Did you know the Arena League sponsored bowl games? Just kidding, they don’t. But, if they did, these would be their games. All three of today’s games could tilt the pinball machine and ultimately give us Arena Football like scores. Nevada and Maryland square off in Boise where I believe the state government of Idaho mandates that any game played on Smurf Turf becomes a shootout. Down in Houston, WMU and Rice will provide a look at defense optional football. The loser should score at least 30 in that one. Meanwhile, in San Diego the Holiday Bowl convenes. Just about every Holiday Bowl has involved some wacky scoring tomfoolery. With Oklahoma St and Oregon we have two teams who are more than capable of adding to this bowl game’s high scoring history. It should be a fun day of football, especially if you hate defense.
Of course, this leads to a quandary. I want so much to play the Over in all of today’s games. But I’ve been getting killed on totals throughout the college season. To make matters more challenging are the high numbers set in these games by the oddsmakers. Both teams could reach the 30s in the Houston and Holiday Bowls, for example, and still go under the total of 74 and 76 respectively. My sense is you could put some coin on the Over in all three and likely come away with a 2-1 record.
Humanitarian Bowl, Boise, 4:30 pm
Nevada vs. Maryland. Lines, Nevada -2, O/U 59
Have you seen a picture of Maryland QB Chris Turner? He kind of reminds me of an adult version of that dopey, wimpy neighbor kid from the show ‘My So Called Life.’ I can’t in good conscience put my money on him.
Besides, I think we have an intangible emotional edge today with Nevada. The Wolf Pack is stoked about being here and can’t wait to show off their stuff against a BCS school. You have to wonder about the Terps. The trip to Boise is always something of a gag gift for the ACC school. These are college kids and I sure they would rather be in a sunnier spot playing in more of a showdown game. Instead, they’re in Boise, where it might snow, and they’re playing a little known team and a quirky offense that’s humming at full throttle. Maybe that’s why the WAC is 4-0 ATS in the last four Humanitarian Bowls against the ACC.
Michigan fans may want to look away when Nevada has the ball. They run the Pistol Formation, a weird semi shotgun look that, at times mirrors the zone read, while other times is a pass first look. I expect OSU to use even more Pistol Formation next season and every success Nevada has today with it, try not to picture Tyrell Pryor doing the same.
Nevada has their Pistol working to perfection. And, they should since their longtime coach Chris Ault pioneered the offense. In the past, it’s been a pass first look, but because of his personnel this season, Ault has the Nevada 2008 Pistol gashing people with the run. QB Colin Kaeperneck has rushed for over 1,000 yards and accounted for 19 touchdowns. He’s only the fifth player in history to have 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing in the same season. Tailback Vai Taua has over 1,400 yards and sports a gaudy 6.5 ypc. They will run all over the questionable Maryland D, which has had issues at the point of attack all season long and enter this game without their DC who left to take another job.
While Turner and his top target Darrius Heyward-Bey will land a few haymakers against the weak Nevada pass defense, I just don’t think it will be enough to get the win. Turner will have to put together his best game of the season just for Maryland to keep up with the Nevada attack. I don’t think he has a game like that in him. Plus, I think they’re vulnerable to pressure and Nevada, while hardly stout on the defensive front, has a pair of playmaking defensive ends that remind me of the Utah combo we learned about many weeks ago. I think they’ll fluster Turner enough and force a mistake or two out of an offense that’s just 99th in the country in turnover margin.
I don’t trust Maryland away from home. On the road, the Terps are 1-4 and were outscored 25.85 to 13.2. Away from College Park, Maryland lost to Middle Tennessee State and drubbed 31-0 by Virginia, two teams that are nowhere close to a bowl game.
While the Terps have struggled putting points on the board away from home, Nevada scores wherever they play. They’re second in the nation in running the football (nearly 300 yards per game), 12th in scoring offense (39.74 ppg) and have not been held below 34 points since mid September.
The Pick: Nevada -2, 1 Unit……We have a pair of average defenses in this one. I’ll take the team with the smoother running offense, especially one like Nevada which will control the clock and pace of the game with their multi faceted rushing attack. Also, its Maryland’s first look at the Smurf Turf and it will play with their minds and cause even more focus issues for the Terps.
Texas Bowl, Houston, 8pm
Western Michigan vs. Rice. Lines, Rice -3, O/U 74
When a pair of 9-3 teams from BCS leagues swap paint in a bowl game, it usually generates a buzz and is labeled must see viewing. The same can not be said when 9-3 mid majors square off. That’s too bad because this contest between Rice and Western Michigan ought to be a doozy with two of the premier passing attacks in the country going head to head. Rice’s Chase Clement and WMU’s Tim Hiller are at the top of their games, have next level targets at their disposal and to score all day long.
Both teams look to make history for their programs today. WMU has never won a bowl game, while Rice has not been victorious in a postseason game since the FDR administration. Both are treating this like the Rose Bowl. It ought to be a blast.
Expect this game to cause some panic within the Michigan fan base. Hiller and just about all his weapons will be back next year and open the season in Ann Arbor. Try not to freak out too much as he’s marching the Broncos up and down the Reliant Stadium field. All those open receivers, no worries. I’m sure Stevie Brown will be there to save the day come next September 5.
Both teams enter the game with sick passing stats. Rice is 5th nationally in passing, 8th in scoring and 10th in overall offense. The Broncos counter with the 10th ranked passing offense in the nation and scores a smidge under 30 points per game. Rice QB Chase Clement has accounted for 120 total TDs during his Owl career and this year has a 41 to 7 TD/INT ratio. He tosses five TD games around like its candy. Not to be outdone is WMU’s Tim Hiller. Hiller has fought injuries throughout this career, but he;s been completely healthy this season and threw for 34 TDs to just 8 INTs. Each has a stud WR. For Rice, its Jarret Dillard, who has a speed and deep threat game. For WMU, its Jamarko Simmons, who has more of a physical game. Neither will be stopped much by the other’s teams secondary.
Both teams passing offenses are a wash, so to find a winner in this game, lets try and figure out who will perform the other facets of the game better. I think that answer is Western Michigan. I like their rushing attack with Brandon West a bit better than Rice when the Owls look to run.
More than anything, I think WMU has a better chance at getting a stop or two than the Rice defense does. Rice has allowed 7 non BCS team to score 28 or more points. Against the run, WMU allows just 3.8 ypc while Rice gives up over 5 yards per rush against. This tells me that WMU has a better chance at playing keep away from the high octane Owl attack.
Other factor to consider include WMU has only allowed 14 sacks this year. Rice won’t touch Hiller. And, Hiller is getting his security blanket back, TE and uber possession receiver Brandon Ledbetter, who missed most of the final month of the season with an injury.
In a game where both offenses will rock and roll, I am taking the squad that is better running the football with a bit more of a competent defense.
The Pick: WMU +3, 1 Unit…..The Broncos also have the more reliable kicker in this game, something not to be overlooked in a proverbial coin flip toss up.
Holiday Bowl, San Diego, 8pm
Oregon vs. Oklahoma St. Lines, OSU -3, O/U 76
Two trendy things to do in bowl season collide in this game. Always take the Underdog in the Holiday Bowl. And always take Pac 10 Dogs in bowl season.
In the thirty Holiday Bowls played, the underdog has gone 21-9 ATS, with 11 outright wins. Meanwhile, the Pac 10 has been 16-5 ATS in bowl games when installed as the underdog.
Of course, neither trend worked in this game last year as Texas thumped Arizona St. But, we’re undaunted and back on it again this year. To quote the famous baseball manager Montgomery Burns as he hissed to his petulant outfielder, ”It’s called playing the percentages, Strawberry, playing the percentages. Hopefully, doing so tonight works out as well for me as it did for the Springfield Power Plant back in the day.
I’m comfortable taking Oregon for a couple other reasons as well. They always play well in their bowl game. Head Coach Mike Bellotti is 5-1 as a bowl underdog. The one non cover in this stretch occurred when a member of the Leaf Family tree started at QB. Over the last 11 seasons, his Ducks are 23-12 ATS away from home when catching points. And, the Ducks are hot right now, scoring 55 and 65 points respectively, in wins against fellow bowlers Arizona and Oregon St to close the season.
I love the Ducks running back tandem of Jeremiah Johnson and LaGarette Blount. I don’t think Okie St can contain those two which will open the offense even further for Oregon. The Cowboys have their weapons too and if Zac Robinson is the game’s MVP, they cold win in a walk. One concern for OSU is the fact that stud WR Dez Byrant has been a bit of a non factor in a lot of key games this season.
I think Oregon is the established program while Okie St is bit more of an upstart. I think the Ducks history of doing well in bowls, away from home and as an underdog puts them on the ride side on the intangible chart tonight. They more than matchup athletically to the Cowboys and in a neutral setting I will take a Bellotti coached team over a Gundy one any day of the week.
The Pick, Oregon +3, 1 Unit……I always play Pac 10 Dogs. I always play the Dog in the Holiday Bowl. Really, that’s the only true thought I have put into this one. Here’s hoping the Ducks play the pass better tonight than they have all year. Still, I think they can control this game running the football. Bellotti knows how to beat better teams, except for ones that call L.A. home, and I trust that blueprint tonight
Ok, I cant resist on these Overs. I am placing a half-unit wager on all three. Seriously, we’re in for video game football today.
Maryland/Nevada Over 59…….When Nevada has the ball, its Pistol O that nobody has really stopped all year. When the Terps have the ball, they’re going against of the worst pass defenses in the country
WMU/Rice Over 74…….Defense will be optional in this one. WMU is mediocre at best defensively, but they look like the Steel Curtain compared to the Owls.
Oregon/Okie St Over 76…….Both teams are in the top-10 in total offense and scoring offense. Both Defenses are ranked worse than 80th in total defense and worse than 100 in passing defense. Could both clubs really get into the 40s in this one?
So to start off: William Campbell is not enrolled at the University of Michigan…yet.
Uniqnames are given out to people with affiliations to the university. Having a uniqname does not mean that you are a student or faculty at U-M. Go ahead and do some random last name searches on directory. You’ll find a variety of titles, from volunteers to doctors to janitors. Uniqnames are necessary for Mcards, so anybody that has an Mcard has a uniqname. So we can all agree: uniqname does not equal enrollment.
William Campbell is probably not going to be a “Office Assistant, Senior”, you argue. Ok, here’s the second hint. Look at his affiliation. He doesn’t have one, does he?
As a background, students create their uniqnames after they pay their $200 enrollment deposits. The keyword there was not enrollment, but DEPOSIT. As a high school senior, you have the option of paying as many deposits as you want, provided you get into all of those schools. However, in the end you eventually pick one school you go to. The deposits merely hold your place in line, so that the universities don’t give your spot to somebody else. You are free to change your mind at any time, so long as you don’t mind losing that $200. Now, as you may guess, Scholarship Athletes are exempt from paying the $200. They are free to create a uniqname whenever Admissions admits them.
Students are not enrolled at the university until they sign up for their first class. Up until that point, students are free to go to whatever institution they want. For winter term students, this means the first day of winter term. For fall students, this generally means summer orientation. So, until that point, students will HAVE their uniqnames, but WILL NOT be enrolled at U-M…yet.
Once you register for classes, batch security will update your directory account. You will receive an affiliation (Student, Undergraduate Kinesiology) and you will be all set for life as an undergrad. If you notice, Tate Forcier, William Campbell etc. don’t have affiliations and such. Check Elliot Mealer or Martavious Odoms for examples of this.
This was long and probably very unnecessary, but hopefully this will prevent annual internet blowups.
Berets and Rednecks
Or, Hey, this is actually like a diary entry
The 1984 Sugar Bowl was one heck of a game and a bitter-sweet memory for me. My sister lived in New Orleans at the time, so I decided to make the journey. Almost everything worked out perfect. As I was flying down, sis was flying up. I had her apartment to myself and was met at the airport by one her friends—I’ll call her “Betty”. Well, Betty was one heck of a hostess. She took me to that famous New Orleans restaurant (a scene from “Pretty Girl” was shot there) where she worked part time and we ordered (literally) everything on the menu. All it cost us was the tip.
Attended the pep rally held at one of the ballrooms in the motel where the team was staying. Governor Blanchard was there and made a complete fool of himself when he admitted he went to Ohio State and his wife attended MSU. Everybody barraged him with chants of Recall Blanchard and Boo. (What a jerk. I actually sat in the row next to him on the plane ride home. He’s shorter than Mickey Rooney). Even cooler was the fact that I decided to hang out in the back of the room, and that is where all the players started showing up.
The night of the game we dined at Antoine’s before heading over to the Superdome. It was great. Auburn fans, at least back then, were great people. They would break out with chants and “War Eagle” and the Michigan fans would respond with “Hail to the Victors”. No one got vicious or too obnoxious. Walked to the Superdome after that with my little crew of hometown fans talking trash every step. Remember, you can walk down the street dranking in New Orleans for free. Watch out for the cops on horses though. Them horses can’t exactly stop on a dime.
And then there was the game. What a game it was. Talk about hitting! After the game Bo Jackson was quoted as saying—and I am paraphrasing her—that when the Auburn team looked over at the Wolverines before the game they couldn’t believe how small they were. They were sure they were going to whoop up on them big time. But after the game, Bo said he felt like he had just been in a heavy weight championship fight. Auburn knew they had escaped with a victory. Watch the game on the Classics channel if you can. That is truly vintage Bo Defense. It surely wasn’t one of Bo’s best teams, but that D was a monster that night. Bo Jackson was running for all he was worth that night, and was getting pounded for every yard. Regardless of the outcome, it was great to be a Michigan Wolverine in New Orleans New Year’s Eve 1984.
My seat was somewhere near the 10 yard line. In front of me were a couple of good old boys in flannel shirts, chewing Skoal, chain smoking and sharing a bottle of Jack Daniels. But, they were cool and well behaved and acting like good Auburn fans. In front of them was this old guy wearing beret and who was a member of the UM Alumni band. He was with his wife and both were resolute Wolverines.
After half time the announcer asked everyone to refrain from smoking. The accumulated smoke, which was thick as morning fog, was bothering the players on the field. Well, the two rednecks ignored the request, which apparently irked Mr. Beret who turned around and started chastising them. At first they just laughed the old guy off, but then Mr. Beret got stupid and reached over and slapped the cigarette out of one of the redneck’s hand. The rednecks were so stunned that they just couldn’t figure out what to do. Apparently, they had never had such an experience before. Thankfully, Beret’s wife reacted quickly and got control of her out of control husband. The rednecks said something like, “Sit your ass down, Old Man!”, and sat down. Beret guy pouted some, and then it was over. Saved by grandma.
Hooked up with some elated Auburn fans who bought me all the Black Russians I could drink and joined my little crew of Wolverine fans at Tippatina’s (when Tippatina’s was Tippatina’s) for the rest of the night.
At the airport, waiting to board the plane, I spotted Jerry Cooney trying to hustle some long-legged blonde at a bar. I cocked blocked the crap out of him begging him for an autograph—which he reluctantly gave me. He was a dang bum anyhow.
Hey, it’s the offseason. I’m posted up some junk.
Here’s one about hockey. It’ll be shorter.
For starters, previously I’ve just been using the USA Today poll. I’m going to start using the USCHO poll too, because, well, why not? They’ll be listed in that order.
Also, no polls really updated this week, or last week for that matter. Which makes enough sense. I’m fairly certain they all will this Monday.
Last week, #11/#12 Michigan won their second straight Great Lakes Invitational against Michigan State in front of a very excited crowd. The crowd for the finals was significantly better than the crowd for the semis, and it seemed that it was a lot of Michigan Hockey fans, not just Michigan fans looking for kicks. Which was awesome. Little Brother bowed down. Michigan has the week off, as do many teams, but, here are the five teams ahead of us in each poll that don’t have the week off.
#12/#11 Air Force: Yesterday, Air Force played UConn in the Connecticut Hockey classic. Air Force won in a shootout, but, for our purposes, the game was a tie. Tonight they attempt to win that tournament against Quinnipiac, which shouldn’t be too demanding a task, but, well, hockey’s hockey. Busy week continues for the Falcons, as they face UConn again in Storrs on Saturday, before trekking to Yale Sunday. UConn just tied them, so they could always pull out the upset, while Yale’s on a bit of a cold streak.
#10/#9 Colorado College is off.
#9/#10 Cornell plays Sunday at UMass. They’re pretty good at home, but, Cornell is in general better.
#8 Princeton beat Minnesota State 5-2 last night, and tonight plays Nebraska-Omaha. CCHA loyalty compels me to root for UNO hard. This weekend, they get Harvard on Saturday, Dartmouth on Sunday. Harvard’s sub-.500, Dartmouth is just over.
#7 Boston College plays a couple of exhibition games against Canadian New Brunswick. So they don’t count.
#6 Northeastern plays an easy one against Western Michigan on Friday in the Dodge Holiday Classic. They go on to face the winner of a game between Brown and Minnesota. Here’s to hoping for a Minnesota win so that Northeastern can fall a bit.
Well, that’s it. I’ll see you Thursday to talk about basketball.
Also, it seems I’ll be at Crisler tomorrow. Join me! Lets make it a loud crowd for the Big Ten opener.
Reality Check - we have a top ten recruiting class right now, a kick-ass coach and tons of star-potential youngsters.
The stadium renovations (going to be loud!) and new practice facility (which will both be awe inspiring) will help recruiting even more next year.
We had an awesome recruiting class last year, with a ton of the kids redshirting. This means a bigger stronger faster meaner Roundtree, T-Rob, Omameh, Barnum, Smith, and Floyd to name a few.
Not to mention guys like Martin, Cissoko, Odoms, Shaw, Fitzgerald and Stonum all got a ton of experience by true freshman standards.
There is the potential to a top 5 recruiting class this year with a strong close (Campbell, Robinson, snake oil 1, snake oil 2).
Other reasons for excitement:
- Brandon Graham destroying QB's (fingers and toes crossed)
- Another off season of Barwisization
- Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown destroying safeties and linebackers next year (over-under on Minor-caused concussions is 3.5)
- Hemingway will be back
- Offensive line that will be big-ten caliber with depth
- Forcier and an improved/healthy Dual-Threet
- Jonas Mouton's potential & Obi Ezeh being another year better
- T-Rob and Gallon to help out Odoms
- About 9 months to figure out who can return kicks without fumbling (freshmen?)
- Incoming FG kicker that hits like a linebacker
- And of course - Zoltan
Lots to be excited about if you ask me.
- Who are the top candidates to return kick-offs and punts?
- What incoming freshmen will have the biggest impact?
(Update - Picking Tate Forcier is cheating...not really and I agree he will have a big impact, but could it be someone else? For instance, I don't know anyone that thought Odoms would have had as big an impact as he did. Another good question would be, who do you guys think will be the biggest 'sleeper' impact player in the class next year?)
Alright, there’s a lot of basketball this week, and a lot of hockey too. Which means I’m doing hockey tomorrow.
Biiig week for College Basketball. And for the Michigan Wolverines. One of the biggest weeks in a long time for our team.
Rankings: We’re #23 in the Media poll, up from last week. #24 in the coaches’ poll, which improves over last week’s NR. Thanks for waking up coaches! Now, the Big Ten season begins, and we have a chance to prove we deserve to be ranked. So, us and the 5 teams above us in each poll, whose potential losses are the most likely to affect our rank:
(Rankings go Media/Coaches’, if only one is listed it’s unanimous.)
#23/#24 Michigan: Tonight against North Carolina Central is a win. For real. They’re winless. Then, B10 season begins, and we gotta stay on our toes. A 9-3 Badgers team will not let up on New Year’s Eve (Tickets are quite available at Crisler!), and a couple days later, neither will the 12-1 Fighting Ilini (Tickets are quite available!). Crucial to pick up the home wins in both games, crucial even to our tourney bid.
#24/#23 Ohio State: I think but am not sure after that West Virginia game that the Buckeyes can take out Iowa on New Year’s Eve. Saturday is a tough contest against the #21 Minnesota Golden Gophers. I’ll get to that later.
#22 Xavier: Not too hard a week for the Musketeers, Wednesday against Robert Morris, a .500 team they should beat. A little harder on Saturday against a 6-4 Virginia squad, but, they should be able to pick up two wins this week.
#21 Minnesota: Wednesday against the #10/#15 Spartans. I’m honestly not sure what helps us more in the long run, a win by Minnesota or a win by State. I think I’d prefer the Minnesota win, because if it’s a close game State shouldn’t take too big of a hit (they then get to beat up on Northwestern a couple days later), and I’d rather two mid-ranked Big Ten teams, one of which can easily recover, than one high ranked and one unranked. The Minnesota/OSU game: Again, I’m going to root for Minnesota. Because, well, I’d rather the lower team fall out of the rankings. And I hate the Buckeyes. Then, a couple days later, I can watch State beat them without feeling like it’ll hurt our strength of schedule too much.
#20/#16 Clemson: Tomorrow, against South Carolina. SC’s 9-1, and the game’s at their house, so, the undefeated Clemson should be able to win, but can’t look past this game. Much easier game at home on Saturday, against an East Carolina team on a three game losing streak.
#19/#20 Baylor: Tonight against Portland state. Portland State is 10-3, but, I’m still picking the 1-loss Bears to win at home. Really easy game New Year’s Eve against 1-win Jackson State, then, Friday night against the previously mentioned Gamecocks.
#18 Louisville:New Year’s Eve against UNLV. Louisville can beat the Rebels, but, UNLV’s 10-2 and could be dangerous. Then, Sunday against Kentucky, a team that you should always watch out for.
#14/#18 Tennessee: There was a tie in the Coaches’ poll, meaning both Louisville and Tennessee are #18. At any rate, they get the best named team in college sports, the Ragin’ Cajuns tonight. UL-Lafayette is 4-6, so, easy win for them. Saturday they’re in Kansas, against a Jayhawks team looking to be ranked again.
So, that’s that. A lot of potential upsets, but, if Michigan wants to be ranked higher, they’re going to have to hold up their end of the bargain and go undefeated this week.
Here’s a regurgitation of the schedule up to Wednesday in order of when games are actually taking place, along with where to watch them. I’ll be back tomorrow with hockey, and Thursday with an update on Wednesday’s games. Lemme tell you, New Year’s Eve is looking like a Saturday. Hope to see some of you at Crisler on Wednesday:
#23/#24 MICHIGAN v. NC Central, 7:00, BTN
#14/#18 Tennessee v. Louisiana-Lafayette, 7:30, Online
#19/#20 Baylor v. Portland State, 8:00, Online
#20/#16 Clemson at South Carolina, 7:00, FSN South/Florida, ESPN360.com
#21/#21 Minnesota v. #10/#15 Michigan State, 12:00, BTN
#23/#24 MICHIGAN v. Wisconsin, 2:00, ESPN2
#24/#23 Ohio State v. Iowa, 4:00, BTN
#19/#20 Baylor v. Jackson, 5:00, FSN Southwest
#22/#22 Xavier v. Robert Morris, 6:00, FSN Ohio
#18/#18 Louisville v. UNLV, 6:30, EPSN2