here's one vote for "John Beilein's head in a Futurama jar"
UPDATE: I played with formatting. DEAR LORD DOES IT LOOK BETTER. It'll be formatted like this forever now. Also, we beat Florida Gulf Coast. It's fine to be a Michigan Wolverine I guess.
To summarize this entire post: No change in hockey, GLI THIS WEEKEND! Basketball is #24 in the media and got totally screwed by incompetent coaches. I predict no changes next week, because no one really plays this week. Of course, if you want to read the post, I worked very hard on it.
Alright, forgot to update last night, so, a quick weekend wrap-up before we get to the new rankings.
#10 Colorado College ties Sacred Heart on Friday, Kills them on Saturday. No rankings change there, Michigan goes into this weekend’s GLI #11.
Michigan should win the Great Lakes Invitational. We should. This doesn’t mean we will. It’s at the Joe, Saturday (Tickets still available and cheap! I’ll be there!). The first round, we play a 4-14-2 Michigan Tech, while the other game is a struggling Spartan squad vs. the just-above-.500 North Dakota fighting Souix. (I’m not entirely sure what order they come in. USCHO.com says one thing, the Michigan hockey schedule says another.) Winner of our game plays winner of theirs on Sunday, I expect a Michigan v. North Dakota final, which would be the two losers of last years’ Frozen Four. We win, we keep our NCAA tourney chances very alive, and, every time you go to the Joe (at least until the CCHA tournament), both college hockey banners will say Michigan. If we’re in the Finals, you can catch it on FSN. If we’re not in the finals, and we end up with a Michigan v. Michigan State 3rd place game, FOR GODS SAKE COME TO THE JOE. Even if it’s not for a GLI championship, I want a SEASON SWEEP of Michigan State this year. We can do it.
Only other thing that may matter, #9 Cornell plays in another Christmas tourney, the Florida College Classic, which could actually be a very good tournament. They get St. Cloud St. on Saturday, no guaranteed win. Other game is Colgate v. Maine, probable Maine win. And, even if Cornell makes the finals, Maine’s no slouch either.
So, probably not much rankings change this week. Maybe gain a spot if we win the tournament. I can’t wait until hockey starts again proper.
Games I didn’t care about that went as expected:
#23/#24 Marquette over Western Carolina
#21/#24 Baylor over Texas-Arlington (Though it was damn close.)
Games I actually cared about:
In short, EVERYTHING went the way I wanted it to.
For starters, we beat Oakland. It was a good game. Three-point shooting was great, and LLP!!!!!! Awww yeah. LLP.
#19/#22 Michigan State OVER #5/#5 Texas: Long term, very good for us. If we beat the Spartans in February, we’ve beaten a team that beat a top 5 team. A strong Big Ten is good for Michigan.
#22/#20 Davidson LOSS #13/#18 Purdue: Woohoo Big 10 again. Davidson may fall out, or maybe we enter above them.
BYU LOSS #20/#17 Arizona State: Guarantees BYU doesn’t get to take open spot in the Coaches’ poll over us.
#23/#21 Memphis LOSS #11/#11 Syracuse: Opens up spot in polls, or gives us opportunity to enter above them.
Miami (FL) LOSS #25/#25 Clemson: This one was good for us no matter what happened. Clemson losing would have dropped them from the polls, but, Miami losing means they don’t have the opportunity to replace them.
My guess (as of this writing, polls haven’t come out, but, I’m not posting twice in one day): #23. Both polls.
So, now, I take a break from writing this, shower, eat a sandwich, wait for polls to come out.
And now, a rant:
COACHES DON’T WATCH BASKETBALL. It’s very clear to me now. They don’t deserve to vote, they don’t watch games. How they hell do you justify BYU getting more votes than Michigan in a week where BYU lost? How the hell does Minnesota go from not getting any votes to being #23? That’s such bullshit. Absolute bullshit. I’m pissed. Minnesota beat ONE top 10 team. We beat TWO top 5 teams. Total crap.
The AP Poll: We’re ranked! We’re #24! We’re ranked! We get a little number next to our name! Woohoo! I’m a little disappointed we didn’t get a spot higher, mostly because of who got the #23 spot: Minnesota. Listen, I’m all for the “Strong Big 10 is good for Michigan” thing, but, again, we’ve earned it way more than they have. February 19th at our place, March 9th at theirs. Let’s take care of some business.
So, for us this week: Florida Gulf Coast tonight at 7:00 on bigtennetwork.com. Honestly, I won’t be watching (I’ll be sledding!). We better freaking win. No Savannah State crap. That’s it. Have a good Christmas, Wolverines.
Alright, lemme plan your week off, starting with teams that are only higher than us in the Coaches poll (the first couple of whom aren’t ranked):
Davidson WHO LOST LAST WEEK, doesn’t play this week. Weird, right?
BYU WHO LOST LAST WEEK, plays tomorrow night vs. Western Oregon. Easy for them.
#25 Marquette WHO LOST LAST WEEK plays NC State tomorrow night and the Presbyterian Blue Hose (I’m not kidding) Sunday. The second one's an easy win, but, as was pointed out in the comments, NC State's a 1-loss team and shouldn't be so quickly put aside. I still think Marquette should win, but, if they find themselves looking past NC State, they could get surprised.
#24 Memphis WHO LOST LAST WEEK already beat Drexel earlier today, and that’s it for this week.
So, the 5 teams ahead of us in the media poll and the rest of the bottom 5 in the coaches’. (Ranks listed in that order.)
#23/#23 Minnesota: Wednesday v. Southeastern Louisiana, Sunday v. High Point, two easy wins.
#22/#20 Clemson: No games this week.
#21/#22 Baylor: Tonight v. Hartford. Easy win.
#20/#17 Arizona State: Tomorrow v. Idaho State. Easy win.
#19/#19 Louisville: Saturday v. University of Alabama-Birmingham. Similar situation to Marquette's game, I called it an easy win, someone called me out. So, again, Louisville should win, but, they can't look past UAB.
#16/#21 Tennessee: No games this week.
So, in short, nothing happens this week. No mid-week update, unless something crazy happens. I don’t forsee any rankings changes that effect us next week (unless maybe the coaches really wise up). I’ll see you Sunday to report that everything went exactly as expected.
And, if you’re in town, the Great Lakes Invitational is a great way to see good hockey for pretty cheap. I hope to see you all there.
Full disclosure: I am a fan of Ohio State. I am emphatically not a fan of Michigan. I am not, however, here to be a douchebag - I'm here to tell you that I feel your pain (and, eventually, to tell you that you whistle past Beaver's de-commit at your peril).
I've been around long enough to have seen both Archie Griffin play in the (old) 'Shoe in person and my Buckeyes' loss to Air Force. And while I'm happy at the moment to be enjoying what the spin of the wheel has brought Ohio State recently, the searing memory of Cooper's 2-10-1 tenure is always with me. You won't find me here trolling about "LLLLLoyd". I actually really like that old coot, aside from the two-inches-from-the-official's-ear tantrums. And I don't believe for one second that we're just going to keep stomping you forever. Like I said, I've seen too many spins of the wheel to be that sanguine.
Anyway: This Beaver business is bad, bad news right now repeat right now, no matter how good or bad either Forcier or Beaver turn out to be. Nobody knows right now how good a college QB either of these two kids is going to be, as Brian said in the thread to another diary. One or the other, or both, might be terrible, merely competent, or outstanding. Odds are - per Brian's apparently well-supported theory on the predictive value of guru rankings - that, out of the pair, Michigan would get at least one very good QB, and perhaps two. But at the moment, the chances that Michigan will get a good QB out of the 2009 class have been halved to one - which, under the circumstances, is a whole lot less than two.
What if Forcier cannot beat out Threet - or, Jebus forbid, Sheridan - next fall? I've seen some commentary here that says: no matter, the universally guaranteed leap in QB competence between a player's first and second years will lead to a no-worries, put-it-in-the-bank 8-4 record that will make everything OK until we can land the next Pat White, or until Forcier turns into him or Shaun King.
Methinks that predictions of an 8-4 record, absent the emergence of a "good" rather than a "not DEATH" QB, assume facts not in evidence, especially during an offseason in which an entirely new defense (if you're going to play a 3-3-5, or even a 3-4-4, or whatever alignment you choose, isn't good safety play part of the deal?) is apparently going to be implemented. And me also thinks that nothing less than 7-5, which at this moment seems aspirational rather than assured, will be acceptable.
But all this is beside the point: Having both Forcier and Beaver in the fold meant that there were two highly-rated dual-threat QBs with a chance to rescue the Wolverines in the RichRod era. Now there is only one. Somebody in another thread brought up Ohio State's situation a few years ago with Troy Smith and Justin Zwick - but here's the rub: Troy Smith was recruited as an ATHLETE who had been given a chance to prove himself as a QB. Had Tressel been given a "Sophie's Choice" between one or the other as a QB recruit, then, based on rankings alone, he would have chosen Justin Zwick.
What has happened here is that Michigan has had one of those options taken away from them. That cannot, at all, be portrayed as not a big deal, other than with the future benefit of 20/20 hindsight. What is certain right now is that Beaver's de-committment really, really sucks for you.
With 10 games down, I figured I’d take a look at where we are, what we’ve done and where we’re going. Instead of waiting until after non-conference is over, I figured now would be a good time to take a look at the team, especially since we essentially have two tune up games before Wisco, providing a nice spot in the schedule to analyze where we stand prior to Big Ten season. First looking back at the first 10. Resume? We’re 8-2 with wins over #4 UCLA (who looks to be more of a 15ish team) and #4 Duke (who looks to be every bit of their ranking after destroying Xavier today). Losses to Duke on a neutral court and at Maryland. After several Top 25 teams losing this week, we’re almost for sure ranked come Monday. Minnesota and Miami are likely to join us. Instead of taking a game-by-game look at the first third of the season, I’m going to point out some stuff about the players. We’ll start at the top with Manny Harris.
Manny has simply been amazing thus far. He’s really been an All-American player through 10 games. He started the season with a career high 30-point effort, however today may have been his best game in his collegiate career: 15pts, 13 asts, 0 turns. Let me type that again: Thirteen assists, zero turnovers. Excellent. Manny has one of the quickest first steps I’ve seen at Michigan and there isn’t much he hasn’t done well this season.
DeShawn Sims is a man-child that can score at will. Okay, that may be a stretch. However, Peedie has been great in the last several games. He had another 20-point game today (he’s averaging 20.2 in the last 5 games). He also continues to rebound well. Nobody this season has been able to check him and his continued production will be huge when teams collapse on Manny.
Javohn Shephard has finally found a role (or JB has found a role for him) and he’s really beginning to excel in it. We’re clearly a small team, but having Javohn in the starting lineup takes some rebounding pressure off of Sims. Also, he’s our best OTB defender so when we are playing man he is pivotal in locking up the other team’s 2/3.
Douglass/Novak: These two have found excellent roles on this team. Stu struggled for a few games but has re-found his shooting touch, which IMO is crucial for this team’s success. Novak may be the better all-around player, but I think that bringing Novak off the bench is a great weapon – he’s the quintessential energy man. He rebounds, plays D, and hits big 3s. In order to be able to do that we need Douglass to be playing well, and he had a very nice game today. We saw the two on the floor together today, for I believe the first time. Oakland dropped to a zone so JB spread the floor with Stu and Zack, which allowed Manny to drive and dish. The result? Thirteen assists, zero turnovers.
Merritt/Lee/Grady/LLP: As a unit the PGs continue to improve with each game. That’s been pivotal in the team’s success. No matter who’s out there it seems that they can get their job done. Merritt runs the offense well, Lee plays strong D when called upon, and Grady has shown the ability to break down defenses off the dribble and hit some big shots (although he still takes some ill-advised deep treys). LLP showed today (4-6 from distance) that he’s going to be a factor and we can expect him to continue to improve and contribute.
Gibson/Wright: The only down point of the season has been the play of these two. Wright lost his starting gig to Shep and his minutes have dwindled since (he didn’t see the floor today). Gibson continues to disappoint on the defensive end, struggling to get rebounds. There’s going to be points in the B10 season where we need these guys on the defensive end.
So after 10 games we’re looking far better than anyone expected. The thing I love most about this team is that everyone, for the most part, has seemed to find a role on the team and they seem to relish it. We need that selflessness to continue and the obvious improvement to keep coming once we start B10 play. And the best thing is that we have 2 fairly cupcake opponents to getting some things straightened out before Wisconsin. Here’s what I’m looking for in addition to the Wolverines improving their “Eagle Mark” (EMU, FGC, and NCC) to 3-0 on the season:
1. Manny’s minutes down. He’s averaging over 32 mpg. It would be nice to get Manny some rest and at the same time get LLP up to game speed. If LLP is going to be as good as everyone has predicted (and so far, so good) we need to get him some minutes and get him ready before a big game against Wisco.
2. Defense, specifically, man. The 1-3-1 has looked fairly consistent, but today our man defense left much to be desired. It’s got to improve. Oakland’s big man dropped 23 on us. We’re small and we’re going to struggle down low at times, there's no avoiding that. In these next two games I’d like to see Sims, Harris, Shephard, Wright, and Gibson dominate the paint and the boards. That shouldn't be asking much against the Eagles (x2), but still, domination requested. Which leads me to...
3. Zack Gibson. My homework for Zack is to watch 48 hours of Michigan legend Graham “Hambone” Brown. Get mad, get physical, and get on the boards. We are going to need Zack in the Big Ten to be physical and rebound much better than he has so far. Let’s see some of it in these next two games.
4. The other guys continue to do what you’re doing. Keep up working within your roles and keep getting better. It’s been fun to watch guys like Grady relish their roles and begin to learn how to best help the team win a game without trying to go beyond their roles. That’s the kind of teamwork that will win big games.
Quick aside: The Big Ten is really, really deep. Minnesota (after upsetting #9 Louisville and staying undefeated) could be ranked come Monday, as well as Wisco. MSU, Purdue, and OSU are all very good teams, and Illinois and NW are off to good starts. This leads me to the following standard schedule evaluation...
So, taking a look at our next 10 games:
12/22 – Florida Gulf Coast
12/29 – North Carolina Central
12/31 – Wisconsin
1/4 – Illinois
1/7 - @ Indiana
1/11 – Iowa
1/14 - @ Illinois
1/17 – Ohio State
1/20 - @ Penn State
1/24 – Northwestern
Looking at these games, I see a ton of opportunity. I don’t want to get cocky or look past anyone, but these are all winnable games. All games would expect us to win. There are three, possibly four toss-ups: Wisco, @ Ill, OSU, and @ PSU. The others we should be expected to win. Those four I still see us as favorites, even if just barely. The Big Ten is very deep this year though. Wisconsin may be ranked when we play them. OSU could be up around #15 as well. Illinois has also got off to a great start. It’s essential that we get off to a great start. Wisco will be a big challenge to start the Big 10 season. If we get past them, I like our odds to go atleast 8-2 in this stretch. And it is very important that we go somewhere around 8-2 in this stretch. This is certainly the easy stretch of our conference schedule. No Purdue, no MSU, no Minnesota, and OSU/Wisco at home. We need to do well in this stretch because the second half of the B10 season is pretty brutal:
That’s a tough finish to the season, specifically those first two games and the last three. So again, it is essential that we go atleast 7-3 in the next 10. Anything worse and we could be looking at an uphill battle for a tourney spot. BUT! I have confidence that we WILL go atleast 7-3. Like I said all of our next 10 games are winnable and we are likely the favorites, even if barely, in each game!
As long as we take care of these next two games and get some quality preperation in for Wisco and take care of business on New Year’s eve, I’m liking where we’re at. Go Blue!
I just spoke with Ricardo Miller about the recent coaches visit, and a little about his reaction to Shavodrick Beaver decommitting. Here’s what he had to say.
TOM: Coach Smith and Frey came to see you, Kenny Shaw, and Demetrius Hart the other day, how did that go?
RICARDO: It went real well, I was excited to have them there. They were down here to see Jeremy Gallon, and then decided to come over and see us. That just proves to me what Coach Rodriguez said earlier. He told me earlier that he’s just as committed to me as I am him, and this showed me that. We started talking just about our year, and how we’re trying to improve. Then Kenny and Demetrius got there, and they were telling them how they think they’ll fit in, and how they can help Michigan.
TOM: Kenny Shaw is in your class, and a receiver, and Demetrius Hart is a sophomore, so what were they telling them? How do they fit in?
RICARDO: They were telling Kenny he could be a real good slot receiver up there, and get a chance to show the fans what he’s got. Demetrius, they were telling him that he’s perfect for their offense. He’s quick and could come in at running back.
TOM: How do you think they liked the coaches, and the experience?
RICARDO: I could tell they were real excited. Kenny and Demetrius are the same as me. They’re looking to find a home, and a place that they can feel like family. They’re going to keep their word, wherever they go, and do everything to help their team. I tell them all the time that Coach Rodriguez is here to help us all the time. From the talks that we have, I know he’s there for me on and off the field, which I love. I’ve just been focusing on that, and letting them know they can trust him, and he has our best interests in mind.
TOM: So, I broke the news to you last night that Beaver decommitted, what is your reaction?
RICARDO: I’m not even going to look into it. I’m disappointed, and I lost some respect for him, because I feel like you need to be true to your word. We became good friends, and we talked like we were brothers, so I don’t really get it. I was told that he said he didn’t feel like he fit in, and he was overwhelmed by the crowd at the game. You told me some things he said about Tulsa being focused on family, and that was a huge part of why I chose Michigan. That’s my family, and they’ve always focused on that. But, like I said, I’m not even worried about that. I’m moving forward, and Coach Rodriguez told me they are too. They’re excited to get Tate up there, and are going to find someone else to come in too. Coach Smith told me they’re disappointed in how it all happened, but they know he’s missing out. I’ve actually already started working on Devin Gardner, and trying to get him to come up there. I’m going to talk to him today about this, and see what he says. After talking with him at the Michigan State game, I really don’t think he’s the kind of guy to just choose a school to say he’s going there.
TOM: What do you mean?
RICARDO: Well I chose Michigan because I love Michigan. I’ve been a fan for who knows how long. After talking with the coaches, and being up there, I knew that was the place for me. I think sometimes kids make their decision just for themselves, to say I’m going to Michigan, or whatever school, not the right reasons. I’m recruiting some other kids, and I want Michigan men there. Guys that want to be at Michigan, because that’s what’s going to help the team. Look at Braylon Edwards, he’s like the spokes person for Michigan, because he’s a Michigan man. I mean, in the real world, you can’t tell someone you’re going to do one thing, then not do it. I don’t want to do anything that will show against my character, and I think that does.
TOM: You mentioned that Michigan is your family, what made you really feel that?
RICARDO: Well, when I went to Michigan for the Michigan State game, I knew that was the place. The coaches made me feel wanted, and so did the fans. The fans were all screaming my name, and telling me they want me, and I’m a junior. I mean, I went to Florida, and no one even knew who I was, or said anything to me, it was weird. Not that I want attention, but it was just like I was another kid coming in.
TOM: What are you focusing on right now?
RICARDO: I’m training for the Army All American combine, just trying to get ready to compete. Just trying to get to next season, keep my 3.5 GPA up, and just try to get to Michigan as fast as I can.
Updating the Diary to include writeups on the second to games today.
Ok, so Bowl Season is finally upon us. Since my Big 10 Picks were so well received, I figured I would do some 'pick essays' during the bowls. There were some issues this morning posting on this site, or I would have had this up about three hours ago. Do I feel sheepish posting this promoting Navy as a bet when they're winning already at the half? No, not really. I think its a pretty good read and this game has a long, long way to go. We'll see if my analysis is correct or not.
So, without further adieu, I give you some insight on the EagleBank and New Mexico bowls....there are two others on later and I will update this Diary (or start a new one, this already looks like someone puked up a bunch of copy) accordingly.
EagleBank Bowl, Washington DC, 11 am
Navy vs Wakfe Forest. Lines, Wake -3, O/U 43.5
An intriguing matchup of styles meets us to kick off bowl season. Its Navy's triple option versus the constant misdirection and deception of Wake Forest. I enjoy watching both teams style of play. And, I love betting on both because both are well coached, hard to play against and get zero repsect from the general public. Translation: You get generous lines in their favor all the time. I am saddened a bit that I have to go against one of these teams.
What you missed while the John Thompson Caravan rocked the Big House
These teams played each nearly three months ago. Navy took down Wake, 24-17. You probably missed the game because you were glued to Michigan's thrilling comeback over Wisconsin. So, let me offer a quick summery. Wake turned the ball over six times, including QB Riley Skinner chucking four interceptions. Navy leapt out to a 17-0 lead and outgained the Deacons 296-43 on the ground.
The game helped define Navy in the post Paul Johnson era and helped spark a nice fall run that saw Navy go 6-2 SU, 5-3 ATS in their final eight games. For Wake, meanwhile, it exposed the Deacs as a limited team on offense with a mediocre QB. Worse, it showed you could do damage, particularily on the ground, against the well regarded Wake defense. Heading into the contest, Wake had been flying high after stoning Florida State and elevated to #16 in the polls. Including the Navy game, Wake slumped to a 4-5 SU, 3-6 ATS record in their final nine contests.
Conventional wisdom says expect Wake to make amends for that defeat in this game. Skinner, has average as he is, is not a turnover machine and wont throw four picks again. Wake Forest is tied for third nationally in Turnover Margin, so dont expect a repeat of the debacle back in September.
While I agree that Wake wont turn it over six times again, I dont think the Deacons will get their measure of revenge in this bowl season lid lifter. For one, that turnover margin strength is negated by the fact that the team tied for third in this stat with Wake is Navy. Wake will improve that -4 TO stat from the first game, but it wont turn it completely around either.
I do think Navy's ability to run the football will stay constant. They outrushed the Deacs by over 250 yards. Navy's QB Kapio-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada is as healthy now as he has been all season from a nagging hamstring injury. With him, fullback Eric Kettani and tailback Shaun White, I dont see Wake having any better success stopping this attack the second time around. Indeed, Navy played most of the first game without their top QB, so the Navy attack, while familiar to the Wake defenders, may have an added edge to it that Wake wont be ready for. This will be a triple option attack humming at its best. Expect a lot of third, and even fourth, and short conversions all day for Navy as they set sail on at least three long, time consuming drives for scores.
Wake has scored 17 or less points in seven of its last 10 games and only more than 23 once in that span. This team is lousy on offense. Its in the bottom quarter of a lot of offensive categories including total offense, rushing offense and points scored. It cant lean on any one thing. While Navy can beat you with three different guys running the football, Wake cant counter with anything other than their defense setting it up on short fields and good special teams play. That combo can win you a lot of games, but against Navy, who does not turn the ball while controling time of possession, it does not.
The US Navy: Winning as an Underdog since the War of 1812
We have a time tested theory that goes back to evil days of impressment at the sea. The Royal Navy was supposed to take back the colonies in 1812, but the plucky American midshipmen had other thoughts. Be it war or football, I like the Academy in the role of underdog.
Lets stick to football for now. One of my primary rules as the season goes on is always take a strong look at Navy when its getting points. Navy is 21-9 ATS as a dog in its last 30 chances away from home. Conversely, Wake is a mediocre 11-16 ATS as a favorite.
Historically, underdogs who outrush their opponents cover the spread at alarming rates. Of course, its hard to identify which team will outrush which team prior to the game. Thats not the case with Navy, which has now lead the nation in rushing for four consecutive seasons. Navy has outrushed the opposition in 34 of its last 38 games.
Yeah, but is that really important?
Yes, especially this time of year. If want more hard numbers, try this on for size. Bowl underdogs who outrush their opponent are 122-51-5 ATS since 1980. Its a good bet that we can pencil Navy in for more yards on the ground today.
Besides, its pretty obvious the Demon Deacons are terrorists
Finally one last piece of intriguing motivation. Revenge aside, is Wake really all that stoked to be here? They had a January bowl game on their minds four weeks ago. Navy, meanwhile, will be ready to go. They could care less about the situation, venue, time of day (note, that 11 am start. Who responds better here, I wonder, the military men or the typical college boys? Gee, I''m not sure), foe or weather. Regardless, they will punch you in the mouth and run that triple option down your throat.
But, consider this bonus piece of motivation. Part of each team's pre bowl itinerary includes a visit to the US Naval Academy where they'll spend time with injured and wounded Naval troops. I am sure the moment will prove poignamt for the boys at Wake. However, something like that ought to inspire the Middies sky high. They will take the field for their fallen comrades. The Navy's senior leadership will be embarking themselves in a few months for active duty in the Persian Gulf. Spurred by the urging of their wounded buddies, they will relish the chance to take the field one more time. Wake might as well be wearing terrorist jerseys this morning.
The Pick: Navy +3....2 units...what has changed since that first match-up? Not much, although a strong case can be made that Navy has improved a bunch since then as they got used to the sideline leadership and play calling of new coach Ken Niumataloo. Wake seems to have regressed this season. They cant score points and Navy's triple option will be too much for them to overcome. Navy has covered four straight bowls. Today will make five.
New Mexico Bowl, Alburquerque, NM, 2:30 pm
Colorado St vs Fresno St. Lines, Fresno -3, O/U 60
The New Mexico Bowl, Settling Bar Stool Arguments since 2006
This is what bowl season is all about. Two middle of the pack mid major teams fighting it out for conference pride. Is the fifth place team in the WAC better than the fifth place team in the Mountain West? Is anybody even asking this question? Who cares, we'll find out anyway.
A sure sign that bowl season may be saturated is the fact bowl suits found slots for these two teams which are a combined 2-10 against fellow bowl teams this season.
Despite that, I would not be shocked if an entertaining shootout emerges in this one. Both defenses stink and rank 85th or worse in many key statistical categories. Offensively, however, there is a lot to like. Both QBs, Brandstatter for FSU and Ferris for CSU, can carry their team and dont face a lot of pressure. Fresno has a great offensive line, by mid major standards, and always has a tailback or two on its roster who can rip off yards. For the Rams, runningback Gartrell Johnson is a stud with four 100-yard games down the stretch as the Rams surged to an improbable bowl bid. He will be the most fun player to watch in this one.
I too like to live dangerously
I cant shake the feeling that Fresno will win this one going away in the fourth quarter.
But, do you know what betting on Fresno means? It means backing a team thats ranked 100th in rushing defense and hasnt stopped a quality rushing attack in years. It means backing a team thats bagged only one measly point spread cover since Labor Day and surrendered 61 points in its last contest. Oh, and the Bulldogs won the Chili Cook Off between these teams that started the week of bowl festivites for the clubs. The winner of that has never gone on to win the game.
So, yeah, sign me up for a little Fresno.......eh, what could go wrong!?!
I feel like Austin Powers when he sat at the blackjack table for the first time with #2 and boldly took a hit on 18. He did win that hand. And, I'm not sure if it will because of luck or good handicapping if Fresno pull this one out. I do think we can discount the cook off mumbo jumbo. This is just the third year for the New Mexico Bowl. Gambling commandment 'Never go against a streak' gets negated by gambling commandment 'be wary of small sample sizes.'
Fresno flat out has a more talented squad. They are faster and play more physical. One major advantage is in the trenches, especially the excellent Fresno offensive line going up against the CSU defensive front. The Rams are the worst pass rush in football, ranking last in sacks. They are undersized and often play like it. They wont be any match for Fresno offensive line. The running lanes will wide open and Brandstater will have all day to pass as he makes a strong case to NFL scouts today. This advantage for Fresno wil pave the way for a dominating second half as the Bulldogs pull away.
In addition to Fresno, I like the Over, even if its a high total. If Fresno comes out motivated from the start, they ought to put up more than 40 points. Meanwhile, the loser in Fresno's last 10 games has average 27.4 ppg. I expect both teams to be in the 30s. Bottomline, both defenses are garbage and we'll have close to 800 yards of total offense. That should translate into a lot of points. Fresno's recent bowl games have been shootouts, averaging 64 points per game the last three postseason games.
The Pick: Fresno Moneyline -135, and Over 60...1 unit apiece...Quick explanation of the moneyline for the uninitiated. Fresno just has to win the game, making the point spread irrelevant. It costs a litte more to bet. In a regular bet against the spread, a player would need to wager $110 to win $100. In this case, taking Fresno just to win will cost $135 (thus the -135 in the line above) to win $100. I feel the extra bucks in this case is worthy insurance to still give you the win when Fresno kicks a field goal at the gun. If they win by double digits, it does not matter. You get your bet money back. I have been bullied into the money line by the fact that Fresno has covered only once since its opener. I'm not ashamed to admit it.
St Petersberg Bowl, 4:30 pm
Memphis vs South Florida. Lines, USF -12, O/U 56
There are 34 bowl games. There's no rule that says you have to make a play on everyone. This will be one I wont play. I just see anything to like in either case.
I wont lay double digit chalk with USF. I just dont trust Matt Grothe. The recipe for a three interception game includes this guy's DNA. Most pundits gush over his game, but I am not impressed. In his last five games, he has tossed 11 interceptions to just three touchdowns and USF has averaged a paltry 14 points per game. Grothe forces the ball way too much and does not play smart football. Plus, he sports the dorkiest mohawk I've ever seen. While they're playing a de facto home game 30 miles aay from their campus, I do not trust this team really giving a damn about playing Memphis.
However, that is not pushing me into the direction of the Tigers. At no point did this team catch my eye this season. I suspect they're nothing more than a mediocre team. I have no feel if they can hang in this game or not. And, while I distrust USF on offense, I like their defense from playmaking end Selvie to their ball hawking secondary. They ought to get their share of takeaways.
So, we have the sixth place team from the eight-team Big East playing a mediocre squad from the Conference USA. On one hand, the sixth place team should probably never lay this much chalk. Then again, should the middle class of CUSA be able to compete evenly with bowl teams from the BCS leagues? I dont know the answers to any of those questions. Both these teams lost to Louisville and made Ron English's defenses look good.
Yeah, thanks, but no thanks on this one.
The Pick: No pick........This game reminds me of being dealt a 12 in Black Jack. It never matters if I play the percantages or take a risk. Hit or stick, I always lose.
Las Vegas Bowl, 8 pm
BYU vs Arizona. Lines, Arizona -3.5, O/U 59.5
The third place team from the Mountain West Conference squares off against the third place team from the Pac-10. It's an interesting clash that gives the mid major the chance to scalp a big league pelt. Whats compelling is BYU is arguably the more talented and better schooled football team. Since they're getting points, that makes them a more than attractive play.
The Mountain West went 6-1 versus the Pac-10 this season. Why should that change in this game? BYU is an upper echelon MWC team while Arizona remains a middle of the pack Pac 10 team. I think BYU should be favored to win the game, not the other way around.
Both teams feature great offenses and the QB battle between the Cougars Max Hall and the Wildcats Willie Tiutama will be one of the best of the bowl season. Both will do damage and make statements during the game. They lead a pair of offenses that both rank in the top 20 in points scored. Each quarterback has weapons all over the field. This will be a fun game.
My case for BYU starts with this interesting college bowl angle: Underdogs who won their bowl game last season are 23-12 ATS, including 15-3 ATS if they're playing a team that won eight or less games. That fits the Cougars who won this bowl last season against UCLA and it also fits the 7-5 Wildcats. Also, always look to fade those teams making a bowl appearance after a postseason draught of three or more years. The Cats have not been to a bowl since the late 1990s. These historical trends all point to BYU.
Lets also play arm chair psychiatrist while breaking down how each of these teams are handling their bowl week. Surrounded by all sorts of temptation to lose focus and forget you're even a member of a football team, let alone one that will be playing a high stakes bowl game in front of a sellout crowd and national TV audience, which team can handle the pomp and circumstance better?
My vote goes to BYU. This is their fourth trip to this bowl. The glitz of the Strip wont faze them. Its nothing more than a business trip. Adhering to Morman principles and the school's strict code, I believe all the BYU players were in bed by 10 oclock last night. If not, they were up spending time with the wife and kids.
As for Arizona, I dont care what they say. They are a distracted bunch. Its their first bowl in years and these players have obviously never played in one. Its not a typical game. People all over the place are patting your back for your great season. Instead of breaking down assignments, you are feted all week with banquets and team social events to attend. You hob knob with the other team. That in and of itself is a bizarre situation to adjust to and maintain top notch competitive focus. Toss in the fact that all this is going on with the Las Vegas Strip as background and you know Mike Stoops--he himself in his first bowl game as a head coach--has a huge challenge keeping his kids focused.
I know what I would do as a college student in Vegas, especially if I had the built in confidence and entitlement of being a member of a winning football team. And, it would have little to do with getting ready for the game.
The Pick: BYU +3, 2 Units; Over 60, 1 Unit......BYU will come out ready to play. They will land a couple opening salvos and forge out to a comfortable early lead. The Cats won go away. They will make their run. But, they'll be playing catchup the whole way, a la their game with Oregon last month, and when the final gun sounds BYU will be ahead 35-31.
Brian, in the comments, says it is not irrational to panic, given that we desperately need better quarterbacking and each option is like "a lottery ticket," so we need more of them. Now, I generally agree with Brian on most Panic or Don't Panic decisions, but here I'm going to come down on the Don't Panic side.
1. We only want people who want to be here. Remember last signing day with McGuffie saying he was going with his head instead of his heart? How did that work out?
2. A corollary to #1 would be: Better Now Than Later. There is a month and a half (minus dead periods) to get a replacement.
3. A replacement is quite possible. I don't know if it is realistic to expect one of the 4 stars left out there to switch, but a high-3 star "lottery ticket" would be fine.
4. He (probably) wasn't going to start anyway. It's true that Forcier could turn out to be mediocre, or break his leg. And Threet might not make the normal HUGE first year to second year of starting jump. Or break his leg. But chances are pretty high those weren't both going to happen. Yes, Troy Smith turned out to be better than Justin Zwick. But Zwick wasn't bad, and they weren't going to go 3-9. At this point, I think most of us are hoping for someone decent enough to sweep through 3 MAC teams, ND at home, and the weakest half of the Big 10 next year... = 8-4.
5. Although recruits are lottery tickets, in fact there is very little history at Michigan of big name QB recruits (I would include Threet and Forcier in this, plus, again, the excellent chance of another signee) crapping out. Maybe Beaver would have been marginally better than Threet and Forcier. But both crapping out? I can't think of this happening. I'll try to list big-name Michigan QB recruits in the last 12 years or so and see what we can find. Please correct my memory:
Tom Brady (Phil Steele composite rating, something like #25 QB): Umm, not crappy
Jason Kapsner (PS 7?): Never saw the field, seemed like a numbers game
Drew Henson (PS 1 or 2): Starter
John Navarre (PS 30-ish?): Pushes the edge of "big name recruit"; was 3.33 year starter anyway
Andy Mignery (PS 20s or 30s?): Crapped out, switched to TE
Matt Gutierrez (PS 10 or so): Was due to start, injured, beat out by Henne, would have been good
Chad Henne (PS 1): 4 year Starter
Ryan Mallett (PS 1): Started as true frosh, turnover prone and bad inter-personal skills, but will probably be good
Steven Threet (PS 26): Hot and cold as rFr. starter, but that is quite normal; should be a decent starter at least, although not ideal for this system
Coner (PS 40) and Jason Forcier (PS 42) are beyond my definition of big-time recruit. Clayton Richard was highly ranked, but chose baseball.
So, only Mignery (and he was very close to Cone in terms of hype, below Tate Forcier and Threet) came to campus and seemed like a waste of scholarship. Kapsner never did anything, but the reports were that he was competitive for a starting spot. Maybe there's one or two guys I'm forgetting who disappeared, but it seems at least 2/3 of guys who are 4-star quality turn out to be viable college starting quarterbacks.