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.