Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Bowl Games 2012: Aftermath

I've uploaded the final iteration of the predictions. I went 20-15 this bowl season, which isn't great but it's not terrible either. Unfortunately for us all, I was almost entirely wrong about the BCS title game, but those are the breaks I guess.

So that's that! As usual, what little activity there is here will decrease until next fall, but at this year we also have World Cup qualifying to keep us on our toes. Also, I have an idea of another research article along the same vein as this one. So until then...

Monday, January 07, 2013

Bowl Games 2012: The Last One

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Monday, January 7
8:30: Notre Dame vs. Alabama (BCS Championship Game @ Miami Gardens, FL; ESPN): Here we are, once again. I have Alabama winning 17-10, and for once, I feel pretty good about that. Why? Well, I'm not sure. Alabama's offense is actually a little underrated if you ask me - this isn't a team that scrapes out 10-7 games. The fewest points they've scored all year was in Baton Rouge against LSU, where they won 21-17. They've had only two other close games all year. The first was, of course, the 29-24 loss to Texas A&M. The second was the 32-28 win against Georgia in the SEC championship. Alabama basically won both those close games in the final minute, scoring the go-ahead touchdown against LSU with 51 seconds to go and not clinching the SEC title game until UGA's receive fell down in the field of play with less than 10 seconds to go on first and goal. In the TAMU game, Bama got within six yards before throwing an interception on 4th and goal with less than two minutes to go. So, basically, to beat Alabama you need a mobile, Heisman winning quarterback and/or an elite defense.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, has no losses of course. However, their offense is lackluster, ranking 75th in the nation in scoring offense. However, when your opponents only score 10.3 points a game, it doesn't take a lot outscore them. Notre Dame had three close games this season. The first was a 20-17 scare against Purdue on September 8. I'm willing to give that one a pass. The next was the overtime win against Stanford in October, which I think now is, safe to say, Notre Dame's best win of the year. Stanford also sports a very good defense with a lackluster, workmanlike offense, and the game went into overtime 13-13. From there, the Irish defense, in one of the most controversial calls of the season, stopped Stanford on fourth and goal in the first overtime to seal the win. They had a small scare against BYU the next week, but the winning points were scored with over 12 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The Irish's second best win of the year was sealed the next week in Norman. The game was tied 13-13 with 9:10 to go, and then the Irish scored 17 straight points to stay unbeaten. The biggest scare of the season was, of course, the triple overtime win against Pitt. Notre Dame tied the game with 2:11 to go and held on through the first two overtimes until finally getting the winning touchdown. The USC game was close for a while, but ND never trailed after leading 3-0 less than 5 minutes into the game.
So what does this say? I'm not a SEC homer, but I don't think it's much of a reach to say that Alabama played a tougher schedule than Notre Dame did. The only other elite defense ND has really faced so far this year was Stanford's. I think the Domers can give Alabama trouble with their defense, but the Alabama offense has just been that much better over the course against the season against tougher competition. While Everett Golson does provide some mobility to escape the pass rush, I also don't think I'm going out on much of a limb to say he's not Johnny Manziel. If this game really does come down to old-school, smash mouth football, well, that's really playing right into Nick Saban and Alabama's hands.
Previous meetings: Considering these are two of college football's most storied teams, they have only met six times. The first meeting wasn't actually until 1973 in the Sugar Bowl. Notre Dame won, 24-23. They had two more meetings in the 70's. On New Year's Day in 1975, they met again in the Orange Bowl and Notre Dame won again, 13-11. In 1976, they met in the regular season in South Bend, and the Tide lost again, 21-18. Four years later in Birmingham, the Tide still had no luck and lost 7-0. In 1986 and again in Birmingham, the Tide got their first and only win in the series so far, a solid 28-10 victory. Their last meeting was in 1987, when Alabama made the return trip to South Bend and lost in convincing fashion, 37-6. So, oddly, that also means all six previous meetings between these two happened in a span of 12 years. Again, odd.
Last bowl game: This is Alabama's ninth straight bowl game, dating back to 2004 when they lost in the Music City Bowl to Minnesota, 20-16. As many will recall, they won last year's BCS Championship Game against LSU, 21-0. This is the Irish's third straight bowl game. They lost to Florida State in last year's Champs Sports Bowl, 18-14.
Announcers: Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit
Fun facts: I was going to have the reason why they're called the "Fighting Irish" here, but it turns out no one really knows for certain but that any of the interesting stories you've heard of probably aren't true. Unfortunately, that's not a terribly fun fact. Sorry.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Bowl Games 2012: Part 6

A 6-0 sweep on New Year's Day has got me back up to 17-12. We're now down to the last 6 games. This covers the next five, with a separate post for the Championship game scheduled for Sunday or Monday.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Wednesday, January 2
8:30: Florida vs. Louisville (Sugar Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): Despite what they did to FSU, I'm not exactly expecting Florida to come out and score a ton of points. That said, I'm expecting Louisville to score even less points. They have a middling offense and there's nothing to indicate they will be able to get anything going against one of the nation's best defenses.
Previous meetings: These two have met twice, in 1980 and 1992. Florida won both games, 13-0 and 31-17.
Last bowl game: Florida has the second longest consecutive bowl streak at 22, behind only their rivals in Tallahassee. The Gators' could be even longer, but they went 9-2 in 1990 and missed a bowl due to NCAA sanctions. So instead we go to the 1991 Sugar Bowl, which they lost to Notre Dame 39-28. Last year, they went to the Gator Bowl and beat Ohio State 24-17. This is Louisville's third straight bowl game. They lost last year's Belk Bowl to NC State, 31-24.
Announcers: Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman

Thursday, January 3
8:30: Kansas State vs. Oregon (Fiesta Bowl @ Glendale, AZ; ESPN): The Fiesta is once again the "oh so close bowl", as I'm sure we all remember at this point that these two were once fated to meet in Miami. I expect there to be a lot of points in this one, a ton, in fact. Other than the beat downs administered to some of the Big 12's more suspect defenses, K-State is not necessary a high-flying offense, but they have at least shown flashes of being able to keep up with Chip Kelly's "5-year-old on a sugar high" offense. That said, I don't think they'll be able to score enough to keep up, especially as the game wears on and defensive stops come fewer and further between for the Wildcats.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is K-State's third straight bowl game. They lost to Arkansas in last year's Cotton Bowl, 29-16. This is Oregon's eight straight bowl game. They won last year's Rose Bowl over Wiscinson, 45-38.
Announcers: Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge

Friday, January 4
8:00: Oklahoma vs. Texas Agricultural and Mechanical (Cotton Bowl @ Arlington, TX; FOX): This is a close one. Oklahoma is easily the best two loss team in the country, with their losses to Notre Dame and Kansas State. Texas A&M, though, was the only team on the season to beat Alabama, pulling off what has to be one of the more stunning upsets in the history of college football. Thinking on it some more, I would say I probably expect something larger than my 28-24 TAMU prediction indicates, in terms of the points for both teams. I think this one could go pretty much either way, but for the sake of having to pick someone I went with TAMU.
Previous meetings: Not as many as you would think. Remember, only after the collapse of the old Southwest Conference were these two both in the same conference, and of course, now they're not once again. They've met 30 times, though, and Oklahoma leads the all-time series 19-11. The first was in 1903, a 6-0 Sooner win. The two met sporadically from then until 1951. After that, they didn't actually play again until the Big 8 became the Big 12. TAMU dominated the early year there, but since 1999, Oklahoma is 11-2, including their last game as members of the Big 12 in 20011, which they won 41-25.
Last bowl game: This is Oklahoma's 14th straight bowl game, starting with the 1999 Independence Bowl (which they lost to Mississippi 27-25). They did beat Iowa in last year's Insight Bowl, 31-14. This is TAMU's fourth straight bowl game. They beat Northwestern in last year's Car Care Bowl (of Texas), 33-22.
Announcers: Gus Johnson, Charles Davis

Saturday, January 5
1:00: Mississippi vs. Pittsburgh (BBVA Compass Bowl @ Birmingham, AL; ESPN): These teams are so thoroughly 6-6 that it's hard to say that they do anything particularly well or that they do anything particularly badly. I'm predicting a relatively boring low-scoring game. This is actually one of the few occasions where I'm wondering why I picked a team, though. Pitt is making yet another trip to Birmingham and let me tell you, "the Magic City" isn't all that magical. (Yes, that really is Birmingham's tagline.) Also Ole Miss is riding a high into this game, with their out-of-nowhere upset of their chief rival in Mississippi State. So, well, I'll stick to my guns and the narrow Pitt win, but as per usual it's rather likely I'll be wrong.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is Mississippi's first bowl game since 2009-10, when they beat Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl, 21-7. This is Pitt's fifth straight bowl game and somehow their third straight trip to this bowl. They lost 28-6 to SMU in last year's edition.
Announcers: Eamon McAnaney, David Diaz-Infante

Sunday, January 6
9:00: Arkansas State vs. Kent State (godaddy.com Bowl @ Mobile, AL; ESPN): Kent State is one of the country's top rushing teams and likes to score points. Arkansas State, well, they also like to score points. Let me put it this way: compared to what will probably happen on Monday, this should be your last chance to see some real offensive ingenuity. There's no losing head coach advantage here, as both teams will be without their former head honchos. That said, I still give the MAC an edge over the Sun Belt, and so as long as they're not too bummed out about not having a chance to get pummeled by FSU instead of NIU, I like the Golden Flashses here. (Again, not sure why the predictions page has such a low scoring prediction. My only excuse was that I did all those at the last minute and was very tired.)
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is Arkansas State's second straight trip to this game. They lost to Northern Illinois in last year's edition 38-20. And now the moment we've all been waiting for. This is Kent State's first bowl game since the 1972 Tangerine Bowl. They lost to the University of Tampa, 21-18. (Note: Tampa stopped playing football after 1974 and is now a Division II school.) Also worth noting that was also Kent State's first ever bowl game.
Announcers: Mark Jones, Brock Huard
Fun facts: Once again, if you're in the market for domain related services, I would encourage you to use a provider that cares about you, your rights, and not producing awful TV commercials. Both my previous registrar, Namecheap, and my first and current registrar, Gandi, satisfy these criteria.