Friday, November 17, 2017

This Weekend in College Football: Week 12

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Noon:
  • Mississippi State @ Arkansas (CBS): Novembert seems to be a thing of the past, especially now that the man who hired Brett Bielema was just fired. Have to like Miss State here.
  • Virginia @ Miami (ABC): Well, it'd be kind of on-brand for modern day Miami to score a huge win over a top-tier opponent and then immediately flatline against Virginia, but somehow I just don't see that happening.
  • Michigan @ Wisconsin (FOX): The best indicator of the kind of week we're looking at for Week 12 is that this is the consensus best game going. Which, well, that's probably true, and Michigan is the best team between Wisconsin and their trip to Indianapolis in a couple of weeks. That said, this still a reloading Michigan team that has some severe issues on offense that figure to be tough to overcome in Madison.
  • Texas @ West Virginia (ESPN): The Longhorns managed to break the 30-point barrier for the first time in a month last week by walloping Kansas 42-27. Unfortunately for them, West Virginia is not Kansas.
  • Louisiana-Monroe @ Auburn (ESPN2): Tigers.
  • Texas Christian @ Texas Tech (FS1): Texas Tech hasn't beaten a single Big 12 team with a pulse, a trend that doesn't figure to change now.
  • Central Florida @ Temple (ESPNU): We're only a week away from USF-UCF!
  • Southern Methodist @ Memphis (ESPNEWS): If you get tired of watching large men crash into other large men to move the ball a few yards at a time, then boy howdy do I have an offer for you! (If you get ESPNEWS, that is.) Because there will be POINTS in this game. The over/under is 110 points. Given that there's a non-zero chance that the halftime score could be 52-50, I'd say take the over. Outside of that, though, Memphis should win.
  • Minnesota @ Northwestern (BTN): I have no opinion on this game. Northwestern, I guess?
  • Cincinnati @ East Carolina (CBSS): Don't watch this unless you're flipping into the see the replay of something rare and/or dumb, like a one-point safety for something. (Which, given the announcers CBSS usually has, would be hilarious because I suspect they would have no idea what's going on.) As for who's going win? Uh, ECU I guess?
12:20: Pittsburgh @ Virginia Tech (ACC): I do so enjoy beating VPI, but they should be able to get back on track at home against a struggling Pitt team.

3:00: Arizona State @ Oregon State (Pac12): Remember those salad days of early October when the Sun Devils ripped off consecutive wins over Washington and Utah and we were all "hey, maybe they have a really good defense!" Yeah, it didn't last. They should still be able to take the Beavers, though.

3:30:
  • Illinois @ Ohio State (ABC): Buckeyes.
  • Navy @ Notre Dame (NBC): Provided Notre Dame can get up for this game at all, they should be able to take this one. This Navy is good, but not as good as the Navy teams that have given Notre Dame fits in the past.
  • Kentucky @ Georgia (CBS): Kentucky is probably the second or third best team in the SEC East right now, which says more about the relative state of Florida and Tennessee football right now, but still. Anyway, it was fun to watch Georgia lose last week (and lose badly, at that), but they should be able to run over, around, and through Kentucky.
  • Oklahoma @ Kansas (ESPN): Sooners.
  • Kansas State @ Oklahoma State (ESPN2): Kansas State won't win this game, but I sort of consider it a compliment to Bill Synder that I can't just write off a 5-5 K-State completely.
  • Syracuse @ Louisville (ESPNU): The Fightin' Lamar Jacksons should be able to handle Syracuse, but the usual problem will be that Lamar Jackson does not play also defense.
  • Purdue @ Iowa (BTN): In some way, the fact that Purdue is associated with fun football again is still pretty good for Year 1. The Hawkeyes though, yeah, they're probably going to win.
  • San Jose State @ Colorado State (CBSS): Rams.
  • Georgia Tech @ Duke (ACC/RSN): It's not going to rain tomorrow. There's a lot of factors that go into whether or not you're a good rain team. To be clear, there are no good rain teams (except Michigan State). Classically, run-oriented teams are considered to be good in the rain, which may well be true. Like many assumptions along those lines, Georgia Tech is often lumped in that category, which results in announcers being shocked when Paul Johnson says things like "we're not a good rain team". This is because the stereotype imagines a bunch of guys in mud-stained, soaked jerseys, running backs being literally slippery, and just the lines crashing into other lines. But that's not really Paul Johnson's game. Remember, the option offense works on the principal of using numbers to gain leverage against the defense to hit big plays. This means you need linemen that are able to move and receivers that can hold their blocks. If it's wet, both of these things are much more difficult. And that doesn't even account for the slipperiness of a pitched ball.
    But yeah, it's not going to rain tomorrow.
    As mentioned before, beating VPI is always fun. A great relief for me especially is that we finally manged to not only get a lead in the final minutes but hold it. This team is one of the most snakebit Tech teams I've ever seen in close games and it was fantastic to finally get one in the bag. Now, though we need to win a road game for the first time this year against a team that we've generally found to be tricksy the past few seasons. Hopefully we're up to the task in Durham.
4:00:
  • Maryland @ Michigan State (FOX): Speaking of the weather, the forecast for East Lansing, MI tomorrow is rain throughout the day and a temperature of about 42 degrees at kickoff. SPARTY GONNA ROLL Y'ALL.
  • Nebraska @ Pennsylvania State (FS1): Penn State's just over here, waiting to be called on, bags packed and ready for Indianapolis, you know, just in case. They just need to make sure they don't look past this one for that theoretical Big Ten title game.
  • Houston @ Tulane (ESPNEWS): This Tulane team has been feisty at times this year, but yeah, I don't like their odds against Houston.
  • Alabama-Birmingham @ Florida (SEC): My favorite college football story of the year are your University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers not only getting back up off the mat after being killed off in the dumbest conspiracy ever but then proceeding to go 7-3 and 5-2 in C-USA play. I mean, look, Florida has superior talent at every position on the two deep, and any logical conclusion has the Gators winning. But screw logic, GO BLAZERS.
6:30: Army @ North Texas (beIN): The last time Army had more than 7 regular season wins was 1996, when they went 10-1 (before the bowl game). Sitting at 8-2, that has to be the target. I like their chances of getting to 9, at least.

7:00:
  • Louisiana State @ Tennessee (ESPN): LIGHTNING ROUND. LSU.
  • Texas A&M @ Mississippi (ESPN2): TAMU?
  • Boston College vs. Connecticut (@Boston, MA; CBSS): This is being played at Fenway Park for some reason. Also, BC.
  • Arizona @ Oregon (Pac12): Taking the Fightin' Khalil Tates here.
7:30:
  • North Carolina State @ Wake Forest (ESPNU): Even considering that a lot of widely anticipated contests turned out to be blowouts last week, I still say the unlikeliest result was Wake Forest dropping 64 (64!) on Syracuse. They scored 24 (24!) in the fourth (!) quarter. Exclamation marks! Anyway, NC State actually plays defense, so they probably won't do that again, and one wonders if they maybe spent all their points allowance in the Carrier Dome last weekend.
  • Missouri @ Vanderbilt (SEC): Mizzou is unstoppable right now, which also coincides with the fact that Mizzou got all of the team that are obviously better than them out of the way early. (To give you an idea of how things are going in Gainesville, consider that one of the teams they steamrolled was Florida.) So yeah, I like them here.
8:00:
  • California-Los Angeles @ Southern California (ABC): The weather will be perfect and both teams will be wearing their colors. That figures to be about the high point of evening for UCLA.
  • California @ Stanford (FOX): The Big Game figures mostly be a Bryce Love showcase in primetime.
10:15: Air Force @ Boise State (ESPN2): It's odd when Air Force is the worst of three academies, but here we are. Boise should roll.

10:30:
  • Utah @ Washington (ESPN): We're barrelling toward a 3-way tie atop of the Pac-12 North, but in the meantime, let's consider what should probably be a crucial home win for the Huskers.
  • Nevada @ San Diego State (CBSS): Aztecs.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

2018 World Cup Update: That's a Wrap

Qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup is complete.

Knocked out since October: Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, South Africa, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Honduras, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Greece, Italy, and Ireland.

Qualified: Australia, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, Peru, Croatia, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark.

211 teams entered the qualifying tournament, starting with East Timor and Mongolia playing back on March 12, 2015. 979 days later, only 32 remain. The first team eliminated was Mongolia on March 17, 2015. The first team to qualify (other than the hosts) was Brazil, on March 27, 2017. The last team eliminated was New Zealand on November 15, 2017, and the last team to qualify was Peru, on the same date.

The status page with all teams has been updated for the final time.

This concludes our coverage of World Cup 2018 qualification. We'll be back in two years, likely for the final time as the 48-team World Cup will render the drama of qualification obsolete.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Bowl Predictions 2017: Week 4

They're all right here. Let's have a chat real quick about the logic this week.

Concerning the playoff, well here was my thought process. I have Alabama defeating Georgia in the SEC championship, Clemson defeating Miami, and Oklahoma defeating TCU or Oklahoma State. So there's your top three. If Wisconsin beats Ohio State, then they'll be in as well. But... what if they don't? Obviously, if we've learned anything this season, counting on a particular version of the Buckeyes to show up for any game is fraught with danger, but nonetheless I like the Buckeyes to win. Surveying the other teams who would've just lost (like Georgia) versus the Big Ten champion, even a two-loss champion, well, it was hard to leave the Buckeyes out. Their reward, of course, would be getting to play Alabama, so good luck with that.

In other news, I just barely had enough teams. With the Big Ten still probably getting three teams into the Playoff-affiliated bowls, this leaves the rest of the Big Ten's bowls sorely wanting. And that's pretty much how you get UCLA in the Pinstripe Bowl. Elsewhere, I had to abandon my Texas-Texas A&M bowl game, but hey, there's always next year (or next week).

Otherwise, things are getting progressively more real. Expect even more details next week, which is when I start looking for actual news to inform my predictions instead of, you know, guesses.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

This Weekend in College Football: Week 11

Posting this way late, so this is going to be a lot of LIGHTNING ROUND. But rest assured, this is a pretty great lineup for Week 11!

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Noon:
  • Michigan State @ Ohio State (FOX): Oh geez this is actually at 9:00 AM? We're off to a pretty good start. I'll be distracted by my own game, but still. The line on this is making the Buckeyes an insane 17 point favorite or something, which, hey, is possible but sure doesn't seem probable right now, you know? But this site isn't about gambling advice, and I think ti's well established that I pick the winners. So, yeah, I got the Buckeyes here.
  • Florida @ South Carolina (CBS): You what you could be watching instead of this? The game before this or the game I'll take about next. Taking the Gamecocks.
  • Oklahoma State @ Iowa State (ABC/ESPN2): So how about that state of Iowa this year, eh? We should've seen it coming when Iowa State-Iowa went to double overtime back in September, I guess. Reason says stick with the Pokes, but a view of this season at the moment says go with the Cyclones.
  • North Carolina State @ Boston College (ABC/ESPN2): I still like the Wolfpack.
  • Arkansas @ Louisiana State (ESPN): Okay, so maybe the Novembert mystique has worn off.
  • Nebraska @ Minnesota (FS1): This is definitely a matchup of two Big Ten West teams that aren't Wisconsin or Iowa. Uh, Gophers?
  • Connecticut @ Central Florida (ESPNU): UCF.
  • Texas Tech vs. Baylor (@Arlington, TX; FOX/RSN): Red Raiders.
  • Louisiana-Lafayette @ Mississippi (SEC): Ole Miss... probably.
  • Rutgers @ Pennsylvania State (BTN): Nittany Lions.
  • Duke @ Army (CBSS): Army.
12:20: Virginia Tech @ Georgia Tech (ACC): What to even say? I warned you about Charlottesville? That was probably our worst played game of the season and we paid dearly for it.
Moving on this week, though, I can't figure if playing VPI the week after they got pasted by Miami is a good thing or not. Either way, what I want to see from the Jackets today is just a sense of urgency, a sense that hey, we have to seize our chances for the first this season and do what it takes to win. This team is essentially three plays away from being undefeated. It's time to harness those feelings and use them toward something productive.

3:00: Wake Forest @ Syracuse (ACC/RSN): The 'Cuse.

3:30:
  • Iowa @ Wisconsin (ABC): Oh hey, it's the two relevant Big Ten teams. First, there's this year's version of #PutPittIn in Iowa, and then there's Wisconsin, who is undefeated but sports a best win at the moment of... Northwestern. Nonetheless, Iowa hasn't showed much outside of Kinnick Stadium (i.e., the place where highly ranked Big Ten east teams go to die), so I'm sticking with the Badgers here.
  • Georgia @ Auburn (CBS): I'm going with Georgia here but pulling hard for Auburn.
  • Florida State @ Clemson (ESPN): Well, uh, FSU looked kinda okay last week? Uh, yeah, stick to Iowa-Wisconsin or UGA-Auburn.
  • West Virginia @ Kansas State (ESPN2): This might also be fun, actually, in the sense this is about as far apart as two teams can be in the Big 12 and still be playing the same sport. I think this is a tossup, but I still like WVU here.
  • Virginia @ Louisville (ESPNU): Lamar Jackson should be able to do enough to win here.
  • Michigan @ Maryland (BTN): Michigan.
  • Southern Methodist @ Navy (CBSS): This could be a sneaky good game. SMU is better on paper this year, but I'm going with the Midshipmen at home.
 4:00:
  • Southern California @ Colorado (FOX): USC.
  • Kentucky @ Vanderbilt (SEC): Kentucky.
5:30: Washington State @ Utah (Pac12): Wazzu has looked terrible on the road, so... Utes? Not sure about this one.

6:30: Western Kentucky @ Marshall (beIN): Hilltoppers.

7:00:
  • Alabama @ Mississippi State (ESPN): Bama.
  • Purdue @ Northwestern (ESPN2): Purdue.
  • New Mexico @ Texas A&M (ESPNU): TAMU.
  • Tulane @ East Carolina (CBSS): Tulane!
7:30: Tennessee @ Missouri (SEC): Tigers!

8:00:
  • Notre Dame @ Miami (ABC): Why did I essentially skip to here? Because I'm pressed for time and want to go to bed, but also because that's you'll be doing. This is the irresistible force and immovable object game of the week. This is also when I think Miami's penchant for playing it close as long as humanly possible is going to bite them. I'm going with the Domers.
  • Texas Christian @ Oklahoma (FOX): If for some reason ND-Miami isn't working out, flip to FOX. If there's one team in the Big 12 that could possibly contain Baker Mayfield at home, it's TCU. But Mayfield is also playing out of his mind right now, so it's hard to pick against him.
9:30: Arizona State @ California-Los Angeles (Pac12): UCLA.

10:00: Oregon State @ Arizona (ESPN2): Zona.

10:15: Wyoming @ Air Force (ESPNU): Wyoming.

10:30: Boise State @ Colorado State (CBSS): Rams.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Bowl Predictions 2017: Week 3

I'm just going to post the link because I am so very tired. Thanks for understanding. We'll be back in force for the preview later this week and bowl predictions next week.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

2018 World Cup Update: The Final Countdown

All right folks, it's time to see this through for the last nine World Cup qualification spots.

AFC-CONCACAF Playoff
Australia and Honduras will rack up some frequent flyer miles. The first leg will take place November 10th in San Pedro Sula, then the squads will face each other again in Sydney five days later. The winner on cumulative goals will advance, with the away goals rule applying. (The away goals rule is essentially a first tiebreaker: if the cumulative score is a draw, then the team that scored more away goals wins.)

CONMEBOL-OFC Playoff
Not to be outdone, Peru will fly to New Zealand, with the first match taking place on November 11th, and the return four days later in Lima. The same rules apply.

CAF
Nigeria and Egypt have already qualified out of Africa, so that leaves three groups to be decided.

Group A
On the next matchday, November 11th, Tunisia will advance if they win or draw against Libya, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo loses to draws against Guinea.

Group C
Morocco and Ivory Coast play each other on November 11th. Ahead by a point, Morocco can advance with a win or draw, but Ivory Coast can only advance with a win.

Group D
Group D is the wackiest for sure, since the original Senegal-South Africa match is being replayed due to South Africa using an ineligible player. That replay will happen on November 10th in South Africa, and then the teams will meet again four days later in Dakar. Senegal leads the rest of the group by two points, so they will clinch if they defeat South Africa on Friday. Any other result means the group will still be wide open, and we'll update this post once we know more.

UEFA
And so the last four spots will be contested by eight European teams. Let's take a quick look. As with the other playoffs, these are two-legged ties where the cumulative results matter, with the away goals rule applying.

  • Northern Ireland and Switzerland will playoff on November 9th and 12th
  • Croatia and Greece will playoff on November 9th and 12th.
  • Sweden and Italy will playoff on November 10th and 13th.
  • Denmark and Ireland will playoff on November 11th and 14th.
That's pretty much it! By this time next week, the field will be completely set.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

This Weekend in College Football: Week 10

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Noon:
  • Pennsylvania State @ Michigan State (FOX): All right Penn State, time to get off the mat because you're going to have to get right back on the road to face a team more than happy to punch you in the mouth and dare you to do something about it. Obviously they're favored here, but it won't be easy.
  • Wisconsin @ Indiana (ABC): Wisconsin is your darkhorse undefeated playoff team, at least until they get blown out by Ohio State or Penn State in a few weeks.
  • Auburn @ Texas A&M (ESPN): Is Auburn actually, like, good? I have no idea. I'm going with TAMU.
  • Florida @ Missouri (ESPN2): For a team that was all but out of it at the beginning of the year, Mizzou has rallied, by which I mean they took a two week break from playing other SEC teams. (Pro: they won by a combined score of 120-33. Con: those two teams were Idaho and UConn.) So what does that mean for this game? Well, going by the metric of "who got beat less badly by Georgia?" then Mizzou has to be a slight favorite.
  • Kansas State @ Texas Tech (FS1): Yeah, the ebb of the magikal energyes* were at a definite low last week, with K-State only beating an awful Kansas team (but I repeat myself) by 10 points. This Red Raiders team isn't anything special, but they still have sufficient offensive firepower to overpower this version of the Wildcats.
  • Western Kentucky @ Vanderbilt (ESPNU): Vandy gets a reprieve from the rest of hte SEC here.
  • Massachusetts @ Mississippi State (SEC): Miss State.
  • Baylor @ Kansas (FSN/RSN): Ugh, Baylor?
  • Illinois @ Purdue (BTN): Purdue.
12:20: Syracuse @ Florida State (ACC): This FSU team is mailing it in so hard that there is serious stuff out there about Jimbo Fisher resigning or getting fired. I like the Orange here.

3:00: Georgia Tech @ Virginia (ACC/RSN): It's hard to win when you don't block people, and it's even worse when you can't. Last week's loss to Clemson served as a reminder of the widening gap between the us and them since that exciting pair of games in 2009. That said, even in a comfortable win for the Tigers, there were some bleak signs of progress, like actually getting over a hundred yards of offense for the first time since 2014. Yeah.
Anyway, on the Hoos. Virginia has struggled in recent weeks, losing to out-of-nowhere offensive powerhouse Boston College and then suffering a 17 point loss to a not-that-good Pitt team. It got a bit spicy during the ACC teleconference this week, wherein Bronco Mendhall declared that he "has a passion for defending option offenses" and Paul Johnson responded that he has a passion "for playing 3-4 teams". 3-4 in this case is not UVA's record, but the style of defense they play, and it's not hard to see where Johnson is coming from. With Tech's wide offensive line splits, UVA will be forced to make some tough decisions about where to put their linebackers. Keep them near the line to try to shoot the gaps in Tech's wide offensive splits and that makes it easier for all the linebackers to get caught in the wash and for plays to break out wide; play the LBs more conservatively to take away the outside plays and that's a recipe for a death-by-a-thousand-cuts procession of 3-5 yard runs up the gut. Of course, the best case scenario for the Cavaliers is that the linebacker's mobility over a traditional four-man front will allow them to defeat cut blocks more easily and prevent the offensive line from getting to the second level.
On the other side of the ball, it will be interesting to see if Ted Roof comes out with guns blazing for the third week in a row. Long criticized for being too conservative, last week Roof decided essentially to bet the house. I don't really blame him for that, since we were massive underdogs, but unfortunately it didn't really pay off. That said, UVA is not Clemson and has not scored more than 30 points in their ACC games so far, despite having played a woeful UNC team.
Then there's Charlottesville. I'm writing this post on November 3rd, the 27th anniversary of perhaps the biggest game in modern Georgia Tech history, a 41-38 upset of then #1 Virginia. After that, Tech lost eight straight games in Charlottesville, with the 2009 ACC champions winning decisively and breaking the streak. Since then, Tech lost in 2011, won in 2013, and lost in 2015. Any pattern is over now, but it's hard not to think about.

3:30:
  • Stanford @ Washington State (FOX): So there was definitely a bit of a break between when I wrote the above and what I'm writing now, so don't expect anything quite as, uh, elegant? Sure, let's go with that. Anyway, Wazzu has looked less good now that they've actually had to, you know, play away from home, and I think this Stanford team can give them fits. Nonetheless, back in Pullman I still like them.
  • South Carolina @ Georgia (CBS): My fears made manifest: yes, Georgia actually is that good.
  • Wake Forest @ Notre Dame (NBC): Closer than you think, but probably still not terribly close.
  • Ohio State @ Iowa (ESPN): Going into Kinnick is always tricky (ask last year's Michigan team, for instance) but a mid-afternoon timeslot should ultimately work out in favor of the Buckeyes.
  • Iowa State @ West Virginia (ESPN2): Secret best game at this timeslot? Heck yeah. How about them Cyclones this year? Of course, West Virginia doesn't really fit the mold of the teams Iowa State has been able to beat, that is, top-10 teams at home. So I still like the 'neers here.
  • South Florida @ Connecticut (ESPNU): This is a definitely a game that will happen, and a game that USF will win.
  • Northwestern @ Nebraska (BTN): Northwestern? Sure, why now.
  • Army @ Air Force (CBSS): The Commander-in-Chief's trophy is still in play, but I actually like Army's chances here?
4:00:
  • Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State (FS1): BEDLAM! Of course, as pointed out elsewhere, for a series named Bedlam there's not actually that much chaos here, as the Sooners utterly dominate the serious. But you know what? I like Oklahoma State here, at home.
  • Mississippi @ Kentucky (SEC): This is a game that will be on TV that you can watch, but I can't recommend it. Uh, Kentucky should probably win though?
5:00: Oregon State @ California (Pac12): What's happened to Cal? Well, essentially, they had to start playing other Pac-12 teams and they're still rebuilding. They're probably still better than the Beavers, though.

7:00:
  • Nevada @ Boise State (ESPNU): Boise.
  • Colorado State @ Wyoming (CBSS): If none of the afternoon games pan out, feel free to tune into this one before they end. I like Wyoming at home, but this should be fun.
7:15:
  • Texas @ Texas Christian (ESPN): Texas is better, but I don't think they're good enough yet to beat TCU in Ft. Worth.
  • Central Florida @ Southern Methodist (ESPN2): UCF all the way.
7:30:
  • Minnesota @ Michigan (FOX): Michigan still has offensive issues, but the sheer force of personality that P.J. Fleck possesses won't be good enough to get the Gophers past Michigan.
  • Southern Mississippi @ Tennessee (SEC): I, uh, like USM here? Mostly just to put Butch out of his misery.
  • Texas-El Paso @ Middle Tennessee State (beIN): MTSU.
8:00:
  • Virginia Tech @ Miami (ABC): Hey Miami, VPI actually has a good enough defense that you won't be able to just bullshit your way to a win in the last two minutes. I still like you to win here, but I'm not feeling especially great about it.
  • Louisiana State @ Alabama (CBS): Alabama covers 21.5.
9:00: Colorado @ Arizona State (Pac12): Why not Arizona State? Well, they enjoyed a brief renaissance, but have come crashing back down in the past few games, but they should be able to take care of the Buffs at home/

10:00: Oregon @ Washington (FS1): The Ducks are back, but I think UDub is still good enough to take care of business and take the Huskies to the Pac-12 title game.

10:30: San Diego State @ San Jose State (ESPNU): San Jose State better hope the Aztecs don't know they way to San Jose, because otherwise it's going to be a long night.

10:45:
  • Arizona @ Southern California (ESPN): Late kicks, but it's only 7:45 here! Anyway, Khalil Tate has been the other great West Coast player you've never heard of, and while Is still like USC, if they blink he will make them pay.
  • Brigham Young @ Fresno State (ESPN2): Fresno has been sneaky good this year.
*: See last week's Texas Tech @ Oklahoma preview.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Bowl Predictions 2017: Week 2

Week 2 of the predictions are hot-and-ready. I waited until after the release of the first Playoff Committee rankings, which I generally use to get an idea of how they're thinking, at least at this early juncture.

It's still a bit too early to get too far into the weeds on details, so let's just hit the salient points for now:
  • I'm predicting that Alabama defeats Georgia in the SEC championship, that Clemson wins out, Ohio State wins out, and Notre Dame wins out. Which put me in a bind for the last spot in the playoff. Notre Dame would have one loss, that 20-19 loss to Georgia back in September. Georgia would have that win, but also a very recent loss to Alabama in the SEC championship. Humans are prone to recency bias, which hurts Georgia's chances, but (unfortunately) Georgia's wins over Notre Dame and Auburn would be better than Notre Dame's best two wins in this scenario (probably the wins over Southern Cal and NC State). 
  • I actually did have 80 teams this time, which was nice. You can also see my running tally of eligible teams, and we're already nearly halfway there.
  • There are more than a few teams that will only have 11 games, and I wonder if worse comes to worse the NCAA will allow 5-6 teams to be picked ahead of 5-7 teams that get in on APR or if they'll just still be eligible. (Of course, this never came up back when the season was only, you know, 11 games, but there were a lot less bowl games back then.)
  • At least once each year I predict Texas and Texas A&M will play in a Texas-based bowl, and while I realize that it probably won't happen, it's fun to think about.

Friday, October 27, 2017

This Weekend in College Football: Week 9

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

11:30: Buffalo @ Akron (CBSS): You could watch an early MAC game, or maybe you could get a little extra sleep. I know which one I'm doing. Also I like Akron here.

Noon:
  • Oklahoma State @ West Virginia (ABC): Okay, WVU is probably better this year than you think, but the Pokes are still pretty good.
  • Wisconsin @ Illinois (ESPN): Illinois is, full stop, the worst team in the Big Ten.
  • Miami @ North Carolina (ESPN2): North Carolina is as bad, if not worse, than Illinois.
  • Texas @ Baylor (ESPNU): Baylor's not great, either.
  • Arkansas @ Mississippi (SEC): Uh, stick to Oklahoma State @ WVU, okay? Geez. Somehow this timeslot has managed to feature four of the worst major conference teams in the country.
  • Rutgers @ Michigan (BTN): Serious, Rutgers is no worse than the fifth worst team in this timeslot. Still, Michigan's offense might look a little better in this one.
12:30: Virginia @ Pittsburgh (ACC/RSN): Don't look, but, apparently UVA's good now? Huh.

2:00: California @ Colorado (Pac12): Not sure who I like here, as these teams are about equally mediocre. Cal is more exciting, though, so I'll take them.

3:00:
  • Kansas State @ Kansas (FS1): This might be the worst KU team ever, and trust me, that's saying something.
  • Air Force @ Colorado State (CBSS): Colorado State is pretty good. This year's edition of the Falcons are not.
3:30:
  • Georgia vs. Florida (@Jacksonville, FL; CBS): How badly I want Florida to win (because I hate Georgia and it would be hilarious) is about inversely proportional to their odds of actually winning.
  • North Carolina State @ Notre Dame (NBC): Did you know that NC State is the only undefeated team in the ACC Atlantic right now? And that the only thing between them and Charlotte is a home game against Clemson? Yeah, they're good! The problem is, so is Notre Dame, and this one is in South Bend. I'll take the Domers here, but not by much.
  • Pennsylvania State @ Ohio State (FOX): 3:30's doing it's best to make up for the nooners, I tell you what. The Buckeyes have reeled off five straight and appear to actually have a functioning offense again. The flip side, though, is that their best win in those five games is, uh, Maryland I guess? Penn State also has a functioning offense and just took care of Michigan, which has a pretty good defense. I'm going with the Nittany Lions here.
  • Texas Christian @ Iowa State (ABC/ESPN2): Yeah, uh, Iowa State is good now? Huh. I mean, they're going to still lose to TCU, but it might be interesting.
  • California-Los Angeles @ Washington (ABC/ESPN2): UDub all the way here.
  • Michigan State @ Northwestern (ESPN): Northwestern isn't bad, they're just not, you know, good.
  • Indiana @ Maryland (BTN): See also "California @ Colorado", because this is about the same thing. Uh, edge to the home team?
3:45: Houston @ South Florida (ESPNU): Is more than one AAC team allowed to be good in a given year? How does this work? As a reminder, USF plays UCF on November 24th.

4:00: Vanderbilt @ South Carolina (SEC): Gamecocks.

5:45: Utah @ Oregon (Pac12): Utah just doesn't have their usual plucky mojo this year, at least not enough to go beat a revitalized Oregon team on the road.

6:30:
  • Minnesota @ Iowa (FS1): Minnesota will be there next year or the year after, but for now, they're still having to row pretty hard.
  • Missouri @ Connecticut (CBSS): This is definitely a game that is happening for some reason. Mizzou I guess?
7:15: Mississippi State @ Texas A&M (ESPN): See also "California @ Colorado" and "Indiana @ Maryland", because this is pretty much the SEC equivalent. TAMU I guess?

7:20: Duke @ Virginia Tech (ACC): LIGHTNING ROUND! VPI.

7:30:
  • New Mexico @ Wyoming (ESPNU): Wyoming.
  • Tennessee @ Kentucky (SEC): Kentucky.
  • Nebraska @ Purdue (BTN): Purdue.
8:00:
  • Texas Tech @ Oklahoma (ABC/ESPN2): Look, the latent magical energies that course from Bill Synder ebb and flow, and though this season has seen more ebb than not, that's not say sudden spikes can occur and not-very-good-to-this-point-Kansas-State can force Oklahoma to come from behind to win. This just happens sometimes. Essentially, I still think the Sooners are pretty good and they should be able to win here.
  • Georgia Tech @ Clemson (ABC/ESPN2): Hoo boy. This is the game that has changed more than any other for us over the last five season. We used to be pretty competitive with Clemson (see: 2009) but, well, that just isn't the case anymore. And it starts up front with the Tigers' defensive line. Paul Johnson once said something like "physical superiority cancels all theories" and indeed, with the option key is fast enough that you can't even option them, that's a problem. Our defense still worries me, especially after coming out flat against Wake Forest in the first half last week. We eventually managed to prevail on defense, but it took over 30 minutes for them to wake up. I still think the defensive playcalling is atrocious, but our secondary gives us a chance to stay in games if they're used effectively. Add this up, and it sounds like I'm saying we don't have a chance. But there's still one thing about even reigning-national-champions Clemson that's true: we've always got a chance.
9:30: Washington State @ Arizona (Pac12): I still can't get over how wrong we all were about Arizona and Arizona State entering this season. Yes, you were also wrong, even if you didn't actually have a prediction saying that the Territorial Cup would be contested by two teams with interim coaches this year. I'm still baffled by Wazzu's suddenly stingy defense, but I feel like Khalil Tate may do a thing or two to change that perception by the end of this night.

10:00: Boise State @ Utah State (CBSS): Speaking of mojo, welcome back Broncos! I like them to prevail over the road against the Aggies.

10:45: Southern California @ Arizona State (ESPN): Yeah, seriously, I didn't think back in September I'd be pretty confident that the Sun Devils would win pretty easily over the Trojans, but here we are.

11:15: San Diego State @ Hawaii (ESPN2): And here's your nightcap, which will likely be "watching the Aztecs run the clock out after you've the other games ended".

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Bowl Predictions 2017: Week 1

And... here we go again! The first bowl predictions of the season are here! Over the next several weeks, I'll be doing my best to foresee where 80 teams will play football in the last few weeks of the year.

For the first edition this year, I got an assist from Bill Callahan's S&P+ stat profiles. This saves me a good bit of time when it comes to handicapping the teams, especially at this point in the year when there's still a lot of football left to be played. And indeed, it shows in the predictions. I was also short several teams, but upsets late in the year tend to help out in that department. In other words, no need to panic (yet).

Essentially, it's still too early to say what's what. Nonetheless, all the bowl information is there and correct to the best of my ability, but the predictions? Just for fun at this point.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

This Weekend in College Football: Week 8

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Noon:
  • Oklahoma State @ Texas (ABC): This edition is going to be quick and abbreviated, I'm not going to lie. And that also means that while I think Texas has a good defense, I think that the Pokes are going to be too much for them offensively.
  • Maryland @ Wisconsin (FOX): Wisconsin is just going to keep doing Wisconsin things, as far as I can tell, though I think this is an improved Maryland team.
  • Louisville @ Florida State (ESPN): Boy howdy, this matchup looked a lot better two months ago than it does now, eh? Uh, well, Louisville is as much of a one-man show that has ever existed in college football it seems, since their offensive line is terrible and their defensive seemingly non-existent. FSU is struggling on offense, but I suspect their still excellent defense will allow them to prevail.
  • Iowa @ Northwestern (ESPN2): This is a thing you could watch, I guess. Uh, Iowa?
  • Iowa State @ Texas Tech (FS1): This one might be interesting. The Cyclones are not terrible, but it seems that Texas Tech is on their way to a pretty good season, and for that to be true, they really need to circle the wagons down in Lubbock. (Which I think they will.)
  • Tulsa @ Connecticut (ESPNU): Uh, Tulsa?
  • Idaho @ Missouri (SEC): Mizzou is bad this year, but not this bad.
  • Purdue @ Rutgers (BTN): Now here's a chance for the Boilermakers to really Brohm it out, if you will.
  • Temple @ Army (CBSS): Army looks decent this year? I like them against Temple, at least.
12:20: Pittsburgh @ Duke (ACC): It still feels weird to pick Duke, but here we are.

12:30: Boston College @ Virginia (ACC/RSN): Speaking of feeling weird picking a team, apparently UVA isn't terrible this year and will be bowl eligible with this win. Huh.

3:30:
  • Tennessee @ Alabama (CBS): It is definitely the Third Saturday in October, all right, and I'm not sure I can think of any time in the recent past where I've felt as sorry for the Volunteers coming into this as I do right now.
  • Indiana @ Michigan State (ABC): This will be a good barometer for Sparty's recovery back to the normal steady-state they've maintained, and I think they'll get it.
  • Syracuse @ Miami (ESPN): Okay, Miami, please don't need a last second play to get a win against a feisty Syracuse. Please.
  • North Carolina @ Virginia Tech (ESPN2): VPI.
  • Arizona State @ Utah (FS1): I, and basically everyone else in the college football universe, was wrong about the Arizona schools. I still like the Utes here.
  • Illinois @ Minnesota (BTN): Gophers.
4:00:
  • Oklahoma @ Kansas State (FOX): The Bill Synder mojo just does not seem to be in effect for this year.
  • Southern Methodist @ Cincinnati (ESPNU): Cincy, I guess?
  • Kentucky @ Mississippi State (SEC): Okay, Miss State isn't the awesome team we all thought a few weeks ago, sure. But... I'll still take them over Kentucky.
  • Oregon @ California-Los Angeles (Pac12): So far in this quick write-up this is the first one where I've really had to stop and think. I think UCLA is pretty much a disaster at this point, but I think the Ducks still have a long way to go. I'm taking the Ducks, but just barely.
6:30: Alabama-Birmingham @ Charlotte (beIN): Go Blazers!

7:00:
  • South Florida @ Tulane (ESPN2): I could keep posting the date of the USF-UCF game, but... yeah, I think y'all get the idea.
  • Brigham Young @ East Carolina (CBSS): BYU sure can't play offense, but I'm not so sure about ECU playing football, in general.
7:15: Louisiana State @ Mississippi (ESPN): LSU seems to have recovered well from, you know, losing to Troy. I like them here.

7:30:
  • Southern California @ Notre Dame (NBC): I listen to two college football related podcasts: Podcast Ain' Played Nobody and the Shutdown Fullcast. Both, but especially the latter, have noted that Notre Dame is actually kinda good this year? I'm still taking USC, but still...
  • Michigan @ Pennsylvania State (ABC): I run a pick-'em elsewhere, and more maximum main I had this game as against the spread (with Penn State favored by 9.5 points). But on here I don't have to do that, so I can just pick Penn State. Whee!
  • Wake Forest @ Georgia Tech (ESPNU): If (one of) the worst nights of my life hadn't happened to me two weeks ago, then last week's game against Miami would have hurt a lot more. As it it is, it hurt a lot, but this still feels like a pretty decent version of GT so far this year despite the gut-punch losses? I dunno. What I do know is that we cannot wallow in our misery, as this is a feisty Wake Forest squad in the mold of those Wake teams Jim Grobe used to get every once in a while that was actually good. Also, I just wanted to lament that, as a small, private Baptist school I will probably never get to unironically refer to Wake Forest as "Woke Forest". Thanks for reading, try the veal, and remember to tip your waitress!
  • Auburn @ Arkansas (SEC): Comeback losses to LSU aside, Auburn is probably still good? It's not Novembert yet, so I like their chances.
8:00:
  • Kansas @ Texas Christian (FOX): TCU.
  • West Virginia @ Baylor (FS2): WVU.
  • Arizona @ California (Pac12): Zona?
10:15: Wyoming @ Boise State (ESPN2): Boise's back! Well, maybe. But probably at least for this game.

10:30: Fresno State @ San Diego State (CBSS): Still like the Aztecs here.

10:45: Colorado @ Washington State (ESPN): And I still like the Cougars here.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

This Weekend in College Football: Week 7

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Noon:
  • Michigan @ Indiana (ABC): Somehow everyone forgot last weekend as Michigan's offense looked hapless against Michigan State that this was supposed to be Michigan's rebuilding year. I suspect now with a more porous Indiana defense they'll suddenly look a lot more competent.
  • South Carolina @ Tennessee (ESPN): The season figures to continue to go off the rails for Butch Jones and company, though in fairness to him he seems to be a pretty earnest guy? I mean, he's probably going to be an earnest guy without a job soon, but still.
  • Florida State @ Duke (ESPN2): FSU should improve from "the best 1-3 team in the country" to "the best 2-3 team in the country" after this.
  • Texas Christian @ Kansas State (FS1): Weird stuff can happen when it involves K-State, but I think this version of the Wildcats just lacks the offensive power to keep up.
  • Texas Tech @ West Virginia (ESPNU): Here's a real measuring stick for WVU to figure out the hierarchy of Big 12 teams. The only point of comparison is that TTU beat Kansas worse, which, sure, that seems as reasonable as anything.
  • Connecticut @ Temple (ESPNEWS): Temple's not good or anything, but they're better than UConn.
  • Brigham Young @ Mississippi State (SEC): This version of BYU is just too offensively limited, but they may still get to 6-6 with their schedule after this. The key word being "after".
  • Kansas @ Iowa State (FSN/RSN): Cyclones.
  • Rutgers @ Illinois (BTN): AVOID AT ALL COSTS. Also, uh, Illinois?
  • Eastern Michigan @ Army (CBSS): I'd say Army is looking pretty good so far on the year, and with a win here they'll be most of the way to bowl eligibility.
  • North Carolina State @ Pittsburgh (ACC/RSN): This Pitt is a long, long way from last year's memes.
12:20: Boston College @ Louisville (ACC): Lamar Jackson is still one of the best players in college football. Hopefully folks remember in a month or two.

3:30:
  • Georgia Tech @ Miami (ABC): And we're back. An off-week is a little more welcome at this point, lets some people get another week of healing in (in particular, Clinton Lynch has yet to really look like Clinton Lynch). The real interesting part is where Miami is after for. For most of the past 5-6 seasons Miami was good for a two week funk after losing the FSU game. Now that they've won, now that they've climbed the hill, how well will they come out? Will Year 2 Mark Richt also make a difference in the attitude of the team? Ultimately, I think this one will come down to where Miami is mentally.
  • Auburn @ Louisiana State (CBS): Hard to see how Auburn's offense won't just run circles around LSU.
  • Oklahoma vs. Texas (@Dallas, TX; ESPN): Late kick for the Red River Whatever You Want to Call It. I still like "Shootout", but I'll accept any other alternative as long as it's not "Rivalry" and especially if it's humorous, like "The Red River Respectful Disagreement". Anyway, I like Baker Mayfield and company to get their mojo back.
  • Northwestern @ Maryland (ESPN2): Goin' with the Terps here.
  • Baylor @ Oklahoma State (FS1): Pokies.
  • Vanderbilt @ Mississippi (SEC): Avoid at all costs. Vandy, I guess?
  • Purdue @ Wisconsin (BTN): Purdue is back and exciting, but this feels like they're going to run into a brick wall. Made of beef. Look, it makes sense, okay?
  • Akron @ Western Michigan (CBSS): Western Michigan is still actually kinda good.
  • Virginia @ North Carolina (ACC/RSN): UNC somehow dodged NCAA sanctions, but I still don't like them against a rapidly improving Virginia team.
3:45: Navy @ Memphis (ESPNU): This may secretly be one of the most interesting games of the day. I still like Navy here, but the contrast in styles figures to be fun to watch.

4:00:
  • Houston @ Tulsa (ESPNEWS): This Tulsa, yeah, no.
  • Colorado @ Oregon State (Pac12): Well, one of these teams just had their coach resign essentially because their coach wasn't feeling it, so, uh, Buffs.
6:30: Middle Tennessee State @ Alabama-Birmingham (beIN): GO BLAZERS! I mean, they probably won't win, but seriously.

7:00:
  • Texas A&M @ Florida (ESPN2): I think this game could result one of the biggest narrative shifts of the day. It doesn't seem like there's a lot pressure on Jim McElwain at Florida right now, at least outside of the disgruntled Florida fans I follow. Meanwhile, folks are figuring that Kevin Sumlin is as good at TAMU. I like A&M to win here and shift the narrative.
  • East Carolina @ Central Florida (CBSS): UCF looks neigh unstoppable. For reference, they play South Florida on November 24th.
7:15: Arkansas @ Alabama (ESPN): Speaking of narratives and neigh unstoppable... yeah, Bama continues to roll.

7:30:
  • Ohio State @ Nebraska (FS1): Hey Urbz, it's actually a 6:30 kick out in Nebraska, so it's not that late! Seriously, though, the Buckeyes seem to have their groove back, then again, the schedule got seriously easier after Oklahoma. I figure that trend will continue.
  • Cincinnati @ South Florida (ESPNU): USF looks neigh unstoppable. For reference, they play Central Florida on November 24th.
  • Missouri @ Georgia (SEC): Mizzou came close against Kentucky last week, but... Georgia is not Kentucky. Unfortunately.
8:00:
  • Utah @ Southern California (ABC): USC is not a juggernaut, but they're better than Utah. Then again, relative talent levels don't seem to matter a whole much to Utah. I still think the Trojans will win, but it won't be easy.
  • Michigan State @ Minnesota (BTN): Both these teams are improving, but the Gophers figure to remain winless in Big Ten play.
9:00: California-Los Angeles @ Arizona (Pac12): I still don't, uh, believe in Arizona? If that makes any sense. Not that UCLA inspires any amount of belief, and it's on the road so, uh, Beardown I guess?

10:15: Nevada @ Colorado State (ESPN2): Not Nevada's year this year, going with the Rams.

10:30: Boise State @ San Diego State (CBSS): I like the Aztecs to pass their biggest test here.

10:45: Washington @ Arizona State (ESPN): UDub figures out put somewhat more than 3 points in this road contest.

11:00: Oregon @ Stanford (FS1): Oregon is improved, but I don't see them stopping Bryce Love.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

2018 World Cup Update: The Worst Night of My Life

Okay, probably not the worst, but it's certainly up there. Enough said.

Let's review this past international break.

Qualified: Nigeria, Egypt, Honduras, Costa Rica, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Peru, France, Portugal, Germany, Serbia, Poland, England, Spain, Belgium, and Iceland.

Eliminated: Syria, Mali, Gabon, Zambia, Ghana, Uganda, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, Chile, Paraguay, Ecuador, Bulgaria, Netherlands, Austria, Wales, Montenegro, Slovakia, Scotland, Slovenia, Albania, Cyprus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Turkey, and Ukraine.

There are now 20 teams competing for the 9 remaining spots. The status of all teams page has been updated. We'll take a look at the scenarios for Africa and preview the UEFA and inter-confederation playoffs in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

2018 World Cup Update: On the Next Matchday... (Oct. 8-10)

And we're back with a look at the remaining games in this international break. 13 teams are now qualified, with 44 teams still in the running. At least 9 more will be qualified by Wednesday.

I don't make any claim these scenarios are comprehensive, but they are all in one place.

UEFA 10/9 Update
These are the final scenarios:
  • France will qualify directly if they defeat Belarus.
  • France will qualify directly if Sweden loses to the Netherlands.
  • Sweden will qualify directly if they defeat the Netherlands and France loses to or draws with Belarus.
  • Sweden will clinch at least a play-off spot if they do not lose to the Netherlands or lose by less than 7 goals.
  • The Netherlands will clinch second place in Group A and a play-off spot if they defeat Sweden by at least 7 goals.
  • Switzerland will qualify directly if they do not lose to Portugal. Otherwise, they will qualify for the play-off.
  • Portugal will qualify directly if they defeat Switzerland. Otherwise, they will qualify for the play-off.
  • Greece will qualify for the play-off if they defeat Gibraltar, or if they draw or lose to Gibraltar and Bosnia and Herzegovina fails to defeat Estonia. Otherwise, Slovakia will qualify for the play-off.

AFC

This one's easy. Syria and Australia drew Syria's "home" leg 1-1, here's the matrix of scenarios for the return leg:
  • Australia advances with any win or a 0-0 draw.
  • Syria advances with a win or draw in which each side scores 2 goals or more.
  • If the score after 90 minutes is 1-1, then there will be 30 minutes of extra time. If the score is still 1-1 after the 30 minutes, then a penalty shootout will determine who advances. If there is an outright winner after extra time, then the winner advances. If there is any other draw then Syria will advance on away goals.
CAF

Africa doesn't play again until November, so we'll cover those scenarios then, but we'll salute Nigeria for qualifying and saying aloha to Zambia, Gabon, and Mali. [possibly also Uganda and Ghana if Egypt wins]

CONCACAF

Costa Rica qualified with a 1-1 draw with Honduras. Here's the scenarios going into Tuesday.

The United States will:
  • Qualify directly for the World Cup with a win at Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Qualify directly for the World Cup with a draw and if either Panama fails to defeat Costa Rica by 7 goals or Honduras fails to defeat Mexico by 12 goals.
  • Qualify directly for the World Cup with a loss to Trinidad and Tobago if both Panama and Honduras lose to or draw with Costa Rica and Mexico, respectively.
  • Clinch fourth place and a place in the inter-confederation playoff if they draw Trinidad and Tobago and just one of Panama or Honduras win by enough to make up the differences in goal differential.
  • Clinch fourth place and a place in the inter-confederation playoff if they lose to Trinidad and Tobago and just one of Panama or Honduras wins their respective matches.
The fates of Panama and Honduras are more intertwined. Panama's goal differential is much better (-2 versus -7) so they have an advantage in any scenario where they wind up tied on points, like they currently are. As seen above, both are hindered by their goal differentials when tying the United States due to the US's +5 goal differential. For both, if they win and the United States draws, then it will come down to goal differential. Either will be eliminated with a loss unless both of them lose. If they both draw, then Panama will clinch fourth place and Honduras will be eliminated.

CONMEBOL

Strap in because this one's nuts, folks. After Thursday night, six teams are in the running for the last three spots available out of South America. A quick summary of the teams still in the running:
  • Uruguay is all but in. They have 28 points and a plus +10 goal differential. Even if they lose, barring some catastrophe they cannot finish worse than the inter-confederation playoff spot (5th place).
  • Chile eliminated Ecuador and picked up 3 crucial points in the process. They now have 26 points, a +2 goal differential, and are ahead of Colombia on goals scored.
  • Colombia is in fourth place with 26 points, +2 goals, and behind Chile due to goals scored.
  • Peru is in fifth after earning a huge draw at Argentina, sitting on 25 points and a +1 goal differential. They are ahead of Argentina on goals scored.
  • If the competition ended today, Argentina would not make the World Cup. They are in sixth place with 25 points and a +1 goal differential. They are behind Peru due to goals scored.
  • Paraguay has 24 points but a potential anchor due to their -5 goal differential.

All of the games on Tuesday will kickoff at 5:30 PM Eastern. Let's go through the scenarios, such as I can. I'm going to do this by team, but as you might guess from the above, this gets very complicated, very fast. Even though there is an enormous block of text below, I probably have come nowhere close to enumerating all the possibilities.

Uruguay
Uruguay has the easiest scenarios. With any win or draw over Bolivia, they get into the World Cup. The game is in Montevideo and is the second worst team in the table. They should be able to get at least a point. However, if they lose, then for them to even wind up in 5th place (and thus the inter-confederation playoff) the following would have to happen:
  • Chile defeats Brazil
  • There is a result in the Colombia-Peru game
  • Argentina defeats Ecuador, and Uruguay loses by a bad enough margin to erase their 9 goal difference in terms of goal differential.
Chile
If Chile defeats Brazil, they are in. However, that's easier said than done. Brazil have won all their matches at home in this qualification cycle, and their only loss came to Chile two years ago in Santiago. However, if Chile draws then things start to get weird, fast. With a draw, Chile ends up with 27 points. If there is a result in the Colombia-Peru game, then the winner will have 29 points. If Argentina defeats Ecuador, then they will have 28 points. If Paraguay defeats Ecuador, then they will have 27 points, however Paraguay would need to win by at least 7 goals to make up the goal difference, so Chile has the advantage there. If there is a draw in the Colombia-Peru game, then it may come down to how many goals Chile and Colombia scored in their matches, since Chile is currently prevailing on the goals scored tiebreaker. (They currently have a 6 goal advantage.) If only one of the above scenarios comes to fruition, then Chile will qualify for the World Cup. If two of them occur, then Chile will finish in 5th place. If three or more occur, then Chile will be eliminated.

If Chile loses, they can still qualify outright if Colombia defeats Peru, Ecuador defeats Argentina, and Paraguay doesn't defeat Venezuela. They will be eliminated outright in the following scenarios:
  • Colombia draws Peru, Argentina defeats Ecuador, and Paraguay defeats Venezuela
  • Colombia defeats Peru, Argentina defeats Ecuador, and Paraguay defeats Venezeula
  • Peru defeats Colombia, Argentina defeats Ecuador, and Paraguay defeats Venezeula
In every other case, it would go to tiebreakers in various combinations of 4th, 5th, and 6th place:
  • If Colombia daws Peru, Argentina draws Ecuador, and Parguay defeats Venezuela, then there will be a 3-way tie for 5th between Chile, Peru, and Argentina. In this scenario, Argentina's goal difference would remain at +1, as would Peru's. If Chile loses by one goal, then their goal difference would be +1 and they could probably prevail over Argentina on goals scored (where they lead by 10), but run into trouble with Peru, with whom they are currently level on goals scored. If Chile loses by more than one goal or Colombia-Peru score 1 goal or more each, then they would be eliminated.
  • If Colombia draws Peru, Argentina draws Ecuador, and Paraguay doesn't defeat Venezuela, then the tiebreaker described above would be for 4th place and 5th place. If Argentina loses to Ecuador, then the tiebreaker would involve just Peru and Chile and would decide 4th and 5th place.
  • If Colombia defeats Peru, Argentina draws Ecuador, and Paraguay defeats Venezuela, then Chile and Argentina would be tied for 5th at 26 points. If Chile loses by one goal, they probably prevail on goals scored (see above), but if they lose by more than one goal then they are eliminated. If Paraguay doesn't defeat Venezuela, then the tiebreaker will decide 4th and 5th place.
  • If Peru defeats Colombia, then it will come down to whose loss is worse, since Colombia and Peru currently both have a +2 goal differential. If they lose by the same margin, then it will come down who scored more goals. Otherwise, the above scenarios apply.
Colombia
If Colombia defeats Peru, then they will qualify for the World Cup. Colombia is also in good shape if they draw Peru. They are only eliminated outright if they draw and Chile win or draw (and Colombia doesn't score more goals than them in the process) along with Argentina winning and Paraguay winning by at least 7 goals. If they draw and either Argentina or Paraguay fail to win or draw, they will qualify. If they draw and Argentina draws, then Colombia will prevail on goal differential and qualify. If they draw and Argentina wins, then that would knock them down to 5th.

If Colombia loses, then they cannot finish higher than 5th. If Argentina or Paraguay win, then Colombia would be eliminated. If Argentina draws, then Colombia would need to lose by more than 2 goals to be eliminated. If they lose by one goal, then Argentina would need to make up the difference in goals scored (currently 20 versus 16).

Peru
If Peru defeats Colombia, they are in. The game is in Lima, so they should have at least a slight advantage. If Peru draws Colombia, then it depends on what Argentina and Paraguay do. If either of them win, then Peru is eliminated. If either of them draw, then Peru is in good shape due to its tiebreaker advantages over Argentina (10 more goals scored) and Paraguay (+1 versus -5 goal differential). If Peru loses to Colombia, then they would be eliminated if Argentina wins or draws or if Paraguay wins. Also, if Peru loses and Argentina loses, then it would depend on how badly each lost, with the starting point being the tiebreakers previously mentioned.

Argentina
Argentina and the world's best player currently sit in sixth place and in a heap of trouble. If they win, then it will depend on what the teams above them do, though they are at least assured 5th place.
  • If Chile and Colombia/Peru win, then the best Argentina can do with a win.
  • If Chile draws or loses or if Colombia-Peru draw, then Argentina will qualify.
If Argentina draws Ecuador (and the game is on the road), they will wind up with 26 points. If Chile wins or draws, and Colombia-Peru is a draw, then Argentina will be eliminated unless they score a barrage of goals (but somehow still draw). If Colombia defeats Peru and Chile wins or draws, then Argentina will finish 5th. If Colombia defeats Peru and Chile loses, then Argentina could potentially make up their goal differential deficit with Chile if Chile loses by at least two goals. The same applies if Peru defeats Colombia. If Chile also loses, then Argentina could finish as high as fourth, but if Chile and Colombia do not lose by multiple goals then Argentina will be eliminated. If Argentina draws and Paraguay wins, then they will be eliminated.

If Argentina loses to Ecuador, then they will be eliminated.

Paraguay
Paraguay can only get in with a win over Venezuela, and even then they need at least one of Chile, Colombia/Peru, or Argentina to lose. Paraguay's -5 goal differential will be a major issue, because while Venezuela have conceded the most goals it's still unlikely they'd lose 6-0. Paraguay can qualify directly if Chile loses, Argentina loses or draws, and Colombia-Peru ends in a draw. They can also wind up in 5th if Chile draws and there is a draw in Colombia-Peru, and if Argentina loses or draws.

Summary
  • Uruguay is almost certainly in and cannot finish worse than 5th, even if they lose to Bolivia.
  • Chile is in if they defeat Brazil, very likely in if they draw, and holding on for dear life if they lose, but probably in 5th place.
  • Colombia is in if they defeat Peru, and very very likely in if they draw, and praying neither Argentina or Paraguay win if they lose.
  • Peru is in if they defeat Colombia, but on shaky ground if they draw, since Argentina could then pass them if they draw. If they draw, they cannot do better than 5th.
  • If Argentina picks up a win in Quito, then they are assured of at least 5th place, and in if Chile loses or draws and Colombia-Peru is a draw. If Argentina draws then they really need Peru to lose to Colombia.
  • Paraguay needs to win and score a boatload of goals.
UEFA

Group A
France is assured of at least a place in the second round, but they can still qualify directly with a win over Belarus at home. They will also qualify with a draw and if Sweden loses to the Netherlands. If Sweden draws the Dutch, then a French loss would be trouble since Sweden has a better goal differential (+19 versus +11). France can also qualify directly with a draw and if Sweden does not defeat the Netherlands. Sweden can qualify directly if they defeat the Netherlands and France draws or loses to Belarus.

Sweden can only be eliminated if they lose to Netherlands by at least 13 goals, which would also clinch second place for the Dutch. We'd have to wait for other group results to come in to see if the Dutch would clinch a place in the second round.

Group B
Switzerland is currently topping the group with 27 points with Portugal behind at 24. Both are assured of a place in the second round. Conveniently, Portugal also gets Switzerland at home in the final game of the first round and has an advantage already in goal differential. Therefore, if Portugal wins they will qualify directly, and with any other result Switzerland will qualify directly.

Group C
Group C is done, with Germany clinching the group. Northern Ireland has also clinched second place, and will clinch a place in the playoff with a win or draw over Norway. Whether they can get in with a loss depends on action in the other groups.

Group D
Austria was eliminated, leaving Serbia with 18 points, Wales with 17 points, and Ireland with 16 points. Wales and Ireland will play each other, and Serbia will play Georgia. On the next matchday, October 9th:
  • Serbia will qualify directly for the World Cup with a win over Georgia.
  • Serbia will qualify directly for the World Cup with a draw with Georgia and if Wales and Ireland draw each other.
  • Wales will qualify directly for the World Cup with a win over Ireland and a Serbia draw with or loss to Georgia. Serbia would clinch second place in this scenario.
  • Ireland will qualify directly for the World Cup with a win over Wales and a Serbia loss to Georgia.
  • Wales will cinch second place with a win over or a draw with Ireland.
  • Ireland will clinch second place with a win over Wales.
Whether the second place team in this group moves to the second round depends on the results in other groups.

Group E
Poland is on top with 22 points, and if they do not qualify outright they are assured of second place and a spot in the Second Round. Denmark and Montenegro have 19 and 16 points, respectively. On the next matchday, October 8th:
  • Poland will qualify directly for the World Cup with a win over or draw with Montenegro.
  • Denmark will qualify directly for the World Cup with a win over Romania and a Poland loss to Montenegro.
  • Montenegro will clinch second place with a win over Poland and if Denmark loses to Romania.
  • Denmark will clinch second place with win over or draw with Romania.

Group F
England defeated Slovenia to qualify outright, so it is a three-way battle for second between Scotland, Slovakia, and Slovenia with 17, 15, and 14 points, respectively. If Scotland wins at Slovenia, then they will clinch second place. If Scotland draws and Slovakia defeats Malta (hint: that's incredibly likely, especially at home) then Slovakia will prevail on goal difference (+7 to Scotland's +5). Slovenia can only qualify if they defeat Scotland and Slovakia loses to or draws with Malta (hint: that's not very likely).

Group G
This group is done. Spain clinched qualification and Albania was eliminated, leaving Italy in second place and waiting to see if they'll qualify for the second round.

Group H
Belgium qualified back in September. Greece will clinch second place with a win over Gibraltar, which is, well, which is very, very likely. (Gibraltar has lost all of their games and has a -40 goal differential.) If they somehow draw, then Bosnia and Herzegovina could clinch second place with a win over Estonia, and would clinch outright if the impossible occurs and Greece manages to lose at home to a tiny peninsula with a population of 33,000.

Group I
Iceland will qualify directly for the World Cup with a win over Kosovo, which is pretty likely. If they draw or lose to Kosovo, they can do no worse than second place and are assured of making the Second Round. Croatia and Ukraine are tied on 17 points and play each other, so it's pretty straightforward. Whoever wins will also have a better goal differential than Iceland, so the winner would qualify directly for the World Cup if Iceland draws or loses to Kosovo. If they draw, then Croatia will clinch second place.

Friday, October 06, 2017

This Weekend in College Football: Week 6

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Noon:
  • Pennsylvania State @ Northwestern (ABC): These two teams try to play similar styles, except only one of them as Saquon Barkley, so I like Penn State here.
  • Iowa State @ Oklahoma (FOX): Sooners.
  • Georgia @ Vanderbilt (ESPN): Everyone talking about UGA as the second best team in the SEC means it's about time for them to, say, lose to Vanderbilt, right? Right? (Probably not, but there's always hope.)
  • Wake Forest @ Clemson (ESPN2): Wake Forest gave a depleted Florida State everything they could handle last week and... still lost. Clemson may toy with them a bit, but this shouldn't be close.
  • Texas Tech @ Kansas (FS1): Well Red Raiders, the Jayhawks should be a good salve for that tough loss to Oklahoma State last week, at least.
  • Temple @ East Carolina (ESPNU): Rebuilding Temple, as it turns out, is probably better than "rapidly hitting the low point" ECU.
  • Mississippi @ Auburn (SEC): If it's not already a lost season for Ole Miss, then it will be after this.
  • Illinois @ Iowa (BTN): I wouldn't recommend this one. Hawkeyes roll.
  • Eastern Michigan @ Toledo (CBSS): Going with Toledo here.
12:20: Duke @ Virginia (ACC): I still don't believe in UVA, so I'm going with Duke here.

12:30: Pittsburgh @ Syracuse (ACC/RSN): Pitt just has nothing on offense this year, which, well, that's definitely not Syracuse's problem.

3:30:
  • Notre Dame @ North Carolina (ABC): Speaking of teams GT has played that look terrible this year, boy howdy is Carolina rebuilding or what? Domers should roll.
  • Louisiana State @ Florida (CBS): If you like 12-7 football, then you'll like this SEC Game of the Week on CBS­™! Seriously, you may want to avoid this particular vortex of offensive dysfunction, unless you like watching things in a train wreck sense. Gators, I guess.
  • Miami @ Florida State (ESPN): It will take something truly bizarre for Miami to lose to Florida State this year, so I'm going to have to go with the Canes this time.
  • Minnesota @ Purdue (ESPN2): While many in the college football sphere have marveled at Purdue's turnaround this year, Minnesota has sort of quietly chugged along, logging a close loss to Maryland in their first Big Ten contest. I'm leaning Purdue due to their offensive potential, but I think if the game is tight it could break toward the Gophers.
  • West Virginia @ Texas Christian (FS1): WVU faces a sharp increase of difficultly here after beating Kansas last week. TCU pulled out a fantastic game at Oklahoma State last weekend, continuing to ride their philosophy of a defensive coach that knows he has to put up 40+ to win in the Big 12.
  • Air Force @ Navy (CBSS): Air Force is 1-3 and 0-2 in the Mountain West already. I like Navy here.
4:00:
  • Maryland @ Ohio State (FOX): Buckeyes, obviously, but Maryland might give them a bit of a contest for a little while.
  • Tulsa @ Tulane (ESPNU): Uh, Tulane? Sure, let's go with that.
  • Arkansas @ South Carolina (SEC): Boy howdy, this 4:00 slate isn't very exciting so far... uh, SoCar?
  • Oregon State @ Southern California (Pac12): USC.
6:30: Army @ Rice (beIN): Army, you've got to win this game. I'm telling you.

7:00:
  • Kansas State @ Texas (FS1): Jokes about Bill Synder being a wizard aside, this doesn't look like exactly the best version of Bill Synder K-State this year. Which will probably make it that much more hilarious when they somehow beat the Longhorns again, but I'm not going to predict it.
  • Southern Methodist @ Houston (CBSS): Don't look, but SMU might be good this year. I mean, Houston is probably still better, but still.
7:15:
  • Alabama @ Texas A&M (ESPN): I suspect this game may cause angst both ways, in the sense that Bama may not win by as much as they have at other times this season and the sense that TAMU is likely still going to lose very badly.
  • Virginia Tech @ Boston College (ESPN2): Well, VPI, I can pretty safely say that you be much better equipped to handle BC's offense than Clemson's.
7:30:
  • Michigan State @ Michigan (ABC): Sparty's already got 3 wins this year, and I doubt they're going to lose 8 in a row, so they've definitely improved this season. And while this Michigan team has weaknesses, it's not clear that Mich State has the ability to exploit them.
  • Missouri @ Kentucky (SEC): Missouri is a trash fire this year, going with Kentucky.
8:00:
  • Washington State @ Oregon (FOX): Hello secret best game of the day! It's Wazzu's first road trip of the year, and Autzen should be ready to go on a crisp fall evening. I think Wazzu will win, but it's hard to count out what look some rejuvenated Ducks at home.
  • Central Florida @ Cincinnati (ESPNU): UCF is good, y'all.
  • Wisconsin @ Nebraska (BTN): "Oh hey, I thought Nebraska was struggling, but they're 2-0 in the Big Ten already? Huh." [clicks on team page] "Ah, Rutgers and Illinois. That makes sense." Yeah, I like the Badgers here.
  • Arizona @ Colorado (Pac12): The Arizona teams aren't as bad as we all thought they'd be coming into the year, but they're still not good. Meanwhile, Colorado is struggling, but I'd say this is the first Pac-12 game they'd be expected to win. Going with them here.
10:15: Stanford @ Utah (FS1): See what I said about Penn State-Northwestern, except replace "Saquon Barkley" with "Bryce Love".

10:30: Hawaii @ Nevada (CBSS): You could watch this, or you could watch one of the games above or below. Hawaii, why not?

10:45:
  • California @ Washington (ESPN): Look, Washington should win, but hey if Cal is in this thing at all it should be interesting. Just hard to compete at Husky Stadium, though.
  • San Diego State @ Nevada-Las Vegas (ESPN2): UNLV is so bad. So bad.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

2018 World Cup Update: On the Next Matchday... (Oct. 5-6)

AFC

In Asia, we're now in the fourth round, a home-and-home set between Syria and Australia. (Or, more correctly, a home-and-Syria's-home-away-from-home, Malaysia.) The first leg will take place in Malaysia on the 5th, while the return leg will be in Sydney on the 10th. The winner will be determined by who scores more goals on aggregate. If the teams draw after the end of 90 minutes in the second game, the winner will be determined by who scored more goals on their away legs. If that is also a draw, then 30 minutes of extra time will be played with the away goals rule still applicable, followed by a penalty shootout if the match is still tied.

Suffice it to say, we can only really talk scenarios for the second match. The winner of the fixture will advance to an inter-confederation playoff against a team from CONCACAF.

CAF

In Group A, Guinea and Libya have already been eliminated and Tunisia is ahead of the Democratic Republic of the Congo by 3 points.
  • On October 7th, Tunisia will advance to the 2018 World Cup with a win or draw over Guinea and a DR Congo draw or loss to Libya. 
In Group B, Cameroon and Algeria have already been eliminated, and Nigeria is ahead of Zambia by 3 points.
  • On October 7th, Nigeria will advance to the 2018 World Cup with a win over Zambia.
In Group C, no teams have been eliminated as of yet. The Ivory Coast leads with 7 points, followed by Morocco with 6 points, Gabon with 5 points ,and Mali with 2 points. No team can clinch in the coming international window, so we'll have to wait until November to see who comes out of the group. However, if Mali loses to the Ivory Coast, they will be eliminated. Also, if the Ivory Coast defeats Mali, Gabon will be eliminated if they lose to or draw with Morocco, and Morocco will be eliminated with a loss.

Group D is in a bit of chaos right now, as FIFA ordered the November 2016 match between South Africa and Senegal to be replayed due to a match fixing referee (who subsequently banned for life). The original result had South Africa winning 2-1. Group leaders Burkina Faso have filed a case with the Court for Arbitration in Sport to have the replay not happen and the original result restored. It's hard to blame them, as the original result was a pretty big upset as Senegal is the power in the group, and the replayed match could make a difference. As a result, it's hard to really say with any certainty what will happen on the next matchday in this group.

In Group E, Congo have been eliminated. The rest of the group consists of Egypt at 9 points, Uganda at 7 points, and Ghana at 5 points.
  • On October 7th, Ghana will be eliminated if they lose to Uganda.
  • On October 8th, Ghana will be eliminated if Egypt defeats Congo.
  • On October 8th, Egypt will advance to the 2018 World Cup with a win over Congo and any Uganda draw with or loss to Ghana.
CONCACAF

The Fifth Round, also known as the Hexagonal, features six teams playing a double round-robin. Mexico lead the table with 18 points and a guaranteed finish in the top three spots, and thus are in the World Cup. Behind them are Costa Rica, on 15 points and a guarantee to finish in the top four, which means either the World Cup or the inter-confederation playoff against a team from the AFC. In third place are Panama on 10 points, followed by the United States with 9. Honduras also has 9 points but also a -7 goal differential. Trinidad and Tobago are in last place with just 3 points, but they are not technically eliminated yet.

The next matchday for all teams is October 6th. On that day:
  • Costa Rica will qualify for the 2018 World Cup with any win or draw against Honduras.
  • Panama will qualify for the 2018 World Cup with a win over the United States.
  • Trinidad and Tobago will be eliminated with any draw or loss to Mexico, or if both the United States and Honduras win or draw with Panama and Costa Rica, respectively. 
CONMEBOL

There's still a lot at play in South America because, as previously noted, the second through eighth placed teams are within seven points of each other, and three of those teams won't qualify. It's probably just easiest to look at the actual table instead of trying to describe it. The next matchday is October 5th, and on that day:
  • Uruguay will qualify for the 2018 World Cup if they defeat Venezuela and Argentina and Peru draw against each other.
  • Ecuador will be eliminated if they lose to Chile.
  • Paraguay will be eliminated if they lose to Colombia and Argentina and Peru draw against each other.
For everything else, tune back in after Saturday.

UEFA

There's 54 teams in 6 groups, so let's just cut to the chase.

Group A
France and Sweden lead the pack with 17 and 16 points, respectively, followed by the Netherlands and Bulgaria with 13 and 12 points. Luxembourg and Belarus have been eliminated. On the next matchday, October 7th:
  • France will qualify directly for the 2018 World Cup with a win over Bulgaria and a Sweden loss to Luxembourg.
  • Bulgaria will be eliminated if they lose to France.
  • Bulgaria will be eliminated if they draw with France and Sweden defeats or draws with Luxembourg.
  • The Netherlands will be eliminated if they lose to Belarus and Sweden defeats or draws with Luxembourg.
Group B
In Group B, everyone except Switzerland and Portugal have been eliminated. Switzerland currently leads 24 points to 21. On the next matchday, October 7th:
  • Switzerland will qualify directly for the 2018 World Cup with a win over Hungary and a Portugal draw or loss to Andorra.
Suffice it to say, this one's probably going to come down to the match in Lisbon on the 10th. Again, check back after Saturday.

Group C
In Group C, it's pretty much Germany looking to wrap things up. On the next matchday, October 5th:
  • Germany will qualify directly for the World Cup with any win or draw over Northern Ireland.
Note that Northern Ireland will not neccessarily be eliminated, as they can qualify for the UEFA Second Round featuring the top 8 second placed teams from all the groups. Again, tune after Saturday.

Group D
Group D features Serbia in first place with 18 points and a guarantee they can't finish worst than second. Wales is currently in second place with 14 points, followed by Ireland with 13 points and Austria with 9 points. Georgia and Moldova have been eliminated. On the next matchday, October 6th:
  • Serbia will qualify directly for the World Cup if they defeat Austria.
  • Serbia will qualify directly for the World Cup if they draw Austria along with a Wales draw or loss to Georgia and an Ireland draw or loss to Moldova.
  • Austria will be eliminated if they lose to or draw with Serbia, or if Wales defeats Georgia and Ireland defeats Moldova.
  • Ireland will be eliminated if they lose to Moldova and if Wales defeats Georgia.
Group E
Group E features three teams still in play: Poland with 19 points, followed by Montenegro and Denmark with 16 points. On the next matchday, October 5th:
  • Poland will qualify directly to the 2018 World Cup if they defeat Armenia and Denmark and Montenegro draw.
Group F
Group F features England on 20 points, Slovakia on 15, and then Slovenia and Scotland on 14. Lithuania and Malta have already been eliminated. On the next matchday, October 5th:
  • England will qualify directly for the World Cup with a win over Slovenia.
  • England will qualify directly for the World Cup if they draw Slovenia and Slovakia loses to or draws with Scotland.
  • Scotland will be eliminated if they lose to Slovakia.
  • Slovenia will be eliminated if they lose to England and Slovakia defeats Scotland.
Group G
Group G features Spain with 22 points, Italy with 19 points, and Albania on 13 points. Israel, Macedonia, and Liechtenstein have been eliminated. On the next matchday, October 6th:
  • Spain will qualify directly for the World Cup if they defeat Albania and Italy loses to or draws with Macedonia.
  • Albania will be eliminated if they lose to Spain, or if they draw with Spain and Italy defeats Macedonia.
Group H
In Group H, Belgium has already secured first place in the group. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, and Cyprus are vying for second place, with 14, 13, and 10 points respectively. Estonia and Gibraltar have been eliminated. On the next matchday, October 7th:
  • Cyprus will be eliminated if they lose to Greece, or if they draw with Greece and Bosnia and Herzegovina defeat or draw Belgium.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina will secure second place if they defeat Belgium and Cyprus defeats Greece.
Group I
Group I is wide open. Croatia and Iceland are tied on 16 points, followed by Turkey and Ukraine with 14 points. Finland and Kosovo have been eliminated. On the next matchday, October 6th:
  • Turkey will be eliminated if they lose to Iceland and Croatia defeats Finland. Ukraine would also be defeated in this case if they fail to defeat Kosovo.
And that's about it. I hope to put up another post on Sunday with the final scenarios. Stay tuned!

Friday, September 29, 2017

This Weekend in College Football: Week 5

Alternate title: Wherein I Lament that Southern Cal at Washington State is Tonight Instead of Tomorrow Night.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Noon:
  • Northwestern @ Wisconsin (ABC): Week 5 is pretty brutal, but I'll try to shepherd you through the best I can. We'll start in Madison, for what might be an interesting nooner, but probably not. Going with the Badgers.
  • Vanderbilt @ Florida (ESPN): Gators are a favorite I guess but AVOID AT ALL COSTS.
  • North Carolina @ Georgia Tech (ESPN2): I thought we might look rusty last week, so naturally we kickoff and immediately allow Pitt to march down the field. "Here we go again", thought everyone in gold and white, but after that it was sort of... all Tech? Of course, it was helpful the Pitt offense immediately regressed after that drive. This week's game is against a moribund but still dangerous Carolina team that we haven't beaten since 2013.
  • Maryland @ Minnesota (FS1): Minnesota's handled themselves well so far in 2017. Maryland now sports a win over Texas and a loss to UCF. Going with the Gophers at home.
  • Houston @ Temple (ESPNU): While this isn't the same Houston of the past few years, this is really not the good Temple we've had the past few years. Going with Houston.
  • New Mexico State @ Arkansas (SEC): If you, like me, listen to Podcast Ain't Played Nobody, then you know all about these New Mexico State Aggies. Normally one of college football's most hapless teams, they're 2-2 with a win over their biggest rival (New Mexico) and a pretty good shot at a bowl, all in a season that will see them get kicked out of the Sun Belt after it ends. But... it'll still take a minor miracle for them to upset Arkansas.
  • South Florida @ East Carolina (CBSS): ECU is, uh, bad this year. Bulls.
  • Rice @ Pittsburgh (ACC/RSN): Pitt has no offense, but they should be able to handle Rice.
12:20: Syracuse @ North Carolina State (ACC): NC State better be awake after knocking off FSU last week, because while they should be Syracuse they're still armed and dangerous (on offense).

3:30:
  • Georgia @ Tennessee (CBS): Georgia should win this game, and they probably will, but if there's any game this week with the highest potential of ending in hilarious fashion (by which I mean Georgia losing in hilarious fashion) this is it.
  • Florida State @ Wake Forest (ABC/ESPN2): Given what's going on the real world, I still haven't seen any statements from Winston-Salem that would allow me to call Wake Forest "Woke Forest" unironically, much to my disappointment. Anyway, Wake is 4-0 but it's a full-calorie soda 4-0, full of sweet but unfulfilling wins. I still like FSU here.
  • Baylor @ Kansas State (ABC/ESPN2): K-State.
  • Navy @ Tulsa (ESPNU): This may be the actual best game in this time slot, and it's on the much easier to find ESPNU and not CBS Sports Network. But still, that's saying a lot because Tulsa is 1-3 this year and isn't really bombing like they used to, at least not bombing it well. I like the Midshipmen here.
  • Indiana @ Pennsylvania State (BTN): Penn State will need to keep their guard up in this one, but they shouldn't have any issues.
  • Texas-El Paso @ Army (CBSS): Army, I guess?
4:00:
  • Iowa @ Michigan State (FOX): Sparty is still better than they were last year, even after getting pasted by Notre Dame last weekend. Suffice it to say, though, I like the Hawkeyes here.
  • Connecticut @ Southern Methodist (ESPNEWS): SMU?
  • Eastern Michigan @ Kentucky (SEC): Maybe Kentucky will remember to cover EMU's receivers in this one.
  • Arizona State @ Stanford (Pac12): You can fool me Arizona State! I saw you beat Oregon last week, but I still don't believe you. Going with the Cardinal here.
5:00: Miami @ Notre Dame (NBCSN): No, this isn't Catholics vs. Convicts, and not even in the sense that hasn't been true since like the 80's. It's the Miami that's like an hour outside of Cincinnati. Notre Dame should roll.

6:00: Mississippi State @ Auburn (ESPN): Miss State! You were all poised to be one of the other good teams in the SEC and then... you lose 31-3 to Georgia. :( I have to like Auburn here, I guess.

7:00:
  • Memphis @ Central Florida (ESPN2): Okay, now we're getting to the staggered games zone. This is the one you should watch until halftime, and then switch to the beginning of Clemson-VPI. You win! Now as for who will win this game... I like UCF?
  • Troy @ Louisiana State (ESPNU): LSU is still trying to figure some things on offense, and this should give them a chance to.
  • Air Force @ New Mexico (CBSS): I like Air Force here.
  • Middle Tennessee @ Florida Atlantic (Stadium): It's not going good for Lane Kiffin in Year 1 of being a head coach again, which naturally means he'll probably get the Texas A&M job this offseason. I like MTSU here.
 7:30:
  • South Carolina @ Texas A&M (SEC): TAMU has been on a bit of a roll of late, and I think that will continue until they play Alabama in their next game, two weeks from now. Rest up, Aggies!
  • Ohio State @ Rutgers (BTN): Buckeyes.
8:00:
  • Oklahoma State @ Texas Tech (FOX): The 'Pokes looked legit, and then TCU went and stole all their thunder. Can they get the magic back against an improving Texas Tech team? It's Lubbock at night, so anything's possible, but I still like Oklahoma State here.
  • Clemson @ Virginia Tech (ABC): Man this game better be good because Week 5 doesn't have a whole lot else going for it. Lane Stadium at night is fantastic of course, and VPI's looked pretty good this year. Clemson, meanwhile, is just as dominant, if not more, on defense this year and their offense that was supposed to be rebuilding this year seems to have more or less reloaded. The Tigers have already proven themselves, and I think they'll still be one of the best teams in the country even if the lose as long as they don't get blown out. That said, I don't think it will be a concern.
  • Washington @ Oregon State (Pac12): UDub.
9:00: Mississippi @ Alabama (ESPN): Bama. (Ole Miss is bad, y'all.)

10:30:
  • Colorado @ California-Los Angeles (ESPN2): What do we even do with this UCLA team? They don't seem to be good or anything, but Josh Rosen is a good QB. Colorado is also kinda meh right now, too, so maybe skip to the next game. I'll take the Buffs, I guess.
  • California @ Oregon (FS1): Now here's the game that you'll tune into after Clemson-VPI. It'll still somehow be in the first half after the other game ends. It'll be 32-29 at the half. Which way, I don't know. Probably the Ducks. But this should be fun.
  • San Jose State @ Nevada-Las Vegas (ESPNU): I'm as much of a College Football Hipster as anyone, but... you have my permission to skip this one. UNLV, I guess?
  • Northern Illinois @ San Diego State (CBSS): Besides, if you're going to watch a G5 matchup in this time slot, then this is the one to watch anyway. If you squint hard, you'll see Nebraska @ Stanford here, but probably more interesting than that game would actually be! I like the Aztecs here, though.

Friday, September 22, 2017

This Weekend in College Football: Week 4

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Noon:
  • North Carolina State @ Florida State (ABC/ESPN2): NC State was a bit of hipster pick this year, but we're not quite sure how that's turned out yet. In the meantime, thanks to various weather calamities we don't really know what a Deandra Francois-less Florida State looks like quite yet. So plenty of uncertainty here, but I'm still talking about going with the 'Noles.
  • Texas Tech @ Houston (ABC/ESPN2): From all appearances, these teams appear to be rather similar. Beat a bad pair of Arizona teams and then blowout a cupcake. That said, Texas Tech's offense appears set on saving their coach's job, so I'll take them, at least for now.
  • Texas A&M vs. Arkansas (@Arlington, TX; ESPN): It's the 2017 edition of the Hot Seat Bowl! This one feels especially precarious, in the sense that both might get canned regardless of the result either way. I have no idea what to expect out of this game. Arkansas has looked listless at best on offense, while more than one observer has notice that TAMU doesn't seem o care. I'd avoid this one. I consider it essentially a coinflip, so I'm going with TAMU I guess.
  • West Virginia @ Kansas (ESPNU): Kansas is still completely awful, so the pick here is pretty straightforward.
  • Massachusetts @ Tennessee (SEC): Vols.
  • Nevada-Las Vegas @ Ohio State (BTN): Buckeyes.
  • Army @ Tulane (CBSS): ... I'm picking Army here.
  • Kent State @ Louisville (ACC/RSN): Provided he's recovered from facing Clemson's defensive line, Lamar Jackson should look like Lamar Jackson again.
12:20: Pittsburgh @ Georgia Tech (ACC): And we're back after last week's non-game against UCF. It's hard enough to know what kind of team you have here in Week 3, but it's even harder when you've played two games of wildly varying difficulty. The Jacksonville State game played out roughly as I expected, with GT struggling a bit in the early going and then pouring it on the second half. So I'm not sure we learned much. However, I expect to have the offense operating at full strength in this one after having an extra week off. Hopefully that turns out to be the case instead of, you know, the other scenario where they come out rusty.

3:00: Central Florida @ Maryland (FS1): Lack of information rules the day! Maryland has a scheduled off week last week, so they've only played two games. UCF has only played one, a romp over Florida International to start the season, so see above. In their first two games at least, this doesn't look like the hapless Maryland of the last few years, so let's go with the Terps.

3:30:
  • Southern California @ California (ABC): Texas managed to give the Trojans everything they could've wanted last week, but USC managed to pull it out. Ultimately, I view that as a battle of two teams with an awful lot of talent. "Awful lot of talent" is not a term usually used to describe Cal, though the Bears have looked pretty good early as well. I've got USC here, but my advice to the Trojans would be: watch out.
  • Alabama @ Vanderbilt (CBS): Okay so I want Vandy to pull off the upset here as much as anyone, but if we're talking about a battle of two teams that play a lot of defense and score when they can... well, it's hard to out-Alabama Alabama. (Ask Michigan State a few years ago about that.)
  • Texas Christian @ Oklahoma State (ESPN): This is quietly (or maybe not-so-quietly?) the game of the weekend. This should be entertaining. TCU features a defense-first coach who was mad at his team last week for not putting up 80. Oklahoma State's coach is celebrating the tenth anniversary of declaring his manhood and is in year two of a mullet. So yeah, expect this game to be Big 12 AS HELL. I like the Pokes here though.
  • Boston College @ Clemson (ESPN2): Boston College has no real offense to speak of, and Clemson has probably a top-two defense this year. Is it possible for team to score negative points? We may be about to find out.
  • Louisiana Tech @ South Carolina (SEC): Well, ours fears that South Carolina might have an offense were short-lived. Turns out that scoring 31 on Mizzou isn't a big deal this year. But do the Bulldogs have a chance here? Ehh....
  • Rutgers @ Nebraska (BTN): Rutgers may not be as desperately bad as they were last year, but even this flailing Nebraska team should still beat them. 
  • Cincinnati @ Navy (CBSS): Navy struggled a bit of with Tulane last week, but I'm not going to hold that against them. I like the Midshipmen here.
  • Toledo @ Miami (ACC/RSN): 'Canes.
4:00: Michigan @ Purdue (FOX): Michigan's done what they needed to this year, but will they be able to stop this newfound burst of offensive confidence down in West Lafayette? You may want to keep an eye on this one, but I'm still going Michigan.

6:00: Nevada @ Washington State (Pac12): Still waiting for the other shoe to drop for Wazzou, because it doesn't seem conceivable we'll be talking about a 4-0 Washington State hosting USC in Pullman next week, right? Right? (It does seem pretty probable, though.)

6:30: Alabama-Birmingham @ North Texas (beIN): Could we be looking at 3-1 UAB after this? That'd be really nice, but, well... actually, it's not North Texas is a bunch of world-beaters or anything, so why not?

7:00:
  • Mississippi State @ Georgia (ESPN): We're about to find out a lot more about this pair of Bulldogs. Miss State's shellacking of LSU last week confirmed what we should've already realized: Miss State under Dan Mullen has been the most consistent second-tier team in the SEC for a while now. They can cement that status between the hedges, and I think they will.
  • Syracuse @ Louisiana State (ESPN2): Okay LSU, you can recover from this! Just, you know, fend off an aerial barrage for the next four hours while you still look like you struggle to field a competent offense... oof. This one is tough to think about. I think I have Syracuse here.
  • San Diego State @ Air Force (CBSS): SDSU is living up to its spoiler billing so far, but to keep it up they'll need to win this, their toughest remaining road contest. I think they will.
  • Ball State @ Western Kentucky (Stadium): The Hilltoppers should still have enough remaining traces of Jeff Brohm to throw it around and over a still kinda-not-good Ball State team, right?
7:30:
  • Pennsylvania State @ Iowa (ABC): As is usual with Iowa, it feels like of they're going to win this game the final score will be something like 15-12, while if they lose it'll be 60-10. Penn State just seems too good so far this year, like the latter score is more likely than the former.
  • Auburn @ Missouri (ESPNU): Bill Connelly knows a lot more about college football than I do, and so when he writes a column saying that Mizzou is pretty much done for the year, well...
  • Florida @ Kentucky (SEC): On November 15th, 1986 Kentucky beat Florida 10-3. On that day, Boston's "Amanda" was the #1 single in the United States, the Iran-Contra Affair was in full swing, and I was a little over a year old. Also, it was the last time Kentucky beat Florida. This version of Kentucky looks kind of competent and Florida is scuffling, so this could be the year. But I'm not going to call it.
8:00: Notre Dame @ Michigan State (FOX): While we still try to figure out what will be this year's version of 2016's Michigan State @ Notre Dame, we'll have to deal with the reality of the 2017 version of this game, wherein there are basically no expectations for either of these teams. I'm leaning Notre Dame a bit, since they beat up on a decent Boston College defense last week.

10:00:
  • Washington @ Colorado (FS1): Here's an early test for UDub, having survived their non-conference slate with ease. The problem, in terms of predictions, lies in that Colorado also easily disposed of their non-conference slate, so we've got to go to... THE NEXT LEVEL. And the next level likes the Huskies, like, a lot.
  • Oregon @ Arizona State (Pac12): The Pac-12 is a little more fun when Oregon is good, so welcome back, Ducks! I like them a lot of get their first conference win courtesy of a somewhat hapless Arizona State team.
10:15: Hawaii @ Wyoming (ESPN2): Josh Allen needs to get his mind right, you know what I mean? I mean, in the sense that maybe all the NFL stuff and preseason hype might have placed an unreasonable set of expectations upon the erstwhile Cowboys signal caller. Fortunately, the Rainbow Warriors provide a pretty good chance to do so.

10:30: California-Los Angeles @ Stanford (ESPN): No body clock this time. UCLA comes back to the West Coast after having their bubble burst in a major way at Memphis. And, uh, Stanford maybe was up past their bedtime last weekend when they lost at San Diego State. So... I'm going with the mild upset here and going with UCLA. Don't make me regret this, Bruins.