue to improve with a visit from an improving USC team this weekend, but the real drama figures to be in Pullman. Sadly, I see that game has already been scheduled for 12:30 PM Pacific time. 
CFP bubble:
  • Colorado (5-1, 7-2): I don't think they can make the playoff, per se, but the Pac-12 championship loser figures to make the Rose Bowl (or the winner if they're not Washington, for that matter). 
  • Utah (4-2, 7-2): see above.
  • Washington State (6-0, 7-2): they can get to the Rose Bowl as Pac-12 champs, but that's about it.
Bowling: Southern California, Stanford

Work left to do:
  • Arizona State (2-4, 5-4): if they can survive playing Utah and at Washington, they'll be playing in Tuscon for a bowl bid.
  • California (2-4, 4-5): it's not impossible for the Bears, but they need to win two out of Washington State, Stanford, and UCLA. Which, again, it's not impossible, but it does feel unlikely.
  • Oregon (1-5, 3-6): the Ducks have to win out against an improving Stanford and then two straight road games against Utah and Oregon State. The odds of winning all three figure to slim.
  • California-Los Angeles (1-5, 3-6): they have to win out against Oregon State, Southern Cal, and Cal. This doesn't bode well.
Win and they're in the CFP:
  • Alabama (6-0, 9-0): considering the current state of the SEC East, the only game of any importance left on their schedule is the Iron Bowl. Considering the stakes, can we get it moved back to Legion Field one more time?
  • Auburn (6-1, 7-2): yeah, a two-loss SEC champ figures to crack the top four. Such is life.
CFP bubble:
  • Texas A&M (4-2, 7-2): remember, one of Auburn's two losses is to TAMU, but by blowing it against Miss State they also likely blew any chance of being able to win the SEC. They're still in a good spot to get a Sugar Bowl bid, though.
Bowling: Tennessee, Florida, Arkansas

Work left to do:
  • Louisiana State (3-2, 5-3): as it turns out, Alabama is pretty good! But the Tigers get to close out with a fading Arkansas team, and if that doesn't get them to 6, well, they were originally going to play Presbyterian, which, is that really that different from an SEC East team at this point?
  • Kentucky (4-3, 5-4): the Wildcats have only one more conference game, and that's at Tennessee. I'd say that's a toss-up at this point, but either way, they'll beat Austin Peay and then lose badly to Lamar Jackson and company. So their ceiling is pretty solidly set at 7 wins.
  • Georgia (3-4, 5-4): Georgia figure to be in good shape to get to 7-5, which is what they got Kirby Smart for, right?
  • South Carolina (3-4, 5-4): seriously, where does the tradition of SEC teams parking a FCS team the weekend before Thanksgiving come from? Either way, it'll get the Gamecocks bowling.
  • Mississippi (1-4, 4-5): well, the Rebels are down a Chad Kelly against Texas A&M this weekend. That's not good! But then they get to play Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.
  • Vanderbilt (1-4, 4-5): Vandy closes with Mizzou, Mississippi, and Tennessee. I figure they'll only win one of those, but thanks to their APR scores and general lack of enough teams that will be bowl eligible, I figure they'll go bowling at 5-7.
  • Mississippi State (2-3, 4-5): the odds of Miss State also pulling off upsets against two of Alabama, Arkansas, and Ole Miss are pretty slim. But there's a chance!
I'll cover the Group of Five, but in brief.

Bowling: Temple, South Florida, Navy, Houston, Tulsa, Memphis

Work left to do: Central Florida (3-2, 5-4), Cincinnati (1-4, 4-5), Southern Methodist (2-3, 4-5), East Carolina (1-4, 3-6), Tulane (0-5, 3-6)

Conference USA
Bowling: Western Kentucky, Old Dominion, Middle Tennessee State, Louisiana Tech

Work left to do: Texas-San Antonio (4-2, 5-4), Southern Mississippi (3-2, 5-4), North Texas (2-3, 4-5), Charlotte (3-2, 4-5), Texas-El Paso (1-4, 3-6)

Work left to do: Brigham Young (5-4), Army (5-4), Notre Dame (3-6)

CFP Bubble:
  • Western Michigan (6-0, 10-0): the Broncos currently lead... the Broncos of Boise State in the CFP Poll by one spot. I don't think Western Michigan is truly safe for the Group of Five spot unless they win out and Boise either loses again or doesn't make the Mountain West title game.
Bowling: Ohio, Toledo, Eastern Michigan

Work left to do: Akron (3-3, 5-5), Central Michigan (2-4, 5-5), Miami (4-2, 4-6), Ball State (1-5, 4-6), Northern Illinois (3-2, 3-6)

Mountain West
CFP Bubble:
  • Boise State (4-1, 8-1): Boise figures to be heavy favorites in their remaining games, but they need Wyoming to lose twice to make the Mountain West title game. The Cowboys do have a game against San Diego State, but they'd still need to drop the ball against UNLV or New Mexico for Boise to have a shot. If Boise makes the MWC title game and beats San Diego State, though, that still figures to give them a better resume than Western Michigan. 
Bowling: Wyoming, New Mexico, Air Force, San Diego State

Work left to do: Colorado State (3-3, 5-4), Hawaii (3-3, 4-6), Nevada-Las Vegas (2-3, 3-6), Utah State (1-5, 3-6), Nevada (1-4, 3-6)

Sun Belt
Bowling:  Appalachian State (5-0, 7-2), Troy (4-0, 7-1)

Work left to do: Arkansas State (4-0, 4-4), Idaho (3-2, 6-4), Georgia Southern (3-2, 4-5), South Alabama (1-5, 4-5), Louisiana-Lafayette (2-3, 3-5), Louisiana-Monroe (2-3, 3-6), New Mexico State (1-3, 2-6), Texas State (0-4, 2-6)

Overall, I was three teams short this week, but that includes a 5-7 Vanderbilt. If this threat continues to linger, we should start seeing some stories Thanksgiving week about what will happen. Until then...