Monday, November 28, 2011

Bowl Predictions 2011: Week 7

Almost everything went as expected this last weekend, which means while there were a few changes in the predictions there wasn't a major upheaval like there was last weekend. Let's start with the BCS this time.

Note that most bids will be announced very closely after Saturday's games. The last major hurdle is the final BCS standings, everyone should know where they're going for the holidays by the end of the day Sunday. And, as per usual, the predictions are available here.

I'm left with no other choice but to call LSU-Alabama. The only way I could see a change is a major uprising by poll voters to put Oklahoma State ahead of Alabama with a victory over Oklahoma on Saturday. In the other games, the major change is Michigan appearing in the Sugar Bowl. Wolverine fans should be pretty jazzed about beating Ohio State, but there is a slight problem: they are currently 16th in the BCS. However, Georgia and the loser of the Big Ten title game should fall behind them, allowing them to rise up to 14th by next weekend. If Michigan doesn't make it, then the Sugar may take Kansas State. Otherwise, there's nothing shocking about the rest of the BCS bowls.

The winner of the ACC title game will go to the Orange Bowl. Virginia Tech has a very outside shot at a BCS at-large even if they lose. With Clemson now having lost 2 of their last 3 games (and the 3rd was a last-second field goal over Wake Forest), a loss in the ACC title game may push them out of the Chick-fil-a now. For that reason, I've put Florida State above them in the pecking order, putting FSU in Atlanta and Clemson in the Champs Sports. (Also, I have Auburn in the Chick-fil-a game and though I've seen some things to the contrary I really don't think they want a rematch.) The Sun Bowl has said they will take Georgia Tech if available, so that's pretty easy. (A GT win against Georgia was necessary to raise our draft stock any higher.) With NC State's strong finish, they are a good candidate for the in-state Belk Bowl, which leaves Virginia for the Music City. This will stick the Independence Bowl with Wake Forest, relegating 3-5 North Carolina to the Military Bowl.

Big East
Who knows? I'm assuming West Virginia wins at this point and going from there. Oh, and ESPN's Big East blogger raised the scenario that I fear most, which that the Liberty will have a say in the Big East bowl picture. For the sake of my sanity, I'm assuming the Liberty will stick with Southern Miss whether they win or lose to Houston. Oh, and yeah, Notre Dame is almost certainly going to the Champs Sports instead of a Big East team.

Big Ten
The winner of the Big Ten will go to the Rose Bowl, and the loser of the title game will likely go to the Capital One Bowl (especially if Michigan gets a BCS at-large bid). From there, I have Nebraska breaking into their newfound ability to go to the Outback Bowl and then, as the last team that isn't 7-5 or 6-6, Penn State will probably end up in the Insight Bowl. (And frankly, the Insight Bowl may be the most anonymous bowl that features two BCS confernece teams, likely due to their previous TV contract with the NFL network. They could probably use the press.) I had to adjust my preliminary bowl predictions because the Gator said they really want to match Ohio State and Florida. (Remember folks, the bowl games exist mainly for themselves, not for you. The Gator is just the most brazen about it.)

Big 12
The Oklahoma-Oklahoma State winner will go to the Fiesta. If OSU loses they may still get a BCS bid (this depends on Michigan and Houston), however if the Sooners lose they are out of the BCS picture. I'm picking OSU to win that game, so I have K-State in the Cotton and Oklahoma in the Alamo. That leaves the rest of the conference picking up the scraps, with Texas at the top of the heap for the Insight, Baylor getting a nice trip to San Diego, TAMU getting a slightly less nicer trip to Houston. Oh, and Mizzou ends up in New York.

The Pac-12 is a mess with USC ineligible for a bowl game. Oregon and Stanford are probably both in, meanwhile UCLA (barring the biggest upset of the year) will probably be 6-7 and ineligible. While there were some reports they could get waiver, I haven't seen this confirmed yet. (If they do, they will almost certainly be in the Fight Hunger Bowl.) So with the two best teams in the BCS, that leaves everyone else to fight over the Alamo Bowl bid. Arizona State looked to be that team, but their epic collapse is complete and their coach fired, so Washington gets the nod. The Holiday will probably then take that chance to grab Cal, and so I'm left with Utah and Arizona State for the Sun. I figure the former's fans are going to feel a little better about themselves because I don't think anyone had them getting a winning record in Pac-12 play this year, so I'll put them into the sun and the Sun Devils in the Las Vegas Bowl.

The SEC will have two teams in the BCS. (If Georgia beats LSU and LSU falls to #2 and Bama rises to #1, they could even have three teams in the BCS, since UGA would get the Sugar auto-bid.) Since Tennessee lost to Kentucky, they will not have enough bowl eligible teams this year. For now, I have Arkansas going to the Capital One Bowl, which leaves the Cotton in a predicament of having to pick a SEC East team. I have them getting Georgia and leaving South Carolina to the Outback, though that could go either way. (Or Arkansas could fall past the Cap One, but I don't know if they would really want UGA, and it's not like Arkansas isn't going to have other chances to go the Cotton Bowl.) This leaves Auburn as a good choice for the Chick-fil-a (since they'll have equally attractive options on the ACC side to avoid the Auburn-Clemson rematch). I then have Vandy staying close by to go the Music City and Miss State going against Southern Miss in the Liberty.

The Rest
Some bids have come in already (indicated by the asterisks), but otherwise this is pretty unclear. The WAC has completely fooled me so far and it's not clear what the Hawaii Bowl will do if Hawaii loses to BYU this weekend. (I.e., they may decide to not take Nevada.) There's lots of guesses for C-USA and the at-large bids indicated by the question marks, but we will have enough teams. (I have 71 on this table, 72 if UCLA gets a waiver.)

Anyway, bowl bids will continue to trickle in throughout the week most likely, with a furious wave Saturday night and Sunday. What I usually do is make one last set of predictions Saturday evening and then watch the carnage unfold. A final post like this will probably go up really early on Sunday (or Saturday night, depending on your perspective). So until then...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

THWG Thought of the Day: 11/26

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

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

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

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

We ... are ... smarter.

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

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

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

Friday, November 25, 2011

This Weekend in College Football: Week 13

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Ohio State @ Michigan (ABC): Ohio State has won seven straight, but for the first time that I can remember Michigan has all the advantages. They play good enough defense, and while their offense is spotty it's more consistent than the Buckeyes'. Add in the fact it's in the Big House and the Wolverines have to be a clear favorite.
  • Iowa State @ Oklahoma (FX): Iowa State rocked the college football world in Ames last weekend, however, this contest is in Norman. Oklahoma, provided they learned anything from Baylor, should take the Cyclones seriously enough so as to not have any trouble with them.
  • Georgia @ Georgia Tech (ESPN): To hell with Georgia.
  • Rutgers @ Connecticut (ESPN2): I guess Rutgers is going to win this? I dunno. No, really, I don't.
  • Rice @ Southern Methodist (FSN): Neither of these teams are particularly good, but SMU is just slightly less bad.
  • Michigan State @ Northwestern (BTN): Spary's already clinched a spot in the Big Ten title game, but they shouldn't overlook the Wildcats. I don't think they will.
  • Tennessee @ Kentucky (SEC): Oy. This is a SEC East slapfight. Both teams of these teams are also pretty bad, but again, the Vols are just slightly less bad.
  • James Madison @ Eastern Kentucky (NCAA Tournament; ESPNU): I like giving props to the NCAA football tournament, and this is the the only game on national TV. I know even less about these teams than I do even Rice and SMU, so I won't offer up a pick.
12:30: Maryland @ North Carolina State (ACC): Maryland is still simply awful this year and NCSU has rallied in the second half of the year, making the Wolfpack an easy choice.

  • Alabama @ Auburn (CBS): While this will likely be closer than the line, I just can't really imagine a scenario where Auburn can win this game.
  • Oregon State @ Oregon (ABC/ESPN2): It's the Civil War! This is an underrated rivalry game, but the Beavers have just had an awful time of it this year. I really like the Ducks.
  • Virginia Tech @ Virginia (ABC/ESPN2): UVA has exceeded every expectation for this year. While VPI still had legitimate offensive issues, it's hard to see how UVA will prevail.
  • Pennsylvania State @ Wisconsin (ESPN): Well, Penn State has exceeded at least my expectations these past couple of weeks. But Wisconsin has regained at least some offensive swagger, though they were a little slow to really get going against Illinois last week. However, I just can't see how Penn State's offense can keep up.
  • Missouri vs. Kansas (@Kansas City, MO; FSN): Probably one of the last meetings of these two bitter rivals, but this KU team is simply awful. Mizzou all the way.
  • Vanderbilt @ Wake Forest (ESPNU): Vandy needs this to get bowl eligible, and for me it's a difficult call to make. Both of these teams are undermanned the vast majority of the time, so it's hard to say what will happen when they meet each other. I'm leaning toward Vandy though.
  • East Carolina @ Marshall (CBSS): The winner goes to a bowl game. The loser doesn't. I think it'll be ECU heading off to some far-flung C-USA bowl game.
  • Illinois @ Minnesota (BTN): It would be the most Ron Zook thing ever for them to lose to Minnesota, right? I'll go with that.
  • Purdue @ Indiana (BTN): This is rivalry game, of sorts. Another game where neither team is very good but Indiana is just awful. I like the Boilermakers.
  • Duke @ North Carolina (ACC): Duke and UNC meet once again, but it'll be another couple of months before they meet in a fashion anyone in the Raleigh-Durham area really cares about. I'll take the 'Heels.
  • Florida State @ Florida (ESPN2): Florida can't score, but sort of plays defense. FSU, meanwhile, just suffered a bad loss to Virginia. Provided FSU actually shows up for this one, though, I have to take the Seminoles here.
  • Mississippi @ Mississippi State (ESPNU): Houston Nutt's tenure at Ole Miss will not go out with a bang, but with a whimper.
  • Texas Tech vs. Baylor (@Arlington, TX; FSN): Robert Griffin the III singlehandedly lead Baylor to their biggest victory ever against Oklahoma. Provided he's not looking forward to a trip to Manhattan (New York, that is) he should have considerably less trouble against the Red Raiders.
7:30: Washington State @ Washington (Versus): It's the Apple Cup once again! Udub lost to Oregon State somehow last weekend, but I have a hard time figuring out exactly how they could lose to equally morbund Wazzou. I like the Huskies here.

7:45: Clemson @ South Carolina (ESPN): I've been grappling with how to pick this game all week. South Carolina is now an offensive non-entity, but Clemson has lost two of their last three, and the third was a last-second FG win over Wake Forest. I'm sitting here in my family's living literally scratching my head over my head over this. I think this is basically a toss-up. If Clemson shows up, then they have the offensive firepower to win. However, based on the last few weeks I have to think this will be a defensive struggle that favors the Gamecocks.

8:00: Notre Dame @ Stanford (ABC): ND may put up a fight, but I really like Andrew Luck and Stanford here.

10:00: California-Los Angeles @ Southern California (FSN): Boy howdy USC has looked good the last couple weeks haven't they? And besides, it'll make for good trivia for UCLA to represent the Pac-12 South next week at 6-6 and likely to be multiple touchdown underdogs.

THWG Thought of the Day: 11/25

Posting this video has been a tradition that I’ve done for each of the past three years here. With the recent death of Larry Munson, however, I debated whether not doing so again this year would be in good taste.

I’ve thought about it for a few days and come to the following conclusion: he was beloved by UGA fans for telling it like was, and all this video really captures is one of the very few times in the past 40 years in which his team has been underdogs to Tech.

And, in the end, I’m sure he’s not the only one who thought they were getting beat “like we were Wake Forest or Maryland or somebody”.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

THWG Thought of the Day: 11/23

First, I just rediscovered this gem of an animated GIF from September and had to bring it back:
(From RjTheMetalhead, purveyor of fine single and multi-frame images.) Anyway, hoping to see a lot of that this weekend.

With that out of the way, let's talk about Uga. No, not the school, the dog. New breed standards were recently developed for the English bulldog, and Uga's breeders aren't happy about that:
"I don't care what the British do," said Sonny Seiler, owner of the bulldog line that has become the most celebrated sports mascot in the United States.
Critics in England and in the United States, however, said breeders have transformed bulldogs and some other dog breeds into genetic monstrosities prone to chronic disease and sometimes early death.
 This what the original bulldog mascot, Yale's Handsome Dan, looked like in 1890:

The underbite is there, but notice the overall lack of wrinkles and muscular frame. I'd paste an actual Uga here, but you've probably seen them before and if you haven't: remember that the past few Ugas were not terribly mobile and generally spent most of their times at the game laying on a block of ice due to respiratory issues. There's also been the notable short lifespan of the previous two. The current Uga, of course, isn't actually an Uga because he's not nearly in-bred enough and actually has a brown spot (because Ugas also have to have a perfectly white coat). Even by today's degraded standards, other Bulldog mascots (think Miss State and the current stand-in for UGA) look relative healthy compared to the last few Ugas.

I swear, these "inbred redneck" jokes just about write themselves.

This Week in College Football: Week 13

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

7:00: Miami @ Ohio (ESPN2): Ohio has already sealed up the MAC East, but nonetheless shouldn't overlook their in-state rivals in Miami. I like the Bobcats here.

8:00: Texas @ Texas Agricultural and Mechanical (ESPN): I'm not sure what Texas fans were expecting this year, though they have probably found this season frustrating nonetheless. Texas A&M fans, though, well, suffice it to say I'm not sure they expected to lose 2 games, much less 5. The culprit has been defense, especially their well-publicized issues holding a double-digit lead in the the second halves of games. That said, can the Longhorns even generate enough points to have a second half lead, much less a double-digit one? In their last two games against Mizzou and Kansas State Texas has only scored 18 points. Scoring has not been the issue for the Aggies. I wasn't sure about this earlier, but now I just don't know how Texas is going to score enough points to win this game.

  • Louisville @ South Florida (ESPN2): The Big East will trend toward any scenario that makes there conference tiebreaker more complicated, so Louisville basically guaranteed to win this game.
  • Eastern Michigan @ Northern Illinois (ESPNU): Toledo needs a EMU victory here to have a shot at the MAC West, but I don't think they're going to get it.
  • Iowa @ Nebraska (ABC): ALL HAIL THE CORN BOWL. No, really. That said, I think the Huskers can get back on track in the game and earn the world's first trophy that features REAL CORN. (Just don't tell Artur Boruc.)
  • Houston @ Tulsa (FSN): Tulsa may be the most formidable obstacle Houston has played to date, if for no other reason than because they're the first team they've played that can keep up with them on offense. Of course, with a BCS now on the line for the Cougars, there's just that much added pressure. I still like them to prevail, but this will be their stiffest test of the year, I think.
2:30: Arkansas @ Louisiana State (CBS): I've been saying this all year: the Razorbacks feature probably the only truly competent offense in the SEC. No other team in the SEC has been able to put up 30 as often against quality opponents. The problem is, the best team they've played so far, Alabama, held them to just 14. LSU's defense is as good as Bama's if not better. The question for LSU is, of course, the offense. They've been more potent this year, but the whole operation feels as though it's just a few Jordan Jefferson fumbles or Jarret Lee interceptions away from total disaster. Do I think this disaster will occur in Baton Rouge Friday afternoon? No, probably not. This game is usually pretty great though, and comes highly recommended from me.

  • Boston College @ Miami (ABC): Speaking of total disasters, if the Miami locker room is really disappointed about the Canes not going to a bowl game that's exactly what this could turn into. Then again, I'm not convinced BC could score enough points to win this game even Miami didn't even come out on defense at all.
  • Colorado @ Utah (FSN): Fun fact: Utah now has the inside track to win the Pac-12 South. Yeah. They should be able to beat a Colorado team that just lost 45-6 to UCLA.
  • Pittsburgh @ West Virginia (ESPN): It's the Backyard Brawl! And maybe for the last time in awhile. Against, for maximum Big East chaos I think WVU needs to win for the 4-way tie to be preserved, so that's probably what will happen.
  • Texas-El Paso @ Central Florida (CBSS): I have UTEP winning for the purposes of my bowl predictions, so, yeah, I guess I'll take the Miners here.
10:15: California @ Arizona State (ESPN): Cal has been awful on the road this year, with their only such win a 36-33 overtime win against a Colorado team that is usually paired with adjectives like "hapless". Therefore, I have to go with the increasingly, erm, hapless Sun Devils here.

Have a good Turkey Day and weekend predictions will go up on Friday!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bowl Predictions 2011: Week 6

Chaos reigned supreme last weekend. Now we stare down the barrel as someone will most likely play someone they already played in the BCS Championship Game. Remember folks, every game counts, unless it doesn’t.

I’m writing this as I go. Since this is an electronic document I could, of course, actually just move things around to their customary order first, but that would be too easy. So let’s start off with the little guys. The final predictions will be up at their usual place.

The first announcements of the year that I saw where that UL-Lafayette and Arkansas State have accepted bids to the New Orleans and bowls, respectively. I also have FIU and Western Kentucky qualifying as well.

BYU also formally accepted its bid to the Armed Forces Bowl.

Hawaii could’ve gained eligibility but only managed to put up 21 points against one of the worse defenses in college football. Since they play 13 games, they must have a winning record, and so at 5-6 now they will need to beat Tulane (extremely doable) and BYU. While they can beat BYU, I don’t think they will. Elsewhere in the WAC, Nevada lost a pivotal home matchup to Louisiana Tech, but that may not really matter that much as the WAC moves teams around based on what they think will work best for their games. Therefore, I still sent Nevada to the poinsettia, LaTech to Boise, and 6-6 Utah State to Hawaii.

In the MAC, I don’t see Kent State or Eastern Michigan winning their final games to get eligible. Ohio has already clinched the MAC East, and I think they will go ahead and play Northern Illinois in the MAC title game. The MAC champion goes to the bowl, but I always figure it’s best for a MAC team to actually play in the Midwest. Nonetheless, I’m guessing Ohio will go down to Mobile, NIU will go to Detroit, and I’ll pick Toledo to go out to Boise. That leaves Temple, Ball State, and Western Michigan as eagerly anticipating at-large bids elsewhere, which should materialize.

The Mountain West is going about how one would expect now that Boise is not going to the BCS. TCU will win the conference even if they sleepwalk through the UNLV game and get themselves an invite to Vegas. Boise will be a slam dunk for the Poinsettia unless an utter collapse elsewhere in the BCS occurs and they get invited as an at-large. Then it comes down to the Independence Bowl, which will likely have to choose between Wyoming and San Diego State. (Air Force should get eligible, but they do need to beat Colorado State Saturday since they played 2 DI-AA teams this year.) I’m just going to go in standings order for now (Wyoming to Independence, SDSU to New Mexico), leaving Air Force as a potential at-large for later.
Since it’s next on my list, the other two service academies will not be bowling this year after Navy’s loss to San Jose State. Notre Dame will be bowling somewhere, and I think it’s likely that somewhere will be the Champs Sports Bowl (otherwise, it will be the Pinstripe Bowl).

In Conference USA, East Carolina and Marshall will play this weekend for a bowl bid, and I like ECU in that game. Southern Mississippi, despite an inexplicable loss to UAB, should clinch the division. Houston will win the conference, of course, and should be in line for a BCS bowl bid, but they will need to beat Tulsa Saturday and USM next week to clinch it for sure. I have UTEP beating UCF Saturday to get to 6-6, giving us 6 total C-USA teams. I like USM to the Liberty bowl, but after that it’s all guesswork. C-USA does not explicitly order their bids, so I look at the payouts, with the TicketCity being the highest, followed by the Hawaii Bowl and the Armed Forces Bowl. The New Orleans and Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl sit at the bottom. I’ll go ahead and send Tulsa to the TicketCity and SMU to the hometown Armed Forces (literally, as it’s at their home stadium). That leaves us 2 6-6 teams for 3 bowls. Let’s pencil in ECU to go to Hawaii and UTEP to St. Petersburg, leaving us needing another team in New Orleans.

A LSU-Alabama rematch seems nearly inevitable at this point, unless all hell breaks even more loose this weekend. I highly dislike the idea of the rematch, after all, the college football is regular seasons is so short it’s not really interesting for teams to play each other twice. This year, more than ever, shows how difficult it is to resolve differences between teams that play vastly different schedules over only 12 games, and why we really need a playoff.

In the Rose, I’ve got ahead and put in Wisconsin and Oregon, though both will need to play conference championship games this year. For the other autobids, I’ve put in Oklahoma State to the Fiesta and Virginia Tech to the Orange.

The Sugar gets the first at-large pick because it lost its autobid champion to the national title game. This is where it gets tough, though. Unless some other weird stuff happens, the SEC can’t get a third team into the BCS, which limits the sort of teams that the Sugar typically picks. I will go ahead and put in Kansas State there, since Oklahoma I have Oklahoma losing to Oklahoma State this weekend. (Note that if Bedlam goes the other way around, both teams could still get into the BCS.) Now the Fiesta has a difficult choice, but I think the area’s NFL fans will flock to see Andrew Luck, so I will put Stanford in there. Now we still have to put whoever the heck is going twin the Big East as well as Houston somewhere. Due to proximity, I figure the Sugar will fall on that sword and take the Cougars. I have the Big East finishing in a 4-way tie for first, so I’m taking West Virginia out of that group.

Even with their inexplicable loss to NC State blowing their BCS hopes, Clemson will likely still be attractive enough for the Chick-fil-a Bowl. Following that, there are 4 ACC teams that will finish 5-3 (most likely): Wake Forest, Florida State, Virginia, and Georgia Tech. Of this group, FSU is probably the most attractive for the Champs Sports at the ACC #3 slot. Also, if they take Notre Dame is creates a huge “name” matchup. ACC #4 is the Sun Bowl and I think it’s likely GT will end up there. The Belk Bowl will probably use its option to take a 4-4 NC State team over UVA and Wake, but the Music City will probably have no issues with taking UVA. (This is where I had Miami going previously, but with their announcement that they won’t accept a bowl bid it’s sort of a moot point now.) With Carolina at 3-5, this means Wake can’t fall any farther than the Independence Bowl, with the Tar Heels then ending up in DC for the Military Bowl.

Big 12
If Oklahoma doesn’t make a BCS game, they will be a very obvious candidate for the Cotton Bowl. At this point, the Alamo will probably have no choice but to take Baylor. This leaves the rest of the 7-5-/6-6 Big 12 misfits to fight over the remaining bids. I’ll go ahead and put Texas in the Insight Bowl and Missouri in the Holiday, leaving TAMU to the Car Care Bowl (of Texas) and Iowa State to the Pinstripe.

Big East
Again: I really hate picking the Big East. As I said above, I have 4 teams finishing with a 5-2 conference record currently. Since the Champs will probably take Notre Dame, that leaves the next selection to the Belk Bowl, where I guess Cincy has the best chance of going except that they already played NC State this year, so I’ll switch that to Louisville instead. Rutgers likes to think of themselves as “New York City’s college football team” so I’ll send them to the Pinstripe. I’ll pencil Cincy in for the Compass Bowl and so that leaves only Pitt for the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s.

Big Ten
I’m not sure the Big Ten will get two teams into the BCS this year. If they do, it will be Michigan. Since Michigan State will suffer a third loss in the Big Ten title game they won’t likely be eligible, which means Michigan could sneak into the top 14. If they don’t, the Capital One Bowl is good consolation prize, especially after the past few years. Fret not, Sparty supporters, as I just have them landing softly in the Outback Bowl. From there, I’m sure the Insight Bowl would love to match Nebraska back up with Texas, and given the Gator Bowl’s scruples I doubt they would hesitate to take Penn State. Iowa’s large traveling fanbase should be a slam dunk for the Car Care Bowl (of Texas!). Form there, there’s a bevy of unattractive options at 6-6 and 7-5, such as Northwestern, Purdue, Ohio State, and Illinois. The only two bowls left are the TicketCity Bowl and Little Ceasar’s Pizza Bowl, so I’ll go ahead and take the biggest “names” for those two, with the Buckeyes going to Dallas and Illinois to Detroit, leaving Purdue and Northwestern to fend for themselves.

With Oregon and Stanford in the BCS and USC ineligible, the picture looks pretty bleak if you’re a bowl affiliated with the Pac-12. I actually have Utah winning the Pac-12 South and getting to an 8-4 record, so you know what, I’ll go ahead and put them in the Alamo. The Holiday is next up. I want to put Washington there but they went to San Diego last year. UCLA is also 5-4 in conference but they’re also actually awful and may fire their coach after the season. I’ll go ahead and put them there though and send Washington El Paso. That leaves me 6-6 Arizona State and Cal, so I’ll send the Sun Devils to Vegas and let the Bears stay in their temporary home for the Fight Hunger Bowl.

Arkansas is the jewel of the remaining SEC teams and will certainly end up in the Capital One Bowl. Of course, that means we have to figure out someone else to send to the Cotton Bowl. That’ll be between Georgia and South Carolina most likely, so I’ll put UGA in the Outback and send the Gamecocks to Dallas. Auburn’s the only team left at this point with a winning record, so I’ll set up Tigers-Tigers in the Chick-fil-a. The Gator is the next up, and well, it’s so easy to put the Gators there. (Almost… too easy.)  I’ll go ahead and put the Vols in the Music City, leaving us 2 teams and bowls! Memphis is basically the capital of Mississippi anyway, so that makes Miss State a natural fit for the Liberty and relegates Vandy to the Compass.

At-large Resolution
At this point, I still need four teams for the New Mexico, New Orleans, Military, and Fight Hunger Bowls. Northwestern and Purdue will probably go somewhere, so I’ll put Northwestern in the Military and Purdue in the Fight Hunger. I figure 8-4 Temple will get a bid somewhere, so let’s go with the New Orleans Bowl. That leaves us the New Mexico bowl… this is a guess, but I’ll go ahead and put 8-4 FIU there.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

THWG Thought of the Day: 11/20

It is time, once again, for To Hell With Georgia week here.

As usual, this opening message will be short, and sweet. I will leave you with one succinct thought: To Hell With Georgia.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

This Weekend in College Football: Week 12

Before we begin: what the heck, Oklahoma State? With that out of the way...

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Nebraska @ Michigan (ESPN): This could well be the most interesting game of the weekend, in terms of competitiveness. I think, however, Michigan's ability to play some semblance of a defense (imagine saying that any of the past three years) will allow them to prevail in the end.
  • Wisconsin @ Illinois (ESPN2): Dusting themselves off after two straight losses knocked them out of the nation title picture, the Badgers have got their offense rolling again. Meanwhile, Ron Zook is walking out of press conferences. I like the Badgers.
  • Kansas @ Texas Agricultural and Mechanical (FSN): If there's one team TAMU probably won't blow a double-digit second half lead to, it's Kansas.
  • Cincinnati @ Rutgers (ESPNU): Speaking of walking out of press conferences, that's what I'm tempting to do anytime anyone asks me to make sense of the Big East. I'll take the Bearcats out of a sense of hope and desperation.
  • Indiana @ Michigan State (BTN): Three low-level Big Ten games! Sparty looks to preserve its lead in the Legends division, which they should do easily.
  • Minnesota @ Northwestern (BTN): Minnesota's shown flashes of maybe not being a complete doormat these last few weeks, but Northwestern should still win in the end.
  • Iowa @ Purdue (BTN): Outside of their shocking win over Ohio State, Purdue hasn't really shown they can score any points. Iowa doesn't score a lot but it should be enough.
  • Kentucky @ Georgia (SEC): Will the dogs suffer a letdown against the SEC's second worst team? No, probably not. Unfortunately.
12:30: Georgia Tech @ Duke (ACC): Well, what can I say about the Virginia Tech game that hasn't been said? Yeah, that's what I thought.
This will be the 79th meeting of the Yellow Jackets and Blue Devils. Duke is actually Tech's third most-often played team, behind Auburn (92 games) and Georgia (105). The only other teams Tech has met even more than 50 times are Clemson (76) and Alabama (52). Somewhat surprisingly, the Jackets still sport a better winning percentage against Clemson (65.8%) than Duke (60.9%). However, while the Clemson series has been mostly even since the early 70's, the Duke series has not been. After Georgia Tech's low-point in the 70's and early-80's, the series has been all Tech - Duke has only won twice since 1990.
Duke is not the ACC's most awful team this year - that honor lies with Boston College. However, that doesn't mean the Jackets can overlook them. One need look no further than Ames, Iowa after the events of last night to remember that anything can happen on any day in college football. Virginia Tech came out against the Blue Devils and, were it not for 3 missed FGs, could have nearly lost the game. It will be critical for Tech to be on their game and press their advantage against one of the few teams they will are physically superior than. Other than special teams, Tech's Achilles's heel this year has been pass defense. After a heroic effort in the Clemson game, Virginia Tech continually got behind our secondary and was able to stretch the defense. Duke is 27th in the country in passing yards, which is partially due to necessity. However, Sean Renfree is a decent quarterback who can burn us pretty easily if the secondary allows him to.

  • Tulsa @ Texas-El Paso (CBSS): UTEP is up to its old tricks again - lose to Rice one week, beat East Carolina the next. That said, Tulsa should have little trouble dissecting them.
  • Maryland @ Wake Forest (ACC/FSN): I think we can pretty safely call Maryland awful at this point. Wake Forest should get their sixth win here.
  • Mississippi State @ Arkansas (CBS): Miss State should be able to score, but they just... can't. One of my favorite football writers said on Twitter last weekend that he thinks Dan Mullen tries to get too "cute" with the Urban Meyer-style spread offense, and I'm inclined to agree. Arkansas, meanwhile, fields one of the few actual offenses in the SEC and should win easily as long as they're not looking forward their huge showdown with LSU next Friday.
  • Texas Tech @ Missouri (ABC): As everyone on the Internet is saying, Texas Tech's victory over Oklahoma is becoming more and more inexplicable by the week. In their three games since then, they have been outscored 159-33. It wasn't just Oklahoma State, either - Iowa State put up 41, and Texas's moribund offense managed 52. Mizzou should win easily, even without Gary Pinkel on the sidelines due to his extremely ill-advised trip to Chili's.
  • Clemson @ North Carolina State (ABC/ESPN): What better way to follow up a loss to the worst team in the ACC than by an explicable upset over Clemson? Yeah.. I'm not seeing it either. Though after Wake the Tigers are almost just begging to lose again, aren't they?
  • Pennsylvania State @ Ohio State (ABC/ESPN): Okay yes Ohio State may have just lost to Purdue but still it's hard to imagine Penn State winning any more games this year.
  • Southern Methodist @ Houston (FSN): Well, based on the number of times I've said "win easily" so far it's not hard to see why Gameday decided to make its annual mid-major trip out to Houston this weekend. And that was before Houston because the last remaining undefeated mid-major last weekend, and before the events last night that made them one of the only two remaining undefeated teams in the country. Meanwhile, SMU has lost to the other two decent C-USA teams it has played by pretty wide margins and just lost to Navy last week. So... this may end up being a blowout too.
  • Miami @ South Florida (ESPNU): One of these schools is actually in a geographic region I would call "south Florida" and it's not the one named "South Florida". With that out of the way, USF did nothing between its upset of Notre Dame the first weekend of the year and beating Syracuse last weekend. I would expect them to get right back on the losing side of the ledger in this one, though.
  • Colorado State @ Texas Christian (Versus): The Missed Field Goal Heard 'Round College football resonated and wide (... right) last weekend, but now TCU has to keep up their 5 game winning streak against the less notable segments of the Mountain West in order to clinch their last mid-major conference title.
4:00: Boston College @ Notre Dame (NBC): I would say that BC is probably the single worst team on Notre Dame's schedule this year, and keep in mind this is a schedule that includes Purdue, Navy, and Maryland. They should win easily.

  • Louisiana State @ Mississippi (ESPN): The SEC's two most colorful coaching personalities clash in what should be a LSU rout, but does Houston Nutt have one last trick up his sleeve? (I.e., "lose to Louisiana Tech and then suspend 3 of your offensive skill position starters for the game and win".) Well, no, probably not, but if Ole Miss does win the final score will be something like 9-8.
  • Central Florida @ East Carolina (FSN): This is been a down year for both teams, but at least ECU managed to beat UAB. (Yes, I know they just upset Southern Miss.)
  • Vanderbilt @ Tennessee (ESPNU): Let this sink in: Vanderbilt is favored to beat Tennessee. But I still don't know if I can pick the 'Dores because the last time Vandy was supposed to win this game they didn't. My heart says Vandy but my brain says Vols, so let's go with the latter.
  • Virginia @ Florida State (ESPN2): Both of these teams have beaten Miami, which says something but I'm not entirely sure what. Nonetheless, FSU has their offensive mojo back and Virginia is not Wake Forest so the Seminoles should come out with a win.
  • Colorado @ California-Los Angeles (Versus): Note: even with a 25-point loss to Utah last weekend, the Bruins still have a shot to win the Pac-12 South. That said, Utah is better than Colorado, I'm pretty sure. This will be a terrible, sloppy, "defensive struggle" sort of a game but UCLA should still win and Rick Neuheisel will probably still get fired.
  • Southern California @ Oregon (ABC): Oregon established pretty firmly last weekend that they are, in fact, still the team to beat in the Pac-12. USC has the talent to compete, but not the depth to stay with the Ducks. Expect the usual Oregon blueprint against good teams: a close first half followed by the Ducks simply wearing out the opposing defenses in the second half.
  • Oklahoma @ Baylor (ABC): Welcome back to the BCS title hunt, Sooners! Okay, yes, now beating Oklahoma State won't have the cachet it used to. Anyway, Baylor's all-everything QB Robert Griffin III will try his best to singlehandedly keep the Bears in this one but I just don't see how it can be enough against the Sooners.
  • Kansas State @ Texas (FX): Okay yes they didn't play in 2008 and 2009 but Kansas State has won three straight against Texas. I'm not sure if it's an upset at this point, but K-State has shown they can at least run with TAMU and Oklahoma State, and unlike Texas, those teams actually can play offense! So I'm taking the Wildcats.
  • Boise State @ San Diego State (CBSS): Boise once again finds itself picking up the pieces after a game gone horribly wrong, made even more painful by Oklahoma State's loss last night. San Diego State is not exactly chopped liver, but this is not last year's fiesty version either. I suspect the Broncos are once again the sort of team that picks up the pieces by laying waste to their next opponent, so I'll take them here.
  • California @ Stanford (ESPN): The Big Game! Stanford Stadium is about 5 miles from my apartment out here, but by the time you read this I'll be more like 2000 miles away. Anyway, speaking of picking up the pieces from a bad loss, you really have to like Andrew Luck and company in this one, right?
  • New Mexico State @ Brigham Young (ESPNU): I'll confess I don't know that much about BYU, but they don't have one of the worst defense in the country, in stark contrast to Fresno State will let these Aggies put up 48 last weekend. So, yeah, I'll the Stormin' Mormons here.
And that's that. Bowl predictions may be delayed this weekend due to chaos. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bowl Predictions 2011: Week 5

Here you go. This'll be another quick post, though.

Also, please appreciate I spent a lot of time fixing the HTML for the predictions page so the file is about half the size of what it's been in the past, which means you can now load the predictions even more quickly regardless of what platform you use to view them.
  • BCS: I expected Stanford to lose, so I sort have been accounting for that. However, I didn't really expect Boise to blow their shot again, so mid-major autobid now falls to Case Keenum and Co. in Houston. If Oklahoma State or, God forbid, LSU lose? Then I have no idea. I really don't want to see a rematch, and personally if Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State they may well be the best one loss team in the land - especially as it becomes easier to chalk up their loss to TTU as a complete and utter fluke.
  • ACC: Things again went pretty much according to plan here, and I still have a surplus of ACC teams.
  • Big East: There is no plan here. The Big East is the opposite of a plan. Much like matter and anti-matter, if the Big East and Plans ever met it they would cancel each other out and likely result in a serious explosion.
  • Big Ten: I guess Wisconsin will win? Who knows? Anyway this is pretty much a one-bid league this year. I actually have both Purdue and Northwestern making bowl games, but I had to put them in as at-larges for bowls that can't fill their slots.
  • Big 12: Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are likely both in if everything goes according to plan. But in what order?
  • Pac-12: I have both Oregon and Stanford in, as this seems like it'll be an especially dire year for the BCS at-large pool. The Pac-12 bowl teams pool is shallow as well, but it would be interesting to see how bad UCLA would lose to TCU.
  • SEC: I went ahead and put Vandy up to the vaunted 6-6 mark, but I don't think even the hometown Music City Bowl would take them over the fervent fans of Miss State.
  • Everyone else: Notre Dame seems to me to be on a collision course to get a pretty good "name" game in the Champs Sports Bowl. If you're wondering about Boise, they could still get in, but they need TCU to lose twice because according to the rules you need to be a conference champ to get in as an at-large mid-major team. (It's right there on the page, even!)

Friday, November 11, 2011

This Weekend in College Football: Week 11

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Florida @ South Carolina (CBS): Why is this game on CBS? Who knows! Suffice it to say, if this game ends up 9-6 it will be a pretty safe bet to chalk it up to offensive ineptitude than to defense. Florida has speed but no apparent idea of how to use it, while South Carolina is decimated by injuries, suspensions, and dismissals. In the end, though, I still expect the Gamecocks to prevail.
  • Oklahoma State @ Texas Tech (ABC): I think we pretty thoroughly know the answer to which Texas Tech team showed up against Oklahoma: not the one that has showed up for their other 8 games. Cowboys roll.
  • West Virginia @ Cincinnati (ABC): Flip a coin. The coin has about as much of an idea about the Big East as I do at this point. I'll take Cincy for the sake of my bowl predictions.
  • Texas @ Missouri (FX): I don't think either TAMU or Mizzoui's Big 12 finales are going quite how they expected. Texas should get one last parting shot.
  • Nebraska @ Pennsylvania State (ESPN): All I can say about this is: Nebraska has advantages both on the field and off, losses to Northwestern notwithstanding.
  • Michigan State @ Iowa (ESPN2): The Big Ten is almost as befuddling as the Big East. I, uh, I'll take Sparty here I guess?
  • Marshall @ Tulsa (FSN): Marshall doesn't score a lot and can give up points in bunches. Not good things against Tulsa.
  • Wake Forest @ Clemson (ESPNU): This Wake team can bite you, but the Tigers shouldn't really have any issues.
  • Ohio State @ Purdue (BTN): Buckeyes, I guess.
  • Rice @ Northwestern (BTN): This is not a good Rice team. Northwestern should roll.
  • Kentucky @ Vanderbilt (SEC): It's your yearly SEC East slapfight! Both enter at 4-5, but Vandy has generally at least been able to hang with the SEC powers this year while Kentucky has, for the most part, been getting blown out. I like the Dores to get to 5-5.
12:30: North Carolina State @ Boston College (ACC): This BC team is just plain hapless. Wolfpack should roll.

3:00: Duke @ Virginia (ACC/FSN): Virginia Tech can clinch the Coastal now with a UVA loss, but despite me being generally down on UVA I don't think they'll lose to Duke.

  • Auburn @ Georgia (CBS): I personally thought that putting Texas A&M in the SEC East is really lame. The only reason, it appears to me, that the SEC has "designated rivals" is because Alabama wants to play Tennessee every year and Auburn wants to play UGA every year. Why not just move Auburn and Alabama to the East and scrap the designated rivals thing altogether? It'll be made up for because then the divisions will cycle through each other more quickly. Anyway, I guess I have to take Georgia here.
  • Miami @ Florida State (ABC/ESPN): Boy, this is sure isn't what it used to be, eh? FSU should roll.
  • Michigan @ Illinois (ABC/ESPN): Well, Michigan looks to regain its offensive mojo once again. Luckily for them, Illinois has been especially hapless as of late.
  • Texas Agricultural and Mechanical @ Kansas State (ABC): TAMU looks suddenly vulnerable defensively, but I'm not really sure K-State has the offensive talent to take advantage. Nonetheless, TAMU's second half woes are well documented at this point and so only with some hesitation I'm picking them.
  • Navy @ Southern Methodist (FSN): SMU has looked pretty good against the teams they've been expected to beat whilst getting clobbered by the powers of Conference USA. Meanwhile, Navy just hasn't been, well, good this year at all. I like the Mustangs here.
  • Texas Christian @ Boise State (Versus): It's kind of funny that the Mountain West bent over backward to move this game from Fort Worth to Boise in response to TCU's then-move to the Big East. In the meantime, Boise is now probably going to move to the Big East, so in the end it sort really didn't matter. Either way, I don't really like TCU this year at all - so I'll take Boise to continue their run.
  • Rutgers vs. Army (@New York, NY; CBSS): Because the world needs more football games at baseball stadiums! Rutger's never ending quest to become New York City's college football team continues as they should probably win easily over Army.
  • Wisconsin @ Minnesota (BTN): Minnesota's shown some signs of life over the past couple of weeks, but I can't really comprehend how they can beat Wisconsin.
3:45: Washington @ Southern California (FX): U-dub put forth a valiant effort against Oregon last weekend. Will a valiant effort be enough against USC, though? I'm not really sure. I like the Trojans a lot at this point, though their lack of depth is always a concern.

6:00: Tennessee @ Arkansas (ESPN2): Tennessee has no offense. Like, I think they just let the other team play offense the whole time and hope to run back punt returns and interceptions. This is not a good recipe against what looks like the most competent offense in the SEC.

7:00: Western Kentucky @ Louisiana State (ESPNU): I think LSU's going to win this one. I know I'm going out on a limb here, but...

  • Louisiana Tech @ Mississippi (SEC): Ole Miss might not win this one. After all, we need Houston Nutt's last ride around the SEC to be as hilarious as possible, and so they need to be as bad as possible when they play LSU next weekend. And, with losses to Miss State and Southern Miss already, can LaTech afford to go 0-3 against the state of Mississippi? I think not. Bulldogs maybe pull off the upset. Probably. Well, perhaps.
  • Maryland vs. Notre Dame (@Landover, MD; NBC): I meant to look up if this was really a neutral site game or just a Maryland home game played over in Landover. Either way, I like the Irish here as Randy Esdall's dismantling effort continues. (I assume that's the oppose of a rebuilding effort, right?)
7:45: Alabama @ Mississippi State (ESPN): Yeah... yeah... Alabama will rain fire down upon the Bulldogs on this night, and blow them out... 24-3.

  • Oregon @ Stanford (ABC): Okay, here's the main event folks. And, frankly, all season I've liked the Ducks better. Stanford's year should have been last year, when they were more well-rounded on both sides of the ball. Stanford has been challenged really only once all year, when they needed Andrew Luck to just about singlehandedly beat USC. Now, if you had to pick a guy who do that for you, you could could certainly do worse than Andrew Luck. But I just don't think it will be enough against Oregon.
  • Central Florida @ Southern Mississippi (CBSS): UCF picked a good week to have a good old-fashioned recruiting scandal. Regardless, USM should continue their march to the C-USA title game.
9:15: Idaho @ Brigham Young (ESPN2): Idaho is not very good and stuff. The BYU team isn't exactly awe-inspiring or anything but they should still win easily.

10:15: Hawaii @ Nevada (ESPNU): Now here's the WAC-tion you want right here. Expect points, and lots of them, but also expect the Wolfpack to emerge victorious at the end.

10:30: Arizona State @ Washington State (Versus): Arizona State losing to UCLA may be one of the more inexplicable upsets of the year. Will Sun Devils get upset again in Pullman? Well, probably not.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

This Week in College Football: Week 11

A special edition, looking at the weekday games for this week.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

(Just pretend this was posted on time for these games.)
  • Northern Illinois @ Bowling Green (ESPN2): The weather may be getting colder, but rest assured the MACtion is just heating up. Both of the teams involved last week's torrid 63-60 affair return tonight, but this time with different partners. However, Bowling Green has not displayed the same proficiency in the offensive arts as NIU has, which is likely bad news for the home team here.
  • Western Michigan @ Toledo (ESPNU): Now, if you're looking for a repeat of last week's game then this is the place to be, most likely. That said, the Rockets looked pretty unstoppable in the MAC until they ran into NIU, so I'll go with them.
8:00: Miami @ Temple (ESPN): The MACtion isn't just confined to Tuesday nights, though. Oh no. Miami is dead last in the country in rushing, but rest assured they can throw it around, though against the only solid MAC team they've played (Toledo) they lost 49-28. Temple is the opposite - yes, they've lost to Toledo as well, but they are 8th in the country in rushing but 115th in passing. Ohio exploded for an unheard of 35 points against the Owls last weekend, so we may be in for more scoring than Temple's stingy 12.8 points allowed per game may make you think. I still like the Owls though.

7:30: Ohio @ Central Michigan (ESPNU): Remember, Central Michigan is the bad directional Michigan this year. Bobcats should roll.

  • Virginia Tech @ Georgia Tech (ESPN): [N.B.: "Tech" refers to Georgia Tech here. -ed] Every year there's been a Coastal Division of the ACC, there's been this game. And the winner of this game has been the Coastal Division champ. Twice has the good Tech won this one. The 2006 game I remember because my old cell phone still has a text message from my brother on September 30, 2006 on it: "Omg 21-0 gt" - I got said text because I was out of town that Saturday and wasn't able to watch but the last 10 minutes or so of the game.
    The marbles are once again on the line with those one - though it should be noted due to GT's loss to Virginia that Tech cannot clinch without another Virginia loss. Both teams are coming off bye weeks, which may well not be what Tech needed because the worst thing that happened in that Clemson game was halftime. (Well, other than the offsides non-call.)
    In way, these teams could not be farther apart going into the game, in terms of the game they played going into this. Georgia Tech played their best game since 2009 against Clemson, dominating in all phases in the game. VPI meanwhile struggled to put points on the board against Duke. The Blue Devils missed three FGs as well, any two of which could've allowed them to pull off the upset.
    Not that it matters, of course. Going into a Thursday night game in Atlanta is, objectively, much more exciting than going into Wallace Wade Stadium at any time. Add in the ticket to a rematch against Clemson being on the line and that puts together a recipe for a huge game. Who will win? I don't know. I like our chances if we play like we did against Clemson, but the odds us playing as good as we did against the Tigers and VPI playing as bad as they did against the Blue Devils is low, as I just said.
    It will come down to the usual things: defense and special teams. Special teams have been a tremendous concern for Georgia Tech this year, while it looks like Beamerball has been back in full force in Blacksburg. Even if Tech managers to avoid punting or kicking field goals (the ideal scenario), kickoff coverage has still been horrendous outside the Clemson game. The Georgia Tech defense, meanwhile, played its best game since John Tenuta was let go after 2007. They were able to confuse Tajh Boyd with a variety of zone and corner blitzes, which worked mainly because the secondary (and Jamea Thomas especially) played the games of their lives out on the Isles of Man Coverage. It feels funny to type this when you consider that Clemson still ran up nearly 400 yards of offense, but outside of one Sammy Watkins TD catch their offense was kept in check. (17 points was, and probably will remain, Clemson's lowest point total of the season.) The other key: they weren't on the field that much. The GT offense held on the to the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game, including the soul-sucking nine minute drive in the fourth quarter that saw Clemson get the ball back down two scores with two minutes to go.
    Suffice it to say, I think the Jackets will need similar heroics to prevail over the Hokies.
  • Houston @ Tulane (CBSS): Houston should be able to name its own score against the hapless Green Wave.
8:00: South Florida @ Syracuse (ESPN2): USF has had a very symmetric season, but not in a good way: they started off with four straight (including an increasingly more inexplicably upset of Notre Dame) and now have dropped four straight. Inexplicable is a pretty excellent word to describe the Big East as a whole, though. The Orange have dropped two straight after their dominating upset over West Virginia and sits at the precipice of bowl eligibility. They'll probably get it, but the problem is when? I say here, most likely, because I've really given up on trying to predict anything about the Big East - the 'Cuse could lose this one and go knock off Cincinnati next week, which, let's face it, is probably the most likely scenario.

Enjoy the rest of your week, and see if you can't catch the tail end of the Toledo-WMU game. That looks like a good one. Otherwise, I'll be back with Saturday's games sometime Friday or Saturday.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Bowl Predictions 2011: Week 4

When will I ever learn that "it'll probably be easier this week" is pretty much a surefire way to make sure that isn't the case?

Let's get down to business and see why. You can follow along with the picks in their usual place.

The BCS was the single hardest thing to pick this week. With the chaos in the Big Ten, figuring out the last team into the BCS picture was extremely difficult. Here's why.

Currently, I still have LSU and Oklahoma State running the table. I am not entirely convinced about the latter but trying to figure out which 1-loss team is most worthy, or if Boise State is, is even more difficult to figure out. (If Stanford beats Oregon this weekend, that will make my job easier.) I immediately slot Alabama into LSU's vacated Sugar Bowl spot but even figuring out who will replace Oklahoma State in the Fiesta is difficult. I have the following automatic bids: LSU (BCS #1), Oklahoma State (BCS #2), Boise State (MWC champion ranked in top 12), Oregon (Pac-12 champ), Wisconsin (Big Ten champ), Clemson (ACC champ), and Cincinnati (Big East champ). This accounts for 7 of the 10 available BCS bids. Currently, I only have 8 undefeated or 1-loss teams (not counting Houston), and the only two I didn't mention above are Alabama and Stanford. Due to the Andrew Luck effect, I assume Stanford will be a desirable at-large team and thus will get Oklahoma State's Fiesta Bowl bid.

Now, at this point the only remaining bids are the 3 at-large bids in the Fiesta, Sugar, and Orange bowls. The selections go in that order. There are two remaining automatic qualifiers: Boise State and Cincinnati. This means that there will be a 2-loss team somewhere in the BCS. But who? This could affect who the bowl picks. And this is where the Big Ten shenanigans come in.

With Nebraska's shocking upset to Northwestern, this means there will be no Big Ten team with less than two losses at the end of the year (I think it's safe to assume Penn State will lose one of their remaining games (I have them losing two more, actually)). This also means Nebraska has two conference losses. Michigan State only has one conference loss, and I don't think they will lose again this year. So they will win the Legends division, where I have them losing to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. That would give Michigan State three losses. Whereas Nebraska - having continued winning through the end of the season - should be able to rise back up into the top 14 of the BCS.

So, yeah, it's probably unfair, but them's the breaks. Thanks to BCS hot-potato and backroom dealing, I went ahead and figured the Fiesta would suck it up and take Boise, setting up a game that sounds epic, at least in name: Alabama versus Nebraska in the Sugar Bowl. (I wasn't surprised to find the two schools had met in the Sugar Bowl before - in 1967. Unfortunately, it apparently wasn't much of a classic as the Tide won 34-7.)

In any BCS scenario, I figure the odds of the Orange avoiding an ACC-Big East matchup are slim.

The only ACC team that can possibly have only 1-loss is the ACC champ. I currently have this team as Clemson.

Thanks to unexpectedly strong seasons from Wake Forest, NC State, and Virginia the ACC should fill out its primary bowl obligations this year and then some. The first slots after the BCS are easy: Virginia Tech to the Chick-fil-a and Florida State to the Champs Sports bowl (setting up a good "name" matchup if the Champs uses their option to select Notre Dame). This brings us to the Sun Bowl. According to the ACC selection rules, the Sun can choose from the following: Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Virginia, NC State, and Miami. Miami went to the Sun Bowl last year so I figure they're out. I don't Virginia or Wake are known for traveling terribly well, and so I've put GT there. This allows the rest of the dominoes to fall into place. I've put NC State into the Belk Bowl (formerly the Car Care Bowl), followed by Miami to the Music City and Virginia to the Independence. Wake Forest finally gets picked for the Military Bowl, mostly because ACC rules prevent a 3-5 UNC from being picked above them. This allows North Carolina to be shipped out to the Kraft Fights Hunger Bowl in San Fransisco, fulfilling the ACC option as a backup for the Pac-12 or Army.

Big East
If it seems like the Big East selections were drawn out of a hat, well, they very well could have been. For the sake of my sanity, I picked Cincy to run the table followed by Louisville, WVU, and Pitt. Oy. They will have an extra team, though, since I have Syracuse getting 6-6, so I put them in the Military Bowl slot the Big 12 won't come anywhere close to filling.

Big 12
The Big 12 is pretty much the two Oklahoma schools and everyone else. Texas seems to have gotten its act together so I slotted them into the Cotton. Everything else straightforward, though Baylor kind of gets the shaft. If Iowa State or Texas Tech and manage to win another game that would really be a boon for the conference but considering their schedules I don't see it happening.

Big Ten
The Big Ten is a mess right now. I talked about the Nebraska thing above, and that was mostly just me going "well, someone has to have a 2-bid conference that probably doesn't deserve it" and so I figured a 2-loss team from the Big Ten would fit the bill. Michigan State will probably still land in the Capital One Bowl, so that's not a huge deal. I have both Michigan and Penn State going 9-3, with the Outback bid going to the Fightin' Paternos and shipping Michigan off to Arizona. The rest of the slate is pretty "meh" and straightforward, though even after four weeks it still feels weird projecting Ohio State into second-tier bowl games.

Boy does this conference miss USC being eligible or what? Speaking of crazy upsets, Northwestern over Nebraska was shocking, yes, but not Earth-shaking (well, metaphorically considering recent events in Oklahoma). UCLA over Arizona State, though? Now there's an upset. Consider this: the team that got pantsed by Arizona only a few Thursdays ago and had all but officially announced they'd fired the head coach is now in a 3-way tie for the Pac-12 South lead. Now, I figure Arizona State will still win the division in the end, but still. Also, don't look but Utah should get to 6-6 pretty easily over the next few weeks, if not 7-5. I tried to resist it, but it was just too easy match them against TCU in the Las Vegas Bowl if for no other reason than to get Utah partisans to say, "wait, we joined a BCS conference and we still ended up in the Las Vegas Bowl... and playing one of our former MWC rivals?" I had some hesitation though because that meant Cal ended up in the Fights Hunger Bowl, which is being played in the stadium that's serving as their home field this year. Well, if nothing else I guess they'll be used to it.

SEC partisans will no doubt howl about the 2-team limit for BCS participation, because if Arkansas's only losses are to LSU and Alabama then they should easily stay in the BCS top 14. Nonetheless, the BCS slate was pretty straightforward, though I am hoping I'm wrong and Vandy gets up to 6-6.

Everyone else
The Sun Belt and MAC will benefit, as usual, from having surplus eligible teams. I still have Western Kentucky on track to make their first ever bowl game. Overall, though, there's nothing Earthshattering going on here other than an undefeated Houston being stuck in the Liberty Bowl, but at least that makes it a good bet for Conference USA to make it two straight in the game. This week not having enough teams does not appear to be a concern, and from what I remember while doing the predictions, it appears we'll be okay this year. (Though honestly one of my favorite bowl system doomsday scenarios that no one talks about is the specter of a team with a losing record making it into a bowl game.)

Anyway, next week probably be just as difficult and confusing, though which way it ultimately goes may be decided just up the road from me here in California. Until then...

Saturday, November 05, 2011

This Weekend in College Football: Week 10

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Texas Tech @ Texas (FX): Will the real Texas Tech please stand up? Losing to Iowa State 41-7 after knocking off Oklahoma is, just, well, hard to fathom. I think Texas has a pretty good shot to get to bowl eligibility here.
  • Michigan @ Iowa (ESPN): Michigan was last seen taking care of business against Purdue, while Iowa was last seen falling asleep on the job and losing to the extremely hapless Golden Gophers. Have to like Denard and Co. here.
  • Syracuse @ Connecticut (ESPNU): Depressingly, this game is still extremely important in the race to the Big East's BCS bid.
  • Minnesota @ Michigan State (BTN): Will Minnesota make it two in a row? Almost certainly not.
  • Indiana @ Ohio State (BTN): Hapless doesn't even begin to describe the Hoosiers this year. Ohio State shouldn't need a last minute TD pass to win this one.
  • Vanderbilt @ Florida (SEC): Florida supporters probably feel like it's the end of the world after losing to UGA. Not that I can blame them, of course. This is a fiesty Vandy team but it's hard to envision how they could come out of the swamp with a win.
  • Virginia @ Maryland (ACC): Boston College looked like the shot in the arm the Terps needed. Instead, it looked like they were shot with a cannonball as BC picked up its first ACC win. I'm not expecting much else out of UMD at this point.
  • North Carolina @ North Carolina State (ACC): While it probably won't be the 34-0 drubbing this received last weekend, it's hard to see NCSU winning here.
3:00: Duke @ Miami (ACC/FSN): Miami. Probably.

  • Army @ Air Force (CBS): Getting blown out by MAC teams isn't a good sign for this year's Army squad. Air Force should win easily.
  • Stanford @ Oregon State (ABC): Look closely at this ABC coverage map. See that one sliver in southern Florida? That's the Andrew Luck Effect, which could also refer to what's about to happen to Oregon State.
  • Texas Agricultural and Mechanical @ Oklahoma (ABC/ESPN2): Did you know that Texas A&M has the worst pass defense in the country? I didn't until earlier today. I don't think they'll need to worry about surrendering a 2nd half lead in this one, suffice it to say.
  • Purdue @ Wisconsin (ESPN2/ABC): Speaking of blowing 2nd half leads, I don't think the Badgers have much to worry about this weekend.
  • Texas-El Paso @ Rice (FSN): UTEP needs this one to set up the one upset they'll need to pull to get to bowl eligibility. I think they'll get it.
  • Mississippi @ Kentucky (ESPNU): ESS-EEE-CEE SLAPFIGHT. Technically speaking, Kentucky does have more wins over DI-A competition than Ole Miss (2 to 1). Basically, this is is about as far as you can get from the nightcap on CBS tonight. Both of these teams are really just so awful it's hard for me to pick one that will be slightly less awful for four hours. I guess I'll go with Kentucky, because that'll make it all the more hilarious when Houston Nutt inexplicably beats LSU two weeks from now but gets fired at the end of the year anyway.
  • Troy @ Navy (CBSS): I think Navy gets the win here, but the rest of the year is looking pretty lean.
  • Northwestern @ Nebraska (BTN): (looks up Big Ten divisional standings) Oh, right, with their win over Sparty last weekend Nebraska is in the driver's seat for the ...(checks again)... yes, right, Legends division. It's difficult to see how Northwestern stands a chance.
  • Missouri @ Baylor (FSN): I HOPE YOU LIKE POINTS because boy howdy you'll get them in this game. That said, Baylor's defense is just awful and will probably let them down again. Despair not, Baylor fans - Texas Tech and Kansas remain very beatable.
  • Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh (ESPNU): Finally this is the week where the three teams that could win the Big East start to play each other. If Cincy wins they remain the team to beat, where as a Pitt win makes this year's Backyard Brawl bigger than ever.
  • Houston @ Alabama-Birmingham (CBSS): If you don't follow Alabama college news, there hasn't been a lot of good news the past couple of weeks for the other two members of the University of Alabama system that aren't in Tuscaloosa. My hometown school, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, recently got its unique DI hockey program canned (the only DI hockey program in the South) for various dumb reasons. UAB, meanwhile, recently got its bid for an on-campus football stadium canned. I feel less bad about that one because while I realize that Legion Field isn't all that great these days I'm not really sure what UAB has done to merit an on-campus stadium. Most of what I've seen said it would cost around $75 million, which is vastly more than what it takes to run a hockey program. Perhaps that's not really a fair point, though - after all, I love Tech's on campus stadium but it's only a mile and a half from the Georgia Dome. (Of course, the counter to that would be that Tech has been playing football for a very long time and the Bobby Dodd Stadium predates the Dome by decades.)
    Anyway, none of that has anything to do with the fact Case Keenum will become the NCAA's all-time passing leader at Legion Field at some point Saturday night as Houston will almost certainly rout a UAB squad that is 116th in scoring and gives up 35 points a game to teams that aren't Houston (i.e., the number one team in the country in scoring at 52.3 points per game).
  • Middle Tennessee State @ Tennessee (SEC/FSN): And so begins Tennessee's harrowing quest toward bowl eligibility. Four games to go, one of which is an almost certain loss to Arkansas, but the others are Vandy and Kentucky. Will they make it? Stay tuned.
7:15: South Carolina @ Arkansas (ESPN): Speaking of Arkansas, this is a game that features two SEC in the top-10 mostly because they're teams from the SEC that only have 1-loss. Arkansas needed a missed chip shot FG to avoid overtime against Vandy last weekend, and South Carolina's offense has taken a dive since they lost Marcus Lattimore. If one of these teams has a better chance of breaking out of their offensive funk, though, it has to be Arkansas, and so I'll take the Razorbacks here.

7:30: Arizona State @ California-Los Angeles (Versus): UCLA pulled off an inexplicably upset of Cal last weekend, but I'm not buying it. Arizona State should roll.

  • Louisiana State @ Alabama (CBS): We've known this was going to be a huge game since the schedules came out at the beginning of the year. We also know that the wise guys like Alabama, but the people like LSU. Expect for their punter being one of the first victims of the NCAA's new (and dumb) live-ball unsportsmanlike conduct rule, LSU has had a pretty, well, normal season so far, free of any botched end-of-game situations. They've even showed signs of actually having an offense which has generally been the thing missing from past LSU teams. The only thing that's remained the same, it seems, is a very talented defense and Les Miles remaining extremely quotable.
    Nick Saban, of course, remains really boring. Nonetheless, if Bama fans had any sense of humor and were less religiously uptight there would probably "SABAN IS GOD" graffiti throughout the state. (I mean, there's probably plenty of paraphernalia that just about implies Saban is at least a lesser deity along with God and, of course, Bear Bryant.) Anyway, enough blasphemy from me. If LSU's defense is really good, then what I've been saying the last two years is true. 2010 Alabama had a pretty good defense, but it in 2011 it would be back to 2009 levels and so far I have been right. That said, LSU's defense is only #2 because they played Oregon, who had the audacity to score 27 points on them. LSU also gave up 21 to West Virginia, but outside of that hasn't given up more than 11 points. The reason why Alabama is #1 is because they haven't given up more than 14 to anyone, but that is because they haven't really played anyone with a decent offense other than Arkansas.
    The resume so far is the main reason why LSU is #1 in the country in all the polls. They boast a very good win over Oregon, and a decent OOC win over WVU, but won't play the SEC's other quality team until they play Arkansas at the end of the year. Alabama, meanwhile, was able to shutdown Arkansas's offense but frankly holding Penn State and Florida to 11 and 10 points, respectively, isn't really all that much of an achievement this year. I'm not saying this defense isn't very good, mind you.
    In the end, this will go the way of many SEC heavyweight bouts over the past few years. There will not be a lot of points in this game. So, naturally, my mind turns to "which team is less likely to make mistakes?" If there's any offense built to minimize mistakes, it's Alabama's, which again has an anonymous game-manager QB and a Heisman candidate running back. LSU's offense has been a revelation this year, which basically means they've put up a lot of points against several teams that have sort-of sketchy defenses. And yet, if something weird happens in this game, you have to think that favors the team with The Hat, don't yet? But nonetheless, if these teams played each other 10 times, I think Alabama would win 7 of those times. I'll reluctantly take the Tide.
  • Notre Dame @ Wake Forest (ABC/ESPN2): I have no idea why you would watch this game. This is a feisty Wake Forest squad but the Domers should punch their ticket for the Champs Sports Bowl (well, or maybe the Pinstripe Bowl).
  • Kansas State @ Oklahoma State (ESPN2/ABC): Oklahoma put up 58 on Kansas State. The Wildcats will pickup their second loss, the only question is "by how much?"
  • Oregon @ Washington (FSN): It's time for the nightcaps! This is the most palatable of them, of course. Washington's been a nice surprise in the Pac-12 North this year (see Big Ten, I didn't even look that up!) but their previous attempt to have a say in the outcome of the division didn't go so well with a 65-21 rout in Palo Alto. They'll try again here, and I think it could be closer but I don't think it'll be close enough.
  • Louisiana Tech @ Fresno State (ESPNU): Yes, kids, this is a WAC game! Neither of these teams really do anything particularly well, but Fresno's defense is apparently really bad, so we could have a shootout on our hands. I still like Fresno here though.
  • Boise State @ Nevada-Las Vegas (CBSS): UNLV already gives up 40 points a game to teams that aren't Boise State. This should be a bloodbath.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Bowl Predictions 2011: Week 3

Let's get the link out of the way.

I feel like I'm close to really being able to do an in-depth analysis, though I think we won't really be able to have a real idea of what things will look like until Oregon and Stanford play. While this weekend's Alabama-LSU tilt is huge for the national title game, the loser will likely still get into a BCS bowl as long as they don't lose again. I think Oregon will beat Stanford, which leaves me in a bad position because I also think Oklahoma will beat Oklahoma State. For the sake of clarity right now, I'm not going with the latter prediction to avoid a big mess, pretty much.

Elsewhere in the BCS, I'm not really sure to do after I slot the Alabama-LSU loser into the Sugar Bowl. I have Wisconsin, Oregon, Clemson, and West Virginia as conference champs, and Boise should qualify for an at-large. So that leaves us with two more at-large slots. I went with Stanford and Oklahoma. I couldn't figure out any other better 1-loss team to put into the BCS, pretty much. Even a 1-loss Stanford feels like a reach to me, but Andrew Luck alone may get them into the BCS, in the sense that NFL fans my flock to see the future #1 draft pick.

Quick conference breakdowns:
  • ACC: As ecstatic as I was about our victory Saturday, I'm not sure how much it will help our bowl positioning unless we can beat either Virginia Tech or Georgia. I also ended up in the awkward positioning of sending Miami back to the Sun Bowl, which I kind of doubt will happen again. I have Clemson losing again, but to South Carolina.
  • Big 12: I still think that Bedlam will probably only act as a NCG stepping stone for Oklahoma State, provided they don't lose beforehand. I don't have Mizzou or Texas Tech getting eligible, even with the former delivering a surprise upset this week, and with the latter's surprise upset being a good reason why they might not make 6-6.
  • Big East: I... guess West Virginia's going to win this conference? Who the heck knows. 
  • Big Ten: Michigan suddenly sits pretty at the top of the Big Ten heap, with Michigan State unable to follow up on their Wisconsin win. Wisconsin also suffered a surprising loss to Ohio State, but I still have them winning the Leaders division because Penn State can't really be for real, can they?
  • Pac-12: I still have Oregon beating Stanford. Meanwhile, I think Utah will rally over the back half of their schedule because now they get to play the Colorados and UCLAs of the world. They may even get to 8-4. Either way, with USC not eligible and Cal barely getting in at 6-6, the Pac-12 will come nowhere close to fulfilling its obligations.
  • SEC: The SEC elite this year (Alabama and LSU) will almost certainly make BCS bowls as long as neither loses more than once. Unlike in past years, though, the depth of the conference is not that great. Ole Miss and Kentucky are just outright terrible. I have Miss State and Tennessee limping at 6-6. I also have Vandy going 6-6 but for them that's a pretty good year. The East is down to Georgia and South Carolina, and I think the latter could still lose again in SEC play. I swapped South Carolina and Arkansas in their bowl slots because I had Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl and they already played Arkansas this year - in Dallas, no less. (The Cotton prefers teams from the SEC West, but Auburn may be the only other team in the division that has a winning record.) 
  • Independents: I have the Champs Sports Bowl exercising its Notre Dame pick this year, otherwise the Domers will probably fall back to the Pinstripe Bowl in New York City. BYU is already eligible and has an agreement with the Armed Forces Bowl. I don't think either of the academies will qualify this year. Navy already has 6 losses and according to some sites I've seen this already discounts them because the Army game is too late on the calendar. And I'm not sure where they Army team is going to get 3 wins from.
  • Mid-majors: The Sun Belt and MAC benefit hugely once again from Big 6 conferences unable to use all their bids. I have 4 eligible Sun Belt teams, including Western Kentucky making its first ever bowl game. The WAC will probably only have 3 eligible teams, one of them being Hawaii. The MAC should produce 6 eligible teams, providing plenty of backup. Hard part is that many of the bowls missing teams are out west, which makes it difficult to say "oh yeah, that's close, maybe they'll go there". Boise will make the BCS provided they don't lose at some point, and the rest of the Mountain West should fulfill its obligations as teams like Air Force and San Diego State should get their seasons together. And finally, the C-USA title game may be pretty good this year, as Southern Miss is on a collision course for only 1 loss going into the game with Houston. Case Keenum may still be too much for the Golden Eagles, though. Houston almost certainly can't get into the BCS (due to their schedule) but the C-USA has a good chance of holding onto the Liberty Bowl title, I should think.
All right, that's that. Hopefully I'll have more thorough breakdowns next week. Until then.