Monday, December 31, 2007

BOWLNANZA 2007: New Year's Eve

Quick hits, since it's been a long weekend.


Air Force (9-3) vs. California (6-6)
Cal's been 7-5ish at best, but I still think they can pull this off - Air Force has been lucky with their defense, as they've given up about a touchdown less than their yardage would suggest, and they haven't faced offensive talent like Cal's.
My Pick: California
Confidence: 2


Fresno State (8-4) vs. Georgia Tech (7-5)
Fresno's had pretty much one impressive win - Kansas State, and even that, ehhh. Past that, it's...San Jose State? And the Bulldogs have gotten lucky to win some of those games against the dregs of the WAC. These not-really-very-good teams sometimes surprise in bowl games, but I'll trust in interim GT coach Jon Tenuta.
My Pick: Georgia Tech
Confidence: 3


#12 South Florida (9-3) vs. Oregon (8-4)
Without Dennis Dixon, nothing to see here. USF had that string of 3 losses, but they're still really good, people.
My Pick: South Florida
Confidence: 3


#18 Kentucky (7-5) vs. Florida State (7-5)
FSU can still field a team? As seen by that #18 ranking, I still find Kentucky to be a dangerous team, especially with Andre' Woodson, and especially here, against a team without one of its top cornerbacks. A likely win has become a mismatch.
My Pick: Kentucky
Confidence: 3


Indiana (7-5) vs. Oklahoma State (6-6)
Indiana's a pretty non-descript team all around, storyline of playing for their late coach aside, while Oklahoma State's all offense, no defense, with an absolutely horrible secondary. This could devolve into a fun shootout, and in pretty much any case, expect IU's Kellen Lewis to have a big day, likely en route to an emotional win.
My Pick: Indiana
Confidence: 2


#21 Clemson (9-3) vs. Auburn (8-4)
Two frustrating teams. Clemson's up to their usual boom-or-bust antics game by game, while Auburn was looking like a pretty good team until the wheels absolutely fell off against Georgia. This is a close one in that it likely depends on, in a 50/50 crapshoot, which team shows up, so I'll go with the one that's shown the most consistency over recent years.
My Pick: Auburn
Confidence: 1

Sunday, December 30, 2007

BOWLNANZA 2007: The Independence Bowl

Alabama (6-6) vs. Colorado (6-6)

It's 2 AM, and I have my limits. Both these teams are about 6-6 good, both have decent offenses (kinda), and Alabama has the much better defense. And the locational advantage. This will be boring, the Tide will likely win.

My Pick: Alabama
Confidence: 2

Friday, December 28, 2007

BOWLNANZA 2007: The Alamo Bowl

#25 Penn State (8-4) vs. Texas A&M (7-5)

This'll be quick. Penn State is good at everything, and could be an elite team if Anthony Morelli didn't often decide to be Anthony Morelli. Texas A&M was one of my sleeper teams coming into the year, but decided to eschew the excellent pass/run balance on offense that made them underrated last season for running the ball a lot for lots of yardage but little results, mostly thanks to an absolutely horrible secondary. So the million dollar question: Can Anthony Morelli blow it against one of the worst pass defenses in the nation? My answer: Probably, but the Penn State defense won't let him.

My Pick: Penn State
Confidence: 2

BOWLNANZA 2007: The Liberty Bowl

Central Florida (10-3) vs. Mississippi State (7-5)

UCF is the unquestioned best team in C-USA, tearing through the conference on the back of stud RB Kevin Smith, who's about to break the single-season rushing record - enjoy it while it lasts, before the surely disappointing senior season hits. As for outside of the conference, who knows. They beat NC State and played Texas close in games that went, statistically, slightly worse than their scores, but turned around and got absolutely annihilated by South Florida. Luckily, Mississippi State seems to fall more in the NC State category among those teams - the Bulldogs had 4 close and/or slightly fluky SEC wins against Auburn, Kentucky, Alabama, and Ole Miss, and beat the out of conference juggernauts of Tulane, Gardner-Webb, and UAB (and even UAB was close.) On the plus side, their run defense is not horrible and they DID hold Darren McFadden to only 88 yards, and Kentucky may be better than UCF, so the Bulldogs could in fact luck into a win. But I wouldn't count on it.

My Pick: Central Florida
Confidence: 3

BOWLNANZA 2007: The Meineke Car Care Bowl

Connecticut (9-3) vs. Wake Forest (8-4)

WELCOME TO YOUR FUTURE, UCONN. This year's team that has a good season despite all statistical evidence otherwise meets last year's. UConn's not horrible or anything - they're much better than Syracuse - but in the Big East, they're probably the 6th best team in the conference max, maaaaaybe 5th, and I can't definitively put them ahead of everyone except the aforementioned Cuse. As for Wake, they're actually pretty nondescript - every game was close statistically or scorewise, save being completely destroyed by Clemson - they could always win, they could always lose. Statistically, despite being a lower-tier Big East team, UConn actually holds the edge in every yardage category except for run defense, where Wake is an excellent team - this is both a condemnation of the ACC and something that makes the game interesting, since Tyler Lorenzen is very much not a quarterback that can win a game by himself. I went into this thinking I'd pick Wake, thanks to UConn having such a fluke year and the homefield advantage (the game's in Charlotte), but Wake's no great shakes either and UConn actually holds most of the statistical edges. Based on both team's seasons, it'll almost assuredly be a close game, but I'll go with the statistically better team, and hey, a slight bit of bias doesn't hurt.

My Pick: Connecticut
Confidence: 1

Thursday, December 27, 2007

BOWLNANZA 2007: The Emerald Bowl

Maryland (6-6) vs. Oregon State (8-4)

I'm sure there's intrigue here. Oregon State has the #2 rush defense in the country, and Maryland has some pretty good running backs. There's some, I suppose. This really is a horribly boring game - Maryland has a slight edge in pass defense, but other than that, OSU has the slight edge in everything else, and neither team is all that terribly impressive at anything, except for that aforementioned #2 rush defense. And it's not like either of these teams played all that out of whack compared to its record. This may not be that bad of a game, actually - they're capable of playing pretty close, hopefully in a game of the high-scoring variety, but it's dreadfully devoid of any drama or storyline. Oregon State's the slightly better team, so I'll give them the nod.

My Pick: Oregon State
Confidence: 2

BOWLNANZA 2007: The Texas Bowl

Houston (8-4) vs. TCU (7-5)

Houston's been one of the more underrated teams in the country - outside of a completely shocking annihilation at the hands of Tulsa, the Cougars have held a statistical edge in all of their games, including losses to Oregon and Alabama. On the other side of the coin, TCU's been horribly disappointing - they've been a fine Mountain West team, but for a supposed potential BCS buster, their only impressive game was a complete shutdown of New Mexico two-thirds of the way through the season. Houston has one of the top offenses in the nation, and a balanced one at that, so there's some interest in seeing how they do against a TCU defense that's #16 in scoring and #17 in yardage. But for such high rankings, the Horned Frog D hasn't been all that impressive of late - they gave up 441 yards to San Diego State in the season finale, and 417 to an admittedly much better BYU team. The potential for a TCU win is definitely there - they've underachieved all year based on their talent, and the loss of coach Art Briles may affect Houston - but based on how they've played the last 12 games, this should be a Houston win, and perhaps an easy one at that.

My Pick: Houston
Confidence: 2

BOWLNANZA 2007: The Champs Sports Bowl

#23 Boston College (10-3) vs. Michigan State (7-5)

What looks like a mismatch may in fact be a neat little game. As I've said many times, BC was their usual 8 or so win-level team, but the ACC was bad enough this year that that got them 10 wins. And MSU's a better team than their record - all of their losses were by a touchdown or less (although they were EXTREMELY lucky to keep it that close against Ohio State), and 2 of them were in overtime. And there are some neat variables that have yet to play themselves out - Michigan State's two-headed running back monster, Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick, will be facing the nation's #1 run defense, but a vulnerable BC secondary is there for the Spartans to take advantage of - but will they? And that's really the main question, since Matt Ryan should be able to do well against a Michigan State secondary that, while solid, should be able to slow, not stop him. Still, I'll call for a Spartans upset - MSU's due to win a close game, aren't they?, plus they're the team that probably wants to be here.

My Pick: Michigan State
Confidence: 1

BOWLNANZA 2007: The Holiday Bowl

#11 Arizona State (10-2) vs. #17 Texas (9-3)

Quite an intriguing little matchup, even if neither team is all that impressive - Arizona State is an 8-4 level team that caught a few breaks, while Texas has much higher standards as of late, and still has that horrible pass defense. And really, that's the crux of the matchup between the two teams. Texas is probably the better overall team, but the way the teams match up favors Arizona State to the extreme. Both teams have great quarterbacks, but Texas's pass defense is the MUCH worse of the two, and Texas's late-game hero, Jamaal Charles, will be facing a rush defense that finished just outside the top ten. I'll give the Sun Devils the nod here, if only because of the severe favoritism the statistics have for them, but I won't call for it to be much more than a squeaker of a win.

My Pick: Arizona State
Confidence: 1

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

BOWLNANZA 2007: The Motor City Bowl

Central Michigan (8-5) vs. Purdue (7-5)

The second rematch bowl of the year, which is quite odd. Central Michigan's been a very disappointing team (although Western was the most disappointing directional Michigan this season) - while the Chippewas somehow won the MAC, they did so in much less than impressive fashion, and have gotten absolutely smoked outside of the conference. Clemson laid an amazing 70-14 beatdown upon them, and they've lost by 30 or more against Kansas and, yes, the immortal North Dakota State. Oh, and they also got blown out by this Purdue team. And really, while ECU beating Boise shows anything can happen, I don't expect much else than an encore. Purdue's not a great team by any shakes, but they can put up a whole bunch of yardage and points against a suspect defense, and CMU's may be the most suspect of any bowl team, especially those outside of Oklahoma (OK State and Tulsa's are also very bad.) CMU actually has gained more yardage per game, so this may not be a blowout, but expect a shootout, and expect Purdue to win by, say, 10 to 14 points.

My Pick: Purdue
Confidence: 3

Sunday, December 23, 2007

BOWLNANZA 2007: The Hawaii Bowl

Boise State (10-2) vs. East Carolina (7-5)

Boise State hasn't dropped off much from last year - they've been a clear powerhouse in the WAC, Hawaii game aside, and their absolute destruction of New Mexico State remains one of the more impressive performances of the year. I have no problem with ECU, and Chris Johnson is one of the three C-USA backs that consistently put up insane single-game lines, but they're a mediocre team that's honestly lucky to be here - my metrics have them as about a 4 or 5 win team. On the other hand, that shows that they can win even when they probably shouldn't, and if Boise has trouble getting going, either via commute or bad flashbacks to their last game at Aloha Stadium - the Pirates could easily pull off the upset. Or Ian Johnson could run for 5 touchdowns and make this painful to watch.

My Pick: Boise State
Confidence: 3

Friday, December 21, 2007

BOWLNANZA: The Saturday Bowls

Sorry, but I'm overworked, exhausted, and sick with something, so I'm just going to bang these out quick and hope I'm better tomorrow. Not that tomorrow's matchups are all that deserving of much attention:

Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Southern Miss (7-5)
USM pretty much played to their record, while Cincy is probably closer to 7-5ish - that offense is excellent, but their defense has been only decent yardage-wise while elite scoring-wise. So there should be some regression to the mean there. Cincy could easily win this in a blowout, but I'll call for the Golden Eagles to upset a slightly overrated team and sending out coach Jeff Bower in style.
My Pick: Southern Miss
Confidence (out of 5): 1

Nevada (6-6) vs. New Mexico (8-4)
Despite the homefield advantage, I think Nevada could win this one and make it ugly. The records should probably be reversed, as Nevada has an excellent offense and a defense that gave up more points than it statistically should've - plus UNM has a lethargic offense that will only be worse without RB Rodney Ferguson.
My Pick: Nevada
Confidence: 3

#20 BYU (10-2) vs. UCLA (6-6)
It's actually kind of a shame that BYU, after an excellent year, will have their bowl wasted on a team that may have only been 6-6 in the MWC themselves. Yawn.
My Pick: BYU
Confidence: 4

Thursday, December 20, 2007

BOWLNANZA 2007: The New Orleans Bowl

Florida Atlantic (7-5) vs. Memphis (7-5)

Florida Atlantic's the surprise champion of the Sun Belt conference, earning their way here by beating Troy, who had dominated the league all year. The Owls are a bit of a conundrum - they have the upset win over Minnesota, which, even though it's Minnesota, is a Sun Belt team beating a BCS conference team, and FAU hung in there against South Florida in the middle of the season. But when you look at their conference games, outside of their season-opening win against Middle Tennessee State, all their wins weren't really that impressive. On the year statistically, there's not much inspiring there - the offense is pretty good, the defense is below-average. And hey, Miami architect (of the Hurricanes program, not an actual architect) Howard Schnellenberger is their coach - that's neat.

Memphis is even less inspiring. The Tigers actually have a top 25 offense, but a very poor defense, and that 7-5 record about says it all. They're a slightly above-average Conference USA team, better than the UABs, SMUs, and Marshalls of the conference, if not appreciably so most of the time. Martin Hankins is a solid quarterback, completing about 61% for 2939 yards on the year. Exciting stuff.

Troy winning the Sun Belt might've made this game more interesting, although the Trojans would likely project out to be a demonstratably better team than Memphis. As it is, I'm kind of down on FAU - a Sun Belt team really needs to be appreciably better than the rest of the conference, and the Owls aren't that. This could be a fun little shootout, but bank on Memphis being the one to put up more points.

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

BOWLNANZA 2007: The Poinsettia Bowl

Navy (8-4) vs. Utah (8-4)

Navy is what they always are - #1 in rushing offense, this year by over 50 yards per game, and somewhat suspect thanks to a weak schedule and a somewhat non-existent defense. They've been solid, but haven't really had a dominating win - they put up 74 on North Texas, but gave up 62 in the process, the Army game was much more close statistically than the 38-3 final score, and hell, they lost to Delaware. There's also the question of if the loss of coach Paul Johnson to Georgia Tech will affect the team, but the immediate promotion of top assistant Ken Niumatalolo to the head spot should mitigate that somewhat, if not completely.

Utah's a confusing team. I thought of them pretty highly in the preseason, but they looked like one of the worst teams in the nation out of the gate, doing nothing against Oregon State, then looking bad against Air Force, although losing to the Falcons looked much worse then than now. They then proceeded to absolutely stomp UCLA, looking like they'd turned the corner, only to get shut out by UNLV. And then they went on a tear, winning their next seven games before losing to MWC champion BYU. But the thing is, very few of those wins were overly impressive, outside of shellacking of a Wyoming team that had already rolled over and died by that point in the season.

Ehhhh, Navy has a shot. Utah's probably not as impressive as that 8-4 record, and the Utes aren't very good on offense. Of course, to not be good on offense and have an 8-4 record, Utah logically has a top-tier defense statistically, and are very good against the run. Really, as with most Navy bowl games, it comes down to if the Midshipmen have the athletes to hang. And, as flawed as Utah is, I'm not so sure that they do.

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

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The TFFE Top 25: After Regular Season

#1 Ohio State (#2 LW)
#2 USC (#5)
#3 LSU (#4)
#4 Oklahoma (#9)
#5 Missouri (#3)
#6 Georgia (#7)
#7 Florida (#8)
#8 Virginia Tech (#6)
#9 Kansas (#11)
#10 West Virginia (#1)
#11 Arizona State (#10)
#12 South Florida (#12)
#13 Hawaii (#16)
#14 Wisconsin (#13)
#15 Illinois (#14)
#16 Virginia (#15)
#17 Texas (#17)
#18 Kentucky (#18)
#19 Michigan (#19)
#20 BYU (#20)
#21 Clemson (#21)
#22 Tennessee (#25)
#23 Boston College (#22)
#24 Arkansas (#23)
#25 Penn State (#24)

Week 14 Recap

Pittsburgh 13, #1 West Virginia 9
Wow. The Pitt upset doesn't surprise me too much, since the Panthers were somewhat underrated, this is a rivalry game, and this is the 2007 football season. But still. Pitt winning a shootout I might've seen. Pitt slowing down the WVU offense a bit en route to putting up 28 or so points and ekeing out a win I definitely could've seen. But, Pat White injury or not, the PITTSBURGH PANTHERS being the team to not only stop the West Virginia offense, but hold it to only 183 yards? Inexplicable. Three turnovers, no Pat White, no excuse. This is a team that should always gain yardage by the bushel, and things weren't much better on the defensive side of things. Pitt QB Pat Bostick was awful, but that only serves to even MORESO ask why West Virginia wasn't able to contain LaSean McCoy - Pitt had no passing game, and West Virginia has had an excellent run defense all year. Again, Pitt was an underrated team, but with the way this game played out, this is nothing more than a season-, era-, and perhaps program-defining choke job.
Pittsburgh: STOCK STEADY
West Virginia: STOCK DOWN

#9 Oklahoma 38, #3 Missouri 17
Meh. Not as one-sided as the score would suggest, but Missouri just got nothing going. Oklahoma didn't bring their complete "A" game, but they did enough against a Missouri team that, again, didn't do much. Chase Daniel's 23/39, 219 yard, INT day was fine, but that's about all. And that's really the outline of the game - neither team brought their top game, Missouri was fine, OU was better than fine.

#4 LSU 21, #25 Tennessee 14
Somewhat of a win/win game. LSU looked good - Jacob Hester ran for 120 yards, and the Tigers had 464 yards of total offense, plus they held Erik Ainge to 50% passing. And the Vols offense acquitted themselves well - while the Tigers D hasn't looked like the world-beating unit from the beginning of the year for quite some time, it's still very good, and Tennessee was able to move the ball. Really nothing that shouts out for any exceptional new insight.

#5 USC 24, UCLA 7
A completely one-sided beatdown. UCLA tends to do that, so there's almost no point in trying to gain insight from this. UCLA is bad, USC might have been the best team in the nation the last couple of weeks.

#6 Virginia Tech 30, #22 Boston College 16
Funnily enough, this was probably VT's worst game in recent weeks. Sean Glennon was efficient (18/27, 174, 3/1), but Tech wasn't able to get too much going on the ground. And while Matt Ryan had a pretty good completion rate and yardage, his 2 picks were killers. Everything was backwards day! So, yes - VT is rightfully the ACC champion (even if they may not be the national title-level team they're perceived as), and BC is rightfully pretty good, no more, no less.
Virginia Tech: STOCK DOWN
Boston College: STOCK STEADY

#10 Arizona State 20, Arizona 17
It's a shame Arizona didn't catch a break this year, as they're an underrated team who deserved a bowl. This was a mostly pass-oriented game, as neither team got much going on the ground. ASU's not especially cooling off or especially overrated - the score's more of a result of, again, Arizona being underrated.
Arizona State: STOCK STEADY

#16 Hawaii 35, Washington 28
Colt Brennan had a vintage 2006 game - 42/50, 442, 5 TD - and his team needed it since Washington was very game. They just keep doing this, don't they?
Washington: STOCK UP

#20 BYU 48, San Diego State 27
SDSU's a fairly competitive team, and this was about the outclassing you'd expect. Pretty much nothing new in terms of insight to add - BYU's offense is very good, and the defense was fine if nothing too far in either direction.
San Diego State: STOCK STEADY

Central Florida 44, Tulsa 25
Kevin Smith: 39 carries, 284 yards, 4 TD. And one of the quietest excellent seasons ever, as he's 19 yards away from the single-season yardage record. If he can make it through his senior season next year after all the carries he's had as a junior (another NCAA record), that'll be a fun ride. He's very good!
Central Florida: STOCK UP

Florida International 38, North Texas 19
Florida International: STOCK UP

Oregon State 38, Oregon 31 (2 OT)
Without Dennis Dixon, Oregon has now improved to completely mediocre.
Oregon State: STOCK STEADY
Oregon: STOCK UP