December 30, 2010

Eve of the Eve Thoughts


First off, kudos to Mike "Testing the Waters for One Night with the Full Turtle Neck" Brey and the Irish hoopsters for quite the impressive showing last night.  A full team effort on both ends helped add another signature win to the team's resume.  They rebounded well enough, attacked the rim, shot well from the charity stripe and created good looks from beyond the arc while holding Georgetown to 4-22 shooting.  Sure the Hoyas may have suffered an off night on the road.  But the Irish didn't get beat in another facet and coasted to a relatively easy victory.  Confidence is building in the JACC.  Win one of the next two (@ Cuse, vs. UConn) and pre-season predictions will need revision.


If you haven't seen this yet, click here for Tyreke Evans' incredible half-court buzzer-beating heave.  That's gotta take the crown for best NBA finish of the season.  Re-write all those "Best Plays of 2010" highlight packages because this shoots up the charts.  It had shades of Gordon Heyward's near-miss in the NCAA Title game, except this game featured two below average NBA teams with nothing but lottery ping-pong balls at stake.  Five things I loved after a couple views. 

1. OJ Mayo's shot to take the lead with 1.5 seconds was an 8.6 on the difficulty scale.  Fade away in traffic with a mental clock screaming to shoot it.  One of these days, he'll escape Memphis and be an excellent #2 guard for a contender.  Hopefully while he's still young.
2. DeMarcus Cousins reaction gathering the ball after Mayo's shot was a human moment, what a Kings fan would've done.  But in the blink of an eye, he wiped the disbelief off his face and inbounded the ball to Evans on the run, setting up the miracle finish.  
3. Evan's teammate who runs off the bench and leaps in the air twice before the swish.  Gotta admire his gut instinct the ball would be true. 
4. The celebration.  Love the chest beating on top the scorer's table - very gladiator-like - not to mention the "We're going to the Sweet 16"-esque mob scene on the court.  It'd be nice to see more pure joy after winning celebrations like that in the league, but the Kings may be the exception since their roster is half full of players with college eligibility remaining.   
5. The vertical jump of the fan under the basket wearing red.  He jumps as high as the Kings players.  Get that guy in the D-league!


Wanted to give #6 seed Doug a victor's salute for winning the football league this year.  Think everyone can agree that parity reigns in the NFL (which can be argued as a good/bad thing) and the fantasy playoffs have become quite the crapshoot with injuries, benchings and weird karmic occurrences.  How else can you explain Rex "Left for Dead 3 Years Ago" Grossman, of all people, playing a role in the championship matchup?  (Starting Rex took guts, Doug).  And Peyton Manning burning Matt with his audible and subsequent naked boot for what would have proved the championship deciding fantasy points, until he rejected the easy TD in the name of winning his game, in reality.  One thing is for certain - there's never any shortage of drama.  Way to go Doug.     


Tomorrow marks the first meeting since 1990 between Notre Dame and Miami.  Who would've thunk El Paso, Texas would play host to the two programs stoking the flames of a heated rivalry born out of the 80's.  A welcome renaissance for all college football fans as the schools meet at least three more times over the next 7 years

The Hurricanes are in a bit of  upheaval without a head coach, so Brian Kelly has the sideline advantage to capitalize on.  Indications that Jacory "The Turnover Magnet" Harris will be back under center should have Manti & Co. licking their chops.  The bigger concern is if Tommy Rees can find success through the air against the stiff Miami pass defense.  If the big uglies control the line of scrimmage and Robert Hughes caps his career with one last punishing effort, a few play action throws may be all Rees needs to keep the Canes off balance.  

Think this will be a low scoring affair and the Irish will emerge victorious.  Let's say ND 23  UM 17.

December 23, 2010

Book Review - Perfect Rivals: Notre Dame, Miami and the Battle for the Soul of College Football

If I were really good at planning, this review would have come a couple weeks ahead of Christmas, not a couple days.  (It also should've been fresh in my mind, not months after I read it, but now I'm picking nits). No matter.  Jeff Carroll's historical perspective on the dynamic rivalry that sprang from two rising programs is a great buy any time - Perfect Rivals: Notre Dame, Miami, and the Battle for the Soul of College Football.  Carroll sets up parallel story arcs for Miami and Notre Dame, describing the state of each program in the early 80's and explaining the climb up the ladder of the college football elite.  The book is full of great anecdotes which provide a greater context to the rivalry that blossomed between unlikely schools, while galvanizing the college football universe.

The failed experiment of Gerry Faust, jumping from high school legend status to overmatched collegiate coach sets the table for Lou Holtz to swoop in and revitalize the sleeping giant in South Bend.  Equally engrossing is the birth of the U - the most intimidating, trash-talking, swagger-walking team that ever existed.  From Howard Schellenberger, the man who had the common sense and gumption to declare the fertile recruiting grounds of South Florida the "State of Miami," to the vastly different styles and personas of Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson, talent overcame the Miami coaching carousel.

The U embraced the role of "super-villain" to the other "super-hero" programs like Penn State, Notre Dame and Nebraska, except the "bad" guys dominated for more than a decade.  It doesn't feel that long ago, but it's a throwback reading about Miami, Penn State and Florida State as independents subscribing to the anytime, anywhere scheduling mentality.  And the antics the Hurricanes got away with are directly responsible for the sterilized excitement that's allowed in the game today.  Reading about it is one thing, but actually seeing the Canes in action is truly entertaining.  If you haven't seen the extraordinary 30 for 30 documentary on ESPN, you must.  (Here's a few short clips).  

All the excellent back stories set the stage for the in-depth game summaries of the 3 classic (and a few not-so-classic) doomsday-like matchups between the two schools.  To say bad blood existed between the teams is putting it mildly.  Carroll does a terrific job of stepping away from the action to sprinkle details and biographical subplots to the cast of characters, like how Pat Eilers went from a pre-med Yale football player to rushing for the go-ahead TD in the '88 grudge match.

I recommend "Perfect Rivals" wholeheartedly for any college football fan, let alone every one with a rooting interest in either Notre Dame or Miami.  Re-reading sections gets my blood boiling for the Sun Bowl and the 2012 series revival.  Here's hoping the powers that be don't wait another 12+ years for these programs to write some more history.  It'd be hard to capture the same confluence of magic and venom from Carroll's subject period, but any good rivalry deserves another turn.

December 17, 2010

WeIs Roundtable Bowl Confidence Picks - Why Not?

We're bowl season junkies around here, getting bowl stir crazy since we started this blog journey in 2005.  Once the jingle gets in your head -- "It's the most wonderful time...of the year" - it doesn't leave.  A whopping 35 games are on the docket this year, begging the question that's been asked before on these pages, when is enough enough?  Well, we don't have time to force the NCAA's hand on that topic, but we can throw out some confidence picks for the bowl season that kicks off tonight.  Without further ado... 

Matt’s Confidence Picks

1:  New Era Pinstripe Bowl - Kansas St. over Syracuse – The ultimate toss-up!  Just a hunch, but this game won’t have quite the buzz at Yankee Stadium as the ND game.  Although the irony of the Wildcats coming from the Little Apple to play in the Big Apple is not lost on me.

2:  Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO – TCU over Wisconsin – I really have no clue what to expect in this game, as evidenced by this confidence rank.  Just a hunch that TCU’s defense slows down smashmouth Big Ten football.  If only I could remember whether this is a Big Ten Leader or Legend.

3: Bowl - Middle Tennessee over Miami (Ohio) – Only reason to watch is to see if Danica Patrick does the pregame coin flip.  Or is one of the cheerleaders.  I love college football, and I guess I appreciate having a game to watch on a random night in January.  But the fact that a .500 team from the Sun Belt got a bowl invite and the Fightin’ Temple Owls didn’t is a little ridiculous.  

4:  Little Caesars Bowl - Florida International over Toledo – There aren’t enough words to express how little I have to say about this game.  Speaking of words, I got a chuckle out of Hubie Brown’s analysis of Dirk Nowitzki’s game:  “The thing I love about Dirk is there is so much to like about him.”   I rewound it just to make sure I got the quote right.  That’s the kind of analysis you can only get with Hubie.  

5:  Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman - East Carolina over Maryland – Maryland was tied for third place in the ACC and their reward is something called the Military Bowl.  A free autograph to anyone who knows what (who?) Northrop Grumman is.  Sounds like the German prime minister.  

6:  uDrove Humanitarian Bowl – Fresno State over Northern Illinois – In Pat Hill I Somewhat Reluctantly Trust

7:  Meineke Car Care Bowl – Clemson over South Florida – I kind of feel like South Florida is about to make a leap here in the next year or two.  Ol’ Skip is a rock solid head coach, there is a little bit of upheaval at Miami and Florida, the Big East is weak, and there are a ton of recruits to choose from in Florida.  Here’s a bold prediction for you:  USF will win the Big East next year and play in the Orange Bowl.

8:  Sheraton Hawaii Bowl – Tulsa over Hawaii – Randomly a pretty big spread for this game (Hawaii is favored).  Haven’t seen the Rainbow Warriors play this year, but Tulsa wasn’t too shabby.

9:  Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl - Southern Mississippi over Louisville – I like what Charlie Strong is doing.

10:  AT&T Cotton Bowl – Texas A&M over LSU – Possibly the hottest team in the country going against possibly the luckiest team in the country.  Tossup.  I’ll take the better offense and go against the SEC, which I don’t like to do.

11:  R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl – Troy over Ohio – Do you think Frank Solich ever gets out of bed and wonders where it  all went wrong?  He went from head coach of one of the most storied programs in the country to playing in a bowl game sponsored by R+L Carriers in front of an intimate gathering of friends and family only.

12:  AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl – Georgia Tech over Air Force – This game could be over in under two hours.  Mr. Clock Operator, keep it running…

13:  S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl – San Diego State over Navy – SDSU was sneakily good this year under miracle worker Brady Hoke. This isn’t a vintage Navy team and they are playing what amounts to a road game.

14:  Chick-fil-A Bowl - South Carolina over Florida State – I don’t see any Alshon Jeffery’s or Marcus Lattimore’s on FSU.

15:  Allstate Sugar Bowl - Ohio State over Arkansas – Tpeezy gets his chance to show that he is not the worst QB in the nation, as his tweets suggested after being left off the Big Ten all-conference teams.  Side note:  Legends and Leaders???!!!!  Really?  That is the most ridiculous thing I have heard in a long time.  And Jim Delaney was surprised at all of the backlash?  Talk about out of touch with reality.  It sounds like those names were contrived by a second grader.

16:  Texas Bowl – Baylor over Illinois – This is purely a pick against Ron Zook

17:  Insight Bowl - Missouri over Iowa – Probably not a good thing when the best wide receiver in school history is running a drug house.  Or half the team is apparently on drugs.  

18:  Champs Sports Bowl - West Virginia over NC State – Poor Bill Stewart, gets fired but gets to hang around for a year as a lame duck.  Doesn’t Stewart seem like the kind of guy who would giddily respond to an email from the African king who just inherited a fortune but needs a bank account to deposit the money in.  It’s probably not a good thing when I have those thoughts about your head football coach.

19:  BBVA Compass Bowl – Kentucky over Pittsburgh – Good for Mike Hayward.  I wrote about him last week, and frankly I’m surprised that Pitt made the hire, but I hope it works out.  He has the right coaching lineage and is coming from the Cradle of Coaches, but a part of me thinks he might be in a little over his head.  I hope I’m wrong.  It doesn’t help that the fanbase is furious with the hire.  Advice to Coach Haywood – grow your finest snout broom before your press conference and they’ll come around on you.

20:  Discover Orange Bowl – Virginia Tech over Stanford – Who would have thought that Bud Foster would have such a huge effect on Jimmy Clausen’s NFL future.  If he stymies Andrew Luck, perhaps persuading him and Harbaugh to give it another shot next year, then the Panthers don’t get to draft him number one and Clausen presumably has a better than fair shot of winning the job again next year.  As an ardent Clausen supporter and someone who thought that he would be a good’s been ugly this year.  BTW if VT wins this game they will finish the year on a 12 game winning streak.  If they had beaten Boise they almost certainly would be undefeated.  

21:  Gator Bowl - Mississippi State over Michigan – Bad offense triumphs over horrific defense.  The end of the RichRod era?

22:  Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl – Tennessee over North Carolina – UT gets a home game and one more chance for rising stud Tyler Bray to learn on the job.  UNC just looking to get this nightmare of a season over with and presumably hand dead man walking Butch Davis his pink slip.

23:  AutoZone Liberty Bowl - Georgia over UCF – You heard it here first.  Georgia wins the SEC East next year.  Aaron Murray will be the best QB in the conference.  Check back with me next November.

24:  Valero Alamo Bowl - Oklahoma State over Arizona – Arizona limping to the finish line.  Don’t see their defense slowing down the Pokes offense.  The departure of Nebraska from the conference only adds to the best kept secret in the country – no one in that conference plays ANY defense!  Look at the All American teams and they’re littered with Big 12 players.  Would I be shocked if Arizona slowed down the 40 Year Old Man’s offense.  Nope, because again, nobody in the Big 12 plays any defense!

25:  Outback Bowl - Florida over Penn State – I don’t think Florida will lose Urban’s last game.  How about Joe Pa telling a recruit he’s going to coach another 5 or 6 years.  You can’t tell me that the PSU admin isn’t looking at what’s going on in Tallahassee and thinking about giving Joe the gentle nudge out the door.  Or at least a gentle nudge down a stairwell inadvertently breaking his hip.

26:  Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl - Nevada over Boston College – Could BC’s motivation be any lower?  They get the shaft again (the annual BC bowl shafting – a holiday tradition unlike any other!) and have to wait until the second week of January, travel across the country, and play a mid major.  Vegas can’t make this point spread high enough for me.

27:  MAACO Las Vegas Bowl – Boise State over Utah – Are we really sure that Utah is any good?  

28:  New Mexico Bowl - BYU over UTEP – Will the Mormons descend on Albuquerque (just guessing where this game is, too lazy to look it up) like they do upon Vegas?  One of the more random phenomenon is the BYU fans love for Vegas.

29:  Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl – SMU over Army -  If you didn’t watch the 30 for 30 Pony Excess, do yourself a favor and set the DVR.  Unbelievable how shady recruiting was back in the day.  Actually, what am I talking about, back in the day…

30:  Capital One Bowl - Alabama over Michigan State – If Bama shows up motivated, they win by two TD’s.  How much sleep do you think the Nicktator has gotten since the Iron Bowl?  He will have them ready to go.

31:  Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl - Nebraska over Washington – Maybe the least appealing bowl game due to the fact it is a rematch of a regular season blowout.  The last chance to see the mediocre Jake Locker in action?

32:  Tostitos Fiesta Bowl – Oklahoma over Connecticut – Randy Edsall is a standup guy and it is amazing what he has done creating something out of nothing with that program.  But nobody wants to see this game in the BCS.  OU may not be motivated, but on talent alone they should win.  If they lose this, then Stoops can officially be pronounced the worst big game coach in history.  DJ Khaled will have to come up with the Stoops remix, “All I Do is Lose”.

33:  Hyundai Sun Bowl - Notre Dame over Miami – Miami is mediocre and is going through a coaching change.  I will be severely disappointed if the Irish lose this game.  Anyone who has read my picks the last two years knows what I think of the Al Golden hire for U.  Tremendous.  The guy can flat out coach. 

34:  TicketCity Bowl - Texas Tech over Northwestern – NW a low level MAC team without Persa.  New Years Day is embarrassed to be disgraced with this game on its hallowed eleven o’clock hour.

35:  Tostitos BCS National Championship Game – Auburn over Oregon – I couldn’t rattle on last week about how great the SEC is and how much of a blowout this will be and then hide this game in the middle of the rankings.  How’s this for confidence?  War Damn Eagle!

Mike’s Confidence Picks

35:  Oklahoma - This will get ugly in a hurry.
34:  Boise State - Angry Broncos plus overrated Utes missing their starting QB= bloodbath.
33:  BYU - The Cougars have finished the season strongly, while UTEP has no business being in a bowl.
32:  Nebraska - This is one sequel that did not need to be made, like Caddyshack 2.
31:  Nevada - Maybe BC can start a nifty new streak of consecutive losses in lower tier bowls.
30:  Texas Tech - Northwestern is a shell of its former self sans Dan Persa.
29:  Alabama - As long as the Tide are motivated, they’ll crush the overrated Spartans.
28:  Missouri - Iowa is completely imploding with this whole Derrell Johnson-Koulianos “drug house” fiasco and the corresponding suspensions.  Given the Hawkeyes’ disappointing year, I would have picked Mizzou anyway.
27:  Hawai’i -  Hawaii is the better team and they are playing at home.
26:  Georgia - A.J. Green should cap his career in style for the Bulldogs.
25:  Oklahoma State - Arizona has limped to the finish line this year and they are ripe for the beating, even with Dana Holgersen heading out the door
24:  Maryland - I hate taking such a mediocre team so high, but the Terps should handle ECU without too much difficulty.
23:   Stanford - Will rumors about Jim Harbaugh bolting town distract the Trees?  I doubt it.
22:  South Carolina - No Christian Ponder, no chance for the Noles.
21:  Auburn - Unlike prior years, this year’s SEC title game representative does not have an imposing defense.  They do, however, have Cam Newton.
20:  Florida - Even with Urban Meyer stepping down, the Gators should be able to push Penn State around.  Will Paterno’s retirement follow?
19:  Texas A&M - The Aggies finished the season with a bang and they are rewarded with a Cotton Bowl date against the bumbling Les Miles, whose luck is about to start expiring quickly.
18:  Pittsburgh - If history is any lesson, I shouldn’t keep picking all of these teams with outgoing coaches.  Then again, as Henry Ford said: “History is more or less bunk.”
17:  Notre Dame - Big game for the Irish and I am very excited about the matchup.  If the destination was better, I would be attending.  No offense, El Paso.
16:  Mississippi State - With Dan Mullen sticking around and Rich Rodriguez twisting in the wind, I’ll side with the stable program here.
15:  San Diego State -  Home game for the more talented Aztecs.
14:  Louisville - Not much of a feel for this one.  I like what Charlie Strong is doing in the ‘Ville, however.
13:  North Carolina - Tennessee’s switch to Tyler Bray proved beneficial, but the competition wasn’t much.  The Vols will fall short in this jump in class.
12:  Baylor - With the partisan crowd in favor of the Bears, Art Briles should notch a huge bowl win for Baylor.
11:  Kansas State - Syracuse can pack the Garden for the Big East Tournament, but don’t expect many fans to show for this game at Yankee Stadium.  The offensively challenged Orange will fall again in a low scoring affair.
10:  Northern Illinois - Another game, another outgoing coach in my picks.
9:  Troy - Yawn.
8:  Clemson - Look for an honest performance from the superior Tigers in this one.
7:  Toledo - Exhibit A of why there are too many bowls.
6: Georgia Tech - Option attack vs. option attack.  I’ll take the team with the better athletes.
5:  NC State - A fond farewell (perhaps) for Russell Wilson.
4: Army - Pick against Army in the Armed Forces Bowl?  Come on.
3:  Wisconsin - I’m looking forward to this game, but I’m taking an underdog so I need to rank this low.
2:  Arkansas - See Wisconsin-TCU.
1:  Middle Tennessee State - Finally picking against an outgoing coach.

Jimmy’s Confidence Picks

35: Oklahoma – Stoops can’t fall on his face again in the Fiesta, can he?  
Maybe the widest disparity of talent in BCS history.
34: Oklahoma State – Arizona is a shell of the team that beat Iowa – who 
didn’t end up being too good after all.  A present to all sports fans – the gift 
that keeps on giving, refusing to get old.
33: BYU – UTEP isn’t very good.
32: Missouri – I usually stay away from team’s whose postseason news 
includes the suspension of their leading rusher and arrest of the all-time 
leader in receptions on “keeping a drug house” charges.  Ummm, yeah.  I’ll 
take Mizzou.
31: Maryland – East Carolina ranks dead last in total yards allowed in FBS.  
All I need to know. 
30: Georgia – An SEC school with a future 1st round WR vs. a mid-major 
with By George, It’s O’Leary as its coach?  I don’t care what O’Leary’s record 
was against the Bulldogs when he was at Ga. Tech.  Richt rolls (as opposed to
29: Boise State – The Utes are about to incur the wrath of the Broncos pent 
up frustration at crapping out at the BCS slot machine.  
28: SMU -Army is putrid. 
27: Fresno State -Coaching change plus a cross-country trip spells doom for 
Northern Illinois. 
26: Air Force -What's the over/under on how many combined passes are 
thrown in this one?  15?  I'm not even joking.  The Falcons get the nod since 
their starting QB isn't on the sideline. 
25: Pittsburgh -Wouldn't it be nice if the Wannstache got a nice send-off 
victory?  Some would argue if he deserves it for his roller coaster career.  
This choice has more to do with Mike Hartline getting injured than Wann-
stedt winning the sideline battle. 
24: Auburn -War Damn Eagle! 
23: Nebraska -Beating the same team twice is tricky, but when that team 
is an uninspiring Washington team, the Huskers shouldn't have any problem.
22: Clemson -This one might be ugly, but if Clemson plays to their potential, 
they shouldn't have any trouble.  Not going out of my way to support the Big 
21: Miami, OH -   Kudos to Mike Haywood.  This will put an exclamation 
point on his brief tenure in Oxford. 
20: Hawai’i -Tulsa's 119th ranked passing defense gets exposed badly vs. the
#1 passing offense on their own turf. 
19: Florida -If the roles were reversed and the coach that should be retiring 
were doing so, I could talk myself into a Penn State upset.  That's neither here 
nor there.  Gators make the Nittany Lions look like pussy cats. 
18: Toledo -The game's in Detroit.  You think Florida International players 
are psyched to be making that trip over the holidays? 
17: Nevada -  BC has been mediocre all year.  Nevada only gained confidence 
with their Boise State upset. 
16: Notre Dame -I'll expound on this next week, but the steady ship of 
progress beats the mutinous ship of underachievement.  (No clue what I just 
wrote there).
15: NC State -A well-matched game, but Russell Wilson should be able to 
dissect the stingy Mountaineers defense.
14: South Carolina -If Ponder sits, this is a no-brainer.  We'll see whose 
been licking their wounds more as these conference runners-up try to avoid a 
double whammy to finish the season.
13: Alabama -People keep talking about Bama not being motivated and 
coming out flat vs. MSU.  You mean to tell me Nick Saban won't have his team 
prepared beyond a shadow of a doubt against his old school, with the sting of 
the Sugar Bowl fiasco still fresh from 2 years ago?  Michigan State's enjoyed a 
great year, but they may just be out-classed in this one.
12: Tennessee -Rocky Top has been peaking and should put a bitter end to 
this season-long saga for Butch Davis. 
11: Southern Miss -Brett Favre's alma mater tries to soften the blow of his 
unceremonious final(?) season.
10: Ohio State -Was leaning towards the Razorbacks until I remembered 
what Cam Newton did to them in October.  Pryor's petty, selfish act is wearing 
thin, but he's capable of emulating that same kind of effort if Tressel opens the 
playbook a little.  The Buckeyes defense will pretend Mallett still wears maize 
and blue.
9: Mississippi State - Granted, it was early in the season and the Cam 
Newton engine was just revving, but the Bulldogs defense shut him down 
better than anyone else in the land.  I expect them to give Shoelace the same 
treatment. DickRod should just cry uncle after this one. 
8: Navy -Ricky Dobbs sails off into the sunset with one last bowl victory. 
7: Texas Tech -Really hope Pat Fitzgerald gets a few breaks in this one and 
the Wildcats break their decades long bowl losing streak.  But until that 
happens, I'm afraid I can't pick the Cardiac Cats, especially playing in a neutral-
less Texas environment.
6: Illinois - Call it a hunch.  No real good reason the Zookers corral Robert 
Griffin III, but I'm gonna rock with it.
5: Texas A&M -The Aggies were playing really good ball at the end of 
the year.  Another gut call.
4: Virginia Tech – Terrific matchup.  Luck runs dry in South Beach.
3: Troy -Whatever.
2: Syracuse -The home state crowd lifts the 'Cuse to an unexpected triumph.  
Maybe.  Hence my lack of confidence.
1: Wisconsin –Up to this pick, my conference bias is fairly clear.  SEC trumps 
most, the Big XII enjoy several favorable matchups, hardly any stock placed in 
the strength of the Big East and Pac-10, and my faith in the Big Ten teeters on 
lost.  If the SEC takes the B10 behind the woodshed in their 4 marquee 
matchups, Jim Delany should admit playing “Marco” to the SEC’s “Polo” and 
unveil new division titles along the lines of “The Myths” and “The Followers.”  
The Rose Bowl remains the last gasp at asserting those tenets the conference 
was built on – smashmouth football.  The Badgers can preserve a shred of 
dignity by beating the best of the upstarts.  A loss, while not surprising in the 
least, would be devastating in the shadow of the Grand Daddy.  Bret Bielema 
has to understand this and his offensive line will be frothing at the mouth to 
impose their will on the acclaimed Purple Haze defense.  Wisconsin’s 3-headed 
monster at RB (Clay, White and Ball) holds the key to the fate of an entire 
conference.  Curious to see how it unfolds. 

My final expected BCS conference bowl records:
SEC                 7-3                   Big Ten           3-5
Big XII           6-2                   Big East          2-4
ACC                 4-5                  Pac-10             0-4
A few parting thoughts:  My yearly plea that the NCAA tightens the belt on the 
bloated bowl picture remains.  We’ve been down this road before and it’s 
somehow getting worse. 

Riddle me this discrepancy – the Pac 10 only qualifies four teams among the 
70 bowl participants, and the ACC has 9??  Man, that extra conference game 
completely shoots the Pac-10 in the foot.  A non-conference scheduling 
referendum to create a more level playing field with respect to conference 
schedules is necessary as the OOC cupcake parade to bowl eligibility is a joke. 

Really, the Big East gets rewarded with 75% bowl participation for having an 
awful conference?  And the Pac-10 is left with 44% participation from its 
eligible schools?  Weak sauce.  Blow up the whole system!

December 15, 2010

WeIs Roundtable Picks - Final Standings

First, an homage to the sensation that swept the nation, Mr. Cameron Jerrell Newton.  Is it coincidence that his middle name is eerily similar to Jor-El, father of Kal-El?  Who's your daddy, Superman.  The awards windfall may be temporarily overlooked if the Tigers don't finish the job in Glendale, but it was certainly a season to remember at Auburn.  War Cam Eagle.

The conclusion of the regular season and conference championships two weeks ago brought an end to the epic battle of whims, hunches and guesses from the roundtable chorus.  To tie things up like a white elephant present, below are the final standings for the 2010 picks challenge.

Week 14
Dan: 3-3
Jeremy: 3-2 (-)
Jimmy: 6-0 (+)  (Haiku picks worked like a charm!)
Matt: 2-4 (+)
Mike: 1-5 (-)

Season (Locks of the Weeks)
1. Jeremy: 57-36-2 (10-5)
2. Jimmy: 54-39-3 (9-5-1)
3. Mike: 54-40-2 (10-3-1)
4. Dan: 51-43-2 (6-6-1)
5. Matt: 47-46-3 (7-5-1)

If you had a "horse" in this season long race, there's a 60% chance of a win, place or show.  Congrats to Jeremy for edging the field by a furlough.  As promised in Week 1, he wins a TBD prize commensurate with the honorable distinction of the most handicapped handicapper.  Victory acceptance speech??

For giggles, I checked the last two years of roundtable picks challenges and dug up the following final standings:

2009 Final Standings
1. Dan: 47-35-2 (7-6-1) Went a perfect 5-0 in Week 14 to tie for lead.
1. Jeremy: 47-35-2 (7-6)
3. Doug: 44-38-2 (6-8)
4. Mike: 41-41-2 (4-8)
5. Matt: 39-43-2 (5-8)

2008 Final Standings
1. Mike: 112-95-3
1. Matt: 112-95-3
3. Doug: 105-103-3
4. Dan: 86-90

Apparently, Jeremy is the first outright winner and his +21 W-L differential is the highest in three years.  Impressive work.  I'm amazed how many games were previewed and picked in '08.  You guys were machines.  So far, only 2 out of 14 season-long percentages dipped below .500.  Not too shabby.  Stay tuned for bowl confidence picks coming your way tomorrow.

December 08, 2010

Around the Nation: Pre Bowl College Football Thoughts

Not quite the dramatic weekend that we have become accustomed to, but the end result was that we are left with the National Championship game that most people want to see (more on that later.)   Ten thoughts as we embrace weekends without college football (Army-Navy notwithstanding this weekend.)

1.  All in all, probably best case scenario for Notre Dame going to play Miami in the Sun Bowl.  No matter what their record, Miami is still a team that has cache with young people, and playing and beating the U will garner attention that a win over Maryland or NC State would not have generated.  The fact that the bowl game sold out in less than 24 hours only gives credence that the Notre Dame brand is alive and well. 

Speaking of Miami, classy move by Randy Shannon writing handwritten goodbye letters to his players after his firing.  I think that Shannon would be a perfect fit at a place like Vanderbilt.  There is no denying that he can recruit, and although he obviously wouldn't have access to the talent base that Miami does, he could carve out a niche in the SEC. 

2.  With news that Everett Golson is in the fold, there appears to be strength in numbers at the QB position heading into 2011.  Tommy Rees will have a leg up given his experience this season, but many believe that he is not the most talented QB in his own class.  Andrew Hendrix and Luke Massa will join the fray, along with Golson who will be on campus in January.  South Bend Tribune beat writer Eric Hansen has been adamant that Dayne Crist is not going to transfer, that he values Notre Dame and will compete to regain his starting job. 

It's too early to even begin the speculation on what will happen.  But much like the QB derby of 2007, I don't see how all of these bodies can stay and be happy.  There could be a really good QB, or a QB who led Notre Dame to a season ending four game winning streak, sitting at 4th or 5th on the depth chart.  That's why Brian Kelly gets paid the big bucks, and that will be question number one on everyone's minds come spring practices.

3.  Smaller story that seemed to be swept under the rug, but the final BCS standing were wrong!  Boise State was shortchanged a place because one of the computer rankings was wrong.  Not a huge deal I guess, but how many times has this happened before and never been caught?  Honestly, I've never really felt passionately about a playoff, but the whole BCS thing is just so phony.  You get a team like UConn playing in the Fiesta Bowl, you get TCU going to the Rose Bowl...The matchups this year aren't terrible, but still.

Plus the championship game seems like it gets pushed back further and further every year.  We really have to wait until January 10th for the championship game??  But still get spoonfed the garbage from the presidents and the NCAA that a playoff would be detrimental to the student athlete??  By January 10th, most football fans are in NFL playoff mode.  I know because of TV we will never go back to having New Years Day being a nonstop orgy of college football, but this schedule is ridiculous.  (Two interesting facts:  there are 6 bowl games on New Year's Day, and one of them is something called the TicketCity Bowl.  And also, every bowl game but two is being broadcast by ABC / ESPN.  Wow, that is shocking.  Fox has the Cotton Bowl and CBS has the Sun Bowl.  Does that mean ND gets Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson??  Sign me up for that!)

4.  WeIsND Heisman Ballot:
          1. Cam Newton
          2. Kellen Moore
          3. Andrew Luck
          4. LaMike James
          5. Julio Jones
          109 (tie)  Garrett Gilbert, John Brantley, Jacory Harris

5.  Always interesting to take a look at the coaches salaries from this past season.  In fact, there are so many interesting dollar figures within, that here is one man's opinion of the most over and under paid coaches in the country:

Get My Agent on the Phone - I Need A Raise!
1. Tom O'Brien, NC State - $632,950 - Ok, so O'Brien's tenure at NC State has taken a little longer to develop then many thought it would.  But this is a decent ACC job and he is making WAC money! Quick, someone tell me where Steve Fairchild coaches.  It's not FCS, I promise.  He is the head coach at Colorado State and he makes more money than Tom O'Brien.  So do other coaching (Larry) Legends Larry Chistensen, Larry Fedora and Larry Porter.  I didn't make those names up.  All three of them are Division One head coaches, and all make more money than O'Brien.

2. Al Golden, Temple - $513,867 - Football isn't exactly a huge revenue generator for Temple, but Golden has taken a program from absolute rock bottom to respectability.  They went 8-4 this year including a win over UConn, but were snubbed anyway.  Nevertheless, Golden is due a raise if Temple has any plans of keeping him around for long.

3. Bret Bielema, Wisconsin - $1.7 million - I'm sure Bielema will be angling for a raise, especially after this years BCS run.  He is being compensated in the same ballpark of guys like Tommy Tuberville, Mike Sherman, Skip Holtz and Greg Schiano.  Wisconsin is a step above those jobs.

4. Jim Tressel, Ohio State - $3.51 million - Maybe a controversial choice since he already makes enough to feed an African village for a year, but the Senator has the Bucks in the BCS every year and works for a university that spends more on college athletics than anyone in the country.  No reason he shouldn't be up in the Stoops, Saban, Mack Brown stratosphere.

5. In Memoriam - Steve Roberts, Arkansas State - $140,000 - He was fired last week, but come on Arkansas State.  The guy had coached there nine seasons and he was making about what Nick Saban makes a week.  He probably headed straight to the local post office or car dealer and picked up a job that pays more than he was making as a FBS head coach.

I'm Sending My Agent an Extra Special Christmas Gift
1. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest - $2.9 million - Woah!  Where did this come from?  Grobe earned about a million per win this year, and that's being kind and including that big win over Presbyterian in the total.  I know that Grobe is a nice coach and even better guy, but he's making more than guys like Frank Beamer, Steve Spurrier, Chip Kelly and Bo Pelini.  If only they would have thrown around some of those dollars when looking for a basketball coach.

2. Turner Gill, Kansas - $2.1 million - Maybe he'll turn it around, but I heard from several Jayhawks fans that he showed all the signs of being TWillie 2.0 this first year.  That's a lot of beans to have invested in an unproven coach like Gill. 

3. Ralph Friedgen, Maryland - $2.036 million - The Fridge must be living off of that dream '01-'02 Orange Bowl season, because since then he's been the definition of mediocre.  That big contract may be what saved his job after last seasons debacle, and to the big man's credit, he turned it around again this year.  It's good having one fat guy left to root for in college football since Mangini and Weis took their talents, girth and runny noses elsewhere.

4. Mike Locksley, New Mexico - $750,000 - How this guy is still employed is anyone's guess, but some of it may have to do with the Lobos refusal (or inability) to pay him this much to stay away.  His in-state rival DeWayne Walker makes exactly half of Locksley's salary, but that hasn't stopped him from beating the Lobos two straight years.

5. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa - $3.775 million - Coaches that are in the Top 5 salaries in the country shouldn't be throwing up stink bomb seasons as often as Ferentz has been.

6. Big East Basketball!  Shaping up to be a monster year in the best basketball conference in the country, with seven league teams still undefeated.  Of course, the Irish hope to keep the zero in the L column with a huge showdown against Big Blue.  UK has three first round freshman on the team, and on paper there are obvious mismatches up and down the rosters.  But this ND team has a commitment to defense and rebounding unlike anything that we've seen previously during the Brey regime.  I fully expect that Brey's "men", as he's so fond of calling them, will not be rattled playing a road game (don't give me this neutral site BS - the floor will be Kentucky blue). 

Big game for Eric Atkins, as he obviously hasn't seen anything like this in terms of atmosphere and opposing talent in his life.  Hopefully that game against Georgia and their 'athletes' aka black guys and brand of basketball will help get our feet under us early.

7. With the breaking news that Urban Meyer is stepping down, I think that Jeremy Foley should be on the phone right now to Dan Mullen.  Let's face it - Mississippi State stunk before he got there, and it was a nothing school in a nothing location with nothing to offer recruits.  Mullen took them from 4-8 (2-6) the year before he got there, to 5-7 (3-5) and now this year 8-4 (4-4) and playing in a New Year's Day bowl game.  Not only that, there is widespread chatter that it was just as much the loss of Mullen as it was Tebow that led to this year's Gator implosion.

Meyer said today that he wants to concentrate on his family life, and that is admirable.  But YOU KNOW that in a few years he's going to have the itch again.  Coaches just don't up and retire at his age.  Don't be shocked to see him resurface somewhere in a few years. 

8.  My thoughts on the Cam Newton saga.  Whether the NCAA acted shockingly quickly to save face, to preserve the matchups of undefeateds, or because they truly believe they have dug up enough info to clearly say that Cam Newton did not know what his father was doing, the fact of the matter is he is eligible.  So he clearly deserves the Heisman, whether it will be taken from him years from now or not.

This situation is similar to what Memphis went through when they had to vacate all 38 wins of their Final Four run with Derrick Rose.  Ask any Memphis fan if it was worth it, and all of them will say yes.  As fans, we live and die with the games and experience emotions that are probably way too unhealthy but nevertheless real.  Just because the NCAA says the Final Four never happened doesn't mean Memphis fans can't remember that season.  Same thing with Auburn.  As our born and bred Auburn man Madonia has chronicled the last month for us, this undefeated dream season has produced drama and suspense that will probably end up costing him a year off his life.  Whether or not Cam Newton is later found to have known about his dad's pay for play scheme doesn't diminish what has transpired on the field.

Do I think Cam Newton knew that his dad was selling him to the highest bidder?  Yeah, probably.  And the truth is, I don't really care.  I'm not an idiot, I know this sort of thing happens way more often than we ever find out about.  Hell, watching the outstanding documentary on Marcus Dupree, and the same shady antics were going on thirty years ago.  Why would it be any different today when college football is even bigger business and there is even more on the line for every win and loss.

9. End of the road for the Wannstache, and I can't say that I blame the Pitt administration.  There is no reason that Pitt shouldn't have won the awful Big East this year.  If they wanted to maintain status quo and win 7 or 8 games every year, then you keep the loyal Wanny around.  But if you want to create some buzz around the program that has to carve out a niche in a pro sports town, you've got to make a move.  I would try to go the young gun route and get some energy back into the program. 

While were at it, predictions for coaches to save their jobs.
Rich Rodriguez - FIRED - I think they should keep him another year, but a loss to Mississippi State dooms him. 

Ron Zook - FIRED - How can this guy keep his job?  He's probably thankful they played on Championship Saturday because it didn't generate any attention, but they lost on Saturday to Fresno State to finish 6-6, including that ugly loss to Minnesota.  He's gottsta go.

Dabo Swinney - RETAINED - I talked about this a little last week, but Clemson is the ultimate sleeping giant.  Everything about that program is SEC level, and yet they have NEVER won ten games in a season.  Ever.  Swinney is the dreaded interim guy who rallied the troops and got to keep the job and now appears over his head.  Those guys never seem to pan out.  And there would be no shortage of quality candidates lining up for a shot at this job.

Dennis Erickson - FIRED - Six wins this year, two against FCS, and a negative trendline during his run at ASU.  Maybe the rivalry game upset against UofA can save his job, but this program is going nowhere fast under Erickson.

Butch Davis - FIRED - You can't oversee the kind of lack of institutional control that has been documented at a place like UNC and expect to keep your job.  It's a shame, because Davis appeared on his way to big things in Chapel Thrill.

Paul Wulff - RETAINED - Hey, they won a Pac 10 game and almost won the Apple Cup.  That's grounds for a parade in Pullman.

10.  The BCS Championship game is going to be a blowout.  I'm not joking.  I would rather watch Auburn-Alabama the rematch, instead of Auburn-Oregon.  For that matter give me Auburn-LSU II and Auburn-Arkansas II before this game.  When is the rest of the country going to catch on that the SEC plays a different breed of football.  The athletes are bigger, faster, hungrier and paid more (maybe three of the four).  When Auburn wins, the SEC will have produced more championships than every other conference combined.  When Auburn wins, it will run the SEC's championship record to 7-0.  When Auburn wins, it will become the FIFTH different school from the SEC to win a championship.  That is insane. 

I know that people will say that this is a different Oregon team, but last year in the Rose Bowl they got pushed around and physically mauled by Ohio State.  The same Ohio State team this is the brunt of all jokes (I just had to look this up - I thought the expression was 'butt of all jokes...') about how they can't compete with the SEC!  Oregon has had to play one ranked team this year in Stanford, who in turn only played Oregon who ended up ranked.  I know that there has been a PAC 10 lovefest this year, but I am suggesting that both of these west coast teams are wildly overrated.  In his mailbag today, SI's Stewart Mandel had an interesting look at the schedule strength of Oregon and Auburn.  Since the BCS era, Oregon has the worst opponents' winning percetage of any title game participant, while Auburn has the third highest.  (Number One?  That '98 FSU team that played a nonconference schedule of 11-2 Texas A&M, 9-2 Florida, 8-3 Miami and 8-4 USC.  Good Lord!!!  Can you imagine a team playing that level of nonconference schedule today?  That FSU team may have had the most loaded collegiate wideout group ever:  Laveranues Coles, Peter Warrick, Marvin Snoop Minnis and Ron Dugans.)

What I'm saying is that Auburn is more battle tested having played road games in Tuscaloosa, an SEC Championship game, and home games against Clemson, South Carolina, LSU and Arkansas.  They have the best player on the field on both sides of the ball in Cam and Fairley.  And they have that SEC mojo working for them.  There is a reason that Vegas opened the game with Oregon as a three point favorite, and within 24 hours it had shifted the other way 6 points. 

Finally, if you're an SEC homer like me, author/columnist Clay Travis on AOL Fanhouse is an entertaining read.  I strongly recommend his first book, Dixieland Delight: A Season on the Road in the Southeastern Conference, where he follows the University of Tennesee around for a season in the SEC and irreverently and hilariously describes his experiences.  For those of us who have only dreamed of doing it and who believe that the SEC gameday experience is second to none, it's a great reaad.  In  his most recent book, he had inside access to what turned out to be the farewell tour for Phil Fulmer at Tennessee.  Just starting to read it now. 

Stay tuned for bowl picks from the WeisND crew...

December 03, 2010

WeIs Roundtable Week 14 Picks: Conference Armageddon Edition

The BCS snow globe is finally settling into a navigable landscape and the picture is surprisingly cheery.  Two last hurdles to clear for an undisputable heavyweight title bout that the nation (outside of Fort Worth) can be at peace with.  Obviously, there are other less desirable matchups still to come thanks to the BCS rules we know and love, but the stated main goal of a clear cut champ is within the grasp.

One school must escape unscathed from civil strife in the Northwest, the other must best a formidable foe for the second time (and the first was difficult enough).  In other games of particular conference consequence (sorry you didn’t make the cut MAC championship), two storied rivals lock horns (while the actual ‘Horns watch wistfully) in a final Big XII send-off for the Big Red Nation.  Atlanta plays host to a re-match of the 1999 championship game, while Tampa surprisingly plays host to either the most unlikely automatic BCS sendoff party (ever?) or an encore performance of the South Florida Spoiler Special.   

Thanks for a great season of spanning the globe with us.  We’ll leave the Army-Navy game next week to the experts but will return in some capacity to handicap bowl season.  If you haven’t paid attention yet, Mike Brey is blowing minds with the Irish hoopsters’ promising start.  Plenty of thoughts to come on that subject, but for now…on to the picks. 

Auburn (-4) vs. South Carolina

Dan: Auburn (-4)

In Cam Newton I trust. I’ve liked the Gamecocks all year. But on a neutral field, Auburn can beat SC by a touchdown.

Auburn 34 South Carolina 27

Jeremy: Auburn (-4)

I know earlier in the week, some places weren’t offering lines on this game due to a rumor that Stephen Garcia might not play because of injury.  At the very least, we have to assume that Garcia is going to be hobbled a bit, right?  I’d love to see the dynamic duo of Jeffrey and Lattimore keep this thing close late into the 4th quarter, but Cam Newton is playing out of his mind and can almost smell that national title game.

Auburn 34  South Carolina 27

Jimmy: Auburn (-4)  Lock of the Week

With the help of my good buddy and esteemed wordsmith, Ryan Birdsong (a pen name in honor of the illustrious crowd-wanderer) my weekly picks take the form of the centuries old Japanese art of haiku. 

Cam impervious
Can Spurrier get Cocks off?
Hell No. War Eagle!

Auburn 39  South Carolina 31

Matt: Auburn (-4)  Lock of the Week

What can you say about that performance out of Auburn last week.  I’ll admit, I thought they were dead in the water last week.  Really, the turning point in the game was the Ingram fumble that somehow didn’t go out of bounds.  And of course the drop by Richardson that would have been a sure TD.  That’s 11 points off the board, and the score would have been 35-0, game over.  Give Auburn a ton of credit, they rattled McElroy, injured Jones, and played the best defense they have played all week. 

If I’m handing out credit, I must give a heaping portion of it to Spurrier and Carolina for the throttling they gave on the road to Clemson last week.  As I wrote last week, I thought Cocky would be caught looking ahead to Atlanta, but they came out and just pounded the Tigers.  A dismal performance for Clemson, and questions must be asked about the long term prospects of Dabo Swinney.  It seems like these interim turned permanent head coaches rarely work out, and I just don’t think he’s the answer there.  They haven’t really challenged in what has been a down ACC for the past three years.  Clemson has the facilities, the recruiting base, the SEC-like fan base…there really is no reason they should be 6-6.  In fairness, all of their losses have been close except for last week, but losing at home to Miami or on the road to a depleted UNC, or losing to BC?  Those are not good losses.

I know that South Carolina played Auburn close earlier in the year, and Lattimore and Jeffery have gotten better since that matchup.  But Auburn is a team on a mission this year.  Cam Newton has imposed his will on every game in which the outcome has been in doubt, and I expect him to do the same this week.  Lately, it’s been making plays with his arm, but I think he has another superior rushing effort against Carolina. 

Auburn 34 South Carolina 24

Mike: South Carolina (+4)

Auburn continues to prove me wrong every week.  Still, when I look at the Tigers, I see a one-man team with a poor defense that somehow manages to squeak by every week in improbably fashion.  While several championship teams in recent memory have been able to make a habit out of winning nailbiters (e.g., Oklahoma in 2000, Ohio State in 2002), there have been plenty of other teams whose luck has run out in the final hour. 

South Carolina almost won at Auburn despite losing the turnover battle and the Ball Coach has his team playing exceptionally well at the right time of the year.  The Gamecocks are also receiving little to no fanfare in this game, which should give South Carolina a psychological edge.  I hope I’m wrong regarding the outright upset, however, because I don’t want to see TCU in the title game.

South Carolina 30 Auburn 28

Bonus SEC Title game thoughts, courtesy of Madonia:

A week after the greatest win in team history, and 1 day after exoneration of our team’s biggest star, Auburn is faced with the sole task of winning 1 game. There are no distractions, no rivalries to get up for, nothing left up for chance a la 2004. This week the message is simple – win and we are in.
Last week I said that it would devastate us to get down big on the road against a good team. I said it could be crippling to fumble a punt.  I was wrong. Those boys inexplicably found a way to battle back and win a game when they were left for dead. My hat goes off to the hustle, the love, and the leadership displayed by Antoine Carter, Kodi Burns, Cam Newton, and Slick Nick Fairley.
 I also said we would sell out to stop the run (Heisman and Richardson combined for 75 yards), we would need to Tee off on McElroy (gone with a concussion), and that even if Julio had a huge day (12 catches, 200 yards, TD), it would not be enough. Overall, I ended up being right.
I have an eerily similar game assessment for this game.  We must limit Lattimore. I think we can weather the storm as far as Alshon’s touches….the key to stop him is for our front 7 to bust up Garcia. He is already slightly injured and we need to blitz from the opening snap. We have knocked out 5 QBs this year (Garcia included), and we need to do the same this week.  If we get consistent pressure, then we can keep their offense in 3rd and long and I like our chances.
What do I not like? I hate that we are facing Spurrier for the second time. I allude to the 1996 year when FSU beat UF in a close regular season finale, only to have UF destroy FSU in the Sugar Bowl 1 month later and win the national title. Spurrier now is not the same guy he was 15 years ago, but I shudder to think the outcome if he conjured up his brilliance for one more go-round.  In a game of the smart, ex-Duke Blue Devil head coaches, I give the advantage to Spurrier over our D.C. Ted Roof 10 times out of 10.
Malzahn was quoted after the UGA game, that he would continue to run the ball until someone stopped us. Well, Bama provided the blueprint to slow Cam and Dyer. It took Malazhn throwing the ball downfield to start the second half to soften up the D before the run game could get going. I expect USC to do the same thing, and I hope Malzhan comes out guns blazing and throw the ball until the running lanes open. I would love to get some early defensive stops followed by some quick strike scores, then let Cam and Dyer eat up the clock and win going away. We will see.  Again, no jinxing prediction, but I have faith in the coaches to keep us focused, and this Auburn Team to rise to the occasion.
War Damn Eagle!
Virginia Tech (-4) vs. Florida State

Dan: Florida State (+4)

Florida State may be primed for a letdown after last week, but I like them to keep this game within a field goal. Tyrod Taylor still wins the ACC redeeming V Tech for their early season failures, but FSU gets the cover.

VT 20 FSU 17

Jeremy: Virginia Tech (-4)

FSU was impressive in taking the Gators behind the woodshed last week, so I’m looking for a bit of a letdown game here.  Beamer Ball rules the day again in the ACC and Va Tech is going to another BCS game.

Virginia Tech 27  Florida St. 20

Jimmy: Virginia Tech (-4)

Tyrod plays like Favre
Sterger in absencia
Beamer Ball cooks Noles

VT 27  FSU 21

Matt: Virginia Tech (-4)

The ACC should be sending a congratulatory fruit basket (or maybe a whole roasted pig or at least a meat and cheese basket would be more appropriate given the recipient) to Ralph Friedgen for pulling off the upset over NC State last weekend and sending the Noles to Charlotte.  The conference now has the best possible matchup, and with the close proximity of Blacksburg, there should be no empty seats to be highlighted by the TV cameras.  For once, the ACC Championship has become compelling television for the casual football fan.

As for Florida State, was there any doubt that Bobby Bowden needed to be escorted out the door.  Could this program have taken off even earlier if he would have been given a watch and a handshake five years ago?  Is Penn State allowing the same thing to happen to their program?  All questions that will remain unanswered, but what we do know is that Jimbo Fisher has certainly injected life into the program.  They’ve knocked off the mighty Gators as the top program in the state for this year, and are burning up the recruiting trail.  There really is no reason that Florida, FSU and Miami should not be competing for national championships every year.  I think we are about to see FSU return to prominence, not the dominance of the mid 90’s, but definitely a relevant program nationally, which is more than can be said for the last teams of the Bowden era.
Having said all of that, I still believe that this Virginia Tech is a better team.  Tyrod Taylor has become one of the better QB’s in the country, and the Bud Foster defense is just doing what it normally does.  Look for Christian Ponder to throw a pick or two, and I expect a Hokie win and appearance in the Orange Bowl on a 11 game winning streak.  Not bad for a team that lost to James Madison.

Virginia Tech 24 FSU 17

Mike: Florida State (+4)

When looking back on this season, it’s incredible that Virginia Tech’s loss to James Madison was being viewed as the deathblow to Boise’s resume (though rightfully so at the time).  Since that loss, Tech has rattled off 10 straight wins en route to an undefeated ACC campaign and they are the clear favorite in this game.  Having said that, there is plenty to like about Florida State under coach Jimbo Fisher, as the Seminoles have sprinted to the finish line after two tough losses.  The ‘Noles will hang tough in Charlotte before eventually succumbing to the superior Hokies.

Virginia Tech 23 Florida State 20

Oklahoma (-4.5) vs. Nebraska

Dan: Oklahoma (-4.5)

Too many injuries for the Huskers. No way Huskers take the Big 12 title on the way out the door.

OU 31 Nebraska 20

Jeremy: Oklahoma (-4.5) – Lock of the Week

Since Taylor Martinez apparently isn’t 100% I’m surprised this line isn’t a bit higher.  The Husker offense was in shambles with Martinez on the sideline.  If he’s not himself, Nebraska is going to have a tough time keeping up with that Sooner offense.

Oklahoma 31  Nebraska 20

Jimmy: Nebraska (+4.5)

Erin Andrews…wow
Loved watching her Dance with Stars
I’d Sooner Husker

Nebraska 45  Oklahoma 44

Matt: Oklahoma (-4.5)

Really a weird year for the Big 12, in that there were no national championship contenders coming out of the conference and Texas was absolutely awful.  Of course this game is chock full of drama and conspiracy theories, as Nebraska fans believe that their team has been given the shaft by Big 12 referees as payback for bolting the conference on such short notice.  How delicious would that frosty trophy presentation be from Commissioner Beebe to Bo Pelini and Tom Osborne. 

Alas, I don’t think it will happen.  Oklahoma has been playing rather stout defense recently (bizarre 4th quarter in Stillwater excluded), and doesn’t Bobby Stoops always seem to win these games?  Nebraska has had minor fires to put out over the last weeks, with Bo’s antics on the sidelines earning him a public scolding from the university president, Carl shoving a credentialed cameraman, and T-Mart waffling on his commitment to the program.  I think Landry Jones to Broyles for a big play happens once or twice despite the presence of All-American Prince Amukamara. 

Oklahoma 25 Nebraska 20

Mike: Oklahoma (-4.5)  Lock of the Week

Having exorcised their road demons, the Sooners are poised for a big finish to this season, which should elevate them to the top of the preseason polls next year with so much returning talent.  By contrast, the Huskers seem to be limping a bit to the finish line, literally and figuratively, as Taylor Martinez has been bothered with an ankle injury.  The ongoing controversies regarding the sideline antics of the brothers Pelini haven’t helped matters, nor has the recent sideline confrontation between Bo Pelini and Martinez.  Look for steady and stable Bob Stoops to earn his seventh Big 12 crown in 12 years.

Oklahoma 35 Nebraska 24

Oregon (-16) at Oregon State

Dan: Oregon (-16)

That is a huge line for a rivalry game. And the Ducks and Beavers seem to play each other tight yea in and year out. But, Oregon just scores too many points.

Oregon 52 Oregon State 31

Jeremy: Oregon (-16)

The Ducks burned me last week, and I know this is the Civil War, but I’m expecting the Chip Kelly Machine to keep chugging right down to the finish line. 

Oregon 44  Oregon St. 24

Jimmy: Oregon (-16)

Quacker or the Beav?
Both better wet. Howard, Don
and Mighty triumph.

Oregon 51  Oregon State 24

Matt: Oregon State (+16)

Probably the toughest line on the board.  The Civil War is usually a battle – one of those “throw the records out the window” type games, but Oregon had their way with a higher ranked Oregon State team two years ago in Corvallis, hanging 65 on the Beavers and denying them a trip to the Rose Bowl.   So it’s not like they can’t win in Corvallis. 
Oregon State has been up and down all year, losing at home to Wazzu but also throttling USC.  I think this game will remain close due to the arm of Ryan Katz and the legs of Quizz Rodgers.  But after getting shutout last week against Stanford, I really don’t have a strong conviction in that pick.

Oregon 47 Oregon State 34

Mike: Oregon State (+16)

One more hurdle to go for Oregon against an inferior foe.  Unfortunately for the Ducks, said foe is a dangerous archrival playing at home with nothing to lose.  This will go right down to the wire but Oregon will find a way to escape.

Oregon 38 Oregon State 35

Connecticut (-2) at South Florida

Dan: UConn (-2)

Yikes. The Big East is terrible. UConn is going to play in a BCS game. What a joke.

UConn 24 USF 17

Jeremy: South Florida (+2)

The Fighting Skippers!  I can’t believe that UCONN is on the verge of going to a BCS game.  Not that WVU would be a better or more-deserving recipient of the bid, but I just can’t fathom the notion that Zach Frazer will be taking snaps in the Orange Bowl.  The Bulls get the upset.

USF 23  UCONN 21

Jimmy: Connecticut (-2)

Are lisps genetic?
Thkip’th Bullth meet their matador
Big Eatht willy suckth

UConn 23  USF 17

Matt: USF (+2)

The biggest game in UConn football history!  A place in the BCS!  A little bit unbelievable for a team that got blown out by Michigan and Temple.  Plus lost to an awful Rutgers team.  But such is life in the Big East, which of course is why TCU is now a member of the conference despite being neither Big or East. 

Having said all of that, I don’t think UConn wins.  They are going to try to impose their will on the USF defense with a healthy dose of Jordan Todman, who Irish fans will remember from that November disaster last year that was the nail in the coffin for Charlie.  But if anyone in the conference is up to the challenge of stopping him, it’s the athletic USF defense.  I fully expect Skip to stuff the box and force Zach Fraser to beat them through the air.  Fraser is barely a 50% passer this year, and has thrown only 5 TD’s.  I don’t think he’s up to the challenge.  Throw in that it is a night game on national tv, and I think the Bulls are on parade.  The Fiesta Bowl will be doing fist pumps long into the night as they avoid the thrill of having UConn and all 2,000 of their fans descend on Phoenix in January.

USF 31 UConn 20

Mike: USF (+2)

Connecticut has put itself into position to win the Big East by pulling out two fluky home wins against Pitt and West Virginia and by feasting on the dregs of the league.  The Huskies, however, are not good enough to close out the conference on the road against an improving and confident South Florida team this week.  B.J. Daniels might not play this week for the Bulls, but I suspect that it will not matter.  A UConn loss, coupled with a certain West Virginia win over Rutgers, means that the Mountaineers will be going to the BCS.  Obviously, that outcome will please whichever bowl is stuck with the Big East representative.

South Florida 29 Connecticut 23

Bonus Picks

Dan: Southern Cal @ UCLA (+6.5)

I just get the feeling the USC will have packed it in for the year. Plus every time we beat someone, they keep losing.

UCLA 23 USC 20

Jimmy: Washington (-6.5) at Washington State

Ass clown with an arm
Locker will danza slap Cougs
Rotten Apple Cup

Washington 31  Washington State 24

Matt: Washington at Washington State (+6.5)

It’s a shame that the Apple Cup has been relegated to such irrelevance, but when two middling west coast teams are battling it out on Championship Saturday, such is life.  I haven’t seen either of these teams play one second this year, but I get the feeling that Wazzu may be slowly, key word sloooooowly, turning the corner.  They picked up their first Pac 10 win in ages this year against Oregon State,  and have quietly gone 6-1 against the spread in their last seven ballgames.  They only lost by 7 to Cal, 10 at Stanford, 17 against Arizona, and 20 against Oregon.  That’s progress in Pullman.  I think they pull off the home upset, despite having a bowl like layoff for this game.   They haven’t strapped on the pads for a real game since November 13th!  That’s insane.  Anyway, go Cougs.

Wazzu 20 Washington 17

Mike: Washington at Washington State (+7.5)

Due to a scheduling quirk, Wazzu has enjoyed back-to-back off weeks prior to this game.  With the extra time to prepare, the Cougs will deliver the final disappointment to Jake Locker’s thoroughly overrated career in Seattle and bring the Apple Cup back to Pullman in the process.

Washington State 24 Washington 21

Last Week:
Dan: 4-3 (+)
Jeremy: 4-3 (-)
Jimmy: 2-5 (-)
Matt: 3-4 (+)
Mike: 4-3 (+)

Dan: 48-40-2 (6-6-1)
Jeremy: 54-34-2 (10-4)
Jimmy: 48-39-3 (8-5)
Matt: 45-42-3 (6-5-1)
Mike: 53-35-2 (10-2-1)

Matt: A couple quick thoughts as we close the book on another great college season.  Since there is no Notre Dame game to pick this week, I need to say, that FINALLY, the streak is over.  Nobody beats Notre Dame nine times in a row!  What an impressive performance by the defense.  Looking back over the season, for whatever reason the turning point was the bye week after the Tulsa loss.  The Irish circled the wagons under Coach Kelly, committed to defense, and have reeled off three straight wins.  (Speaking of defense, something must be in the water in South Bend.  Have you ever seen Mike Brey coached teams committed to defense and rebounding like this year’s team?  Looking forward to the showdown with Big Blue next week.)  A bowl win over a respectable ACC or Big 12 team would be a great stepping stone into the ’11 season.  Job well done Brian Kelly and Bob Diaco for rallying the lads.

I hopped off just before it crashed and burned, but man, was I wrong about Randy Shannon.   I guess when you boil it down, you still need to be a good football coach to win.  You can win all the recruiting battles, graduate all the players, and say all the right things, but if you can’t out X and O the guy across the field, forget about it.  That seems to be the case with Shannon.  There is no shortage of talent in Miami, and that league is there for the taking every single year.  It will be interesting to see who steps up to the challenge of bringing the U back. 

Congrats to ND alum and former coach Mike Haywood, for taking the other Miami from 1-11 to the MAC Championship game.  Maybe the guy can coach after all, huh Charlie?  One of the low points for me of the Weis era was the big guy turning Haywood into a scapegoat and basically heaping the blame on him for the team’s performance, including stripping him of playcalling duties.  Good for Haywood.

Gary Danielson is leading the charge against the little guys getting a shot at the title, and as the best announcer in the business, I take his word seriously.  Honestly, I go back and forth on this one.  Even the breather games in the SEC, like going on the road to Rocky Top or Kentucky or Ole Miss, are not gimmes.  Same with the Big 12 for the most part.  But Boise and TCU get about 5 built in bye weeks a year when they play the likes of the New Mexico schools and Colorado State and other awful football programs.   Good for TCU taking the invite to the Big East, but that doesn’t solve this year’s dilemma should Auburn or Oregon lose on Saturday.  I don’t see it happening, but if it does the voters are going to have to do some serious adjusting to get TCU out of that second spot, and move Wisconsin or Stanford up.  Does anybody really want to see Stanford play for the championship?  They had their shot at Oregon, got destroyed, and can’t sell out their own stadium.  I spent about ten minutes last weekend trying to find Versus on my cable, finally found it, and couldn’t believe that the stadium was literally half full for a games against Oregon State.  People should NOT be surprised when Jim Harbaugh bolts this offseason.

A final thanks to New Mexico and New Mexico State for their efforts this season.  And an apology to my second alma mater Wake Forest for going Pete Rose on you and betting….um, picking, against you all season.  I’ve never ‘picked’ against Notre Dame, but Wake was just too bad to pass up on this year.  Here’s hoping for a great game next November 5th in Winston-Salem when the Irish take on the Demon Deacons.