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.