Updated through Chick-fil-A Bowl
Record: 8-6, 4-10 ATS
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Maryland (7-5) at Nevada (7-5) (-2)
I swear this spread is a misprint. I have to admit I haven’t taken Nevada very seriously most of this year. They’re a 7-5 WAC team. Forgive me if I don’t genuflect every time I hear them mentioned. On the other hand, the experts seem to think the nation’s second best rushing offense has a shot at beating Maryland, late of the big, bad ACC.
I’m starting to think it’s more about Maryland being a 7-5 team from a conference that’s at best described as mediocre than it is about Nevada being 7-5 in a mediocre conference. Plus, Nevada isn’t ranked, so chances are Maryland is going to come out flat like they have done all season.
I think it’s a huge stretch to say Nevada can step up and beat Maryland. They’ll have to play a perfect game. No shootouts, no miracle comebacks, no defensive collapses. A perfect game. Maryland is by no means a good team. But I’m sensing a size and speed difference between the two teams the experts aren’t talking about. The Terrapins ought to be able to push the Wolfpack around along both lines, so I’m wondering exactly how Nevada plans on running the ball with Maryland’s front seven in the backfield the entire game.
Update: Maryland 42 Nevada 35.
I guess Maryland decided it wanted to make the game a little more interesting, so a few players decided to get caught sneaking out after curfew. Turns out, Ralph Friedgen should do that in every game to Da’Rel Scott because he destroyed the Nevada defense and was the difference in the Maryland win.
It was yet another uneven win by a team that can only win that way. It’s a testament to Nevada’s offense that this game was as close as it was. Once again, Maryland had no business playing that close with a mediocre WAC team, but the Terps kept screwing up, so there you go. Let’s all just pretend this never happened.
Record: 9-6, 5-10 ATS
Western Michigan (9-3) at Rice (9-3) (-2)
It sucks to be a defensive player heading into this game. Neither WMU’s Tim Hiller or Rice’s Chase Clement gets sacked all that often and they have thrown for a shit-ton of yards (over 7,000 combined) this year. There’s gonna be some points scored in this one, giving the otherwise meaningless Texas Bowl a shot at being one of the most entertaining bowls this year.
I’m leaning toward Rice in this game only because it seems like the players are fully aware of how amazing this season has been for them. Rice is hardly ever good at football, and a tenth win is a very siginificant achievement in their history. I have no clue if that’s enough motivation to beat a plucky MAC team, but it’s a start.
And I do love Western Michigan. In any other year, they’d probably have won the MAC or at least threatened. But this year Ball State and Central Michigan happened, so the Broncos are third man. Hence having to go the hell down to Houston to play a team from Dallas. I love the way they play offense, but they had trouble stopping both Ball State and Central Michigan, and both of those teams play a very similar style to Rice, especially CMU.
Update: Rice 38 WMU 14.
I actually watched this game, as opposed to the Humanitarian Bowl, and Rice looked fantastic. But I’ve never seen two teams snap the ball to some one other than the quarterback this much.Every third snap, Rice was snapping the ball to some white wide receiver and running like a double-reverse pass or something. Then Western Michigan started doing it because they were down big and needed to do something. Tony Hiller forgot to bring his fastball to Houston, and that was pretty much it. Rice was faster and made way, way more big plays, even after dumb penalties or lucky non-interceptions. WMU never had a chance.
Record: 10-6, 6-10 ATS
(13) Oklahoma State (9-3) at (17) Oregon (9-3) (+3)
The bowl organizers seemed to really want to pit prolific offenses against each other this year. So naturally, everyone is hating on the UO and OSU defenses heading into the marquee non-BCS bowl. Neither team is any good against the pass, but ironically, neither team throws the ball a whole lot.
I’m starting to wonder if teams running the spread offense are damaging their own defenses. Only a handful of spread teams like Florida and TCU have managed to have good defenses while still spreading the ball out. Both Oregon and Oklahoma State are fantastic spread offenses, but mediocre at best defenses. Yet you’ll notice it’s much easier for Oklahoma and USC, non-spread teams, to have great defenses, though OU’s isn’t really that good. Start paying attention to how bad the defense is for a lot of spread offense teams. I think there’s a correlation beginning to emerge. I just haven’t figured it out yet.
Oklahoma State’s only three losses have been to top three teams. Oregon’s have not, though they did lose to USC. They were also beaten by Boise State and Cal, neither of whom suck, but it makes one start to wonder about Oregon’s chances against OSU.
I’m just not sold on Oregon’s ability to exploit the Cowboys’ defensive crappiness. I don’t think they’ll throw enough and I definitely don’t think they’ll be able to stop Zac Robinson enough to win. Dez Bryant is the truth, and he’s facing a horrible Oregon secondary as well.
Pick: Oklahoma State
Update: Oregon 42 OSU 31.
I was in the car, so I missed it, but Phillips mentioned to me a great point: even though they won, Oregon inadvertently proved why teams shouldn’t run the spread exclusively. Oregon couldn’t punch it in with four plays inside the five yard line in the second half. In the old days of college football, that would be inexcusable. Today, it’s much more common because teams no longer require their offensive lines to be power-blockers. So once teams get down toward the goal line, they stay in the shotgun and get stuffed. A lot.
Good win by Oregon, though. Oregon is one of the few non-Big XII or SEC teams to manage to recruit size AND speed, which is why they can compete running that ridiculous finesse offense.
Then again, I look at USC a little bit like Phil Mickelson used to look at Tiger Woods: supremely talented, but using inferior equipment. USC’s offense holds back its talent and makes them worse than they should be. Oregon’s O maximizes the players they have and, as long as they have a quarterback who can run, helps them score a ton of points pretty much every time they play. If USC’s defense wasn’t the greatest in history, Oregon and others might have had something and they still might in the future.
Record: 10-7, 6-11 ATS
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Houston (7-5) at Air Force (8-4) (+3.5)
Just like in boxing and MMA, styles make fights, which is why this one should be entertaining for contrarians. You’ve got your pure throwing team, led by Case Keenum, and you’ve got your option-run team led by, umm….
Houston led the nation in total offense, passing offense, had their conference offensive and defensive players of the year, and their conference freshman of the year and STILL only went 7-5. How is that possible, you ask? Houston may have the worst defense in division one football this year, ranking 102 out of 119 teams in total yards and giving up over 30 points per game. Yet another spread offense team with a crap defense. Go figure.
You know me and service academy option football. I’m a bit of a fan, and I’d like to welcome Army back into the triple-option fold! Air Force does it just about as well as a team can, though they’ve updated slightly from the Fisher DeBerry era.
Something’s got to give in this one, folks. Houston already lost to Air Force this season, which isn’t a good sign. The option is different than other offenses. If your team can’t stop it, it’s very unlikely they’ll ever be able to because stopping the option isn’t like stopping any other offense. I don’t trust Houston at all, but I have no idea how Air Force covered all those receivers.
Pick: Air Force
Update: Houston 34 Air Force 28.
It happened to Indiana last year and now like 50 other programs are following suit. Rice, Vanderbilt, and now Houston have all taken some major step for their program in their bowl game. Hey, at least the Hoosiers made a bowl last winter, right? That’s a good step, right? Right? Shit.
I had to watch this game in bits and pieces at the airport, so I spent most of my time not really watching, so much as praying I didn’t get stuck in the Las Vegas airport. Yeah, I know, what could suck in Vegas for a random night? Lemme tell you, that airport is creepy. It actually made me WANT to get to Indianapolis faster.
Record: 10-8, 6-12 ATS
Oregon State (8-4) at (20) Pittsburgh (9-3) (+2.5)
This is another game you couldn’t pay me to watch. Two mediocre teams with suspect head coaches and offenses that are setting football back 25 years one run into the center’s ass at a time? Count me out. Purists will enjoy OSU’s Jacquizz Rodgers and Pitt’s LeSean McCoy running the ball 30 times each in this game. I, however, can’t even bring myself to watch just to make fun of Lyle Moevao and Bill Stull as they panic at the thought of having to pass the ball at some point.
God, just the thought of this game makes me slightly ill. I don’t know what to care about more when I’m making my pick. I don’t trust either coach in a game like this. Both defenses are going to be keying on the other team’s star running back, and yet neither defense is particularly great, so the backs might have a big day anyway. I’m done. This game is ridiculous.
Pick: Oregon State
Update: Oregon State 3 Pitt 0.
I knew Pitt would suck in this game, but LeSean McCoy? Wow that was a shitty effort. A quintessential Wannstedt loss if I’ve ever seen one. Help me out here, Bears and Dolphins fans.
I love to say I told you so, so here goes: I told you this game would suck. I had no idea it would nearly set a record for suckitude, but it sucked. In the words of one Homer J. Simpson it was “the suckiest bunch of sucks who ever sucked. I gotta go, Moe. My damn wiener kids are listening.”
Record: 11-8, 7-12 ATS
(24) Boston College (9-4) at Vanderbilt (6-6) (+3.5)
As an alumnus of a school that just had it’s first bowl game in a billion years, I want to warn Vandy fans about the “just happy to be here” syndrome that is sure to infect everyone associated with the program. In last year’s Insight Bowl, Indiana brought in that same mindset and ran into the buzzsaw that is Oklahoma State. It’s nice to make a bowl game, expecially after so long, but just know this could very likely end badly for you.
Luckily for Vanderbilt, Boston College is no Oklahoma State. This game has become a battle of two teams that have no hope of having an effective passing game. BC is starting a freshman quarterback in just his third game against one of the best pass defenses in the nation. Vandy just plain can’t throw the ball well and hasn’t all season, so if you’re looking for stellar quarterback play, this ain’t the game for you.
However, this is a game scouts looking for defensive players in the draft might want to pay close attention to **ahem** AJ Smith **ahem**. BC’s Ron Brace and BJ Raji are huge, strong, and ideal 3-4 nose tackles at the next level. They also make it virtually impossible for teams to run on BC, which makes Vandy’s chances of doing anything minimal. Let’s just say I wouldn’t complain if the Chargers got ahold of either one of these guys in the 2009 draft.
Otherwise, this game looks like it’ll be a battle of running games and defenses, so there’s sure to be some trick plays thrown in there. Coaches just can’t help themselves when it comes to bowl matchups like this. Whether it’ll be exciting is another story.
Pick: Boston College
Update: Vanderbilt 16 BC 14.
Beating a crap BC team in a meaningless bowl doesn’t mean Vanderbilt is no longer the worst program in the SEC. The presence of Mississippi State, Tennessee, and Georgia means Vandy is no longer the worst program in the SEC.
I heard Jay Cutler was at this game. You know, since he’s not busy this weekend.
Vanderbilt only managed 200 yards of offense, so this game is totally BC’s fault. I hate this Eagles team. Last season, it was clear when they were melting down. Now that Matt Ryan is gone, BC was good some weeks and shit others. Can’t even beat a lousy SEC team with no offense. For shame.
Record: 11-9, 7-13 ATS
Kansas (7-5) at Minnesota (7-5) (+8.5)
Ah, the gloriousness that is Tempe, AZ on New Year’s Eve. Phillips and I were there last year for IU’s beating at the hands of Oklahoma State, and now Minnesota fans can enjoy such classy establishments as The Library.
The Big Ten is slowly changing to a spread-offense league. Only a couple of teams still use the old I-formation offense that made the conference one of the most boring in the country. The problem is, the teams aren’t running the spread all that well yet. There’s no speed in the Big Ten, so basically the new spread offenses can’t really do any better than if they were still going with “three yards and a cloud of dust.”
Kansas and the Big XII on the other hand have fully completed their switch to being a spread conference. Everyone is lining up with multiple receivers, recruiting speed, and making celebrities out of their quarterbacks. Even Baylor. It’s a whole new day in the former Southern Conference, and they have the crappy defenses to prove it. They are where the Big Ten will be in two years.
Kansas’ terrible defense is Minnesota’s only hope of winning this game. The Jayhawk offense is going to get its points no matter what. It’s simply a question of whether Minnesota’s slow-motion spread can score enough points to keep up. I say no, they can’t.
Update: Kansas 42 Minnesota 21.
The way things have been going at Indiana the last few years, football success like they’re having at Kansas may have turned us into a football school. At Kansas, not so much. I hear National Championships help you stay a basketball school. That might just be a rumor though.
For the second straight year, the Big Ten has essentially failed to show up at the Insight Bowl. Why? Because the Insight Bowl always gets the “hey, just happy to be here” Big Ten school. Indiana and Minnesota the last two years weren’t actually teams with success on their minds. They were just happy to be at a bowl game because they’d been so shitty the last few years.
Not that Kansas is so great. They’re doing well. It’s just doing well FOR KANSAS, not as an actual program. Besides, their offensive style means they can be beaten by pretty much anyone, though it also means they can beat anyone on a given night. Teams are seeing the yards and points they can get with the spread offense, but everyone is turning into a shit defensive team because of it. Beware of the spread.
Record: 12-9, 8-13 ATS
LSU (7-5) at (14) Georgia Tech (9-3) (-4.5)
I can’t say enough about the bad karma LSU has incurred by not using Keiland Williams. When Oregon started using Jonathan Stewart as their primary back, their offense took off. Before that it had been suspect at best. LSU’s offense is at that same stage. They should be using Keiland Williams, but Jacob Hester and now Charles Scott, both glorified fullbacks, are taking his carries. Les Miles is the worst coach in the SEC, and that’s saying something since Mark Richt and Gene Chizik are both in that conference.
I’ve been all about Georgia Tech from the beginning. Paul Johnson was an inspired hire and it’s already clear his offense is going to work at the major-conference level. It even produced Jonathan Dwyer, the ACC player of the year.
This game is going to be won in the trenches. I know, that’s a shocking thing to say in a matchup of two running offenses. But these two teams have NFL-quality defensive fronts and several of them are going to be paid well to play on Sundays. That said, I don’t trust a single one of LSU’s players on defense. That’s one of the most talented units in the country, and they were absolutely atrocious in the second half of the season. They have absolutely no excuse for being that pathetic. Georgia Tech’s line is fantastic, and should be the key in stopping LSU from being able to do anything offensively. Not that the Tigers need help sucking on offense. The best thing any of the previews could say about LSU in this game is how the LSU players will be playing for their draft positions, and that’s not exactly the kind of motivation you want your team having against an option offense as good as Georgia Tech’s.
In sum, I hate the way LSU plays and is run as much as I love Georgia Tech this year. Go Yellow Jackets.
Pick: Georgia Tech
Update: LSU 38 Georgia Tech 3.
Way to run a fake punt up five touchdowns there, Les. Class all the way. Might be the only kind of class LSU players have even heard of. Good to see Woody Hayes has been reincarnated in the SEC. College football needs a run-obsessed, comically intense, incompetent boob running a major program. We really do. Otherwise, who would I make fun of, Mike Riley? Please.
This was not the end I wanted for my beloved Georgia Tech team. I’m not an alumni or a fan or anything. I just love the triple option. But hey, it was just year one under Paul Johnson. They’re only going to get better. As long as he manages to replace that NFL-level front seven by next year. Yeesh, maybe not looking so good.
Record: 12-10, 8-14 ATS