Monthly Archives: December 2015

This Weekend in College Football: Week 15

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Noon: Northern Iowa @ North Dakota State (NCAA Division I Quaterfinal; ESPN): It’ll be 34 degrees at kickoff in Fargo, but no matter, since the Bison (pronounced: bizon) play in the FARGODOME. At any rate, these two Missouri Valley opponents met back in October and the Bison rallied then to win 31-28. What will happen here? Tune to find out, because it’ll probably be more competitive than the only other televised game today.

3:00: Army vs. Navy (@Philadelphia, PA; CBS): Army is 2-9. Their only victories on the season are over an equally awful Eastern Michigan squad and Bucknell, which went 4-6 otherwise in FCS play. Navy, meanwhile, finished 9-2 with a pretty legitimate shot to play for a conference title game. I have to think hard questions are being asked up in West Point about what it would take for the USMA to field a competitive football team again. Surely people who have paid closer attention than I have are asking: how are Navy and Air Force (who played for the Mountain West title) succeeding where Army has failed? After all, the Black Knights were in Conference USA from 1998 through 2004, and they weren’t challenging for any conference titles then. The last time Army had consecutive seasons where they finished .500 or better were 1988 though 1990. Since then, they’ve done so three times, most recently in 2010. The last time they beat Air Force was 2012, Navy, 2001. Suffice it to say, I’m not giving the Cadets much of a chance here.

Bowl Predictions 2015: Epilogue

They’re no longer predictions really, so it’s more that the full schedule is now available.

I don’t ordinarily follow up on the predictions in this fashion, but I thought it would be appropriate in this case because there’s a lot of stuff that happened.

In the playoff, I was wrong about Oklahoma and Michigan State’s positions, but reasonable people can disagree. What I don’t like, though, is 1-loss Iowa finishing ahead of 1-loss Ohio State in the final poll, sending Iowa to the Rose Bowl instead of the Buckeyes. Considering that they both lost to the same team, Ohio State’s superior statistical profile and stronger best win should have kept them above the Hawkeyes. This had a ripple effect, I figure, on the rest of the CFP field, since Ohio State will head west anyway, sending Houston to Atlanta to face Florida State.

Apparently “Frank Beamer’s Last Game” was not a very appealing factor for the ACCs bowls at all. Virginia Tech fell out of the middle tier of ACC bowls, past the Military (which, in fairness, they played in last year) to the Independence. The Independence also effected a swap with the Cure Bowl, sending Tulsa to Shreveport and allowing the Cure to create perhaps the most depressing bowl matchup of all time.

— Fred Simmons (@fsimmons) December 6, 2015

Just wait the Smiths Bowl will be even more depressing.

— Matt Hinton (@MattRHinton) December 6, 2015

In general, I whiffed pretty badly on the ACC’s bowl lineup:

Game Prediction Actual
Russell Athletic North Carolina North Carolina
Sun Miami Miami
Pinstripe Pittsburgh Duke
Belk Virginia Tech North Carolina State
Music City Louisville Louisville
Military Duke Pittsburgh
Independence North Carolina State Virginia Tech

As I suspected from my research last night, the Texas Bowl did not get a Texas Tech-Texas A&M matchup. If you suspect that maybe TAMU and the SEC didn’t want that to happen, I’d suspect you’re right. Instead, Leonard Fournette will take aim at P.J. Daniels’s bowl rushing record of 307 yards.

And let’s close with what happened involving the Mountain West Conference. As I predicted last night, the Arizona Bowl was going to wind up matching two MWC teams because their only other option was to get a Pac-12 team, which they couldn’t afford. The conference’s commissioner was none too pleased about this. Yes, the system is broken. However, I can’t help but feel the NCAA let things get this way on purpose. A few years ago, the NCAA got out of the business of regulating bowl games other than a) controlling who can qualify and b) making sure the financials were in order. In other words, if you could afford to host a bowl game, then you can have one. To me, it seems more likely at this point that the playoffs will continue to grow, and that instead of going “back” to 30 bowl games (we’re at 40 now, not counting the national championship game) that the system will be scrapped all together. I think most of us that follow the game are in favor of an 8 or 16 team playoff. At 8 teams, bowl games start to get dicey. At 16, they would be untenable.

This is the 17th year I’ve done these predictions, and I like to think I’m reasonably good at it. For instance, last night when I was researching, I saw one sportswriter for a paper in Louisiana or some such toss off his “final” predictions. They were laughably horrible, even putting teams that had already accepted bids in the wrong games. I continue to do this because I enjoy it, and if bowl games were to go away, I’d miss this a lot. That said, I think it’s where we’re going (and where we should be going), and this year’s fiasco will probably help get us there.

Bowl Predictions 2015: Final

Okay, it’s the last predictions of the year! Get ’em right here!

Everything I said last week is mostly still applicable, so I will keep this mainly to anything that’s changed.


I’m sticking with my predicted Top Four, since there weren’t any major upsets in the conference title games. There was one major upset on the day, though: Texas defeating Baylor, which means the Big 12’s Sugar Bowl slot will go to Oklahoma State instead of the Bears. Bit of a bum rap considering the circumstances (essentially, Baylor ran out of quarterbacks), but them’s the breaks.

Power Five

I wound up doing a major reshuffling of the SEC’s bowl games, but I saw a fair bit of news from the past 24 hours that really suggested Tennessee to the Outback Bowl and Georgia to the Taxslayer Bowl, which caused a cascade through the other games. This has the effect of avoiding a Virginia Tech-Tennessee matchup in the Belk Bowl at least, since they will meet again September. However, this will likely also send LSU to the Texas Bowl, which seems to be agreeable to all parties except the Texas Bowl and Texas Tech, but again, the SEC gets to decide which bowls its teams go to after the Citrus.

Speaking of the Citrus, they could really shake things up if they decide they don’t want the punchless edition of Florida we’re currently getting, but I don’t think that’s likely.

There were some other slight changes due to the Big 12 reshuffling and any news I could glean from elsewhere, but I think these predictions are about as good as you’re going to get for the Power 5. The main remaining sticking point is where the the extra Pac-12 teams will wind up (and, indeed, which Pac-12 teams will be the extras). There’s one major problem, which I’ll get to below.

Group of Five

The other upset of the day was Georgia State defeating Georgia Southern, putting the Panthers in their first ever bowl game, the Cure Bowl.

So, About Those 5-7 Teams…

The 5-7 teams I wound up using are Nebraska, Minnesota, and San Jose State. The former two, I simply slotted into the Big Ten’s remaining bowl slots. Easy. San Jose State, not so much.

I wound up with a bunch of extra Pac-12 teams, a couple extra MAC teams, and an extra Mountain West team in the Spartans. The main issue that of the payouts. The director of the Arizona Bowl was quoted in saying that his first year bowl can’t afford the payout necessary to get a Pac-12 team. This means I couldn’t slot a Pac-12 team there. However, the extra MAC schools I had slotted into the backup bids that conference negotiated ahead of time. The result, then, is that I currently have Colorado State playing San Jose State. At least they didn’t play in the regular season. One solution is that the Arizona Bowl could trade a bowl slot with, say, a MAC-affiliated bowl, but the only MAC bowl out west that would make sense the Poinsettia Bowl, which already has a Mountain West school. This sort of thing has happened before, but a) it’s very, very tough for me to predict such swaps if no one is explicitly talking about them in the news and b) the Arizona Bowl is new and may not have the “pull” necessary to get someone to swap with them. So, even though it’s probably wrong, I’m going with that for now.

This Weekened in College Football: Week 14

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

8:00: Northern Illinois vs. Bowling Green (Mid-American Conference Championship @ Detroit, MI; ESPN2): This is NIU’s sixth straight appearance in the game, and the third straight year we’ve had the same matchup. Bowling Green won 47-27 two years ago, and last year was a blowout the other way. This year, I’m expecting a slim, but sold, Bowling Green victory.


  • Temple @ Houston (American Athletic Conference Championship; ABC): The winner of this game is probably still in line for that Group of Five bid, but Temple probably dodged a bullet with Toledo’s loss to Western Michigan last week. Either way, I still like Houston a ton here.
  • Texas @ Baylor (ESPN): It’ll be raining again for the Bears Saturday, but mercifully it the temperatures will be around 30-35 degrees warmer. I suspect they will complete more than zero passes in the second half in this one and get a comfortable victory over the Longhorns.
  • Southern Mississippi @ Western Kentucky (Conference USA Championship; ESPN2): These were far away the best teams in Conference USA this year, and it’s been a hell of a turnaround for the Golden Eagles especially. However, it looks like the buck will stop here, as the Hilltoppers have simply been ultra-dominant in conference this year.

4:00: Florida vs. Alabama (Southeastern Conference Championship @ Atlanta, GA; CBS): With Treon Harris, the Gators maybe stand a chance, without, it’s somewhere between “zero” and “none”.

4:30: West Virginia @ Kansas State (FS1): While the Mountaineers aren’t great or anything, K-State has simply been too dysfunction on offense too often this season. Then again, it won’t take much magic for them to get a win, but I’m not betting on it.

7:30: Air Force @ San Diego State (Mountain West Conference Championship; ESPN2): The Aztecs have outscored their conference opponents by 199 points this season, so I’m going with them.

7:45: Stanford vs. Southern California (Pacific-12 Conference Championship @ Santa Clara, CA; ESPN): Without traffic, this game is taking place about a 10 minute drive from my house. Of course, the game’s also at 4:45 local time here, so it’s not like it’d interfere with anything, but still. That aside, I would say this is a pretty lackluster matchup for the Pac-12. Sure, there’s names here, but these two have five losses between them and there’s only the Rose Bowl at stake (unless things get wacky). (Also, somewhere, somehow, old-school Pac-8 and Big Ten fans just cringed at the notion of “just the Rose Bowl”.) Oregon sullied both these teams with Vernon Adams’s late season resurgence, but the Ducks really did a number on the Trojans. Meanwhile, Stanford just pulled a rabbit in the form of a last-second victory over mutual rival Notre Dame out of their hat. I like the Cardinal a little more here.


  • Clemson vs. North Carolina (Atlantic Coast Conference Championship @ Charlotte, NC; ABC): Even if the Tar Heels had beaten South Carolina back in September, they would still occupy that Iowa “not as good as their record” space. Simply put, this isn’t really an even matchup, and the Tigers should roll.
  • Iowa vs. Michigan State (Big Ten Conference Championship @ Indianapolis, IN; FOX): I don’t know what the over/under is for this game, but take the under. Let me put it this way: this game puts perhaps the most uninspiring major conference undefeated team ever in Iowa versus a team with, granted, only one loss but led for zero seconds in their signature wins. (I’d say 9 times out of 10, Ohio State wins that game, but Michigan-Michigan State was a coin flip.) None of that matters now, of course, they’re here, and they’re going to play each other for a spot in the playoff. Both these teams can score when the mood strikes them, but in contests against teams with defenses of similar caliber of their own the games have been tight, gritty, gray sky, three yards and a cloud of dust Big Ten football. I’m going with Sparty to win, say, 12-9 or something like that.

Bowl Predictions 2015: Week 7

Okay, sorry they’re late, but I did the research for the first time this year and learned several important facts. Since these facts mostly affect the CFP and its related bowls, let’s start there.


First off, my playoff standings are pretty well in line right now. I’m predicting Michigan State will beat Iowa Saturday, in addition to Alabama and Clemson winning, so I have my top four as such:

  1. Clemson (Orange)
  2. Alabama (Cotton)
  3. Oklahoma (Cotton)
  4. Michigan State (Orange)

Three of these teams play Saturday with varying degrees of affecting the above scenario.

  • If Iowa beats Michigan State, they’re in. This is the easiest.
  • Clemson or Alabama losing really throws a spanner into the works. I don’t think anyone really considers North Carolina or Florida playoff material, but who then steps in? If only one loses, then the main beneficiary is probably Ohio State. If both loses, then it’s going to be the Buckeyes… and who, exactly? The only remaining 1-loss team is North Carolina. Would a Pac-12 champion Stanford get in over them, even with two losses? Could a 1-loss Clemson get in anyway? The mind reels.

It looks like right now the Big Ten will be a three-bid conference. I also originally had the Big 12 as getting three bids, but no one seems to agree with me, so I put Florida State in and shuffled things around (this is part of why it took so long).

I also found out that for four of the major conferences, the next highest team from that conference in the CFP Poll gets the conference’s designated bowl, if it has one that particular year. The exception is the Big 12, which sends its second place team, which means that as it stands (assuming they win Saturday) Baylor will be the Big 12’s second team.

I also found out that Florida State is pretty highly ranked, which came as a total surprise to me because a) I haven’t paid a lot of attention to the CFP Poll (since the only that matters will come out on Sunday) and b) they lost to us, so I assumed they wouldn’t be ranked very highly. But their only other loss to #1 Clemson, so I guess that’s working out for them.

As a result, I have the other CFP Bowls lined up as such:

  • Peach: Iowa vs. Florida State
  • Fiesta: Houston vs. Notre Dame
  • Rose: Ohio State vs. Stanford
  • Sugar: Baylor vs. Mississippi

Fun, right? So let’s talk about the major conferences real quick.


Even if they lose Saturday, I think North Carolina will still be the Russell Athletic Bowl’s most attractive option unless Florida State falls to them. From there, most of the wrangling involves figuring out which bowls will want Frank Beamer’s last game. I suspect the Military Bowl wants the Hokies back, but that they’ll get snatched by the Belk Bowl first. There’s also trying to figure out the TaxSlayer/Music City situation for this year, but I’m betting that they’ll swap this year, resulting in Miami going to the TaxSlayer.

The ACC has 8 affiliated bowl games outside of the CFP, and if they do indeed send two to the CFP, then they will be one team short.

Big Ten

The Big Ten is pretty straightforward, given all the restrictions placed on the bowl games over their contracts. (In other words, look for the games to avoid having the same team twice any time soon.) The Big Ten has eight affiliated non-CFP bowls, and by sending three teams to the CFP, they will be three teams short.

Big 12

The only place where I broke rank for the Big 12 was putting Texas Tech in the Texas Bowl ahead of West Virginia, which if they can get a TTU-TAMU matchup will probably happen. The Big 12 will be two teams short this year.


Despite nine conference games supposedly being the death knell for bowl eligibility, the Pac-12 is the only major conference with a surplus of teams this year. Barring a calamity this Saturday, the Pac-12 will only be sending its champion to a CFP game, so they’re not getting a lot of relief there. However, all these teams will play in bowl games, the problem is figuring out where, and unfortunately my research was not very helpful on this front. Currently, I have California, Washington, and Arizona as my extra teams. Those will probably remain guesses until Sunday.


Without a quarterback, Florida looks dead in the water, but hey, stranger things have happened. (Probably.) Barring a Gator victory, though, the SEC is going to be a two-bid league this year, with Alabama and Mississippi likely getting the honors.

Outside of that, the SEC is still a mess. What does one do with the damaged goods Gators, for instance? I still have them in the Citrus Bowl (the SEC’s top non-CFP spot), but the Citrus could also take Georgia or LSU. Of course, how do to the coaching changes (or lack thereof) affect those two schools’ standing? Based on my research, the TaxSlayer will probably take Georgia or LSU, but the Outback would prefer Georgia or Tennessee. The Vols could end up in the Belk, Music City, Liberty, or Outback. I have them in the Music City, but that could change Saturday night. We’ll see.

Everyone Else

It should have been banner year for the Group of Five, who, for the first time I can, recall, will get all their eligible teams into bowl games. Since a lot of these will be at-large bids, that’s additional revenue for these conferences and schools, so it’s a boon for them. Of course, the MAC is the only conference that’s really taking advantage, with two extra teams (though the Mountain West also has an extra team). A major contributer to the lack-of-eligible-teams crisis is Conference USA, which has seven bowl games lined up, but only five eligible teams.

Indeed, let’s talk about that lack of teams. Currently, I have 75 eligible teams, leaving me five short. I suspect that’s where I’ll end up, but here’s the other teams that could get eligible Saturday:

  • Kansas State, if they defeat West Virginia
  • Georgia State, if they defeat Georgia Southern
  • South Alabama, if they defeat Appalachian State

So that means we’ll need somewhere between two to five teams with losing records. Here are the teams next in line, in order, courtesy ESPN:

  • Nebraska
  • Missouri (won’t accept)
  • Kansas State
  • Minnesota
  • San Jose State
  • Illinois
  • Rice

Some of those are ties, but I listed them out in the order most likely to be selected. In general, it’s thought that these teams would still be bound to their conference’s bowl contracts, where applicable. In the most likely scenario (five teams needed), that likely means Nebraska to the Foster Farms, Kansas State to the Cactus (which would have a currently unknown knock-on effect in the Mountain West), Minnesota to the Quick Lane, and then San Jose State and Illinois to the remaining two bowls needing at-large teams (probably the Cure Bowl and the Heart of Dallas Bowl).