December 29, 2005

Quick Picks

It suddenly occurred to us that there is no freaking way we'll be able to provide in-depth previews of the rest of the bowl games. We're off to Tempe tomorrow, so time to scale down the bowl picks and make some "Quick Picks" on the fly for the rest of these bowl games (except the Fiesta Bowl and Rose Bowl). No stats, no breakdowns, just pure stream of consciousness writing and gut feelings for all 14 of these games. Apologies in advance to the four actual readers that we have (if that), but this is the best we can offer.

Next year, we will be more on the ball with getting the picks up early and often(or if you like it we'll just make the "quick picks" a regular feature).

Still planning a big preview of the Fiesta Bowl and hopefully the Rose Bowl next week when we get back.

Holiday Bowl – Oregon vs. Oklahoma (Line: Oregon -3.5)

Doug: Oregon -3.5. Seems like everybody is on the “Cal didn’t show up in the Holiday Bowl last year after they got passed over by the BCS, so Oregon won’t either” bandwagon. I’m a little skeptical of that. Oklahoma did not impress me this year at all, even with Peterson. Oregon 31 Oklahoma 20

Matt: Oklahoma +3.5. I really didn't know who to take in this one. Oklahoma has been improving all year, and Rhett Bomar finally seems to be a competent QB. Not sold on Oregon even though they've been winning without Clemens. It's the Holiday Bowl, so... Oklahoma 41 Oregon 37

Music City Bowl – Virginia vs. Minnesota (Line: Minnesota -5)

Doug: Minnesota -5. The Cavaliers are the biggest frauds in college football year in and year out. The next big game they win will be the first. Minnesota will be fired up and run the ball all over Virginia. Minnesota 24 Virginia 17

Matt: Minnesota -5. When are all of Al Groh's recruiting classes going to actually do something. The fact that two of his assistants got head coaching jobs is a little odd, and just shows how much these teams underacheive. Lawrence Maroney goes over 200 on the ground. Minnesota 27 Virginia 18

Sun Bowl: Northwestern vs. UCLA (Line: UCLA -3)

Doug: UCLA -3. Should be an entertaining game if you like offense. Had a chance to go to the OSU-Northwestern game earlier this year. Northwestern doesn’t even pretend to play defense, and their special teams are terrible. UCLA has the better athletes, and will find a way to win this game. UCLA 45 Northwestern 31

Matt: UCLA - 3. Believe me, i think UCLA is one of the most overrated teams in the country. Their fans would probably be more excited to find a new trendy restaurant that serves a good shrimp cocktail than win the Sun Bowl. But Brent Musberger would probably look pretty good right now to Randy Walker at the two deep in the secondary. UCLA wins in a shootout. UCLA 42 Northwestern 37

Independence Bowl: South Carolina vs. Missouri (Line: SC -4.5)

Doug: South Carolina -4.5 - Three words: Steven Orr Spurrier. I’d bet Spurrier doesn't even acknowledge Missouri football, and probably can't even point out the state on a map. Quick sidenote on Spurrier: Can he even name 10 schools out of the SEC conference? Does he just fill in his coaches poll ballot with 10 SEC teams and leave the rest blank? South Carolina 31 Missouri 17

Matt: Missouri +4.5. I was starting to warm up to the 'Ol Ballcoach again. Then he had to go run his mouth about ND and their schedule and vote them lower than any coach in america. I think the good Brad Smith shows up, but it's not enough to save Gary Pinkel's job. He gets the 'pinkel' slip after the season. Missouri 18 South Carolina 13

Peach Bowl: Miami (Fla.) vs. LSU (Line: Miami -7.5)

Doug: Miami (Fla.) -7.5. Three more words: Les Miles. The white Ty Willingham. Most overrated coach in the country. I have never been impressed with Les Miles as a coach. With Saban in the NFL, the LSU program will decline rapidly over the next few years. Put that in pen. Miami will be fired up and ready to roll. 7th Floor Crew for life! Miami 27 LSU 10

Matt: Miami (Fla.) -7.5. No Jamarcus Russell? No way. Miami 31 LSU 13

Meineke Bowl: South Florida vs. NC State (Line: NC State -3.5)

Doug: South Florida +3.5. Upset alert! NC State has not distinguished themselves at all this year. Seems like a program in decline. On the other hand, this is a statement game for South Florida. When in doubt, I’ll go with the team that needs to win this game more. South Florida 21 NC State 17

Matt: NC State -3.5. If Chuck Amato loses this game he should be forced to listen to taped recordings of his own voice until spring ball. USF had the chance to play West Virginia for the Big East title and couldn't beat UConn. They are not a good program. Hang that on the bulletin board Jim Leavitt. NC State 27 USF 10

Liberty Bowl: Fresno State vs. Tulsa (Line: Fresno State -7)

Doug: Fresno State -7. How the heck did this game get a December 31 bowl slot? This matchup has December 23rd bowl game written all over it. Needless to say, I’m not that excited about the Liberty Bowl this year (especially compared to last year's Louisville-Boise State epic battle), and I feel sorry for the good people of Memphis for having to host it. I’ll go with Pat Hill’s fighting moustaches. Fresno State 31 Tulsa 14

Matt: Tulsa +7. I can't help but feel that Fresno State's season ended in the Coliseum against USC. As hard as the 'stache will try, I don't think Fresno gets up for this game. Tulsa played well down the stretch and has to be pumped after the turnaround from three years ago. Tulsa 37 Fresno State 34

Houston Bowl: TCU vs. Iowa State (Line: TCU -3 )

Doug: TCU -3. Virtual home game for TCU. I learned all I needed to learn about ISU’s character during that gag job against Kansas at the end of the year that deprived them of a spot in the Big 12 North title game. TCU 20 ISU 10

Matt: TCU -3. Iowa State has no backbone. Couldn't close out an awful Big 12 North. Again. TCU is an incredible loss against SMU from playing in the BCS. TCU 37 Iowa State 14

Outback Bowl: Iowa vs. Florida (Line: Florida -1)

Doug: Florida -1. Iowa is just not a very good team this year. Look up their results. I can’t even believe they are playing in this game. Florida is a legit top 15 team this year, and should be even better in the coming years. No way Urban Meyer loses this game. Won’t happen. Florida 24 Iowa 7

Matt: Florida -1. Florida program is in mini-shambles after Urban's first year. Mega-prospect qb Josh Portis appears to be headed out the door, and Urban has Chris Leak running an offense that doesn't quite fit his talents. Throw in a loss against Spurrier and a tiny bit of doubt about Meyer's credentials (Let's just say the words Utah and Bowling Green don't get much respect in SEC Country) and this is a big game for Florida. They'll win. Florida 20 Iowa 17

Cotton Bowl: Texas Tech vs. Alabama (Line: Texas Tech -4 )

Doug: Alabama +4. I already know how Matt is betting on this one. Matt might as well just change his name to Mike Leach Jr. In fact, I think it's possible that Matt is the biggest Texas Tech apologist in America outside of Lubbock, Texas. I’ll go with the opposite just for giggles (although it still makes me uneasy to bet on a Shula). Alabama 23 Texas Tech 21

Matt: Texas Tech -4. I can't wait for this one! Did I miss something? Is Bear Bryant coming back to coach? Is Shawn Alexander lining up at RB with Dennis Riddle? Did Tyrone Prothro's leg miraculously unsnap? No? Oh, well then how is Alabama going to score 4 points let alone cover! Ok, so I'm exaggerating just a bit. Let me take off my Red Raider shaded goggles. I don't think Alabama's defense will slow down Cody Hodges enough to make up for Alabama's awful offense. Texas Tech 27 Alabama 6

Gator Bowl: Louisville vs. Virginia Tech (Line: Virginia Tech -8.5 )

Doug: Louisville +8.5. The last few Virginia Tech games I saw left a bad taste in my mouth about that team. The Vick Brothers are quickly becoming the most overrated QB tandem in football history. Va Tech wins, but Louisville covers. Va Tech 31 Louisville 27

Matt: Virginia Tech -8.5. No Brian Brohm? No way. Virginia Tech 34 Louisville 17

Capital One Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Auburn (Line: Wisconsin +11 )

Doug: Wisconsin +11. I think Auburn wins this game, but I refuse to throw away 11 points like that, especially against a Big 10 team. Auburn 17 Wisconsin 10

Matt: Auburn -11. I realize that is it is a Big 10 team with their legendary coach in his last game. I just don't think Wisconsin is good enough to stay with Auburn. Auburn 41 Wiconsin 18

Sugar Bowl: West Virginia vs. Georgia (Line: Georgia -7 )

Doug: Georgia -7. Seems like there is some momentum to pick a West Virginia upset. I’m not buying it. I am not convinced that West Virginia is a great team, and there is no way they are beating Georgia in Atlanta unless they are a great team. WVU lost to Va Tech by double digits at home. Georgia might be one of the four or five best teams in America this year. Dawgs roll. Georgia 31 West Virginia 13

Matt: Georgia -7. I was all ready to pick West Virginia to cover in this game. When I watched them against Pitt they were unstoppable rushing. But this isn't Pitt in Morgantown. UGA in Atlanta is a whole 'nother story. The fact that WVU is soooooo one dimensional on offense (118th in pass) means Georgia is going to be flying all over the field stopping the run. Throw in the fact both RB and QB are freshman, and this could get ugly. Georgia 27 West Virgina 13

Orange Bowl: Penn State vs. Florida State (Line: Penn State -9.5)

Doug: Florida State +9.5. Give Bobby Bowden and company a month, and I think they’ll hold up just fine. Wouldn’t be surprised to see FSU win this game outright. I think Penn State is a good team this year, but they are probably less talented than FSU when you break it down. I like Penn State to pull it out, but I think the game will be close. Penn State 20 Florida State 14

Matt: Florida State +9.5. I know that this Penn State is a play away from being undefeated. But there is just something that I can't put my finger on that hasn't made me a true believer in this team. Maybe it's the missed tackle by Northwestern. Or the fact that this team was so dreadful the past two years. I think FSU has more speed than anything Joe Pa saw in the Big 10, and wouldn't be surprised to see a FSU upset in Miami. I'm not that brave to predict it, but it will be closer than the experts think. Penn State 26 Florida State 24

December 27, 2005

Emerald Bowl

Utah (6-5) vs. Georgia Tech (7-4)

SBC Park, San Francisco, California

Line: Georgia Tech -9

Doug: Georgia Tech -9

Kind of a strange bowl game since it's played in a baseball stadium. Guess it was the only way to squeeze a bowl game into the San Francisco market.

Although I think Georgia Tech is clearly the better team and will win this game, the spread is kind of a crapshoot. When in doubt, I’ll go with the better team and hope for the rout. Utah has not had one impressive moment this season. That program is spiraling back down to earth now that Urban Meyer is gone, and Georgia Tech is hands down the best team they’ve played all season. On the other hand, Georgia Tech has been underrated all year, and probably deserved a better bowl. Reggie Ball is a playmaker at QB, and has that whole “I’ve been at Georgia Tech for about nine years” thing going for him. If the Yellow Jackets show up in this game, I see them blowing out Utah.

Since I don’t really have much to add about this game, I’ll just say that I am already about excited about seeing Barry Bonds show up at spring training about 25 pounds lighter. I wish I could be a fly on the wall in the equipment room when Bonds shows up to complain about his hat being too big.

I’m sure the media will joke around about it with some lame jokes, but I would love to see somebody actually call the guy out and put his feet to the fire.

"Excuse me, Barry. You say you accidentally used steroids one time? Well, why is it that the first year that you will be tested for steroids, you showed up looking like Randy Winn? Seems suspicious. You care to explain this?"

My guess is that no one in the media has the guts to do it.

If Bonds ever breaks the all time home run record, it will be a sad day for baseball.

Georgia Tech 31 Utah 14

Matt: Georgia Tech -9

Another one of those games that has most of America yawning while those diehards in Utah and Atlanta analyze the punt protection of the opponents and count down to kickoff. I don't know if it really relevant to the outcome of the game or not, but i'm giving Utah two more years of 6-5 or 7-4 before they go back to 4-7 on a regular basis with an occasional 6-5 record and Emerald Bowl appearance. It just seems like a tough place to win and I think they caught lightning in a bottle with Urban Meyer, the hype he brought from Bowling Green and his spread offense.

As for the game, let's not forget that Georgia Tech went in to Jordan - Hare and beat Auburn this year. Add up all the wins in the history of the Utah program and they might approach how big of a win that was. Utah has not really had an impressive win, doesn't have a true playmaker on offense like a Calvin Johnson, and doesn't have an experienced qb like Reggie Ball. Add it all up and this one is an M+M'er as my idol Dickie V would say.

And if you're not convinced, their coaches name, Kyle Whittingham, is just a little too close for comfort to Ty Willingham. I'll take a former Cowboys coach in Chan Gailey.

Georgia Tech 36 Utah 17

MasterCard Alamo Bowl

Michigan (7-4) vs. Nebraska (7-4)

Alamo Dome, San Antonio, Texas

Line: Michigan -11

Doug: Nebraska +11

As I stare at the two teams in this game, it's almost stunning to see Michigan and Nebraska in the freaking Alamo Bowl.

Michigan. Hail to the Victors. Bo Schembechler. Winningest college football program of all time. The Helmets. The Big House.

The Alamo Bowl?

Nebraska. Tom Osborne. Tommy Frazier. The triple option. Fourth winningest college fooball program of all time. The great offensive linemen. The Blackshirts. The Sea of Red (ND fans remember it well.)

The Alamo Bowl?

Wow. It just doesn't feel right to see a Michigan-Nebraska game before January 1.

Lots to discuss:

1. Nebraska

After visiting Lincoln, Nebraska in the fall of 2001 for the ND-Nebraska game, I have developed a tremendous amount of respect for the Nebraska program and their fans. Maybe the nicest fans in college football. They have a lot of appreciation for the history of the game and its traditions, and were very respectful of ND and our fans (even though we were pitiful at the time). You'll never hear a bad word out of me about Nebraska football after that experience (which was one of the best trips I've ever been on and probably ever will go on).

I can't confirm this, but I would bet that it is killing Nebraska fans to see how far their program has fallen in recent years. I'd have to imagine that there is a lot of concern about the direction that Bill Callahan has that program headed. On paper, they improved this year. However, when you take a closer look, there are some major problems with this team. Nebraska has struggled to score points, rank nearly dead last inthe nation in run offense, and have performed poorly on the road for two straight years.

Most importantly, Nebraska has lost its identity. The trademark smashmouth offense/physical intense defenses of the Tom Osborne era have been replaced by a West Coast offense that has turned Nebraska into a soft, inconsistent also-ran.

Maybe year three will be the year that Callahan puts it together. Maybe Callahan really does just need to "get his own players." (Where have we heard that before? There are some eerie similarities between the Callahan era at Nebraska and the Willingham era at Notre Dame.) Maybe this game will be the game that springs Nebraska football back to prominence for the next decade.

I'm just not convinced.

2. Michigan

Michigan also seems to be at somewhat of a crossroads. For all that he has accomplished at Michigan, Lloyd Carr has fallen into a steady routine of losing to ND and Ohio State over the last five years. It also hasn't helped that he's lost three out of his last four bowl games. I doubt that Lloyd is in any serious jeopardy of losing his job, but I imagine things are little uneasy in Ann Arbor these days.

As they always do, Michigan has talent. Mario Manningham will be a stud at Michigan, Avant is solid, they still have some very good offensive linemen, and the RBs are talented. Still, for all the hype about the talent at Michigan, I'm not sure if I'm sold on a couple of these guys.

Chad Henne--Perhaps the most overrated QB in the country this year (if not the last five years). Henne has been receiving praise for two years now, but I'll be the first to admit that I am not impressed by the guy at all. Not a very accurate passer, hasn't played well in big games, seems to have a knack for throwing a killer interception. He's only a sophomore, so there's time to improve, but I'd like to see this guy lead his team to victory in a big game one time before we start talking about him as a great quarterback.

Steve Breaston--Another all-world talent who really hasn't developed at all as a wide receiver. I think he's a decent kick returner, but Breaston was being talked about as the next Rocket Ismail when he first showed up at Michigan. He hasn't developed into the playmaker that they were expecting.

Michigan's defense has also been up and down all year. At times they've looked great, but teams have moved the ball on them when they needed to.

All in all, Michigan just hasn't been a great team this year. You could make the case that they are only a few plays from a big season, but those close losses might be more indicative of inconsistent play and questionable leadership than bad luck.


I'm really looking forward to this game, and expect a Michigan victory. However, I'm not sure what to make of this line. I just have a hard time taking this year's version of Michigan at - 11 points in this game. They haven't shown me enough this year to lend me to believe that they can blow out a team like Nebraska. Nebraska is a very mediocre team this year, but their defense has been solid. I see no reason to think that Michigan won't let Nebraska hang around in this game before pulling it out in the end.

Michigan wins, but Nebraska covers the points.

Michigan 23 Nebraska 14

Matt: Nebraska +11

My colleague Doug provided an excellent analysis of this matchup and all I can do is echo some of his thoughts. It is odd, but also hilarious, to see Michigan and Lloyd playing on December 28th. Of course, last year the Irish were playing about the same time of year, but now that Charlie is here I'm feeling confident that the Irish will have a permanent date on New Year's Day for years to come.

Michigan had an up and down year, but if you look at the teams I think the advantage in talent has to go to Michigan. They have a balanced offense (165 rushing ypg; 218 passing ypg), whereas Nebraska has a pass first - pass often offense (91 rushing ypg; 229 passing ypg). So basically, Nebraska passes for 10 more yards a game than Michigan but can't run the ball (110th ranking) whereas Michigan can mix in a running game. Hmmm....

Flip around to the defensive side of the ball and things look pretty similar. Both teams have decent defenses (Nebraska 24th - 326 ypg; Michigan 42nd -348 ypg.) Michigan's pass defense is good enough to slow down an average qb in Zac Taylor, although he is coming off two big games and Michigan's secondary is coming off a shaky second half against the Ohio State. Both teams have given up big days to an opponent's offense (Michigan St and OSU; Kansas, Tx Tech and an unfathomable 523 yards to Missouri), so I expect a mini-shootout to develop in this one. I like Michigan to win, but they are not going to cover.

Michigan 27 Nebraska 24

MPC Computers Bowl

Boston College (8-3) vs. Boise State (9-3)

Bronco Stadium, Boise, Idaho

Line: Boston College -2.5

Doug: Boston College -2.5

The MPC Computers Bowl. Formerly known as the Humanitarian Bowl. Coming at you live from the smurf turf in Boise, Idaho! Bowl fever...catch it!

As far as I'm concerned, this game is the most intriguing bowl thus far for several reasons.

1. Dan Hawkins

As you already know, Hawkins is departing for Boulder, Colorado following the season. If you've never gotten a chance to hear Dan Hawkins, do yourself a favor and try to find an interview with the guy on the internet somewhere. Maybe the nicest guy in college football. Hard not to root for him.

While I'm sure Hawkins is loved by his current BSU players, it's hard to really tell how the team will react to him leaving when it comes to the bowl game. On one hand, they might be fired up, play with emotion, and give him the send off that he deserves. On the other hand, there's no real accountability to win for the guy anymore. Once you know he's gone, you lose that fear/respect a little bit because you know he won't be around anymore.

The BSU players are saying all the right things, but sometimes the "win one for the coach" idea ends up having a negative effect on the team. Something to definitely watch out for.

2. BC in Boise

Other than seeing ND get selected for the Fiesta Bowl, there was nothing more satisfying than seeing those punk Super Fans of BC relegated to Boise for the MPC Computers Bowl. After BC bailed on the Big East for the ACC and sold out their conference brethren, I couldn't be happier about them getting snubbed by all the good southern bowls. Nothing against the good folks of Boise, but it's not exactly a hot destination for too many people these days (other than maybe radical anti-government types). Considering the fact that BC doesn't travel all that well as it is, I am fully expecting no more than 1000 BC fans in attendance. In fact, that number might even be giving BC too much credit.

Needless to say, the BC "fanbase" is not really excited about this game. Not sure if fan apathy will carry over to the BC players, but it's certainly possible. It has happened before.

On a side note, it completely baffles me that BC fans expect to play in better bowl games. Based on what? Their outstanding tradition? Nope. Large fanbase willing to travel outside the Northeast? Nope. Marquee players? Nope. Big tv ratings? Nope. BC is a decent program, but there is no reason to think they are attractive to big bowl games.

3. Tom O'Brien

Tom O'Brien is not exactly the most likeable guy out there. O'Brien makes Tom Coughlin seem pleasant. Still, there's no denying that he's done a nice job at BC, and the five game bowl winning streak is moderately impressive for a program of BC's caliber. None of those bowl games were considered elite bowl games, so O'Brien has shown the ability to get his teams ready to play for these lesser bowls that the fans are disappointed about.

4. The game

Although this game is a home game for Boise State, I think BC will come away with the win. Boise State has played three quality opponents this year, and lost all three games. Makes you wonder if they are really even any good. I watched them get smoked by Georgia in the opener, and was not impressed.

BC has been tested in the ACC all year long, and pulled off a couple very nice road wins over Clemson and Maryland. Their D is very solid, and they have a huge offensive line that will grind the Broncos D into mush by the fourth quarter.

Reluctantly, I'm going with the Eagles.

BC 31 Boise State 24

Matt: Boise St. +2.5

This game is so tough to call. You've got two different dynamics at work here. First, what is Boise State's mindset. If they tuned into the Colorado bowl game yesterday, they heard Dan Hawkins talking about his new team and how he could turn it around. Are they really going to be playing hard for a guy who is leaving when the game is over. Or will they put it all on the line for a coach that took the program to another level after Dirk, i mean Dirk, no wait, this Dirk left for ASU. My gut feeling is that Boise St comes out fired up playing for a coach they all love in front of their home fans.

The second thing to watch is how BC comes out after being pissed off they were sent to Boise for the holidays and passed over by the southern bowls. As much as i dislike BC, their fans, and their coach, i think Tom O'Brien has them ready to play, unless Boise St. comes out blazing and BC falls behind and the crowd gets into it. If that happens, watch out, BC might mail it in and start preparing for the plane ride home so they can go join all their fellow Bostonites and talk about how Red Sox and how the whole world revolves around the Sawx and Yanks.

Here is what the game boils down to. If BC can shut down Jared Zabransky and the Boise St. passing game, they should win. If Boise can slow down the L.V. Whitworth and Andre Callender rushing tandem, they've got a good shot. Don't ask me to analyze why one of these will happen. I'm taking Boise St. They get ahead early, get the crowd into it, and BC is forced to throw more than they want to. Look for Zabransky to have a big day and go out on a high note in what has been an up and down season for him.

Boise St. 34 BC 32

December 25, 2005

Insight Bowl

Rutgers (7-4) vs. Arizona State (6-5)

Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona

Line: Arizona State -10

Doug: Arizona State -10

This is one of those games where I really want to start typing with a lot of exclamation points, pick a Rutgers upset, head to a bar decked out in scarlet, and whoop it up for every Rutgers first down. Maybe it's the rags to riches Rutgers story, maybe it's the upset potential, maybe it's the pure dislike for all things Pac-10. I REALLY want to pick Rutgers to win this game. I really do.

Three big factors at work:

1. Motivation

Out of all the bowl games, I think the motivation factor (which is huge in bowl games) for Rutgers might rate the highest out of all the bowl teams. This is Rutgers we are talking about. Freaking Rutgers. One of the worst Division I-A programs in the country. A perennial doormat.

Some stats for you to chew on:

1. Rutgers has had four winning seasons since 1984. Four in twenty one years.
2. Rutgers hasn't appeared in a bowl game in 27 years. Ironically, their last appearance in the now defunct Garden State Bowl in 1978 was against Arizona State.
3. They lost 25 consecutive games in Big East conference play from 1999-2003.

You think they might be a little excited about this game? Me too. The Insight Bowl is the biggest thing to happen to Rutgers football since the 70s. Pretty sure they'll be fired up. If anything, I'm expecting them to be a little tight to start the game. Imagine, a team that is too nervous to play in the freaking Insight Bowl.

2. Talent

With all due respect to Tres Moses, in terms of talent alone, I gotta think Arizona State has the big edge here. The Sun Devils have a pretty potent passing attack (led by standout WR Derek Hagan), and they have scored on pretty much everybody they've played. At times, ASU has looked outstanding. If they show up ready to play, I could very easily see them running Rutgers off the field.

ASU is also significantly more battle tested than Rutgers. ASU has played all the relevant Pac 10 teams, and even played LSU and Northwestern. That's a pretty good schedule when it's all said and done. Taking a closer look at Rutgers' schedule, they were blown out by Louisville and lost by double digits at home to West Virginia and South Florida. Those performances make you wonder how good Rutgers really is this year.

3. Fear of losing

If I was Dirk Koetter, I would be lying awake at night worried about the possibility of losing this game. That has to serve as motivation to get your team fired up. ASU is playing a virtual home game against a program that hasn't won a bowl game in its entire history.

If Arizona State blows this game, Dirk Koetter should just start cleaning out his desk. I don't care that the ink hasn't even dried on a new extension signed last month. If he loses to Rutgers, he loses all credibility as a head coach.

Summary: Not really sure how to call this game. If I take Arizona State to cover the 10 points, it's inevitable that I'll be all hot and bothered when ASU comes out flat, Rutgers makes some early big plays to get some confidence, and the game remains close throughout. If I take Rutgers to cover, I'll be bracing for the disappointment of ASU throwing the ball all over the field, taking early command of the game, and never looking back.

I've been going back and forth on this, and I'm changing my mind. ASU in a rout.

ASU 38 Rutgers 21

Under - 63

Matt: Arizona State -10

I was tempted to pick Rutgers here. I really was. Great story. Coach seems like a good guy. And they have a pretty good offense. But then i remembered, this is Rutgers we are talking about. Just like Allen Iverson has his famous "Practice" speech, I literally said out loud "Rutgers? C'mon man, we talking about Rutgers." They are a nice team. But it's Rutgers. The same team that lost to a dreadful Illinois team, was beat down by South Florida and Louisville, and has all the makings of the classic 'happy to be here' bowl team. Just recently there was an article on espn where one of the players was saying they've been lounging at the pool all day since they've gotten into town. Even though the school is giving students $300 in travel money, and paying for all students tickets, I still think there is only going to be one Scarlet Nation in Phoenix this bowl season. In other words, Arizona State is playing a home game and no amount of traveling Rutgers fans is going to change that.

Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said it best when he said that Arizona State is the best 6-5 team in the country. I don't ususally have much respect for Pac 10 teams not named USC, but I have to give ASU credit in that they went out and played LSU and Northwestern nonconference, thrashing NW and losing on a controversial call to LSU. They are in the Pac 10 so obviously they have an explosive offense even though starter Sam Keller was hurt during the season.

In the end, I think the fear of losing to Rutgers motivates ASU and Rutgers is just happy to be out of New Jersey for the holidays. Rutgers keeps it close for a half, but ASU blows it open in the second half.

Arizona State 45 Rutgers 24

Over 63

Champs Sports Bowl

Clemson (7-4) vs. Colorado (7-5)

Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Florida

Line: Clemson -10

Doug: Clemson -10

This is one of those bowl games that has been in every city in Florida, has had about 37 different names, and 14 different conference affiliations. Yet somehow, the Champs Sports/"insert random corporation based in Florida" bowl manages to piece together decent matchups every year.

In any other year, Clemson-Colorado is a pretty solid matchup for a December 27th bowl game. Two pretty good programs from different parts of the country in a bragging rights type game.

Obviously, this game went into the tank the moment Gary Barnett got canned at Colorado, so it's tough to really get a feel for how it will turn out (although Notre Dame fans can probably take a guess). For the record, I know he's not the greatest guy in the world, but I actually think highly of Gary Barnett as a coach. Barnett taking Northwestern to the Rose Bowl in 1995 still goes down as one of the greatest coaching performances I've ever seen. Truly the Cardiac Kids. Every victory down the stretch was more improbable than the game before. Pat Fitzgerald, Brian Musso, D'Wayne Bates, Darnell Autry, and Steve Schnur. I don't think I'll ever forget those names. I'd even shell out for a DVD recap of that season as long as they included the ABC game footage of Brent Musberger (NU grad) having a weekly heart attack announcing the games. By the time the Rose Bowl game came around, I had bonded with that team so much that I felt like I had been a Northwestern fan my whole life.

Although I think Barnett is a good coach, the Buffs probably won't miss Barnett now that they reeled in Dan Hawkins, who is a true hidden gem out there in Boise. Ok, so maybe he's the ugliest coach in college football. He's certainly not the only one. I think Hawkins will do a nice job at Colorado.

As for Clemson, Tommy Bowden somehow manages to keep his job every year in spite of inconsistent efforts and underachieving. Bowden is one of those guys who looks like he should be a good coach, so he'll always have his supporters. Sort of like Jim Haslett (how that guy never seems to be in jeopardy of losing his job is beyond me). Every year, we hear the same "look out for Clemson" story, and every year they are an easy team to bet against because you can count on them choking away a game they're "supposed" to win.

Until this year. I've bet against Clemson probably four or five times this year (starting with the opener against A&M), and lost every one of them. Either Bowden is putting it together, or his players are winning in spite of him (probably the latter). Clemson is pretty solid this year. Flip around those OT losses to BC and Miami, and Clemson could have been a top 12 or so team. I probably would have picked them to win this game even if Barnett were on the sidelines for Colorado. I have no reason to think Colorado cares at all about this game, so I'll go with Clemson in a major rout.

Clemson 34 Colorado 13

Over - 45

Matt: Clemson -10

ND fans need only look back 365 days to see how well a team performs when they have been through a controversy like the coach getting run out of town. Gary Barnett has been on borrowed time since the tales of CU recruiting practices were told. (Are people really naive enough to think that some form of this doesn't go on at most major football schools during recruiting weekends. I lived with an ND football player and hold a story or two that would make Knute Rockne roll over in his grave.) At least Barnett was able to provide us with the soundbite of the century when he said "Not only was Katie Hnida a girl, she was an awful kicker." Pretty brutal, but i'm sure not far from the truth. Anyway, with Barnett in the rear view mirror and the team having long since packed it in, this one should get ugly in a hurry. The only chance the Buffs have is if Joel Klatt can rely on his 11 years of college experience. (Maybe not 11, but it seems like he took the job after Kordell Stewart graduated. He is a proud member of the Jess Settles Stay in School Club with John Stocco, Luke Recker, Nik Caner-Medley and Chris Rix just to name a few.)

Meanwhile, Clemson is a few plays away from being a BCS contender. Look at their losses:
Miami by 6 in 3OT - Heartbreaker, and they had chances to win
BC by 3 in OT - Gotta beat BC at home
At Wake by 4 - Bad loss, but Tommy Bowden has one of these every year to get the pot simmering
At Georgia Tech by 1 - Tough loss, but not classified as a bad loss

A couple of different bounces and a few breaks and the Tigers are undefeated. Of course a lot of teams can say that, like ND for example, but in this game it wouldn't matter if Clemson was starting me at QB. They roll

Clemson 51 Colorado 10

Over 45

December 23, 2005

Motor City Bowl

Akron (7-5) vs. Memphis (6-5)

Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan

Line: Memphis -5.5

Doug: Memphis -5.5

With all due respect to the MAC Conference, I like Memphis in this game. I've had a chance to watch Akron a couple times, and haven't been particularly impressed. I have no idea how they pulled off the MAC title, but they aren't the best team in the MAC this year.

Memphis is a solid team with all-world running back (and friend) DeAngelo Williams and a pretty good defense.

Time for the MAC to start lobbying for a new destination for their league champ. You're telling me the best game they could find for the league champion was the Motor City Bowl in freakin Detroit? I mean, nothing against Detroit (I would be thrilled to visit there next month if the Bengals were playing a Super Bowl game there), but it's not exactly a great destination for a bowl game. I'd rather play the game in some high school stadium in Ocala, Florida over Detroit.

If anything, move the game to Windsor, Canada. At least the players could enjoy themselves ordering beverages at "The Beer Store" and singing karaoke at "The Crazy Horse Saloon." Great city. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit there sophomore year of college, and have a lifelong devotion to Tim Hortons following a few late night trips to that fine establishment. Much to my delight, Columbus is loaded with Tim Hortons, so I'm never more than a 5 minute drive from some delicious Timbits.

Memphis 30 Akron 21

Matt: Memphis -5.5

Another one of those games that really doesn't get me pumped. Maybe it's the fact it's Akron against Memphis, two schools that don't have any tradition or rabid fans (or any fans? I've lived in Cleveland for three years and never once have seen an Akron fan). Maybe it's the fact that the game is played in Detroit. Was the stadium in Gary, Indiana booked when they were planning? I couldn't think of a worse place to go when your bowl game is supposed to be a reward.

As for the game, when in doubt, go with the best player on the field. And that, by a million miles, is DeAngelo Williams. I've actually never seen the guy play, so that is the only real reason i'll be tuning in.

Since I have nothing else to say about the game, i'll just ask how the hell can Matt Millen keep his job this year? It isn't possible is it? Everyone kinda thought he was a little nutty when he picked three wide receivers in the first round for three straight years. And the Lions are a total joke, they have gotten worse every year. I don't think it is possible for them to be any worse next year. Might as well just bring back Wayne Fontes as coach, Scott Mitchell as qb and let Mel Gray return a few punts just for laughs.

Prediction: Memphis 27 Akron 17

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl

Nevada Reno (8-3) vs. Central Florida (8-4)

Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii

Line: Nevada-Reno -2.5

Doug: Central Florida +2.5

Interesting game between two up and coming programs in growing states.

Two things about Nevada-Reno:

1. They are scheduled to play Notre Dame in 2009 (home opener). Early scouting opportunity for you ND fans out there?

2. The receiver who caught the winning pass against Fresno State is named Nicheren Flowers. A first ballot Hall of Famer to the All-Names Wing.

Two things about UCF:

1. Seems like there's a buzz out there that they are on the verge of doing some big time things in college football in the next few years. They are building a lot of new facilities and a brand new stadium, and starting to make some noise in recruiting down in Florida. Could be a program on the rise.

2. By George, it's O'Leary!

No real opinion on this game (other than I'd love to be there for it - game time temperature in Honolulu: 77 degrees and sunny), but I think O'Leary adds another bowl win to his resume (hardy har) and gets the win.

Central Florida 30 Nevada-Reno 24

Matt: Central Florida +2.5

These two teams appear to be pretty evenly matched, so let's take a look at a couple of things...

Best Win
Nevada - 38-35 over Fresno State
UCF - 38-17 over Memphis
Edge - Even. Remember, Fresno State packed it in after that USC game
Worst Loss
Nevada - Take your pick. They were outscored 142-56 when they stepped up the competition against Washington State, Colorado St. and Boise St.
UCF - Yikes, gave up 52 points at Southen Miss to lose by 3 td's
Edge - UCF. Were competitive against South Carolina and USF and was never fully destroyed all year
Nevada - RB's BJ Mitchell and Robert Hubbard combined for almost 1800 yards and 18 td's
UCF - Receivers Brandon Marshall and Mike Walker combined for over 120 receptions, almost 1900 yards and 17 td's
Edge - UCF. Well, well, well. What do we have here. Nevada's already awful pass defense (104th) has lost co-captain cornerback Kevin Stanley to suspension for the game.
That is all I need to see. UCF wins a high scoring ball game, and somewhere, Urban Meyer is already beginning to sweat about that showdown in the swamp next year against UCF.
Prediction - UCF 38 Nevada 27

Fort Worth Bowl

Kansas (6-5) vs. Houston (6-5)

Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas

Line: Kansas -3.5

DOUG - Kansas -3.5

Probably the worst bowl game thus far, and a possible sign that there are too many bowl games.

Predicted attendance: 18, 000 (at best)

For my money, I'll give the nod to Kansas purely based on schedule strength and Mangina.

As far as Houston goes, I haven't acknowledged that program since David Klingler became a Bengal. Just thinking about the University of Houston makes me sick. That damn "run n shoot" conned the Bengals into drafting Klingler, and set back the franchise five years. I refuse to root for that program in any game.

Kansas 23 Houston 14

Matt - Kansas -3.5

I really have nothing to say about this game. I'd probably rather it wasn't played. Kansas supposedly has a great rushing defense. Houston has a qb Kevin Kolb that probably would have been better as closer for the Braves than freaking Danny Kolb. Edge - KU

On a totally different note, i drove across the great state of Pennsylvania today and it cost me a whopping $19 in tolls. They require me to pay $19 just to drive on their roads. I don't like that.

Prediction: Kansas 23 Houston 21
Wager: None, these teams aren't worth my hard earned money

December 22, 2005

Shameless Plug

For all you procrastinators of holiday shopping (and yes, I'm pointing a big finger in my general direction), Bowl Season is the perfect time to find that special someone something they'll cherish forever- a vintage t-shirt from the good lads at Gameday T-Shirt. There's something for all college football fans, be you from SEC land, Big 10 country, or the corn fields of the Big 12 .

Treat the in-laws from Gator Country with a back-handed slap.

You're slightly overweight uncle would offer profuse thanks for this stocking stuffer.

Or go with the hot seller that Irish fans are gobbling up like Shark Samardzija yards after the catch. The YAC Attack! Hey wait, that's a good shirt idea. You listening guys?

Viva Las Vegas

Couldn't resist the temptation to pass on Christmas tidings from everyone's favorite magicians/tiger-tamers. I've never laughed harder than deliriously gazing upon their Mirage marquee after stumbling out of a casino and greeted by Mr. Sunshine. May their act RIP.

Three words I look forward to hearing in Vegas, excluding the obvious "Two For One" or "Free Body Shots," have to be "Wheel...Of...Madness!!!"

Go Cougars. Down with the Pac-10.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

Colorado State Rams (6-5) vs. Navy Midshipmen (7-4)

Qualcomm Stadium - San Diego, CA

Line: Navy -3


MATT: Colorado State +3

Just looking at the numbers is enough to make any diehard CSU fan a little woozy. Navy leads the country in rushing. Colorado State is 104th in stopping the rush. Game over, right. Navy runs the ball every play, the Rams can't stop the triple option, Lamar Owens looks like the second coming of Ron Mexico and Navy wins by 40.

Nah, I don't think that's the way it's gonna turn out. Let's take a look at the list of Navy's victims
  • At perennial power Duke (1-10) - 7 point win
  • 4-7 Air Force in a down year - 3 point squeaker
  • 1-10 Kent St - 3 point W
  • at 1-10 Rice - Blow out
  • 2-9 Tulane
  • 0-11 Temple
  • 4-7 Army

I guess my point is, when your six victories came against teams that were a combined 13-64, the stats might lie. And we haven't even gotten to Sonny Lubick. I'm not saying that Colorado State played the toughest schedule in the country (they didn't), but they've got a veteran QB who is probably salivating at Navy's tiny Db's, a 1000 yard rusher and a 1000 yard receiver. I'll take the more balanced offense.

And of course, Colorado State happens to be coached by a man who is 54-1 all time on Thursday nights. Ok, so maybe not that good, but back in the day, on Thursday nights, when the first Mad Dog was just getting cracked on the couch at Turtle Creek, i remember turning on the tv, seeing that Sonny Lubick was on the sideline, running to my computer to bet on the Rams, and waking up hungover as a donkey to find an extra bundle of cash in my account. And on those nights where i bet against him, when he was on the road against a Fresno St or TCU i would watch in disbelief as Sonny rallied the troops and covered the spread or won. The man is a walking living thursday night legend. Case Closed.

Prediction: Colorado State 34 Navy 27

Under 62

Wager - $6.00 on a 2 team parlay with Colorado State +3 and BYU +8

DOUG: Navy -3

There are three big factors at work here, so let's break this game down with the three big factors in mind.

1. Navy's Rushing attack vs. Colorado State run defense

If you're playing Navy, you better be geared up to stop the run. As they seem to do every year (especially since the Frank Solich era ended at Nebraska), Navy leads the nation in rushing yards per game. Unfortunately for Colorado State fans, they have one of the worst rushing defenses in the country. In an early season showdown with Minnesota, the Golden Gophers piled up almost 350 yards rushing on Colorado State in a 56-24 rout.

If I were a Colorado State fan, I'd be breaking out in a cold sweat at night thinking about that Navy triple option attack. Option teams do tend to turn the ball over with fumbles and other confusion, but Navy runs a pretty disciplined scheme. If the Middies control the clock and pound the run for most of the game with little resistance from Colorado State, CSU could be in for a long night.

2. Odds almost seem too good for Navy

This game scares me a little bit because most of the betting/office pool picks are probably in favor of Navy. It's a likeable team in the whole "love your country" kinda way, the critical areas seem to favor Navy, and there's home field advantage playing in Navy-friendly San Diego. All the signs seem to point to Navy.

Still, there has to be a reason this game is essentially a "pick em" game. Vegas isn't stupid. They know about Navy's rushing attack and CSU's porous run defense, and they still put out a relatively low line. That makes me somewhat nervous.

Might be something to keep in the back of your mind before you dump your entire account on Navy.

3. The "Never bet against Sonny Lubick on a Thursday Night" Rule

There are very few principles in gambling that I have found to be successful with near certainty.

However, there is one rule of gambling that has been tried and tested for years and has produced many glorious victories or heartbreaking defeats (when you go against it).


Sonny Lubick might as well just change his name to the "Godfather of Thursday Night football". The guy practically invented ESPN Thursday Night football, and has been winning big games and pulling big upsets on Thursday night for as long as I can remember. I don't care if CSU was 0-9 heading into the game. If you bet against Sonny Lubick on a Thursday night ESPN game, prepare to start sweating profusely early in the game, followed by pure disgust at yourself, followed by a thorough beating of your couch and/or remote when CSU takes the lead in the 4th quarter. I've learned my lesson several times as have many other folks. Sonny just finds a way to pull off some magic on Thursday night time and time again.

It just so happens that the Poinsettia Bowl will be taking place on a Thursday night. Coincidence? I think not. I'm very curious to see if Sonny's Thursday Night dominance extends to bowl season.


I'm already bracing myself for a postgame interview with a smiling Sonny Lubick giving all the credit to his players after a big win, but I have to go with the Middies. I know there are other higher powers at work here, but my pure football instincts are pointing to Navy controlling this game from start to finish. I like the "under 62" as well. Let's be honest, these two teams are not great teams. One of these teams will probably not play well coming off the month delay. I think Navy can put up some points, but I just have a hard time taking an over of 62 in a bowl game like this.

Prediction: Navy 35 Colorado State 21

Under - 62

Total Offense
CSU - 43rd 393.09 ypg
Navy - 33rd 419.18 ypg

Total Defense
CSU - 92nd 412.27 ypg
Navy - 50th 359.64 ypg

Scoring Offense
CSU - 59th 26.45 ppg
Navy - 27th 32.64 ppg

Scoring Defense
CSU - 82nd 28.91 ppg
Navy - 62nd 25.73 ppg

Run Offense
CSU - 89th 119.91 ypg
Navy - 1st 305.18 ypg

Run Defense

CSU - 104th 200.64 ypg
Navy - 68th 155.82 ypg

Pass Offense
CSU - 22nd 273.18 ypg
Navy - 116th 114 ypg

Pass Defense
CSU - 54th 211.64 ypg
Navy - 39th 203.82 ypg

Turnover Margin
CSU - 46th 0.27
Navy - 80th -0.36

December 21, 2005

I'm Going Bowling

As much as I'd love to dust "Wurms" off and throw some stones, I'm talking the disputed champion for Greatest Two Week Span of Sports- College Bowl Season. Rivaled only by the first two weeks of March Madness, the 28 games in 16 days slate is football for the soul. Two teams duking it out in front of the largest forum to showcase their talents. The spotlight shines a little brighter on the conferences, weeding the haves from have-nots in regional dominance.

Each new season brings the prospect of sillier corporate named bowls with zero relevance to the game. This year's winner goes to MPC Computers with Meineke running a close second. Sad to see the Humanitarian get bought out. Where for art my defunct bowl games? How I miss the Tangerine, Bluebonnet, Aloha, and Salad Bowls.

Detractors cry that the expanding number of games waters down the matchups. Mediocrity gets rewarded more and more with half of this year's teams sporting a 6-5 or 7-4 record. But look past the records and unfamiliar names like Arkansas St. and South Florida. Realize that these teams feature the future Sunday playmakers of America, diamonds in the rough that blossomed at non-traditional football powers to help their school reach new heights of exposure.

Purists lick their chops for dream matchups such as Michigan-Nebraska and Notre Dame-Ohio St. (only the 5th ever meeting between the two storied schools). Barry Alvarez gets one last deserved hurrah. Steve Spurrier gets a welcome back to college final exam. Intriguing storylines run deep all around as another memorable season bows out stylishly with the sexiest matchup of them all- USC-Texas. You think you're excited for bowl season? Feel my nipples.

Bronco Mendenhall! Mendenhall! Mendenhall!

Am I the only one who thinks of this whenever I hear talk of BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall?

Las Vegas Bowl

BYU Cougars (6-5) vs. Cal Bears (7-4)

Sam Boyd Stadium - Las Vegas, NV

Line: Cal -8


Matt - BYU +8

I've only seen BYU play once this year. Against the Irish. But i came away pretty damn impressed. John Beck looked good against the Irish (i could probably look half way decent against Mike, Leo and the boys, but regardless) and if Todd Watkins could have figured out a way to catch the ball with his hands around his neck (yes, ND fans, that was Mr. Watkins choking and not blanket coverage by the secondary) the Cougars would have hung around a little longer. Meanwhile, i watched the much ABC hyped Cal - USC showdown and couldn't have come away less impressed with Cal. I know Joe Booya is on the pine after his pitiful performance and Sportscenter host Steve Levy has been summoned to Qb, but i can't get excited about this Bears team and their ability to exploit BYU's weak secondary. Maybe it's because of my skepticism of all things PAC-10 not named USC. I don't know. But i do know that Cal ranks 76th in pass defense, lost at Oregon and at UCLA, and at home against Oregon St and USC in their only games against decent competition. Meanwhile, BYU hung 50 on TCU (so the defense gave up 51. So what) 62 on Air Force and 55 against UNLV on the very same field they will be playing on. Couple that with the fact that the game is in a hotbed of Mormonism (it's true, i don't know why but apparently the Mormons flock to Vegas - the game is sold out!) and Bronco Mendenhall is on his way to having Cougar fans everywhere saying Lavell who?

(By the way, if there is a better named stadium combination in America than Sam Boyd Stadium and the Thomas and Mack Center i haven't come across it. My first and only time in Vegas, i was more in awe of the T+M Center than the strip. Driving by it i could only think of him and him and him. Yeah, and then we hit the Bikini Club and all thoughts of UNLV circa 1991 quickly evaporated. If ND ever has a 6-5 year and ends up in the Las Vegas Bowl I think i would fork over more money for that ticket than I just did for my Fiesta Bowl tix.)

BYU 34 Cal 31
Wager: Still to come, look for my first parlay of the Bowl season...

BYU +8

Awfully tempting for me to just respond with "Ditto" because I agree with virtually everything that Matt had to say.

This game is free money as far as I'm concerned. Maybe there's more respect for the Pac 10 out there than I thought, but the line seems out of whack.

I was impressed with BYU as well. Beck throws a nice ball, and their front seven was decent against the ND running attack. I know Herbstreit wets himself just thinking about Marshawn Lynch, but I think BYU can keep the Cal running game in check. BYU probably had the worst corners that ND faced all year, but Cal's QB situation is so shaky that I don't see them exposing BYU through the air.

If you actually took the time to match up recruiting rankings and everything, I'd take a guess that BYU has equal "material" (to use a Beano Cook word) to Cal. I know Tedford is a quality coach, but in the end, it's Cal. Not exactly a hotbed of talent flocking to that program. BYU probably has similar personnel to Cal, if not better.

Another factor at work here. Motivation. Looking back at previous Las Vegas Bowls, the Mountain West has acquitted itself well in these games. BYU seems to be on the upswing as a program, so this could be a big statement game for them.

Let me get this straight. Mormons love Vegas? Who knew? Do they just buy all the Celine Dion tickets they can get their hands on?

I like BYU to cover and pull the "upset" as well.

BYU 24 Cal 20

Under - 61


Total Offense
BYU - 13th 464 ypg
Cal - 31st 424 ypg

Rush Offense
BYU - 46th 157 ypg
Cal - 10th 234 ypg

Pass Offense
BYU - 8th 306 ypg
Cal - 90th 189 ypg

Points Scored
BYU - 22nd 33.45 ppg
Cal - 26th 32.73 ppg

Points Allowed
BYU - 78th 28.73 ppg
Cal - 26th 20.55

Rushing Defense
BYU - 46th 139 ypg
Cal - 26th 121 ypg

Pass Defense
BYU - 105th 273 ypg
Cal - 76th 236 ypg


UTEP Miners (8-3) vs. Toledo Rockets (8-3)

Ladd Peebles Stadium - Mobile, AL

Line - UTEP +3


Matt - UTEP +3

The jokes have been played out enough, Mike Price returns to Alabama, can he stay out of the strip clubs, will he be yelling out ROOLLLLLLLL TIIIIIIIIIIDE on the sidelines, does he have a date with destiny tonight. But when it gets down to football, i don't think that Toledo is going to be able to stop Carson's little bro Jordan Palmer tonight. UTEP comes in with the 6th ranked pass offense nationally, and that isn't good news for a team that gave up 300+ yards and 3 td's to another pro prospect in Omar Jacobs at Bowling Green. Meanwhile, UTEP's defense will be challenged by a veteran QB in Bruce Gradkowski and a 1000 yard rusher in Trinity Dawson. I think UTEP will be able to handle a shootout type game, having already won three times against an opponent that hung 30 on them, including C-USA champ Tulsa. And let's hope for Mike Price's sake that the team is jetting out of Mobile right after the game. I'm pretty sure that 'Bama fans are diehard enough to stake out the UTEP hotel and let the "Roll Tide" chants flow all night long.

Prediction - UTEP 36 Toledo 31
Wager - $7.50

Doug - Toledo -3

With all due respect to Mike Price and the brother of my favorite NFL quarterback, I'm going with the Rockets in a lower scoring game than some might imagine. Over/under on this game is 63. Seems like a lot of points to throw down on a bowl game where the teams haven't played in a month. Game time temperature looks to be in the high 30s/low 40s with some wind, so not exactly balmy weather conditions conducive to high-powered offense. Not sure how Palmer will perform in a cold weather atmosphere.

The MAC never gets any hype from the national media because of the small fanbases, but there are some good teams in the league. The MAC Conference always seems to have a nice coming out party at bowl season, so I'll play the odds and say the Rockets make it happen tonight. Toledo has a great rushing attack, and UTEP has pretty much played pedestrian defense all year, especially against the run. I'm expecting a couple turnovers out of Palmer, and think that'll be the difference in the game.

Toledo 27 UTEP 21

Under - 63


Total Offense
UTEP - 18th - 454 ypg
Toledo - 17th - 454 ypg

Pass Offense
UTEP - 5th - 326 ypg
Toledo - 66th - 232

Rush Offense
UTEP - 81st - 127 ypg
Toledo - 12th - 222 ypg

Points Scored
UTEP - 22nd - 33.4
Toledo - 15th - 34.9

Points Allowed
UTEP - 53rd 24.2 ppg
Toledo - 34th 22.5 ppg

Total Defense
UTEP - 53rd 365 ypg
Toled - 22nd 322 ypg

Pass Defense
UTEP - 42nd 204 ypg
Toledo - 27th 191 ypg

Rush Defense
UTEP - 71st 160 ypg
Toledo - 36th 131 ypg

December 20, 2005

New Orleans Bowl

Southern Missisippi Golden Eagles vs. Arkansas State
Cajun Field, Lafayette, Louisiana

Line: Southern Miss -15.5 Arkansas State

Gambling preview:


Matt: Southern Miss -15.5

Couldn't work out the logistics to get his preview in tonight, but Matt likes Southern Miss in a rout. Hard for him to respect any squad that lost to Army by 28.

Doug: Southern Miss -15.5

I'll admit that I jumped on the North Texas bandwagon last year and picked them to cover against Southern Miss in last year's New Orleans Bowl. Something about that "Mean Green" nickname that demanded respect out of me. That respect went down the drain within five minutes after kickoff. No reason to think this year's game will be any different. Nothing short of Houston Nutt showing up on that sideline to coach Arkansas State would lead me to think this game will be remotely close.

Since Arkansas State is the only Sun Belt team we'll see all bowl season, I figure it's worth mentioning the only legitimately interesting story out of the Sun Belt Conference this year. That story would be the return of Matt Doherty to the coaching ranks at Florida Atlantic. My how the mighty have fallen. Maybe I'm underestimating the extent of that Florida Atlantic-Florida International rivalry, but I'm guessing it doesn't live up to Carolina-Duke. Doherty's one year reign at ND might warrant a future column down the road, but for now, let's just say ND fans might be peeking at those Sun Belt standings on occasion this year to check up on how the Owls are looking under Doherty (FAU is 3-3 at the moment). I'm not a Doherty hater, but I imagine there are ND fans out there who wouldn't mind seeing FAU go 3-25 this year.

Southern Miss 34 Arkansas State 7


National Rankings

Total Offense
Southern Miss - 78th 349.36 ypg
Arkansas St - 60th 373.55 ypg

Total Defense
Southern Miss - 78th 399.73 ypg
Arkansas St - 61st 372.82 ypg

Scoring Offense
Southern Miss - T40th 29.45 ppg
Arkansas St - 67th 25 ppg

Scoring Defense
Southern Miss - 39th 23 ppg
Arkansas St - 55th 24.73 ppg

Run Offense
Southern Miss - 105th 104 ypg
Arkansas St - 23rd 199.91 ypg

Run Defense
Southern Miss - 77th 164.64 ypg
Arkansas St - 96th 186.73 ypg

Pass Offense
Southern Miss - 34th 245.36 ypg
Arkansas St - 96th 173.64 ypg

Pass Defense
Southern Miss - 78th 235.09 ypg
Arkansas St - 23rd 186.09 ypg

Turnover Margin
Southern Miss - 6th 1.18
Arkansas St - T27th 0.55

Southern Miss 6-5
at Alabama L 30-21
McNee. St W 48-20
at ECU W 33-7
Tulsa L 34-17
UCF W 52-31
at UAB W 37-28
at NC State L 21-17
at Mars. W 27-24
at Houston L 27-24
Memphis L 24-22
Tulane W 26-7

Arkansas State 6-5
at Missouri L 44-17
UT Martin W 56-7
at Okla St L 20-10
FIU W 66-24
at UL Mon L 31-27
UL Lafa W 39-36
Fla Atlantic W 3-0 OT
at MTSU L 45-7
Troy W 9-3
at Army L 38-10
at N Texas W 31-24

The most wonderful time of the year

Yep, it's that time of year again. Bowl season. The most wonderful time of the year.

Every time you hear that song, doesn't it instantly remind you of the ESPN Capital One Bowl week commercials?

Not sure how this will go, but we're in the planning stages for a bowl preview with some in-depth analysis from Jimmy (and hopefully some commentary from his dad) and a little "Gambler's guide to bowl season" from Matt and Doug. Hopefully there will be some spirited debates and decent commentary to get you all geared up for bowl season.

On a side note, bowl season is right up there with March Madness as the best gambling time of the year as far as I'm concerned. You got games virtually every night, some decent tune up games before you get to the heavy hitters later in the month and into next month, and the potential for some great parlays on the days with multiple bowl games. Great month all around if you like to make an occasional wager on a sporting event. I know everybody loves filling out March Madness brackets and those opening weekend parlays, but bowl season isn't too shabby either.

Bearcat head coach rumors

An inside source (ok, some guy I went to law school with) sent me this article about the vacant UC head coaching position. Saw it on ND Nation too, so guess the rumors are spreading.

Some interesting stuff for UC and Big East fans in general, especially when the name Jay Wright starts getting tossed around.

For my money, I'm having a hard time believing Skip Prosser is dying to take the UC job. I know he loves the Nati (heard him say it many times), but he's sitting pretty with a 10 year deal at Wake Forest. Why leave a stable job at Wake in the ACC for a potential trainwreck at UC?

SNL Skit - "CHRONIC-les of Narnia"

I know, I know. SNL sucks these days.

With that said, I heard about this rap video from Saturday's show and looked it up.

Basically, it's just Chris Parnell and Andy "Don't call me Ryne" Samberg busting hard core rhymes about everyday life. Title of the song is "Lazy Sunday." It's no Will Ferrell skit, but I was cracking up.

Pretty damn funny. Here it is. Enjoy.

Call me crazy, but I think SNL is due for a comeback. Samberg seems like he's got some potential, and there's another young gun whose name slips my mind but does pretty funny impressions.

December 19, 2005

State of the Union - Irish Basketball

After watching W give a little speech last night that reminded me of a State of the Union Address (actually i didn't watch, i just happened to have it on and be pissed off that Family Guy was delayed by 20 minutes), i decided that one of the new features of WEIS ND would be periodical State of the Union updates on our favorite teams. I figured there are enough varied interests among the posters here and a common knowledge and passion for ND that we can throw out some interesting takes on pro and college teams that sound more knowledgeable than anything that Alan Grant, Ivan Maisel or Corso could come up with...

The GOOD...ND has finally found an identity that has been missing since before the Chris Thomas era. Get the ball into the freaking post. People can say whatever they want about Torin Francis, he has hands of stone, he's too slow, he doesn't pass well etc. But if you look up the Big East stats as of today (totally illegible, just wanted to point out how awful a site the Big East website is), you'll see that Francis is one of three guys in the league averaging a double-double ahead of guys like Josh Boone, Kevin Pittsnogle, Rudy Gay, Jason Frazier etc. Falls and Quinn have been playing better, Russell Carter at least gives us one athlete and Zeller and McAlarney haven't looked totally overmatched and should develop as the season goes on. Oh yeah, and Brey basically gave us a free pass after the Alabama game until the Big East in January so we could be ranked and will be 9-2 going into the opener at Pitt.

The BAD...Brey, though he looks incredible on the sideline in his mock, still is struggling with the rotation on this team. I don't think we want to go into the Big East season with a rotation that changes every game, but last night in an embarrasingly close win against one of the best coached teams in America, Rick Cornett could only get on the court for three minutes. Also, I'm still a little skeptical at how effective Colin Falls is going to be when the Big East starts and defenders get up in his face a la the NC State game.

The FUTURE...I see us at 13-4 heading into a huge week at the end of January. Home against Villanova, at West Virginia, at Louisville in a 7 day span. If we can win one of those, then the schedule eases up the rest of the way with only a tough roadie at UConn. I could honestly see us going no worse than 9-7 and i'll go out on a limb and predict a 10-6 Big East record, an early Big East Tourney meltdown like usual but an NCAA berth. After this year though, look out, we might turn into the Dick Bennett Wisconsin teams scoring 48 points a night. Brey has to work on developing these freshman into scorers.

December 18, 2005

Who Dey

1990. You all remember it. A great year indeed.

Admit it, you were all jamming out to these guys on your Walkman...

And when it came to Christmas movies, I'll be damned if I didn't go see this movie about 5 times in the theater that year.

In 1990, this team was celebrating its first World Championship since 1976. Don't even bother to pretend that you weren't sporting some Chris Sabo rec specs in your little league games.

1990 also happened to be the last time the Cincinnati Bengals were playoff bound. Since then, Bengal Nation has suffered through the Dave Shula era, the Klingler debacle, the Ki-Jana ACL tear, Bruce Coslet's whining, Akili Smith scoring a 9 on his Wonderlic test before getting drafted 3rd overall, Corey Dillon throwing his shoulder pads into the stands, and Dick LeBeau's "we tried hard" post game press conferences. 15 long years of ineptitude as a national laughingstock.

Until now. The wait is finally over. Thanks to the Black Jesus himself and the Golden Arm of Carson Palmer, the Bengals are offically playoff bound. 2005 AFC North Champions. Let the celebration begin!

If you want to celebrate Bengals style, feel free to tune in to Cincy native Bootsy Collins' new Bengals theme song.

Fear Da Tiger

Who Dey! Who Dey! Who Dey think gonna beat them Bengals!

Bust defined

According to Websters Online:

Bust (n) (bust) - a complete failure

In NFL terms:

Alex Smith

6 years, $49.5 million. Talk about a franchise-killing draft decision. If I were a Niners fan, I'd be about suicidal at this point.

December 17, 2005

Mock Force

There's a new trend in sideline attire these days in the college hoops land: the mock turtleneck. Let the pros have their pinstripes and zoot suits. Real men wear mocks. It's got a degree of mulletude to it- business with the coat, comfort with the mock.

Mike Brey introduced us to the look in 2000. I scoffed at first, but it's beginning to grow on me. The underrated look has a yeoman's style unto its own. It's not flashy or gaudy, but dependable with a touch of charm. Normally reserved for holiday gatherings, the likeable mock simply wants acceptance in the mainstream fashion world.

Brey has inspired at least one counterpart, fellow Duke assistant Tommy Amaker, to don the mock. It may just be a winter thing and he'll revert to a snazzier wardrobe come March, but I dig the maize mock. Hopefully, the look spreads around the Midwest before launching a full scale invasion across NCAA ranks. Couldn't you see Jerry Tarkanian revitalizing his career flaunting the mock? Jim Harrick could rebuild his scumbag image by trusting in the power of the mock. Whatever its fate, I consider myself lucky to have the mock on our side.

Check out more of the mock in action as Brey mixes and matches color schemes.

Seattle Mariners

If you're a Mariners fan, you know it's a bad day when you open up your Seattle Times today, take a sip of your Starbucks, and read "Mariners closing in on 4 year, $40 million deal with Jarrod Washburn".

Seriously? $40 million for Jarrod Washburn? I think Washburn is a nice pitcher, but I wouldn't be handing out $40 million over 4 years to that guy. He's 31, doesn't eat a lot of innings, not a big strikeout guy, and teams hit .274 on him last year.

Very shaky signing in my opinion. This on top of the $64 million that they dropped on Adrian Beltre and the $50 million that they dropped on Richie Sexson. For an organization that seemed to make all the right moves for a stretch there (trading Junior, signing Ichiro, letting A-Rod walk, convincing Bret Boone to go on a steady diet of steroids and horse hormones), they've really gone in the tank the last few years. Sad state of affairs out there.

The only thing going for the Mariners is King Felix himself. Hands down the most intriguing fantasy baseball story of the preseason is where Felix Hernandez will get drafted. I say he's a 5th rounder, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him falling off the board in the 2nd or 3r d round in a lot of leagues.

Houston Texans

Figure I'll toss this question out there for the blogging nation.

Q: If you were the Houston Texans, would you use the #1 pick on Reggie Bush or trade the pick?

Call me crazy, but I'm trading that pick! Has anyone seen the Texans play?! They might have the worst offensive line I've ever seen. Even the Bengals were getting a ton of pressure on Carr and brought him down a few times. I don't care if Reggie Bush is the next Barry Sanders. Houston will never be a winner with that garbage line. I'd be trading down, take a stud LT (Ferguson maybe) and pick up another first or second round pick to use on a good defensive player or another lineman. They already have a capable running back in Dom Davis.

Believe me, I think Reggie Bush is incredible, and I'm sure he will put up big stats no matter where he is. But does he make Houston a great team? Ehhhh.

Personally, I think RB is the most overrated position in the NFL. You can find good RBs anywhere. Look at Denver. Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary, Anderson, Bell, Portis, Ron freaking Dayne. Doesn't matter who they plug in because they have a good system and good linemen. Same goes for the Steelers throughout the Cowher era. The Bengals drafted Rudi Johnson in the fourth round. Anyone who watched Rudi Johnson in Bengals preseason games knew the guy had ability. All he needed was a chance.

If you were to ask the Bengal coaching staff who the MVP of the Bengals is this year, I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of them named Levi Jones. Never gives up sacks, great run blocker, rarely misses a play. Every draft "expert" ripped the Bengals for taking the guy, but he's turned out to be a complete stud and pretty damn valuable.

I'd much rather have a great left tackle or a stud pass rusher over a great running back. Obviously quarterback is pretty damn valuable, but there are so many busts out there that it's a huge (and expensive) risk. I'd stay away from the QBs unless the guy looked like an absolute sure thing (Elway, Manning). The stud linemen taken at the top of drafts (Ogden, Walter Jones, Boselli, Pace) are almost always guaranteed studs.

Look at the Lions. They went for the flashy "skill" guys the last three years, and they havent' gotten a lick better. Basically they passed up three straight drafts to try to get better up front and on the defensive side of the ball, and now they're screwed.

If there's a stud lineman out there or a Dwighty Freeney type player, I'd be trading that pick if I were the Texans.

Thad Nation

In Thad I Trust. Pretty big nonconference game tonight for the Bucks at Iowa State on ESPN2.

The Bucks have been flying under the radar nationally, but don't be surprised to see them make some noise this year before the "Thad Five" arrive on campus next year. I love JeKel Foster, and Jamar Butler is going to be a stud. I could easily see a 20-9 type season and a 6 or 7 seed.

Looking forward to making my first appearance at The Schott next month for that OSU-Michigan State game. Should be a barn burner.

Go Bucks! Only a "matta" of time before OSU hoops reappears in the top 10. Already excited about next year. Might have to start looking around for a Lawrence North jersey.

11:30 AM


Where do I buy my Jordan Farmar jersey? I love this Bruins team. Wonder what my boss would think if I just started showing up at work sporting a powder blue headband.

December 14, 2005