Sunday, December 31, 2006

BOWLNANZA!: The Outback Bowl

Penn State (8-4) vs. #19 Tennessee (9-3)

Penn State had a magical season last year, but there were a lot of questions about the Nittany Lions this year, namely replacing QB Michael Robinson with untested junior Anthony Morelli. The results? Decidedly mixed. Morelli was good enough to lead PSU to that 8-4 record, but he was pretty underwhelming against any opponents worth mentioning:

@ Notre Dame: 21/33, 189 yards, TD, INT
@ Ohio State: 16/25, 106, 3 INT
vs. Michigan: 11/18, 133, removed due to blunt trauma from Michigan defense
@ Wisconsin: 19/35, 165, INT

Still, past Morelli, most of the other questions have been answered by PSU. Tony Hunt has played as well as any running back in the nation (1228 yards, 11 TD), and the Lions D is #11 in scoring and #15 in yardage. Plus I hear their coach is pretty good.

The Vols had quite the opposite of a magical season last year, going from national title contender to 5-6, and instantly jeopardizing coach Phil Fulmer's job. Tennessee started off 2006 with a bang, however, annihilating Cal and going a long way towards showing last year was a fluke. Amazing what you can do with an actual offensive line. Tennessee's gotten a bit lucky in some of their games, almost losing to Air Force after that Cal win, and then struggling against, of course, Steve Spurrier and South Carolina, but the Vols are definitely playing up to their talent level, as opposed to last season.

Penn State's the consummate 8-4 team: they beat the teams they should, and they lose to anyone in the top 25. And, uh oh, Tennessee's in the top 25. This may be fairly interesting, as if Tennessee has any weakness, it's their mediocre run defense (which Arkansas exposed and then some), but again, that's "mediocre" and not "horrible." I think Morelli will probably make a few mistakes and keep Hunt and the PSU D from winning this for the Nittany Lions, but an upset is far from impossible.

My Pick: Tennessee
Confidence (out of 5): 1

Saturday, December 30, 2006

BOWLNANZA!: The Chick-fil-A Bowl

#22 Georgia (8-4) vs. #16 Virginia Tech (10-2)

Georgia was expected to take a few steps back with the graduation of QB D.J. Shockley, and those fears were well-founded. Georgia's defense, #9 nationally in yardage, helped them win 8 games, but the two-headed QB of senior Joe Tereshinski and superfrosh Matthew Stafford had trouble getting anything done for most of the year. Still, the Bulldogs have played their best football over the last two games, holding Auburn and Georgia Tech under 200 yards (the only I-A teams they did so to all year,) and Stafford looked good in both efforts.

VT was in a similar situation going into this year; expected to take a step back with graduations and departures, but having enough talent to still be a good team. They've pretty much done exactly that, and might be the best team in the ACC at the moment. They have the #1 defense in the country, and only Georgia Tech was able to crack 300 yards against the Hokies. The Tech offense has mostly consisted of RB Branden Ore, who quietly had a great campaign (1095 yards, 14 TD), though young QB Sean Glennon had a decent year (2097 yards, 11/8 TD/INT.)

Tech's had the great defensive numbers, but, well, there really aren't any great offenses in the ACC. The Hokies held Clemson to 172 yards, which is the one feather in their cap, but Georgia Tech had about 350, and past that you're looking at Wake Forest, North Carolina, and Cincinnati, which aren't exactly juggernauts. And on the offensive side of things, surprise -- Virginia Tech hasn't even gained as many yards per game as the much-maligned Georgia offense. The Bulldogs have been more impressive lately, playing their best games to finish the year against GT and Auburn, while Tech's looked good but not great against Miami, Kent State, and Wake Forest. They killed Virginia, but hey, Virginia. Georgia looks to be on track, and at the current time, that makes them a better team than the Hokies (who should still be very optimistic about the future.)

My Pick: Georgia
Confidence (out of 5): 1

BOWLNANZA!: The MPC Computers Bowl

Miami (6-6) vs. Nevada (8-4)

I've mentioned it in a few of the other previews, but I'll say it one more time: Miami was horribly disappointing this year, and got coach Larry Coker fired in the process. The Hurricanes had a string of unlucky losses, against Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and like any other team that faced them, Maryland, but even an 8 or 9 win season may not have saved Coker. The Miami defense has actually been surprisingly good, #5 in the country in yardage, although who knows how much of that was playing in the ACC. As for the offense, well, it's been a two-man operation, and when one of those men is QB Kyle Wright (1655 yards, 8/7 TD/INT,) ehhhhhh.

Nevada runs a "pistol" offense, halfway between regular and a shotgun. Clever, huh? They're what you'd expect from a WAC team, good offense, mediocre defense, and about what you'd expect from that record, that is, pretty good. QB Jeff Rowe is one of the better mid-major signal-callers, but his final line (1715 yards, 16/7 TD/INT) is probably somewhat disappointing. Nevada's been about in line with expectations, and had at least 340 yards against 7 of the 8 WAC teams they played, but the Wolf Pack is coming off a 38-7 loss that probably wasn't even as close as that score.

On talent alone, Miami should win this, but that's been true of most of their games this season. Still, Miami has a lot of talent on defense, and the results have been there (even if the opponents may not have been,) and if Nevada can be stopped like that by Boise State, then Miami should have no problem shutting them down. By the same token though, Nevada might still get theirs, and Miami's offense is pretty crap. I really want to pick Miami, and if the lightbulb goes off this might be a blowout, but they burned me last year for picking them against LSU, and I don't think they'll rise to the occasion here either.

My Pick: Nevada
Confidence (out of 5): 1

Friday, December 29, 2006

BOWLNANZA!: The Alamo Bowl

Iowa (6-6) vs. #17 Texas (9-3)

Iowa entered the season as a national title darkhorse, and ended it about as disappointing as Florida State or Miami, although the Hawkeyes haven't come under anywhere near the amount of fire. Things looked good after a 5-1 start, but after a close loss to Indiana, the Hawkeyes fell apart, beating only Northern Illinois and looking pretty uninspiring against Michigan, Wisconsin, and Northwestern. Star QB Drew Tate had a disappointing senior campaign (2349 yards, 16/12 TD/INT), and while the season could've gone better with some breaks against Indiana or Minnesota, it's still been a very disappointing year for Iowa.

Last year's national champs, the Texas Longhorns, lost an early showdown with Ohio State, but won the other 9 of their first 10 games and remained in the periphery of the title picture. But any national title hopes went down with QB Colt McCoy after a late hit against Kansas State, and after losing there and against Texas A&M, Texas didn't even win the Big 12 South. Oklahoma may have been the rightful division winner, since the Longhorns got statistically spanked in beating the Sooners, but McCoy at 100% could've easily led Texas to wins in those last two games.

Thus, the big question of the game becomes Colt McCoy's health. Well, theoretically. It probably doesn't matter, as Texas has a top-25 yardage defense, a top-30 rushing game, and Iowa's pass defense is a decent clip worse than Texas A&M's. The Longhorns should win this one, even though Clemson and Purdue should've won their bowl games too.

My Pick: Texas
Confidence (out of 5): 3

BOWLNANZA!: The Meineke Bowl

Boston College (9-3) vs. Navy (9-3)

I figured BC would finally have a down year after struggling in the season opener against Central Michigan, but whoops, turns out CMU's the best team in the MAC. BC was again pretty good this year, and that's been the case pretty much every year. However, there's some actual intrigue coming up with the Eagles as head coach Tom O'Brien has, somewhat surprisingly, left for NC State. The Eagles have gotten it done this year mostly on their defense, #13 in the country scoring-wise but #30 in yardage, and on the arm of QB Matt Ryan, who's thrown for 2700 yards and a 14/8 TD/INT ratio.

Navy is the #1 rushing team in the nation with 327.4 yards a game, and is the only team outside of West Virginia that's even over 230. The Midshipmen run that crazy wishbone option offense, and after a good start, it looked like the season would be sunk after QB Brian Hampton was injured against Rutgers. But since then, backup...alright, here we go...Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada has been fine in relief, going 4-1 as a starter. Things are pretty much the same as they've ever been since things have gotten going under coach Paul Johnson: a lot of rushing yards, and a good number of wins.

The main question here is if Navy can hang. BC has the #13 rush defense in the country at 90.1 yards/game, but, well, they haven't played Navy yet. Still, the Midshipmen can be slowed down. Army held them under 300 yards, as did Massachusetts, while Air Force and hell, even the Notre Dame defense have been able to muffle, if not quiet, the Navy rushing attack. BC could be exposed by a lesser opponent, especially with the coaching in flux, but I don't think Navy has the athletes to hang with the Eagles.

My Pick: Boston College
Confidence (out of 5): 2

Thursday, December 28, 2006

BOWLNANZA!: The Champs Sports Bowl

Maryland (8-4) vs. Purdue (8-5)

I feel like I just covered this with the last game. Maryland doesn't deserve to be here, projecting to maybe a 3-win team or so, but inexplicably going 8-4 while outgaining a whopping 0 I-A teams all year. A few lucky wins are understandable, but 7 is ridiculous. Purdue passes a lot, and that's about it. They were stopped by the two good defenses they faced (Penn State and Wisconsin), but otherwise threw for over 400 yards, and often 450 or so, every time out. Maryland doesn't have the awful pass defense that Minnesota does, so they have more of a shot, but if Purdue can beat Illinois, Indiana, or Michigan State, the Terps shouldn't be a problem.

My Pick: Purdue
Confidence (out of 5): 2

BOWLNANZA!: The Insight Bowl

Minnesota (6-6) vs. Texas Tech (7-5)

Minnesota coach Glen Mason entered the season on the hot seat, and shockingly, it may have cooled off. The Golden Gophers seemed dead in the water through October, finishing the month at 3-6 with wins over Kent State, Temple, and a game they should've lost against I-AA North Dakota State. They had been pretty much killed by Cal and in Big Ten play except for an OT loss against Penn State. Shockingly, Minnesota managed to make it to .500, going crazy against Indiana, and taking advantage of turnovers against Michigan State and Iowa. Still, they don't deserve to be here.

Texas Tech passes a lot. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. This year, it didn't work against Oklahoma, TCU, or shockingly, Colorado. They also lost an even game to Texas and had turnovers kill them against Missouri. And that's about Texas Tech in a nutshell.

Minnesota has the fifth-worst pass defense in the country. Sit back, enjoy, and wonder if the Red Raiders will get 70 points.

My Pick: Texas Tech
Confidence (out of 5): 3

BOWLNANZA!: The Liberty Bowl

Houston (10-3) vs. South Carolina (7-5)

Houston was one of the favorites in C-USA going into the season, and they lived up to it, winning the conference title. As usual under coach Art Briles, the Cougars did it behind the arm of QB Kevin Kolb, who threw for 3423 yards and a 27/3 TD/INT ratio. The Houston offense was somewhat stopped by Miami, being held to only 297 yards, but otherwise, they've been consistently high-powered, gaining 439.8 yards per game, good enough for #7 nationally. This isn't quite a Kentucky situation, either, as the Cougars allow about 339 yards per game, which while not great by any measure, is wholly decent.

South Carolina replaced coaching legend Lou Holtz with coaching legend Steve Spurrier before last season, and Spurrier's second year with the Gamecocks has been rougher than the first. The SC offense was actually grounded early in the year, not being able to crack 300 yards against either Mississippi State or Georgia, but things have gotten back on track, and all in all, Carolina's a fairly strong 7-5, with all 5 losses coming against teams that were then ranked in the top 12. SC's somewhat surprisingly low in yards per game, at "only" #28, but that's probably skewed by those first two games -- to end the year, the Gamecocks gained 412 against Florida, 545 against Middle Tennessee, and 491 against Clemson.

This should be a fun shootout. I have some concerns about Houston's strength of schedule, however; they had that inexplicable loss to Louisiana-Lafayette, and while losing close to Miami seemed impressive at the time, it looks quite a bit worse now. South Carolina's been hanging in there against every team since the Georgia game, and in the much tougher SEC, so I give the Gamecocks and the Ol' Ball Coach the edge.

My Pick: South Carolina
Confidence (out of 5): 2

BOWLNANZA!: The Sun Bowl

Missouri (8-4) vs. #25 Oregon State (9-4)

Missouri's a pretty nondescript program. They've been in about the 5-7 to 8-4 range for a while now, it feels like, and there was some concern going into the year that they'd fall off the cliff with the graduation of QB Brad Smith, who will statistically go down as an all-time great player, even if the results were "meh." Chase Daniel filled Smith's shoes just fine, however, throwing for almost 3200 yards and a 26/10 TD/INT ratio as the focus of the #11 passing attack in the country. There's no real revelations about the Tigers, as they pretty much are what they appear: a pretty good Big 12 team.

Oregon State, however, has had quite an interesting season. They were a weak 2-3 to start the year, only beating Idaho and I-AA Eastern Washington. Fans wanted coach Mike Riley fired, but then a funny thing happened: The Beavers won 7 of their last 8 games, including an upset of then-#3 USC. The Beavers may have been lucky in a few of those wins, however, as they easily could've lost to Oregon, Hawaii, or the aforementioned USC.

Oregon State's probably closer to a .500 team, but any team with as much momentum as the Beavers have can't be ignored. However, Missouri has the yardage edge both on offense and on defense. Riley is undefeated in bowl games while at OSU, so I hate to pick against him, but Missouri's pretty solidly the better team.

My Pick: Missouri
Confidence (out of 5): 1

BOWLNANZA!: The Music City Bowl

Clemson (8-4) vs. Kentucky (7-5)

Clemson entered the season as a darkhorse pick for the ACC title, and a team with an outside chance at the national title picture. While it's been a good year, the Tigers haven't really delivered on any of those promises. Under Tommy Bowden, the Tigers have typically struggled early in the year, put Bowden on the hot seat, and finished the season on a winning streak. It's been quite the opposite this season. Clemson won 7 of their first 8 games, and would've won the 8th if not for a shanked XP or shanked FG. After obliterating Georgia Tech, it looked like the Tigers were the team to beat in the ACC. However, Clemson fell apart to end the season, being held to 172 yards against Virginia Tech, becoming the latest team that Maryland inexplicably beat, and holding on to beat NC State before falling to South Carolina in the season finale.

Kentucky was left for dead before this season. Head coach Rich Brooks was a questionable hire when he arrived, and he wasn't doing anything to change that perception. But behind QB Andre' Woodson and the #9 passing offense in the country, the Wildcats were able to earn a 7-5 record and a contract extension for Brooks. While the offense has been high-powered, well, so have opposing offenses. Kentucky gives up a whopping 457.7 yards per game, more than any team in I-A except Louisiana Tech. The Wildcats have given up 400 yards in 8 of their 11 games against I-A opponents, and 2 of the other 3 gained at least 390.

Kentucky's defense really prevents me from taking them seriously. The yardage numbers project them from about a 4-6 win team, with 7 being the absolute high end. Wins over Central Michigan, Vandy and Ole Miss were mostly the luck of turnovers, and their other I-A wins against Georgia, Mississippi State, and UL Monroe could've gone either way. There's some concern that Clemson's slipping, but facing a weak 7-5 like Kentucky that just struggled to beat Louisiana-Monroe more than nullifies that. Clemson's gained at least 360 yards in every game except the Virginia Tech one, and the Hokies are the #1 yardage defense in the country. Kentucky's #118, and I wouldn't be surprised if Clemson gained over 500 en route to a blowout.

My Pick: Clemson
Confidence (out of 5): 4

BOWLNANZA!: The Holiday Bowl

#20 Cal (9-3) vs. #21 Texas A&M (9-3)

Cal entered the season with national title hopes, and then spent week 1 watching Tennessee throw for touchdown after touchdown on their defense. The Golden Bears rebounded, however, depantsing Minnesota the next week, and not really being outplayed in any game outside of at # USC. That was the only time the Cal offense has been held under 300 yards, and when the 363 they put against Stanford is a low total, you know you're dealing with a high-powered offense.

Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione was on the hot seat going into the year, and the Aggies delivered the quietest 9-3 season you'll ever see. It's amazing how little talk there's been about TAMU all year, especially when they're 6 combined points from being undefeated, and statistically, that's about right. The Aggies offense has been both effective (401.4 yds/game, #19 in the nation) and balanced (190.9 passing/210.5 rushing), led by QB Stephen McGee (2118 yards passing, 635 rushing), and RB Jovorskie Lane (19 rushing TDs!) The Aggies are quite underrated.

This oughta be a fun one, two underrated teams capable of putting up big numbers. Should be a fun shootout, but one of these teams could've gone undefeated, and it's the one giving up almost 70 less yards per game on defense. I'll go with the Aggies, but seeing as teams have been able to break 400 yards against them (Nebraska, Texas Tech, Missouri), I wouldn't be shocked to see Cal do enough to pull off the...upset?

My Pick: Texas A&M
Confidence (out of 5): 1

BOWLNANZA!: The Texas Bowl

Kansas State (7-5) vs. #14 Rutgers (10-2)

Kansas State was possibly the worst team in I-A for about forever, until former head coach Bill Snyder amazingly built the team into a contender during the 1990s. Snyder retired after last season, and things under new HC Ron Prince did not start well, as the Wildcats almost lost to I-AA Illinois State, and would've had ISU not gone for two after their final touchdown. Still, the team clawed its way back to respectability, first on the usual weak non-conference schedule, then on lower-tier Big 12 teams like Iowa State and Colorado, and finally with a huge upset win over then-#4 Texas. Still, the Wildcats don't project well statistically, winding up in the 5-7/6-6 range. They should've lost that Illinois State game, and could've lost to Texas, Oklahoma State, or even Iowa State. They're far from an awful team, but they're somewhat lucky to be here.

Rutgers was ALSO possibly the worst team in I-A for about literally forever, as Rutgers played in the first-ever college football game. To show how awful the Scarlet Knights have been, they're still looking for their first-ever bowl win here. Greg Schiano is pulling a, well, Snyder-esque job of program-building here, and while Rutgers probably should've lost to South Florida and/or UConn, 8-4 would still be better than anyone expected in the preseason, let alone two or three years ago.

I worried for Rutgers here, since even though 8-4 is still a good record, they have a tendency to disappear in games, including the Cincinnati loss and that aforementioned UConn game. Still, Kansas State is an easily beatable team for a team like the Scarlet Knights, and coming off a season-ending loss to Kansas at that. Rutgers got kind of hosed by having such a great season and winding up here, but on the bright side, it should be time for that first-ever bowl win.

My Pick: Rutgers
Confidence (out of 5): 2

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

BOWLNANZA!: The Independence Bowl

Alabama (6-6) vs. Oklahoma State (6-6)

Alabama went 10-2 last year, earning coach Mike Shula a huge extension. Alabama went 6-6 this year, earning coach Mike Shula a pink slip. It seems fairly undeserving though, as Alabama outgained 10 of their 12 opponents, and the other two games were winnable; a 2-touchdown loss to LSU which could've at least been closer if not for two Tide turnovers, and a 3-point loss to Tennessee (although, admittedly, Vols turnovers were the only reason Alabama got that close.) Still, Alabama should've beaten Arkansas (missed FGs) and Auburn (turnovers), and played even in losses to Florida and Mississippi State.

Oklahoma State throws for a lot of yards, the 16th most in the country in fact, along with having the #8 scoring offense. Surprisingly, the Cowboys ran for more yards than they passed, though that was helped by QB Bobby Reid's mobility, as he was the team's #4 rusher with 466 yards. The Cowboys have been about in line with expectations, and the team has enough young players returning (Reid, plus the team's top three rushers) to make a run in the next year or two.

Alabama's been a pretty steady team, only allowing more than 400 yards in one game (LSU) and only coming under 300 yards offensively in two (Tennessee and, of all teams, Florida International.) Still, OK State's offense has been pretty high powered, only being held under 340 in a loss at Texas. OK State's offense may be able to get theirs, but again, Alabama's outgained pretty much everyone they've faced. If Alabama's offense was as bad as their perception, that'd be one thing, but they're no Florida State. The Crimson Tide is easily the much stronger 6-6, and I actually wouldn't be surprised if this turned into a fairly fun and offense-based affair.

My Pick: Alabama
Confidence (out of 5): 3

BOWLNANZA!: The Emerald Bowl

Florida State (6-6) vs. UCLA (7-5)

Florida State and Miami entered the season as favorites in the ACC, and darkhorses in the national title chase. Florida State and Miami ended the season at 6-6. Miami axed their head coach, while the blame at FSU was laid upon offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden, who resigned late in the year. The change didn't really help though, as the Seminoles offense barely broke 250 yards against Western Michigan, and didn't even do so in the season-ending game against Florida. Though the sad thing is, it may still be an improvement over where it was, as the team only gained 226 against Clemson, 179 in beating Miami, and 180 against Wake Forest. A few big games against the likes of Rice, Troy, and Duke help inflate the season numbers to a respectable 322 yards/game, but those paltry Western Michigan numbers don't suggest the offense will fare that well against UCLA.

The UCLA Bruins had a great year last year, but took an expected step back this season. The season started off well, with an impressive win against Utah and some easier games against Rice and Stanford, but QB Ben Olson got knocked out for the year in game #5 against Arizona. Backup Patrick Cowan's played well, but either the yardage or score was close in losses to Notre Dame, Oregon and Cal, and one wonders if Olson could've been the difference. Still, it wasn't a lost year, head coach Karl Dorrell finally beat a team with a winning record on the road, as UCLA took out Arizona State late in the year. Oh yeah, plus they ended the season by beating top rival USC and knocking them out of the national title game in one of the big upsets of the year.

Fun fact: Florida State actually outgained UCLA this year, 322 yards/game to 321.4. And really, UCLA's offense isn't that great either, as the Bruins didn't even crack 250 in that upset against USC, though they did put up 529 in losing to Cal. UCLA will probably be favored because of that upset and Florida State's poor perception right now, but you almost have to pretend the USC game didn't happen -- these teams are about even. The game's in San Francisco, so the crowd should essentially make this a home game for UCLA. That's almost enough to make me pick the Bruins, but Dorrell doesn't have a good history in big games (outside of that one huge recent example), and FSU has a lot more talent. A lot more talent that's gone to waste this year, but still. Don't prove me wrong, Noles.

My Pick: Florida State
Confidence (out of 5): 1

Saturday, December 23, 2006

BOWLNANZA!: The Motor City Bowl

Central Michigan (9-4) vs. Middle Tennessee State (7-5)

It wasn't long ago that all three directional Michigans were pretty much laughingstocks, with Central possibly being the weakest of them all. But under head coach Brian Kelly (who recently accepted the Cincinnati job), the Chippewas have become credible, and, pretty easily, the best team in the MAC this year. Redshirt freshman QB Dan LeFevour has been a revelation, and the defense has been strong, led by DE Dan Bazuin.

When the Sun Belt was formed a few years ago, Middle Tennessee was expected to be the class of the league. The Blue Raiders still have yet to win a conference title, but with this at-large bid, are finally going to the first bowl in school history. They had a few scrapes, FIU and Arkansas State sticking out, but MTSU pretty much deserves to be here. They also look to be a team on the way up thanks to a new coach, but Rick Stockstill is staying, at least through next season.

This game is a bit intriguing, mostly thanks to the departure of Brian Kelly. MTSU's had some bad games, barely cracking 200 yards against Troy and not even doing so against Florida International, but they have some talent, including QB Clint Marks and RB Eugene Gross. On the CMU side of things, they were indeed the class of the MAC, but it's been a down year for the conference, and the Chippewas never really had any completely dominant outings. CMU's vulnerable, especially with the coaching change, so I could see the upset happening. Still, this is far from a neutral field, and with the talent that the Chippewas have (namely, LeFevour and Bazuin), I don't think the players will let themselves lose.

My Pick: Central Michigan
Confidence (out of 5): 2

BOWLNANZA!: The Hawaii Bowl

Arizona State (7-5) vs. Hawaii (10-3)

Arizona State and then-coach Dirk Koetter entered the season with a problem most would love to have: choosing a starting QB from two of the best in the NCAA, senior Sam Keller or sophomore Rudy Carpenter. The short version of what transpired: Koetter chose Carpenter, the players chose Keller, Koetter caved and Keller transferred to Nebraska. While Carpenter's final line on the year (171/306, 2332 yards, 21/14 TD/INT) doesn't look too bad, some of Carpenter's performances show why there's now an "ex-" in front of "coach Dirk Koetter":

vs. Cal: 16/36, 177 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT
vs. Oregon: 6/19, 33 yards, INT
vs. Oregon State: 9/27, 124 yards, 2 INT
vs. UCLA: 11/30, 149 yards, INT

Ew. Still, despite all this, the Sun Devils somehow managed a 7-5 season that, while not fluky according to the statistics, doesn't feel all that impressive.

Hawaii passes the ball. A lot. For over 432 yards a game, tops in the country. Only five teams even crack 300, and even Texas Tech throws for only 363. The Rainbow Warriors' attack is led by QB Colt Brennan, who probably deserves more respect than he's given. The system may allow him to put up those huge numbers, but an eyepopping completion percentage (72.1%) and TD/INT ratio (53/11) suggest that he is, in fact, quite legit. And he's only a junior, people!

The Arizona State pass defense isn't half bad, so Hawaii may have a bit of trouble. However, Hawaii faced a decisively better secondary in the first game of the year against Alabama, and Brennan still threw for 349, 2 TD, and a pick. Plus, there may be a bit of a chicken and the egg thing going: is Hawaii facing poor defenses, or are pass defenses rated lower just because they face Hawaii? The fact that Rudy Carpenter has a pretty good final line despite those four games above show that he's capable of getting it done, and the second-worst pass defense of any bowl team (Hawaii's only ahead of Kentucky) probably won't stop him from doing so. Should be a fun shootout, but, well, one of these teams is better equipped.

My Pick: Hawaii
Confidence (out of 5): 2

Friday, December 22, 2006

BOWLNANZA!: The Armed Forces Bowl

Tulsa (8-4) vs. Utah (7-5)

Ooh, a nice intriguing game between two hidden gems of good teams.

Tulsa's come to prominence under Steve Kragthorpe, and while this year was a bit of a step back record-wise, the Golden Hurricane's progress has stayed on track. Tulsa easily could've been 10-2, as the game they lost to SMU was about even, and they would've beaten Rice if not for any one of four turnovers. The Tulsa offense has been prolific, coming in at a shade under 400 yards per game. The defense is also ranked in the top 20 yardage-wise, but it has been lit up; BYU and Houston were each able to break 450, while Rice and SMU broke 350 in Tulsa's other two losses.

Utah's been a good team, if frustrating at times during this season. The scores in the Utes' games pretty accurately reflect the season -- close losses against BYU and New Mexico, but shellackings at the hands of Boise State, UCLA, and most shockingly, Wyoming. All three are somewhat surprising, though, as a team of Utah's caliber this season should at least stay somewhat close in those games. If the Utes team that should show up DOES show up, however, then you're looking at a team that has a chance to beat pretty much anyone.

And that's really the $1 million question: Tulsa's been a pretty consistently good team, but will Utah come ready to play at that level? Having played BYU close in a game that looks even better now post-Las Vegas Bowl, I think the Utes are off the schneid. Plus, as mentioned before, Tulsa's had trouble against pass-happy teams with talent, such as Houston and BYU. And, uh oh, Utes QB Brett Ratliff has quietly had a very good, very efficient year, throwing for over 2500 yards and a 22/8 TD/INT ratio. This could go either way, but I'm leaning towards the Utes.

My Pick: Utah
Confidence (out of 5): 1

BOWLNANZA!: The New Mexico Bowl

New Mexico (6-6) vs. San Jose State (8-4)

The real UNM is closer to the one that lost to I-AA Portland State to lead off the year than the team that blew out San Diego State 41-14 to reach .500. In fact, the Aztecs greatly outplayed the Lobos, but gave the game away in the form of 4 turnovers. In fact, the Lobos only outgained their opponent in two of their wins (Utah and UTEP), so for New Mexico to become bowl-eligible was probably a best-case scenario. So, yeah, you're looking at the weakest bowl team of the 64, especially since the much more deserving Wyoming got passed over.

San Jose State has come from nowhere, and while they're probably not 8-4 good, their improvement is indeed legit. They convincingly beat some lower-tier teams, including San Diego State, Utah State, Idaho, and a complete shellacking of Louisiana Tech. So, yes, SJSU has separated themselves from the dregs of the WAC, but they haven't fared so well against better talent. They lost convincingly to Nevada and Boise, and got hammered by Hawaii worse than the 54-17 final shows. SJSU is at the very least a decent team, but exactly how good they are seems to be a grey area, even though, hey, they beat Stanford!

Two of the worse bowl teams go to battle here, although SJSU is definitely deserving of a bid out of the WAC. New Mexico probably didn't deserve to get invited, though part of me thinks the Lobos can pull it off; they've beaten some decent teams, while San Jose State's victories have mostly come against the dregs of the WAC. Still, UNM's probably close or below the talent levels of Stanford and Fresno State, two teams the Spartans beat, and I'm inclined to think that the more deserving bowl team can overcome the Lobos' possibly-existent homefield advantage.

My Pick: San Jose State
Confidence (out of 5): 1


East Carolina (7-5) vs. South Florida (8-4)

What a horrible bowl name. And there's really not much to say about this matchup.

ECU's just about what their record shows, an above-average C-USA team. The Pirates are slowly rising back to prominence, led by seniors QB James Pinckney and WR Aundrae Allison. They haven't really had any blowout wins, but were able to crack 400 yards against Memphis, SMU and Virginia. The Pirates offense was slowed against Southern Miss and Tulsa, but ECU was still able to beat the former thanks to their own defense. Skip Holtz is a good coach! Yep.

USF's been a pleasant surprise in what was only supposed to be a mediocre year. Redshirt frosh QB Matt Grothe has been the bulk of the Bulls' offense, gaining over 200 passing yards and 50 rushing yards a game. The fact that he has three more years left to get better is quite frightening. USF's been somewhat frustrating; they've had big games against teams like UNC and Syracuse, but just completely vanished in bad losses against Cincinnati, Pitt, and to a lesser extent, Kansas.

Not much to say here -- both teams are about what they appear, and both programs are on the way up. South Florida has the #26 pass defense in the country, so the Bulls could neutralize the Pinckney-to-Allison combo. I also think USF has more talent in general, so I'm going with the Bulls.

My Pick: South Florida
Confidence (out of 5): 2

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

BOWLNANZA!: The New Orleans Bowl

Rice (7-5) vs. Troy (7-5)


Things looked to be the usual for Rice halfway through the year. Under first-year coach Todd Graham, the team had switched from an option attack to an offense with actual passes, and they were going through the expected growing pains. Rice was an unsurprising 1-5, with the high point of the year looking more and more like it would be losing by only 1 point to rival and C-USA favorite Houston. And then a funny thing happened: Rice won their last 6 games, and finished 7-5. How? Well, as both the scores (5 of those 6 wins were by 6 points or less) and the stats show, a little bit of improvement, and a little bit of luck. The ECU win, ironically the closest score-wise, was the only one the Owls outright dominated. The rest fell into one of four categories:

1) Close games where turnovers were even (UTEP)
2) Close games where the Owls won via turnovers (UCF)
3) Close games where the Owls somehow won DESPITE turnovers (UAB, SMU)
4) Letting Tulsa turn the ball over 4 times (Tulsa)

Rice should be happy to be here, since if they deservedly lost the category 3 games, they'd be 5-7, and could've easily lost the other three.

On the Troy side of things, well, they're a Sun Belt team. The offense was much-maligned last season, and was made over this year, led by JuCo QB Omar Haugabook. The results have been improved, if not great: The Trojans were able to break 400 yards against UL Monroe and Florida Atlantic, but were held pretty quiet against North Texas and UAB. The defense, which has produced Demarcus Ware and Osi Umenyiora in recent years, is on an upswing: after allowing 421 yards to Arkansas State (who has a pretty good rushing attack), the Trojans held SBC favorite Middle Tennessee to only 203 yards, then similarly shut down Florida International.

An interesting game, because, hey, one of these teams has to win. Rice is overrated, but has done some things right, while Troy is still a Sun Belt team. Middle Tennessee might, in fact, be better than Rice, so I'll go with the Trojans.

My Pick: Troy
Confidence (out of 5): 1

BOWLNANZA!: The Las Vegas Bowl

#23 BYU (10-2) vs. Oregon (7-5)

BYU is legit. I half-expected that they'd project out to a 8-4, "pretty good but not deserving of their reputation type of team," but they've played around the same level as their 10-2 record, only getting outgained by Utah and TCU (and closely at that.) Most of the talk about them has centered around QB John Beck and the Cougars' high-powered offense, and deservedly so: outside of the Arizona game that led off the year, BYU has gained at least 400 yards every time out, with 653 yards against New Mexico being the exclamation point. For having a defense-oriented head coach in Bronco Mendenhall, however, the Cougars' D seems to have some question marks: while they held Tulsa to 303 yards, TCU, Utah, Boston College and New Mexico all broke the 400-yard mark against BYU, and even 3-9 San Diego State broke 350.

Oregon may look like a team on the slide, dropping three in a row to USC, Arizona, and Oregon State, but the stats aren't nearly as bad as the end results. Oregon outplayed USC statistically, even if was close, and the same holds for the Oregon State game. The Arizona game was a bit of a blowout, but the Ducks would've likely had a chance if not for a 6-turnover implosion that will (hopefully) not be duplicated anytime soon. The Oregon offense is almost as prolific as BYU's, going for 400 yards in 9 of their 12 games, and over 500 thrice. The defense is suspect, though, as the Ducks could hold few teams under 300 yards -- I-AA Portland State, inconsistent Arizona State, and UCLA and Washington with hurt quarterbacks.

This is an interesting game, as while Oregon is underrated, they're playing against a team worthy of their record (unlike, say, a Maryland or Ohio,) where the perceived upset would also be, in fact, an actual upset. The profile of both teams suggests a fun shootout, as neither has been able to stop the better offenses they've faced. I like Oregon's chances against BYU, however; Ducks OC Gary Crowton was the previous BYU head coach, and Mendenhall worked under Crowton as the DC, so Crowton should have some additional insight into the exploiting the Cougars D. I favor the Ducks, as while both teams have similar profiles, Oregon's resume has come against a stronger schedule, and I think the Ducks may have something to prove. Oregon can be turnover-prone, as the 6 against Arizona obviously shows, but I think as long as they can hold onto the ball, Oregon should prove to be the better team.

My Pick: Oregon
Confidence (out of 5): 2

Monday, December 18, 2006

BOWLNANZA!: The Poinsettia Bowl

Northern Illinois (7-5) vs. #24 TCU (10-2)

In one of my favorite quirks of the bowl season, this game will be played at the home of the Chargers, Qualcomm Stadium, between the alma-maters of LaDainian Tomlinson (TCU) and Michael Turner (NIU). And that's about the most interesting thing about this game, sadly. It's easy to forget that the non-BCS team picked to crash the party during the preseason was in fact not Boise State, but the Horned Frogs of Texas Christian. I thought they could do it too, but had written them off after week 1, where I watched them play about even with a Baylor team that, while improved, was still Baylor. They dropped games to BYU and Texas Tech early on, but lately they've been playing as well as any team in the country. Their last three games have been wins over San Diego State (52-0), Colorado State (45-14), and Air Force (38-14) that might even be more dominating than those lopsided scores suggest.

On the Northern Illinois side, the Huskies have gotten their act together too, coming off a 27-0 win at Eastern Michigan that was about as statistically dominating as any of those TCU victories. This comes after a solid but "closer than the score" 31-10 win against MAC champions Central Michigan. Still, the NIU season as a whole has a few warts on it; they played about even with a subpar Toledo team, and wound up losing 17-13, and there was that notorious 16-14 (and it should've been worse) loss against Western Michigan where Garrett Wolfe's Heisman hopes were shot dead. Huskies QB Phil Horvath will be out for the game, but backup Dan Nicholson is good enough that I think it won't be a huge factor.

I have TCU as the heavy favorite; I think they're the better team, and they've just been playing off their ass lately. Though obviously, for NIU to have any chance, the key is going to have to be Garrett Wolfe. TCU has the #4 run defense, though there's no real evidence about how good they are, since they haven't faced that many good rushing teams. The best back the Horned Frogs played was probably New Mexico's Rodney Ferguson, who got held to 71, and the only major rushing team they faced was Air Force, who got held to 98 total rushing yards. So there's some evidence TCU *could* shut down a back of Wolfe's caliber, but I personally wouldn't be surprised if Wolfe had a good day. Still, he could just as easily disappear, such as in the Western Michigan game. NIU has a definite shot, but I'll go with the safer pick.

My Pick: TCU
Confidence (out of 5): 2

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Study: Underperformers and Overachievers

One of the big factors in deciding who overachieved and underachieved during the year and who will rebound/regress the next is yardage. Turnovers and special teams touchdowns may be nice, but they're somewhat random occurences; yardage should, to an extent, show who outplayed who. Accordingly, I've gone through every I-A game this year, tabulated the yardage, and figured out the win-loss records based purely on yardage.

A note: There were three games where yardage was even, with Notre Dame oddly being involved in two: USC/Notre Dame, Notre Dame/Purdue, and TCU/Baylor. I rewarded each team 0.5 wins and 0.5 losses for each "tie."

Another note: Oh, and I didn't include conference title games, since they obviously depend on standings that may or may not be accurate in this model.

So, my so called "pure" yardage standings:

ACC Atlantic:
1. Clemson 10-2 (7-1)
2. Boston College 8-4 (5-3)
3. Florida State 7-5 (5-3)
4. NC State 6-6 (5-3)
5. Wake Forest 5-7 (2-6)
6. Maryland 1-11 (0-8)

ACC Coastal:
1. Miami 8-4 (5-3)
2. Virginia Tech 9-3 (5-3)
3. Georgia Tech 6-6 (4-4)
4. Virginia 5-7 (4-4)
5. North Carolina 5-7 (4-4)
6. Duke 2-10 (2-6)

Big East:
1. Louisville 10-2 (5-2)
2. West Virginia 10-2 (5-2)
3. South Florida 9-3 (5-2)
4. Cincinnati 7-5 (4-3)
5. Rutgers 8-4 (4-3)
6. Connecticut 6-6 (2-5)
7. Pittsburgh 6-6 (2-5)
8. Syracuse 2-10 (1-6)

Big Ten:
1. Ohio State 12-0 (8-0)
2. Michigan 10-2 (7-1)
3. Wisconsin 11-1 (7-1)
4. Iowa 7-5 (4-4)
5. Illinois 7-5 (4-4)
6. Penn State 7-5 (4-4)
7. Purdue 5.5-7.5 (3-5)
8. Northwestern 6-6 (3-5)
9. Indiana 4-8 (2-6)
10. Michigan State 5-7 (1-7)
11. Minnesota 3-9 (1-7)

Big 12 North:
1. Nebraska 7-5 (4-4)
2. Missouri 8-4 (4-4)
3. Kansas State 6-6 (4-4)
4. Kansas 6-6 (3-5)
5. Colorado 4-8 (3-5)
6. Iowa State 4-8 (1-7)

Big 12 South:
1. Texas A&M 11-1 (7-1)
2. Texas Tech 8-4 (6-2)
3. Oklahoma 8-4 (5-3)
4. Texas 8-4 (5-3)
5. Oklahoma State 7-5 (4-4)
6. Baylor 4.5-7.5 (2-6)

C-USA East:
1. Central Florida 7-5 (7-1)
2. East Carolina 8-4 (6-2)
3. Southern Miss 6-6 (4-4)
4. Marshall 3-9 (2-6)
5. UAB 3-9 (2-6)
6. Memphis 3-9 (1-7)

C-USA West:
1. Houston 9-3 (7-1)
2. Tulsa 9-3 (6-2)
3. UTEP 5-7 (4-4)
4. Tulane 5-7 (3-5)
5. Rice 4-8 (3-5)
6. SMU 6-6 (3-5)

MAC East:
1. Ohio 7-5 (6-2)
2. Kent State 7-5 (5-3)
3. Akron 5-7 (4-4)
4. Bowling Green 6-6 (4-4)
5. Buffalo 3-9 (2-6)
6. Miami of Ohio 3-9 (2-6)

MAC West:
1. Western Michigan 8-4 (6-2)
2. Toledo 7-5 (5-3)
3. Central Michigan 8-4 (5-3)
4. Northern Illinois 6-6 (4-4)
5. Eastern Michigan 3-9 (3-5)
6. Ball State 2-10 (2-6)

Mountain West:
1. Utah 8-4 (6-2)
2. TCU 9.5-2.5 (6-2)
3. BYU 10-2 (6-2)
4. Wyoming 9-3 (5-3)
5. Air Force 6-6 (4-4)
6. Colorado State 5-7 (3-5)
7. San Diego State 4-8 (2-6)
8. UNLV 3-9 (2-6)
9. New Mexico 4-8 (2-6)

Pac 10:
1. Oregon 10-2 (7-2)
2. USC 9.5-2.5 (7-2)
3. Cal 9-3 (7-2)
4. Washington State 8-4 (6-3)
5. Oregon State 7-6 (5-4)
6. UCLA 7-5 (5-4)
7. Arizona State 7-5 (4-5)
8. Arizona 3-9 (2-7)
9. Stanford 1-11 (1-8)
10. Washington 2-10 (1-8)

SEC East:
1. Georgia 8-4 (5-3)
2. South Carolina 8-4 (5-3)
3. Vanderbilt 7-5 (4-4)
4. Florida 8-4 (4-4)
5. Tennessee 7-5 (3-5)
6. Kentucky 3-9 (2-6)

SEC West:
1. LSU 11-1 (7-1)
2. Alabama 10-2 (6-2)
3. Arkansas 8-4 (5-3)
4. Auburn 7-5 (3-5)
5. Mississippi State 4-8 (2-6)
6. Mississippi 3-9 (2-6)

Sun Belt:
1. Troy 6-6 (5-2)
2. Florida Atlantic 5-7 (4-3)
3. Middle Tennessee State 6-6 (4-3)
4. Arkansas State 6-6 (4-3)
5. Louisiana-Monroe 7-5 (4-3)
6. Louisiana-Lafayette 6-6 (3-4)
7. Florida International 3-9 (2-5)
8. North Texas 3-9 (2-5)

1. Hawaii 11-2 (7-1)
2. Boise State 9-3 (6-2)
3. Nevada 9-3 (6-2)
4. New Mexico State 9-3 (5-3)
5. San Jose State 7-5 (4-4)
6. Idaho 5-7 (4-4)
7. Fresno State 5-7 (3-5)
8. Louisiana Tech 3-10 (1-7)
9. Utah State 0-12 (0-8)

1. Notre Dame 8-4
2. Navy 8-4
3. Army 1-11
4. Temple 0-12

Of course, this has some flaws. After all, within a certain range, the game's essentially up for grabs -- why should a team get a "win" just because they had the opportunity to gain, say, 3 more yards? Accordingly, I've used 50 yards as a benchmark -- if the difference in yardage was 50 yards or less, I gave each team a "swing win (SW)" or a "swing loss (SL)," and awarded each team 0.5 wins and 0.5 losses. Let me use Toledo as example of how I adjusted the records:

Toledo (Pure): 7-5 (5 SW, 2 SL)

Subtracting all the swing games, Toledo's record is 2-3. With 7 swing games, that should add 3.5 in each column, bringing their "swing" record to 5.5-6.5.

Now, obviously the system still isn't perfect -- Michigan vs. Central Michigan is a perfect example. Michigan forced 3 turnovers, so while Michigan would likely outgain the Chippewas, CMU had much more of an opportunity to gain yardage. The end result: Central Michigan outgained Michigan 397-260, and was therefore the only team besides Ohio State to "beat" Michigan under this system. But still, this way of looking at it generally shows who is overrated and who could surprise everyone by regressing to the mean next year.

Without further ado, 2006's TOP FIVE OVERACHIEVERS:

t-5. ARIZONA (Actual Record: 6-6, Projected Record: 3-9, Overachievement: 3 wins)
Wins: Stanford, Stephen F. Austin
Swing Wins: Oregon
Swing Losses: UCLA
Losses: Arizona State, BYU, Cal, LSU, Oregon State, USC, Washington, Washington State

The BYU "loss" could be kind of a wash, as Arizona was actually outgained by 5*1* yards. So the Wildcats winning that one, which they did, wasn't too far off. Them beating Wazzou in real life was just weird, however, as the Cougars outgained them by 60 yards and forced 2 more turnovers. Plus 78 of Arizona's 301 yards against Wazzou came on a TD pass in the first quarter. Arizona upsetting Cal was all due to Nate Longshore -- he threw 3 picks, and if one of those doesn't happen, Arizona would have probably lost as the stats show they should've.

t-5. BOISE STATE (Actual Record: 12-0, Projected Record: 9-3, Overachievement: 3 wins)
Wins: Fresno State, Louisiana Tech, Nevada, Oregon State, Sacramento State, San Jose State, Utah, Utah State
Swing Wins: Hawaii
Swing Losses: Wyoming
Losses: Idaho, New Mexico State

The Idaho game is like Arizona-BYU in that the disparity was 51 yards, just outside of the "swing" range. In contrast, Boise was in fact somewhat lucky in that Wyoming game, as a Broncos INT TD made the difference in the score. The NMSU pass attack somewhat breaks the system with their gobs of yardage -- Boise still gained 479 yards, though, so it's not like the Broncos' real-life win was all that inexplicable.

t-5. OHIO (Actual Record: 9-3, Projected Record: 6-6, Overachievement: 3 wins)
Wins: Buffalo, Eastern Michigan, Miami of Ohio
Swing Wins: Akron, Kent State, Northern Illinois, Tennessee-Martin
Swing Losses: Bowling Green, Western Michigan
Losses: Illinois, Missouri, Rutgers

Ohio beating Illinois in real life is the big outlier, mostly due to 5 Illini turnovers. Other than that, this is a typical lucky team - a bunch of close games, and they won all but Bowling Green.

4. RICE (Actual Record: 7-5, Projected Record: 3.5-8.5, Overachievement: 3.5 wins)
Wins: Army, East Carolina, UTEP
Swing Wins: SMU
Losses: Central Florida, Florida State, Houston, Texas, Tulane, Tulsa, UAB, UCLA

The big lucky wins were UCF, Tulsa, and UAB. The UCF game was basically even, Central Florida just handed it over with two turnovers. The UAB game was the outright luckiest win, since it was also pretty even statistically, but Rice actually turned the ball over more than the Blazers. Tulsa blew Rice out of the water, but turned it over 4 times, and still lost by only 3.

3. AUBURN (Actual Record: 10-2, Projected Record: 6-6, Overachievement: 4 wins)
Wins: Arkansas State, Buffalo, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Washington State
Swing Wins: Florida, Tulane
Losses: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, LSU, South Carolina

Auburn only had two drives of any note against LSU, but one of them was for a touchdown, which was enough to win the game. LSU was more consistent over the game and outgained Auburn by over 100 yards, but Auburn got lucky and held on. The SC game was a bit closer, but without a red zone INT, the Gamecocks would've tied it, and then who knows. Beating Alabama was all due to Crimson Tide turnovers.

2. WAKE FOREST (Actual Record: 10-2, Projected Record: 5-7, Overachievement: 5 wins)
Wins: Florida State, Liberty, Maryland, Mississippi, Syracuse
Losses: Boston College, Clemson, Connecticut, Duke, NC State, North Carolina, Virginia Tech

They beat Duke on a blocked field goal. I was at the UConn game, and the Huskies completely outplayed them outside of 2 DJ Hernandez interceptions (shock.), one of which was run back for a TD. They beat NC State on a SAFETY. The win over UNC was mostly turnovers, and BC had some at some inopportune times, too. Wake should've won maybe 1, 2, hell, maybe even 3 of those. But all five? Quite lucky.

1. MARYLAND (Actual Record: 8-4, Projected Record: 2.5-9.5, Overachivement: 5.5 wins)
Wins: William & Mary
Swing Losses: Boston College, Florida International, NC State
Losses: Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, Middle Tennessee State, Virginia, Wake Forest, West Virginia

The FIU and Virginia games were pretty close, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt there. MTSU, NC State, and Miami were all the same thing: Maryland got outplayed, not by much, but enough, and turnovers doomed the Blue Raiders/Wolfpack/'Canes. The Clemson game is a weird one: Maryland was the only team to turn the ball over, and got outgained by 80+ yards, but still managed to win it. FSU kicked the shit out of the Terps statistically in their game; however, Maryland apparently got some really great punt returns, and were able to score on 20-30 yard drives. Again, it's expected that Maryland could win some of those and go, say, 5-7, but for a team that only outgained one opponent all year to go 8-4? That's overachieving.

And on the other side of the coin, 2006's TOP FIVE UNDERPERFORMERS:

t-4. LOUISIANA-MONROE (Actual Record: 4-8, Projected Record: 7-5, Underachievement: 3 wins)
Wins: Alcorn State, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Kansas, Louisiana-Lafayette, North Texas
Swing Wins: Kentucky
Swing Losses: Troy
Losses: Alabama, Arkansas, Arkansas State, Middle Tennessee State

Might as well start with the Kansas loss, since that's the weird one. Warhawks QB Kinsmon Lancaster actually outgained the entire Kansas team, Kansas turned it over 4 times to ULM's one, and Kansas still managed to eke it out. The FAU and Kentucky games were essentially the same script: ULM performs a bit better in a shootout, turnovers doom them.

t-4. OREGON (Actual Record: 7-5, Projected Record: 10-2, Underachievement: 3 wins)
Wins: Arizona State, Oklahoma, Oregon State, Portland State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington, Washington State
Swing Wins: Fresno State
Swing Losses: Arizona
Losses: Cal

The USC game was another one of those 51-yard specials, so we'll just call it even. Even though Arizona outgained Oregon, the Ducks loss was mostly due to them turning it over 6 times. Oregon had some inopportune turnovers against Wazzou, although that plagued both teams. I'd argue Oregon was more consistent, but the Cougars were able to turn their big drives into more points. Oregon State game was also about even; the Beavers fumbled it over, but making one of Oregon's two missed field goals would've won it for the Ducks.

3. FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL (Actual Record: 0-12, Projected Record: 4-8, Underachievement: 4 wins)
Wins: Middle Tennessee State, North Texas
Swing Wins: Maryland
Swing Losses: Alabama, Bowling Green, South Florida
Losses: Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Miami, Troy

The South Florida, Maryland, and Troy games (only a 53 yard disparity) were pretty much close. As was the UNT game, I suppose, but that all came down to whoever could make a FG before the 7th overtime. The Alabama game was pretty handily won by the Crimson Tide; they ran back TDs on special teams and on defense, still outgained FIU by 50, and pretty much just shut the Golden Panthers down -- this was a case of Bama's low yardage being due to a lack of chances rather than a lack of success. MTSU seemed pretty lucky to beat FIU, being outgained by 70 yards and turning the ball over, but neither team really did much and the Blue Raiders eked out the win 7-6. FIU probably should've won the BGSU game, however -- FIU won the yardage battle close, but turned it over 4 times to Bowling Green's 2. FIU had a bunch of close games that could've gone either way, but few losses that you could say they deserved to win. It still would've been a bad year, they just probably didn't deserve to go winless.

2. NEW MEXICO STATE (Actual Record: 4-8, Projected Record: 8.5-3.5, Underachievement: 4.5 wins)
Wins: Boise State, Fresno State, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico, San Jose State, Southeastern Louisiana, Texas Southern, Utah State
Swing Wins: UTEP
Losses: Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada

NMSU only lost to New Mexico by 6, but only after turning it over five times. I'd say that's a fluke loss. Same story pretty much with the Fresno game, with the Aggies losing by 5 after 4 turnovers. NMSU and UTEP were pretty much exactly even, while the SJSU and Boise games both reached shootout levels; outgaining a team by 80 yards is a lot less impressive when it's, say, 556-479.

1. ILLINOIS (Actual Record: 2-10, Projected Record: 7-5, Underachievement: 5 wins)
Wins: Eastern Illinois, Michigan State, Ohio, Penn State
Swing Wins: Indiana, Purdue, Syracuse
Swing Losses: Iowa, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Losses: Northwestern, Rutgers

The Indiana loss was about as even as two teams can be. The Wisconsin and Ohio State losses weren't far behind, with turnovers being even, the Illini being barely outgained (32 by Wisconsin, 21 by Ohio State), and the opponent winning by a touchdown or less. Those three were about even, but the Syracuse loss was slightly more undeserving. The Illini outgained the Orange by 48, but Illinois had one more turnover than Syracuse, who returned the lone Illini fumble for a TD. The rest of the games can all be chalked up to an insane amount of turnovers:

vs. Iowa: Iowa outgains Illinois 337-291, Illinois: 4 turnovers, Iowa: 1 turnover
vs. Ohio: Illinois outgains Ohio 441-264, Illinois: 5 turnovers, Ohio: 1 turnover
vs. Penn State: Illinois outgains Penn State 403-211, Illinois: 4 turnovers, Penn State: 2 turnovers
vs. Purdue: Illinois outgains Purdue 446-445, Illinois: 5 turnovers, Purdue: 2 turnovers

Illinois doesn't turn the ball over and wins those 4 games, and they're 6-6. Combined with those 4 even games above, that should add up to a record anywhere from, say, 7-5 to 9-3. So, I think that probably clinches it -- the biggest underperformer this year, and the team that's probably going to "come out of nowhere" and regress to the mean next season -- the Illinois Fighting Illini.

And for the record, the "swing" conference standings:

ACC Atlantic:
1. Clemson 10-2 (7-1)
2. Florida State 7.5-4.5 (5-3)
3. Boston College 6.5-5.5 (4-4)
4. NC State 5-7 (4-4)
5. Wake Forest 5-7 (2-6)
6. Maryland 2.5-9.5 (1-7)

ACC Coastal:
1. Virginia Tech 9-3 (6-2)
2. Miami 8.5-3.5 (5-3)
3. Georgia Tech 6.5-5.5 (4.5-3.5)
4. Virginia 5.5-6.5 (4.5-3.5)
5. North Carolina 4-8 (3.5-4.5)
6. Duke 2-10 (1.5-6.5)

Big East:
1. Louisville 10-2 (5.5-1.5)
2. West Virginia 10-2 (5-2)
3. Cincinnati 7.5-4.5 (4.5-2.5)
4. South Florida 8-4 (4.5-2.5)
5. Rutgers 8-4 (3.5-3.5)
6. Connecticut 6.5-5.5 (2.5-5.5)
7. Pittsburgh 6-6 (2-5)
8. Syracuse 2-10 (0.5-6.5)

Big Ten:
1. Ohio State 10-2 (7-1)
2. Michigan 9.5-2.5 (6.5-1.5)
3. Wisconsin 10-2 (6.5-1.5)
4. Illinois 7-5 (4.5-3.5)
5. Penn State 7-5 (3.5-4.5)
6. Indiana 5-7 (3.5-4.5)
7. Iowa 6-6 (3-5)
8. Purdue 5.5-7.5 (3-5)
9. Northwestern 5.5-6.5 (2.5-5.5)
10. Michigan State 5.5-6.5 (2-6)
11. Minnesota 4-8 (2-6)

Big 12 North:
1. Nebraska 7.5-4.5 (4.5-3.5)
2. Missouri 8.5-3.5 (4.5-3.5)
3. Colorado 4.5-7.5 (4-4)
4. Kansas State 5-7 (3-5)
5. Kansas 6-6 (3-5)
6. Iowa State 4-8 (1-7)

Big 12 South:
1. Oklahoma 9.5-2.5 (6.5-1.5)
2. Texas A&M 9.5-2.5 (6-2)
3. Texas Tech 8-4 (5-3)
4. Texas 8-4 (4.5-3.5)
5. Oklahoma State 7.5-4.5 (4-4)
6. Baylor 3.5-8.5 (2-6)

C-USA East:
1. Central Florida 6.5-5.5 (6-2)
2. East Carolina 7-5 (4.5-3.5)
3. Southern Miss 6.5-5.5 (4.5-3.5)
4. Marshall 4-8 (3-5)
5. Memphis 4-8 (2.5-5.5)
6. UAB 3-9 (2-6)

C-USA West:
1. Houston 9.5-2.5 (7.5-0.5)
2. Tulsa 9-3 (6-2)
3. UTEP 5-7 (3.5-4.5)
4. Tulane 5.5-6.5 (3-5)
5. SMU 5.5-6.5 (3-5)
6. Rice 3.5-8.5 (2.5-5.5)

MAC East:
1. Ohio 6-6 (5.5-2.5)
2. Kent State 7.5-4.5 (5.5-2.5)
3. Akron 6-6 (4.5-3.5)
4. Bowling Green 6.5-5.5 (4-4)
5. Miami of Ohio 4.5-7.5 (3-5)
6. Buffalo 3-9 (2-6)

MAC West:
1. Western Michigan 7.5-4.5 (5.5-2.5)
2. Northern Illinois 7-5 (5-3)
3. Toledo 5.5-6.5 (4-4)
4. Central Michigan 7.5-4.5 (4-4)
5. Ball State 3.5-8.5 (3-5)
6. Eastern Michigan 2-10 (2-6)

Mountain West:
1. BYU 11-1 (7-1)
2. TCU 9-3 (6-2)
3. Wyoming 8.5-3.5 (5-3)
4. Utah 6.5-5.5 (4.5-3.5)
5. Air Force 6-6 (3.5-4.5)
6. Colorado State 5.5-6.5 (3-5)
7. New Mexico 4.5-7.5 (3-5)
8. UNLV 4-8 (2.5-5.5)
9. San Diego State 3-9 (1.5-6.5)

Pac 10:
1. Oregon 10-2 (7.5-1.5)
2. USC 9.5-2.5 (7-2)
3. Cal 7.5-4.5 (5.5-3.5)
4. Washington State 7.5-4.5 (5.5-3.5)
5. Arizona State 8-4 (5-4)
6. Oregon State 6.5-6.5 (4.5-4.5)
7. UCLA 6-6 (4-5)
8. Washington 4.5-7.5 (3-6)
9. Arizona 3-9 (2-7)
10. Stanford 1.5-10.5 (1-8)

SEC East:
1. Florida 9.5-2.5 (5.5-2.5)
2. Georgia 8-4 (4.5-3.5)
3. South Carolina 8-4 (4.5-3.5)
4. Kentucky 5-7 (3.5-4.5)
5. Tennessee 6.5-5.5 (3-5)
6. Vanderbilt 6-6 (3-5)

SEC West:
1. LSU 10.5-1.5 (6.5-1.5)
2. Arkansas 8.5-3.5 (5.5-2.5)
3. Alabama 8-4 (5-3)
4. Mississippi State 5.5-6.5 (3.5-4.5)
5. Auburn 6-6 (2.5-5.5)
6. Mississippi 2.5-9.5 (1-7)

Sun Belt:
1. Arkansas State 7-5 (5-2)
2. Troy 5.5-6.5 (4.5-2.5)
3. Louisiana-Monroe 7-5 (4.5-2.5)
4. Middle Tennessee State 5.5-6.5 (3.5-3.5)
5. Louisiana-Lafayette 6-6 (3.5-3.5)
6. Florida Atlantic 4-8 (3-4)
7. Florida International 4-8 (2-5)
8. North Texas 3.5-8.5 (2-5)

1. Hawaii 12-1 (7.5-0.5)
2. Boise State 9-3 (5.5-2.5)
3. Nevada 8-4 (5.5-2.5)
4. New Mexico State 8.5-3.5 (5-3)
5. Fresno State 5.5-6.5 (4-4)
6. San Jose State 6-6 (3.5-4.5)
7. Idaho 4-8 (3.5-4.5)
8. Louisiana Tech 2.5-10.5 (1-7)
9. Utah State 0.5-11.5 (0.5-7.5)

1. Notre Dame 8.5-3.5
2. Navy 7-5
3. Army 3-9
4. Temple 0-12

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Feely Top 25: After Week 14

#1 Ohio State (12-0, #1 LW)
#2 Michigan (11-1, #2)
#3 Florida (12-1, #3)
#4 LSU (10-2, #5)
#5 Louisville (11-1, #6)
#6 Oklahoma (11-2, #7)
#7 Wisconsin (11-1, #8)
#8 USC (10-2, #4)
#9 Boise State (12-0, #10)
#10 Arkansas (10-3, #9)
#11 West Virginia (10-2, #13)
#12 Auburn (10-2, #12)
#13 Notre Dame (10-2, #11)
#14 Rutgers (10-2, #14)
#15 Nebraska (9-4, #16)
#16 Virginia Tech (10-2, #17)
#17 Texas (9-3, #15)
#18 Wake Forest (11-2, #18)
#19 Tennessee (9-3, #19)
#20 Cal (9-3, #20)
#21 Texas A&M (9-3, #21)
#22 Georgia (8-4, #22)
#23 BYU (10-2, #23)
#24 TCU (10-2, --)
#25 Oregon State (9-4, --)

Again, two words: Western Carolina.

Notre Dame looks slightly worse now.

Texas's lack of an insurance policy for Colt McCoy worries me.

TCU's playing as well as anyone right now.

ALSO RECEIVING VOTES: Penn State, Boston College, Clemson, South Florida, Georgia Tech, Central Michigan

Week 14 Recap

#3 Florida 38, #9 Arkansas 28
Yep, Florida outplayed them here. Percy Harvin was the star of the show here statistically, while watching the game, it was probably Reggie Fish. Poor poor Reggie Fish. I don't really know what there is to be said. Like I thought, Florida was the better team.

UCLA 13, #4 USC 9
USC outplayed them, but still -- hahahahahahaha. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAhahahaha. O VER RA TED. Alright. There, I'm done.

#6 Louisville 48, Connecticut 17
Yep. Brian Brohm's coming back, which is extremely frightening. If Michael Bush does, then...uh oh. Although then they'll be the big preseason favorites in the Big East, which means the BCS bid will go to South Florida.

#7 Oklahoma 21, #16 Nebraska 7
Pretty lucky win, actually, as the Sooners gave up more yards than they gained, but managed to force 5 turnovers. Nebraska, still a very good team. Oklahoma-Boise? With the OU defense faltering, still interesting.

#13 West Virginia 41, #14 Rutgers 39 (3 OT)
A pretty even game up and down. I would've wanted to see Rutgers in the BCS, but the Scarlet Knights, Wake Forest, and Boise State all getting bids would probably result in armageddon.

#19 Wake Forest 9, #24 Georgia Tech 6
Ugh. A great coaching job by Jim Grobe and all, but Wake's just...pretty good. Kinda. And sadly, being "Pretty good. Kinda." on a consistent basis is what it takes to win the ACC.

#21 Cal 26, Stanford 17
Stanford hung in there comparatively, but this still wasn't really that close at all. If Stanford had played like this all year, they could've beaten, say, Washington. Oh, they did. Well, nevermind.

Oregon State 35, #25 Hawaii 32
A fun one to watch, especially thanks to Hawaii FB Fat Man Outta Control. Colt Brennan looked shitty, throwing for only...401 yards. Yep. Hawaii outgained them by quite an amount, though Oregon State had a 100 yard special teams TD. At any rate, the score's about right -- two good teams, Oregon State slightly better.

TCU 38, Air Force 14
Ow. TCU's playing like the team everyone thought they were.

Central Michigan 31, Ohio 10
Ohio's a decent team, but was lucky to get this far. CMU's legit. Well, for the MAC.

San Jose State 24, Fresno State 14

Before the world blows up...

Well then. But gee, who knew that Florida had a better case than USC all this time? Oh, right, me. Anyway, I'd say it's about even between Michigan and Florida, except um hmm lemme find it.

From my week 12 recap:
#3 Florida 62, Western Carolina 0

In contrast, scheduling this game takes away any right Florida has to bitch if they don't leapfrog Michigan. I said the same thing about Auburn two years ago, and it's holds here. C'mon, at least schedule a MAC team. Or San Jose State. Or SOMEONE. God. Florida still has a better case than USC, though. Which OSU would YOU rather lose to, Ohio State or Oregon State? God.

I mean really. LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE WOULD'VE TAKEN THAT GAME! And it'd be just about as big a win as over Kentucky. But yeah, I personally believe you have any right to talk about your tough schedule, when you schedule Western Freakin' Carolina in that 12th game. At least Michigan scheduled Vanderbilt, one of the TOUGH TEAMS and BIG WINS that Florida has faced and beaten in the SEC.

But anyway. I'm probably being too hard on Florida. The major point of annoyance is: where was all this two days ago? Who mentioned Florida? Well, except me. These idiots don't want a rematch, and the fact that just NOW everyone's realizing Florida's really fucking good makes them that: idiots. The whole reason the BCS was created was because THE HUMAN POLLS ARE IDIOTS! Also, money. But anyway, just...Jesus.

THOUGH. I do have a solution. Get ready.




There. And this was likely a horrible post to read, but I just needed to vent.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Week 14 Rundown

7:30 PM

Central Michigan (8-4) vs. Ohio (9-3)
Ohio keeps getting breaks, CMU seems more legit. If Brian Kelly had gotten the ISU job, I'd be more worried here, but I think the Chippewas and their coaching staff will be focused.
My Pick: Central Michigan
Confidence (out of 5): 2

8:00 PM

Southern Miss (8-4) @ Houston (9-3)
An intriguing matchup, as both teams are playing well, with USM dominating on defense and Houston's high-powered offense humming along. Normally I'd take the defense, and USM did beat Houston at home earlier in the year, but I just love Kevin Kolb, and this game ain't in Hattiesburg.
My Pick: Houston
Confidence: 1

12:00 PM

Connecticut (4-7) @ #6 Louisville (10-1)
Well, I suppose there's suspense about if UConn fires Edsall if we lose this game. I have no insight into that, though.
My Pick: Louisville
Confidence: 4

1:00 PM

#19 Wake Forest (10-2) vs. #24 Georgia Tech (9-3)
I give Georgia Tech a chance if Reggie Ball gets injured. I shouldn't say that, since GT sometimes shows up, but I'm far from betting on it.
My Pick: Wake Forest
Confidence: 2

2:30 PM

Army (3-8) @ Navy (8-3)
If Paul Johnson winds up taking the Alabama job or something, there could be some distraction and thus some suspense here, but Army's just outclassed.
My Pick: Navy
Confidence: 3

3:00 PM

Stanford (1-10) @ #21 Cal (8-3)
Stanford winning would be a bigger miracle than The Play. If only Stanford could play Duke in some sort of horrific bowl game from Hell.
My Pick: Cal
Confidence: 4

Louisiana Tech (3-9) @ New Mexico State (3-8)
NMSU has a wacky passtastic offense, is at home, and is riding the momentum of their first I-A win in two years. Watch out, LA Tech. Though the Bulldogs are a fair enough team and could win just as easy.
My Pick: New Mexico State
Confidence: 1

3:30 PM

Air Force (4-7) @ TCU (9-2)
Air Force is pretty damn good for a 4-7 team, but TCU's just smashing people left and right and generally looking like the team they were expected to be in the preseason.
My Pick: TCU
Confidence: 2

4:00 PM

Fresno State (4-7) @ San Jose State (7-4)
Amazingly intriguing, as each team pretty much has done how the other was expected to. Fresno has more talent and is on more of a hot streak, so I assume the Bulldogs attempt to make their season seem respectable here. As for SJSU, who the hell knows. They're apparently good and it's very confusing.
My Pick: Fresno State
Confidence: 2

4:30 PM

#4 USC (10-1) @ UCLA (6-5)
USC's...much better. Logic can sometimes be thrown out in rivalry games, but this would be stretching it.
My Pick: USC
Confidence: 3

5:00 PM

Louisana-Monroe (3-8) @ Louisiana-Lafayette (6-5)
Sun Belt-tastic! There's all that SBC parity and again, rivalry game, but ULL's better. ULM QB Kinsmon Lancaster could have another one of those freaky games like Kansas where he outgains the entire opposing team, however.
My Pick: Louisiana-Lafayette
Confidence: 2

6:00 PM

#9 Arkansas (10-2) vs. #3 Florida (11-1)
The Arkansas running game redeemed itself last week after a shit performance against Mississippi State. Florida's still been beating people handily though, at least everywhere except the score. I give Arkansas a chance, but Florida's been a better team and they should show it here.
My Pick: Florida
Confidence: 2

7:00 PM

Troy (6-5) @ Florida International (0-11)
Troy gets the SBC title here. I almost put "if they win", but, well.
My Pick: Troy
Confidence: 3

7:45 PM

#14 Rutgers (10-1) @ #13 West Virginia (9-2)
Pretty much a crapshoot, actually. USF's a good team, though, and better than Cincinnati, so I give WVU the edge there. Rutgers can be run on, at least by UConn, so I'm not sure that they can stop the WVU running game, especially in Morgantown. Again, it's about even, which is...crazy, but I just have more faith in West Virginia. Really, Rutgers?
My Pick: West Virginia
Confidence: 1

8:00 PM

#16 Nebraska (9-3) vs. #7 Oklahoma (10-2)
Ooh, intrigue. The OU defense sputtered against OK State, and Nebraska's offense is throwing as well as it's ever been. Then again, Nebraska lost to Oklahoma State, so who knows. OU's hotter, and I have faith in the defense to rebound, so I give them the better chance to win what should be a close one.
My Pick: Oklahoma
Confidence: 1

Colorado State (4-7) @ San Diego State (2-9)
Two teams playing at about the same level, and kind of cold at the moment, CSU more so. That, plus the home-field advantage, makes me pick the Aztecs in this crapshoot.
My Pick: San Diego State
Confidence: 1

12:05 AM

Oregon State (8-4) @ #25 Hawaii (10-2)
Like Christmas in July, it's the Hawaii Bowl in week 14. Oregon State kept it close at Boise before getting blown out, and expect the same here. COLT BRENNAN LASER LIGHTSHOW!
My Pick: Hawaii
Confidence: 2

Hot News

From the coaching carousel:

Texas co-DC Gene Chizik, replacing Dan McCarney at Iowa State.
Cincinnati HC Mark Dantonio, replacing John L. Smith at Michigan State.

Arizona HC Dirk Koetter
Alabama HC Mike Shula
NC State HC Chuck Amato
Miami HC Larry Coker

After the forthcoming week 14 preview, I'll probably get started on the individual bowl previews. My next big project will be determining the luckiest and unluckiest teams in the nation during 2006, so that'll hopefully provide some insight into who unfairly got fired and who was a bad hire once this whole mess sorts itself out.

Feely Top 25: After Week 13

#1 Ohio State (12-0, #1 LW)
#2 Michigan (11-1, #2)
#3 Florida (11-1, #3)
#4 USC (10-1, #4)
#5 LSU (10-2, #6)
#6 Louisville (10-1, #10)
#7 Oklahoma (10-2, #9)
#8 Wisconsin (11-1, #12)
#9 Arkansas (10-2, #8)
#10 Boise State (12-0, #14)
#11 Notre Dame (10-2, #11)
#12 Auburn (10-2, #13)
#13 West Virginia (9-2, #5)
#14 Rutgers (10-1, #17)
#15 Texas (9-3, #7)
#16 Nebraska (9-3, #21)
#17 Virginia Tech (10-2, #18)
#18 Wake Forest (10-2, #19)
#19 Tennessee (9-3, #15)
#20 Cal (8-3, #20)
#21 Texas A&M (9-3, #23)
#22 Georgia (8-4, --)
#23 BYU (10-2, #24)
#24 Georgia Tech (9-3, #16)
#25 Hawaii (10-2, --)

USC's been the most vulnerable in their wins of the 2 through 4 teams. And, well, Michigan didn't schedule Western Carolina.

Man, Wisconsin got hosed.

Arkansas looked as impressive in the LSU loss as they have all year, and a lot of teams in the 11-15 range didn't do much, so I didn't penalize the Razorbacks that much.

I really want to see Boise-Notre Dame. After this week, I don't know who would win, I just know it would be a heckuva lot of fun.

13-15 were hard to figure out. Texas has the most talent, but they've just fallen off a cliff and who knows with McCoy now. I still think WVU will beat Rutgers, and essentially consider the Mountaineers a one-loss team, since the WVU-Louisville game was essentially a tossup with a strong advantage for WV.

I give Nebraska a pretty good shot against OU, they're playing well.

Ugh, the ACC.

Tennessee should've lost to Kentucky, and their performance was about as good as losing to the Wildcats.

Georgia's a much better team now than the one that lost those 4 games. I could see a case for BYU over them, but not GT (obviously) or Hawaii.

Georgia Tech's worthless. They show up from time to time, but God, what a waste of Calvin Johnson.

Nothing can stop the Colt Brennan Laser Lightshow.

Also Receiving Votes: Oregon State, Penn State, TCU

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Week 13 Recap

#3 Florida 21, Florida State 14
I think Florida has about as good a case as USC. USC may have the higher SOS, but Florida has a better loss, and they've been winning more impressively than scores would indicate. This was another one, as Florida outgained the Noles 388-235, forced 3 Drew Weatherford picks, and Chris Leak had an efficient 21/34, 283 yard, 2 TD day.

#4 USC 44, #11 Notre Dame 24
The easy thing would be to say "Gee, USC abused a vulnerable Irish pass defense, who would have thought that (besides me)", but if I live by the stats, I die by the stats, and UND actually gained more passing yards than the Trojans. The yardage was actually even, at 404-404. If anything, I thought Notre Dame actually played better than I expected, which...probably doesn't say much, actually. Anyway, yeah, UND's a pretty good team (and were quite overrated), and USC's just much better. USC vs. Florida is an interesting debate -- too bad we won't see THAT game, but will probably get that big Michigan-Notre Dame rematch. Since, you know, the first one was so close.

South Florida 24, #5 West Virginia 19
Well, that was pretty inexplicably one-sided. Slaton got held to only 43 yards (2.4 per carry), and White did even worse, so it's not like WVU was forced to make a comeback and pass -- they just got shut down. Without a 57 yard Darius Reynaud run on a reverse, the Mountaineers only had 75 yards rushing. Jesus. The fact that this was in Morgantown makes this all the more shocking. And hey, watch out for the Bulls next year.

#6 LSU 31, #8 Arkansas 26
About an even game; Arkansas legitimized themselves to me even in the loss. The running game was insane for the Razorbacks, with McFadden gaining 182 and 2 TD, Felix Jones going for 137 and a score, and both getting about 8.6 yards per carry. Why the Razorbacks lost, however: It took McFadden, the running back, two passes to outgain starting QB Casey Dick's entire total. (McFadden went 2/2 for 33, Dick went 3/17 for 29.)

#23 Texas A&M 12, #7 Texas 7
A&M has gone back to a complete running team, rushing for 244 and only passing for 58. Still, QB Stephen McGee was the Aggies' leading rusher with 95 yards. Texas has...completely fallen off a cliff.

#9 Oklahoma 27, Oklahoma State 21
About even game yardage-wise, and probably the least impressive performance in a while by the Oklahoma D. Sooners are probably still the best team in the Big 12 right now, while OK State could have a big year in 2007.

#10 Louisville 48, Pittsburgh 24
Same old, same old for Pitt: Tyler Palko puts up some yards (307), the defense gives up more (499), and LaRod Stephens-Howling comes and goes (57 yards this time). Not much to say, but Brian Brohm (21/29, 337, 4 TD) confirmed that he is, in fact, really good.

#14 Boise State 38, Nevada 7
Holy shit! Boise not only put up their usual gaudy offensive stats, but held Nevada to 141 yards, and star Wolf Pack QB Jeff Rowe to only 35. Boise puts an exclamation point on their BCS bid, and now I really want to see Boise State-Notre Dame, because that'd be a fun offensive shootout and now I'm not so sure Notre Dame would win. But of course, we won't get that.

#15 Tennessee 17, Kentucky 12
Kentucky actually outplayed the Vols quite handily, outgaining them by 74, and winning both the air and ground battles. ...the hell? I assume this means Tennessee is worse than I thought, since I can't imagine Kentucky is a top 25 team.

Georgia 15, #16 Georgia Tech 12
Much like Michigan State sucking being 95% coaching, GT's inconsistency is 95% Reggie Ball. I don't care how good the UGA defense is, there is absolutely no excuse to have 42 yards passing when your WR is probably the best player in the nation. Just horrible. A nice game by GT RB Tashard Choice (23 car, 146 yds, TD), but still, I hate this team. Get out now, Calvin, while you still can. Sneak into an NFL game, put on a jersey, and see if anyone notices. Quick, before Reggie Ball lowers your stock any further!

#17 Rutgers 38, Syracuse 7
Well, that's more like it, as Ray Rice and Brian Leonard each ran for over 100. Syracuse is horrible. Well, they were here. But not against UConn. Sadly.

#18 Virginia Tech 17, Virginia 0
Splat. VT's offense wasn't too great, but they just shut Virginia down. Not much to say here. VT's probably the best team in the ACC right now, and I can say that now that there's no chance of them losing another conference game.

#19 Wake Forest 38, Maryland 24
Maryland has gone the entire year without outgaining a I-A opponent. Impressive. Nice to see justice prevail, too, although it would've been hilarious if Maryland won the ACC and heightened expectations to an insanely unrealistic level for next year. Shout-out to Wake RB Kenneth Moore, who ran for 165 and a TD.

#21 Nebraska 37, Colorado 14
Nebraska outgained Colorado 468-297, so this was about as one-sided as the score. The Huskers had a good day both on the ground and through the air, with RB Brandon Jackson running for 142 and a TD, while QB Zac Taylor threw for 249 and 2 scores. With OU's defensive woes against Oklahoma State, the Big 12 title game is going to be quite interesting.

Miami 17, #22 Boston College 14
This was a pretty awful game, so I'll do some wordplay in honor of Canes QB Kirby Freeman instead of trying to analyze this: Miami (and Kirby) sucked, but BC got eaten alive.

#23 BYU 33, Utah 31
Utah played slightly better, but it was still pretty much a crapshoot, and that's about right; Utah, on their good days, is about as good as BYU. Still doesn't answer many questions I have about the Utes' inconsistency, however. Still, good work Utah, but better luck next time.

South Carolina 31, #25 Clemson 28
SC outgained Clemson by 120 yards, so SC wasn't lucky to win, Clemson was lucky to keep it close. And the Gamecocks have had their fair share of bad luck, so think of this as some sort of cosmic retribution. Two pretty good teams. Yep.

UNLV 42, Air Force 39
The fun shootout the score suggests, although both teams also ran for over 200. Air Force is pretty damn good for a team that will finish 5-7 at best.

Western Michigan 17, Akron 0
Akron wanted to be bowl-eligible, but they figured they wouldn't be invited to one even if they were, so they just decided to make that "Zips" nickname really really ironic just for laughs.

Arizona State 28, Arizona 14
The best game ASU's played all year, and ironically now Dirk Koetter will be fired. Arizona was held to only 168 yards, and Rudy Carpenter actually looked like a I-A QB, going 17/25 for 214, 3 TD and a pick. However, since Koetter is gone, Sam Keller still laughs.

Cincinnati 26, Connecticut 23
And looking at the stats, it shouldn't even have been that close. Sigh.

TCU 45, Colorado State 14
TCU's just going crazy; after the shutout of SDSU, they racked up 606 yards here and generally just smashed the Rams good. If only they had played like this before.

North Carolina 45, Duke 44
This only happened because I called Duke the best team in the ACC last week.

Northern Illinois 27, Eastern Michigan 0
Just a shout-out to Garrett Wolfe in what might be his last collegiate game, as he went out with 164 and a TD on 27 carries. See you in the NFL, Garrett.

Hawaii 42, Purdue 35
It took a while, but this led up to the shootout billing, as Hawaii outgained the Boilermakers 653-472. COLT BRENNAN WATCH: 33/48, 434, 3 TD, INT, 59 rush yds.

Mississippi 20, Mississippi State 17
Ole Miss gets another lucky win, the Bulldogs have another unlucky loss. Assuming Croom stays on, Mississippi State could surprise next year, in a 6-6 or 7-5 sense.

New Mexico State 42, Utah State 20
NMSU's first I-A win in two years. Congrats. I guess.

Friday, November 24, 2006


#11 Notre Dame (10-1) @ #4 USC (9-1)
Hey, a fun test, for my education and yours. AN ANALYSES OF DEFENCES:

So, let's look at ND's opponents:
Georgia Tech: 258 net yards/124 pass yards vs. ND
Penn State: 417/225
Michigan: 368/220
Michigan State: 356/109
Purdue: 493/398
Stanford: 264/154
UCLA: 277/217
Navy: 341/43
North Carolina: 298/213
Air Force: 425/205
Army: 150/92

Now, let's find out the...let's call it the performance gap, sure. Basically, subtracting those numbers from the opponents' average numbers on the year, to try and see the difference the defense (in this case, ND's) made. The more positive the number, the better UND's defensive performance:

GT: 78.6/46.7
PSU: -69.6/-24.8
Michigan: 6.9/-34.2
Mich St: 0.8/118.6
Purdue: -71.1/-111.7
Stanford: -35.5/9.5
UCLA: 52.3/-12.5
Navy: 50/14.8
UNC: -19.5/-40
Air Force: -83.9/-109
Army: 111.7/39.8

Which works out to an overall gap of Notre Dame being +20.7 overall, and -102.8 against the pass, or, on a per-game basis, Notre Dame giving up 1.8 less yards than average overall, but 9.3 more pass yards per game. Though without the Michigan State implosion, that stat jumps up to 22. But anyway, let's do the same analysis for USC!

Performance gap!
Arkansas: 95.6/-2
Nebraska: 194.9/105.3
Arizona: 146.5/41.7
Washington State: -37.9/-27.2
Washington: -76.2/-18.2
Arizona State: 93.5/72.7
Oregon State: -42.5/-31.4
Stanford: -11.5/-14.5
Oregon: 30.7/-11.2
Cal: 142.8/82.8

And that works out to 535.9/197.4 on the year, so USC gives up 53.6 less yards than average overall, and 19.7 less pass yards.

So, let's work out the numbers:
Notre Dame's offense:
397.5 yards per game on average - 53.6 = 343.9
273.7 passing per game on average - 19.7 = 254

USC's offense:
392.2 yards per game on average - 1.8 = 390.4
250 passing per game on average + 9.3 = 259.3

And that gives USC the advantage. And that's assuming they don't carry over the momentum from the Cal game. Though Notre Dame DID just shut down...Army. But not UNC or Air Force. God, you know, the stats show that Notre Dame really isn't that far below average, but I can't take them seriously with that strength of schedule. And, really, that about sums it up. Do I give UND a chance? Yes, though significantly less so at USC. Although part of me almost wants to see Notre Dame win just so the Ohio State-Michigan rematch becomes that much closer to a reality. But I really think USC's the better team, and as those stats show, they have the hotter defense. Notre Dame's best defensive performances were against Georgia Tech and Michigan State, an erratic team and one that imploded, at the beginning of the year, and comparing that to USC and Cal, just forget it.
My Pick: USC
Confidence (out of 5): 2

Week 13 Rundown: Saturday

12:00 PM

#3 Florida (10-1) @ Florida State (6-5)
I don't get this myth about Florida's offense not playing well -- they're gaining yards fine. As for FSU, sigh. It's a big rivalry game and anything can happen, but not really dominating Western Michigan doesn't give me much hope for the post-Jeff Bowden era in 2006. And especially not in this game.
My Pick: Florida
Confidence (out of 5): 2

South Florida (7-4) @ #5 West Virginia (9-1)
USF's pretty good, as that record obviously shows, led by surprise QB Matt Grothe. The WVU defense is vulnerable, but on the other hand, if the USF defense hasn't been vulnerable themselves, they will be here. The Mountaineers just have too many weapons. Well, two.
My Pick: West Virginia
Confidence: 2

Syracuse (4-7) @ #17 Rutgers (9-1)
Rutgers should be focused, Syracuse should have a letdown after that season-defining win against...Connecticut.
My Pick: Rutgers
Confidence: 3

Virginia (5-6) @ #18 Virginia Tech (9-2)
Virginia's inconsistent, but Tech's probably the hottest team in the ACC. The one piece of evidence in Virginia's favor is that the Cavs schooled Miami while Tech beat them but should've lost, but all in all, I'm going to have to take the Hokies.
My Pick: Virginia Tech
Confidence: 2

South Carolina (6-5) @ #25 Clemson (8-3)
The Gamecocks are a good team and a bit snakebit, while Clemson's frustratingly inconsistent and kind of down a bit lately. Ehhhhh. This is pretty much a pick-em, but I'll take the slight talent edge.
My Pick: Clemson
Confidence: 1

UAB (3-8) @ Central Florida (3-8)
Yep, those records are about right. UCF's slightly hotter (meaning, lukewarm) and at home, so there you go.
My Pick: Central Florida
Confidence: 1

Cincinnati (6-5) @ Connecticut (4-6)
Connecticut's never lost a home game in November since going I-A. Cincinnati hasn't won a road game all year (admittedly, all of those road games are against Top 25 teams). The Huskies are way better at home. And it's a year of Big East teams having huge letdowns after season-defining wins. Yep.
My Pick: Connecticut
Confidence: 2

North Carolina (2-9) @ Duke (0-11)
UNC has a pulse. Advantage, Tar Heels.
My Pick: North Carolina
Confidence: 2

Kansas (6-5) @ Missouri (7-4)
The Tigers are snakebit lately, playing well but losing to Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Iowa State. Kansas is playing well, and this is a big rivalry game, so stats can somewhat be thrown out the window, but I have more confidence in Missouri winning big than the Jayhawks.
My Pick: Missouri
Confidence: 2

12:30 PM

Kentucky (7-4) @ #15 Tennessee (8-3)
Kentucky will be getting to a bowl game. Wildcat fans, just keep repeating that to yourselves while trying to block out this game as it happens.
My Pick: Tennessee
Confidence: 4

2:00 PM

Mississippi State (3-8) @ Mississippi (3-8)
One of these teams should have beaten Arkansas last week. One of these teams should be 1-11 against I-A competition, and got annihilated but still won at home against Vanderbilt.
My Pick: Mississippi State
Confidence: 2

2:30 PM

#9 Oklahoma (9-2) @ Oklahoma State (6-5)
OK State has a pretty good offense, but, well, Oklahoma is back. And held Texas Tech to 250 passing yards. So, uh, ehhhh. Oklahoma State's a very good team, so I definitely give them a chance, but the Sooners are playing as well as anyone right now.
My Pick: Oklahoma
Confidence: 2

San Diego State (2-8) @ New Mexico (5-6)
New Mexico's a competitive team that could've beaten Utah and TCU. San Diego State is...not.
My Pick: New Mexico
Confidence: 2

3:00 PM

SMU (6-5) @ Rice (6-5)
Two pretty good teams. Really not much more to say, except for, you know, the hell? SMU and Rice, two pretty good teams? And this isn't year 10 in NCAA Football 2004? Push goes to the home team, and I think Rice is slightly better anyway.
My Pick: Rice
Confidence: 1

3:05 PM

New Mexico State (2-8) @ Utah State (1-10)
I am shocked that Utah State is as high as the #115 yardage offense in the country. You suck, North Texas, Florida International, Stanford and Temple. NMSU throws for a boatload of yards that amount to pretty much nothing, UNTIL NOW! If the Aggies don't get their first I-A win in two seasons HERE, then they're hopeless.
My Pick: New Mexico State
Confidence: 2

3:30 PM

#10 Louisville (9-1) @ Pittsburgh (6-5)
Tyler Palko's having a good year under the radar, but that Pitt defense is DOA.
My Pick: Louisville
Confidence: 2

#16 Georgia Tech (9-2) @ Georgia (7-4)
Uh oh, Georgia's getting their shit together. GT could easily just throw to Calvin Johnson and dominate all game long, but all season long, GT's also shown a tendency to forget they have the best player in the nation and just be mediocre. And mediocrity will get them nowhere here.
My Pick: Georgia
Confidence: 1

#24 BYU (9-2) @ Utah (7-4)
BYU's vulnerable, as they're solidly the best team in the MWC, but not THAT far ahead. Utah could beat them, but the Utes have been inconsistent all year. They could show up, they should show up, but I'm still not going to bet on it.
My Pick: BYU
Confidence: 1

Troy (5-5) @ Middle Tennessee State (7-4)
SHOWDOWN! Middle Tennessee's better. Though Sun Belt parity means that probably means little.
My Pick: Middle Tennessee State
Confidence: 1

4:00 PM

#14 Boise State (11-0) @ Nevada (8-3)
Like a better version of that BYU-Utah game. I...really don't know here. If it was at Boise, no chance, Broncos win, stamp your tickets or whatever. Nevada's a pretty good team, they've been consistent lately, and they actually have a very good chance at knocking the Broncos off. But I still think Boise's better, and I really can't pick against them. They're just so close!
My Pick: Boise State
Confidence: 1

5:00 PM

Arkansas State (6-5) @ Louisiana-Lafayette (5-5)
ASU's the better team, but both teams have their good and bad days. Namely, ULL beating Houston in the "...the hell?" game of the year, and Arkansas State being shut out at Florida Atlantic. I'll just go with talent here.
My Pick: Arkansas State
Confidence: 1

5:05 PM

San Jose State (6-4) @ Idaho (4-7)
SJSU seems a bit lucky, but then again, there's that 476-yard rushing day they had against Louisiana Tech. The fact that SJSU's the favorite here just means, what the hell. The WAC is crazy, I don't know.
My Pick: San Jose State
Confidence: 1

6:00 PM

Arizona State (6-5) @ Arizona (6-5)
Well, you know, just look at the momentum. Arizona, winning big games! Arizona State, kind of sucking! About explains it all.
My Pick: Arizona
Confidence: 2

7:00 PM

TCU (8-2) @ Colorado State (4-6)
TCU's just playing much better right now, and the Horned Frogs' 52-0 thrashing of SDSU is just the exclamation point. CSU's about an average team, so it's not like this has a 100% chance of being a 100% blowout, but really, don't expect much.
My Pick: TCU
Confidence: 3

East Carolina (6-5) @ NC State (3-8)
NC State is dead. Just SO dead. No pulse. ECU's a pretty good C-USA team, and really the better team. The Wolfpack could get up because it's the last home game, or to try and save Chuck Amato's job since I imagine he's hanging by a thread, but, again, ECU's just better.
My Pick: East Carolina
Confidence: 1

Florida International (0-10) @ Florida Atlantic (4-7)
FAU's pretty bad. FIU's REALLY bad. What a choice here.
My Pick: Florida Atlantic
Confidence: 2

North Texas (3-8) @ Louisiana-Monroe (2-8)
Hoo boy. ULM's not very good, but North Texas is just in complete disarray. A lame duck coach turning on the school and just...ugh, ugly. I can't imagine the Mean Green will be ready or capable in this game, plus they're away. Good for the Warhawks.
My Pick: Louisiana-Monroe
Confidence: 2

7:30 PM

Marshall (5-6) @ Southern Miss (7-4)
USM's defense is capable of shutting down anyone in the conference. Marshall would definitely not be in the division title race in C-USA West, and might actually be in last there. Yep.
My Pick: Southern Miss
Confidence: 2

7:45 PM

#19 Wake Forest (9-2) @ Maryland (8-3)
I don't even know. Wake's still a fine team, but they're away, and...God. If Maryland pulls this off, I might just launch a string of profanities. But I'll definitely laugh if the Terps have any expectations next year.
My Pick: Wake Forest
Confidence: 2

8:00 PM

#11 Notre Dame (10-1) @ #4 USC (9-1)
I'll give this one its own post either later tonight or sometime Friday.

9:00 PM

Memphis (1-10) @ UTEP (5-6)
All those teams above I said are dead? Memphis might be deader.
My Pick: UTEP
Confidence: 3

11:05 PM

Purdue (8-4) @ Hawaii (9-2)
This should be a fun shootout, as both teams are all-offense, no-defense. But Hawaii's offense is better, and that Purdue D might be jetlagged. If only this was on TV.
My Pick: Hawaii
Confidence: 2

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Week 13 Rundown: Thursday and Friday

7:30 PM
#22 Boston College (9-2) @ Miami (5-6)
Well, I've lost all faith in Miami. That said, BC is vulnerable, Miami's at home with their backs against the wall, and maybe, just maybe, they can try to save Larry Coker's job with a win here and then what is sure to be a big win over...San Jose State, probably, in the MPC Computers Bowl. Unless Boise gets upset by Nevada, in which case the Broncos get that bowl bid and could very well murderize the Canes. But I'm getting ahead of myself. An upset, and god, the fact that Miami winning would be an upset is just horrible, but the Canes could win here. But if they couldn't beat Virginia, I'm not going to count on it.
My Pick: Boston College
Confidence (out of 5): 1

11:00 AM

Northern Illinois (6-5) @ Eastern Michigan (1-10)
EMU's probably the biggest disappointment in the MAC, at least outside of how suddenly Garrett Wolfe's Heisman hopes hit a brick wall. Wolfe's back on a hot streak, so he should be able to continue it here, but anything can happen in the MAC.
My Pick: Northern Illinois
Confidence: 2

12:00 PM

#23 Texas A&M (8-3) @ #7 Texas (9-2)
Texas has the #2 run defense in the country behind Michigan, so A&M's probably going to have to do it with the pass. Stephen McGee's been decent lately, but I don't know if decent can cut it here. Plus the Texas offense was just fine without McCoy, and with him, there could be trouble. A&M's a good team capable of pulling off the upset, but the Horns are just, you know, better.
My Pick: Texas
Confidence: 2

Kent State (6-5) @ Ball State (4-7)
Meh. Two pretty alright MAC teams. Kent's slightly better, Ball's at home and seems slightly hotter, so I'll go with the Cardinals.
My Pick: Ball State
Confidence: 1

Ohio (8-3) @ Miami of Ohio (2-9)
Ohio's the best team in the MAC. Now that I've said that, they'll probably lose, but Miami shouldn't even have beaten Bowling Green.
My Pick: Ohio
Confidence: 2

1:00 PM

Central Michigan (7-4) @ Buffalo (2-9)
Garrett Wolfe shredded the CMU offense, but yep, that'll happen. And he's not on Buffalo. And, you know, it's Buffalo.
My Pick: Central Michigan
Confidence: 3

2:30 PM

#6 LSU (9-2) @ #8 Arkansas (10-1)
#6 run defense in the country @ the #4 run offense! Because, come on, that's the matchup that matters. C'mon, let's rank the run defenses that Arkansas has played this year:

USC #13, Alabama #38, Mississippi State #40, Auburn #48, South Carolina #76, Tennessee #77, Louisiana-Monroe #89, Vanderbilt #90, Mississippi #93, Utah State #109

McFadden's lines from those top four:
USC: 9 car, 42 yds, 4.7 YPC
Bama: 25 car, 113 yds, 4.5 YPC
Miss St: 26 car, 84 yds, 3.2 YPC
Auburn: 28 car, 145 yds, 5.2 YPC

Hmmm. So Arkansas can definitely run on GOOD defenses, it just remains to be seen how they'll do against a great one. AND the Mississippi State game was the most recent. I still favor LSU's defense, and really just the team in general, but Arkansas could just as easily win.
My Pick: LSU
Confidence: 1

3:00 PM

Tulane (4-7) @ Tulsa (7-4)
Tulsa's slipping, but Tulane's an all-passing team when they can even get that done, and Tulsa has the #1 pass defense in C-USA. Uh oh!
My Pick: Tulsa
Confidence: 3

3:30 PM

Colorado (2-9) @ #21 Nebraska (8-3)
Nebraska should easily win. What else is there to say?
My Pick: Nebraska
Confidence: 3

Western Michigan (7-4) @ Akron (5-6)
Yep, these records are about accurate. Lots of MAC parity, so either team can win. The Broncos are better, but Akron's at home and staring bowl eligiblity in the face, so hey, why not.
My Pick: Akron
Confidence: 1

Oregon (7-4) @ Oregon State (7-4)
Two teams playing well, even if turnovers have led to some recent losses. Pretty much a crapshoot, so I'll go with the team I think has more talent.
My Pick: Oregon
Confidence: 1

7:00 PM

Air Force (4-6) @ UNLV (1-10)
UNLV's probably better than that 1-10 record, but Air Force is definitely better than 4-6. Air Force does the flexbone style, so it's mostly rushing, but more passing than, say a Navy. And UNLV doesn't have that great a run defense, and hey, if Air Force can throw for 300 against NATIONAL TITLE CONTENDER NOTRE DAME!, I think they can against the Rebels.
My Pick: Air Force
Confidence: 2

9:00 PM

Fresno State (3-7) @ Louisiana Tech (3-8)
Fresno's on a comparative roll, beating up on the cupcakes of the WAC. Hey, Louisiana Tech is one of those!
My Pick: Fresno State
Confidence: 2