Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Bowl Games 2015: Epilogue

And... that's all folks. The final tally is here, and also here: I went 24-17, which seems to be right around my average.

I'm pretty happy with my record, and I did pretty well in ESPN's confidence system, at least on the picks I was most confident on. Those wound up being, from most to least:
  1. Virginia Tech over Tulsa (Independence Bowl)
  2. Marshall over Connecticut (St. Petersburg Bowl)
  3. California over Air Force (Armed Forces Bowl)
  4. Mississippi State over North Carolina State (Belk Bowl)
  5. Southern California over Wisconsin (Holiday Bowl)
  6. Tennessee over Northwestern (Outback Bowl)
  7. Michigan over Florida (Citrus Bowl)
  8. Arkansas over Kansas State (Liberty Bowl)
  9. Memphis over Auburn (Birmingham Bowl)
  10. Georgia over Pennsylvania State (TaxSlayer Bowl)
And how about that title game, huh? It definitely did a lot to make up for the disastrously boring other major bowls over New Year's.

Anyway, that's it for now. College football content should resume, as usual, by August at the latest for our preview of the upcoming season's non-conference scheduling. In the meantime, World Cup qualifying resumes in March, so look for an update about that. Until then...

Monday, January 11, 2016

Bowl Games 2015: Final

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Monday, January 11
8:30: Clemson vs. Alabama (College Football Playoff Championship Game @ Glendale, AZ; ESPN): Well, here we are. This was definitely the predicted matchup, with neither of the semifinals presenting much of a challenge. If this were still the BCS era, there wouldn't have been a controversey over the title game matchup. Fortunately, it isn't the BCS era, but still.
You likely know the narratives coming into this one, but I find the usual stories probably don't give Clemson enough credit. I suspect that, "Clemsoning" aside, the Tigers like it that way. The disarmament starts with their head coach. I was there, by sheer coincidence, for Dabo Swinney's first game as head coach, as they played (and lost to) Georgia Tech. At the time, me and probably most observers figured that the interim tag would be as far as he'd get. However, the hire has turned out to be shrewd. Dabo doesn't call the plays, heck, with the best paid assistants and coordinators this side of the SEC, who knows how much gameplanning he really does? But he recruits like hell, and as a gameday coach and motivator he's proven himself to be one of the best. And now it's showing. Clemson has long had skilled, er, skill players, but what has vaulted this Clemson squad into the elite is their defensive line play. That will be something to watch.
I don't think I need to say that much about the Crimson Tide. They, too, have elite coaches directing elite talent. However, this Alabama team is not invulnerable, particularly their secondary can be beat. I also don't think they have much on offense outside of Derrick "El Tractorito" Henry, but that's a hell of a piece to have.
Well, it's time for my last prediction until September. I'm picking the Tigers in a slight upset. I think both these teams are great, but I think the Tigers have a slight edge on the offensive side of the ball.
Previous Meetings: It's not great for the Tigers, as they're 3-12 all-time against Alabama. Even worse, those three wins came in the first three meetings in 1900, 1904, and 1905. They've met intermittently since, with 20-30 year gaps not uncommon. Their last meeting was in 2008, when the Tide won 34-10.
Announcers: Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit

Friday, January 01, 2016

Bowl Games 2015: Maybe One of These Will Be Competitive?

Seriously, folks, it's starting to become an epidemic. Maybe, just maybe, one of these four games will be close.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Saturday, January 2 
Noon: Pennsylvania State vs. Georgia (Taxslayer Bowl @ Jacksonville, FL; ESPN): Georgia is one of three teams I've actually seen in person this year, but if anything, that almost makes me biased against them. Their offense is predictable and stagnant, yet, better than Penn State's, which is just kind of bad (and sack-prone, to boot). UGA should, unfortunately, have no trouble at all.
Confidence: 33
Previous Meetings: Just one, all the way back in the 1982-1983 Sugar Bowl, which had national title implications. UGA, however, flubbed their shot at grabbing the title, losing 27-23.
Last bowl game: Penn State won last year's Pinstripe 31-30 over Boston College. This is Georgia's nineteenth straight bowl game, dating back to the 1997-1998 Outback Bowl, where they beat Wisconsin 33-6. They beat Louisville 37-14 in last season's Belk Bowl.
Announcers: Allen Bestwick and Dan Hawkins

3:20: Kansas State vs. Arkansas (Liberty Bowl @ Memphis, TN; ESPN): The Razorbacks had one of the worst starts to this season you can imagine outside of Washington State, losing to Toledo 16-12 in Week 2. It didn't look to get much better from there, as they then lost to old SWC foes Texas Tech and Texas A&M. But then there was a win over a resurgent Tennessee squad, and then staying in the game against Alabama. They then went off, scoring at least 50 points in four of their remaining six games. K-State failed to find any such moments of clarity as they suffered massive struggles on offense. They lost six in a row in the middle of the season, but recovered to close out their last three against Iowa State, Kansas, and West Virginia. This allowed them to go 6-6 to get their bowl bid, though they would've been eligible at 5-7 this season. Suffice it to say, I'm going with Arkansas.
Confidence: 35
Previous Meetings: In the battle of the correct way to pronounce "Arkansas", there have been five previous meetings. The first two where enthralling 5-0 and 3-0 K-State victories back in 1910 and 1911. K-State won again in 1926, but the fun stops there for the folks from the Little Apple. Arkansas won in 1967, and most recently in the 2011-2012 Cotton Bowl by a 29-16 score.
Last bowl game: This is K-State's sixth straight bowl game, dating back to the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl, where they lost 36-34 to Syracuse. Last season saw a 40-35 defeat to UCLA in the Alamo Bowl. Arkansas defeated Texas 31-7 in last season's Texas Bowl.
Announcers: Anish Shroff and Ahmad Brooks

6:45: Texas Christian vs. Oregon (Alamo Bowl @ San Antonio, TX; ESPN): Well, this looked like it was going to be a close game. After a sloppy start to the season and injuries to their quarterback, Oregon got a healthy Vernon Adams back and then started looking like their previous selves, winning their last six in a row and upsetting Stanford and Southern Cal in the process. TCU was in the Big 12 mix once again, but their losses to the Oklahoma schools put them here. I picked Oregon anyway, but as I said earlier, I thought this would be close. Instead, TCU's all-everything quarterback, Trevone Boykin, punched a cop the other night. Suffice it to say, I now really think it's going to be Oregon.
Confidence: 32
Previous Meetings: Just two. Oregon won 29-24 in 1977, and then TCU returned the favor the next year, 14-10.
Last bowl game: As previously stated, TCU walloped Mississippi in last season's Peach Bowl, 42-3. This is the Ducks's eleventh straight postseason, dating to the 2005 Holiday Bowl, where they lost 17-14 to Oklahoma. Last season they memorably defeated Florida State 59-20 in the Rose Bowl, advancing to the College Football Playoff Championship, where they lost 42-20 to Ohio State.
Announcers: Dave Flemming and Mack Brown

10:15: West Virginia vs. Arizona State (Cactus Bowl @ Phoenix, AZ; ESPN): Both these teams had uneven seasons, to say the least. I don't feel particularly good picking either way in this one. West Virginia's offense, in particular, worries me, so I'm somewhat reluctantly taking the Sun Devils here.
Confidence: 19
Previous Meetings: Just one, in 1979. The Sun Devils won 42-7.
Last bowl game: The Mountaineers lost 45-37 in last season's Liberty Bowl. The Sun Devils, meanwhile, have a five game streak dating to the 2011 Las Vegas Bowl, where they got smacked by Boise State 56-24. They defeated Duke in last season's Sun Bowl 36-31.
Announcers: Dave Neal and Matt Stinchcomb

Bowl Games 2015: Happy New Year!

2016 is here, but we've still got 9+1 games to go! I can't update the main page right now, but the textual descriptions are still below.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Friday, January 1
Noon: Northwestern vs. Tennessee (Outback Bowl @ Tampa, FL; ESPN2): These are both teams coming in having won five in a row, yet I like the Vols a lot more. For starters, even though they have two more losses, none are inexcusable and all are close. By contrast, the Wildcats have only two losses, but they were by 38 and 30 points, respectively. While Northwestern has a better best win, the opening weekend victory over Stanford probably ranks as the season's most inexplicable win behind Texas upsetting Oklahoma. Also, the most Northwestern has scored against a FBS team this season was in their 30-28 win over Nebraska. I don't think they're going to be able to score enough to keep up.
Confidence: 37
Previous Meetings: Just once, in the 1996-1997 Citrus Bowl. Tennessee won 48-28.
Last bowl game: After a couple 5-7 finishes, this is Northwestern's first bowl since the 2012-2013 Gator Bowl, in which they beat Mississippi State 34-20. Tennessee beat Iowa 45-28 in last season's Taxslayer Bowl.
Announcers: Mark Jones and Rod Gilmore

  • Florida vs. Michigan (Citrus Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ABC): Speaking of not being able to score enough, Florida's Will Grier-less offense has been nothing less than a tire fire. They don't stand a chance here.
    Confidence: 36
    Previous Meetings: Twice, both in bowl games. In the 2002-2003 Outback Bowl, Michigan won 38-30. In the 2007-2008 edition of this game, Michigan won 41-35.
    Last bowl game: Florida beat East Carolina 28-20 in last season's Birmingham Bowl. Michigan's last bowl appearance was in the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, which they lost 34-14 to Kansas State.
    Announcers: Mike Patrick and Ed Cunningham
  • Ohio State vs. Notre Dame (Fiesta Bowl @ Glendale, AZ; ESPN): Boy howdy, in retrospect it sure would've been nice to see the Buckeyes against Alabama last night, right? That said, this should be a pretty fun game. Both teams sport capable offenses and above-average defenses, though Ohio State holds a decided advantage in that regard. In the end, I think that will up allowing Ohio State to do a better job of holding serve. This one could get up there in terms of points, though.
    Confidence: 21
    Previous Meetings: Just five, for these Midwestern titans of the sport. Notre Dame won the first in 1935 and 1936, the latter by a electric 7-2 score. The Buckeyes won the next two regular season meetings in 1995 and 1996. The most recent was the 2005-2006 edition of this game, which Ohio State won 34-20.
    Last bowl game: This is Ohio State's third straight postseason appearance. Last season, of course, they beat Alabama 42-35 in the Sugar Bowl and then defeated Oregon 42-20 in the inaugural College Football Playoff Championship. This is Notre Dame's sixth straight bowl appearance, dating to the 2008 Hawaii Bowl where they beat Hawaii 49-21. Last season, they beat Louisiana State 31-28 in the Music City Bowl.
    Announcers: Sean McDonough and Chris Spielman
5:00: Iowa vs. Stanford (Rose Bowl @ Pasadena, CA; ESPN): I like Stanford here more than my confidence below might indicate. I've never been particularly high on Iowa all season, and after the season has ended I've soured on the Hawkeyes even more. They were overrated: their schedule was extremely soft and their best win is probably their win over Wisconsin (they did not play Michigan, Michigan State, or Ohio State in the regular season). I think they caught a break by getting Michigan State instead of Ohio State in the Big Ten title game. At any rate, it's probably for the best they wound up here. They'll face a conventional attack in Stanford, but yeah, Stanford doesn't really care that you think they're conventional. They will keep handing the ball off until you get tired, at which point they'll beat you over the top. I expect this formula to play out here.
Confidence: 17
Previous Meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is Iowa's third straight bowl game. They lost 48-28 to Tennessee in last season's Taxslayer Bowl. This is Stanford's seventh straight bowl game, dating to the 2009 Sun Bowl, which they lost 31-27 to Oklahoma. Last season, they ventured down 101 and cut-over on 237 to beat Maryland 45-21 in the Foster Farms Bowl.
Announcers: Brent Musburger and Jesse Palmer

8:30: Oklahoma State vs. Mississippi (Sugar Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): Both these teams can score, so this nightcap will be pretty even on the offensive side of the ball. The question is the defense. Mississippi might seem better at first glance, but consider their performances against good offensive teams. They gave up 53 to Arkansas, 27 to Mississippi State, 37 to Alabama, and 37 to Memphis. The Rebels stayed in these games by keeping pace, but the Cowboys are capable of matching them blow-for-blow.
Confidence: 31
Previous Meetings: Just two, in the 2003-2004 Cotton Bowl and the 2009-2010 edition of the same. Ole Miss won both, the latter by a 21-7 score.
Last bowl game: This is Oklahoma State's tenth straight bowl game, dating to the 2002 Houston Bowl, where they beat Southern Mississippi 33-23. Last season, they defeated Washington in the Cactus Bowl 30-22. This is Mississippi's fourth straight bowl game. They were walloped by TCU 42-3 in last season's Peach Bowl.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Brock Huard