Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bowl Games 2013: Part V, New Year's Eve Edition

Tuesday, December 31
12:30: Boston College vs. Arizona (Advocare V100 Bowl @ Shreveport, LA; ESPN): Both these are going to want to rush the ball. The problem for Boston College is that Arizona is likely better able to defend against it. I'm expecting a comfortable Arizona win.
Previous meetings: Three, and they were all awhile ago. Texas Tech won the first meeting in 1961, 14-6. BC's only win was a 42-13 romp a year later, and then in 1971 Texas Tech won 14-6 once again.
Last bowl game: BC hasn't been to a bowl since the 2010 Fight Hunger Bowl, where they lost to Colin Kapernick and Nevada 20-13. Arizona's last bowl game was last year and also against Nevada, but they won the New Mexico Bowl 49-48.
Announcers: Tom Hart and John Congemi

2:00: Virginia Tech vs. California-Los Angeles (Sun Bowl @ El Paso, TX; CBS): Virginia Tech has been one of college football's most maddeningly inconsistent teams over the course of the season, but losses to Duke, Boston College, and Maryland do not bode well for their recent body of work. (But in between those losses? A win over Miami. Go figure.) The defense remains a lone, but consistent, bright spot for VPI. UCLA meanwhile, had only three losses, and really those were the only three teams on the schedule that UCLA wasn't better than. (Stanford, Oregon, and Arizona State.) While UCLA doesn't have quite as good of a defense, they are still much more consistent on offense (as in, they actually have one), which means they should able to score the requisite 17-24 points it will take to beat the Hokies.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: VPI has made 21 straight bowl games, a streak dating back to the 1993 Independence Bowl, which they won 45-20 over Indiana. They technically won last year's Russell Athletic Bowl 13-10 over Rutgers. This is UCLA's third straight bowl game. Their mini-streak started with the 2011 Fight Hunger Bowl, which they lost to Illinois, 20-14. Last year they were massacred by Baylor in the Holiday Bowl, 49-26.
Announcers: Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson

4:00: Rice vs. Mississippi State (Liberty Bowl @ Memphis, TN; ESPN): Miss State has some major problems on offense, ranking 80th in the country in scoring. That said, by all rights, Miss State should win this game, so this one of those bowls that could come down more to motivation than anything else.
Previous meetings: Just one, a 28-14 Miss State win back in 1975.
Last bowl game: Rice beat Air Force in last year's Armed Forces Bowl 33-14. This is Miss State's fourth straight bowl game. Their streak started with the 2010/2011 Gator Bowl, wherein they routed Michigan 52-14. Last season's Gator Bowl was somewhat less successful, though. They lost to Northwestern 34-20.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Rod Gilmore

8:00: Duke vs. Texas Agricultural and Mechanical (Chick-fil-a Bowl @ Atlanta, GA; ESPN): I have this as my highest confidence pick on ESPN. I simply cannot fathom any way Duke wins this football game. Texas A&M's offense will simply be too much for Duke's undersized and undermanned defense. The only other offense they've faced that comparable is Florida State's and the Seminoles dropped 45 on them. The only possible chance they have is to make it a shoot-out, which isn't impossible cause TAMU's defense is inexcusably awful.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is the first time in the history of Duke's football team that they have gone to back-to-back bowl games. They lost last year's Belk Bowl 48-34. This is TAMU's fifth straight bowl game, a streak dating back to what is likely an otherwise forgettable game for A&M partisans, a 44-20 loss to Georgia. Last season they destroyed Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, 41-13.
Announcers: Rece Davis, Jesse Palmer, and David Pollack

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bowl Games 2013: Part IV

Monday, December 30
11:45: Navy vs. Middle Tennessee State (Armed Forces Bowl @ Fort Worth, TX; ESPN): I'm not terribly sure about this one. MTSU is about the caliber of teams that Navy has on its schedule, but they had a mixed record against those teams this year (losses to Western Kentucky and Toledo, wins over South Alabama and San Jose State). MTSU has not played any other option teams other than BYU, whom they lost to. In the end, I'm going with Navy, but just barely.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is Navy's second consecutive bowl, after appearing in last year's Fight Hunger Bowl, where they got blown out by Arizona State 62-28. MTSU was 8-4 last year but didn't go bowling, so their last appearance was the 2010-2011 godaddy.com Bowl, where they lost to Miami 35-21.
Announcers: Beth Mowins and Joey Galloway

3:15: Mississippi vs. Georgia Tech (Music City Bowl @ Nashville, TN; ESPN): Probably the best preview I've seen for this game is Bill Callahan's. That said, he ultimately comes to the same conclusion I've had about this game: it's a toss-up. The main things Tech fans are worried about are the same they've been throughout the season: how well the offense runs and if the pass defense will be any good. Well, the former is potentially a weakness for Ole Miss and the latter is potentially a strength for them, which brings this game back up to the toss-up thing. The preview I linked above is focused on the statistics and draws that conclusion. The betting line I've seen on this game is Ole Miss by 3 or 4 points, so the bookies are calling this a toss-up too.
So what conclusion can we draw? Well, I'm going to be attending this one in person, which will be first Tech game in four years. I'm looking forward to the frigid temperatures either way.
Previous meetings: This is the fourth meeting between these two teams. The first was in 1946, which Tech won 24-7. The last two were in bowl games. Tech defeated Ole Miss 24-7 in the 1952/1953 Sugar Bowl. The last meeting was a 41-18 Ole Miss win in the 1971 Peach Bowl. "Wait", you're saying, "weren't Georgia Tech and Mississippi in the same conference from 1922 through 1963?" Yes, yes they were. But back then teams set their own conference schedules, and so like most reasonable people, John Heisman, William Alexander, and Bobby Dodd saw no reason to go to the state of Mississippi unless someone made them.
Last bowl game: Ole Miss went to last year's BBVA Compass Bowl, beating Pittsburgh 38-17. Georgia Tech is tied for football's 3rd-longest consecutive bowl streak, and this will be their 17th straight game. The streak started with a 35-30 win over West Virginia in the Carquest Bowl in 1997. In what will the be last time I ever get to say this, we beat Southern California 21-7 in the Sun Bowl last year.
Announcers: Mark Jones and Brock Huard

6:45: Oregon vs. Texas (Alamo Bowl @ San Antonio, TX; ESPN): By all rights, Oregon should be a massive favorite in this game. Then again, they were before they blew a shot at the national title and Pac-12 North in a 42-16 loss to Arizona back in November. Both teams have popular coaches retiring, with Oregon's long-time defensive coordinator leaving and Mack Brown being forced out. So motivation shouldn't be a question in this game. In that case, it comes down to strengths and weaknesses, and once again, those massively favor Oregon.
Previous meetings: Five of 'em, the first being a 71-7 Texas rout back in 1941. The most recent meeting was the 2000 Holiday Bowl, which was Oregon's first win of the series, with a 35-30 scoreline.
Last bowl game: This is Oregon's ninth straight bowl game, dating back to the 2005 Holiday Bowl, which they lost 17-14 to Oklahoma. Last season, they beat Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl, 35-17. Texas now has a three game bowl streak, dating back to the 2011 Holiday Bowl, which they won 21-10 over California. They won last year's Alamo Bowl 31-27 over Oregon State.
Announcers: Brad Nessler and Todd Blackledge

10:15: Arizona State vs. Texas Tech (Holiday Bowl @ San Diego, CA; ESPN): The Red Raiders won seven straight to start the season. Then they started playing games against teams that were just as good or better than then and it didn't go well. Five straight losses followed, and most of them weren't very close. Meanwhile, Arizona State is very good. It's hard to give TTU much of a chance here.
Previous meetings: Just one, a Sun Devil 31-13 win back in 1999.
Last bowl game: This is Arizona State's third straight bowl game. They appeared in the 2011 Las Vegas Bowl, losing to Boise State 56-24. They beat Navy 62-28 in last year's Fight Hunger Bowl. Texas Tech is in a bowl for the second year in a row. Last year they won the Car Care Bowl (Houston edition) over Minnesota, 34-31.
Announcers: Joe Tessitore and Matt Millen

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Bowl Games 2013: Part the Third

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Saturday, December 28
Noon: Notre Dame vs. Rutgers (Pinstripe Bowl @ New York, NY; ESPN): I had this second in my confidence picks, so I guess I felt pretty good about Notre Dame at the time. Nonetheless, it's not like Rutgers is very good, so provided that Notre Dame's offense doesn't screw up too badly they should be able to see it through.
Previous meetings: Four, and Rutgers, in a testament to their historical ineptitude, has failed to win all of them. They first met in 1921 (a 48-0 Irish win) and then took a 75 year break. Notre Dame won that 1996 contest 62-0. 2000 saw the closest game in the series, a 45-17 Notre Dame win, and their last meeting was in 2002, when the Irish shut Rutgers out again, 42-0.
Last bowl game: The Irish have played in three straight bowls going back to the 2010 Sun Bowl, where they defeated Miami 33-17. Last year, they got routed by Alabama in the national title game, 42-14. This will be the third in a row for Rutgers. Back in 2011 they beat Iowa State 27-13 in this very same bowl. Last year they lost last year's dreadful Russell Athletic Bowl, 13-10 to Virginia Tech.
Announcers: Chris Fowler and Jesse Palmer

3:20: North Carolina vs. Cincinnati (Belk Bowl @ Charlotte, NC; ESPN): Generally picking a 9-3 team over a 6-6 team would be a slam dunk, but the hitch is Cincy's awful schedule that was literally one of the worst in the country. UNC has only one maybe "bad loss" (a 55-31 rout at the hands of East Carolina) but Cincinnati three losses are a blowout to an awful Illinois team, a close loss to a really bad South Florida team, and an overtime loss to the best opponent on their schedule, Louisville. So I basically feel about as bad about a 9-3 team over a 6-6 team as one can possibly be.
Previous meetings: Just two. The first was a 1979 win for Carolina, 35-14, and the second was in 1991, which the Tarheels also won, 51-16.
Last bowl game: Due to pre-emptive probation, the Tarheels didn't go bowling last year, killing a four-year streak. Their last bowl appearance was the 2011 Independence Bowl, which they lost to Missouri 41-24. This is the Bearcats's third straight appearance. They won last year's Belk Bowl over Duke, 48-34.
Announcers: Carter Blackburn and Danny Kanell

6:45: Louisville vs. Miami (Russell Athletic Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ESPN): These two schools have a lot in common. Well, at the very least, both their programs were built by Howard Schennellenberger and both will be in the ACC last year. Either way, this will arguably be Louisville's stiffest test of the season. While they still only had one loss, they did have some closer-than-they-should-have-been November games that raised a few eyebrows. Nonetheless, I'm sticking with the Cardinals here.
Previous meetings:  Louisville and Miami have met 11 times, and Louisville has only not lost twice. Why not lost? Well, there was a 13-13 tie back in 1950. Their first meeting was in 1933, a 33-7 Miami victory. The met regularly through the first half of the 80's, all Miami wins. Their last meeting was in 2006, and was also Louisville's first win in the series, by a margin of 31-7.
Last bowl game: This is Louisville's fourth straight bowl game, dating back to the 2010 Beef 'O'Brady's Bowl. They won that contest over Southern Mississippi 31-28. Last year, they appeared in the Sugar Bowl, wherein Teddy Bridgewater became a household name in a 33-23 defeat of Florida. Miami, like UNC, missed out on a bowl last year due to pre-emptive probation, as well as the year before, so this is their first bowl since the 2010 Sun Bowl, where they lost to Notre Dame 33-17.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Rod Gilmore

10:15: Kansas State vs. Michigan (Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl @ Tempe, AZ; ESPN): This game is basically a toss-up to me. If the Michigan offense that played against Ohio State shows up, they have a pretty good shot, but otherwise I think K-State guts out a close win.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is K-State's fourth straight bowl game, dating back to the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl, which they lost to Syracuse 36-34. They didn't stand much chance in last year's Fiesta Bowl, losing 33-17 to Oregon. This is Michigan's fourth straight game as well. Their current streak started in the 2010/2011 Gator Bowl, a 52-14 rout at the hands of Mississippi State. They lost last year's Outback Bowl, 33-28 to South Carolina.
Announcers: Sean McDonough and Chris Spielman

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Bowl Games 2013: This Is The Second Part

Bowl games really start to get into the swing of things here. We'll examine the next five bowls and then do Saturday's in another post.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Thursday, December 26
6:00: Pittsburgh vs. Bowling Green (Little Caesars Pizza Bowl @ Detroit, MI; EPSN): Bowling Green sports a 10-3 record and some gaudy defensive numbers, but one of those three losses was a 42-10 blowout at the hands of Indiana. I'm going with Pitt in this one, though it could be close.
Previous meetings: Three, all the in regular season. Pitt won back-to-back games in 1999 and 2000, but lost in 2008, 27-17.
Last bowl game: Bowling Green lost last year's Military Bowl to San Jose State, 29-20. Pitt is making their sixth bowl appearance in a row, dating back to 2008's Sun Bowl (most famous for being a 3-0 tragedy against Oregon State in which all of us lost, but especially Pitt). The lost last year's BBVA Compass Bowl to Ole Miss, 38-17.
Announcers: Dave Lamont and Ray Bentley

9:30: Utah State vs. Northern Illinois (Poinsettia Bowl @ San Diego, CA; ESPN): Both these teams are coming off winnable letdowns in their conference title games, though it was NIU that suffered the most grievously in their 47-27 rout against Bowling Green. That said, Jordan Lynch's final ride should be a success, though I don't now how much of one, or even if it'll be enough for the Huskies to win. I'm giving them a slight edge here.
Previous meetings: Only one, back in 1995. The Aggies won 42-7.
Last bowl game: Utah State is making their third bowl game in a row, and after two straight trips to Boise I'm sure they'll relish the weather in San Diego. They beat Toledo 41-15 last year. This is NIU's sixth bowl game in a row, dating back to a 17-10 loss to Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl. They lost 31-10 to Florida State in last year's Orange Bowl. The Huskies would have one of the nation's larger bowl streaks if it weren't for a lost 2-10 campaign in 2007 and not making a bowl in 2003 despite being 10-2. (Or, to be even more generous, they were 8-4 before that and 6-5 in 2000 and 2001.) That's a pretty good run for any team, much less one from the MAC.
Announcers: Joe Davis and Mike Bellotti

Friday, December 27
2:30: Maryland vs. Marshall (Military Bowl @ Annapolis, MD; ESPN): I picked Marshall here in what I'm guessing a slight upset. I guess another way of saying that is I don't think Maryland is very good.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is Maryand's first appearance in a bowl since the 2010 edition of this game, which was played at RFK Stadium. They beat East Carolina 51-20. This is Marshall's first bowl since the 2011 Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl, which they won 20-10 over Florida International.
Announcers: Mike Patrick and Ed Cunningham

6:00: Syracuse vs. Minnesota (Texas Bowl @ Houston, TX; ESPN): I wouldn't expect a lot of offense in this one. Problem for Syracuse is that a) their offense is worse than Minnesota's and b) that their defense is a lot worse. This would seem to spell trouble for the Orange, but, well, there's a reason why I put that disclaimer at the top.
Previous meetings: Four, three of which have been won by Minnesota. The first meeting and only Orange victory was in 1995. They last met last year, where the Gophers won 17-10.
Last bowl game: Syracuse beat West Virginia 38-14 in last year's Pinstripe Bowl. Minnesota lost 34-31 to Texas Tech in last year's Car Care Bowl.
Announcers: Mark Jones and Brock Huard

9:30: Washington vs. Brigham Young (Fight Hunger Bowl @ San Francisco, CA; ESPN): It's generally not a good sign when you go back and look at your ESPN Bowl Pick 'Em picks and are surprised at who you picked. We'll roll with it anyway. At any rate, these are both teams that can run the bowl, but Washington has been more adept at offense over the season. Neither defense gives a lot of points, though, so BYU will definitely be hanging around. I think this game will be one of the closer, tighter ones, but I'm going to stick to my pick.
Previous meetings: Eight of 'em, and the series is evenly split between the two. They split back-to-back games in 1986 and 1987, but Washington won three of the four games played from 1996 to 1999. BYU has won the last three meetings, including a 23-17 victory in 2010.
Last bowl game: This is U-Dub's third bowl in a row, going back to 2010's Holiday Bowl. They lost to Baylor 67-56 in last year's defense optional Alamo Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Pasch and Brian Griese

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Bowl Games 2013: Opening Slate

Once again, it's time for post-season football. (Note that I have predicted all winners and losers already, I just need to fill in the scores, which requires slightly more research. These will be up soon.)

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Saturday, December 21
2:00: Washington State vs. Colorado State (New Mexico Bowl @ Albuquerque, NM; ESPN): Wazzou makes it back to a bowl for the first time in the Mike Leach era. I think that excitement will translate into a slight win for the Cougars.
Previous meetings: None.
Last bowl game: Yes, it really has been 10 years since Wazzou last appeared in a bowl. They beat Texas 28-20 in the Holiday Bowl. After a five year drought themselves, the Rams make a return trip to this very game. The last time they were here in the post-season, they beat Fresno State 40-35.
Announcers: Mark Jones and Brock Huard

3:30: Southern California vs. Fresno State (Las Vegas Bowl @ Las Vegas, NV; ABC): USC's defense will be, bar none, the best defense the prolific Fresno State offense has faced all year. I think that will be enough for the Trojans to hold them off, but it's kind of dicey because a) USC still has to adjust to the idea of playing in minor bowls b) DaCoachO was, by all accounts, very popular and resigned after USC hired Steve Sarkisian and c) depth.
Previous meetings: These two in-state foes have met only twice. The first meeting was in 1992, where the Trojans lost 24-7 in the Freedom Bowl. The last was more memorable, perhaps for Fresno's plucky performance at what was being called at the time the Team of the Century. USC would win 50-42, preserving their undefeated season so they could lose to Vince Young in the Rose Bowl.
Last bowl game: This will be the second to last time I get to say this, most likely: USC lost to Georgia Tech in last year's Sun Bowl, 21-7. Fresno lost last year's Hawaii Bowl to SMU, 41-10.
Announcers: Rece Davis, Jesse Palmer, and David Pollack

5:30: Buffalo vs. San Diego State (Potato Bowl @ Boise, ID; ESPN): In what is annually one of my favorite bowls for reasons mostly related to the name (it just feels right for bowls to be named after agricultural products, you know?). As for the game itself, I don't have a good feel for this at all. Looking at the stats, and then looking my predicted winner, I guess I'm basically just saying SDSU is going to get lucky. Again, because they did beat some solid Mountain West teams and almost knocked off Fresno State themselves.
Previous meetings: None.
Last bowl game: The Bulls haven't been to a bowl since their somewhat improbable run to a MAC championship in 2008, after which they lost to UConn in the International Bowl, 38-20. This will be the Aztecs' fifth fourth bowl. They lost last year at home in the Poinsettia Bowl to BYU, 23-6.
Announcers: Clay Matvick and Matt Stinchcomb

9:00: Tulane vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (New Orleans Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): Tulane has a surprisingly good defense, but they are inept offensively. The Ragin' Cajuns meanwhile have an okay defense and a good offense. These games, as one might suspect, are relatively hard to predict, but I gave a slight edge to the Cajuns.
Previous meetings: These in-state rivals have met only 26 times, and the Green Wave own the overall series 21-5. Lafayette won the last meeting last year, 41-13.
Last bowl game: This is Tulane's first bowl game since the 2002 Hawaii Bowl, where they beat their hosts 36-28. Meanwhile, this is Lafayette's third straight New Orleans Bowl. Last year they beat East Carolina 43-34. (The game is completely sold out, so apparently they're not tired of going back yet.)
Announcers: Mike Patrick and Ed Cunningham

Monday, December 23
2:00: East Carolina vs. Ohio (Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl @ St. Petersburg, FL; ESPN): The nation's 11th ranked scoring offense against its 66th scoring defense does not augur good tidings for the Bobcats.
Previous meetings: Two of 'em, actually, in 1996 and 1998. East Carolina won both, 55-45 and 21-14.
Last bowl game: The Pirates lost to the aforementioned Ragin' Cajuns in last year's New Orleans Bowl, 43-34. The Bobcats, meanwhile, are playing their fourth straight bowl game. They beat UL-Monroe 45-14 in the Independence Bowl last year.
Announcers: Beth Mowins and Joey Galloway

Tuesday, December 24
8:00: Oregon State vs. Boise State (Hawaii Bowl @ Honolulu, HI; ESPN): Both these teams were rebuilding this year, so a trip to Hawaii after a pair of trying seasons has to be a bit of a relief. I think by the end of the year Boise was a slightly better team, so I have them as an appropriately slight winner.
Previous meetings: Seven times, with the Beavers holding a slight 4-3 edge. Boise has won the last two meetings, which were in 2006 and 2010. The 2010 win had a 37-24 margin.
Last bowl game: Oregon State lost last year's Alamo Bowl to Texas, 31-27. This is Boise's 12th straight bowl game, dating back to the 1999 Humanitarian Bowl, where they won 34-31. They also won last year's Las Vegas Bowl over a Pac-12 opponent, beating Washington 28-26.
Announcers: Steve Levy, Lou Holtz, and Mark May

Saturday, December 14, 2013

This Weekend in College Football: Week 16

Yep, it’s week 16. Why 16? Well, there was an extra week due to the calendar this year, which why teams had two bye weeks during the season.

Quick note: I won’t cover them here, but several more FCS playoff games are available online, including Eastern Washington’s blood-red field.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Noon: Coastal Carolina @ North Dakota State (NCAA Division I Quarterfinal; ESPN): North Dakota State is undefeated on the season, and it hasn’t really been close. Of the two games decided by less than a touchdown, one was the win over Kansas State and the other to fellow FCS power (though they had a down year this year) Northern Iowa. The Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina were also pretty dominant, but they did lose a game to a non-FCS opponent (South Carolina) and well I’m going with the Bison.

3:00: Army vs. Navy (@Philadelphia, PA; CBS): The 2nd and 3rd ranked rushing attacks in the country meet again, so don’t expect a lot of passing. That said, Navy was simply the better team on the year. Army struggled against other teams with strong rushing attacks (Boston College and Air Force) and in general their three wins were over some really lousy teams. It’s hard to see the USMA’s losing streak ending this year.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Bowl Predictions 2013: Final

Here are the final projections. I'll be tweaking them throughout the day as bids are announced. Here are the high points:
  • This is a good article about the sorts of things that are wrong with the bowl system, at least in terms of teams earning bids.
  • Most other projections have Oregon getting shut out of the BCS, so I decided to follow the trend. I still have no idea why Clemson is considered a BCS team, but people who know more than me about this stuff say they're in so I guess they're in.
  • Oklahoma's win over Oklahoma State is being projected to give them enough of a lift up into the top 14, where they will also go to the BCS for some reason. (Well, they'll sell a ton of tickets to the Sugar Bowl, that's why.)
  • Today's results, especially in the Big 12, robbed me of the interesting matchups I was projecting last week. So much for those Oklahoma-Nebraska and Oregon-Baylor games. Instead, you'll probably get to see Oregon put up 60 on Texas.
  • Speaking of predicted blowouts, most sources I saw put Duke in the Chick-fil-a Bowl against Texas A&M. TAMU's defense is pretty awful, but they should be able to beat Duke handily. I have no idea why the CFA would pick Duke over Miami. Or at least I didn't until I saw that their selection committee page said Miami's best win is over Georgia Tech. My initial reaction was "that can't possibly be right". It turns out it is.
  • I would rather see Alabama-Oregon and Ohio State-Oklahoma State than what we're getting, but that's the BCS for you, I guess. We'll know for sure at 8:30 PM tonight.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

This Weekend in College Football: Week 15

It's championship week!

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

7:30: Louisville @ Cincinnati (ESPN): A season of "what-ifs" for the Cardinals should wrap up with a win over Cincinnati.

8:00: Northern Illinois vs. Bowling Green (Mid-American Conference Championship @ Detroit, MI; ESPN2): Bowling Green currently sports the country's 5th ranked scoring defense. However, it will take a Herculean effort on their part to stand-up to darkhorse Heisman candidate QB Jordan Lynch and his Huskies. (In their last game against Western Michigan, Lynch ran for 321 yards on 27 carries. That's 11.9 yards/carry. Yeah.) NIU should be able to secure a second consecutive trip to the promised land.

  • Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State (ABC): Against any team that has a pulse on defense, Oklahoma's offense has struggled, leading directly to their two losses (the disaster against Texas and the debacle against Baylor). Oklahoma State shredded the two teams Oklahoma lost to, putting up an average 43.5 points while giving up 30 (or an average of 15). Frankly, Oklahoma State looks like the better team at this point.
  • Central Florida @ Southern Methodist (ESPN): UCF has sealed the deal, so this is just the cherry on top. It would also deny SMU a bowl bid.
  • Marshall @ Rice (Conference USA Championship Game; ESPN2): Marshall appears to be a good team, in all honestly. I'm going with the Thundering Herd here. Will be interesting to see how many show up at the Rice Bowl, though.
3:30: Texas @ Baylor (FOX): Baylor's struggled in recent weeks with injuries and depth made me pause for a moment, but just for a moment. Going with the Bears here, in what will be the Big 12 championship if Oklahoma State loses.

4:00: Auburn vs. Missouri (Southeastern Conference Championship @ Atlanta, GA; CBS): Both of these teams bring dynamic offenses into the table. Missouri is slightly better on defense, and also James Franklin is a vastly better passer than Nick Marshall. Overall, I think Mizzou is a more well-rounded team and can pull this one out in the end.

7:30: South Florida @ Rutgers (ESPN2): Neither of these teams is very good, but Rutgers should be able to make it to 6-6 with a win against a slightly more awful USF.

7:45: Stanford @ Arizona State (Pac-12 Championship; ESPN): One on hand, this is easy, given that Stanford already trounced the Sun Devils back in September. But on the other, Arizona State is awesome at home and they haven't lost since October 5th. Both of these teams are very good and this could very well be the best game of the day. But, in the end, I've got the Cardinal here. If they lose, though, one could definitely see the Pac-12 pushing of a neutral site title game.

  • Michigan State vs. Ohio State (Big Ten Championship @ Indianapolis, IN; FOX): Michigan is the first team all year that came within 10 points of beating the Buckeyes, and while I agree that going for two was probably the right call, they were potentially an overtime away from taking their first loss. Meanwhile, the Spartans have a loss, and due to their style of play, several more close games. Their defense should provide the stiffest test for the Buckeyes so far, but unclear that even if Sparty holds the Buckeyes to 21 points that it'll be enough.
  • Florida State vs. Duke (Atlantic Coast Conference Championship @ Charlotte, NC; ABC): I would be shocked if this ends in anything other than a rout.
10:00: Utah State @ Fresno State (Mountain West Conference Championship; CBS): Fresno gets a week to try to pick up the pieces of a broken season after their shocking loss to San Jose State. Their defense let them down, but still the unit on the field with the highest potential to carry the day is David Carr and the Fresno State offense.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Bowl Predictions 2013: Week 7

What happened this past weekend? How about everything! Let's examine the repercussions on the national bowl picture.

First, Louisiana-Lafayette accepted a bid to the New Orleans Bowl, which allows them to join the company of BYU and Navy as the first teams to lock down bids. We may see a few other bids trickle out over the course of the week, but with the new-found uncertainty in the bowl picture it is likely we will have to wait until the BCS bowls make their picks Saturday night and Sunday morning before we find out anything else.

As usual, the full set of predictions can be accessed here.

  • The most notable thing now is Florida State and Ohio State at #1 and #2 and in the title. I project them both to defeat their foes in their conference title games.
  • Putting this to rest now: the odds of a 1-loss SEC Champion jumping an undefeated Ohio State are pretty much nil. Do not let the talking heads confuse you this week.
  • If Ohio State loses, well, then things get interesting. If Missouri beats Auburn, do they jump idle Alabama to the #2 slot? Okay, well, yes they do.
  • If Florida State loses, well, I pretty much refuse to contemplate that. But that's what you need for an Iron Bowl rematch. (Not that you really want it, Auburn fans: remember what happened the last time Alabama got to face a team twice?)
  • Elsewhere, after years of getting shafted, I am sure the Orange Bowl is really looking forward to this. They will get the first pick of the at-large pool, and they will pick Alabama.
  • The Rose gets the next pick. Tradition dictates that they will take Michigan State, but if for some reason the Orange doesn't take Alabama I think the Rose will. Heck, I think there's a shot at that anyway but I seem to be the only person who thinks so.
  • Speaking of things that only I seem to think, I initially had Baylor in the Orange Bowl, figuring that Clemson played its way out of the game by losing to the two best teams on its schedule. According to the rest of the Internet, this isn't the case - searching Google News for "orange bowl baylor" yields almost no relevant results. I'll bow to the rest of the world and put Clemson there, I guess.
  • Finally, if Northern Illinois does not lose the MAC title game, I have Central Florida facing Auburn in the Sugar Bowl and Northern Illinois facing Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Sun Belt

Speaking of things that I'm wrong about according to the Internet, I cannot find any evidence this year that the agreements I thought the Sun Belt had with the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl, the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl, and the BBVA Compass Bowl remain in effect. This means that it is unlikely any Sun Belt team other than UL-Lafayette and Arkansas State will get a bowl bid.

Mountain West

With Fresno State now out of the BCS bowl picture, this means there are six teams for five spots. There is some talk of the conference trying to shop Boise State for an at-large bid, but I consider that unlikely. Therefore, the conference's last spot in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl will likely be a toss-up between Colorado State, UNLV, and Boise State. I sent UNLV to Hawaii because they haven't been to a bowl in 13 years. I also saw while trawling for news that apparently the San Jose State AD used to work at Boise State and was integral to getting the original Humanitarian Bowl off the ground. Facts like that are why I look for news. As a result, I have the Rams getting left out.


The MAC will have at least three extra teams, four if Northern Illinois loses. The three teams most likely to go other than NIU are Bowling Green, Buffalo, and Ball State. This leaves Ohio, Toledo, and Central Michigan searching for bids.

Conference USA

The winner of Rice-Marshall will go to the Liberty Bowl, beyond that, it's very difficult to make heads or tails of anything. For now, I have Florida Atlantic losing out in a bid.


Assuming Florida State and Clemson make it, here's how the rest of the picture shakes out.
  • Chick-fil-a Bowl: technically Duke, Virginia Tech, Miami, and Georgia Tech are eligible for this spot. However, I think the only real players here are Duke and Miami. If Duke is competitive in the ACC title game, they're probably the pick here, but I think Florida State will wipe the floor with them. Despite the best season in school history, I think Duke will be passed over in favor of Miami.
  • Russell Athletic Bowl: I think Duke will get picked up here. GT is not in the running and VPI played the worst game of the bowl season here last year. If Duke is picked by the CFA Bowl, then Miami is the pick here.
  • Sun Bowl: Virginia Tech has a reputation of traveling well. Georgia Tech will not come here for a third year in a row. Duke will probably be picked by now, so that means all the 5-3 and 4-4 ACC schools are in the running. 
  • Belk Bowl: the Belk always prefers North Carolina teams. I would think they'd be okay with VPI too, but if VPI goes to the Sun then UNC is the pick here.
  • Music City Bowl: for once, the online consensus seems to be that Georgia Tech will make this game. Other candidates are the ACC's northern schools, with the strongest possibility being Boston College.
  • Advocare V100 Bowl: with the last 5-3 team out of the way, that opens this game to any of the remaining eligible ACC teams, which at this point are Syracuse, Boston College, Maryland, and Pittsburgh. For now, I've slotted Pitt here, but the other candidate would probably be Boston College.
  • Military Bowl: there's a lot of chatter putting Maryland in this game, but considering that Maryland is leaving for the Big Ten after this year and are currently being sued by the conference Tobacco Road may attempt to pull some favors and put Syracuse or Boston College here instead.
So by my calculations, that leaves Syracuse and Boston College out. However, that's not the end of the road for these two schools. We'll get to that in a moment.


The AAC teams appear likely to go in order: Louisville to the Russell Athletic, Cincinnati to the Belk, Houston to the Pinstripe, and Rutgers to the Compass. Rutgers could also go to the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl.

Big 12

There is a potential windfall for the Big 12 only getting the conference champ into the BCS.
  • Cotton Bowl: the Cotton could take Baylor or Texas. I think they'll defer to all that burnt orange money and take the Longhorns. This could set up a potential match against Texas A&M, but most of the chatter I've seen puts LSU as the SEC opponent here.
  • Alamo Bowl: this is where it gets exciting. I've put Baylor here to stage a track meet with Oregon, but this could easily be Texas or Oklahoma.
  • Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: you know what would make this game truly wild? How about Oklahoma-Nebraska. The committee for this game has to be praying for this to happen. There's a chance we get Texas or Baylor here instead.
  • Holiday Bowl: after all that, Kansas State is a slam dunk choice over Texas Tech in the Big 12 pecking order.
  • Texas Bowl: Texas Tech is the only team left.
Big Ten

The B1G was already going to be short of teams, so Michigan State going to Pasadena doesn't really help that particular situation. We'll just have to make do, I suppose.
  •  Capital One Bowl: if some how the title game loser does not stay in the BCS, they will take them. Otherwise, Wisconsin is almost certainly the pick ehre.
  • Outback Bowl: this is where it gets a little more interesting, but the choices are probably Iowa or Nebraska. Considering the current issues up in Omaha, I'm going with Iowa.
  • Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: besides, if Nebraska goes to Tampa, that ruins my dream matchup with Oklahoma in this game. Minnesota has an outside shot at this game.
  • Gator Bowl: that said, Minnesota is still Minnesota, and they could well get screwed because Michigan is Michigan. That's what I'm going with here.
  • Texas Bowl: that puts the Gophers in the Texas Bowl.

The Pac-12 has too many teams for too few slots. This makes the picture at the bottom rather cludy, but I feel good about the picks at the top.
  • Alamo Bowl: the Pac-12 title game loser is also in the running here, but I think Oregon will be hard to pass up.
  • Holiday Bowl: that said, I don't see the Pac-12 title game loser falling past here. Also in the running are UCLA and USC.
  • Sun Bowl: after last year's debacle, Southern Cal probably won't be headed to El Paso again anytime soon. UCLA looks like a strong candidate here.
  • Las Vegas Bowl: this is where it starts to get a little dicey, but Southern Cal would probably get taken if they're available.
  • Fight Hunger Bowl: most of the chatter online points to Washington going here.
  • New Mexico Bowl: we're left with Arizona, Oregon State and Washington State. With Wazzou on the up-and-up after several bad seasons, they seem like a trendy pick to go here. Arizona has played in this game recently and it's been a bit of a lost season for the Beavers.
  • Capital One Bowl: this game looks poised to take the loser of the SEC Championship game, so  I'm putting Missouri here.
  • Outback and Cotton Bowls: nominally, the Outback is supposed to take a team from the SEC East and the Cotton a team from the West. Many reports have suggested that if the Capital One does not take the SEC title game loser, they cannot fall past the Cotton Bowl. It looks like to me that South Carolina will be making a repeat trip to the Outback (I'm sure there's some golf courses around Tampa Steve Spurrier hasn't played yet) and LSU will head to the Cotton.
  • Chick-fil-a Bowl: the Chick-fil-a will occasionally pick one of the local schools, but generally they prefer to fill hotel rooms with traveling fans. Also, they seem to be high on Johnny Maziel, so that shapes up with for Texas A&M if they are available.
  • Gator Bowl: Georgia winds up in Jacksonville again, it would appear.
  • Music City Bowl: the candidates here are Mississippi, Mississippi State, and Vanderbilt. Of those three, the preference is probably for Ole Miss, despite the Egg Bowl loss last weekend.
  • BBVA Compass and Liberty Bowls: Miss State is likely headed to the former and Vandy to the latter.
At-large selections

According to the above, the following bowls will lack teams: the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl, the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, the Poinsettia Bowl, the Advocare V100 Bowl, and the Heart of Dallas Bowl. I should note that I already slotted Notre Dame in the Pinstripe Bowl.
  • Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl: the MAC has a secondary agreement with this bowl as well as the Poinsettia and Heart of Dallas bowls. However, there is at least one document that I've found that suggests only one of the MAC's various secondary bowls needs to take a team, and after that nothing is guaranteed. I'm going to go ahead and slot Toledo here.
  • Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl: this seems like a good landing spot for one of the ACC teams that needs a bid. The other possible landing spot for an ACC team would have to be the Heart of Dallas Bowl, so I'm going to with Syracuse here.
  • Poinsettia Bowl: this west coast bowl could well take a west coast team. 7-5 Arizona seems like a strong candidate.
  • Advocare V100 Bowl: an ACC team will be selected here, so that means they will likely be seeking another major conference team. I'm going to guess and put Oregon State here.
  • Heart of Dallas Bowl: finally, we're left with Boston College and several Sun Belt, MAC, and C-USA teams. Given most of what I'm reading online, this looks like a landing spot for a major conference team, meaning BC wins out. 
Bids themselves should trickle out this week, especially for the Sun Belt and Mountain West. For everything else, I'll do one last big update Saturday night.