at least it's not just us?
Sitting alone, in a dark corner of The Knickerbocker, sat West Layfayette's saddest man. He drained the remaining ounces of his Pabst, and less than gently set it back down, and slid it into the pile of his other empties.
"Fuck this place," he muttered, drawing breath through clenched teeth.
He knew his dream was done. Four years prior, he was hearing stories of how he would be the next Bob Greise, the next Mike Phipps. He spent his high school nights dreaming of glory, of winning...
Now, in 1973, that had all faded. The end was nigh. It just wasn't fair. He knew he deserved greatness, but why didn't it happen? No bowls, no championship, not even a winning season. He slumped a little further down into his chair. It all started down hill when his hero, his role model, got beaten out by some quarterback from Florida.
As the waitress swung past the table, Gary made eye contact with her, and motioned for another beer.
He continued to rack his brain. Who's fault was it? It couldn't have been his. DeMoss's perhaps? That would make sense, he supposed. He shook his head. That shouldn't have mattered, he thought. He was following behind two men who almost won the Heisman, he, of course, should've done the same... should've been just as good.
And then that word struck him: 'Almost.' They weren't good enough either! He suddenly knew why: The reason for his complete failure to even throw a third as many touchdowns as interceptions, the reason why that 'Spurrier' kid beat out Greise for the Heisman... It was all Purdue's, no, not even that, it was all the BigTen's fault!
How could he have missed this until now? He was set up for failure by the system. He could never beat someone from the South. No, he would never be good enough, no one from the BigTen could be, not if HE couldn't. Then and there, he finally understood. Those guys in the south. Those SEC teams, and especially those Florida quarterbacks, they will always be the best.
For the rest of the night, Gary sat back in his chair thinking of all the bad things that had happened in his life, using his new enlightenment to finally understand them:
"Of course my father beat me... he knew I would never be good enough to play for an SEC school."
"So that's why I got gonorrhea from that toilet seat."
As he became comfortable with his new world view, he took out his pocket knife, and etched into the table a heart, and inside he scratched:
Now, 35 years later, if you were to go back to that same West Layfayette bar, you can go look around and find that same table. The heart has faded, but initials remain. That same spot, is where a man's inferiority complex blossomed into a life long relationship felicitating the SEC. Ahhh, true love does exist children, and that God Damn South Eastern Conference knows it.
Is it 2010 yet? Perhaps I can get a mulligan, at least, on starting this new year?
I had a great bowl season going until the last 48 hours came in like a plague of locusts and infected my entire profit margin.
Trutfully, I cant blame a new year's haze, locusts or, sadly, being distracted by the ending of a Michigan game leading me to confused, head scratching decisions. Seriously, I think that's how I ended up taking Piit in the 2004 Fiesta Bowl against Urban's Meyer monster Utah team. The furious closing moments of the Texas-UM Rose Bowl that day are fuzzy at best, amid a fog a Vodka drinks, reefer and, of course, a typically gut wrenching Michigan fourth quarter. Somehow I picked up the phone and uttered the phrase, 'gimme the Panthers.' Ah, sweet memories.
Nope. I cant even blame it on a similar situaiton. The last 48 hours have been on me and my reckless strategy. Up on the house, you should reduce your bets in size and quantity. I did neither, and the House, like Charlie Wies at a Chinese Buffet, gobbled up darn near all the cash.
The fact is I got hoodwinked in the number of games on the slate. Even during the year, I do so well on those midweek games, while running in place when the board is full on a typical Saturday. When I can focus on a singular game, I do fine. When the board has multiple games and endings are crossing over with beginnings, I become a spastic, sugar-addicted kid in a candy store. Sound reason gives way to emotional, from-the-heart picks. How else can you explain backing obvious overmatched teams from the Big 10 in recent days? Or, forgetting my seven-year-old rule about betting against USC, especially in big game? Or fading a Virginia Tech program that has done nothing but win me cash since I began this hobby? Or forgetting my own golden rule--that being, after taking dogs for a full week of bowls, always hop on the big favorites, come New Year's Day--about betting bowl season?
I have been winning all my big bets. That tells me my overall analysis is sound. However, I've been unable to resist the tempation and have frittered most of it away. Like I said, reckless I am. My resolutions for the new year ought to be moderation, dont bet any more totals (seriously, I wish they would just stop posting these. Between Big 10 Picks and Bowl Chronicles, I think I've won maybe two of these all season) and learn to hate the Big 10. That last one will come in handy, I am sure, in non league showdowns. We'll see if any of those take form.
Sigh. A gambler's money, indeed, knows no home.
I guess I could toss some blame onto my girlfriend. She's gone through tomorrow on a family vacation, but we did catch up a bit on the phone yesterday morning. She does a great job of helping me cut through the emotion of college football when it comes to making selections.
Yesterday, when we talked, she asked about the games, who was playing and, of course, what the spreads were. She laughed at the prospect of MSU having to play Georgia. As for the Rose Bowl? If Michigan's greatest teams cant touch USC in Rose Bowls (she was recalling the fun I dragged her family through while watching the 2007 Grandadday), how will Penn St? Interesting takes. And, right all the way.
I'd like to think that had she been around yesterday, she would have needled me so much about my Big 10 bias. I would have been convinced to go the other way in those contests, or ignore them all together. In the moments up to the Rose Bowl kick, she would have dialed the phone for me to get off of PSU and buy into some of that USC action. So, yeah, its clearly her fault for not being around.
(And, for those of you who feel its not wise to lean on someone who cant even name a person on Michigan's roster, even though she goes to half the home games, trust me, this is smart on many levels. She's basically a casul fan, but what she does pay attention to is the spreads, mostly because she's a good woman who is into her significant others, uh, hobbies. In a related note, I like cross country skiing. She has helped me cut through the fat of all the information I have and find a winning investment on several occassions. Do I get pissed if I follow her quirky guesses on a game? Hardly. After all, there is nothing quite as steamy as "sorry, I lost you a bet and money" sex. It's like fat girl sex. They just try a little bit harder than the rest.)
Phew! Now that I've found a way to blame someone else for my losses and addiction, i feel like I am a true gambler again. You know what else would make me feel like a true gambler, I mean, besides pointing fingers at my enablers? Wagering on today's bowl tripleheader, that's what. Besides, I am still up almost two units and still playing with house money. Without further adieu:
Cotton Bowl, Dallas, 2pm
Ole Miss vs Texas Tech. Lines, Tech -5, O/U 66
The famed Cotton Bowl. My worst Cotton Bowl memory? New Year's Day, 1987. As Ohio State put the finishing touches on Texas A/M, the announcers trumpeted the victory by saying the Bucks were the first school to win all of the major bowls. In my mind, it was a shady accomplishment at best because most schools at the time had no chance to play in the Rose Bowl. And, Michigan had never been to the Cotton Bowl, so who cares? Oh, but the Bucknuts I was with that day kept celebrating the fact and when UM dropped the Rose Bowl to ASU (A John Copper-led squad, ironically), they became insufferable. In the final Coach's Poll, OSU was actually one place ahead of UM, despite the Wolverines beating them in Columbus 26-24. Those aforementioned jokers taped several copies off the poll onto my locker. Such is the topsy-turvy world of this backyard rivalry. Here's hopnig 2009 brings a big dose of topsy-turvy to this series.
Anyway, on to today's Cotton Bowl. I'm grabbing the points with the Rebels. This is an underrated program and may be primed for bigger and better things next season. I love this team in both trenches. Ed Ogeron recruited well and left the Rebels surprisingly strong with NFL prospects on both defensive and offensive lines. In their upset of Florida and near miss against Bama, the Rebels owned the lines of scrimmage. This will catch Tech off guard today.
Ole Miss traditionally is a solid underdog bet, logging a 30-20 ATS mark in its last 50 when catching points. This number has been trending upward in recent seasons, covering 13 of its last 20 and seven in a row as a pup, the last six on the road. The Rebels covered all four games this year when catching points (Wake, Florida, Alabama and LSU), including a pair of outright upsets. They are also 8-2 ATS vs teams with a winning record.
Meanwhile, the Raiders have struggled to a 2-6 ATS mark as bowl favorites and are just 4-9 ATS as favorites from 3.5 to 10 points. They've always been a dicey play away from Lubbock.
Can Ole Miss keep up with Tech? Why not. They've moved for more than 350 total yards in 11 games this season and are 38th in the country in total offense. And they're ranked 14th in both total defense and scoring defense. They might not have to keep up as much as you think in this one. Its safe to say Ole Miss will outrush Tech, making the one good piece of advice I passed on yesterday in play: Bowl teams who outrush their foes covers the spread at a 79% clip.
The Pick: Ole Miss +5, 1 Unit......another tipping point in this game. Consider half the roster from Tech is returning home to the Dallas area. How many of them have broke curfew this week to hang with their boys during various New Year festivities. I'll take the Over on that one. This feels like a pleasure trip for the Red Raiders and business trip for the Rebels.
Liberty Bowl, Memphis, 5pm
ECU vs Kentucky. Lines, ECU -3, O/U 44
Last year in the Liberty Bowl the team from mighty SEC, in this case Mississippi St, took down the plucky CUSA Champ, Central Florida, in a bone crunching 10-3 final. Back when I used to play totals (see, this resolution thing is going well so far), it was the easiest Under bet I had ever won.
I think the opposite is going to happen in this one. No, not a shootout, per se, but I think the mid major is coming out of this contest with at least the win.
I like how the Pirate program has performed under Skip Holtz when the spotlight is on. Whether its taking on high end programs from BCS leagues (VT and WVA in September), playing a league title as significant underdog (Tulsa, last month) or going up against a allegeldy superior bowl team (Boise St, last year), East Carolina has always been up to the task. Did they struggle a bit this year with the bullseye on their back? Yes, but mid majors always do that, but the good ones find a way to rebound and close strong. That is exactly what ECU is doing.
I'll take the QB Pickney is this one. I dont trust the UK offense. I'll take Skip Holz over Rich Brooks anyday.
ECU comes in hot, having won 6 of their last seven, including a great performance in winning their league title game against Tulsa. In this stretch, they've allowed less than 17 points. Pickney, the offense and the playcalling of Holtz can clear that scoring bard with no problem.
The Cats are not hot. They've only won twice since September, both single point wins over non-bowl teams. Yes, the SEC slate did get harder as the year wore on, but this team seemed to get worse as well. UK may be the biggest bowl fraud this side of Hawaii or Minnesota. They went 0-5 against fellow bowlers this year.
They may not cover, but I expect ECU to notch the win. I will play them on the moneyline.
The Pick: ECU moneyline, -145, 1 Unit......Under Holz, the Pirates are 23-8 ATS as a dog or favored by 5 or less points.
I'm working on the Sugar Bowl while watching the start of the Libery Bowl. So, if you want to see who to fade, check back a bit later.
During the conclusion and aftermath of USC's domination of Penn State I, like most people across the country, was truly upset that we don't have a playoff in college football. But my anger was not over the fact that USC once against destroyed the Big Ten starting the annual talk about how they are playing the best football in the country and deserve to be playing for the title. I was upset when I heard that the Pac 10 has won the last 6 Rose Bowls (the Big 10's last win was in '98 when Wisconsin beat Standford).
It really got me thinking about how unfair the placement of some of these games are. I understand the games are played in December and January taking advantage of the warm weather states, but is it really fair that USC gets to play 11 miles from their home stadium every year while Penn State and Michigan have to travel across the country? Or is it fair that Wisconsin has to play Florida State in Florida this year and Michigan had to play Florida in Florida last year?
The biggest reason I want a playoff systems is to literally even the playing field. I don't care how many teams you select or which final bowl games you use, I just want the first round of games to played at the home stadium of the lower seed. The current system in place gives teams from the Southeast and West clear home field advantage every year. How are you rewarding a great Penn State team by making them basically play at USC for their Bowl game. I bet if the game yesterday was played at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh the outcome would have been a little different. Imagine if Michigan got to play at Ford Field every year or Wisconsin at Lambeau, how many more victories would the Big 10 have? I bet we would somehow be a little "faster" in those games.
We need a playoff system to reward teams for doing well not punishing them. One of the biggest arguments against a playoff system is that we would lose the "every game matters" attitude. Well using a playoff system with home games eliminates that. Every game would matter because you would be playing for home field advantage. That is what makes the NFL great...Imagine if every year the Packers or Bears had to play their playoff games in Florida or California. What would the NFL be without the Frozen Tundra or the Ice Bowl?
The bottomline is I am sick of everyone beating the Big 10 up and worshiping USC and others after the bowl season. If your teams are so good then come to Ann Arbor Jan 1st and beat the Wolverines. Let see that so called "speed" when its 20 degrees and you are playing in a stadium only 1/3 full of your fans. Let's truly even the playing field so that at the end of the day the best team is crowned champion.
If so inclined, see A Big10 Bowl Analysis for added context.
Pac Ten #1 vs Big Ten #1
USC crooshes PSU
Pac-10 No. 2 OREGON vs. Big 12 No. 4 OKSt
Oregon crooshes Okie St.
Pac-10 No. 3 OreSt vs. Big East Pitt
OreSt beats Pitt 3-0 in 9 innings.
Pac-10 No. 4 CAL vs. ACC No. 7 Miami (YTM)
Cal beats Miami (YTM)
Pac-10 No. 5 ZONA vs. Mountain West No. 2 (but finished 3rd?) BYU
Zona beats BYU
*Sun Bowl Selected the #2 team in the Big East, Pitt:
If the Gator Bowl selects a Big 12 Conference school, the Brut Sun Bowl has the second pick from the Big East Conference.
** MWC Champ Utah received a BCS bid and it appears as if the Sun Bowl selected the 3rd place team in lieu of TCU:
Unless an MWC team qualifies for a BCS bowl game, the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl has the first selection of MWC teams, followed by the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettita Bowl with the second selection. The Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl and New Mexico Bowls have the third and fourth selections, respectively, but in no particular order.
^ 2008 Big 12 bowls, in order: BCS, BCS, Cotton, Holiday, Gator, Alamo, Insight, etc.
Again this season, the Big 12 has eight bowl slots guaranteed. The Conference is partnered with nine bowls. However the arrangement with the Gator Bowl is for it to select a Big 12 team twice over a four-year period. In the two years in which the Gator does not select a Big 12 team, the Sun Bowl will.
Following is the selection order:
BCS [ x2, -ed.]
• USC is better than PSU. Not shocking, but obviously a great win for the Pac10.
• The 2nd best team in the Pac10 is better than the 4th place team in the B12. Not shocking.
• In a good win for the Pac10, their 3rd place team beats the Big East runner up. Of course, this is the Big East and, as such, should be considered a mid-major football conference.
• The 4th place Pac10 representative beats the 7th place ACC team. Again, not shocking.
• Finally, the 3rd best team in a mid-major conference is beaten by the 5th best Pac10 team. At this point, I'd like to ask the Pac10 if they want a medal for this amazing accomplishment.
The Pac10 bowl affiliations are a joke. They always have been for as long as I can remember. In years where the Pac10 only has one BCS representative (USC), the effects of this become magnified because 2-3 of their match-ups turn out to be against the n+1th best team (see the Holiday Bowl where the Big12 sent their 4th best team due to OU and Tex going to the BCS, and the Vegas Bowl where their champ, Utah, unexpectedly received a BCS berth (andand the unexplained selection of 3rd place BYU over 2nd place TCU)). The simple fact is, the Pac10 plays down in their bowl match-ups. Go back to look for the Pac10 record in bowl games. They are almost always 5-1 or 4-2 or 5-0. But look at who they placed in those games.
In contrast, the Big10 has always 'played up' in their bowl affiliations. Of course, when the B10 sends 2 teams to the BCS (as happens most years) they send the n+1th best team. This effect has been mitigated since the addition of a 5th BCS game, because more conferences get the 'sent the n+1th best team' -effect. Thus the relatively even bowl match-ups for the Big10 in the earlier diary entry.
This doesn't say that the Big10 is the best conference, of course. What is does say is that, based on bowl game performance, the Pac10 is not too great and the Big10 is not too far off from the SEC r the Pac10. Not to mention the unquantifiable effects traveling has on B10 teams with which the SEC and Pac10 generally do not have to deal. And that the Pac10 only had 5 bowl eligible teams. The reputation of the Pac10 is always over inflated for 2 reasons: USC and their bowl record.
Look, USC is great. They are the only team that recruits as well as I used to in NCAA0X for Xbox. They probably have more talent than any 2 other teams in the nation, combined. But the Pac10's strength should not be a reason for USC to get 1st place votes. The Pac10 certainly isn't a stronger conference than the Big12 or the SEC. Or perhaps even the ACC who sent an NCAA record 10 teams to bowls.
There are many Michigan fans who may believe that our Wolverines are at the bottom looking up. In fact, this bowl season gives evidence yet again that Michigan is now making the fundamental changes that leads back to national relevance for our team and our conference.
Living in Buckeye country as I do, I have observed that the hatred of RR is disproportionate to the apparent threat. In other words, if RR were as pathetic as this 3-9 season suggested (and as they argue), then why the frantic need to still tear him down at such a guttural level? Wouldn’t you think that, a la John Cooper, OSU fans would be placid about RR, encouraging all manner of good cheer for our new coach?
No, these Buckeye fans understand at a subconscious level that Michigan is in a better place than they are (and the rest of the Big 10). It is very much like Michigan is the first drunk on the wagon. Those first sober months are brutal. The other heavy drinking buddies are laughing and looking on our shaking hands and pallid complexion and telling each other that we are done, no longer functional. Then they stagger into their low-paying jobs and watch their sober competitors blow by them on the career path. Some, like OSU, are functional drunks who hold down a high-level management job, but to everyone in the know, the never really will be executive material.
Later, at the pub, all these lowlifes rationalize away why they are yet again passed over for promotions, for relevance. In their inner being, they know that their former barstool companion they passed looking haggard in his cubicle but working hard nonetheless is doing something they should be doing, but they can’t conceive of actually doing it.
High-level, nationally powerful football is what RR is working on: a blend of speed, aggression and power. Attacking offense, freak power/speed defense, relentless domination. Tressel will never get where RR is going. Paterno and his successor will never get there. Dantonio will never get there. Zook has potential, but Illinois is still Illinois. These guys are fossils that occasionally can scare the more fleet-footed and intelligent mammals, but only rarely. RR will one day be where USC is, where Florida and the SEC power are, where the Oklahoma is. OSU, PSU, MSU, even ND will not.
So take heart. This season’s bowls are the reason why 3-9 was necessary.
The past few days, we’ve all gotten a glimpse of how good this recruiting class really is, and they haven’t even gotten to play the games yet. Michigan has representation at both the Army All American game and the ESPN Under Armour game as well. I’ve been a little discouraged lately with rumors and talk of negative recruiting, and the media repeatedly asking commits about decommitting. The positive attention Michigan and their recruits have gotten is a breath of fresh air, and something we didn’t get to see a lot of this past season. At the Army All American game, Justin Turner has turned heads with how well he’s covered some of the top receivers. Jeremy Gallon has shown why he was chosen as an All American in the first place. Anthony LaLota has only been playing football for two years, and said that this experience has already given him confidence knowing he can hang with the best. Craig Roh has shown his athleticism in the few days he’s practiced with the Under Armour teams.
The latest commit, Taylor Lewan, is finally getting a chance to show the nation what all the talk is about. Taylor’s father Dave shared some of the highlights from the Under Armour practice so far. “I’ve read some good things about Taylor so far, and I think he’s doing a good job of showing off his footwork and athleticism.” In practice, Taylor has been going up against Sam Montgomery, one of the top defensive end recruits, and has proven he belongs at this game. “It’s been fun for Taylor, because him and Craig are solid on Michigan, and they’re comfortable with who they are, so they get a chance to just meet some new people, catch up with kids they’ve met at camps, and really test themselves against the best kids in the country,” said Dave.
The fact that Michigan has such a high number of commits at these games bodes well for a couple of reasons. It helps dispel some of the negatives that this past season brought, it gives everyone a chance to see what “Rich Rodriguez’s guys” actually look like, but it also shows the future recruits that Michigan football hasn’t gone anywhere. There will always be negative recruiting that goes on, but if we can continue to pull in high caliber, and character guys we won’t have to worry about a thing.
Below is the list of commits that will be playing in the All American games
Army All American
ESPN Under Armour