Thursday, December 31, 2009

Auburn-Northwestern Preview

Auburn takes on Northwestern tomorrow in the Outback Bowl, 11 AM ET, on ESPN. I'm upbeat about the game, and I think Auburn will win, but there will be some questions:

1) Will Auburn's sometimes-missing offense show up?

2) Will Northwestern's defense play like they have played this year?

3) Will the players be awake for the early morning game? Auburn had trouble with this earlier in the year.

Rather than write up a lot of the statistics matching up the teams, I direct you to this article that does just that. Auburn looks like the team to beat, but of course, several teams who have already lost looked like the team to beat (Fresno State, Nevada, Houston). All I can say is I hope for a good showing for Auburn and a win, no matter by how many points. I earlier predicted that Auburn would win, 24-23. I will now append to predict one more touchdown for Auburn and a 31-23 win.

War Eagle!

Mike Leach: The OTHER Position

So I'm sure you've heard by now that Mike Leach was fired yesterday as the head coach of the Texas Tech Red Raiders. What you may not have heard was anyone who was on his side. If you watched ESPN recently, all you heard were things like Mark May saying Leach deserved to be fired. Lou Holtz was a little less blunt and to-the-point, but he leaned the same way. And, of course, Craig James was saying he didn't ask that Leach was fired, which I do believe. James did say he wanted for son to be protected, but I'm not sure he was in any danger really.

I say, of course May and Holtz are going to agree with the firing; are they really going to say that was the wrong move? That would make those office Christmas parties a little awkward with James. I think that a few things don't add up:

According to ESPN, Texas Tech was going to owe Leach a lump sum of $800,000 as long as he was the coach as of today; with the firing, they do not owe him the money. Second, several emails were sent to Texas Tech, portraying Adam James as an entitlement kid (just look at his picture, he certainly looks the part) with a bad attitude and poor work ethic. Third, was the university actually looking to fire Leach before all of this came out? I know they had a rift about Leach looking at other jobs, but he was the winningest coach in the history of the university. Fourth, the university only took two days to fire Leach, not even investigating the claims. Fifth, doctors made the statement that what Leach did to James didn't harm him in any way.

The funny thing in all of this is that, in my opinion, Adam James looks like the bad guy here. He thought he deserved more playing time, but ironically only Mike Leach wanted to give him a scholarship (the scholarship to Texas Tech was the only one he received, and the position coach said he wasn't Division I material). His poor work ethic wasn't indicative of someone who wanted to put in the time and effort to make himself better, again presumably because of his entitlement air.

Another funny thing is that Texas Tech isn't going to get a better coach than they had in Leach. For not having played football in college, Leach is a genius on the offensive side of the ball. It did come out that Tommy Tuberville was interested in the job, and that may be a good fit for the university. Lincoln Riley also did an almost 180 (we'll say 175), saying that he would be there for James as the coach, but stopped short of saying he wanted him back next year.

I was pulling for Texas Tech in the game against Michigan State, but I think I'll back the Spartans now. I think Texas Tech was in the wrong, and I think they'll pay dearly for it in the form of a lawsuit Leach and his attorney were filing very soon.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ridiculous Bowl Game Names & Lofty Claims

Are you tired of all the corporate sponsors for bowl games? Me too. Whatever happened to just the Liberty Bowl or the Peach Bowl or the Poulan Weedeater Bowl (OK, that last one I guess falls under being a corporate sponsor, but c'mon, it's Poulan.)? Here is a good story on those ridiculous titles. It is funny that at least three games are being sponsored by groups who took federal bailout money (GMAC, two games sponsored by Citi). If we're going to go that route, I'd personally like to see the Bernie Madoff Bowl in the future.

Here's another one. I'm sure if you're here in Birmingham (or anywhere else in the state) that you've seen Academy Sports has signs saying they'll open right after Alabama's national championship victory. Well over in Texas, they're doing the same thing for the Longhorns - see Academy's website for information on store openings. Now, I'm an Auburn fan AND I think Alabama will win. But what if Alabama doesn't win? Will Academy not open its doors until they do win a national championship? That could take years. The same for Texas. So I guess, either way, a lot of Academy stores will be closed indefinitely. Judging from the list of stores, I think Academy wants Texas to win, they have many more stores in their list than Alabama does. (Please read with sarcasm.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bowl Update

I will be editing my previous post on bowl predictions throughout the bowl season with final scores and records, so keep checking it out to see how I do (which, by the way, will be terrible, I'm sure).

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hunt For The Heisman Trophy

The Heisman Trophy is to be awarded this Saturday night (8 PM ET, ESPN). Five finalists were invited to New York for the presentation at the Nokia Theater: Alabama's Mark Ingram, Florida's Tim Tebow, Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh, Stanford's Toby Gerhart, and Texas's Colt McCoy.

The Heisman Trophy is awarded to college football's "most outstanding player", whatever that means. Given that the Maxwell Award is also awarded to the most outstanding player, I'm not sure what the difference is. Too many awards, too few deserving players.

I'm not sure I would have selected those five. If I were given the opportunity to select four players to come to New York, as is usually the case, here are the four I would have selected:

1) Case Keenum - Without Keenum, Houston has nothing. He had two games where the attempted 75 or more passes. Consequently, the ground game was pretty much nonexistent. Keenum had almost 1600 more passing yards than 2nd place Levi Brown of Troy. He also had 43 touchdown passes (4 more than Boise State's Kellen Moore) against only 9 interceptions. It's hard to deny how good this guy is, and it's a shame that Houston didn't do even better this year.

2) Toby Gerhart - Although Andrew Luck is also a credit to Stanford's impressive year, Gerhart is the bruising back that contributed most to their success. He led the nation with over 1700 yards rushing, and he also had 26 touchdowns on the ground. He had three games with over 200 yards rushing (200 on 27 carries against Washington, 223 against Oregon on 38 carries, and 205 on 29 carries against Notre Dame) and only two games where he was held to under 100 yards rushing (82 on 17 carries against Wake Forest and 96 on 20 carries against Oregon State). And he's a white running back at that.

3) Kellen Moore - Moore leads the nation in passer rating (167.3) and is second in passing touchdowns (39). He only had 3 interceptions, the least of everyday quarterbacks, and he had over 3300 yards passing. Moore was efficient also, completing 63% of his passes. Watching this guy play, you know Boise State is going to dominate for two more years as he is only a sophomore.

4) Golden Tate - I know this is a longshot, and since Notre Dame went 6-6, he wouldn't get the consideration, but his 93 catches for just shy of 1500 yards, along with 15 receiving touchdowns, is staggering. Granted I don't like Notre Dame, Tate made some impressive catches this year every time I saw them play. He was Clausen's go-to guy, much like Terry Beasley was for Pat Sullivan.

Here's why I wouldn't have invited the players who were invited:

1) Colt McCoy - 12 interceptions, 4 games under 200 yards passing

2) Tim Tebow - 2400 yards passing, lost big in SEC championship game, lackluster compared to earlier seasons

3) Mark Ingram - according to many Bama fans, not even the best running back on the team; in my opinion, not the best player on the team (Greg McElroy)

4) Ndamukong Suh - 12 sacks is pretty good, but only 82 tackles (I guess he wouldn't get as many tackles as linebackers)

I'd like to see Gerhart win it, but I doubt it would happen. Mark Ingram seems to be getting a lot of hype, but his 30 yards against Auburn on 16 carries takes it from him. McCoy may win it on his career, and many voters probably think it's his turn to win after Bradford and Tebow, which are both cop outs. I really can't believe Tebow is being invited this year, but this is also probably a traditional thing. Whoever wins, I hope that person does better than previous Heisman winners Reggie Bush, Jason White, Eric Crouch, Chris Weinke, Charlie Ward, Gino Torretta, etc.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bowl Breakdown

I am again taking on the daunting challenge of analyzing a whole bunch of football in one sitting (see here and here for previous daunting challenges). As everyone knows, the bowls were finalized yesterday, and there is so much college football out there, it's like a whole new season began today. With that in mind, here's a breakdown of the entire bowl season, with some analysis and selections:

Saturday, December 19:
New Mexico Bowl (4:30 PM ET): Fresno State vs. Wyoming - Look for Fresno, who isn't afraid of anyone, to show Wyoming that although you may be better than in years past, you're still Wyoming. Prediction: Fresno State 34, Wyoming 17. (Actual: Wyoming 35, Fresno State 28 (OT) - Record: 0-1)

St. Petersburg Bowl (8:00 PM ET): UCF vs. Rutgers - Both of these teams have been up and down this year, and this feels like a pretty even matchup. Most of UCF's losses have come to highly ranked teams, but they do have a pretty bad pass defense, and Rutgers likes to toss the ball. Rutgers lost to Syracuse, but I like them here. Prediction: Rutgers 27, UCF 24. (Actual: Rutgers 45, UCF 24 - Record: 1-1)

Sunday, December 20:
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (8:30 PM ET): Southern Miss vs. Middle Tennessee State - Sure, MTSU is 9-3, but if you look at their schedule, they lost to opponents in BCS conferences (except Maryland, who had a terrible season, and it was only a 1-point win). With the exception of a loss to UAB, Southern Miss's losses were by 7 points or less. Prediction: Southern Miss 31, MTSU 20. (Actual: MTSU 42, Southern Miss 32 - Record: 1-2)

Tuesday, December 22:
Maaco Bowl Las Vegas (8:00 PM ET): Oregon State vs. BYU - This feels like it should be a game later in the bowl season. Oregon State played Oregon down to the wire for the Pac-10 championship, and BYU's only losses were to Florida State early in the season and TCU, who should be playing for a national championship against Alabama. Prediction: BYU 31, Oregon State 30. (Actual: BYU 44, Oregon State 20 - Record: 2-2)

Wednesday, December 23:
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (8:00 PM ET): Utah vs. California - Um, which California team is going to show up - the one that lost to Washington, Oregon, and USC by 27-39 points or the one or the one that beat Stanford and Arizona by 7 or less? On the flipside, Utah's wins this year have been by just a little generally. Prediction: Utah 27, California 25. (Actual: Utah 37, California 27 - Record: 3-2)

Thursday, December 24:
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (8:00 PM ET): Nevada vs. SMU - All I'm going to say is SMU lost to Washington State, which was their only win. Oh yeah, Nevada's offense is really good (OK, that's two things). Prediction: Nevada 52, SMU 35. (Actual: SMU 45, Nevada 10 - Record: 3-3)

Saturday, December 26:
Little Caesar's Bowl (1:00 PM ET): Marshall vs. Ohio - I'm surprised Marshall even got a bowl game at 6-6. Solich's Ohio team has been very good this year, keeping games tight with Connecticut and Tennessee. Prediction: Ohio 31, Marshall 23. (Actual: Marshall 21, Ohio 17 - Record: 3-4)

Meineke Car Care Bowl (4:30 PM ET): Pittsburgh vs. North Carolina - It's a shame that Pitt isn't playing around Jan. 1, but at least they drew an ACC team, which means they will probably get the win. North Carolina beat Virginia Tech and Miami, but they lost to NC State, Virginia, and Florida State (which is because of the ACC default rule where the worse team wins). Prediction: Pittsburgh 41, North Carolina 27. (Actual: Pittsburgh 19, North Carolina 17 - Record: 4-4)

Emerald Bowl (8:00 PM ET): Boston College vs. USC - USC took a monumental tumble this year, and it shows by their game being on 12/26. I'm not sure Boston College was relevant this year, but then again, neither was USC. The differences between the two teams: USC is still ranked because of their media darling status and the bowl is in their home state. Prediction: USC 17, Boston College 13. (Actual: USC 24, Boston College 13 - Record: 5-4) (Note: The score was as I predicted until about 12 minutes left in the game when USC scored one more touchdown.)

Sunday, December 27:
Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl (8:30 PM ET): Kentucky vs. Clemson - Clemson hung right in there against Georgia Tech, and Spiller, if he has a good game, will prove too much for Kentucky. Prediction: Clemson 31, Kentucky 21. (Actual: Clemson 21, Kentucky 13 - Record: 6-4)

Monday, December 28:
Advocare V100 Independence Bowl (5:00 PM ET): Texas A&M vs. Georgia - Two Jekyll & Hyde teams meet up for this one. Texas A&M has played better recently than earlier in the year, and Georgia is on the upswing after lulling in the middle of the season. This one also feels close. Prediction: Georgia 34, Texas A&M 31. (Actual: Georgia 44, Texas A&M 20 - Record: 7-4)

Tuesday, December 29:
Eaglebank Bowl (4:30 PM ET): UCLA vs. Temple - Temple ran off 9 wins in a row in the middle of their season, with the highlight in that stretch a win over Navy, 27-24. Meanwhile, UCLA started off 3-0 before imploding. Their 3-1 stretch over the last four games got them to 6-6. However, in Pac-10 vs. MAC, I'll have to go with the BCS team. Prediction: UCLA 24, Temple 20. (Actual: UCLA 30, Temple 21 - Record: 8-4)

Champs Sports Bowl (8:00 PM ET): Miami vs. Wisconsin - Miami looked solid in their last game against South Florida, and Wisconsin hasn't been a pushover this year, losing three to solid (at the time) Big Ten teams. Prediction: Miami 31, Wisconsin 28. (Actual: Wisconsin 20, Miami 14 - Record: 8-5)

Wednesday, December 30:
Roady's Humanitarian Bowl (4:30 PM ET): Bowling Green vs. Idaho - Bowling Green has the momentum here, winning its last four and six of its last seven. Idaho, who started out 6-1, dropped 4 of its last 5. But the game's in Idaho. Prediction: Idaho 45, Bowling Green 41. (Actual: Idaho 43, Bowling Green 42 - Record: 9-5)

Pacific Life Holiday Bowl (8:00 PM ET): Arizona vs. Nebraska - Thus far, this is the matchup to see. I thought Nebraska had pulled off the upset against Texas, and Arizona has played with the best of the Pac-10 this year. I wish I could call it a tie, but I think Arizona wins down the stretch. Prediction: Arizona 27, Nebraska 21. (Actual: Nebraska 33, Arizona 0 - Record: 9-6)

Thursday, December 31:
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl (12:00 PM ET): Houston vs. Air Force - Houston comes in hobbling from their loss to ECU in the C-USA championship game. Air Force has won the games they should this season, but they have also lost the games they should. Houston's defense won't stop Air Force's run game, and Case Keenum will have a field day passing, say 550 yards. Prediction: Houston 48, Air Force 31. (Actual: Air Force 47, Houston 20 - Record: 9-7)

Brut Sun Bowl (2:00 PM ET): Oklahoma vs. Stanford - Toby Gerhart should win the Heisman, but he won't. Oklahoma shouldn't have blanked or beat Oklahoma State, but they did. Surprisingly close, I'll give this one to the Sooners. Prediction: Oklahoma 31, Stanford 30. (Actual: Oklahoma 31, Stanford 27 - Record: 10-7)

Texas Bowl (3:30 PM ET): Navy vs. Missouri - All of Navy's games, wins or losses, have been tight this year, and Missouri has won 4 of its last 5. I like the ground attack of Navy to take this one. Prediction: Navy 29, Missouri 27. (Actual: Navy 35, Missouri 13 - Record: 11-7)

Insight Bowl (6:00 PM ET): Minnesota vs. Iowa State - This feels like a snoozer. In the few games I saw Minnesota play this season, they looked stagnant. Iowa State's results look like a mixed bag. So who wins? The more important question is: Who cares? Prediction: Iowa State 9, Minnesota 7. (Actual: Iowa State 14, Minnesota 13 - Record: 12-7)

Chick-Fil-A Bowl (7:30 PM ET): Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee - Now we're talking. On paper Virginia Tech takes this one easily. In reality, this could be a tight one. Tennessee has played well of late, but I still say that Virginia Tech had an outside shot at a BCS game. Prediction: Virginia Tech 26, Tennessee 24. (Actual: Virginia Tech 37, Tennessee 14 - Record: 13-7)

Friday, January 1:
Outback Bowl (11:00 AM ET): Northwestern vs. Auburn - For some reason, people like my brother think Northwestern is a pushover. Au contraire, mon frere (literally). Northwestern beat Iowa and Wisconsin despite being heavy underdogs. Auburn has shown signs of life, and hopefully they will continue in this way, playing for more than the 1st quarter. Prediction: Auburn 24, Northwestern 23. (Actual: Auburn 38, Northwestern 35 (OT) - Record: 14-7)

Konica Minolta Gator Bowl (1:00 PM ET): West Virginia vs. Florida State - Do you think the Florida State team will be up to win Bobby Bowden's last game at the helm? You better believe it! Florida State pulls the upset. Prediction: Florida State 28, West Virginia 24. (Actual: Florida State 33, West Virginia 21 - Record: 15-7)

Capital One Bowl (1:00 PM ET): Penn State vs. LSU - This seems like a decent matchup for this game. Penn State got snubbed for Iowa (yes, I know Iowa beat them, but Stanzi is out, and Iowa is a different team with Vandenburg in at QB). LSU barely survived against Arkansas after losing with a bone-headed decision by Les Miles. This game will be dominated by defense. Prediction: Penn State 20, LSU 17. (Actual: Penn State 19, LSU 17 - Record: 16-7)

Rose Bowl Game Presented by Citi (4:30 PM ET): Ohio State vs. Oregon - As much as I'd like to say Ohio State loses again, I'm not sure this one is so cut and dry. Oregon has played sub-par lately despite winning. Ohio State hasn't looked great either, despite winning. Two somewhat mediocre teams playing in the Rose Bowl. Prediction: Oregon 31, Ohio State 24. (Actual: Ohio State 26, Oregon 17 - Record: 16-8)

Allstate Sugar Bowl (8:30 PM ET): Florida vs. Cincinnati - This one looks like a good matchup also. Cincinnati has been winning by the skin of their teeth lately, especially in the final regular season game against Pittsburgh. Florida doesn't look so dominant after being humbled by Alabama. I think the Gators will have their hands full with a Cincinnati team with a legitimate claim to playing in the national championship game, but I think they'll prevail, only slightly. Prediction: Florida 35, Cincinnati 34. (Actual: Florida 51, Cincinnati 24 - Record: 17-8)

Saturday, January 2:
International Bowl (12:00 PM ET): South Florida vs. Northern Illinois - Northern Illinois hasn't played anyone, and South Florida has skidded since losing Matt Grothe at QB. You can sleep through this one. Prediction: South Florida 24, Northern Illinois 10. (Actual: South Florida 27, Northern Illinois 3 - Record: 18-8) Bowl (2:00 PM ET): South Carolina vs. Connecticut - High expectations were had for both of these teams at the beginning of the season. South Carolina imploded for the second half, salvaging the season with a win over rival Clemson. Connecticut played through adversity with the shooting death of Jasper Howard right after their homecoming game. With the game in Birmingham, South Carolina has an advantage and wins. Prediction: South Carolina 24, Connecticut 22. (Actual: Connecticut 20, South Carolina 7 - Record: 18-9)

AT&T Cotton Bowl (2:00 PM ET): Oklahoma State vs. Ole Miss - This one also seems like an easy call for Oklahoma State. Both teams lost to their rivals during rivalry week, and both look like they have played better. Oklahoma State has desperately needed Dez Bryant, and Ole Miss has desperately needed Jevan Snead, although he has actually been playing. I think I'll go with the SEC on this one. Prediction: Ole Miss 31, Oklahoma State 25. (Actual: Ole Miss 21, Oklahoma State 7 - Record: 19-9)

AutoZone Liberty Bowl (5:30 PM ET): Arkansas vs. East Carolina - I underestimated East Carolina. They beat Houston bad in a game that few saw happening. Arkansas ran up a string of wins until Alex Tejada's missed field goal in OT game LSU the win. C-USA doesn't have the depth of even a mid-range SEC team. Prediction: Arkansas 38, East Carolina 31. (Actual: Arkansas 20, East Carolina 17 (OT) - Record: 20-9)

Valero Alamo Bowl (9:00 PM ET): Michigan State vs. Texas Tech - Michigan State has played OK, with an almost win over Iowa when Iowa was good. Texas Tech was edged out by Oklahoma State and Houston and has played like a much better team than their record reflects. Prediction: Texas Tech 38, Michigan State 27. (Actual: Texas Tech 41, Michigan State 31 - Record: 21-9)

Monday, January 4:
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (8:00 PM ET): Boise State vs. TCU - As much as I'm looking forward to watching this game, I think the BCS committee took the easy way out by making these two non-BCS conference teams play each other. I would much rather watch Boise State beat Oklahoma (2006-7) and Utah beat Alabama (2008-9) than watch those types of teams play each other. TCU, I think, has a legitimate claim to the title game, and I think if Boise State picked up some quality opponents, they'd have a better argument for themselves. The problem is, though, that no BCS teams want to play Boise State. I think this is another evenly matched game, and I don't really know who to go with. If I had to pick one, I think I'd take TCU. Prediction: TCU 45, Boise State 44. (Actual: Boise State 17, TCU 10 - Record: 21-10)

Tuesday, January 5:
FedEx Orange Bowl (8:00 PM ET): Iowa vs. Georgia Tech - Snore. Prediction: Georgia Tech 45, Iowa 17. (Actual: Iowa 24, Georgia Tech 14 - Record: 21-11)

Wednesday, January 6:
GMAC Bowl (7:00 PM ET): Central Michigan vs. Troy - This is virtually a home game for Troy, and they'll need it. Dan LeFevour is now the all-time I-A leader in touchdowns throwing, rushing, and receiving combined with 148. Yes, he caught a touchdown on a reverse against Northern Illinois in 2007. Troy can hang with teams from lesser conferences, but I think Central Michigan has the talent to win this one in Troy's backyard. Prediction: Central Michigan 27, Troy 23. (Actual: Central Michigan 44, Troy 41 (OT) - Record: 22-11)

Thursday, January 7:
Citi BCS National Championship Game (8:00 PM ET): Texas vs. Alabama - As much as it pains me to say, I think Alabama has the most well-rounded team in the nation. I though Greg McElroy was a question mark coming into the season, but he has proven to be the leader that Alabama needed. Texas, on the other hand, comes into the game limping but not defeated after a nailbiter victory over Nebraska. Texas doesn't have the running game, and making them one-dimensional is the key to an Alabama victory. However, you can't deny the McCoy-Shipley connection. Since 2002, the team ranked #2 has won the game every year except for after the 2004 season in which USC defeated Oklahoma. On the flipside, the SEC is 5-0 in BCS national championship games. This will be one of the tightest national championship games since the Ohio State double overtime win over Miami after the 2001 season. Prediction: Alabama 24, Texas 21. (Actual: Alabama 37, Texas 21 - Record: 23-11) (Note: This was the score with about 2 minutes left. Alabama scored one more touchdown, then piled on another when it was unneccesary.)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Holy War

Dueling religious imagery for your pre-game enjoyment.  Of course, Tebow is football Jesus, not Adam.  He's a devout Evangelical Christian, home schooled, does mission work (performs circumcisions) in the off-season, writes Bible verses on his gameday eye black.  And his coach was named after a Pope.

All we need is an image of Steve Spurrier descending from the top of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with a "Fun 'N Gun" playbook inscribed on stone tablets.

As for Alabama, well, "There is No God but BEAR and SABAN is his Prophet."  A fanatical base that is well armed and prone to misogeny and domestic violence fervently seeking a return to imagined days of past glory.  You can understand why I won't be posting any images here.  Has Imam Finebaum issued a fatwa against the Gators yet?  Death to Florida!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bowl picture clears for Auburn

As reported earlier, Auburn accepted a bid to the Outback Bowl, 10 am on January 1, potentially playing against Wisconsin for the third time in a bowl game since 2003. Auburn should count itself lucky to get the best bowl game of predicted bowl games for the six SEC teams with 7-5 records (by the way, Auburn's record against these other five 7-5 teams is 1-3 with a win against Tennessee and losses against Kentucky, Georgia, and Arkansas...Auburn didn't play South Carolina).

This site has projected bowls and teams who have accepted bids to bowl games already. As of posting time, it appears six teams have accepted bids:

1) UCF, to the St. Petersburg Bowl (December 19)
2) SMU, to the Hawaii Bowl (December 24)
3) Navy, to the Texas Bowl (December 31)
4) Auburn, to the Outback Bowl (January 1)
5) Ole Miss, to the Cotton Bowl (January 2)
6) Oklahoma State, also to the Cotton Bowl (January 2)