Thursday, December 28, 2017

Bowl Games 2017: Arriving at the Ballroom

My overall percentage has perked up to 40%, despite a brutal day on Wednesday where I went 0-4. That said, we're in the homestretch now. Today we'll cover today's and tomorrow's game, and a separate post will cover the New Year's Day games. Also, the master bowl page is updated with predictions for all the remaining games.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Friday, December 29
1:00: Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M (Belk Bowl @ Charlotte, NC; ESPN): This is once again a hard to read game because by any reasonable standard, TAMU is more talented than Wake. The problem is, bowl games lean a lot on who's more motivated, and I would think that would go to the Demon Deacons, given the offeseason drama at TAMU. But in this case I can't ignore the talent gap and besides, you can come up with narratives where the Aggies would be motivated (i.e., send out the interim coach with a win, impress Jimbo Fisher, etc.). So I'm going with a narrow Aggie win here.
S&P+ line: Wake by 5.4
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: For Wake, this is their second straight bowl. Last season they beat Temple 24-26 in the Military Bowl. This is TAMU's ninth straight bowl game, going back to the 2009 Independence Bowl where they lost 44-20 to Georgia. Last year, they lost 33-28 to Kansas State in the Texas Bowl.
Announcers: Jason Benetti and Kelly Stouffer

3:00: North Carolina State vs. Arizona State (Sun Bowl @ El Paso, TX; CBS): Okay, speaking of motivation, the tire fire of a coaching situation that Arizona State makes it hard to be optimistic about the Sun Devils' situation. (In case you aren't aware, ASU fired coach Todd Graham after the season, and then bizarrely hired Herm Edwards, who hasn't coach in college in literal decades. The reason cited for this is because they wanted a "CEO type" guy and they wanted to keep their coordinators. Naturally, both coordinators left within a week, which makes the plan look even more bizarre.) At any rate, the Wolfpack offense is potent enough to make Arizona State's awful defense pay, so I'm going with them.
S&P+ line: NCSU by 5.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Back in 1960, ASU won 25-22, and then in 1974 NCSU won 35-14.
Last bowl game: This is the fourth straight bowl game for the Wolfpack, going back to a 2014 Bitcoin Bowl win over UCF, 34-27. Last year they defeated Vanderbilt 41-17 in the Independence Bowl. ASU's last bowl was the 2015-16 Cactus Bowl, where they lost 43-42 to West Virginia.
Announcers: Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson

4:30: Northwestern vs. Kentucky (Music City Bowl @ Nashville, TN; ESPN): Kentucky comes in 7-5 and sporting the 91st and 81st ranked scoring offenses and defenses, respectively. Northwestern has a pretty good defense and a much more solid resume at 9-3. Stuff can happen in bowl games, yes, but this opening Big Ten vs. SEC salvo (and Wildcats vs. Wildcats!) should go to the team from the Chicago 'burbs.
S&P+ line: Northwestern by 9.1
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Just one, back in 1928. Northwestern won 7-0.
Last bowl game: This is the third straight bowl for the Chicago-based Wildcats, going back to the 2015-16 Outback Bowl, where they lost 45-6 to Tennessee. Last season they beat Pitt in the Pinstripe Bowl 31-24. Kentucky lost 33-18 to Georgia Tech in last season's Taxslayer Bowl.
Announcers: Taylor Zarzour and Andre Ware

5:30: Utah State vs. New Mexico State (Arizona Bowl @ Tuscon, AZ; CBSS): The main reason to care about this game at all is that New Mexico State is about to get the boot from the Sun Belt yet managed to go 6-6 and secure their first bowl bid since 1960. And, well, the Northwestern-Kentucky game figures to be kind of boring and low scoring. This figures not to be low scoring, but mostly in the sense that this is likely to be a Utah State rout, but hey, it's NMSU's first bowl in 67 years, anything can happen! (Also, somehow this game also has two teams with the same nickname, these two both being Aggies.)
S&P+ line: Utah State by 2.2
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: Their first meeting of 37 total was back in the 1960 Sun Bowl (more on that in a second). Since, both were in the WAC for a bit, so they've racked up the meetings, but after meeting nearly every year from 1985 through 2012, Utah State has a 30-7 series lead.
Last bowl game: Utah State's last bowl appearance was the 2015 Potato Bowl, where they lost 23-21 to Akron. This is New Mexico State's fourth bowl all-time, and the first one that's not a Sun Bowl. Their last bowl game was the 1960 Sun Bowl against... Utah State. They won 20-13.
Announcers: Dave Ryan and Corey Chavous

8:30: Southern California vs. Ohio State (Cotton Bowl @ Arlington, TX; ESPN): Ohio State has looked like a legitimately great team for most of the season, except for that one time against the guy who won the Heisman and, well, it's well established at this point that Kinnick Stadium is where Big Ten East title contenders go to die. The Trojans also look like a great team (hey, they won the Pac-12), but then you look at their numbers and realize they don't really hold a candle to the Buckeyes. That said, the Trojans are talented enough to keep the game close, but ultimately, I think, not close enough.
S&P+ line: Ohio State by 12.1
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: Twenty-three, and as you might guess, there's a handful of Rose Bowls involved. Seven, to be exact. That means, though, the other sixteen were regular season matchups, dating back to the 1937 tilt that USC won 13-12. From 1937 through 1949 they'd play eight times total, with the Buckeyes taking a 4-3-1 series lead. They then met in the 1954-55 Rose Bowl, which Ohio St won 20-7. From there, they met a few more times in the regular season and then played in six Rose Bowls, including consecutive appearances from the 1972-73 and 1974-75 seasons. USC has won seven in a row dating to the 1974-75 Rose Bowl and then regular season matchups in 1989, 1990, 2008, and 2009. The Trojans hold a 13-9-1 all-time series lead.
Last bowl game: This is USC's sixth straight bowl, going back to the the 2012 Sun Bowl, which they lost 21-7 to Georgia Tech. Last season they prevailed 52-49 in a classic Rose Bowl over Penn State. This is the fifth straight bowl game for Ohio State, going back to a 40-35 loss to Clemson in the 2012-13 Orange Bowl. Last season they got blanked by Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, 31-0.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Brock Huard

Saturday, December 30
Noon: Louisville vs. Mississippi State (Taxslayer Bowl @ Jacksonville, FL; ESPN): It's your last chance to watch Lamar Jackson desperately try to keep his team's above water, since he can't really help them play defense. That said, Mississippi State is probably bad enough that it can work, but you really can't count out the Cardinals defense's ability to make anyone look good. I still like them here, though.
S&P+ line: Louisville by 2.3
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Four, and all in the regular season from 1973-1976. Louisville lost all four.
Last bowl game: This is Louisville's eighth straight bowl game, going back to a 31-28 win over Southern Miss in the Beef 'O'Brady's bowl in 2010. Last season Lamar Jackson and Co. lost to LSU 29-9 in the Citrus Bowl. The Bulldogs are in their eighth straight bowl game going back to the 2010-11 Gator Bowl, a 52-14 win over Michigan. Last season they defeated Miami (the one in Ohio) 17-16 in the St. Petersburg Bowl.
Announcers: Tom Hart and Jordan Rodgers
Fun fact: It's not really fun, per se, but remember college football fans: the upside of Lamar Jackson not really getting any NFL draft buzz is that it likely means he'll end up with a good team that knows how to use him and not, you know, the Browns.

12:30: Iowa State vs. Memphis (Liberty Bowl @ Memphis, TN; ABC): The Cyclones will be right at home defending Memphis's spread passing attack. Additionally, Memphis needs to watch out for the fact that they're actually favored and playing at home, which is a good way to ensure that Iowa State will be both up for this game and completely willing to pull off the upset (see: Oklahoma and TCU). In other words, I'm talking myself into taking this mild upset and picking the Cyclones.
S&P+ line: Memphis by 4.6
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: For the Cyclones, this is their first bowl game since the 2012 Liberty Bowl, a 31-17 loss to Tulsa. For Memphis, they've got a four game bowl streak going back to the 2014 Miami Beach Bowl, a 55-48 brawltastic win over BYU. Last season they lost 51-31 to Western Kentucky in the Boca Raton Bowl.
Announcers: Mike Patrick and Tommy Tuberville

4:00: Washington vs. Pennsylvania State (Fiesta Bowl @ Glendale, AZ; ESPN): Washington comes in with a pretty good defense, but Penn State comes in with both a really good offense and a really good defense. I'm figuring the Huskies are going to have a hard time keeping up with the Nittany Lions, but I'm also secretly hoping that we get as good of a game as we did in last season's Rose Bowl.
S&P+ line: UDub by 0.1
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Two. Penn State won the first one in the 1921 regular season 21-7, and then won 13-10 in the 1983 Aloha Bowl.
Last bowl game: This is UDub's eighth straight bowl, going back to the 2010 Holiday Bowl, a 19-7 win over Nebraska. Last season they lost their playoff game in the Peach Bowl 24-7 in the Peach Bowl. This is the Nittany Lions's fourth straight bowl, going back to a 31-30 win over Boston College in the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Pasch and Greg McElroy

8:00: Miami vs. Wisconsin (Orange Bowl @ Miami Gardens, FL; ESPN): Everyone and everything favors Wisconsin. The Badgers are big, beefy, can run the ball and pass pretty competently when they need to. They play an aggressive and dominating brand of defense. And boy howdy, sitting on a .400 winning percentage after 25 games picking winners and losers should motivate me to stick to the chalk. So... I'm picking Miami. Yes, a Miami team that got absolutely destroyed by Clemson in the ACC title game after blowing a playoff shot by losing to an awful Pitt team. Why? The usual reason one favors Florida teams over teams from the Midwest: they're faster. Look, who knows which version of the Canes actually shows up, but I feel like we already saw this movie in Miami's brutal 41-8 win over Notre Dame.
S&P+ line: Wisconsin by 7.6
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Four. Wisconsin won the first back in the 1958 regular season, 20-0. Miami reeled off two straight during their heyday, though. In 1988 they won 23-3 and then in 1989 they delievered a 51-3 walloping. Wisconsin got the last laugh back in the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl, though, with a 20-14 win.
Last bowl game: For the Canes, this is their fifth straight bowl, going back to the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl, a 36-9 loss to Louisville. Last season, they beat West Virginia 31-14 in the Russell Athletic Bowl. For the Badgers, this is their sixteenth straight bowl game, going back to the 2002 Alamo Bowl, a 31-28 win over Colorado. Last season, they beat Western Michigan 24-16 in the Cotton Bowl.
Announcers: Steve Levy and Brian Griese

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Bowl Games 2017: Warming Up for the Big Dance

When you see how badly my predictions have gone so far, just remember the below disclaimer:

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Tuesday, December 26
1:30: West Virginia vs. Utah (Heart of Dallas Bowl @ Dallas, TX; ESPN): Ah, the Zombie Cotton Bowl gets us back into the swing of things. Anyway, I don't have a very good read on this game, to be honest. WVU is kind of stumbling in after losing their last two, and really it's not like Utah is that much better, though they did at least have the benefit of beating Utah 34-13 in their final game and giving Washington all they wanted. WVU's offense is more potent and Utah's pass defense is kind of mediocre, so I'm going with the 'Neers, barely.
S&P+ line: Utah by 3.8
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Just one, back in the 1964 Liberty Bowl. Utah won, 32-6.
Last bowl game: West Virginia is on a four game bowl streak, starting with the 2014 Liberty Bowl, which they lost 45-37 to Texas A&M. Last year, they lost 31-14 to Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl. For the Utes, this is also their fourth straight bowl, going back to the 2014 Las Vegas Bowl where they beat Colorado State 45-10. Last season, they defeated Indiana in the Foster Farms Bowl 26-24.
Announcers: Roy Philpott and Rene Ingoglia

5:15: Northern Illinois vs. Duke (Quick Lane Bowl @ Detroit, MI; ESPN): These two teams have similar strengths: kind of mediocre offenses paired with above-average defenses. In that situation, I'll take the Power 5 team every time.
S&P+ line: NIU by 3.6
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: NIU had an eight-game bowl streak snapped last season, so their last appearance was the 2015 Poinsettia Bowl, where they lost 55-7 to Boise State. Duke's last postseason appearance was the 2015 Pinstripe Bowl, where they defeated Indiana 44-41.
Announcers: Mike Couzens and Ray Bentley

9:00: Kansas State vs. California-Los Angeles (Cactus Bowl @ Phoenix, AZ; ESPN): Around mid-October, I'd written off Bill Synder's wizardry and the Wildcats. Naturally, K-State rallied to win 4 of their last 5 including an upset on the road at Oklahoma State. UCLA is pretty much... well, I just think K-State will be more motivated.
S&P+ line: K-State by 0.9
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Three of them, and all relatively recently. There was a reguar season series in 2009 and 2010. UCLA won the first 23-9, and K-State won 31-22 in the second. They then met in the 2014-15 Alamo Bowl, where UCLA won 40-35.
Last bowl game: This is K-State's eighth straight bowl game, going back to the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl, which they lost 36-34 to Sryacuse. Last season they beat Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl 33-28. UCLA's last bowl game was the 2015 Foster Farms Bowl, where they lost 37-29 to Nebraska.
Announcers: Jason Benetti and Jordan Rodgers

Wednesday, December 27
1:30: Florida State vs. Southern Mississippi (Independence Bowl @ Shreveport, LA; ESPN): Whether or not FSU is technically eligible for this game is kind of beside the point. The point is that it's incredible hard to predict victory here for a team that just saw their coach voluntarily leave for an arguably worse job (after all, how many BCS bowl/playoff bids does Texas A&M have?) after they had to play a rescheduled game to wind up in Shreveport, of all places. (And no, it's not going to snow.) I'll take USM here based entirely on motivation.
S&P+ line: Southern Miss by 3.7
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: Twenty-two! They played 6 times from 1952-1957, and then 4 times between 1960 and 1964, 5 times in the 70's and then 6 times in the 80's. However, after FSU joined the ACC they've met just once, in 1996. Southern Miss led the series 6-3-1 before FSU became, well, FSU in the 70's, and since then FSU has taken a 13-8-1 series lead. FSU won the last meeting in 1996 54-14.
Last bowl game: As we all know, Florida State has the longest active bowl streak in the country, now numbering 36 consecutive postseason appearances. Once again, I'll point that the streak started in the 1982 Gator Bowl, where they beat West Virginia 31-12. And Shreveport probably feels a lot farther away from Miami than it actually is, as that's where FSU defeated Michigan 33-32 last season in the Orange Bowl. For Southern Miss, this is their third straight bowl game. They lost 44-31 to Washington in the Zombie Cotton Bowl two seasons ago and beat UL-Lafayette 28-31 in the New Orleans Bowl last year.
Announcers: Anish Shroff and Ahmad Brooks

5:15: Boston College vs. Iowa (Pinstripe Bowl @ New York, NY; ESPN): Boston College's weirdly resurgent offense finally gets a national stage, and it maybe worth watching just to see Iowa fans react to seeing something that looks a lot like what the platonic ideal of Iowa offense is.
S&P+ line: Iowa by 3.3
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Boston College defeated Maryland in last year's Quick Lane Bowl 36-30. For the Hawkeyes, this is their fifth straight bowl game, going back to the 2012-13 Outback Bowl, where they lost 21-14 to LSU. Last season they also lost in the Outback Bowl, 30-3 to Florida.
Announcers: Kevin Negandhi, Mack Brown, and Booger McFarland

8:30: Purdue vs. Arizona (Foster Farms Bowl @ Santa Clara, CA; FOX): This is pretty much the exact definition of a college football hipster game. You've got Jeff Brohm's new-look Purdue offense versus the most exciting player in college football you've probably never heard of in Khalil Tate. The problem for Purdue this year is that it's been tough sledding for that offense for any defense with a pulse, which unfortunately for them is most of the Big Ten. But! Arizona's defense is awful, so they'll have a chance in this one. I still like the Wildcats, though I could see this one coming down to who has the ball last.
S&P+ line: Purdue by 1.6
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Just two, both in the regular season. Purdue won 59-7 in 2003 and 31-24 in 2005.
Last bowl game: Purdue's last postseason appearance was the 2012-13 Heart of Dallas Bowl, where they lost 58-14 to Oklahoma State. Arizona's was the 2015 New Mexico Bowl, where they beat New Mexico 45-37.
Announcers: Joe Davis and Brady Quinn

9:00: Texas vs. Missouri (Texas Bowl @ Houston, TX; ESPN): Mizzou started out 1-5 and was left for dead, so naturally they discovered a passing offense and reeled off six in a row as their schedule got significantly easier. The main problem for the Longhorns is that they aren't particularly good at anything, and their offense has looked downright awful at times this year. That said, I could see Texas getting a lot better... next season. I like the Tigers here.
S&P+ line: Mizzou by 4.3
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Texas holds an all-time 17-6 series lead, which doesn't seem like a lot until you remember that they were only really in the same conference for about 20 years. The series does go all the way back to 1894, though (Mizzou won 28-0) and the two met in the 1945-46 Cotton Bowl (Texas won 40-27). Since 1931, Texas is 16-2 and was 7-2 when they were both in the Big 12, though Mizzou did win the last meeting in 2011 17-5.
Last bowl game: It's kind of hard to believe, but this is the first bowl game for Texas since the 2014 Texas Bowl, where they lost 31-7 to Arkansas. Mizzou's last bowl was the 2014-15 Citrus Bowl, where they beat Minnesota 33-17.
Announcers: Adam Amin and Dusty Dvoracek

Thursday, December 28
1:30: Virginia vs. Navy (Military Bowl @ Annapolis, MD; ESPN): This game got a Tier II rating below because, hey, Navy's fun to watch, but less fun is to note that they've lost six of their last seven. Of course, UVA's not that much better in that regard. After getting to six wins against Georgia Tech (ugh), they immediately lost their last three games including a 10-0 clunker to Virginia Tech, meaning the Cavs have lost five of their last six. In a battle of who's probably going to be more motivated and want it more, you have to go with the service academy right? Probably doesn't hurt they're playing at home, either.
S&P+ line: Virginia by 0.4
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Considering the age of their programs and geographical proximity, it's no surprise that they've met 38 times. Navy holds a 27-11 all-time lead that dates back to 1889 (a 22-12 win for the Midshipmen). They haven't met since 1994, when Virginia won 47-10 and is on a 5-game winning streak from 1990 through that 1994 game.
Last bowl game: UVA's last bowl game was the 2011 Chick-fil-a Bowl, where they lost 43-24 to Auburn. This is Navy's sixth straight bowl appearance, starting with a 62-28 loss to Arizona State in the 2012 Fight Hunger Bowl. Last season they lost 48-45 to Louisiana Tech in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Announcers: Clay Matvick and Kirk Morrison

5:15: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State (Camping World Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ESPN): This could well be a shootout. Oklahoma State sports one of the game's best passing offenses against one of the top defenses in the country, so what I mean by that is that I think the Pokes' offense is just that good. It'll be a shootout in the sense that Oklahoma State's defense, well, leaves a lot to be desired and could allow VPI to stay in the game. Overall, though, if this is high scoring, then that definitely favors State.
S&P+ line: OSU by 5.1
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Just two, back in the 1971 and 1972 regular seasons. Oklahoma State won the first 24-16 and VPI won the second 34-32.
Last bowl game: Virginia Tech owns the second longest bowl streak in the country, with this being their 25th straight bowl game. The streak started with the 1993 Independence Bowl, where VPI beat Indiana 45-20. Last season, they defeated Arkansas 35-24 in the Belk Bowl. Oklahoma State has a pretty good run themselves, as this is this their twelth straight bowl game, starting with the 2006 Independence Bowl, a 34-31 win over Alabama. (Ah, the good ol' days.) Last year they smoked Colorado in the Alamo Bowl, 38-8.
Announcers: Beth Mowins and Anthony Becht

9:00: Texas Christian vs. Stanford (Alamo Bowl @ San Antonio, TX; ESPN): If Bryce Love's ankle has had a chance to get healthy over the past few weeks off, then Stanford's got a chance here. Otherwise, it's hard to see Stanford generating enough offense to win.
S&P+ line: TCU by 4
Watchability tier: III (provisional, II if Bryce Love isn't appreciably healthier)
Previous meetings: Just two, back in the 2007 and 2008 regular seasons. TCU won both 38-36 and 31-14, respectively.
Last bowl game: This is TCU's fourth straight bowl game, going back to a 42-3 win over Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl in 2014. Last season they lost to Georgia 31-23 in the Liberty Bowl. Stanford's got a nine game streak going themselves, going back to the 2009 Sun Bowl, which they lost 31-27 to Oklahoma. Last season they had a much better Sun Bowl experience, beating North Carolina 25-23.
Announcers: Rece Davis, Joey Galloway, and David Pollack

9:00: Michigan State vs. Washington State (Holiday Bowl @ San Diego, CA; FS1): The Spartans have managed to convert a 3-9 season last year into a 9-3 season this year, which is no small feat. However, so many of their wins were so flukey (see: the Michigan and Penn State games) that this team could easily be 7-5. Given that this game is in San Diego, I don't think any monsoons are in the forecast (though Southern California could really use the rain), which means that I think Sparty will be too offensively limited to keep up with the Cougars.
S&P+ line: Sparty by 0.1
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Seven, and none of them in a bowl game, surprisingly. The first meeting was a 25-13 Wazzu win in 1942. The Spartans then reeled off 5 straight, only to lose in the last meeting back in 1977, 23-21.
Last bowl game: Sparty's last bowl game was that 38-0 loss to Alabama in the 2015 Cotton Bowl, a playoff game. For Wazzu, this is their third straight bowl game. Two seasons ago they beat Miami in the Sun Bowl 20-14, and last season they lost to Minnesota 17-12 in the Holiday Bowl.
Announcers: Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt

Monday, December 18, 2017

Bowl Games 2017: On the Second Day of Bowlmas...

Well, last Saturday was pretty much a disaster for me, as the only pick I got right was Troy over North Texas. Yet, we soldier on!

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Tuesday, December 19
7:00: Akron vs. Florida Atlantic (Boca Raton Bowl @ Boca Raton, FL; ESPN): Akron was definitely an okay MAC team, but at least on paper this is the biggest mismatch of bowl season. I expect the Fightin' Lane Kiffins to win and win big.
S&P+ line: FAU by 22
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is Akron's first bowl game since the 2015 Potato Bowl, where they beat Utah State 23-21. For the Owls, this is their first bowl since the 2008 Motre City Bowl, where they beat Central Michigan 24-21.
Announcers: Clay Matvick and Kirk Morrison

Wednesday, December 20
8:00: Southern Methodist vs. Louisiana Tech (Frisco Bowl @ Frisco, TX; ESPN): The Mustangs pretty much lost to anyone decent they played, but fortunately for them the Bulldogs aren't really decent by any means. I have SMU here.
S&P+ line: SMU by 3.3
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: There's four meetings, back to the brief period when both these teams were in C-USA from 2001-2004. LaTech holds a 3-1 lead in the series, including a 41-10 win in 2004.
Last bowl game: This is SMU's first bowl since the 2012 Hawaii Bowl, where they beat Florida State 43-10. (Yeah, that bowl streak has some low points...) For the Bulldogs, this is their fourth bowl game in a row. Back in the 2014 Heart of Dallas Bowl, they beat Illinois 35-18. Last season, they beat Navy in the Armed Forces Bowl 48-45.
Announcers: Mike Couzens and John Congemi

Thursday, December 21
8:00: Florida International vs. Temple (Gasparilla Bowl @ St. Petersburg, FL; ESPN): If you like points, then this bowl is probably for you. I expect this game to be in the 30's, but I'm going with Temple by a hair.
S&P+ line: FIU by 0.6
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is FIU's first bowl since a previous incarnation of this game, the 2011 Beef 'O'Brady's Bowl, where they lost to Marshall 20-10. To use a phrase that, before 2009 or so I never thought I'd utter, this is Temple's third straight bowl game. They lost 34-26 to Wake Forest in last year's Military Bowl.
Announcers: Anish Shroff and Mike Golic Jr.

Friday, December 22
12:30: Ohio vs. Alabama-Birmingham (Bahamas Bowl @ Nassau, Bahamas; ESPN): The main reason this game is interesting is because UAB, after being killed off by a dumb Alabama power play conspiracy, managed to go 8-4 despite having not played in two years. Maybe on paper the Bobcats should win, but I don't really care, I'm going for UAB because in some small way it might spite the University of Alabama.
S&P+ line: Ohio by 5.1
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is Ohio's thirds straight bowl game. They lost 28-23 to Troy in last year's Dollar General Bowl. For UAB, this is their second bowl game ever. Their previous postseason appearance was in the 2004 Hawaii Bowl, where they lost to Hawaii 59-40.
Announcers: Steve Levy and Desmond Howard
Fun fact: Go Blazers!

4:00: Wyoming vs. Central Michigan (Potato Bowl @ Boise, ID; ESPN): Home of the best logo of bowl season, we've got, well, the logo is probably better than this matchup. The hype and focus of the broadcast coverage will likely be Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, who for whatever reason was tapped before the season as a potential NFL first round pick and never was able to shake the hype train, despite not even being the first, second, third, fourth, or fifth best passer in his conference. The Cowboys also finished with a bad loss to a terrible San Jose State team, though in fairness Allen missed that game and the one before with a shoulder injury (which is also making him questionable for this game, but I suspect he will dominate the conversation whether he plays or not). So yeah, the Chippewas had themselves a nice little season, reeling off five straight wins to close out the season. If Wyoming is without Allen, then I like CMU; with him I consider this a toss-up. Generally speaking, a Mountain West team should have more talent than a MAC team, but by all means Wyoming has had the more disappointing season, which tends to factor into bowl games.
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: These teams met in 2000 and 2002. Wyoming won the first 31-10 and CMU won the second 32-20.
Last bowl game: Wyoming appeared in the last ever Poinsettia Bowl last year, where they lost to BYU 24-21. This is the fourths straight bowl for Central Michigan. They started the streak with a 49-48 loss to Western Kentucky in the Bahamas Bowl, and last year they lost 55-10 to Tusla in the Miami Beach Bowl.
Announcers: Roy Philpott and Tom Ramsey

Saturday, December 23
Noon: Texas Tech vs. South Florida (Birmingham Bowl @ Birmingham, AL; ESPN): Wake up this Saturday with some points, because boy howdy will they be scored in this one. That said, Texas Tech isn't really, like, that good? Their season started well enough, with a crazy shootout win over Arizona State and the obligatory blowout of Kansas, but then it careened off the rails with losses to everyone else in the Big 12 except Baylor and, crucially, Texas. That said, they'll get there's, but Quinton Flowers and company are pretty good at pointing up the numbers themselves and they can play defense. I expect that ability to get at least one stop to be the difference.
S&P+ line: USF by 8.1
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: For the Red Raiders, this is their first bowl since the 2015 Texas Bowl, where they lost 56-27 to LSU. This is USF's third straight bowl game. They beat South Carolina 46-39 in last year's edition of this game.
Announcers: Tom Hart and Gene Chizik

3:30: San Diego State vs. Army (Armed Forces Bowl @ Fort Worth, TX; ESPN): Army is definitely the cool story here, with their 9-3 record propelling them to their best season since 1996, when they went 10-2. Unfortunately, that story ended with a close loss to Auburn in the Independence Bowl. This game may set a bowl record for least pass attempts, as both teams prefer to run the ball. The Aztecs feature a traditional feature back in Rashad Penny, who was the FBS's leader in rushing yards this year. Army nominally features an option attack, but they mostly feature quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw (5th in FBS in rushing) making various off-tackle and power runs to either side of the lines. In other words, this will be the complete opposite of the Birmingham Bowl. I think by the nature of these offenses the game will be close, but I think SDSU is slightly better.
S&P+ line: SDSU by 3.4
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: SDSU holds a 2-0 series lead, with a 23-20 win in 2011 and a 42-7 win in 2012.
Last bowl game: The Aztecs just keep on truckin', as this is their eighth straight bowl appearance. The streak started with a 35-14 win over Navy in the 2010 Poinsettia Bowl, and most recently they beat Houston 34-10 in the Las Vegas Bowl. Army won last year's Heart of Dallas Bowl 38-31 over North Texas. For Army, this is the first they've had consecutive bowl bids since the 1984 Cherry Bowl and the 1985 Peach Bowl.
Announcers: Adam Amin and Mack Brown

7:00: Toledo vs. Appalachian State (Dollar General Bowl @ Mobile, AL; ESPN): For the most part, this Toledo team is one that finally broke through and won the MAC, and usually in dominating fashion. That said, they don't really come in with a prestige win, per se; the only Power 5 team they played was Miami and they got shallacked, and they also have an ugly loss to Ohio. Appalachian State finished as co-champions of the Sun Belt, but that's mostly because they dodged the other two good teams in the Sun Belt (Troy and Arkansas State) in conference play. Overall, I think the Rockets are a better team and while this won't get them the prestige win they're looking for, it should be a fun contest.
S&P+ line: Toledo by 3.1
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: These teams met in last year's Camellia Bowl. The Mountaineers won 31-28.
Last bowl game: For the Rockets, this is their fourth straight bowl game, going back to the 2014-15 Bowl (a previous incarnation of this game), where they beat Arkansas State 63-44. For the Mountaineers, this is their third straight bowl game and first appearance in a game other than the Camellia Bowl. In that 2015 game, they beat Ohio 31-29. Maybe next time they can get a bowl game outside the state of Alabama, though if they somehow got a Birmingham Bowl bid I'm sure that would be some sort of unique record.
Announcers: Dave Neal and Matt Stinchcomb

Sunday, December 24
8:30: Fresno State vs. Houston (Hawaii Bowl @ Honolulu, HI; ESPN): This should be a pretty good Hawaii Bowl, all things considered. Fresno isn't that adept at scoring the ball, but unlike many of Houston's opponents they can actually defend. Of course, that's assuming we're talking about the gun-slinging Houston of old, which we aren't. Given that, I expect Fresno to grind it out and get a close, hard fought win.
S&P+ line: Fresno State by 0.5
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Fresno State fans would probably prefer not to remember their previous bowl appearance, a 30-6 beatdown at the hands of Rice (of all teams!) in the 2014 Hawaii Bowl. For the Cougars, this is their fifth straight bowl game, going back to the 2013 BBVA Compass Bowl, where they lost to Vanderbilt 41-24. They lost last year's Las Vegas Bowl to San Diego State, 34-10.
Announcers: Chris Cotter and Rod Gilmore

Friday, December 15, 2017

Bowl Games 2017: Opening Slate

The holiday season? Eh, that's all well and good, but now it's the reason for the season: that's right, bowl games! Why are there 39 of them this year, you ask? Because one of them went out of business! Why were there previously 40, you ask? Well, because live sports are about the only thing that makes money on TV anymore!

This year's preview of all the action includes a new Watchability Rating. I mean, let's face it, you're going to have these games on at least in the background anyway because it's not like anything else is on. But nonetheless, I'm here to help you prioritize. To wit, here's the four tiers:
  • I: Background noise, or maybe just the background thing on TV while you have some Christmas music on.
  • II: You'll at least have the volume turned up, because, hey, it's college football, anything can happen.
  • III: Your family member who likes college football will be actively watching this, telling you about how Mizzou got a lot better in the second half the season as they rediscovered their offense and their schedule got easier.
  • IV: Marquee games, like playoff games as well as quality bowl matchups featuring good teams.
Also new are S&P+ lines, which are based on the differences on the S&P+ ratings produced by Bill Connelly. Since Connelly uses gauges this against Vegas lines, I thought it'd be useful to look at these numbers.

With all that said, let's look over tomorrow's opening slate! The full slate is, of course, here.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

1:00: North Texas vs. Troy (New Orleans Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): Troy has made perhaps the best coaching hire of the season, by which I mean they were able to retain rising star Neal Brown for another year. By all rights, with the win over LSU the Trojans should've been 11-1 this year, but they blew that chance by putting up a result even more inexplicable than their win in Baton Rouge: losing a week later at home to South Alabama. North Texas was a respectable 9-4 this year, but they never looked that impressive doing it even though they won Conference-USA West. I'm going with Troy.
S&P+ line: Troy by 3.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Ten total meetings, dating to when both were in the Sun Belt. The first was in 2001, an 18-16 win by Troy, and the last was in 2012, a 14-7 win for Troy. Troy leads the overall series 8-2.
Last bowl game: North Texas appeared in last year's Heart of Dallas Bowl, losing 38-31 to Army. Troy defeated Ohio 28-23 in last year's Dollar General Bowl.
Announcers: Jason Benetti and Kelly Stouffer

2:30: Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State (Cure Bowl @ Orlando, FL; CBSS): Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am home again
Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am whole again

Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am young again
Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am fun again

However far away
I will always love you
However long I stay
I will always love you
Whatever words I say
I will always love you
I will always love you

Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am free again
Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am clean again

However far away
I will always love you
However long I stay
I will always love you
Whatever words I say
I will always love you
I will always love you

I've got WKU here.
S&P+ line: WKU by 3.8
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: Just one, a 44-28 Western Kentucky victory back in 2013.
Last bowl game: For the Hilltoppers, this is their fourth straight bowl game. They beat Memphis 51-31 in last year's Boca Raton Bowl. This is Georgia State's second ever bowl appearance. Their first appearance was a 27-16 loss to San Jose State in the 2015 Cure Bowl.
Announcers: Carter Blackburn and Aaron Taylor

3:30: Oregon vs. Boise State (Las Vegas Bowl @ Las Vegas, NV; ABC): I actually like the Ducks here. It'll be interesting to see how the coaching situation affects them, but they ended their season pretty strong except for a 38-3 faceplant up in Seattle. Boise was back to its old ways in the Mountain West. What this means, ultimately, is that this the game of the day, by far.
S&P+ line: Boise State by 1.6
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: Just two, in 2008 and 2009. Boise won both games, but the most infamous moment in either game in the 2009 when, after the game, LaGarrette Blount sucker punched a Boise State defensive linemen right in the jaw. Blount wound up getting suspended and kicked off the team, but has gone on to punch it into the end zone 51 times in the NFL.
Last bowl game: This is the first bowl game for the Ducks since the 2015 season, where they lost 47-41 to TCU in the Alamo Bowl. For the Broncos, this is their 16th straight bowl game, dating back to the 2002 Humanitarian Bowl, a 34-16 win over Iowa State. Last year they were defeated 31-12 by Baylor in the Cactus Bowl.
Announcers: Rece Davis and Kirk Herbstreit

4:30: Colorado State vs. Marshall (New Mexico Bowl @ Albuquerque, NM; ESPN): This season just never got going for the Rams. After starting 6-2, they'd finish 7-5 including close losses to Wyoming and Boise State. Marshall's season followed a similar trajectory, starting 6-1 before going 1-4 to close out the year. This comes down to how you feel about the relative quality of the Mountain West versus C-USA, which for me makes me lean slightly toward the Rams.
S&P+ line: Rams by 2.8
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is Colorado State's fifth straight bowl game dating back to the 2013 New Mexico Bowl, a 48-45 win over Washington State. Last year they lost to Idaho 60-51 in the Potato Bowl. This is Marshall's first bowl since the 2015 St. Petersburg Bowl, a 16-10 win over UConn.
Announcers: Anish Shroff and Ahmad Brooks

8:00: Middle Tennessee State vs. Arkansas State (Camellia Bowl @ Montgomery, AL; ESPN): Arkansas State also boasts a weird loss to South Alabama and a kind of "is this really happening?" loss to Troy which got some Twitter notoriety a couple weekends ago. That said, I like them over MTSU, who may just be happy just to be bowling. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!)
S&P+ line: RedWolves by 8.2
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: Former Sun Belt foes, MTSU holds a 9-5 all-time lead, including two wins way back in 1948 and 1949. Their last meting was back in 2012, a 45-0 Arkansas State shutout.
Last bowl game: This is the third straight bowl for the Blue Raiders, dating back to a 45-31 loss to Western Michigan in the Bahamas Bowl. Last season they lost 52-35 to Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl. For the Red Wolves, this is their seventh straight bowl game, dating back to the 2011-2012 Bowl, a 38-20 loss to Northern Illinois. Last season they defeated Central Florida 31-13 in the Cure Bowl.
Announcers: Taylor Zarzour and Andre Ware

Saturday, December 09, 2017

This Weekend in College Football: Week 15

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Noon: Wofford @ North Dakota State (NCAA Division I Quaterfinal, ESPN2): Honestly, I don't have many thoughts on this other than I think it'd generally be more interesting if the Bison (pronounced 'Bizon') won, so let's go with them.

3:00: Army vs. Navy (@ Philadelphia, PA; CBS): This is the game of the day, obviously, with the requisite lead-in to the Hiesman ceremony. Look, the main reason to watch here is that it should be a close game, but that I actually like Army to win in the first time since... well, the first time that I can ever recall. Maybe I need to go back through this site's archives, but that's besides the point. Last year's game was a massive upset, this year's won't be.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Bowl Predictions 2017: Final

Unfortunately, I didn't have time to write a post before the bids starting coming out. The full field is now available.

I didn't have a particularly strong opinion in the Alabama vs. Ohio State debate, and I predicted that Alabama would probably prevail. It does, unfortunately, lead to the non-zero chance that there could be a Georgia vs. Alabama national title game, which would pretty much be the most insufferable thing ever.

Some other notes from the field:
  • I was surprised Washington got in the New Year's Six over TCU, but that's way things go sometimes. This likely wrecked a lot of projections.
  • There was a lot of horse trading this afternoon. The Camellia Bowl, New Mexico Bowl, and Army's opponent in the Armed Forces Bowl were the last to be announced, probably to work out getting a better opponent for Army than a low-tier C-USA or MAC team. These bowls are all owned by ESPN, which means that things can happen that are hard to predict.
  • Oregon vs. Boise State on the first day of bowl season in the Las Vegas Bowl should be a lot of fun.
  • I bet the Texas Bowl people want Texas-Texas A&M badly, but I suspect neither school wants to play that game. TAMU wound up going to the Belk Bowl instead.
  • Texas Tech-South Florida is probably going to set a Birmingham Bowl scoring record.
  • TCU-Stanford may be the grittiest Alamo Bowl ever.
That's about it. Our annual preview series will start next week!

Friday, December 01, 2017

This Weekend in College Football: Week 14

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

8:00: Southern California vs. Stanford (Pac-12 Conference Championship @ Santa Clara, CA; ESPN): I'll be at this game! At any rate, it's hard to know what to make of this rematch. USC beat Stanford 42-24 but that was literally back in September. Suffice it to say, things have changed, including the part where USC later got shallacked by a Notre Dame team that the Cardinal just easily beat. USC has since struggled in conference play as well, so I'm going to pick the mild upset and go with Stanford here.

  • Memphis @ Central Florida (American Conference Championship; ABC): Memphis is solid and all, but UCF is pretty dang good. Going with the Knights here.
  • Akron vs. Toledo (Mid-American Conference Championship @ Detroit, MI; ESPN): Saturday early afternoon MACtion? Sure, why not! That said, Toledo is a huge favorite, and for good reason. That's never stopped underdogs in the MAC title game before, but still, this should be a straightforward Toledo win.
  • North Texas @ Florida Atlantic (Conference USA Championship; ESPN2): Roll Owls.
12:30: Oklahoma vs. Texas Christian (Big 12 Conference Championship @ Arlington, TX; FOX): Everyone is saying that Gary Patterson and TCU will have Oklahoma's number in this rematch and ruin Oklahoma's chances at the playoff to prove how dumb the Big 12 having a title game is. Therefore, I'm going against the grain and thinking the Sooners win easily.

4:00: Georgia vs. Auburn (Southeastern Conference Championship @ Atlanta, GA; CBS): It's hard to beat at team twice in the same season, but Auburn is actually pretty good? They've already shutdown Georgia and just shut down Kirby Smart's master in the worst performance anyone has seen out of the Tide in years. It's hard for me to pick against the Tigers here.

7:30: Troy @ Arkansas State (ESPN2): Neal Brown just's sitting here waiting, Tennessee. I mean, he beat LSU! (And will probably beat Arkansas State.)

7:45: Fresno State @ Boise State (Mountain West Conference Championship; ESPN): Fresno won round one down in Fresno, but given home field advantage I like Boise in the rematch.

  • Wisconsin vs. Ohio State (Big Ten Conference Championship @ Indianapolis, IN; FOX): I like Ohio State is going to win. There I said it. Now it's time to hedge. For starters, it depends on which version of Ohio State, and more specifically, J.T. Barrett shows up. If it's Good Ohio State/JT then I think they'll win. Otherwise, this Wisconsin team is a pretty dang good version of Wisconsin (I mean, they're undefeated!) and will win if Ohio State is anything less than 100%.
  • Clemson vs. Miami (Atlantic Coast Conference Championship @ Charlotte, NC; ABC): I don't think Miami is that good and that Clemson will win easily.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Bowl Predictions 2017: Week 6

Come and get 'em!

Okay, this is the second-to-last edition. We've even got our first confirmed pairing: UAB vs. Ohio in the Bahamas Bowl. (Welcome back, Blazers!) But we've also got more chaos than ever in the playoff picture. Let's talk about that, bullet-point style.
  • Here's the not-controversial part, maybe other than where they're ranked: ACC champion, SEC champion, Oklahoma if they beat TCU in the Big 12 championship.
  • So that's the three. Who's the fourth? Well, if Wisconsin beats Ohio State in the Big Ten championship, then there's no debate that undefeated Wisconsin will be in. But what if Ohio State beats Wisconsin? Does 2-loss Big Ten champ Ohio State get in over 1-loss Alabama? The arguments are otherwise very similar, but Ohio State has an edge over Alabama in terms of strength-of-schedule (reminder, Alabama's best win is LSU) and a conference championship.
  • So this is why I'm projecting #1 Auburn vs. #4 Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl and #2 Auburn vs. #3 Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl.
  • Alabama, as the highest ranked team from the SEC/Big Ten/Notre Dame, would get an Orange Bowl bid, matched against Miami.
  • The other notable thing is that with the loss to Pitt, I had a hard time putting Notre Dame in the New Year's Six over TCU. I'm not completely sure on this, but I think a three-loss Notre Dame will drop like a rock in the rankings.
  • Alabama would have to go to the Orange as per the rules, assuming Georgia falls below them if they lose to Auburn in the SEC championship. The Committee may send UGA out west instead of putting them in Atlanta for the 3rd time in just over a month, but I think if the Peach winds up with Central Florida they'll want a strong local draw.
Other news and notes:
  • Currently there are 79 bowl eligible teams, and I'm projecting Florida State and New Mexico State to get eligible this weekend, for a total of 81. With the demise of the Poinsettia Bowl, that means there's 78 bids available, so there's three extra teams.
  • With the SEC getting 3 teams into the New Year's Six, that leaves less than 7 SEC teams available for their top-tier berths. I have the Liberty Bowl getting the short end of the stick.
  • The Pac-12, meanwhile, has the opposite problem. They have only 5 berths after the NY6, and I'm projecting only the Pac-12 champion to get in. They 9 total eligible teams, though, so I'm figuring Utah and UCLA will be left out. A tweet indicated that Independence Bowl representatives were at the UCLA-Cal game Saturday, but that would require a swap to be arranged since the Independence has an arrangement with Conference-USA already. 
  • With Notre Dame not getting into the NY6, I have them pipping the first available ACC bowl slot, bumping everyone else down a spot. I wound up putting newly eligible Duke in the Birmingham Bowl.
  • Even if they've been there a lot recently, I think Oklahoma State is the most exciting option for the Alamo Bowl from the Big 12.
  • If the Big 12 gets both Oklahoma and TCU in the NY6, that really dashes the chances of Texas in the Texas Bowl against Texas A&M.
  • I didn't want to send Stanford to San Diego for the second time this season (they played at San Diego State back in September), but I think the Holiday will like getting a Stanford team that's finished strong down there. And the weather everywhere in California is nice, but San Diego it's always just that much nicer.
That's it for now. I expect some other minor bids to be announced during the week, and that I will have to hustle to get a new set of projections out this Saturday to stay ahead of the news. Until then!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

THWG Thought of the Day: 11/25

Men, Georgie's a fine football team, a very fine football team. Georgie's bigger and faster than we are. Probably a little tougher, too.

That's okay, because we're smarter than they are.

Now, let me tell you what's going to happen. That Georgie team's going to come running out of the tunnel screaming and foaming at the mouth and smashing one another upside the head just to get warmed up.

We won't do any of that. While they waste their energy, we'll conserve ours. I've told you that they're bigger, faster, and tougher than you. That's true. But we do have that one big advantage.

We ... are ... smarter.

Think about what I teach you. Play field position. Play great defense. Make no mistakes on offense. Be great in the kicking game. Do that and we'll keep it close.

As the game goes on, they'll start to get tired because they wasted so much energy in the beginning. Because we're smart, we'll have plenty of energy left, and at some point in the fourth quarter they'll make a mistake.

When they do make that mistake, we'll get the football. And when that happens, I'll think of something and we'll win!
Coach Bobby Dodd, as told by Bill Curry

Friday, November 24, 2017

This Weekend in College Football: Week 13

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Georgia @ Georgia Tech (ABC): TO HELL WITH GEORGIA
  • Ohio State @ Michigan (FOX): All right, it's hard to think of anything to say about this game that hasn't already been said. If you don't have a rooting interest in any of these other games, this is probably where you want to me. I like Ohio State, but boy howdy is it super dependent on which version shows up.
  • Florida State @ Florida (ESPN): Ugh. Uh, FSU? Florida has looked completely checked out the past two weeks.
  • Indiana @ Purdue (ESPN2): Purdue had a kind of out-of-nowhere result last week with an upset at Iowa, and I like them to continue the trend at home against the Hoosiers.
  • Kansas @ Oklahoma State (FS1): Kansas is capital-B Bad.
  • East Carolina @ Memphis (ESPNU): Unless Memphis isn't awake for this 11 AM local time start, or is just looking ahead to UCF next week, they shouldn't have any issues here.
  • Connecticut @ Cincinnati (ESPNEWS): Ugh. Uh, Cincy?
  • Louisville @ Kentucky (SEC): The Fightin' Lamar Jacksons seek revenge for last year's demoralizing loss, and once again you'd have to predict them to win.
  • Tulane @ Southern Methodist (CBSS): Maybe keep an eye on this one, this could be lit. Though if that happens, that would definitely be in SMU's favor.
12:20: Boston College @ Syracuse (ACC): Boston College figures to continue their late-season surge, while the Orange have been doing pretty much the opposite.

12:30: Duke @ Wake Forest (ACC/RSN): Despite I watched what Duke did to my own team last week, I still like Wake a lot here. They're a better all around team.

  • Alabama @ Auburn (CBS): You could pretty much make this a bracket. The winner here plays Georgia in the SEC championship, and the winner there makes it into the playoff. Who will win? Auburn has looked fantastic since they lost to LSU, a string of 30+ point wins in their wake (including demolishing Georgia earlier this month). Bama has, of course, been Bama, but here's the thing: who have they played? Their best win is either LSU or Mississippi State, which isn't quite a Georgia-quality win at this point. I still take the view that you bet against the Tide at your risk, but this is the most vulnerable Alabama team in years.
  • Wisconsin @ Minnesota (ABC): After losing to Northwestern, it's safe to say the boat is pretty much sunk for Minnesota. I like the Badgers to retain the Axe here.
  • Iowa State @ Kansas State (ESPN2): Not technically a rivalry, though it does have a fun nickname ("Farmageddon") and is one of the most played rivalries in the history of college football (8th longest, 100 straight meetings). The Cyclones have been one of the most interesting teams in football, but even K-State got into the act last week by putting an already lethargic Oklahoma State team in a sleeperhold. With the game in the Little Apple, I'm leaning slightly toward the home team.
  • North Carolina @ North Carolina State (ESPNU): UNC's lost season figures to come to a merciful end.
  • Pennsylvanian State @ Maryland (BTN): Maryland is feisty this year, but it hasn't often translated into wins, a trend that figures to continue against the Nittany Lions.
3:45: West Virginia @ Oklahoma (ESPN): West Virginia isn't especially good this year, but they're still dangerous enough to wreck Oklahoma's chances of making the playoff. I'm not going to predict that, but there's a chance.

  • Michigan State @ Rutgers (FOX): Rutgers is better this year, but... nah.
  • Northwestern @ Illinois (FS1): Northwestern.
  • Temple @ Tulsa (ESPNEWS): Temple.
  • Vanderbilt @ Tennessee (SEC): Should I predict that Tennessee will finish its first ever winless SEC season with a loss here? Eh, why the hell not, let's do this.
4:30: Arizona @ Arizona State (Pac12): As usual, Khalil Tate figures to just be too much for the Sun Devils. Take advantage of the opportunity to watch this if you get Pac-12 Network.

7:00: Oregon State @ Oregon (ESPN2): The Civil War has a reputation, but I don't think an Oregon State team that is winless against FBS teams is much of a threat for the Ducks.

  • Clemson @ South Carolina (ESPN): These Gamecocks are improved, sure, but of their five SEC wins, three of them have come against teams that have fired their coach. Clemson has looked more like Clemson of recent weeks, and so I don't think they'll have issues here.
  • Texas-San Antonio @ Louisiana Tech (ESPNU): Looking over these two teams' records, I'm actually leaning toward UTSA a little bit. I didn't figure on that, but here we are.
  • Texas A&M @ Louisiana State (SEC): With the reports that Sumlin is out regardless of the result of this game, I'd have to guess that they might be a little bit flat. I like LSU here.
  • Washington State @ Washington (FOX): Well, the Apple Cup isn't quite as hype as we thought it'd be when both of these teams were undefeated, but this still figures to be a lot of fun. Wazzu can still make it to Santa Clara with a win, but I think the Huskies are a better team and they always have an edge at home.
  • Notre Dame @ Stanford (ABC): Speaking of taking advantage of a time slot to watch Khalil Tate, you can even see Bryce Love in primetime on broadcast television! That said, Notre Dame is a better all-around team than Stanford is this year. This figures to not be a good look for the Pac-12, especially if Washington wins the Apple Cup (and Stanford proceeds to the Pac-12 title game on tiebreakers).
9:00: Brigham Young @ Hawaii (CBSS): BYU, but avoid this unless you really need video footage from somewhere sunny and warm right now.

10:00: Colorado @ Utah (FS1): It's not only the Battle of the Rockies, it's the Battle of Last Place Teams In the Pac-12 South. Nonetheless, Utah's the better team, they've just had some bad luck this year. I like the Utes here.

10:15: Utah State @ Air Force (ESPN2): Air Force just, well, hasn't been good this year. I don't figure that will change with this game.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

This Week in College Football: Week 13

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

7:30: Mississippi @ Mississippi State (ESPN): Okay, the Egg Bowl is usually good, but this year it figures the Bulldogs will just put the Rebels out of their misery.

11:30: Western Michigan @ Toledo (ESPNU): Toledo's been a solid MAC team for years, but they've developed a reputation for blowing their shots at winning their division by suffering bad late-season upsets. They can clinch the MAC West here with a win over 5-6 Western Michigan.

  • Miami @ Pittsburgh (ABC): Okay Miami, all you have to do is go to a half-full Heinz Field this Friday and not screw this up. It's going to be cold but sunny. You'll go to Charlotte (for the first time!) next weekend either way, but still, it's important for the sake of the ACC that you're undefeated.
  • Navy @ Houston (ESPN): Well, both these teams are 6-4, but they've arrived there by different ways. I'd actually thought Navy was done this year, but looking the balance of the season for the Midshipmen I like them here.
  • Baylor @ Texas Christian (FS1): Well, this one's easy: TCU.
  • Northern Illinois @ Central Michigan (CBSS): It's MACtion Friday, apparently! NIU needs this and a Toledo loss earlier to win the MAC West, while CMU is just trying to play spoiler. That said, I pretty heavily favor the Huskies here.
2:30: Missouri @ Arkansas (CBS): If you told me two months ago that Mizzou would be favorite by over a touchdown here, I'd have said you were crazy, but here we are.

  • South Florida @ Central Florida (ABC): Here's the one you've been waiting for, finally. Worth noting though that USF has continued to struggle a after their loss to Houston, which means that UCF enters as heavy favorites. Which isn't to say that this won't be close, but it'd be hard to see the Bulls pulling this thing out.
  • New Mexico @ San Diego Sate (CBSS): The Lobos have been pretty awful this year, this figures to just put them out of their misery.
4:00: Iowa @ Nebraska (FS1): Iowa figures to remain LIT IOWA, which sometimes mean destroying Ohio State by 31 points and sometimes means losing to Purdue. Which one are the actual Hawkeyes? Spoiler: it's both. I like them here.

7:00: Western Kentucky @ Florida International (beIN): I like Western Kentucky here.

  • Texas Tech @ Texas (FOX): They're not rivals, sure, but nonetheless they're playing for the Governor's Spurs! You can't deny that. Well, you can, but still. Texas Tech isn't terrible or anything, but as the Longhorns have improved over the course of the year they figure to win.
  • Virginia Tech @ Virginia (ESPN): The Commonwealth Cup features a feisty Virginia, but I don't think that will be enough to stop the Hokies.
10:30: California @ California-Los Angeles (FS1): It's not officially the Battle of California, but it probably should be. Anyway, I have no idea who's going to win this game, but UCLA did just fire their coach, so let's roll with Cal.

Bowl Preictions 2017: Week 5

Get 'em while they're fresh.

Reflecting the general lack of, well, anything in college football's Week 12, there were a handful of changes, but not a lot at the top. I did shuffle around some CFP-controlled bowl spots, but nothing too major. I also brought the Texas-Texas A&M Texas Bowl back because I could.

There were scattered bits of news that I was able to find, the main thing being that Boise State will probably go to the Las Vegas Bowl if they win the Mountain West, which figures but last year they were allowed to go to Cactus Bowl to get a better matchup, so these sorts of things happen sometimes.

One other thing: I had 79 teams thanks to Florida State scheduling an extra game to get to 6-6, which I didn't realize until I did all the predictions originally. I slotted them in, but I'd expect more accurate results next week. Until then!

Friday, November 17, 2017

This Weekend in College Football: Week 12

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Mississippi State @ Arkansas (CBS): Novembert seems to be a thing of the past, especially now that the man who hired Brett Bielema was just fired. Have to like Miss State here.
  • Virginia @ Miami (ABC): Well, it'd be kind of on-brand for modern day Miami to score a huge win over a top-tier opponent and then immediately flatline against Virginia, but somehow I just don't see that happening.
  • Michigan @ Wisconsin (FOX): The best indicator of the kind of week we're looking at for Week 12 is that this is the consensus best game going. Which, well, that's probably true, and Michigan is the best team between Wisconsin and their trip to Indianapolis in a couple of weeks. That said, this still a reloading Michigan team that has some severe issues on offense that figure to be tough to overcome in Madison.
  • Texas @ West Virginia (ESPN): The Longhorns managed to break the 30-point barrier for the first time in a month last week by walloping Kansas 42-27. Unfortunately for them, West Virginia is not Kansas.
  • Louisiana-Monroe @ Auburn (ESPN2): Tigers.
  • Texas Christian @ Texas Tech (FS1): Texas Tech hasn't beaten a single Big 12 team with a pulse, a trend that doesn't figure to change now.
  • Central Florida @ Temple (ESPNU): We're only a week away from USF-UCF!
  • Southern Methodist @ Memphis (ESPNEWS): If you get tired of watching large men crash into other large men to move the ball a few yards at a time, then boy howdy do I have an offer for you! (If you get ESPNEWS, that is.) Because there will be POINTS in this game. The over/under is 110 points. Given that there's a non-zero chance that the halftime score could be 52-50, I'd say take the over. Outside of that, though, Memphis should win.
  • Minnesota @ Northwestern (BTN): I have no opinion on this game. Northwestern, I guess?
  • Cincinnati @ East Carolina (CBSS): Don't watch this unless you're flipping into the see the replay of something rare and/or dumb, like a one-point safety for something. (Which, given the announcers CBSS usually has, would be hilarious because I suspect they would have no idea what's going on.) As for who's going win? Uh, ECU I guess?
12:20: Pittsburgh @ Virginia Tech (ACC): I do so enjoy beating VPI, but they should be able to get back on track at home against a struggling Pitt team.

3:00: Arizona State @ Oregon State (Pac12): Remember those salad days of early October when the Sun Devils ripped off consecutive wins over Washington and Utah and we were all "hey, maybe they have a really good defense!" Yeah, it didn't last. They should still be able to take the Beavers, though.

  • Illinois @ Ohio State (ABC): Buckeyes.
  • Navy @ Notre Dame (NBC): Provided Notre Dame can get up for this game at all, they should be able to take this one. This Navy is good, but not as good as the Navy teams that have given Notre Dame fits in the past.
  • Kentucky @ Georgia (CBS): Kentucky is probably the second or third best team in the SEC East right now, which says more about the relative state of Florida and Tennessee football right now, but still. Anyway, it was fun to watch Georgia lose last week (and lose badly, at that), but they should be able to run over, around, and through Kentucky.
  • Oklahoma @ Kansas (ESPN): Sooners.
  • Kansas State @ Oklahoma State (ESPN2): Kansas State won't win this game, but I sort of consider it a compliment to Bill Synder that I can't just write off a 5-5 K-State completely.
  • Syracuse @ Louisville (ESPNU): The Fightin' Lamar Jacksons should be able to handle Syracuse, but the usual problem will be that Lamar Jackson does not play also defense.
  • Purdue @ Iowa (BTN): In some way, the fact that Purdue is associated with fun football again is still pretty good for Year 1. The Hawkeyes though, yeah, they're probably going to win.
  • San Jose State @ Colorado State (CBSS): Rams.
  • Georgia Tech @ Duke (ACC/RSN): It's not going to rain tomorrow. There's a lot of factors that go into whether or not you're a good rain team. To be clear, there are no good rain teams (except Michigan State). Classically, run-oriented teams are considered to be good in the rain, which may well be true. Like many assumptions along those lines, Georgia Tech is often lumped in that category, which results in announcers being shocked when Paul Johnson says things like "we're not a good rain team". This is because the stereotype imagines a bunch of guys in mud-stained, soaked jerseys, running backs being literally slippery, and just the lines crashing into other lines. But that's not really Paul Johnson's game. Remember, the option offense works on the principal of using numbers to gain leverage against the defense to hit big plays. This means you need linemen that are able to move and receivers that can hold their blocks. If it's wet, both of these things are much more difficult. And that doesn't even account for the slipperiness of a pitched ball.
    But yeah, it's not going to rain tomorrow.
    As mentioned before, beating VPI is always fun. A great relief for me especially is that we finally manged to not only get a lead in the final minutes but hold it. This team is one of the most snakebit Tech teams I've ever seen in close games and it was fantastic to finally get one in the bag. Now, though we need to win a road game for the first time this year against a team that we've generally found to be tricksy the past few seasons. Hopefully we're up to the task in Durham.
  • Maryland @ Michigan State (FOX): Speaking of the weather, the forecast for East Lansing, MI tomorrow is rain throughout the day and a temperature of about 42 degrees at kickoff. SPARTY GONNA ROLL Y'ALL.
  • Nebraska @ Pennsylvania State (FS1): Penn State's just over here, waiting to be called on, bags packed and ready for Indianapolis, you know, just in case. They just need to make sure they don't look past this one for that theoretical Big Ten title game.
  • Houston @ Tulane (ESPNEWS): This Tulane team has been feisty at times this year, but yeah, I don't like their odds against Houston.
  • Alabama-Birmingham @ Florida (SEC): My favorite college football story of the year are your University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers not only getting back up off the mat after being killed off in the dumbest conspiracy ever but then proceeding to go 7-3 and 5-2 in C-USA play. I mean, look, Florida has superior talent at every position on the two deep, and any logical conclusion has the Gators winning. But screw logic, GO BLAZERS.
6:30: Army @ North Texas (beIN): The last time Army had more than 7 regular season wins was 1996, when they went 10-1 (before the bowl game). Sitting at 8-2, that has to be the target. I like their chances of getting to 9, at least.

  • Louisiana State @ Tennessee (ESPN): LIGHTNING ROUND. LSU.
  • Texas A&M @ Mississippi (ESPN2): TAMU?
  • Boston College vs. Connecticut (@Boston, MA; CBSS): This is being played at Fenway Park for some reason. Also, BC.
  • Arizona @ Oregon (Pac12): Taking the Fightin' Khalil Tates here.
  • North Carolina State @ Wake Forest (ESPNU): Even considering that a lot of widely anticipated contests turned out to be blowouts last week, I still say the unlikeliest result was Wake Forest dropping 64 (64!) on Syracuse. They scored 24 (24!) in the fourth (!) quarter. Exclamation marks! Anyway, NC State actually plays defense, so they probably won't do that again, and one wonders if they maybe spent all their points allowance in the Carrier Dome last weekend.
  • Missouri @ Vanderbilt (SEC): Mizzou is unstoppable right now, which also coincides with the fact that Mizzou got all of the team that are obviously better than them out of the way early. (To give you an idea of how things are going in Gainesville, consider that one of the teams they steamrolled was Florida.) So yeah, I like them here.
  • California-Los Angeles @ Southern California (ABC): The weather will be perfect and both teams will be wearing their colors. That figures to be about the high point of evening for UCLA.
  • California @ Stanford (FOX): The Big Game figures mostly be a Bryce Love showcase in primetime.
10:15: Air Force @ Boise State (ESPN2): It's odd when Air Force is the worst of three academies, but here we are. Boise should roll.

  • Utah @ Washington (ESPN): We're barrelling toward a 3-way tie atop of the Pac-12 North, but in the meantime, let's consider what should probably be a crucial home win for the Huskers.
  • Nevada @ San Diego State (CBSS): Aztecs.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

2018 World Cup Update: That's a Wrap

Qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup is complete.

Knocked out since October: Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, South Africa, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Honduras, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Greece, Italy, and Ireland.

Qualified: Australia, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, Peru, Croatia, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark.

211 teams entered the qualifying tournament, starting with East Timor and Mongolia playing back on March 12, 2015. 979 days later, only 32 remain. The first team eliminated was Mongolia on March 17, 2015. The first team to qualify (other than the hosts) was Brazil, on March 27, 2017. The last team eliminated was New Zealand on November 15, 2017, and the last team to qualify was Peru, on the same date.

The status page with all teams has been updated for the final time.

This concludes our coverage of World Cup 2018 qualification. We'll be back in two years, likely for the final time as the 48-team World Cup will render the drama of qualification obsolete.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Bowl Predictions 2017: Week 4

They're all right here. Let's have a chat real quick about the logic this week.

Concerning the playoff, well here was my thought process. I have Alabama defeating Georgia in the SEC championship, Clemson defeating Miami, and Oklahoma defeating TCU or Oklahoma State. So there's your top three. If Wisconsin beats Ohio State, then they'll be in as well. But... what if they don't? Obviously, if we've learned anything this season, counting on a particular version of the Buckeyes to show up for any game is fraught with danger, but nonetheless I like the Buckeyes to win. Surveying the other teams who would've just lost (like Georgia) versus the Big Ten champion, even a two-loss champion, well, it was hard to leave the Buckeyes out. Their reward, of course, would be getting to play Alabama, so good luck with that.

In other news, I just barely had enough teams. With the Big Ten still probably getting three teams into the Playoff-affiliated bowls, this leaves the rest of the Big Ten's bowls sorely wanting. And that's pretty much how you get UCLA in the Pinstripe Bowl. Elsewhere, I had to abandon my Texas-Texas A&M bowl game, but hey, there's always next year (or next week).

Otherwise, things are getting progressively more real. Expect even more details next week, which is when I start looking for actual news to inform my predictions instead of, you know, guesses.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

This Weekend in College Football: Week 11

Posting this way late, so this is going to be a lot of LIGHTNING ROUND. But rest assured, this is a pretty great lineup for Week 11!

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Michigan State @ Ohio State (FOX): Oh geez this is actually at 9:00 AM? We're off to a pretty good start. I'll be distracted by my own game, but still. The line on this is making the Buckeyes an insane 17 point favorite or something, which, hey, is possible but sure doesn't seem probable right now, you know? But this site isn't about gambling advice, and I think ti's well established that I pick the winners. So, yeah, I got the Buckeyes here.
  • Florida @ South Carolina (CBS): You what you could be watching instead of this? The game before this or the game I'll take about next. Taking the Gamecocks.
  • Oklahoma State @ Iowa State (ABC/ESPN2): So how about that state of Iowa this year, eh? We should've seen it coming when Iowa State-Iowa went to double overtime back in September, I guess. Reason says stick with the Pokes, but a view of this season at the moment says go with the Cyclones.
  • North Carolina State @ Boston College (ABC/ESPN2): I still like the Wolfpack.
  • Arkansas @ Louisiana State (ESPN): Okay, so maybe the Novembert mystique has worn off.
  • Nebraska @ Minnesota (FS1): This is definitely a matchup of two Big Ten West teams that aren't Wisconsin or Iowa. Uh, Gophers?
  • Connecticut @ Central Florida (ESPNU): UCF.
  • Texas Tech vs. Baylor (@Arlington, TX; FOX/RSN): Red Raiders.
  • Louisiana-Lafayette @ Mississippi (SEC): Ole Miss... probably.
  • Rutgers @ Pennsylvania State (BTN): Nittany Lions.
  • Duke @ Army (CBSS): Army.
12:20: Virginia Tech @ Georgia Tech (ACC): What to even say? I warned you about Charlottesville? That was probably our worst played game of the season and we paid dearly for it.
Moving on this week, though, I can't figure if playing VPI the week after they got pasted by Miami is a good thing or not. Either way, what I want to see from the Jackets today is just a sense of urgency, a sense that hey, we have to seize our chances for the first this season and do what it takes to win. This team is essentially three plays away from being undefeated. It's time to harness those feelings and use them toward something productive.

3:00: Wake Forest @ Syracuse (ACC/RSN): The 'Cuse.

  • Iowa @ Wisconsin (ABC): Oh hey, it's the two relevant Big Ten teams. First, there's this year's version of #PutPittIn in Iowa, and then there's Wisconsin, who is undefeated but sports a best win at the moment of... Northwestern. Nonetheless, Iowa hasn't showed much outside of Kinnick Stadium (i.e., the place where highly ranked Big Ten east teams go to die), so I'm sticking with the Badgers here.
  • Georgia @ Auburn (CBS): I'm going with Georgia here but pulling hard for Auburn.
  • Florida State @ Clemson (ESPN): Well, uh, FSU looked kinda okay last week? Uh, yeah, stick to Iowa-Wisconsin or UGA-Auburn.
  • West Virginia @ Kansas State (ESPN2): This might also be fun, actually, in the sense this is about as far apart as two teams can be in the Big 12 and still be playing the same sport. I think this is a tossup, but I still like WVU here.
  • Virginia @ Louisville (ESPNU): Lamar Jackson should be able to do enough to win here.
  • Michigan @ Maryland (BTN): Michigan.
  • Southern Methodist @ Navy (CBSS): This could be a sneaky good game. SMU is better on paper this year, but I'm going with the Midshipmen at home.
  • Southern California @ Colorado (FOX): USC.
  • Kentucky @ Vanderbilt (SEC): Kentucky.
5:30: Washington State @ Utah (Pac12): Wazzu has looked terrible on the road, so... Utes? Not sure about this one.

6:30: Western Kentucky @ Marshall (beIN): Hilltoppers.

  • Alabama @ Mississippi State (ESPN): Bama.
  • Purdue @ Northwestern (ESPN2): Purdue.
  • New Mexico @ Texas A&M (ESPNU): TAMU.
  • Tulane @ East Carolina (CBSS): Tulane!
7:30: Tennessee @ Missouri (SEC): Tigers!

  • Notre Dame @ Miami (ABC): Why did I essentially skip to here? Because I'm pressed for time and want to go to bed, but also because that's you'll be doing. This is the irresistible force and immovable object game of the week. This is also when I think Miami's penchant for playing it close as long as humanly possible is going to bite them. I'm going with the Domers.
  • Texas Christian @ Oklahoma (FOX): If for some reason ND-Miami isn't working out, flip to FOX. If there's one team in the Big 12 that could possibly contain Baker Mayfield at home, it's TCU. But Mayfield is also playing out of his mind right now, so it's hard to pick against him.
9:30: Arizona State @ California-Los Angeles (Pac12): UCLA.

10:00: Oregon State @ Arizona (ESPN2): Zona.

10:15: Wyoming @ Air Force (ESPNU): Wyoming.

10:30: Boise State @ Colorado State (CBSS): Rams.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Bowl Predictions 2017: Week 3

I'm just going to post the link because I am so very tired. Thanks for understanding. We'll be back in force for the preview later this week and bowl predictions next week.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

2018 World Cup Update: The Final Countdown

All right folks, it's time to see this through for the last nine World Cup qualification spots.

Australia and Honduras will rack up some frequent flyer miles. The first leg will take place November 10th in San Pedro Sula, then the squads will face each other again in Sydney five days later. The winner on cumulative goals will advance, with the away goals rule applying. (The away goals rule is essentially a first tiebreaker: if the cumulative score is a draw, then the team that scored more away goals wins.)

Not to be outdone, Peru will fly to New Zealand, with the first match taking place on November 11th, and the return four days later in Lima. The same rules apply.

Nigeria and Egypt have already qualified out of Africa, so that leaves three groups to be decided.

Group A
On the next matchday, November 11th, Tunisia will advance if they win or draw against Libya, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo loses to draws against Guinea.

Group C
Morocco and Ivory Coast play each other on November 11th. Ahead by a point, Morocco can advance with a win or draw, but Ivory Coast can only advance with a win.

Group D
Group D is the wackiest for sure, since the original Senegal-South Africa match is being replayed due to South Africa using an ineligible player. That replay will happen on November 10th in South Africa, and then the teams will meet again four days later in Dakar. Senegal leads the rest of the group by two points, so they will clinch if they defeat South Africa on Friday. Any other result means the group will still be wide open, and we'll update this post once we know more.

And so the last four spots will be contested by eight European teams. Let's take a quick look. As with the other playoffs, these are two-legged ties where the cumulative results matter, with the away goals rule applying.

  • Northern Ireland and Switzerland will playoff on November 9th and 12th
  • Croatia and Greece will playoff on November 9th and 12th.
  • Sweden and Italy will playoff on November 10th and 13th.
  • Denmark and Ireland will playoff on November 11th and 14th.
That's pretty much it! By this time next week, the field will be completely set.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

This Weekend in College Football: Week 10

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Pennsylvania State @ Michigan State (FOX): All right Penn State, time to get off the mat because you're going to have to get right back on the road to face a team more than happy to punch you in the mouth and dare you to do something about it. Obviously they're favored here, but it won't be easy.
  • Wisconsin @ Indiana (ABC): Wisconsin is your darkhorse undefeated playoff team, at least until they get blown out by Ohio State or Penn State in a few weeks.
  • Auburn @ Texas A&M (ESPN): Is Auburn actually, like, good? I have no idea. I'm going with TAMU.
  • Florida @ Missouri (ESPN2): For a team that was all but out of it at the beginning of the year, Mizzou has rallied, by which I mean they took a two week break from playing other SEC teams. (Pro: they won by a combined score of 120-33. Con: those two teams were Idaho and UConn.) So what does that mean for this game? Well, going by the metric of "who got beat less badly by Georgia?" then Mizzou has to be a slight favorite.
  • Kansas State @ Texas Tech (FS1): Yeah, the ebb of the magikal energyes* were at a definite low last week, with K-State only beating an awful Kansas team (but I repeat myself) by 10 points. This Red Raiders team isn't anything special, but they still have sufficient offensive firepower to overpower this version of the Wildcats.
  • Western Kentucky @ Vanderbilt (ESPNU): Vandy gets a reprieve from the rest of hte SEC here.
  • Massachusetts @ Mississippi State (SEC): Miss State.
  • Baylor @ Kansas (FSN/RSN): Ugh, Baylor?
  • Illinois @ Purdue (BTN): Purdue.
12:20: Syracuse @ Florida State (ACC): This FSU team is mailing it in so hard that there is serious stuff out there about Jimbo Fisher resigning or getting fired. I like the Orange here.

3:00: Georgia Tech @ Virginia (ACC/RSN): It's hard to win when you don't block people, and it's even worse when you can't. Last week's loss to Clemson served as a reminder of the widening gap between the us and them since that exciting pair of games in 2009. That said, even in a comfortable win for the Tigers, there were some bleak signs of progress, like actually getting over a hundred yards of offense for the first time since 2014. Yeah.
Anyway, on the Hoos. Virginia has struggled in recent weeks, losing to out-of-nowhere offensive powerhouse Boston College and then suffering a 17 point loss to a not-that-good Pitt team. It got a bit spicy during the ACC teleconference this week, wherein Bronco Mendhall declared that he "has a passion for defending option offenses" and Paul Johnson responded that he has a passion "for playing 3-4 teams". 3-4 in this case is not UVA's record, but the style of defense they play, and it's not hard to see where Johnson is coming from. With Tech's wide offensive line splits, UVA will be forced to make some tough decisions about where to put their linebackers. Keep them near the line to try to shoot the gaps in Tech's wide offensive splits and that makes it easier for all the linebackers to get caught in the wash and for plays to break out wide; play the LBs more conservatively to take away the outside plays and that's a recipe for a death-by-a-thousand-cuts procession of 3-5 yard runs up the gut. Of course, the best case scenario for the Cavaliers is that the linebacker's mobility over a traditional four-man front will allow them to defeat cut blocks more easily and prevent the offensive line from getting to the second level.
On the other side of the ball, it will be interesting to see if Ted Roof comes out with guns blazing for the third week in a row. Long criticized for being too conservative, last week Roof decided essentially to bet the house. I don't really blame him for that, since we were massive underdogs, but unfortunately it didn't really pay off. That said, UVA is not Clemson and has not scored more than 30 points in their ACC games so far, despite having played a woeful UNC team.
Then there's Charlottesville. I'm writing this post on November 3rd, the 27th anniversary of perhaps the biggest game in modern Georgia Tech history, a 41-38 upset of then #1 Virginia. After that, Tech lost eight straight games in Charlottesville, with the 2009 ACC champions winning decisively and breaking the streak. Since then, Tech lost in 2011, won in 2013, and lost in 2015. Any pattern is over now, but it's hard not to think about.

  • Stanford @ Washington State (FOX): So there was definitely a bit of a break between when I wrote the above and what I'm writing now, so don't expect anything quite as, uh, elegant? Sure, let's go with that. Anyway, Wazzu has looked less good now that they've actually had to, you know, play away from home, and I think this Stanford team can give them fits. Nonetheless, back in Pullman I still like them.
  • South Carolina @ Georgia (CBS): My fears made manifest: yes, Georgia actually is that good.
  • Wake Forest @ Notre Dame (NBC): Closer than you think, but probably still not terribly close.
  • Ohio State @ Iowa (ESPN): Going into Kinnick is always tricky (ask last year's Michigan team, for instance) but a mid-afternoon timeslot should ultimately work out in favor of the Buckeyes.
  • Iowa State @ West Virginia (ESPN2): Secret best game at this timeslot? Heck yeah. How about them Cyclones this year? Of course, West Virginia doesn't really fit the mold of the teams Iowa State has been able to beat, that is, top-10 teams at home. So I still like the 'neers here.
  • South Florida @ Connecticut (ESPNU): This is a definitely a game that will happen, and a game that USF will win.
  • Northwestern @ Nebraska (BTN): Northwestern? Sure, why now.
  • Army @ Air Force (CBSS): The Commander-in-Chief's trophy is still in play, but I actually like Army's chances here?
  • Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State (FS1): BEDLAM! Of course, as pointed out elsewhere, for a series named Bedlam there's not actually that much chaos here, as the Sooners utterly dominate the serious. But you know what? I like Oklahoma State here, at home.
  • Mississippi @ Kentucky (SEC): This is a game that will be on TV that you can watch, but I can't recommend it. Uh, Kentucky should probably win though?
5:00: Oregon State @ California (Pac12): What's happened to Cal? Well, essentially, they had to start playing other Pac-12 teams and they're still rebuilding. They're probably still better than the Beavers, though.

  • Nevada @ Boise State (ESPNU): Boise.
  • Colorado State @ Wyoming (CBSS): If none of the afternoon games pan out, feel free to tune into this one before they end. I like Wyoming at home, but this should be fun.
  • Texas @ Texas Christian (ESPN): Texas is better, but I don't think they're good enough yet to beat TCU in Ft. Worth.
  • Central Florida @ Southern Methodist (ESPN2): UCF all the way.
  • Minnesota @ Michigan (FOX): Michigan still has offensive issues, but the sheer force of personality that P.J. Fleck possesses won't be good enough to get the Gophers past Michigan.
  • Southern Mississippi @ Tennessee (SEC): I, uh, like USM here? Mostly just to put Butch out of his misery.
  • Texas-El Paso @ Middle Tennessee State (beIN): MTSU.
  • Virginia Tech @ Miami (ABC): Hey Miami, VPI actually has a good enough defense that you won't be able to just bullshit your way to a win in the last two minutes. I still like you to win here, but I'm not feeling especially great about it.
  • Louisiana State @ Alabama (CBS): Alabama covers 21.5.
9:00: Colorado @ Arizona State (Pac12): Why not Arizona State? Well, they enjoyed a brief renaissance, but have come crashing back down in the past few games, but they should be able to take care of the Buffs at home/

10:00: Oregon @ Washington (FS1): The Ducks are back, but I think UDub is still good enough to take care of business and take the Huskies to the Pac-12 title game.

10:30: San Diego State @ San Jose State (ESPNU): San Jose State better hope the Aztecs don't know they way to San Jose, because otherwise it's going to be a long night.

  • Arizona @ Southern California (ESPN): Late kicks, but it's only 7:45 here! Anyway, Khalil Tate has been the other great West Coast player you've never heard of, and while Is still like USC, if they blink he will make them pay.
  • Brigham Young @ Fresno State (ESPN2): Fresno has been sneaky good this year.
*: See last week's Texas Tech @ Oklahoma preview.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Bowl Predictions 2017: Week 2

Week 2 of the predictions are hot-and-ready. I waited until after the release of the first Playoff Committee rankings, which I generally use to get an idea of how they're thinking, at least at this early juncture.

It's still a bit too early to get too far into the weeds on details, so let's just hit the salient points for now:
  • I'm predicting that Alabama defeats Georgia in the SEC championship, that Clemson wins out, Ohio State wins out, and Notre Dame wins out. Which put me in a bind for the last spot in the playoff. Notre Dame would have one loss, that 20-19 loss to Georgia back in September. Georgia would have that win, but also a very recent loss to Alabama in the SEC championship. Humans are prone to recency bias, which hurts Georgia's chances, but (unfortunately) Georgia's wins over Notre Dame and Auburn would be better than Notre Dame's best two wins in this scenario (probably the wins over Southern Cal and NC State). 
  • I actually did have 80 teams this time, which was nice. You can also see my running tally of eligible teams, and we're already nearly halfway there.
  • There are more than a few teams that will only have 11 games, and I wonder if worse comes to worse the NCAA will allow 5-6 teams to be picked ahead of 5-7 teams that get in on APR or if they'll just still be eligible. (Of course, this never came up back when the season was only, you know, 11 games, but there were a lot less bowl games back then.)
  • At least once each year I predict Texas and Texas A&M will play in a Texas-based bowl, and while I realize that it probably won't happen, it's fun to think about.

Friday, October 27, 2017

This Weekend in College Football: Week 9

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

11:30: Buffalo @ Akron (CBSS): You could watch an early MAC game, or maybe you could get a little extra sleep. I know which one I'm doing. Also I like Akron here.

  • Oklahoma State @ West Virginia (ABC): Okay, WVU is probably better this year than you think, but the Pokes are still pretty good.
  • Wisconsin @ Illinois (ESPN): Illinois is, full stop, the worst team in the Big Ten.
  • Miami @ North Carolina (ESPN2): North Carolina is as bad, if not worse, than Illinois.
  • Texas @ Baylor (ESPNU): Baylor's not great, either.
  • Arkansas @ Mississippi (SEC): Uh, stick to Oklahoma State @ WVU, okay? Geez. Somehow this timeslot has managed to feature four of the worst major conference teams in the country.
  • Rutgers @ Michigan (BTN): Serious, Rutgers is no worse than the fifth worst team in this timeslot. Still, Michigan's offense might look a little better in this one.
12:30: Virginia @ Pittsburgh (ACC/RSN): Don't look, but, apparently UVA's good now? Huh.

2:00: California @ Colorado (Pac12): Not sure who I like here, as these teams are about equally mediocre. Cal is more exciting, though, so I'll take them.

  • Kansas State @ Kansas (FS1): This might be the worst KU team ever, and trust me, that's saying something.
  • Air Force @ Colorado State (CBSS): Colorado State is pretty good. This year's edition of the Falcons are not.
  • Georgia vs. Florida (@Jacksonville, FL; CBS): How badly I want Florida to win (because I hate Georgia and it would be hilarious) is about inversely proportional to their odds of actually winning.
  • North Carolina State @ Notre Dame (NBC): Did you know that NC State is the only undefeated team in the ACC Atlantic right now? And that the only thing between them and Charlotte is a home game against Clemson? Yeah, they're good! The problem is, so is Notre Dame, and this one is in South Bend. I'll take the Domers here, but not by much.
  • Pennsylvania State @ Ohio State (FOX): 3:30's doing it's best to make up for the nooners, I tell you what. The Buckeyes have reeled off five straight and appear to actually have a functioning offense again. The flip side, though, is that their best win in those five games is, uh, Maryland I guess? Penn State also has a functioning offense and just took care of Michigan, which has a pretty good defense. I'm going with the Nittany Lions here.
  • Texas Christian @ Iowa State (ABC/ESPN2): Yeah, uh, Iowa State is good now? Huh. I mean, they're going to still lose to TCU, but it might be interesting.
  • California-Los Angeles @ Washington (ABC/ESPN2): UDub all the way here.
  • Michigan State @ Northwestern (ESPN): Northwestern isn't bad, they're just not, you know, good.
  • Indiana @ Maryland (BTN): See also "California @ Colorado", because this is about the same thing. Uh, edge to the home team?
3:45: Houston @ South Florida (ESPNU): Is more than one AAC team allowed to be good in a given year? How does this work? As a reminder, USF plays UCF on November 24th.

4:00: Vanderbilt @ South Carolina (SEC): Gamecocks.

5:45: Utah @ Oregon (Pac12): Utah just doesn't have their usual plucky mojo this year, at least not enough to go beat a revitalized Oregon team on the road.

  • Minnesota @ Iowa (FS1): Minnesota will be there next year or the year after, but for now, they're still having to row pretty hard.
  • Missouri @ Connecticut (CBSS): This is definitely a game that is happening for some reason. Mizzou I guess?
7:15: Mississippi State @ Texas A&M (ESPN): See also "California @ Colorado" and "Indiana @ Maryland", because this is pretty much the SEC equivalent. TAMU I guess?

7:20: Duke @ Virginia Tech (ACC): LIGHTNING ROUND! VPI.

  • New Mexico @ Wyoming (ESPNU): Wyoming.
  • Tennessee @ Kentucky (SEC): Kentucky.
  • Nebraska @ Purdue (BTN): Purdue.
  • Texas Tech @ Oklahoma (ABC/ESPN2): Look, the latent magical energies that course from Bill Synder ebb and flow, and though this season has seen more ebb than not, that's not say sudden spikes can occur and not-very-good-to-this-point-Kansas-State can force Oklahoma to come from behind to win. This just happens sometimes. Essentially, I still think the Sooners are pretty good and they should be able to win here.
  • Georgia Tech @ Clemson (ABC/ESPN2): Hoo boy. This is the game that has changed more than any other for us over the last five season. We used to be pretty competitive with Clemson (see: 2009) but, well, that just isn't the case anymore. And it starts up front with the Tigers' defensive line. Paul Johnson once said something like "physical superiority cancels all theories" and indeed, with the option key is fast enough that you can't even option them, that's a problem. Our defense still worries me, especially after coming out flat against Wake Forest in the first half last week. We eventually managed to prevail on defense, but it took over 30 minutes for them to wake up. I still think the defensive playcalling is atrocious, but our secondary gives us a chance to stay in games if they're used effectively. Add this up, and it sounds like I'm saying we don't have a chance. But there's still one thing about even reigning-national-champions Clemson that's true: we've always got a chance.
9:30: Washington State @ Arizona (Pac12): I still can't get over how wrong we all were about Arizona and Arizona State entering this season. Yes, you were also wrong, even if you didn't actually have a prediction saying that the Territorial Cup would be contested by two teams with interim coaches this year. I'm still baffled by Wazzu's suddenly stingy defense, but I feel like Khalil Tate may do a thing or two to change that perception by the end of this night.

10:00: Boise State @ Utah State (CBSS): Speaking of mojo, welcome back Broncos! I like them to prevail over the road against the Aggies.

10:45: Southern California @ Arizona State (ESPN): Yeah, seriously, I didn't think back in September I'd be pretty confident that the Sun Devils would win pretty easily over the Trojans, but here we are.

11:15: San Diego State @ Hawaii (ESPN2): And here's your nightcap, which will likely be "watching the Aztecs run the clock out after you've the other games ended".