Sunday, February 26, 2017

Bowl Games 2016: Epilogue

Once again, I need to get this out of the way before moving to our World Cup qualifying content and a special project I've been working on for a while.

I wound up going 22-19, a solid 53.6%. That puts me at 320-258 since 1999, or 55.36% overall. I'm still slightly better than a coin flip, woo!

Again, we won't quite be on our summer hiatus yet. See you soon!

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Bowl Games 2016: Final

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Monday, January 9th
8:30: Clemson vs. Alabama (College Football Playoff Championship Game @ Tampa, FL; ESPN): I looked over the post I made for this matchup last year and, well, most of it still applies. So let's break this down by unit.
The place to start is the unit that's been in the news for most of the past week: the Alabama offense. Coordinated by Lane Kiffin for most of the past three years, culminating with this season's relatively wide-open offense headed up by a mobile freshman quarterback. This is not the Alabama blueprint we've come to be familiar with. However, Alabama has yet to face a defensive line the quality of Clemson's, except maybe for LSU. The final score in that game? 10-0. There's also the reason they've been in the news: Lane Kiffin by all accounts wanted to continue to coach Alabama in the playoffs before heading off to his new gig, but was forced out. Subsequently, the Tide promoted one of their video room guys, former Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian, to offensive coordinator. Since he wasn't a coach, he wasn't on the sidelines on gamedays and (was supposed to have) had little contact with the players at all. It's easy to speculate on the impact this will have, but that's all I'd be doing. So I'll just stick to figuring it'll make some difference either way.
The Clemson offense, meanwhile, returned Deshaun Watson and virtually all their skill players from last year's team. While at times lacking focus this season, they responded emphatically when it mattered, as Ohio State found out last week. Again, the chess match in this game is the Clemson offense versus the Alabama defense.
The Tide defense is practically legendary at this point. There simply isn't a better defense in college football. But if there's anyone that's not scared of these guys, it's Clemson. They put up 40 last year and nearly won the game. Will Saban and go be prepared to counter them this year? How will they respond to things Clemson hasn't done before? We saw how that went for Ohio State last week.
The Clemson defense isn't as well know, but they're almost as good, especially on the defense line. They lived in the Ohio State backfield most of last week. I figured the Buckeyes had a giid chance in that game because they'd have the athletes to do what most ACC offensive lines couldn't, which is block them. I was dead wrong. Ohio State looked confused and disoriented most of the night along the line, which made the Buckeye offense dead in the water. The question is, can I talk myself into thinking the Alabama offensive line can block them? I'm not sure.
For all the hand-wringing about the playoffs going into this game, it definitely feels like we got the best two teams in one place. Few other teams this season were as dominant on both sides of the ball. And from watching the games last week and thinking about it for the past week, I have talked myself into a slight Clemson upset. They've got plenty of experience, and they're going to be motivated to take care of business this year.
Previous meetings: Obviously, the most recent meeting between these two was in last year's game, which Alabama won 45-40. Unfortunately for the Tigers, that still means they haven't beaten Alabama since October 25, 1905 and they're 3-13 against the Tide all time.
Last bowl game: Technically, their previous round matchups against Ohio State and Washington, respectively. See that post for the details.
Announcers: Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit

Monday, January 02, 2017

Bowl Games 2016: Happy New Year!

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Monday, January 2nd
1:00:
  • Iowa vs. Florida (Outback Bowl @ Tampa, FL; ABC): This one o'clock timeslot doesn't look terribly enticing, if I'm being honest. First, we have two offensively challenged teams, though one seems to act as though it has slightly shackles than the other. Somehow, that team is Iowa. But it's about picking your poison, and the poison for this game is that there will probably be a lot of head-scratching, over-conservative playcalling.
    Previous meetings: Three, and mostly in bowls of recent vintage. The first was a 14-6 Florida win in the 1983 Gator Bowl. The second was a 37-17 win in the 2003-04 Outback Bowl. The third was in the 2005-06 Outback Bowl, a 31-24 Florida win.
    Last bowl game: This is Iowa's fourth straight bowl, going back to the 2013-14 Outback Bowl, where they lost to LSU 21-14. Last season they got pasted 45-16 by Stanford in the Rose Bowl. As for the Gators, this will be their third straight post-season appearance. They defeated East Carolina 28-20 in the 2013-14 Birmingham Bowl, and last season they lost 41-7 to Michigan in the Citrus Bowl.
    Announcers: Mike Patrick and Ed Cunningham
  • Wisconsin vs. Western Michigan (Cotton Bowl @ Arlington, TX; ESPN): Whereas the problem with this game is that, well, if it's anywhere close I'll be absolutely stunned. Yes, Western Michigan is 2-0 against the Big Ten, but that was against an undersized Northwestern and an awful Illinois team. Wisconsin is one of the biggest teams around, and their defense is elite. If the Badgers treat this game seriously (potentially a big if), I don't think it'll be close.
    Previous meetings: As one might guess, this Big Ten vs. MAC matchup has been played a few times, but not many more, with meetings in 1963, 1981, 1988, and 2000. Wisconsin has won all of them, except for a 24-14 win for Broncos in 1988. Otherwise, it's been all Badgers
    Last bowl game: This is Wisconsin's 15th straight bowl appearance, tied with Boise State for the sixth longest streak. Correspondingly, you need to go back to a 31-28 win over Colorado in the 2002 Alamo Bowl to find the beginning of this run. They edged Southern Cal 23-21 in last season's Holiday Bowl. For the Broncos, this is their third straight appearance. They lost 38-24 to Air Force in the 2014 Potato Bowl and beat Middle Tennessee State 45-31 in last season's Bahamas Bowl.
    Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Brock Huard
5:00: Pennsylvania State vs. Southern California (Rose Bowl @ Pasadena, CA; ESPN): Don't look, but it's entirely possible the best team in the second half of the season was the University of Southern California Trojans. They rolled off eight wins to close the season, including a close win over a resurgent Colorado and a score-makes-it-look-closer-than-it-was 26-13 win over Washington in Seattle. Even if you're as skeptical of "momentum" as I am, it's hard to deny this team is hot. Yet, if we apply the same metrics to Penn State, we see they won nine in a row to close the season, including wins over Ohio State and Wisconsin. The main difference would seem to the manner in which these teams earned their best wins, but that's ultimately beside the point. Both these teams are young and have all the reasons in the world to go into this game and make a statement, and I expect a contest that's the opposite of those at the 1:00 slot. I have USC, but not by much.
Previous meetings: Nine! The first was all the back in the 1922-23 Rose Bowl, which Southern Cal won 14-3. Fast forward to the 1981-82 season for their next meeting, a 26-10 Penn State win in the Fiesta Bowl. A regular season series was played six times from 1990-2000, and then their last meeting was in the 2008-09 Rose Bowl, a 38-24 USC win. The Trojans hold a narrow 5-4 series lead.
Last bowl game: This is Penn State's third straight bowl game. They beat Boston College 31-30 in the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl and lost to Georgia in last season's Taxslayer Bowl. USC, meanwhile, probably doesn't like to reflect much on the 2012 Sun Bowl, what with the 21-7 loss to Georgia Tech and all. Nonetheless, that was the start of their current five game bowl streak, with the most recent entry being a 23-21 loss to Wisconsin in last season's Holiday Bowl.
Announcers: Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit

8:30: Auburn vs. Oklahoma (Sugar Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): Oklahoma is here because the Sooners won 10 games and had losses to Houston and Ohio State, which are both legitimate losses. They then Boomer Soonered their way through the Big 12, emerging unscathed with an undisputed conference title. Auburn is here because the Sugar Bowl is designated for the highest ranked available SEC team, and, well, every SEC team other than Alabama had at least four losses. Auburn's four losses wound up being the most respectable compared to Tennessee and Florida, so here they are. Suffice it to say, I have Oklahoma all the way here.
Previous meetings: Just one, and in this 1971-72 edition of this game. The Sooners won 40-22.
Last bowl game: This is Auburn's fourth straight postseason game, going back to the 2013-14 BCS Championship Game, where they lost 34-31 to Florida State. Last season they pasted Memphis 31-10 in the Birmingham Bowl. The Sooners own the country's fourth longest streak of postseason appearances, with this being their 18th consecutive one. Their streak began with the 1999 Independence Bowl, which they lost to Ole Miss 27-25. Last season, they were defeated 37-17 by Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
Announcers: Brent Musberger and Jesse Palmer