Monday, October 31, 2016

Bowl Predictions 2016: Week 3

The latest predictions are now available (subject to change for anything completely unexpected on Tuesday).

At any rate, things are still pretty sketchy. Even for the CFP-controlled bowls, where I had to put in a 3-loss Auburn for lack of any other teams. Fortunately, second-half Auburn is looking like a pretty good team, but still, it doesn't feel quite right to have a 3-loss team in these (supposedly) marquee matchups.

I'll just hit some other thoughts in bullet points below:
  • Boise's loss at Wyoming on Saturday may not put them out entirely. After all, they've still got a win over the probable Pac-12 North runner-up Washington State, which is still a better win than any of Western Michigan's. Also, I think most would agree the Mountain West is stronger than the MAC. It will really depend on how the Committee ranks them going forward. Boise still has a pretty good chance to win their division, which would also let them face a pretty good San Diego State team in the Mountain West championship game. A win against the Aztecs would probably be better than any of Western Michigan's wins except maybe the one over Northwestern.
  • I'm still short five teams. I even included a 6-6 Army team (with two wins over FCS teams) and a 5-7 Vanderbilt team (top-5 APR), so I'm really short seven. That's really the entire potential pool of teams according to the rules. I'm not really sure what will happen if that comes to pass. Last year I still was missing five teams as late as Week 7, but things nevertheless worked out.
  • Suffice it to say, I think there are too many bowls. I'd guess the one likeliest to fold after this year is the Arizona Bowl, which still doesn't have a real TV deal. Most of the other bowl games that you'd like are likely to fold are probably owned by ESPN. Given ESPN's own troubles in terms of subscriber losses, that may spell doom for these games, but I'd guess not. Bowl games aren't very expensive to put on, and there's not much else going on during the holidays. If I had to hazard another guess, I'd go with the Cure Bowl, which was a game that took forever for the organizers to put together (it was on the "potential new bowl game" lists for years) and has a TV deal with the CBS Sports Network. I think 38 is more reasonable, but as a person who likes bowl games I'd say the ideal number is 30-35.
  • January 1st is a Sunday this year, so the traditional New Year's Day bowls are split between New Year's Eve and January 2nd. Nonetheless, putting 3 SEC teams in the CFP-controlled bowls really exposes the SEC's weak underbelly this year, by which I mean there's probably going to be 3 SEC East teams in New Year's Day bowl games.
  • And yes, I did slot Georgia Tech over Miami because even though no one actually involved with the game would want it, I'm sure the Powers That Be (TM) would like the storylines around a Georgia Tech-Navy matchup.
That's that for now. Hopefully we'll know more next week!

Friday, October 28, 2016

This Weekend in College Football: Week 9

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • West Virginia @ Oklahoma State (FOX): How real are the Mountaineers? We're about to find out, on this way where we've got a lot of road favorites. But they're favorites for a reason.
  • Pennsylvania State @ Purdue (ABC/ESPN2): So Penn State did beat Ohio State last week, but of all teams to worry about a let-down against, Purdue isn't one of them.
  • Louisville @ Virginia (ABC/ESPN2): Yeah, looks like Lamar Jackson is fully functional again. UVA doesn't stand a chance.
  • Michigan @ Michigan State (ESPN): Speaking of not standing a chance, well, Michigan fans: stop reading now. So yeah, you think Harbaugh forgot what happened last year? Yeah, me neither.
  • Central Florida @ Houston (ESPNU): What, uh, happened to Houston? Navy, okay, sure, the Midshipmen look good this year. But SMU? Really guys? So, I'm still going to pick the Cougs here, but y'all are on notice.
  • Kansas State @ Iowa State (FSN): A fact I totally knew and did not just read 5 minutes ago: these two teams first met 100 years ago! I like K-State in the centennial.
  • Kentucky @ Missouri (SEC): Uh, Kentucky? Sure, why not.
  • Connecticut @ East Carolina (ESPNEWS): I have no idea. Seriously, stick to WVU-OSU if you want a good game, and Louisville-UVA or Michigan-Michigan State if you like watching car safety test videos.
  • Minnesota @ Illinois (BTN): Minnesota.
  • Duke @ Georgia Tech (ACC/RSN): Okay, so coming off the bye week, we have some work to do for the rest of the season. This is a good of a place as any to start, by which I mean, I'm trying to process the part where we've lost two straight to Duke. Then again, Duke's been on a bit of a run themselves these past few years until, well, this year.
    On the balance so far, this Tech team has been tough to watch. Our blocking and line play is bad the second year in a row. However bad you think the defense looks, from everything I've read it's actually worse. I wouldn't be surprised if we have a new defensive coordinator next year. I'm personally not ready to call for Paul Johnson's head (and given our athletic department's budget, I don't think it's likely regardless), but I'd like to see some improvement against the back half of our schedule.
  • Kent State @ Central Michigan (CBSS): Some Saturday MACTION for you, if you so desire. I like Cental Michigan here.
12:30: Boston College @ North Carolina State (ACC): Boston College still lacks any sort of offense, so...

  • Baylor @ Texas (ABC): Baylor.
  • Miami @ Notre Dame (NBC): After the past few weeks, whatever shine was remaining on this game has completely clouded up. I still like Miami, though.
  • Georgia vs. Florida (@Jacksonville, FL; CBS): Well, this game will probably be nice and bludgeon-y, but I still expect Florida to win.
  • Northwestern @ Ohio State (ESPN): Ohio State.
  • Texas Tech @ Texas Christian (ESPN2): My favorite reaction to last week's Texas Tech-Oklahoma game:

    Going with TCU.
  • Washington @ Utah (FS1): East Coast-types: watch this one, seriously. I think Washington is going to win, but all the same, you need to see the Huskies.
  • Maryland @ Indiana (ESPNU): The Terps are 5-2 out of what feels like nowhere. I'm not ready to give up on the Hoosiers, though.
  • Cincinnati @ Temple (CBSS): I am giving up on Cincy, though. Ugh.
  • Army @ Wake Forest (ACC/RSN): One of Army's last winnable games. They'll need to pick up an upset on the way to make a bowl.
4:00: Southern Methodist @ Tulane (ESPNEWS): Now this game has "let down" written all over it.

5:00: Arizona State @ Oregon (Pac12): In two weeks, Oregon will be mathematically eliminated from bowl eligibility. Book it.

  • Nebraska @ Wisconsin (ESPN): Nebraska is undefeated and Wisconsin is 5-2. But you need to consider that Nebraska would also have a loss or two if their two Big Ten East opponents this year had been Ohio State and Michigan. I think the Badgers are seriously good, and Nebraska doesn't have the firepower to overcome that defense.
  • Kansas @ Oklahoma (FS1): Oklahoma.
  • Boise State @ Wyoming (CBSS): Boise.
  • Tennessee @ South Carolina (ESPN2): The Vols should be able to make some hay, back in the cozy confines of the SEC East.
  • Auburn @ Mississippi (SEC): So... did Auburn get good when no one was looking, or what? Last week's 56-3 pasting of Arkansas just came out of pretty much nowhere, and if Gus has this thing fully cranked up, well, it doesn't look good for Ole Miss.
7:30: New Mexico State @ Texas A&M (ESPNU): TAMU. (Still annoyed that the "A&M" part doesn't stand for anything.)

  • Clemson @ Florida State (ABC): I think this will be a good game, but Florida State this year just has too many flaws and, well, Clemson has to look like Clemson again at some point this season, right?
  • Tulsa @ Memphis (ESPNEWS): Maybe Tulsa was on to something about Houston a few weeks ago, when they only lost by 7. I like them here to win outright.
10:30: Nevada-Las Vegas @ San Jose State (CBSS): This is sure a football game on TV, yep. Uh, UNLV?

10:45: Washington State @ Oregon State (ESPN2): I have the feeling, just a gut feeling, that Washington St will trip up again before the end of the season. Where? Well, probably not here, but with the Cougs anything is possible, man.

11:00: Stanford @ Arizona (FS1): A reprieve for Stanford's slide awaits in the desert.

Bowl Predictions 2016: Week 2

Hey y'all, Civilization VI is a pretty good game. On an unrelated note, sorry about the bowl predictions being so late this week. I got an assist from ESPN's FPI and I have to say... I'm not terribly happy with the results. Like, there is no way Stanford is going to win 9 games this year, I'm sorry.

Expect a better set of predictions early next week.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

This Weekend in College Football: Week 8

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • North Carolina State @ Louisville (ABC): Both Clemson and Louisville seem to be in a bit of a funk after their game against the other, with Clemson struggling against NC State just last week. To their credit, the Wolfpack have made themselves a pain to play, but I think the Cardinals are ready to step back on to the stage. Nonetheless, this should be a fun one to watch.
  • Wisconsin @ Iowa (ESPN): Wisconsin 12, Iowa 5, book it.
  • Texas @ Kansas State (ESPN2): This game could well get Charlie Strong fired (if not now, later). But I still have a hard time picking against Texas here.
  • Oklahoma State @ Kansas (FS1): In these ever changing times, this world of chaos, there is one constant. And that constant is that the Kansas Jayhawks are not very good at football.
  • Rutgers @ Minnesota (ESPNU): But goodness me they're still better than Rutgers. Can someone run the numbers and see if there's been a worse "major" Division I team since, say, 1950?
  • Central Florida @ Connecticut (ESPNU): Some teams are content to ignore or forget about their rivalries, but UCF straight up hates that UConn more-or-less unilaterally declared this a rivalry (the Civil ConfliCT or some nonsene). Heck, they hate it so much that it may just warp all the way around into... being a rivalry. Just food for thought there. (I also like the Knights here.)
  • Massachusetts @ South Carolina (SEC): Gamecocks.
  • Indiana @ Northwestern (BTN): This won't be the best game in this time slot, no. But it could be one of the most interesting, especially given the role-reversal that's taken place among the Big Ten's lower-tier of teams this year. (As in, "wait, Indiana plays defense now?")
12:30: Syracuse @ Boston College (ACC): In three ACC games so far, Boston College has twenty-four points. 24! Syracuse is going to romp.

  • North Carolina @ Virginia (ACC/RSN): Okay, so UVA is finally not awful again, but Carolina is still probably better.
  • Colorado @ Stanford (Pac12): The revolution in the Pac-12 will, in fact, be televised. Well, if you live in the Pac-12 footprint and get Comcast or DISH Network, anyway. What I'm trying to say is the Buffs are going to stampede down on the farm. By the way, the Pac-12's complaints about their TV schedule bore some fruit: this is Stanford's first Noon (Pacific Time) kick in like four years.
  • Texas A&M @ Alabama (CBS): It's the SEC game of the week, and Alabama is favored by... 19 points. Oof. TAMU is the #6 team in the country, even! Now, of course, this is where we remind you that the lines set by our friends in arid regions are not really predictive and intended to stimulate the action, as it were. So you just know that the books are sizzling with people taking TAMU here. But then, as you walk to the next available window at your favorite sportsbook and think one last time about the possibilities, you think about how Alabama has scored a defensive touchdown in every game this season, and how they actually have a mobile quarterback now and a dynamic offense. This is an Alabama team that scores in bunches. By the time you've started talking, you realize you just said "Alabama to cover". That's how they get you, folks.
  • Purdue @ Nebraska (ABC/ESPN2): Meanwhile, Purdue football is a thing that exists, for some reason. Seriously, can we just relegate Purdue and Rutgers and promote, like, Western Michigan? Hell, the Broncos will probably finish with more Big Ten wins than those two teams. Combined.
  • Texas Christian @ West Virginia (ABC/ESPN2): I try not to curse (too much) on this blog, so I won't post a picture of my favorite West Virginia thing: a t-shirt from like 5 years ago spotted at a WVU basketball game that said "WEST [effin'] VIRGINIA" and I think of it every time I see them now. On a related note, did you know the Mountaineers are 5-0? I mean, they still haven't really played anyone and beat BYU and Kansas State by a combined 4 points, but still, it's more fun when Holgo is operating his offense at full blast. So, yeah, expect points here. (And a WFV victory.)
  • Illinois @ Michigan (BTN): Illinois is right there in the awful zone of Big Ten teams, setting up a nice little 3-way tie with themselves, Purdue, and Rutgers (seriously). So, yeah, Michigan's going to win by, well, however much they want, really.
  • Memphis @ Navy (CBSS): Okay, full disclosure: I'm going to be sipping wine while most of today's games happen. (Well, in this case, probably eating lunch.) Seriously, though, if/when the Tide go up by 30 on the Aggies, find the CBS Sports Network channel and settle in for this.
3:45: Tulane @ Tulsa (ESPNU): You might be wondering how I can be flippant about a game where the teams involved are 4-2 and 3-3, but trust me on this: Tulsa.

  • Utah @ California-Los Angeles (FOX): I mean, my instinct was to pick UCLA here, but... Utah is 6-1 and suffered their only loss in the weird vortex that is California Memorial Stadium. The Bruins meanwhile have lost two straight to Arizona State and Wazzou, and their starting QB is hurt. It doesn't really look good for them, at all.
  • Middle Tennessee State @ Missouri (SEC): Mizzou isn't even one of those teams that's awful on offense but really good on defense, they're just... kinda bad. I like the Blue Raiders here.
5:30: Charlotte @ Marshall (beIN): Herd.

6:00: Arkansas @ Auburn (ESPN): Auburn has been better than I think anyone expected and I think Gus Malzahn saved his job, but I still like the Razorbacks here.

6:30: Oregon State @ Washington (Pac12): UDub is basically the Michigan of the Pac-12, and, well, Oregon State is like the, uh, Minnesota?

  • Houston @ Southern Methodist (ESPN2): Houston's looked shaky the past couple of weeks, so a trip up to Dallas could be just what the doctor ordered.
  • East Carolina @ Cincinnati (CBSS): Elsewhere in the American Athletic Conference, the bottom two teams in their Eastern division. Uh, ECU, I guess? (Seriously, who saw Cincy being this bad this year?)
  • Mississippi State @ Kentucky (SEC): Kentucky's poached two SEC wins so far this season (seriously, what the hell, Vandy?), but I don't think they'll make it three.
  • Michigan State @ Maryland (BTN): Maryland: slightly less awful than anyone thought. Michigan State: much, much more awful than anyone thought. This one might just be bad, folks. And I like the Terps.
  • Ohio State @ Pennsylvania State (ABC): Well, Michigan beat Penn State 49-10, so... I'm thinking the Buckeyes win by at least 40.
  • Oklahoma @ Texas Tech (FOX): Whatever mojo Kliff Kingsbury had when he first arrived in Lubbock, well, it seems to be gone now. Sooners.
9:00: Mississippi @ Louisiana State (ESPN): One of the reasons cited for DACOACHO's success as an interim coach at USC and so far at LSU has been the lessons he learned at Ole Miss. Basically, he did a complete 180 from a tough-guy type coach to a player's coach. And it seems to be working. With the way the Tigers are playing on offense now, and at night, in Baton Rouge... yeah, I think LSU here.

10:00: Washington State @ Arizona State (Pac12): Eh, the Cougars gotta drop another one at some point. Keeps things interesting, people on their toes, that sort of thing.

  • Wyoming @ Nevada (ESPN2): Still not a Wyoming home game. Come on ESPN, don't hold off those wonderful brown home jerseys.
  • Fresno State @ Utah State (CBSS): Uh, the teams in this game are a combined 1-10. You have my permission to skip this one, it's cool. (I also like the Aggies.)

Bowl Predictions 2016: Week 1

Taking a brief break from work (Monday through Thursday) Civilization VI (tonight) to let y'all know that I uploaded Week 1 of the bowl predictions. I'm hoping to have more time to elaborate on the process here later, but for now, I need to get the preview up.

Quickly though, as per usual it's still hard tell to anything when there's still teams that haven't played six games yet. Right now I'm short 6 teams, even. The bowl predictions page is also a fully updated and correct bowl schedule. The only thing I haven't pulled yet is the APR standings, which, well, look like they're going to come into play this year.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

This Weekend in College Football: Week 7

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • North Carolina State @ Clemson (ABC): Clemson still seems like a fully functional battle-station, so I'm taking them here.
  • Kansas State @ Oklahoma (ESPN): The Big 12 is just a mess right now, and in so many ways. On-the-field, off-the-field, it doesn't matter. And while it would seem pretty Big 12 for Oklahoma to drop this game after knocking off Texas, well, I don't see it.
  • Iowa @ Purdue (ESPN2): There's not much that would make Kirk Ferentz's extension more ridiculous at this point, so... go Boilermakers!
  • West Virginia @ Texas Tech (FS1): I suspect the defense is going to let down the Red Raiders once again. By the day, did you know West Virginia is still undefeated? I don't know how much longer it'll last, but yeah, they're currently 4-0.
  • Minnesota @ Maryland (ESPNU): I still don't know how to cope with the idea that Maryland isn't completely terrible. In fact, I'll pick them over the Golden Gophers.
  • Illinois @ Rutgers (ESPNEWS): Illinois is bad, but... yeah.
  • Vanderbilt @ Georgia (SEC): While obviously the most hilarious outcome would be for Vandy to win, well... I don't see it. I just don't.
  • Pittsburgh @ Virginia (ACC): Virginia is 2-3 overall, but they've been surprisingly not awful? I don't think they're good enough to beat this Pitt team, but still.
  • Georgia Southern @ Georgia Tech (ACC/RSN): We could have won the Pitt game. We probably even should have! But even while watching, I never got the sense we were much better than them. I think the sequence that I disliked the most was probably after they committed a couple of penalties and faced 1st and 35. Three quick passes later, and it was a Pitt first down. I can't think of any better indictment of Ted Roof's defense.
  • Alabama @ Tennessee (CBS): It is actually the third Saturday in October! Tennessee is still one of the most inherently unstable teams in college football, but you really need a lot more than just luck to beat Bama.
  • Southern California @ Arizona (FOX): USC looked suddenly competent last week, so sure, let's go with the Trojans.
  • North Carolina @ Miami (ABC/ESPN2): Both these teams are good, but I think Miami has at least as much defensive talent as Virginia Tech, and they completely shut down Carolina last weekend. That said, the issue with many past Miami teams has been one of attitude, so we'll see what Richt's effect is after last week's heartbreaking loss to FSU.
  • Nebraska @ Indiana (ABC/ESPN2): Did you notice Nebraska is 5-0? I hadn't either until I was writing this. Regardless, while I think this is definitely a game Indiana team, I'll go with the Huskers.
  • Wake Forest @ Florida State (ESPN): While this is the tenth anniversary of one of Wake's upsets of FSU, it's basically impossible to pick a repeat.
  • Kansas @ Baylor (FS1): Baylor.
  • New Mexico vs. Air Force (@Dallas, TX; ESPNEWS): Air Force.
  • Northwestern @ Michigan State (BTN): So... uh, Michigan State is really not good this year, huh? Northwestern, as odd as that feels.
  • Western Michigan @ Akron (CBSS): ROW THAT BOAT (to P.J. Fleck's new job this offseason).
3:45: Virginia Tech @ Syracuse (ESPNU): VPI.

  • Missouri @ Florida (SEC): We'll get to it in a month, but that LSU-Florida game did wind up getting rescheduled. For this game, well, Mizzou is just too offensively challenged to really pick them for an upset.
  • Utah @ Oregon State (Pac12): I'm still dealing with the idea that Oregon State is probably better than Oregon this year, so at least let me pick the Utes here and be done with it.
  • Mississippi @ Arkansas (ESPN): Arkansas started hot, but suddenly they're 0-2 in conference play. It's still mid-October, and they still have a chance to impact in November, but right now, it's not looking that good.
  • Tulsa @ Houston (ESPN2): It seems almost like the pressure got to the Cougars, and I suspect ESPN is regretting this pick after they lost to Navy last weekend. Regardless, Houston is still really good and still a massive favorite in most of their remaining games.
  • Connecticut @ South Florida (CBSS): USF might be kinda good?
  • Texas-San Antonio @ Rice (beIN): Unlike, you know, either of these teams. But hey, you probably get beIN Sports, so it's my duty to list it. Uh, going with the Roadrunners.
  • Southern Mississippi @ Louisiana State (SEC): While Southern Miss did beat Kentucky, they've also already lost to Troy and UT-San Antonio. So yeah, I'm not going to go crazy with picking them against LSU.
  • Stanford @ Notre Dame (NBC): Uh... yeah. Neither of these teams can move the ball. Christian McCaffety is hurt and may not play. Notre Dame's coach may be a terrible human being. I have no idea why you would watch this game. I'm going to pick Stanford on general principal.
  • Temple @ Central Florida (ESPNU): It seems as though UCF is slight better and they're at home.
  • Ohio State @ Wisconsin (ABC): I don't put a lot of stock on lines, but the line on this game is Ohio State by 10. Now let us consider that Michigan beat the Badgers at home 14-7. Let us also consider that Michigan just went out and demolished Rutgers by about 20 more points than the Buckeyes did. Put these things together, and Ohio State may be out to prove a point.
  • Arizona State @ Colorado (Pac12): If the Buffs can win this one, I'll be ready to believe. But not quite yet.
10:15: Colorado State @ Boise State (ESPN): Boise's back, y'all.

  • California-Los Angeles @ Washington State (ESPN2): Yep, it's pretty much going according to plan for Wazzou. After having disrupted the Pac-12 North race, which could very well come down to the Apple Cup (?!??!), it's their chance to really make the South a mess. And they might well do so!
  • Nevada @ San Jose State (CBSS): Provided the Wolfpack can find their way to San Jose, I don't think they'll have any other trouble.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

2018 World Cup Update: A Quick Survey of 2016 Results

So I haven't done one of these since last March, and in the interim, there's been a fair amount of qualifying going on. I've updated the status page so that we're current through last Tuesday.

As usual, let's go confederation-by-confederation and make some quick observations, since it's still too early to eliminate anyone.

In Group A, things are going pretty according to plan, at least in terms of the top three teams. However, the order may not be what you expect, with Uzbekistan currently in second with 9 points and South Korea in third with 7 points. Also, Iran leads that group with 10 points. They're four games in, so there's still six to go. I don't really expect Syria, Qatar, or China to make any late pushes, though one can continue to marvel at just how bad China is at men's soccer. They've got 1 draw (against Iran, at home) and 3 losses. I would not be shocked if they finished at the bottom of the group.

Over in Group B, it's a similar story. Saudi Arabia, Australia, and Japan lead the group with 10, 8, and 7 points, respectively. However, the United Arab Emirates are right there with 6 points. Behind there are Iraq with 3 points and a very woeful Thailand. (Seriously, if China's got anything going for them, it's that they probably won't be the first team eliminated from this round of Asian qualifying.) I expect the teams currently in the top three to finish in the top three, but it'll take some time to figure out how it'll shake out.

African qualifying finally got under way this month, however, after November the five groups of four won't resume until next August due to the African Cup of Nations next summer. So honestly, there's not much to talk about, but I'll mention two things.
  • Egypt is in the same group as Ghana. Recall that it was Ghana that brutally (7-3 on aggregate) eliminated the Egyptians from their inspired run to the last round of African qualifying during the last World Cup cycle. They will play in Alexandria in November.
  • Qualifying geeks will remember Cape Verde from four years ago, when in their last game in the second round of qualifying, they appeared to beat Tunisia 2-0, eliminating Tunisia. However, they fielded a player who was on a four game suspension due to a red card and related actions, so the game was awarded to Tunisia. Tunisia wound losing 4-1 on aggregate to Cameroon. This time around, Cape Verde started off with a 2-0 loss to Senegal.
The CONCACAF fourth round concluded back in September, with no real surprises. The group winners were Mexico, Costa Rica, and the United States. The group runners-up were Honduras, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago. Notable misses were Canada and Guatemala, which wound up a point short in their groups. 

The firth round, or Hexagonal, kicks off in about a month. I'll be in Columbus, Ohio at the time. In a stunning coincidence, the US will also play Mexico there at the same time. I'm looking forward to it.

That said, if I had to pick the qualifiers, I think Mexico, the US, and Costa Rica will qualify, with Panama in fourth. Honduras just hasn't been the same since their 2014 World Cup run. In addition to the Mexico game, the US will go on the road to Costa Rica the following Tuesday, so that'll be two very important games right away.

We're just past half way through the South American qualifiers, with 10 matches played and 8 to go. And boy howdy, the table is currently a doozy. Brazil is on top with 21 points, which makes sense until you remember that they've had an awful run of it since the 2014 World Cup and just fired their coach after the Copa America Centenario. Uruguay is in second with 20 points, followed by Ecuador and Colombia with 17. Okay, makes sense so far, but it seems like there's two teams missing. Well, Argentina is fifth with 16 points. Messi currently has 1 goal from the run of play. Paraguay is behind them with 15 points, and then finally the team that went into the start of qualifying as Copa America champs and then reconfirmed it this past summer, Chile, is in 7th with 14 points. They're 1-1-2 since qualifying resumed.

The matchdays for November look pretty bonkers. On the 10th, Chile plays at Colombia, Ecuador plays at Uruguay, and Argentina will visit Brazil. Five days later, you'll get Colombia at Argentina and Uruguay at Chile. Seriously, watch these games if you get a chance.

They'll actually play some games in November, but nonetheless if New Zealand loses any of them it'd be a shocking upset.

Europe finally started qualifying back in September and we're three games in. Let's go over the groups real quick. Thanks to Gibraltar and Kosovo gaining entrance to FIFA, Europe now features 9 groups of 6. The top team qualifies directly, the top-eight runners-up are paired up and played-off for the remaining four spots from Europe.

Group A features France, Sweden, and the Netherlands. The Dutch are fresh off not qualifying for the Euros this past summer and aren't off to great that of a start here, sitting on a loss to France, a draw with Sweden, and a victory over Belarus.

Group B features Swizerland and Portugal. I don't anticipate any other team coming close here. Ronaldo scoring four goals against Andorra might be the most notable thing that's happened so far. Well, other than them losing to the Swiss.

Group C features Germany and some other teams. Right now Azerbaijan is in second with 7 points, but don't expect that to hold with Norway, the Czech Republic, and Northern Ireland in the mix. This is definitely a competition for second place, though.

Group D features Serbia, Ireland, and one of Euro 2016's darlings, Wales. However, the Welsh are off to a pretty disappointing start, drawing with Georgia their last time out.

Group E is a group in UEFA's qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. Montenegro is currently tied with Poland on 7 points for the group. Denmark is currently sitting fourth with just 3 points.

Group F features England, who are currently in the lead, meaning that English fans still aren't happen since they only have seven of nine possible points. (And even then...) Scotland is also there, but really the teams to look out for are Slovenia and Slovakia, which of course ignores the team actually in second right now: Lithuania.

Group G is Spain and Italy. There are four other teams, which are Albania, Israel, Macednia, and Liechtenstein, but let's be serious, this is about which of Spain and Italy gets to qualify directly for the World Cup.

Group H features an apparently fully functional battlestation in the form of Belgium, which has 9 points. That said, the rest of the group isn't much to look at . Greece also has 9 points, then there's Bosnia and Estonia, and, well, Cyprus and World Cup qualifying newbies Gibraltar. Hey, you guys wanted in, right?

Group I is our final group, and it will probably be pretty spicy. Croatia and Iceland are currently in the lead, but Ukraine and Turkey are right there. This one should be pretty wide open.

That's about it, for now. We'll wrap things up for the year after next month's games. Until then, back to our regularly scheduled college football programming.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

This Weekend in College Football: Week 6

I have to confess, y'all: when I was walking home tonight, I considered doing these picks all rapid-fire like in the form of a video. But then I considered that for the video to be anything other than me drunkenly rambling off attributes of college football teams, I'd actually need to some preparation, which, well, would probably have wound taking as long as it normally does to write this, if not longer. So!

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.


11:30: Cincinnati @ Connecticut (CBSS): Wake up early for this battle of the... two teams at the basement of the AAC East division? Okay, maybe don't. Also going with Cincy.

  • Notre Dame @ North Carolina State (ABC): The Wolfpack are 3-1, but, well, even at 2-3 the Domers are their stiffest test of the year thus far. Also not helping the 'Pack is that Notre Dame was rejuvenated last week against Syracuse, to to the tune of scoring 50. So I'm going with them.
  • Louisiana State @ Florida Auburn @ Mississippi State (ESPN): This game slides up from the SEC Network slot and, in some ways, this is might be Fired Bowl II. Dan Mullen is not exactly having a very good go of it this year, and unlike his counterpart across the field this year, he did not beat LSU. In addition, Miss State only beat UMass by 8 last week. Oof. I think Auburn's going to win this one, which might make Gus Malzahn some sort of Southern grim reaper.
  • Iowa @ Minnesota (ESPN2): The only appropriate scenario for this game is for Kirk Ferentz's contract to become more of a joke, so yeah, Minnesota's going to win.
  • Texas vs. Oklahoma (@Dallas, TX; FS1): I have no idea what to say about this game, other than that since Oklahoma a) blew it last year and b) is kinda not having a great season this year means that they'll defy expectations and win by 40. That will also make the "we don't fire coaches mid-season" thing even more uncomfortable down in Austin.
  • Texas Christian @ Kansas (ESPNU): TCU.
  • East Carolina @ South Florida (ESPNEWS): USF.
  • Maryland @ Pennsylvania State (BTN): I'm not sure I'm prepared for a universe where Maryland doesn't suck, but I'm pretty okay with one where they beat Penn State.
12:30: Georgia Tech @ Pittsburgh (ACC): Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, Georgia Tech will play at Heinz Field to take on the Pittsburgh Panthers.
Okay, so there's a lot of ways to approach this game. This team's got issues, but quitting isn't one of them, at least. Frankly, I think Miami is getting way too much of a pass for basically winning on a pair of defensive touchdowns. Of course, while that was pretty much the worst possible outcome on those pairs of plays, it's not like the offensive line covered themselves in glory in valiant effort to prevent Justin Thomas from getting blindsided on the first one, so yeah. It wasn't a good look! Yet, this team is still better than last year's version. Are they good enough to beat an improved Pitt team that has, by all indications, a pretty good run defense? We're about to find out!

3:00: Houston @ Navy (CBSS): This vintage of Navy isn't good enough to really challenge Houston, but this one contains a very slight chance it could be entertaining as hell. It's probably the most interesting game the Cougars will play until they play Louisville next month.

  • Tennessee @ Texas A&M (CBS): Don't look, but TAMU is very quietly 3-0 in the SEC, with their strongest effort being the time they pulled away from Arkansas in the second half. Their other two SEC wins are less impressive, but they're still good. My hunch is that this were the luck runs out for the Vols.
  • Virginia Tech @ North Carolina (ABC/ESPN2): It's the first reverse split of the year! Woo! Anyway, enough geeking out about TV coverage, let's talk this important battle in the ACC Coastal. Carolina still can't defend anyone, but it's cool because they've still got an offense to match. We've still only got early returns in so far, but it looks like VPI is also offensively competent for the first time in, well, awhile. Still going with UNC until I get a better feel for what's going in in Blacksburg.
  • Brigham Young @ Michigan State (ABC/ESPN2): Losing by a combined score of 54-27 to Wisconsin and Indiana is not the brand of football I generally associated with Michigan State, but here we are. Fortunately for them, BYU has been slightly more challenged against defenses that have a pulse, so this should work out slightly better for them.
  • Indiana @ Ohio State (ESPN): "Hey so Indiana beat Michigan State last week, maybe they can—" No, just stop right there.
  • Iowa State @ Oklahoma State (ESPNU): Iowa State is still kinda bad, so there at least some constants in this world.
  • Purdue @ Illinois (BTN): Well, this definitely isn't the game that will make me complain that Comcast doesn't carry the Big Ten Network in HD here. Uh, Illinois I guess?
  • Army @ Duke (ACC/RSN): Things looked to be going well for Army with a legitimate chance at getting to 6 wins, but then they lost to Buffalo. They're currently 3-1 and they play two FCS teams, so only one of them will count. So that's probably 4-1. From there, they need to beat two out of Duke, North Texas, Wake Forest, Air Force, Notre Dame, and Navy. The only win I see on there is UNT, so yeah, it's an uphill battle now.
  • Vanderbilt @ Kentucky (SEC): Seriously, move Alabama and Auburn to the East and Kentucky or Vandy to the West. No one will notice this game doesn't get played all that often as a result. I promise. In the meantime, uh, well, maybe a Vandy will finally put Mark Stoops out of his misery?
  • Colorado @ Southern California (Pac12): I think Colorado being "back" is going to be pretty short-lived, as it appears that yeah, Oregon just is that bad. The Trojans meanwhile managed to get the ship to stop listing as much with a pretty resounding win over Arizona State, which is a trend that I think will continue here.
6:30: Northern Illinois @ Western Michigan (CBSS): PJ Fleck continues rowing to a once-in-a-lifetime payday.

  • Alabama @ Arkansas (ESPN): The conventional wisdom in college football is that when a team is known for doing something really well, you don't try to beat them at their own game. This often takes the form of a phase like "you're not going to out-Alabama Alabama". Often cited exampled are when Michigan State played Alabama in a bowl game a couple years ago, where they, well, failed to out-Alabama Alabama despite trying very hard to to do so. On the flip, this occasionally works, such as last weekend when Washington announced to the nation the Huskies are for real by out-Stanfording Stanford. I have a feeling, though, that will prove out to be the exception that proves the rule.
  • Michigan @ Rutgers (ESPN2): Name your score, Wolverines.
  • Texas Tech @ Kansas State (ESPNU): I just don't see how K-State can score enough points to win this game.
  • Syracuse @ Wake Forest (ACC/RSN): I can't believe I'm about to type this, but here we are: I'm picking Wake Forest.
7:30: Washington @ Oregon (FOX): So, yeah, I'm going to guess this isn't quite what FOX signed up for when they picked this game. This figures to be a national coming out party for UDub, and whatever the opposite of that is for the Ducks.

8:00: Florida State @ Miami (ABC): Speaking of proving a point, the 'Canes will look to do that here against what looks like a shadow of the FSU teams of the past few years. This FSU team is still good, don't get me wrong, but they're not one of the best two teams in the ACC right now, and after this game, they probably won't even be in the top three.

9:00: California @ Oregon State (Pac12): Well, Oregon has this last least: they are not nearly as catastrophically bad as Oregon State is right now. I'm not sure the Beavers are going to win a game, but they're playing Cal this week, so the Bears will either win 60-3 or lose 12-9, who knows. While I'm here, let's all enjoy a private moment and chuckle about the fact Cal won their game against Utah last week on a goal line stand.

  • Arizona @ Utah (FS1): Speaking of Da U(tes), their inability to score on Cal's defense aside, I think they're still a better team than Arizona.
  • Utah State @ Colorado State (CBSS): Uh, Aggies, I guess? The bottom of the Mountain West looks pretty brutal this year, y'all.
  • Washington State @ Stanford (ESPN): If you're wondering why all of a sudden people are starting to stick a fork in Oregon, it's because they played Wazzou last weekend and it was bad. Washington State, a team that pretty much only runs to set up the pass, rushed for 280 yards of offense. Don't worry though, they still threw the ball 48 times for 371 yards and won 51-33. Yeah. Naturally, this of course means things are pretty much going to plan for the Cougars: lose to an FCS team, then reel off a respectable conference run and make a bowl game. All that said, and despite what happened to Stanford last week, yeah, Stanford's still going to win.
  • California-Los Angeles @ Arizona State (ESPN2): It's UCLA's turn with the Sun Devils, and think the results will be pretty similar to what their cross-town rivals did.
  • Nevada-Las Vegas @ San Diego State (ESPNU): SDSU is probably going to make the Mountain West title game, so naturally they were last seen two weeks ago losing by 18 to South Alabama. Whoops. They should be able to take care of business here though.

2:30: Georgia @ South Carolina (SEC): 10 years ago I probably would've recommended watching this game over the NFL, but, well, we've got the Red Zone channel these days and the NFL really has gotten more interesting as they've cribbed offensive ideas from college and there's really no reason to subject yourself to Big Dumb Will Muschamp Football. At any rate, Georgia should be able to get over what happened last week pretty quickly.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

This Weekend in College Football: Week 5

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Texas @ Oklahoma State (ABC): Texas and Georgia are still ranked, thus proving the worthlessness of rankings at any point before mid-October, at best. At any rate, Texas will roll into Stillwater to face an Oklahoma State team that is somehow both better than I thought and worse at the same time. This is also Texas's first game since the debacle in Berkeley, and struggling to say whether that performance was just a product of the pressure that Cal's offense places on teams or that Texas's defense just isn't good. This week, at least, I'm going with the former.
  • Notre Dame vs. Syracuse (@East Rutherford, NJ; ESPN): Yes, the Domers lost to Duke last weekend, and this isn't a "pretty good" Duke team like in the past few years. Nonetheless, I don't think they'll have any issues with Syracuse. If they do, I'd say Brian Kelly's days are numbered, if they aren't already.
  • Miami @ Georgia Tech (ESPN2): So, uh, as it turns out, Clemson is a pretty good football team. Miami probably is, too, but we're the first real opponent they've played this season. There's some reason to believe we won't be whipped as thoroughly, but if we really want to make anything of this season, it's gotta happen Saturday.
  • Baylor @ Iowa State (FS1): Baylor.
  • Northwestern @ Iowa (ESPNU): One thing both these teams have in common: losses to FCS teams! Iowa still actually plays defense, though, so they'll probably win.
  • Southern Methodist @ Temple (ESPNEWS): Temple?
  • Florida @ Vanderbilt (SEC): The other SEC team from Tennessee might have some frustrations taken out on it here.
  • Rutgers @ Ohio State (BTN): Ohio State.
  • Central Florida @ East Carolina (CBSS): UCF is better this year, yes, but are they better enough? I'm still leaning toward no.
12:30: Virginia @ Duke (ACC): I know I said Duke isn't that good this year, but hey, Brono Mendenhall, what's going in Charlottesville? I'll take Duke here.

  • Tennessee @ Georgia (CBS): These teams are coming at this game from totally different angles. Tennessee is ebullient after finally taking down Florida. Georgia is, well, whatever the opposite of "ebullient" is after getting thoroughly trashed by Ole Miss. The thing is, I didn't think Georgia was that good anyway, so I'm going with the Vols to keep it up.
  • Wisconsin @ Michigan (ABC): Boy howdy, Wisconsin sure did a thing to Sparty last weekend, huh? I don't think this Michigan team will be caught so unawares, though.
  • North Carolina @ Florida State (ESPN): In order to say relevant as anything other than a spoiler in the ACC, FSU needs this game. Technically, that will be true, of, well, any of their conference games, but Carolina figures to be one of their three toughest remaining tests (along with Miami and Clemson). If they fail here, that's that for the 'Noles this year. I think they'll pass.
  • Illinois @ Nebraska (ESPN2): Nebraska, probably?
  • Kansas State @ West Virginia (ESNPU): West Virginia hasn't really looked very good so far this year. I have my reservations about K-State, but I'll pick them here and then we can re-evaluate these teams next weekend.
  • Louisiana-Monroe @ Auburn (SEC): Okay, so, we joked about the Fired Bowl last weekend, but as it turns out, well, someone got fired, and it wasn't Gus Malzahn. I nearly suffixed that sentence with a "...yet", though. I don't think this Monroe team is good enough to win or anything, but somehow, it wouldn't surprise me.
  • Minnesota @ Pennsylvania State (BTN): I'm going to have to go with the Golden Gophers here.
  • Navy @ Air Force (CBSS): Both the academies here are undefeated so far this year, so the first round of the Command-in-Chief's trophy will knock someone from those ranks. The question is, of course, who? It'll be fun, but I'm going with the Falcons.
  • Wake Forest @ North Carolina State (ACC/RSN): *looks up both teams, cringes, types in "Wake Forest?"* Wake Forest?
4:00: Texas A&M @ South Carolina (SEC): I didn't see that coming last weekend, but is it possible the Aggies are actually good this year? If they can do what they did to Arkansas on any sort of consistent basis... oof. At any rate, the Gamecocks won't be able to score enough.

5:00: Oklahoma @ Texas Christian (FOX): Oklahoma was supposed to be the class of the Big 12 this year, but their blowout loss to Ohio State mainly served to show how far behind the conference is. TCU comes in, seemingly having lost their way on defense, which must drive Gary Patterson nuts. I think this game could go either way, so I'm picking TCU, fulling expecting to be wrong.

6:00: Utah @ California (Pac12): Unstoppable force, meet immovable object. But unlike a lot of defense-focused teams, the Utes can score enough to keep up with the Bears, and it seems more likely Utah will come up with the stop or two they'll need than Cal.

  • Kentucky @ Alabama (ESPN): Kentucky, just show up with 7 guys and say you don't have enough people to play. Everyone will understand.
  • Memphis @ Mississippi (ESPN2): As you may recall, last year Memphis completely disrupted Ole Miss's playoff campaign. Justin Fuente parlayed that win (and others) into the Virginia Tech job, but as it turns out, the Tigers didn't pull a Vandy are actually still kinda good. I still wouldn't pick them to win this game, but this is going to be the game to watch in this timeslot, that's for sure.
  • South Florida @ Cincinnati (ESPNU):
  • Western Michigan @ Central Michigan (CBSS): ROW THAT BOAT.
  • Florida Atlantic @ Florida International (beIN): One of these teams is 1-3 and the other is 0-4. Should you watch this battle for second-tier Miami area supremacy? Probably not. But I'm here to tell you that you absolutely can. Also going with FAU.
  • Missouri @ Louisiana State (SEC): Well, on the one hand, DACOACHO is back in the ranks of college football coaching. Of course, the question after this if Ed Orgeron appears on your coaching staff, does that definitely mean that you're on the hot seat? (Remember, his last gig before this was the interim coach at Southern Cal.) At any rate, I hope this stint is as successful for DACOACHO as his previous one, as I can't think of any better match for this school and that man. And I'm picking them to win this one.
  • Marshall @ Pittsburgh (ACC/RSN): Pitt.
  • Louisville @ Clemson (ABC): Drop everything and watch this game. With the night game in Death Valley, I don't think the Cardinals are going to do to Clemson what they did to FSU. Also, Clemson's defense, especially their defensive line, is just really good. I have no idea who is going to win, because I think both these teams are pretty good, but I'm giving a slight edge to Clemson, just because it's at home.
  • San Diego State @ South Alabama (ESPNEWS): Aztecs.
  • Michigan State @ Indiana (BTN): Well, I didn't see that coming. "That" being Michigan State's kinda blowout loss to Wisconsin last weekend. But hey, Indiana is a pretty good chance to recover and get back on the right track, you know?
8:30: Arizona State @ Southern California (FOX): Speaking of places where Ed Orgeron was previously an interim coach, well, it looks like the Trojans are part of the way to having another interim. After all, who was it that got Lane Kiffin fired on the tarmac? Why, the Arizona Sun Devils, of course! That said, this game is at the Coliseum, so presumably they won't have to drive over to LAX after they lose to fire Clay Helton.

9:30: Oregon @ Washington State (Pac12): Yeah, so I think the good old days are pretty much done for the ducks, but Wazzou provides a chance to make it look they aren't.
  • Utah State @ Boise State (ESPN2): Boise enters with a pretty good chance to assert itself in the Mountain West, and I think they'll take advantage.
  • Wyoming @ Colorado State (ESPNU): Wyoming, because why not? I wish this were in Laramie, though, 'cause dem (ugly) uniforms.
  • Fresno State @ Nevada-Las Vegas (CBSS): Both of these teams are 1-3, but UNLV's at least had less blowout losses, from a quick glance, so let's go with them.
  • Arizona @ California-Los Angeles (ESPN): #pac12afterdark! Seriously, it's fun how much they folks out here have leaned into that hashtag. Both of these teams have been pretty inconsistent so far, but that's just the way things go out here on the left coast sometimes. I'll go with UCLA so I can get this thing wrapped up.