Saturday, September 28, 2013

This Weekend in College Football: Week 5

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.
  • South Carolina @ Central Florida (ABC): I’m sure this is just here because ABC/ESPN was happy they could get a SEC team on the broadcast network for a noon game. ‘Cause otherwise it’s hard to see much of a chance for UCF.
  • Oklahoma State @ West Virginia (ESPN): Stats You Probably Don’t Expect to Read: WVU has scored seven points against FBS competition this season. Yeah, it’s hard to see how a team that got shut out by Maryland is going to score enough to keep up with Oklahoma State.
  • Northern Illinois @ Purdue (ESPN2): Let’s just say that I like NIU’s chances to get to 4-0 and notch their second victory against a Big Ten team.
  • Southern Methodist @ Texas Christian (FS1): TCU should just be too good for their cross-town rivals.
  • Miami @ South Florida (ESPNU): USF is ranked 121st in the country in scoring offense. That is not good, but that’s what happens when you lose to the McNeese States of the world 53-21. (Much less the Florida Internationals of the world.) The ‘Canes should take this one going away, as they should anyway since unlike USF they actually are in a geographical entity one would reasonably call “South Florida”.
  • Miami @ Illinois (BTN): In years past, I would’ve had fun with this, but it appears the Illini might not be completely awful this year.
  • South Alabama @ Tennessee (SEC): Tennessee should be able to take care of business here.
  • East Carolina @ North Carolina (ACC): UNC should be good enough to contain ECU.
  • Virginia @ Pittsburgh (ACC): Pitt gave up 55 points to Duke last week, but a) they did end up winning by scoring 58 and b) Duke’s offense is probably better than UVA’s. I like the Panthers’ chances here.
2:00: Navy @ Western Kentucky (ESPNEWS): I like Navy’s chances here, especially with WKU’s defensive issues.
3:00: Colorado @ Oregon State (PAC12): Oregon State still isn’t very good or anything, but Colorado is probably still worse.
  • Oklahoma @ Notre Dame (NBC): Except against WVU, it’s all gone according to plan for the Sooners this season. Will they be able to carry that and their so far stingy defense into South Bend? Well, in the two games after the Michigan game, ND has looked like they’re out of ideas on offense, which I don’t think bodes well for their chances here.
  • Louisiana State @ Georgia (CBS): With LSU now doing the offense thing in addition to the defense thing, I’m not sure UGA will be able to keep up.
  • Iowa @ Minnesota (ABC/ESPN2): UMN is 4-0 based on the strength of a great run game and a slew of thus far awful opponents. Their first Big Ten game will provide their stiffest test so far, but it’s not because Iowa is great or anything. I would probably avoid this game unless it’s close late or something. I’ll with UMN for the heck of it.
  • Florida State @ Boston College (ABC/ESPN2): Boston College’s 35-7 loss was a comforting affirmation that at least they’re still awful. FSU should be able to produce a similar, if not better, scoreline.
  • Wake Forest @ Clemson (ESPNU): Things are going to happen here. Bad things, if you're a Wake Forest fan. 
  • Texas-El Paso @ Colorado State (CBSS): By the thinnest of margins, UTEP appears to be the better team here.
  • Army vs. Louisiana Tech (@Dallas, TX; FS1): I wouldn’t have thought so at the outset of the season, but I actually like Army’s chances here, mostly because LaTech is very, very bad.
  • Houston @ Texas-San Antonio (FSN): Houston should win easily.
6:30: Mississippi @ Alabama (ESPN): This is a reminder that while it may appear that the Alabama Death Machine is not as intimidating as in years past, that is a purely relative term. This team is still very good, and frankly the only opponent on their schedule I expect to provide any resistance is LSU.
  • Arizona @ Washington (FOX): There’s a reason why one 3-0 team is ranked and the other isn’t, and it comes down entirely to scheduling. I expect the Huskies to be able to ake care of business here. (That said, I do find it kind of amusing that on the other side of town, their normally cross-state rival will be playing a game at CenturyLink Field a few hours later.)
  • Texas Agricultural and Mechanical @ Arkansas (ESPN2): Losing by four to Rutgers does not bode well for Arkansas’s chances against Manziel and Co.
  • Florida @ Kentucky (ESPNU): Florida.
7:30: Alabama-Birmingham @ Vanderbilt (SEC/FSN): Vandy should be able to get back on track against their neighbors down I-65.
  • Wisconsin @ Ohio State (ABC): This is the Buckeyes’ first chance to prove they belong with the national frontrunners, due to their pathetic non-conference schedule. Provided they have Braxton Miller, though, OSU should possess enough dynamism on offense to be able take a lead, and they have a good enough defense to hold it.
  • Air Force @ Nevada (CBSS): Boy howdy, it is not looking good for the Air Force academy this year. I’m going with Nevada, even.
10:00: Stanford vs. Washington State (@Seattle, WA; ESPN): Pretty sure this is still technically a home game for Wazzou. Anyway that probably won't affect the impending beatdown they're about to receive.
10:15: Southern Mississippi @ Boise State (ESPNU): This isn't a great Boise team, but they don't need to be to beat USM.
  • Southern California @ Arizona State (ESPN2): Utah State is a good team and all, but nonetheless I think it’s fair to say that USC probably should’ve won by more than a field goal. But despite that I just cannot pick them to lose to most other Pac-12 teams, at least not yet. If they do lose here, they may have a new coach next week.
  • California @ Oregon (PAC12): Cal is better this year, but not better enough to go into Eugene and get a win.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

This Week in College Football: Week 5

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Virginia Tech @ Georgia Tech (ESPN): Thanks to the weirdness of last season, this isn't the guarantee it used to be vis-a-vis determining the Coastal representative in the championship game. Nonetheless, it remains a major sticking point on the schedule. Since VPI joined the ACC, we've only beaten them twice: once in Blacksburg in 2006 (on the back of Calvin Johnson), and the upset at home that paved the way to the ACCCG in 2009 (VPI was ranked in the top 5 at the time).
    Arguably, the most talked about aspect of this game isn't what either team does well, it's more about how bad VPI's offense has been. Which is a shame, because the flip-side is a true strength-versus-strength matchup. VPI has been one of the few teams to keep the GT offense in check since 2008, with Bud Foster willing to mix things up on his defense (i.e., using smaller, faster defensive linemen that can evade the cut block and get to the ball carrier).
    GT's defense has been "okay" I would say so far. Last week was their first real test, and the first half was a mixed back. The second half, though, showed improvement in the pass rush and in the coverage game, as we realized that UNC's best receiver was their tight end and adjusted accordingly. I have to say that the last thing I want, though, is for Logan Thomas to remember how tall he is, as I still feel like two years ago the dude just sort of yelled "TIMBER!", fell over, and got first downs.
  • Iowa State @ Tulsa (FS1): Well, Fox Sports 1 has to start somewhere I guess, but I'm not sure this is the optimal choice. Neither of these teams can really score or play defense, so this could well be a puntfest. I'm going with Tulsa scoring the "upset" at home.
  • Utah State @ San Jose State (ESPN): Looking this up just made me remember that the Mountain West's new divisions are named "Mountain" and "West". Which is actually fine geographically but seriously what's wrong with "East"? You were halfway right! Anyway, the game. SJSU still doesn't look very good, but they are better. The Aggies are still even better, though.
  • Middle Tennessee State @ Brigham Young (ESPNU): MTSU has started well in C-USA, scoring wins over Memphis and Florida Atlantic. Oh, right, those teams are awful and they lost to UNC by 20. They might do the same to BYU.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

This Weekend in College Football: Week 4

  • North Carolina @ Georgia Tech (ESPN): UNC will be the first quality opponent we’ve played all year. They boast the first real challenging offense we will face, and thus the first real test for our new 4-3 look defense. The claimed strength of our defense is the secondary, but that’s mostly theory at the moment I’d say. We’ll know for sure in 9 hours or so. The forecast calls for rain, which I would ordinarily say favors a running offense, but for an option offense it’s sort of a mixed blessing as a wet ball doesn’t make an option pitch easier to catch than a throw. Either way this contest goes, I don’t really expect a repeat of last year’s 68-50 scoreline.
  • San Jose State @ Minnesota (ESPN2): Minnesota.
  • Louisiana Tech @ Kansas (FS1): It’s hard to make any definitive statements about this game other than that it’ll probably be a pretty awful football contest. If this were last year’s Louisiana Tech squad with last year’s Louisiana Tech coach I would have the Bulldogs in a rout. But it’s not, and so far this year they’ve been blown out by NC State and have lost to Tulane. Tulane is a not a very good football team. I think I will have to go with KU to get their first FBS win since September 10, 2011. (Fun fact: their current FBS losing streak started with a 66-24 rout by Georgia Tech in Lawrence.)
  • Marshall @ Virginia Tech (ESPNU): VPI should be able to score enough to beat these guys, though if their defense is as good as it seems then 3 points should be enough. 
  • Vanderbilt @ Massachusetts (ESPNEWS): I’m still fascinated by the concept of live football on ESPNEWS, but it’s a bit baffling at the same time because I’m pretty sure there’s lot of folks out there who don’t get ESPNEWS in HD or at all. Either way, Vandy in a walkover.
  • Wake Forest @ Army (CBSS): More mediocre-to-bad football here. Let’s pick Army just for the hell of it, because if there’s any “major” team they could potentially run over it’d be Wake.
  • Pittsburgh @ Duke (ACC): I have Duke penciled in as going to a bowl again, mostly because I think they can go 4-0 against their out-of-conference schedule (though Navy may give them fits, we’ll see in a few weeks) and probably picking up two ACC wins. This isn’t one of them.
  • Tulane @ Syracuse (ACC/FSN): The hits just keep one coming. The ‘Cuse aren’t very good, but they shouldn’t need to be to beat Tulane.
3:00: Houston vs. Rice (@Houston, TX; FSN): I wish I go back to different parts of the past 10 years and pick a different Rice and Houston team for this game, but alas, I cannot. Stuck in the present, I’ll have to go with the Cougars.
  • Michigan State @ Notre Dame (NBC): This is probably the best game of the day. I still don’t really “believe” in Sparty’s offense, and it’s almost impossible to judge their defense at this point owing to a lack of data. Notre Dame is probably just “okay” on both sides of the ball, though probably slightly more okay on offense that defense. So if it’s coming down to who is likely to actually score 28 points, then I have to give the edge to the Irish.
  • Tennessee @ Florida (CBS): This game will probably because slugfest, but if there's any team that can win a 9-7 game this year it's the Gators. 
  • Purdue @ Wisconsin (ABC/ESPN2): Well, I’ll bet that if Wisconsin ever finds themselves in a late game clock-management situation again, they probably won’t spend 10 seconds complaining to the officials as the clock continues to run. Anyway, such a scenario is exceedingly unlikely to unfold again with the Boilermakers.
  • Utah State @ Southern California (ABC/ESPN2): I need to see one more bad loss by the Trojans before I can buy into the “USC is burning” narrative. Utah State is good, but they already lost to Utah. So yeah, if USC loses here, than sure, I’ll say they’re awful. But for now I think they win.
  • Arkansas @ Rutgers (ESPN): This is another difficult game to call. I’m tempted to give a slight edge to the Razorbacks because “ESS-EEE-CEE” and all but that narrative sure didn’t work for them last year. Perhaps worrying for the Scarlet Knights is that they were outgained by Eastern Michigan last weekend, though that was in the passing game so perhaps it doesn’t apply to Arkansas’s seemingly potent rushing attack.
  • West Virginia vs. Maryland (@Baltimore, MD; ESPNU): I don’t believe Maryland’s 3-0 record, so I’m going to roll with the Mountaineers here.
  • Kent State @ Pennsylvania State (BTN): I guess the guys at the LSU frat that made fun of the Kent State shooting weren’t big CSNY fans. Anyway, Penn State should probably get this one.
4:00: Louisiana-Monroe @ Baylor (FS1): Speaking of rematches of games from last year that involved a ton of points, well, seeing as how the Warhawks only put up 21 on Wake Forest last week, I’m not optimistic for a repeat performance.
  • Arizona State @ Stanford (FOX): This will be one of the more entertaining games of the day. And before you say “well, that’s not saying much” realize that we’ll get a classic contrast of styles matchup here, between Stanford’s hard-nosed, old-school approach and the Sun Devils’ more West Coast friendly aerial game. That said, they faced similar attack in Wisconsin last weekend and only made it out because of what will probably be the year’s biggest end-of-game officiating debacle, so I’ll go with the Cardinal here.
  • Colorado State @ Alabama (ESPN2): Alabama.
  • Southern Methodist @ Texas Agricultural and Mechanical (ESPNU): SMU's throwback unis should not be enough to come anywhere close to TAMU, but we did see last week with both Michigan and Notre Dame that even good teams can have a bit of a hangover effect. Then again, they both won, and TAMU is probably better than either of them. 
  • Texas State @ Texas Tech (FSN): This one should not stress the Red Raiders too much. 
  • Oregon State @ San Diego State (CBSS): These two have something in common: losses to FCS teams! But Oregon State lost to a good Eastern Washington team, while SDSU got routed by Eastern Illinois. That does not bode well for the Aztecs, even in this rare home game with a power conference team.
  • Troy @ Mississippi State (SEC/FSN): I think that Miss State will probably have less trouble against this team from the state of Alabama, which would bring their record against such to 2-1 on the year.
7:45: Auburn @ Louisiana State (ESPN): Tigers win! Okay, with that out of the way, it’s still hard to see how Auburn will have the talent with this point to move the ball against LSU’s defense. Combined with LSU’s newfound ability to actually score points, and we have the makings of a potential SEC “darkhorse” candidate if there ever was such a thing.
  • Kansas State @ Texas (ABC): Considering how big of a disaster Texas is shaping up to be this year, does it really matter who their quarterback is? I say no. Also for that reason I'm going with K-State here. 
  • Michigan @ Connecticut (ABC): This 8 o'clock timeslot pretty well encapsulates everything that's wrong with this week's slate of games. I have Michigan here. 
  • Missouri @ Indiana (BTN): Mizzou, probably.
  • Utah @ Brigham Young (ESPN2): Utah gave up 170+ yards rushing to their other in-state rival, so it’s hard to see how they’re going to stop the Stormin’ Mormons in this edition of the Holy War.
  • Wyoming @ Air Force (ESPNU): Air Force’s defense has been pretty porous in their other two Mountain West games so far, and it’s hard to see that trend abating against Wyoming.
  • New Mexico State @ California-Los Angeles (PAC12): If UCLA is as good as everyone says they are, they'll win thus one easily. They'd win either way to most likely, but still. 
  • Idaho @ Washington State (PAC12): Wazzou is probably going to have a field day with these guys.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

This Weekend in College Football: Week 3

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • California-Los Angeles @ Nebraska (ABC): I’m still a bit boggled that either, much less both, of these teams are ranked, but that’s Week 3 for you. I’m going to roll with Nebraska in this one.
  • Louisville @ Kentucky (ESPN): I’m finding it incredibly easy to pick against the team that lost to Western Kentucky in Week 1. Hint: it wasn’t Louisville.
  • Tulsa @ Oklahoma (ESPN2): Maybe instead of conference moves I should’ve made a table of coaching moves because I keep forgetting that Derek Dooley is now the head coach at Tulsa. It should probably not be a huge surprise, then, Tulsa hasn’t been very good this year and that a potentially intriguing game is now likely to be a laugher.
  • Virginia Tech @ East Carolina (FS1): It’s difficult to really predict that VPI will lose this game, though exactly how they will score any points is unclear.
  • Bowling Green @ Indiana (ESPNU): This doesn’t happen very often, but, well, I’m going to pick a MAC team over a Big Ten team.
  • Stanford @ Army (CBSS): As noted in my Pac-12 out-of-conference scheduling preview, Army fans should enjoy the sights from Michie Stadium, as the action on the field likely won’t be as appealing as the scenic beauty of the Hudson River Valley.
  • Akron @ Michigan (BTN): I don’t really need a lot of convincing to pick Michigan here.
  • Southern Mississippi @ Arkansas (SEC): It looks like it won’t just be a one-year funk for Southern Miss. As noted elsewhere, their best bet for a win in the first two months of the season was against Texas State and they blew it. Their odds are not any better against the Razorbacks.
  • New Mexico @ Pittsburgh (ACC): Similarly, losing to Texas-San Antonio is also not a great sign, so I’ll take Pitt here.
  • Louisiana-Monroe @ Wake Forest (ACC): I have actually seen at least one person suggest that Jim Grobe is on the hot seat. I wasn’t aware that a Wake Forest football coach could ever even have a warm seat, but here we are. The problem is that I still have a tough time taking a Sun Belt team over an ACC team, so I’m going to stick with Wake.
3:00: Boston College @ Southern California (FS1): Look, I know Washington State is bad and all, but it’s hard to ignore that on paper USC out-classes Boston College so thoroughly I’m not sure how I could pick against them in this situation. So I won’t. But I won’t be surprised if they lose, either. (In fact, I’ll probably think it’s hilarious.)

  • Alabama @ Texas Agricultural and Mechanical (CBS): Well, here we are. The Game of the Week of the Year of the Century, for Week 3. All available evidence suggests that both these teams are really good. If anything, I still think that Alabama is slightly better, especially on defense. Looking back over last year’s game, the thing that stands out to me is A.J. McCarron’s uncharacteristic 2 interceptions. In addition, Alabama also had a fumble. In a five-point game, three turnovers is more than likely to be the difference. I don’t think Alabama will make those mistakes again, and come away with the win.
  • Tennessee @ Oregon (ABC): Apparently my worries were unfounded and Tennessee and Oregon fans get along just fine. Of course, Oregon should also notch a win here without much resistance, which may help.
  • Nevada @ Florida State (ESPN): Losing to UCLA by 38 does not bode well for the Wolfpack heading into Tallahassee.
  • Georgia Tech @ Duke (ESPNU): Few things make me feel older than, perhaps, the regular staff of writer for the only Georgia Tech blog I read, From the Rumble Seat. (As A5 often notes, the downside of not having a journalism school is that means GT doesn’t really turn out a lot of interesting bloggers, and trust me, I do not think I am interesting.) One such example was that in their pre-season previews, one of them mentioned that he couldn’t remember the last time Georgia Tech lost to Duke. Well, I can, because it happened my freshman year. And that’s when I remember that my freshman year was 10 years ago. And then I feel old.
    So, yes, in addition to feeling the inevitability of aging, there are some other things going on here. We, unhelpfully, had a bye in Week 2. I probably would’ve preferred to have that in the middle of conference play, but oh well. Other fun facts: Duke is by far Tech’s most-played ACC opponent (this will be their 81st meeting) and they have met every year since 1933. The last time the game was played in neither November nor October was 1996. Also, Duke will be without their first-choice quarterback, but from what I’ve read there wasn’t that much of a difference between the starter and the backup anyway. They both represent a departure from the Sean Renfree years, as apparently Cutcliffe is going toward more the read-option style and away from the classic NFL-style QBs that got him where he is today (read: the Manning brothers). This also means that what most people tabbed as one of GT’s strongest units – the pass defense – will be negated somewhat. Duke, unlike Tech, has played a FBS opponent this year, though it was Memphis and they only won by 14. Since otherwise the teams have only played FCS teams, there’s just no way to make any definitive judgments here.
4:00: Ball State @ North Texas (FSN): UNT is in C-USA now? Huh. Either way, Ball State looks better so far.

  • Iowa @ Iowa State (FS1): Well, at least Iowa beat the the FCS team they played. This could well be a trainwreck game, which in fairness is still a little interesting since it is a rivalry game and all. I’ll go with Iowa but I’m not sure why.
  • Washington @ Illinois (BTN): Perhaps one of the most surprising results of this young season was Illinois’s domination of a slightly well-regarded Cincinnati team last weekend. Washington’s dominant win over Boise State is probably still more impressive, and plus, I think everyone had this one as a walk-over for the Huskies so may as well stick with it.
  • Ohio State @ California (FOX): Seeing as how Cal already lost to Northwestern by two touchdowns back in Week 1, I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to pick the Buckeyes here.
  • Vanderbilt @ South Carolina (ESPN): I watched the South Carolina-Georgia game last weekend, and I have to say, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an offense so dedicated to avoiding one particular defensive player like Georgia avoided Clowney in that game. I am pretty much convinced the call was always that the play-side would be the opposite of whatever side he lined up on. That said, while this is new and improved Vandy, the Gamecocks are still the superior squad and will be seeking to re-assert that in this game.
  • Mississippi State @ Auburn (ESPN2): I can’t really come up with anything nice to say about either of these teams, other than the score will probably not be 3-2 again and that I’m going with the Bulldogs.
  • Kent State @ Louisiana State (ESPNU): LSU.
7:30: Kansas @ Rice (CBSS): What’s worse than only having only two games of data? Only having one! But that’s what we have here. I guess I’ll pick Kansas and we’ll see what happens.

  • Notre Dame @ Purdue (ABC): I try to keep this joke in reserve and only use it once a week: <Team> Status: Still awful! So I think you can put the pieces together here.
  • Marshall @ Ohio (ESPNEWS): Still fascinated by the fact that ESPNEWS is showing live football games. Not so much by this game, though. Marshall’s… probably going to win?
9:00: Western Michigan @ Northwestern (BTN): Northwestern.

10:00: Oregon State @ Utah (FS1): I think this is probably a minor upset, but I’m going with the Utes here.

  • Wisconsin @ Arizona State (ESPN): This may be the most underrated game of the day, and is certainly a boon to those of us in the West. I mean, I think it’s still pending whether or not Arizona State is going to be any good, but the Badgers are at least a known, above-average quantity. There will definitely be a bit of fun in the contrasting style, with Wisconsin bringing the typical Midwestern cloud of dust offense and the Sun Devils supplying the West Coast aerial goodness. Which will prevail? Well, I’m going to go with the Badgers.
  • Texas-San Antonio @ Arizona (Pac12): Arizona.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

2014 World Cup Update: Selected Scenarios for Sept. 10

More World Cup qualification scenarios, hopefully correct!


Uzbekistan will advance to the inter-confederation playoff against the 5th place CONMEBOL team with a win or draw against Jordan. Therefore, Jordan must win outright to advance.

  • The United States will directly qualify for the World Cup if they defeat Mexico and Honduras wins or draws against Panama.
  • Costa Rica will directly qualify for the World Cup with a win and a Honduras win or draw against Panama.
  • With a Uruguay loss to Colombia, Argentina and Colombia will directly qualify for the World Cup.
  • Argentina will directly qualify with a win over Paraguay.
  • Argentina can directly qualify with a draw if Uruguay loses or draws against Colombia.
  • Italy will directly qualify for the World Cup with a win over the Czech Republic.
  • Italy can directly qualify with a draw if Bulgaria draws against Malta.
  • Italy can directly qualify even with a loss if Bulgaria loses to Malta.
  • Germany can directly qualify with a win over the Faroe Islands if Sweden loses or draws against Kazakhstan.
  • The Netherlands can directly qualify with a win over Andorra and a Romania loss or draw against Turkey.
  • The Netherlands can also directly qualify with a draw and a Romania loss.

This Weekend in College Football: Week 2

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Florida @ Miami (ESPN): This has always been an under-played rivialry, with the two in-state foes having only met 55 times. (Though as EDSBS is fond of saying, football didn't really exist in the state of Florida before 1980.) I personally have to give Florida the edge in this one, as they seem to exist in some sort of version of existence where offense is entirely optional.
  • Cincinnati @ Illinois (ESPN2): Cincy isn't great or anything, but Illinois isn't really even good, so that's what this one is probably going to come down to.
  • South Florida @ Michigan State (ESPNU): Let's just say that it is very difficult to pick in favor of a team that lost to McNeese State last weekend.
  • Oklahoma State @ Texas-San Antonio (FS1): Oklahoma State.
  • Eastern Michigan @ Pennsylvania State (BTN): Penn State.
  • Western Kentucky @ Tennessee (SEC): Tennessee.
  • Miami @ Kentucky (SEC/FSN): Kentucky?
12:30: Middle Tennessee State @ North Carolina (ACC): Well, MTSU won its last game against an ACC team, but nonetheless I like UNC's chances here.

  • Oregon @ Virginia (ABC/ESPN2): Oregon.
  • San Diego State @ Ohio State (ABC/ESPN2): Ohio State.
  • Buffalo @ Baylor (FSN): Baylor.
  • Toledo @ Missouri (ESPNU): Mizzou?
  • Utah State @ Air Force (CBSS): This might be the most interesting game of this bunch, which is kind of saying something. I would go with Utah State here after their close loss to big brother Utah last weekend, but I'm going to roll with the Air Force.
4:30: South Carolina @ Georgia (ESPN): And we're finally out of the doldrums. This one is going to be pretty good I think, but unfortunately I have to give UGA a slight edge at home. I don't want to, but there it is.

6:00: Syracuse @ Northwestern (BTN): Northwestern had a pretty good drubbing of Cal last weekend, good enough to make be feel good enough about their chances at home against the Orange.

  • West Virginia @ Oklahoma (FOX): West, er, Frickin' Virginia will get its first chance to show that may actually play defense this year in what will probably be difficult conditions. It's hard to see them passing the test.
  • Texas @ Brigham Young (ESPN2): Texas can probably take care of business in Provo. Probably.
  • Alabama-Birmingham @ Louisiana State (ESPNU): LSU.
  • Colorado State @ Tulsa (CBSS): Hey so is Tulsa any good this year... (checks) ... let's see... lost to Bowling Green 34-7. Off. Going with the Rams.
7:30: Arkansas State @ Auburn (SEC/FSN): The fact I had to think about this for a second says way more about Auburn than Arkansas State. Still going with Auburn though.

  • Notre Dame @ Michigan (ESPN): Game of the day, but is this really going to be that close? Emotion can only carry you so far. That said, we have precious little data at this point of the season, what with both teams having dispatched their designated patsies last week. So, yeah, basically I'm just guessing here, and my guess is going to be the Irish.
  • Hawaii @ Oregon (PAC12): Oregon.
  • Washington State @ Southern California (FS1): Southern Cal?
  • Arizona @ Nevada-Las Vegas (CBSS): Arizona.
  • San Jose State @ Stanford (PAC12): Stanford.
Sorry for the abbreviated preview, but that's what you get when this is written at 37,000 feet somewhere over eastern Nevada. We'll be back in full next weekend.

Friday, September 06, 2013

2014 World Cup Update: As of September 5

Soon, a fresh new batch of qualifiers will kick off around the world. We preview where the remaining teams stand and the obstacles they face between themselves and Brazil.

 Other than the hosts, 4 teams have qualified, 87 are still in play, and 27 spots remain.

Asia's automatic qualifiers are now in place: Iran, South Korea, Japan, and Australia. But to determine their playoff qualifier against a South American team, the third place teams from their fourth round, Jordan and Uzbekistan, will kick off tomorrow. The games will take place Friday and Tuesday, and the winner on aggregate advances to the aforementioned playoff. Considering that they lost on a goal differential tiebreaker to South Korea, Uzbekistan should be the favorites. (The Jordanians sported a -9 goal differential to Uzbekistan's +5.)

As you might've seen in the post on what's needed to advance, there's plenty of action on the last day of the CAF 2nd Round. Groups C, G, and H are settled though: Cote d'Ivorie, Egypt, and Algeria are all through to the third round, which will kickoff in October. Those three teams will join all the other group winners, and they will all be paired off in home-and-home ties. The winner of each of those advances directly to the World Cup.

There's actually a fun scenario I didn't list on the page for CONCACAF, but mostly because it requires a very specific set of circumstances: the US must defeat Costa Rica, Mexico and Honduras must draw, and Panama must lose or draw against Jamaica. It's complex because you can't do the "add future points to current points", you have to take the remaining schedules into account. (For instances, if Costa Rica wins out after losing to the US, then it's not possible for Mexico win out, etc.)

Of course, that's unlikely to happen. Jamaica has earned zero points in road games this round, and managed only a 1-1 draw at home with Panama. Mexico will be (well, they should be) desperate to hold serve at home against Honduras, though it's not inconceivable Mexico will remain the same punchless team they've been most of this year and only manage a draw against what is likely to be a bunkered-in Honduras.

The top four teams currently are Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, and Chile. Argentina has clinched at least a spot on the AFC-CONMEBOL playoff, but they don't play Friday so as far as I know they cannot clinch yet. The top four lead the 5th place team, Uruguay, by 5 points, which is comfortable but not yet insurmountable. They also have a winnable game against Peru on Friday that should allow them to keep up with the top 4 for now. Tied with Uruguay though are the surprising Venezuelans, who are seeking their first ever trip to the World Cup.

The European picture lacks a great amount of clarity, despite most teams having four or fewer matches remaining.

The clearest is perhaps Group A, where Belgium or Croatia will make it past the first round, but since they are sitting on 19 and 16 points, respectively, it's not clear who will come in first yet. Belgium seems to be the obvious candidate, undefeated so far in group play, but they still have to go on the road to Zagreb in October.

Though no one has been eliminated yet in Group B, Italy a slight edge as Bulgaria and the Czech Republic fight for second. If Italy can hold serve against Bulgaria at home on Friday, then they can start to get a little bit of separation.

Germany is close. They have 5 wins, 1 draw, and no losses in group play so far and have a 5 point lead over Austria. The real battle in Group C is the fight for second, as Austria, Sweden, and Ireland all sit on 11 points, so things could get pretty interesting come October.

The Dutch are running away with Group D, holding a 7 point lead over Hungary. Hungary themselves are only a point ahead of Romania. The fight is probably for second in Group E as well. Switzerland has a 4 point lead, but 4 points is all that separates second from fifth.

Group F is a tossup. Portugal (14), Russia (12), and Israel (11) are all within three points of the lead, a situation made all the more interesting when, back in August, Russia lost a snow make-up game to Northern Ireland. All three should win their matches Friday, meaning the real action starts on Tuesday when Russia plays Israel.

It's tempting to go with the chalk in Group G, where Bosnia has 16 points (and a +20 goal differential), Greece has 13 points, and Slovakia has 9. But I would say don't count out the Slovaks, who made the Sweet 16 in South Africa.

Group H proves looks can deceiving. Montenegro is topping the group with 14 points, but they've played one more game than England (12) and the Ukraine (11). Also on Friday, England and the Ukraine get winnable matches against minnows, while Poland at least stands a chance against Montenegro.

Everyone thought Group I would be a two-horse race, especially since those horses are the reigning champions and France. And, well, that's pretty much the way it's played out, but right now the Spanish are only up by a point. The difference in the group could be Spain's win over France back in March.

That's that! Don't forget that ESPN will be streaming a boatload of qualifiers online, so be sure to catch them.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

2014 World Cup Update: Selected Scenarios for September 6

These are the advancement scenarios for the African World Cup qualifiers to be held on September 6th. More teams in other confederations with likely be able to clinch advancement on Tuesday, so we'll examine them after Friday's action.


16 teams from 7 groups attempting to advance to the Third Round. Cote d'Ivoire (Group C), Egypt (Group G), and Algeria (Group H) have already clinched.

Group A

Current leaders Ethiopia will advance with:
  • A win over Central African Republic
  • A draw and a South Africa draw or loss to Botswana
  • A loss and a draw between South Africa and Botswana
South Africa can advance with:
  • A win over Botswana and an Ethiopia loss to Central African Republic
Botswana can advance with a win over South Africa and an Ethiopia loss to Central African Republic.

Group B

Tunisia and Cape Verde top the group with 11 and 9 points, respectively. Tunisia advances with a win or draw and Cape Verde advances with a win.

Group D

Ghana and Zambia top the group with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Ghana advances with a win or draw while Zambia must win.

Group E

Current leaders Congo advance with:
  • A win over Niger
  • A draw and a Burkina Faso loss to Gabon
  • A loss and a Burkina Faso draw as long as Congo loses by only 1 goal
  • A loss by 2 goals and a Burnkina Faso draw results in more complicated scenarios
  • A loss and a Gabon win over Burkina Faso by less than 4 goals, or 5 goals with more complicated scenarios
Burnkina Faso can advance with a win over Gabon and a Congo loss or draw to Niger; or a draw and a Congo loss by more than 2 goals.

Gabon can advance with a win and a Congo loss to Niger by more than 4 goals.

Group F

Nigeria leads Malawi 9 points to 7. If Nigeria beats or draws Malawi they advance, while Malawi needs a win.

Group I

Cameroon leads Libya 10 points to 9. If Cameroon beats or draws Libya they advance, while Libya must win.

Group J

Senegal leads Uganda 9 points to 8. If Senegal beats or draws Uganda, they advance, while Uganda must win.