chance of bowl: 13.6%
Meienke Car Quest Bowl, Charlotte, 1 pm
North Carolina vs West Virginia. Lines, WVA -2, O/U 48
Heading into the second week of November, both of these teams were in the driver's seat in their leagues and looked to be heading to a possible BCS Bowl Game. Alas, both faded down the stretch. For the Mountaineers, that was a huge disappointment as a veteran team, paced by a record setting QB, were heavy favorites in their leagues. For the Heels, it was a letdown, to be sure, but just being in that position was big time progress for a program that is young and talented with better days expected ahead.
West Virginia is not happy to be ending their season in this bowl. They expected to be playing in January. From the get go, it was obvious this program missed Rich Rodriguez. They weren't sharp coming out of August and never really regained whatever mojo they had had working in previous years. New Coach Bill Stewart promised a more downfield passing attack. The result was taking a record setting QB and forcing him to pass. That experiment did not work. The Mountaineers seemed flat all year on offense and in a lot of their key games this year only moved the ball in spurts. In most cases, if you limited the big play, the offense was unable to march down the field. One of the more powerful rushing attacks over the last three seasons, only scored 14 touchdowns on the ground all season. But the new fangled passing attack made up for that, right? Ah, no, not really as WVA finished 109th in the nation in passing offense.
UNC, meanwhile, has a young, exciting team. They dont do anything great, but they have a lot of fast, athletic football players whose sum combines to be greater than its parts, statistics be damned. In one of the more competitive ACC seasons ever, it was telling that such a young team was able to navigate it with enough success that it almost stole the league crown.
The Mountaineers have a lot of name players like Pat White and Noel Devine. The public knows the players and most casual observers would expect that talented duo to be enough to get the win. Not so fast, my friends.
Consider this: The Heels are 6-3 straight up versus bowl teams. WVA, on the other hand, is just 3-3 SU versus bowl teams. UNC has been able to elevate its game and fight hard against the better teams on its slate. WVA has not looked good against better foes. In those games against bowlers, WVA averaged just under 20 ppg, and three times held to 15 or fewer points. UNC is 30th in the country in scoring D, so there's plenty of reason to expect that the Heels can limit WVA the way ECU, Pitt and USF (WVA scored 3, 15 and 13 respectively against those guys) did in games this year.
I dont want to pile on WVA all day here. They have plenty of great players. Their defense will get after UNC. But I've watched just about every quarter of action these teams have played and there's something intangibly wrong with WVA and good with UNC. I know which team I trust to win the game. That would be the Heels, who played a tougher schedule and came out looking better. Frankly, put this year's WVA in the ACC and they would be lucky to have even been bowl eligible.
With Marvin Austin up front and Bruce Carter and Quin Stourdivant at linebacker, UNC has enough power, speed and tackling ability to more than contain White and Devine. Throw in Kendric Burney and Trimmane Stoddard, playmakers and ballhawkers in the UNC secondary, and I just think WVA is going to have a hard time cranking up its offense. Yes, White might rip off a vintage run or two, but I dont think they will sustain a lot of drives. This is a deep, talented and hungry defense which matches up well against WVA. The problem for WVA is that they have nothing to lean on when the Heels close down their bread and butter.
WVA has some great defensive numbers in its own right and have kept their foes from lighting up the scoreboard all year. However, UNC has been very good at holding onto the ball. They have TJ yates back at QB who is as healthy as he's been since the first half of the season. He has an awesome target in Hakeem Nicks, whose tall, physical style will create matchups problems for the WVA secondary. And, I expect the UNC special teams, which has been a boon to them all season long, to set them up on short fields in key moments throughout this game. Look for the Tar Heels to block a kick as well in this game.
The Pick: UNC +2, 3 Units......I've won a lot playing UNC games this year. From what I have seen, they are the better team in this game. WVA has had no consistency and I dont trust them in a big spot. The Heels are 7-4 ATS while the 'Neers are 4-7. But, here's where the rubber meets the road: We have two even teams. One is coached by Butch Davis. The other coached by Bill Stewart. Do you really need to do a lot of soul searching to figure out which team will be better prepped heading into the game? Throw in the fact that UNC will be playing in front of a home state crowd, and I have no problems going to the window and buying a big Carolina Blue ticket. I'm glad we talked this one out.
Diarist note....i published this tonight as I will be travelling tomorrow morning. I'll have picks on the other two bowl games, including Wisco's game as the Big 10 opens its bowl season, early in the afternoon.
Motor City Bowl, Detroit, 7:30pm
Florida Atlantic vs Central Michigan. Lines, CMU -7.5, O/U 69.5
Bowl season kicks into a second gear tonight with the first of nine straight days of bowl games with tonight being one of the few days where there's not more the one game being played. And, nothing says 'bowl season' more than the long awaited matchup between the third best team in the MAC, Central Michigan, and the second best team in the Sun Belt, Florida Atlantic.
If you think this matchup is lame, then blame our own beloved Big 10 Conference. After putting two teams into the BCS, the league was unable to qualify its requisite teams (I'm looking at you Illinois and Michigan) and, as a result, the Owls from Miami were imported up to Detroit for this game. Surprisingly, I consider this a pretty solid game between equal mid majors. The spread should be about a field goal, so with one team favored by a smidge more than a TD, I think we have a solid bet tonight with FAU.
I love this QB matchup between the Chips Dan Lefevour and the Owls Rusty Smith. Both teams were preseason favorites to win their leagues and are looking to cap off relatively disappointing seasons with a bowl win. Both teams ought to be urgent, they're both well coached and they both have NFL prospects playing quarterback. Translation: This should be a fun, high scoring, close contest that wont be decided until very late in the contest.
Defense will be optional in this one.
When the Owls have the ball, FAU's QB Rusty Smith will lead one of the nation's better passing attacks against CMU's 118th ranked passing D. That's next to last in the country for those keeping score at home. The Chips allow more than 30 points per game, never a good stat for a team favored to win by a touchdown. Smith threw for over 2,900 yards, and that was considered a disappointing season for the junior. However, he enters the game on a roll with 14 TD passes in his final four games. I expect him to have a big game tonight to set the stage for a huge senior campaign next fall.
Meanwhile, we all know about the Chips offense. LeFevour puts up Tebow-esque stats and is as dangerous running as he is throwing. Injuries derailed him a bit this year, but he enters this game as healthy as ever, and, like Smith on the other side, he wants to make a statement tonight heading into his wown senior season next year. Statistically, FAU's D is better than CMU's, but they're still in the bottom third is categories like passing D and scoring D. CMU will be able to do damage.
Both teams come into this game having allowed 50 points in their final regular season game of the season. I'd say expect a shootout tonight.
I like the Owls to cover the number for a variety of reasons.
First, lets consider bowl history. If you're looking for some basic bowl wagering strategy, jot this one down: Before Christmas, take favorites; after Christmas, take underdogs; and once January rolls arounds, hop back on the favorites. Bowl dogs betweem Xmas and New Years have covered the number 58% percent of the time since 1990. So, if you take every dog from now through 12/31, you will likely turn, at worst, a small profit. Why not start tonight with an offense that wont be stopped getting a TD head start?
Two, within that history is the following juicy tidbit: Bowl dogs of +7 to +16.5 are 60-34-1 after Christmas Day since 1998. So, if we limit our 'play dogs on the blind' theory to within those numbers, we will increase our likely profit. We have several bowls to close December that fit this bill, and I will be on all of them. Hopefully, history holds true. There's been only one season where this produced a losing record and it was in 2001 when it netted a 2-3 mark.
Third, FAU's coach Howard Schnellenberger has never lost a bowl game. This guy is one the greatest coaches in our lifetime and he specializes in long term reclamation projects. He has created FAU from scratch. He knows how to win, and he knows how to win bowls games. Against Central, he is not facing a more talented team. He's the more proven coach, in my mind, tonight and his gameplan will reflect that. I would be surprised if FAU did not take a level of control of this game early on. CMU will be fine in catchup mode, they wont fade. But, getting a seven point head start with a equally talented Schnellengerger team is too tempting to pass up.
Fourth, while both Defenses are sub par and will be on the run all night, I do like FAU's defense a little bit more. CMU is a bit banged up in the secondary. More importanly is the fact that I feel FAU has better individual talent on that side of the ball and, as a result, might be able to get more stops as the game wears on into the second half. Watch Owl LB Franz Joseph. He will be the best defender on the field tonight. A tackling machine, he has played his best against dual threat type QBs such as the one he'll play against tonight. He had more than 14 tackles against the three spread type teams they faced this year in Minnesota, ULL and UAB. I think his presence will be able to neutralize the running part of Lefevour. That will be enough to keep CMU from running away in this one.
Meanwhile, the strength of CMU's D is its pass rush, but that plays into a big strength of FAU's offense, its pass protection. Smith, thanks to his OL and his own quick release of the ball, has only been sacked 12 times this season.
Central has played nothing but close games this season regardless if they're playing a top notch foe from their league or one of the bottom wrung MAC teams. Its too much to ask of them to win this going away against a team that is probably faster and more athletic than your typical MAC team. Smith will match Lefevour throughout the game. The Owls might just pull the upset and this CFB fan would not be surprised.
The Pick: FAU +7.5, 2 Units; Over 69.5, 1 Unit.....someone is going to win this game 41-38 with a field goal at the buzzer
(Not, not your personal beaver stories. Sicko.)
The wild news about the Beaver "decommit" (why do we call them commitments when they can be broken without penalty?) has sent the mgoblogosphere into wild consternation.
On a Stanford board today, a poster put up the following:
"The reason how and from the Notre Dame board is below:
"Beaver, the QB, said TU coach Todd Graham discussed the importance of growing as a person away from the football field, an emphasis that Michigan didn’t approach. It made a difference, the player said."
There is a slam if there ever was one."
Yes, that's him quoting from "the Notre Dame board," without a primary-source attribution. This to me screamed either "apocryphal internets thingy" or "crap fed to recruiting reporter like the bogus stories you give when you are breaking up with someone." If anything, it sounds like Graham and Malzahn told him he'd play in a cooler offense.
Also, browsing the MGoDiaries (sounds like an HBO series) there is a story popping up about Beaver's mom calling Rodriguez, or Rodriguez's mom calling Beaver's coach, or somesuch. Several posters felt this story had apocryphal written all over it, while at least one asserted it was true (without support).
Anybody who can comment on sources, reliability and smell-testing, please do so we can get these things straight. No need to be walking around dealing with bogus stories if we don't have to.
Hawaii Bowl, 8pm
Notre Dame vs Hawaii. Lines ND -2, O/U 49
One of my favorite streaks in the history of sports is in jeopardy tonight. Not ND's 0-9 record in bowls, nor the fact ND has not won a bowl game since 1993.
Nope the streak in question is the fact that 89 different schools have won bowl games since the Fighting Irish last celebrated a bowl victory.
How long is that draught? So long that when Arizona--one of the worst teams from a BCS leage over the previous decade--won their bowl game on Saturday, it was the second time the Cats had won a bowl since the Irish won their last one.
Folks, that is not good.
Sadly, that streak will come to end tonight. I have not felt this way about a sports streak since the Rangers were trouncing the Canucks in the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals. With that win, we lost the infamous chant of '1940, 1940' that we could serenade the Rangers with every year they would be eliminated from contention, a testament to how long it had been since the New Yorkers had hoisted the Cup.
I made no money on that back then, but I expect to make some cash tonight on the Irish finally getting of the schnide in postseason.
First, a couple more words about this bowl losing streak by the Irish. There are only 117 teams in DI, so we're 3/4s of the way to seeing every team win a bowl before ND does again. My hopes for seeing that to fruition came to a halt when this matchup was announced a few weeks ago. Sadly, with teams like Buffalo, La Tech, Ball St in the mix this season, I thought we had a great chance of getting into the 90s. Of course, with teams like Indiana out there in the college football world, it was doubtful that every team was going to get a bowl win before ND. So, we might as well put a few bucks and ND and make this sucker worth our while.
Hawaii is not a bowl team. The only reason they qualified is due to a three game winning streak in November against the dregs of CFB, New Mexico St, Idaha and Wassau. Those clubs have a combined four wins between them.
The Rainbows can not run the football, are terrible on the O-Line and commit way too many penalities for my tastes. Throw in the fact that in the post June Jones, Colt Brennan era, they're not the smooth running passing machine they had been and you have to wonder how Hawaii stays in this one for four quarters.
For the Irish, I feel Tenuta and Cornflakes can do enough on defense to keep Hawaii at bay. As long as they dont give the 'Bows a short field, Hawaii wont score more than 20 points tonight.
On offense, ND has a tremendous advantage with Michael Floyd and Golden Tate. The Bows can't cover them. Floyd is a beast and will go for 100 yards and two scores. ND's O-Line is much improved over a year ago, they will keep Claussen clean and Jimmah will have one of his best days of the season. They'll also run the ball effectively late in this game, so there wont be any meltdowns like the Syracuse debacle.
Remember, the ND players want to be here. Their fans might be pissing and moaning about playing a game so far away, on a Holy Day and the band not being there, but this game is one big snowball being thrown back at their fans on behalf of the team. The players are tired about hearing about this bowl losing streak. They will play on fire tonight. Honestly, I would expect ND to play their best game of the season tonight.
The Pick: ND to win on the moneyline, -130.....3 Units....check out this stat I dug up doing research: Road favorites against the moneyline coming off a loss of 28 or more points after the midpoint of the season are 33-4. I'll take that historical trend to the bank tonight and sadly waive goodbye to one of my favorite stats in sports.
In the spirit of the holiday season, I thought I'd spread a little cheer in the form of an update on a familiar story. Hope you all enjoy whatever holiday(s) you celebrate, and have a safe and happy new year.
'Twas the night before Awesome, when all through Ann Arbor
Not a QB was stirring, not even The Coner.
Shafer was hung from the chimney with care,
In hopes that the 3-3-5 soon would be there.
The 2010 recruits were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of snake oil danced in their heads.
And Magee in his 'kerchief, and Rich Rod in his cap,
Again began searching for a second QB to trap.
When out on the Diag there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from The Jug to see what was the matter.
Away to the Big House I flew like a flash,
Jumped the gate, and continued the dash.
The moon on the roof of Crisler's tin dome
Gave the luster of midday to Beilein below,
When, what to my smothering ennui should appear,
But Tate Forcier and hope for next year!
With a new spread offense, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it will eventually stick.
More rapid than eagles, the ninjas they came,
And Barwis whistled and shouted and called them by name:
"Now Koger! Now Cox!
Now, Brown and Odoms!
On, Minor! On, Shaw!
On, Mathews and Stonum!
To the top of the polls!
To the Granddaddy of 'em All!
Now dash away! Dash away!
Don’t fumble the damn ball!"
As "three yards and a cloud of dust" that no longer applies,
When they meet with an obstacle, they'll simply fly by,
And zip to the end zone as the crowd goes 'woo hoo'
With "The Victors" cued up as the extra point goes through.
And then, in a twinkling, I swig from my booze,
Thinking of 2008 and all we endured.
As I draw up the flask and start pouring it down,
All is forgiven and perspective is found.
The Death Butterfly was real, from its head to its foot,
And the commitments poured in, 5-stars to boot.
A bundle of trophies and Big Ten titles won,
The future's not here--it's only begun.
Rich Rod spoke not a word, but continued his work,
And filled the new Big House, then welcomed the perks.
He'll soon walk on water, as Don Nehlen told,
And hacks like Drew Sharp will be fired, when the Freep finally folds.
So to people out there, give our coaches some time,
And embrace the basketball team too, because they have arrived.
And last but not least, as I wind this down right:
GO BLUE to all, and to all a good night.
My idea is that there should be an eight team playoff at the end of the season. The winner of every BCS conference gets a spot in the playoff. If there are conference co-champions, such as this year in the Big Ten, the team with the higher BCS rating gets the bid (this year it would be Penn State). The two remaining spots are at-large bids, reserved for schools from non-BCS conferences or independents (so Notre Dame won't cry). These spots are decided by BCS rating (the two highest rated non-BCS-conference teams who win their conference or independents) get the bid. If there aren't any ranked non-BCS-conference teams who win their conference, a selection panel gets to decide which team gets into the playoff.
Also, no conference can have more than one team represent that conference in the playoff. The teams are seated by BCS rank (the highest BCS ranked team would play the lowest BCS ranked team). The teams that do not make it to the championship game get distributed to various bowls. These bowls do not have to be BCS bowls (BCS bowls do not have to be forced to select #19 Virginia Tech).
The regular season would have to be pushed ahead at least one week. That means Championship Saturday would fall on November 29 this year, round 1 would fall on December 6, and round 2 would fall on December 13. The championship game would be played about a week after the bowl games (no change from when it's played now).
Since the majority of games are played against conference foes, the regular season will stay important and the bowl system will still be preserved. And think about the non-conference matchups we would see, since teams aren't as afraid to lose out of conference because the main priority is winning the conference championship to get that playoff spot. Also, the stereotype of which conference is best or worst can be done away with. Because every conference has its shot, we will know at the end of the playoff how strong conferences and teams really were.
This year's playoff teams would look something like this (based on BCS rank):
1. Oklahoma (Big-12)
2. Florida (SEC)
5. USC (Pac-10)
6. Utah (Mountain-West) [at-large]
8. Penn State (Big Ten)
9. Boise State (WAC) [at-large]
12. Cincinnati (Big East)
19. Virginia Tech (ACC)
The match ups would be:
1. Oklahoma (Big-12) vs. 19. Virginia Tech (ACC)
2. Florida (SEC) vs. 12. Cincinnati (Big East)
5. USC (Pac-10) vs. 9. Boise State (WAC) [at-large]
6. Utah (Mountain-West) [at-large] vs. 8. Penn State (Big Ten)
The only problem I see with this system is having to wait awhile before finding out who goes to bowl games. A season running this late would probably be hell for the bowl selection process. If Penn State makes it to round 2 of the playoffs, we would have to wait until December 13 to find out if they are going to the Rose Bowl or if Ohio State is going to the Rose Bowl.
What do you think?