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".

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Bowl Predictions 2017: Week 1

And... here we go again! The first bowl predictions of the season are here! Over the next several weeks, I'll be doing my best to foresee where 80 teams will play football in the last few weeks of the year.

For the first edition this year, I got an assist from Bill Callahan's S&P+ stat profiles. This saves me a good bit of time when it comes to handicapping the teams, especially at this point in the year when there's still a lot of football left to be played. And indeed, it shows in the predictions. I was also short several teams, but upsets late in the year tend to help out in that department. In other words, no need to panic (yet).

Essentially, it's still too early to say what's what. Nonetheless, all the bowl information is there and correct to the best of my ability, but the predictions? Just for fun at this point.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

This Weekend in College Football: Week 8

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Oklahoma State @ Texas (ABC): This edition is going to be quick and abbreviated, I'm not going to lie. And that also means that while I think Texas has a good defense, I think that the Pokes are going to be too much for them offensively.
  • Maryland @ Wisconsin (FOX): Wisconsin is just going to keep doing Wisconsin things, as far as I can tell, though I think this is an improved Maryland team.
  • Louisville @ Florida State (ESPN): Boy howdy, this matchup looked a lot better two months ago than it does now, eh? Uh, well, Louisville is as much of a one-man show that has ever existed in college football it seems, since their offensive line is terrible and their defensive seemingly non-existent. FSU is struggling on offense, but I suspect their still excellent defense will allow them to prevail.
  • Iowa @ Northwestern (ESPN2): This is a thing you could watch, I guess. Uh, Iowa?
  • Iowa State @ Texas Tech (FS1): This one might be interesting. The Cyclones are not terrible, but it seems that Texas Tech is on their way to a pretty good season, and for that to be true, they really need to circle the wagons down in Lubbock. (Which I think they will.)
  • Tulsa @ Connecticut (ESPNU): Uh, Tulsa?
  • Idaho @ Missouri (SEC): Mizzou is bad this year, but not this bad.
  • Purdue @ Rutgers (BTN): Now here's a chance for the Boilermakers to really Brohm it out, if you will.
  • Temple @ Army (CBSS): Army looks decent this year? I like them against Temple, at least.
12:20: Pittsburgh @ Duke (ACC): It still feels weird to pick Duke, but here we are.

12:30: Boston College @ Virginia (ACC/RSN): Speaking of feeling weird picking a team, apparently UVA isn't terrible this year and will be bowl eligible with this win. Huh.

  • Tennessee @ Alabama (CBS): It is definitely the Third Saturday in October, all right, and I'm not sure I can think of any time in the recent past where I've felt as sorry for the Volunteers coming into this as I do right now.
  • Indiana @ Michigan State (ABC): This will be a good barometer for Sparty's recovery back to the normal steady-state they've maintained, and I think they'll get it.
  • Syracuse @ Miami (ESPN): Okay, Miami, please don't need a last second play to get a win against a feisty Syracuse. Please.
  • North Carolina @ Virginia Tech (ESPN2): VPI.
  • Arizona State @ Utah (FS1): I, and basically everyone else in the college football universe, was wrong about the Arizona schools. I still like the Utes here.
  • Illinois @ Minnesota (BTN): Gophers.
  • Oklahoma @ Kansas State (FOX): The Bill Synder mojo just does not seem to be in effect for this year.
  • Southern Methodist @ Cincinnati (ESPNU): Cincy, I guess?
  • Kentucky @ Mississippi State (SEC): Okay, Miss State isn't the awesome team we all thought a few weeks ago, sure. But... I'll still take them over Kentucky.
  • Oregon @ California-Los Angeles (Pac12): So far in this quick write-up this is the first one where I've really had to stop and think. I think UCLA is pretty much a disaster at this point, but I think the Ducks still have a long way to go. I'm taking the Ducks, but just barely.
6:30: Alabama-Birmingham @ Charlotte (beIN): Go Blazers!

  • South Florida @ Tulane (ESPN2): I could keep posting the date of the USF-UCF game, but... yeah, I think y'all get the idea.
  • Brigham Young @ East Carolina (CBSS): BYU sure can't play offense, but I'm not so sure about ECU playing football, in general.
7:15: Louisiana State @ Mississippi (ESPN): LSU seems to have recovered well from, you know, losing to Troy. I like them here.

  • Southern California @ Notre Dame (NBC): I listen to two college football related podcasts: Podcast Ain' Played Nobody and the Shutdown Fullcast. Both, but especially the latter, have noted that Notre Dame is actually kinda good this year? I'm still taking USC, but still...
  • Michigan @ Pennsylvania State (ABC): I run a pick-'em elsewhere, and more maximum main I had this game as against the spread (with Penn State favored by 9.5 points). But on here I don't have to do that, so I can just pick Penn State. Whee!
  • Wake Forest @ Georgia Tech (ESPNU): If (one of) the worst nights of my life hadn't happened to me two weeks ago, then last week's game against Miami would have hurt a lot more. As it it is, it hurt a lot, but this still feels like a pretty decent version of GT so far this year despite the gut-punch losses? I dunno. What I do know is that we cannot wallow in our misery, as this is a feisty Wake Forest squad in the mold of those Wake teams Jim Grobe used to get every once in a while that was actually good. Also, I just wanted to lament that, as a small, private Baptist school I will probably never get to unironically refer to Wake Forest as "Woke Forest". Thanks for reading, try the veal, and remember to tip your waitress!
  • Auburn @ Arkansas (SEC): Comeback losses to LSU aside, Auburn is probably still good? It's not Novembert yet, so I like their chances.
  • Kansas @ Texas Christian (FOX): TCU.
  • West Virginia @ Baylor (FS2): WVU.
  • Arizona @ California (Pac12): Zona?
10:15: Wyoming @ Boise State (ESPN2): Boise's back! Well, maybe. But probably at least for this game.

10:30: Fresno State @ San Diego State (CBSS): Still like the Aztecs here.

10:45: Colorado @ Washington State (ESPN): And I still like the Cougars here.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

This Weekend in College Football: Week 7

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Michigan @ Indiana (ABC): Somehow everyone forgot last weekend as Michigan's offense looked hapless against Michigan State that this was supposed to be Michigan's rebuilding year. I suspect now with a more porous Indiana defense they'll suddenly look a lot more competent.
  • South Carolina @ Tennessee (ESPN): The season figures to continue to go off the rails for Butch Jones and company, though in fairness to him he seems to be a pretty earnest guy? I mean, he's probably going to be an earnest guy without a job soon, but still.
  • Florida State @ Duke (ESPN2): FSU should improve from "the best 1-3 team in the country" to "the best 2-3 team in the country" after this.
  • Texas Christian @ Kansas State (FS1): Weird stuff can happen when it involves K-State, but I think this version of the Wildcats just lacks the offensive power to keep up.
  • Texas Tech @ West Virginia (ESPNU): Here's a real measuring stick for WVU to figure out the hierarchy of Big 12 teams. The only point of comparison is that TTU beat Kansas worse, which, sure, that seems as reasonable as anything.
  • Connecticut @ Temple (ESPNEWS): Temple's not good or anything, but they're better than UConn.
  • Brigham Young @ Mississippi State (SEC): This version of BYU is just too offensively limited, but they may still get to 6-6 with their schedule after this. The key word being "after".
  • Kansas @ Iowa State (FSN/RSN): Cyclones.
  • Rutgers @ Illinois (BTN): AVOID AT ALL COSTS. Also, uh, Illinois?
  • Eastern Michigan @ Army (CBSS): I'd say Army is looking pretty good so far on the year, and with a win here they'll be most of the way to bowl eligibility.
  • North Carolina State @ Pittsburgh (ACC/RSN): This Pitt is a long, long way from last year's memes.
12:20: Boston College @ Louisville (ACC): Lamar Jackson is still one of the best players in college football. Hopefully folks remember in a month or two.

  • Georgia Tech @ Miami (ABC): And we're back. An off-week is a little more welcome at this point, lets some people get another week of healing in (in particular, Clinton Lynch has yet to really look like Clinton Lynch). The real interesting part is where Miami is after for. For most of the past 5-6 seasons Miami was good for a two week funk after losing the FSU game. Now that they've won, now that they've climbed the hill, how well will they come out? Will Year 2 Mark Richt also make a difference in the attitude of the team? Ultimately, I think this one will come down to where Miami is mentally.
  • Auburn @ Louisiana State (CBS): Hard to see how Auburn's offense won't just run circles around LSU.
  • Oklahoma vs. Texas (@Dallas, TX; ESPN): Late kick for the Red River Whatever You Want to Call It. I still like "Shootout", but I'll accept any other alternative as long as it's not "Rivalry" and especially if it's humorous, like "The Red River Respectful Disagreement". Anyway, I like Baker Mayfield and company to get their mojo back.
  • Northwestern @ Maryland (ESPN2): Goin' with the Terps here.
  • Baylor @ Oklahoma State (FS1): Pokies.
  • Vanderbilt @ Mississippi (SEC): Avoid at all costs. Vandy, I guess?
  • Purdue @ Wisconsin (BTN): Purdue is back and exciting, but this feels like they're going to run into a brick wall. Made of beef. Look, it makes sense, okay?
  • Akron @ Western Michigan (CBSS): Western Michigan is still actually kinda good.
  • Virginia @ North Carolina (ACC/RSN): UNC somehow dodged NCAA sanctions, but I still don't like them against a rapidly improving Virginia team.
3:45: Navy @ Memphis (ESPNU): This may secretly be one of the most interesting games of the day. I still like Navy here, but the contrast in styles figures to be fun to watch.

  • Houston @ Tulsa (ESPNEWS): This Tulsa, yeah, no.
  • Colorado @ Oregon State (Pac12): Well, one of these teams just had their coach resign essentially because their coach wasn't feeling it, so, uh, Buffs.
6:30: Middle Tennessee State @ Alabama-Birmingham (beIN): GO BLAZERS! I mean, they probably won't win, but seriously.

  • Texas A&M @ Florida (ESPN2): I think this game could result one of the biggest narrative shifts of the day. It doesn't seem like there's a lot pressure on Jim McElwain at Florida right now, at least outside of the disgruntled Florida fans I follow. Meanwhile, folks are figuring that Kevin Sumlin is as good at TAMU. I like A&M to win here and shift the narrative.
  • East Carolina @ Central Florida (CBSS): UCF looks neigh unstoppable. For reference, they play South Florida on November 24th.
7:15: Arkansas @ Alabama (ESPN): Speaking of narratives and neigh unstoppable... yeah, Bama continues to roll.

  • Ohio State @ Nebraska (FS1): Hey Urbz, it's actually a 6:30 kick out in Nebraska, so it's not that late! Seriously, though, the Buckeyes seem to have their groove back, then again, the schedule got seriously easier after Oklahoma. I figure that trend will continue.
  • Cincinnati @ South Florida (ESPNU): USF looks neigh unstoppable. For reference, they play Central Florida on November 24th.
  • Missouri @ Georgia (SEC): Mizzou came close against Kentucky last week, but... Georgia is not Kentucky. Unfortunately.
  • Utah @ Southern California (ABC): USC is not a juggernaut, but they're better than Utah. Then again, relative talent levels don't seem to matter a whole much to Utah. I still think the Trojans will win, but it won't be easy.
  • Michigan State @ Minnesota (BTN): Both these teams are improving, but the Gophers figure to remain winless in Big Ten play.
9:00: California-Los Angeles @ Arizona (Pac12): I still don't, uh, believe in Arizona? If that makes any sense. Not that UCLA inspires any amount of belief, and it's on the road so, uh, Beardown I guess?

10:15: Nevada @ Colorado State (ESPN2): Not Nevada's year this year, going with the Rams.

10:30: Boise State @ San Diego State (CBSS): I like the Aztecs to pass their biggest test here.

10:45: Washington @ Arizona State (ESPN): UDub figures out put somewhat more than 3 points in this road contest.

11:00: Oregon @ Stanford (FS1): Oregon is improved, but I don't see them stopping Bryce Love.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

2018 World Cup Update: The Worst Night of My Life

Okay, probably not the worst, but it's certainly up there. Enough said.

Let's review this past international break.

Qualified: Nigeria, Egypt, Honduras, Costa Rica, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Peru, France, Portugal, Germany, Serbia, Poland, England, Spain, Belgium, and Iceland.

Eliminated: Syria, Mali, Gabon, Zambia, Ghana, Uganda, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, Chile, Paraguay, Ecuador, Bulgaria, Netherlands, Austria, Wales, Montenegro, Slovakia, Scotland, Slovenia, Albania, Cyprus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Turkey, and Ukraine.

There are now 20 teams competing for the 9 remaining spots. The status of all teams page has been updated. We'll take a look at the scenarios for Africa and preview the UEFA and inter-confederation playoffs in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

2018 World Cup Update: On the Next Matchday... (Oct. 8-10)

And we're back with a look at the remaining games in this international break. 13 teams are now qualified, with 44 teams still in the running. At least 9 more will be qualified by Wednesday.

I don't make any claim these scenarios are comprehensive, but they are all in one place.

UEFA 10/9 Update
These are the final scenarios:
  • France will qualify directly if they defeat Belarus.
  • France will qualify directly if Sweden loses to the Netherlands.
  • Sweden will qualify directly if they defeat the Netherlands and France loses to or draws with Belarus.
  • Sweden will clinch at least a play-off spot if they do not lose to the Netherlands or lose by less than 7 goals.
  • The Netherlands will clinch second place in Group A and a play-off spot if they defeat Sweden by at least 7 goals.
  • Switzerland will qualify directly if they do not lose to Portugal. Otherwise, they will qualify for the play-off.
  • Portugal will qualify directly if they defeat Switzerland. Otherwise, they will qualify for the play-off.
  • Greece will qualify for the play-off if they defeat Gibraltar, or if they draw or lose to Gibraltar and Bosnia and Herzegovina fails to defeat Estonia. Otherwise, Slovakia will qualify for the play-off.


This one's easy. Syria and Australia drew Syria's "home" leg 1-1, here's the matrix of scenarios for the return leg:
  • Australia advances with any win or a 0-0 draw.
  • Syria advances with a win or draw in which each side scores 2 goals or more.
  • If the score after 90 minutes is 1-1, then there will be 30 minutes of extra time. If the score is still 1-1 after the 30 minutes, then a penalty shootout will determine who advances. If there is an outright winner after extra time, then the winner advances. If there is any other draw then Syria will advance on away goals.

Africa doesn't play again until November, so we'll cover those scenarios then, but we'll salute Nigeria for qualifying and saying aloha to Zambia, Gabon, and Mali. [possibly also Uganda and Ghana if Egypt wins]


Costa Rica qualified with a 1-1 draw with Honduras. Here's the scenarios going into Tuesday.

The United States will:
  • Qualify directly for the World Cup with a win at Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Qualify directly for the World Cup with a draw and if either Panama fails to defeat Costa Rica by 7 goals or Honduras fails to defeat Mexico by 12 goals.
  • Qualify directly for the World Cup with a loss to Trinidad and Tobago if both Panama and Honduras lose to or draw with Costa Rica and Mexico, respectively.
  • Clinch fourth place and a place in the inter-confederation playoff if they draw Trinidad and Tobago and just one of Panama or Honduras win by enough to make up the differences in goal differential.
  • Clinch fourth place and a place in the inter-confederation playoff if they lose to Trinidad and Tobago and just one of Panama or Honduras wins their respective matches.
The fates of Panama and Honduras are more intertwined. Panama's goal differential is much better (-2 versus -7) so they have an advantage in any scenario where they wind up tied on points, like they currently are. As seen above, both are hindered by their goal differentials when tying the United States due to the US's +5 goal differential. For both, if they win and the United States draws, then it will come down to goal differential. Either will be eliminated with a loss unless both of them lose. If they both draw, then Panama will clinch fourth place and Honduras will be eliminated.


Strap in because this one's nuts, folks. After Thursday night, six teams are in the running for the last three spots available out of South America. A quick summary of the teams still in the running:
  • Uruguay is all but in. They have 28 points and a plus +10 goal differential. Even if they lose, barring some catastrophe they cannot finish worse than the inter-confederation playoff spot (5th place).
  • Chile eliminated Ecuador and picked up 3 crucial points in the process. They now have 26 points, a +2 goal differential, and are ahead of Colombia on goals scored.
  • Colombia is in fourth place with 26 points, +2 goals, and behind Chile due to goals scored.
  • Peru is in fifth after earning a huge draw at Argentina, sitting on 25 points and a +1 goal differential. They are ahead of Argentina on goals scored.
  • If the competition ended today, Argentina would not make the World Cup. They are in sixth place with 25 points and a +1 goal differential. They are behind Peru due to goals scored.
  • Paraguay has 24 points but a potential anchor due to their -5 goal differential.

All of the games on Tuesday will kickoff at 5:30 PM Eastern. Let's go through the scenarios, such as I can. I'm going to do this by team, but as you might guess from the above, this gets very complicated, very fast. Even though there is an enormous block of text below, I probably have come nowhere close to enumerating all the possibilities.

Uruguay has the easiest scenarios. With any win or draw over Bolivia, they get into the World Cup. The game is in Montevideo and is the second worst team in the table. They should be able to get at least a point. However, if they lose, then for them to even wind up in 5th place (and thus the inter-confederation playoff) the following would have to happen:
  • Chile defeats Brazil
  • There is a result in the Colombia-Peru game
  • Argentina defeats Ecuador, and Uruguay loses by a bad enough margin to erase their 9 goal difference in terms of goal differential.
If Chile defeats Brazil, they are in. However, that's easier said than done. Brazil have won all their matches at home in this qualification cycle, and their only loss came to Chile two years ago in Santiago. However, if Chile draws then things start to get weird, fast. With a draw, Chile ends up with 27 points. If there is a result in the Colombia-Peru game, then the winner will have 29 points. If Argentina defeats Ecuador, then they will have 28 points. If Paraguay defeats Ecuador, then they will have 27 points, however Paraguay would need to win by at least 7 goals to make up the goal difference, so Chile has the advantage there. If there is a draw in the Colombia-Peru game, then it may come down to how many goals Chile and Colombia scored in their matches, since Chile is currently prevailing on the goals scored tiebreaker. (They currently have a 6 goal advantage.) If only one of the above scenarios comes to fruition, then Chile will qualify for the World Cup. If two of them occur, then Chile will finish in 5th place. If three or more occur, then Chile will be eliminated.

If Chile loses, they can still qualify outright if Colombia defeats Peru, Ecuador defeats Argentina, and Paraguay doesn't defeat Venezuela. They will be eliminated outright in the following scenarios:
  • Colombia draws Peru, Argentina defeats Ecuador, and Paraguay defeats Venezuela
  • Colombia defeats Peru, Argentina defeats Ecuador, and Paraguay defeats Venezeula
  • Peru defeats Colombia, Argentina defeats Ecuador, and Paraguay defeats Venezeula
In every other case, it would go to tiebreakers in various combinations of 4th, 5th, and 6th place:
  • If Colombia daws Peru, Argentina draws Ecuador, and Parguay defeats Venezuela, then there will be a 3-way tie for 5th between Chile, Peru, and Argentina. In this scenario, Argentina's goal difference would remain at +1, as would Peru's. If Chile loses by one goal, then their goal difference would be +1 and they could probably prevail over Argentina on goals scored (where they lead by 10), but run into trouble with Peru, with whom they are currently level on goals scored. If Chile loses by more than one goal or Colombia-Peru score 1 goal or more each, then they would be eliminated.
  • If Colombia draws Peru, Argentina draws Ecuador, and Paraguay doesn't defeat Venezuela, then the tiebreaker described above would be for 4th place and 5th place. If Argentina loses to Ecuador, then the tiebreaker would involve just Peru and Chile and would decide 4th and 5th place.
  • If Colombia defeats Peru, Argentina draws Ecuador, and Paraguay defeats Venezuela, then Chile and Argentina would be tied for 5th at 26 points. If Chile loses by one goal, they probably prevail on goals scored (see above), but if they lose by more than one goal then they are eliminated. If Paraguay doesn't defeat Venezuela, then the tiebreaker will decide 4th and 5th place.
  • If Peru defeats Colombia, then it will come down to whose loss is worse, since Colombia and Peru currently both have a +2 goal differential. If they lose by the same margin, then it will come down who scored more goals. Otherwise, the above scenarios apply.
If Colombia defeats Peru, then they will qualify for the World Cup. Colombia is also in good shape if they draw Peru. They are only eliminated outright if they draw and Chile win or draw (and Colombia doesn't score more goals than them in the process) along with Argentina winning and Paraguay winning by at least 7 goals. If they draw and either Argentina or Paraguay fail to win or draw, they will qualify. If they draw and Argentina draws, then Colombia will prevail on goal differential and qualify. If they draw and Argentina wins, then that would knock them down to 5th.

If Colombia loses, then they cannot finish higher than 5th. If Argentina or Paraguay win, then Colombia would be eliminated. If Argentina draws, then Colombia would need to lose by more than 2 goals to be eliminated. If they lose by one goal, then Argentina would need to make up the difference in goals scored (currently 20 versus 16).

If Peru defeats Colombia, they are in. The game is in Lima, so they should have at least a slight advantage. If Peru draws Colombia, then it depends on what Argentina and Paraguay do. If either of them win, then Peru is eliminated. If either of them draw, then Peru is in good shape due to its tiebreaker advantages over Argentina (10 more goals scored) and Paraguay (+1 versus -5 goal differential). If Peru loses to Colombia, then they would be eliminated if Argentina wins or draws or if Paraguay wins. Also, if Peru loses and Argentina loses, then it would depend on how badly each lost, with the starting point being the tiebreakers previously mentioned.

Argentina and the world's best player currently sit in sixth place and in a heap of trouble. If they win, then it will depend on what the teams above them do, though they are at least assured 5th place.
  • If Chile and Colombia/Peru win, then the best Argentina can do with a win.
  • If Chile draws or loses or if Colombia-Peru draw, then Argentina will qualify.
If Argentina draws Ecuador (and the game is on the road), they will wind up with 26 points. If Chile wins or draws, and Colombia-Peru is a draw, then Argentina will be eliminated unless they score a barrage of goals (but somehow still draw). If Colombia defeats Peru and Chile wins or draws, then Argentina will finish 5th. If Colombia defeats Peru and Chile loses, then Argentina could potentially make up their goal differential deficit with Chile if Chile loses by at least two goals. The same applies if Peru defeats Colombia. If Chile also loses, then Argentina could finish as high as fourth, but if Chile and Colombia do not lose by multiple goals then Argentina will be eliminated. If Argentina draws and Paraguay wins, then they will be eliminated.

If Argentina loses to Ecuador, then they will be eliminated.

Paraguay can only get in with a win over Venezuela, and even then they need at least one of Chile, Colombia/Peru, or Argentina to lose. Paraguay's -5 goal differential will be a major issue, because while Venezuela have conceded the most goals it's still unlikely they'd lose 6-0. Paraguay can qualify directly if Chile loses, Argentina loses or draws, and Colombia-Peru ends in a draw. They can also wind up in 5th if Chile draws and there is a draw in Colombia-Peru, and if Argentina loses or draws.

  • Uruguay is almost certainly in and cannot finish worse than 5th, even if they lose to Bolivia.
  • Chile is in if they defeat Brazil, very likely in if they draw, and holding on for dear life if they lose, but probably in 5th place.
  • Colombia is in if they defeat Peru, and very very likely in if they draw, and praying neither Argentina or Paraguay win if they lose.
  • Peru is in if they defeat Colombia, but on shaky ground if they draw, since Argentina could then pass them if they draw. If they draw, they cannot do better than 5th.
  • If Argentina picks up a win in Quito, then they are assured of at least 5th place, and in if Chile loses or draws and Colombia-Peru is a draw. If Argentina draws then they really need Peru to lose to Colombia.
  • Paraguay needs to win and score a boatload of goals.

Group A
France is assured of at least a place in the second round, but they can still qualify directly with a win over Belarus at home. They will also qualify with a draw and if Sweden loses to the Netherlands. If Sweden draws the Dutch, then a French loss would be trouble since Sweden has a better goal differential (+19 versus +11). France can also qualify directly with a draw and if Sweden does not defeat the Netherlands. Sweden can qualify directly if they defeat the Netherlands and France draws or loses to Belarus.

Sweden can only be eliminated if they lose to Netherlands by at least 13 goals, which would also clinch second place for the Dutch. We'd have to wait for other group results to come in to see if the Dutch would clinch a place in the second round.

Group B
Switzerland is currently topping the group with 27 points with Portugal behind at 24. Both are assured of a place in the second round. Conveniently, Portugal also gets Switzerland at home in the final game of the first round and has an advantage already in goal differential. Therefore, if Portugal wins they will qualify directly, and with any other result Switzerland will qualify directly.

Group C
Group C is done, with Germany clinching the group. Northern Ireland has also clinched second place, and will clinch a place in the playoff with a win or draw over Norway. Whether they can get in with a loss depends on action in the other groups.

Group D
Austria was eliminated, leaving Serbia with 18 points, Wales with 17 points, and Ireland with 16 points. Wales and Ireland will play each other, and Serbia will play Georgia. On the next matchday, October 9th:
  • Serbia will qualify directly for the World Cup with a win over Georgia.
  • Serbia will qualify directly for the World Cup with a draw with Georgia and if Wales and Ireland draw each other.
  • Wales will qualify directly for the World Cup with a win over Ireland and a Serbia draw with or loss to Georgia. Serbia would clinch second place in this scenario.
  • Ireland will qualify directly for the World Cup with a win over Wales and a Serbia loss to Georgia.
  • Wales will cinch second place with a win over or a draw with Ireland.
  • Ireland will clinch second place with a win over Wales.
Whether the second place team in this group moves to the second round depends on the results in other groups.

Group E
Poland is on top with 22 points, and if they do not qualify outright they are assured of second place and a spot in the Second Round. Denmark and Montenegro have 19 and 16 points, respectively. On the next matchday, October 8th:
  • Poland will qualify directly for the World Cup with a win over or draw with Montenegro.
  • Denmark will qualify directly for the World Cup with a win over Romania and a Poland loss to Montenegro.
  • Montenegro will clinch second place with a win over Poland and if Denmark loses to Romania.
  • Denmark will clinch second place with win over or draw with Romania.

Group F
England defeated Slovenia to qualify outright, so it is a three-way battle for second between Scotland, Slovakia, and Slovenia with 17, 15, and 14 points, respectively. If Scotland wins at Slovenia, then they will clinch second place. If Scotland draws and Slovakia defeats Malta (hint: that's incredibly likely, especially at home) then Slovakia will prevail on goal difference (+7 to Scotland's +5). Slovenia can only qualify if they defeat Scotland and Slovakia loses to or draws with Malta (hint: that's not very likely).

Group G
This group is done. Spain clinched qualification and Albania was eliminated, leaving Italy in second place and waiting to see if they'll qualify for the second round.

Group H
Belgium qualified back in September. Greece will clinch second place with a win over Gibraltar, which is, well, which is very, very likely. (Gibraltar has lost all of their games and has a -40 goal differential.) If they somehow draw, then Bosnia and Herzegovina could clinch second place with a win over Estonia, and would clinch outright if the impossible occurs and Greece manages to lose at home to a tiny peninsula with a population of 33,000.

Group I
Iceland will qualify directly for the World Cup with a win over Kosovo, which is pretty likely. If they draw or lose to Kosovo, they can do no worse than second place and are assured of making the Second Round. Croatia and Ukraine are tied on 17 points and play each other, so it's pretty straightforward. Whoever wins will also have a better goal differential than Iceland, so the winner would qualify directly for the World Cup if Iceland draws or loses to Kosovo. If they draw, then Croatia will clinch second place.

Friday, October 06, 2017

This Weekend in College Football: Week 6

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Pennsylvania State @ Northwestern (ABC): These two teams try to play similar styles, except only one of them as Saquon Barkley, so I like Penn State here.
  • Iowa State @ Oklahoma (FOX): Sooners.
  • Georgia @ Vanderbilt (ESPN): Everyone talking about UGA as the second best team in the SEC means it's about time for them to, say, lose to Vanderbilt, right? Right? (Probably not, but there's always hope.)
  • Wake Forest @ Clemson (ESPN2): Wake Forest gave a depleted Florida State everything they could handle last week and... still lost. Clemson may toy with them a bit, but this shouldn't be close.
  • Texas Tech @ Kansas (FS1): Well Red Raiders, the Jayhawks should be a good salve for that tough loss to Oklahoma State last week, at least.
  • Temple @ East Carolina (ESPNU): Rebuilding Temple, as it turns out, is probably better than "rapidly hitting the low point" ECU.
  • Mississippi @ Auburn (SEC): If it's not already a lost season for Ole Miss, then it will be after this.
  • Illinois @ Iowa (BTN): I wouldn't recommend this one. Hawkeyes roll.
  • Eastern Michigan @ Toledo (CBSS): Going with Toledo here.
12:20: Duke @ Virginia (ACC): I still don't believe in UVA, so I'm going with Duke here.

12:30: Pittsburgh @ Syracuse (ACC/RSN): Pitt just has nothing on offense this year, which, well, that's definitely not Syracuse's problem.

  • Notre Dame @ North Carolina (ABC): Speaking of teams GT has played that look terrible this year, boy howdy is Carolina rebuilding or what? Domers should roll.
  • Louisiana State @ Florida (CBS): If you like 12-7 football, then you'll like this SEC Game of the Week on CBS­™! Seriously, you may want to avoid this particular vortex of offensive dysfunction, unless you like watching things in a train wreck sense. Gators, I guess.
  • Miami @ Florida State (ESPN): It will take something truly bizarre for Miami to lose to Florida State this year, so I'm going to have to go with the Canes this time.
  • Minnesota @ Purdue (ESPN2): While many in the college football sphere have marveled at Purdue's turnaround this year, Minnesota has sort of quietly chugged along, logging a close loss to Maryland in their first Big Ten contest. I'm leaning Purdue due to their offensive potential, but I think if the game is tight it could break toward the Gophers.
  • West Virginia @ Texas Christian (FS1): WVU faces a sharp increase of difficultly here after beating Kansas last week. TCU pulled out a fantastic game at Oklahoma State last weekend, continuing to ride their philosophy of a defensive coach that knows he has to put up 40+ to win in the Big 12.
  • Air Force @ Navy (CBSS): Air Force is 1-3 and 0-2 in the Mountain West already. I like Navy here.
  • Maryland @ Ohio State (FOX): Buckeyes, obviously, but Maryland might give them a bit of a contest for a little while.
  • Tulsa @ Tulane (ESPNU): Uh, Tulane? Sure, let's go with that.
  • Arkansas @ South Carolina (SEC): Boy howdy, this 4:00 slate isn't very exciting so far... uh, SoCar?
  • Oregon State @ Southern California (Pac12): USC.
6:30: Army @ Rice (beIN): Army, you've got to win this game. I'm telling you.

  • Kansas State @ Texas (FS1): Jokes about Bill Synder being a wizard aside, this doesn't look like exactly the best version of Bill Synder K-State this year. Which will probably make it that much more hilarious when they somehow beat the Longhorns again, but I'm not going to predict it.
  • Southern Methodist @ Houston (CBSS): Don't look, but SMU might be good this year. I mean, Houston is probably still better, but still.
  • Alabama @ Texas A&M (ESPN): I suspect this game may cause angst both ways, in the sense that Bama may not win by as much as they have at other times this season and the sense that TAMU is likely still going to lose very badly.
  • Virginia Tech @ Boston College (ESPN2): Well, VPI, I can pretty safely say that you be much better equipped to handle BC's offense than Clemson's.
  • Michigan State @ Michigan (ABC): Sparty's already got 3 wins this year, and I doubt they're going to lose 8 in a row, so they've definitely improved this season. And while this Michigan team has weaknesses, it's not clear that Mich State has the ability to exploit them.
  • Missouri @ Kentucky (SEC): Missouri is a trash fire this year, going with Kentucky.
  • Washington State @ Oregon (FOX): Hello secret best game of the day! It's Wazzu's first road trip of the year, and Autzen should be ready to go on a crisp fall evening. I think Wazzu will win, but it's hard to count out what look some rejuvenated Ducks at home.
  • Central Florida @ Cincinnati (ESPNU): UCF is good, y'all.
  • Wisconsin @ Nebraska (BTN): "Oh hey, I thought Nebraska was struggling, but they're 2-0 in the Big Ten already? Huh." [clicks on team page] "Ah, Rutgers and Illinois. That makes sense." Yeah, I like the Badgers here.
  • Arizona @ Colorado (Pac12): The Arizona teams aren't as bad as we all thought they'd be coming into the year, but they're still not good. Meanwhile, Colorado is struggling, but I'd say this is the first Pac-12 game they'd be expected to win. Going with them here.
10:15: Stanford @ Utah (FS1): See what I said about Penn State-Northwestern, except replace "Saquon Barkley" with "Bryce Love".

10:30: Hawaii @ Nevada (CBSS): You could watch this, or you could watch one of the games above or below. Hawaii, why not?

  • California @ Washington (ESPN): Look, Washington should win, but hey if Cal is in this thing at all it should be interesting. Just hard to compete at Husky Stadium, though.
  • San Diego State @ Nevada-Las Vegas (ESPN2): UNLV is so bad. So bad.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

2018 World Cup Update: On the Next Matchday... (Oct. 5-6)


In Asia, we're now in the fourth round, a home-and-home set between Syria and Australia. (Or, more correctly, a home-and-Syria's-home-away-from-home, Malaysia.) The first leg will take place in Malaysia on the 5th, while the return leg will be in Sydney on the 10th. The winner will be determined by who scores more goals on aggregate. If the teams draw after the end of 90 minutes in the second game, the winner will be determined by who scored more goals on their away legs. If that is also a draw, then 30 minutes of extra time will be played with the away goals rule still applicable, followed by a penalty shootout if the match is still tied.

Suffice it to say, we can only really talk scenarios for the second match. The winner of the fixture will advance to an inter-confederation playoff against a team from CONCACAF.


In Group A, Guinea and Libya have already been eliminated and Tunisia is ahead of the Democratic Republic of the Congo by 3 points.
  • On October 7th, Tunisia will advance to the 2018 World Cup with a win or draw over Guinea and a DR Congo draw or loss to Libya. 
In Group B, Cameroon and Algeria have already been eliminated, and Nigeria is ahead of Zambia by 3 points.
  • On October 7th, Nigeria will advance to the 2018 World Cup with a win over Zambia.
In Group C, no teams have been eliminated as of yet. The Ivory Coast leads with 7 points, followed by Morocco with 6 points, Gabon with 5 points ,and Mali with 2 points. No team can clinch in the coming international window, so we'll have to wait until November to see who comes out of the group. However, if Mali loses to the Ivory Coast, they will be eliminated. Also, if the Ivory Coast defeats Mali, Gabon will be eliminated if they lose to or draw with Morocco, and Morocco will be eliminated with a loss.

Group D is in a bit of chaos right now, as FIFA ordered the November 2016 match between South Africa and Senegal to be replayed due to a match fixing referee (who subsequently banned for life). The original result had South Africa winning 2-1. Group leaders Burkina Faso have filed a case with the Court for Arbitration in Sport to have the replay not happen and the original result restored. It's hard to blame them, as the original result was a pretty big upset as Senegal is the power in the group, and the replayed match could make a difference. As a result, it's hard to really say with any certainty what will happen on the next matchday in this group.

In Group E, Congo have been eliminated. The rest of the group consists of Egypt at 9 points, Uganda at 7 points, and Ghana at 5 points.
  • On October 7th, Ghana will be eliminated if they lose to Uganda.
  • On October 8th, Ghana will be eliminated if Egypt defeats Congo.
  • On October 8th, Egypt will advance to the 2018 World Cup with a win over Congo and any Uganda draw with or loss to Ghana.

The Fifth Round, also known as the Hexagonal, features six teams playing a double round-robin. Mexico lead the table with 18 points and a guaranteed finish in the top three spots, and thus are in the World Cup. Behind them are Costa Rica, on 15 points and a guarantee to finish in the top four, which means either the World Cup or the inter-confederation playoff against a team from the AFC. In third place are Panama on 10 points, followed by the United States with 9. Honduras also has 9 points but also a -7 goal differential. Trinidad and Tobago are in last place with just 3 points, but they are not technically eliminated yet.

The next matchday for all teams is October 6th. On that day:
  • Costa Rica will qualify for the 2018 World Cup with any win or draw against Honduras.
  • Panama will qualify for the 2018 World Cup with a win over the United States.
  • Trinidad and Tobago will be eliminated with any draw or loss to Mexico, or if both the United States and Honduras win or draw with Panama and Costa Rica, respectively. 

There's still a lot at play in South America because, as previously noted, the second through eighth placed teams are within seven points of each other, and three of those teams won't qualify. It's probably just easiest to look at the actual table instead of trying to describe it. The next matchday is October 5th, and on that day:
  • Uruguay will qualify for the 2018 World Cup if they defeat Venezuela and Argentina and Peru draw against each other.
  • Ecuador will be eliminated if they lose to Chile.
  • Paraguay will be eliminated if they lose to Colombia and Argentina and Peru draw against each other.
For everything else, tune back in after Saturday.


There's 54 teams in 6 groups, so let's just cut to the chase.

Group A
France and Sweden lead the pack with 17 and 16 points, respectively, followed by the Netherlands and Bulgaria with 13 and 12 points. Luxembourg and Belarus have been eliminated. On the next matchday, October 7th:
  • France will qualify directly for the 2018 World Cup with a win over Bulgaria and a Sweden loss to Luxembourg.
  • Bulgaria will be eliminated if they lose to France.
  • Bulgaria will be eliminated if they draw with France and Sweden defeats or draws with Luxembourg.
  • The Netherlands will be eliminated if they lose to Belarus and Sweden defeats or draws with Luxembourg.
Group B
In Group B, everyone except Switzerland and Portugal have been eliminated. Switzerland currently leads 24 points to 21. On the next matchday, October 7th:
  • Switzerland will qualify directly for the 2018 World Cup with a win over Hungary and a Portugal draw or loss to Andorra.
Suffice it to say, this one's probably going to come down to the match in Lisbon on the 10th. Again, check back after Saturday.

Group C
In Group C, it's pretty much Germany looking to wrap things up. On the next matchday, October 5th:
  • Germany will qualify directly for the World Cup with any win or draw over Northern Ireland.
Note that Northern Ireland will not neccessarily be eliminated, as they can qualify for the UEFA Second Round featuring the top 8 second placed teams from all the groups. Again, tune after Saturday.

Group D
Group D features Serbia in first place with 18 points and a guarantee they can't finish worst than second. Wales is currently in second place with 14 points, followed by Ireland with 13 points and Austria with 9 points. Georgia and Moldova have been eliminated. On the next matchday, October 6th:
  • Serbia will qualify directly for the World Cup if they defeat Austria.
  • Serbia will qualify directly for the World Cup if they draw Austria along with a Wales draw or loss to Georgia and an Ireland draw or loss to Moldova.
  • Austria will be eliminated if they lose to or draw with Serbia, or if Wales defeats Georgia and Ireland defeats Moldova.
  • Ireland will be eliminated if they lose to Moldova and if Wales defeats Georgia.
Group E
Group E features three teams still in play: Poland with 19 points, followed by Montenegro and Denmark with 16 points. On the next matchday, October 5th:
  • Poland will qualify directly to the 2018 World Cup if they defeat Armenia and Denmark and Montenegro draw.
Group F
Group F features England on 20 points, Slovakia on 15, and then Slovenia and Scotland on 14. Lithuania and Malta have already been eliminated. On the next matchday, October 5th:
  • England will qualify directly for the World Cup with a win over Slovenia.
  • England will qualify directly for the World Cup if they draw Slovenia and Slovakia loses to or draws with Scotland.
  • Scotland will be eliminated if they lose to Slovakia.
  • Slovenia will be eliminated if they lose to England and Slovakia defeats Scotland.
Group G
Group G features Spain with 22 points, Italy with 19 points, and Albania on 13 points. Israel, Macedonia, and Liechtenstein have been eliminated. On the next matchday, October 6th:
  • Spain will qualify directly for the World Cup if they defeat Albania and Italy loses to or draws with Macedonia.
  • Albania will be eliminated if they lose to Spain, or if they draw with Spain and Italy defeats Macedonia.
Group H
In Group H, Belgium has already secured first place in the group. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, and Cyprus are vying for second place, with 14, 13, and 10 points respectively. Estonia and Gibraltar have been eliminated. On the next matchday, October 7th:
  • Cyprus will be eliminated if they lose to Greece, or if they draw with Greece and Bosnia and Herzegovina defeat or draw Belgium.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina will secure second place if they defeat Belgium and Cyprus defeats Greece.
Group I
Group I is wide open. Croatia and Iceland are tied on 16 points, followed by Turkey and Ukraine with 14 points. Finland and Kosovo have been eliminated. On the next matchday, October 6th:
  • Turkey will be eliminated if they lose to Iceland and Croatia defeats Finland. Ukraine would also be defeated in this case if they fail to defeat Kosovo.
And that's about it. I hope to put up another post on Sunday with the final scenarios. Stay tuned!