Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
Only 22 games this weekend, with 19 of them on Saturday. Of the 22 games this weekend, six are conference championship games; so I guess we’ll call this championship weekend? For six teams, it’s a last ditch effort to become bowl eligible (right now 70 teams are bowl eligible; there are 70 bowl spots); so if you are a Ball State, Toledo, or Western Michigan fan, you want these teams to lose (although the winner of Syracuse and Pittsburgh will be bowl eligible for sure).
Army/Navy is December 10th, while this is a game where we honor our servicemen and servicewomen, there will be no Upset Watch, as there is only one game played. Upset Watch will return for the bowl season.
As typical with the Watch, we’ll review the picks from last week, noting the bad picks, and point out a few games to give the underdog some credit in, even if it is only in Vegas. We’ll also look at two sure-fire favorites (since Michigan’s regular season is over). Be sure to check out my website, Before Visiting the Sportsbook, throughout the week, for more content.
Florida State (8-4) -2.0 @ Florida (6-6). Result: Florida State 21 Florida 7.
@ Northwestern (6-6) +7.0 Michigan State (10-2). Result: Michigan State 31 Northwestern 17 [Props to Trebor for correctly predicting Michigan State would cover].
*@ Michigan (10-2) -7.5 Ohio (6-6). Result: Michigan 40 Ohio 34 [Props to One Inch Woody for correctly predicting Ohio would cover].
@ Wake Forest (6-5) +1.0 Vanderbilt (5-6). Result: Vanderbilt 41 Wake Forest 7 [Props to One Inch Woody for correctly predicting Wake Forest would cover].
Nevada (6-4) +1.5 @ Utah State (5-5). Result: Utah State 21 Nevada 17.
@ Auburn (7-5) +21.0 Alabama (11-1). Result: Alabama 42 Auburn 14.
UCLA (6-6) +14.5 @ USC (10-2). Result: USC 50 UCLA 0 [Props to One Inch Woody for correctly predicting USC would cover].
*I’m counting this as a loss despite the fact Toussaint was clearly in the end zone, despite the officials “better” judgment.
Besides the Michigan State game, Trebor added a pair of wins with Purdue (-7.5; 33-25) and Virginia Tech (-4; 38-0).
Gulo_Gulo added a pair, as well, with Texas (+7.5; 27-25) and Wisconsin (-17; 45-7).
Logan88 rode Stanford (-7; 28-14) and Minnesota (+10; 27-7) to victory.
Number 7, following the trend of twos, picked up wins with Georgia (-5.5; 31-17) and Kentucky (+6; 10-7).
Championship Week begins on Thursday with (#23) West Virginia visiting South Florida (8:00 PM EST/ESPN/ESPN 3D(!)/ESPN3); the Mountaineers need a win to keep their BCS bowl hopes alive. On Friday, there are a pair of championship games, with Ohio University and Northern Illinois meeting at Ford Field (7:00 PM EST/ESPN2/ESPN3); Northern Illinois returns to the championship game after coming up short last year and Ohio University returns for the second time in three years. UCLA visits (#9) Oregon in the PAC-12 Championship Game (8:00 PM EST/FOX); Oregon has won three straight against UCLA, dating back to 2007.
Six games match top 25 opponents on Saturday. Saturday kicks off with (#24) Southern Miss visiting (#6) Houston in the Conference USA Championship Game (12:00 PM EST/ABC); a BCS bowl is on the line for Houston. (#22) Texas visits (#17) Baylor (3:30 PM EST/ABC); Texas had won 12 straight against Baylor until last year’s 30-22 loss in Austin. The SEC Championship Game is another with BCS bowl implications, matching (#14) Georgia and (#1) LSU in the Georgia Dome (4:00 PM EST/CBS); a Georgia win likely knocks Alabama out of a BCS bowl game. (#10) Oklahoma visits (#3) Oklahoma State in the Bedlam Game, a de facto Big 12 Championship Game (8:00 PM EST/ABC); an Oklahoma State win gives them a BCS bowl bid with a shot at the national title, while an Oklahoma win would likely create a three-way tie for first, with Oklahoma winning by virtue of their 2-0 record against Kansas State and Oklahoma State. In the ACC Championship Game, a rematch occurs between (#5) Virginia Tech and (#20) Clemson, this time, in Charlotte (8:00 PM EST/ESPN/ESPN3); Clemson beat Virginia Tech 23-3 in Blacksburg on October 1st. After starting 8-0, Clemson is 1-3 in their last four games, the lone win coming by three. In another game involving a rematch, (#15) Wisconsin meets (#13) Michigan State in Indianapolis in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game (8:17 PM EST/FOX); since 2000, the teams have split their ten meetings – Michigan State won on October 22 on a desperation heave by QB Kirk Cousins, 37-31, in East Lansing.
@ New Mexico State (4-8) +14.0 Utah State (6-5). The (NM St) Aggies are 48th in total offense (92nd rushing, 24th passing); Utah State is 24th (6th rushing, 92nd passing). New Mexico State is 109th in total defense (105th rushing, 96th passing); the (Utah State) Aggies are 48th (30th rushing, 74th passing). Since 1997, New Mexico State is 4-9 SU against Utah State (5-8 ATS); 9 of the last 13 meetings have been decided by 14 points or less. New Mexico State Coach DeWayne Walker is 9-28 (16-19-1 ATS, 15-16-1 ATS as an underdog); Utah State Coach Gary Andersen is 14-21 (19-15 ATS, 5-10 ATS as a favorite). Utah State is 4-2 in Las Cruces since 1997. Utah State is 2-5 ATS as a favorite this year; New Mexico State is 6-4 ATS as an underdog this year. New Mexico State should keep this closer than 14, provided the defense shows up. Take New Mexico State with the points, at home.
Troy (3-8) +17.5 @ Arkansas State (9-2).The Trojans are 65th in total offense (116th rushing, 16th passing); Arkansas State is 26th (21st rushing, 18th passing). Troy is 113th in total defense (108th rushing, 95th passing); the Red Wolves are 36th (18th rushing, 47th passing). Since 2004, Troy is 4-3 SU against Arkansas State (3-4 ATS); Troy has won four straight (3-1 ATS over that span). Arkansas State Coach Hugh Freeze is 9-2 (9-2 ATS, 7-2 ATS as a favorite); Troy Coach Larry Blakeney is 72-61 since 2001 (60-57-2 ATS, 31-24-1 ATS as an underdog). Troy is in the midst of a surprisingly bad season, as they were picked to win the Sun Belt; by contrast, Arkansas State was picked in the middle and will finish first, regardless of the outcome of the game. Arkansas State, until this year, has only made one bowl game. Despite Troy’s struggles on defense, they have the potential to keep this game close due to QB Corey Robinson’s (3100 passing yards, 62.3% completion, 19 passing TDs, but 13 INTs) success through the air. Take Troy with the points.
@ Florida Atlantic (1-10) +11.5 Louisiana-Monroe (3-8). The Owls are 119th in total offense (106th rushing, 110th passing); Louisiana-Monroe is 61st (73rd rushing, 49th passing). Florida Atlantic is 69th in total defense (73rd rushing, 60th passing); the Warhawks are 29th (12th rushing, 76th passing). Florida Atlantic is 2-5 SU against Louisiana-Monroe since 2004 (1-5-1 ATS). Louisiana-Monroe Coach Todd Berry is 12-47 since 2003 (24-32-2 ATS, 3-7-1 ATS as a favorite); Florida Atlantic Coach Howard Schnellenberger is 58-73 since 2001 (36-52-2 ATS, 23-36-2 ATS as an underdog). Florida Atlantic got their first win of the season last week, at home, 38-35 over UAB. Neither team is making a bowl game. This is Coach Schnellenberger’s last game, as he is retiring. A career that started in 1979 with Miami (FL) now comes to a close in Boca Raton. Take Florida Atlantic with the points, and to win.
Michigan State (10-2) +9.5 Wisconsin (10-2) (@ Indianapolis, IN).The Spartans are 64th in total offense (78th rushing, 46th passing); Wisconsin is 12th (10th rushing, 63rd passing). Michigan State is 3rd in total defense (11th rushing, 8th passing); the Badgers are 7th (44th rushing, 3rd passing). Wisconsin Coach Bret Bielema is 49-16 (72-61-2 ATS, 46-45-2 ATS as a favorite); Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio is 61-38 (48-44-5 ATS, 33-34-5 ATS as an underdog). Since 1999, Michigan State is 5-6 SU against Wisconsin (5-6 ATS, but 4-2 since 2004), including 1-0 this year (+7.5; 37-31 in East Lansing). If you read the Upset Watch: Week 8, I noted the home team dominance; the home team has now won seven straight, but this one is on a neutral site. Since their meeting, Michigan State is 4-1 SU (3-2 ATS); Wisconsin is 4-1 SU (2-3 ATS). Wisconsin should win, but winning by ten seems a bit much. Take Michigan State with the points.
Syracuse (5-6) +13.0 @ Pittsburgh (5-6).The Orange are 89th in total offense (96th rushing, 64th passing); Pittsburgh is 83rd (61st rushing, 78th passing). Syracuse is 71st in total defense (43rd rushing, 99th passing); the Panthers are 41st (22nd rushing, 69th passing). Since 1997, Syracuse is 6-8 SU against Pittsburgh (0-6 since 2005) (5-9 ATS). Pittsburgh Coach Todd Graham is 48-29 (41-33-1 ATS, 18-23-1 ATS as a favorite); Syracuse Coach Doug Marrone is 17-19 (16-18-1 ATS, 9-11 ATS as an underdog). I normally stay away from Big East games; the conference is just too unpredictable (who would have thought Louisville would be in the running for a BCS bowl?). Winner of this game is bowl eligible. Syracuse was picked, by most, to finish at the bottom of the Big East. Many experts had Pittsburgh finishing near the top of the Big East. Syracuse, under Marrone, has been an overachieving team. Pittsburgh should win the game, but Syracuse should keep it within two touchdowns. Take Syracuse with the points.
West Virginia (8-3) -1.0 @ South Florida (5-6) (THURS). The Mountaineers are 16th in total offense (101st rushing, 6th passing); South Florida is 30th (32nd rushing, 39th passing). West Virginia is 25th in total defense (49th rushing, 30th passing); the Bulls are 34th (14th rushing, 83rd passing). Since 2005, West Virginia is 3-3 SU against South Florida (2-4 ATS). West Virginia Coach Dana Holgorsen is 8-3 (5-6 ATS, 3-5 ATS as a favorite); South Florida Coach Skip Holtz is 51-38 (48-39-1 ATS, 24-11-1 ATS as an underdog). Holtz’s gaudy numbers come from his days at East Carolina; he is 13-11 at South Florida (10-14 ATS, 4-3 as an underdog). I have yet to offer a pick for a game that is not on Saturday, but I couldn’t resist this one. Both teams have a lot to play for: A South Florida win makes them bowl eligible; a West Virginia win coupled with a Cincinnati win gives West Virginia the Big East title. Consider that South Florida’s record in the Big East is mediocre (21-27); West Virginia is 32-10 in the Big East since 2005 (when South Florida entered the conference). The last time West Virginia lost more than two conference games, it was 2001, Rich Rodriguez’s first year. South Florida QB BJ Daniels’s (2378 passing yards, 60.4% completion 12 passing TDs, but 6 INTs) status for the game is in doubt; he did not play in a losing effort to Louisville, last week. Take note of West Virginia’s pass offense against South Florida’s pass defense. Take West Virginia to cover.
Wyoming (7-4) -5.0 @ Colorado State (3-8).The Cowboys are 50th in total offense (35th rushing, 72nd passing); Colorado State is 91st (62nd rushing, 90th passing). Wyoming is 100th in total defense (114th rushing, 42nd passing); the Rams are 85th (116th rushing, 14th passing). Since 1997, Wyoming is 5-9 SU against Colorado State (7-7 ATS). Wyoming Coach Dave Christensen is 17-19 (21-13-1 ATS, 4-5 ATS as a favorite); Colorado State Coach Steve Fairchild is 16-32 (19-27 ATS, 14-16 ATS as an underdog). Wyoming is 2-5 in their last seven trips to Ft. Collins, winning the last time there, in 2009, 17-16. These teams meet for the Bronze Boot; the “Border War” had had over 100 meetings since 1899; the teams have meet every year since 1946. Take note of Wyoming’s rushing offense against Colorado State’s run defense. Wyoming is bowl eligible for only the third time since 2000 (Las Vegas Bowl in 2004 and New Mexico Bowl in 2009; Wyoming won both of those bowl games). I would be remiss if I didn’t point out Wyoming is 7-4 ATS this year (2-2 ATS favorite) and Colorado State is 3-8 ATS (3-4 ATS underdog); Coach Fairchild is 9-4 (1-2 this year) as a home underdog, though. Take Wyoming to cover.
Who ya got?
High School Football coach told people at the New Orleans QB Club that Rich told him...
His expression to me was he felt he had a better chance to win the national championship at Arizona if he recruited properly and they promised him they would put Michigan on the schedule within three years.
I will probably hate myself in the morning for posting this, as it will deteriorate, and will never happen, because the chance Michigan says yes is zero...but it's news, and I thought it was interesting how people may view things.
Sometime after the 2003 incarnation of The Game, I remember walking past a belligerent Ohio
State fan by Bell's Pizza on my way back to my house on Packard Avenue across from the weird laundromat/hardware store/hot-dog shop that sits on the very end of Arch Street. I can't really recall the specifics, but he was angrily belittling Michigan despite the outcome of the game. I believe a beer or a punch was thrown by Ohio-guy, who was easily pushed to the ground and subdued by a throng of Michigan Men enjoying the opportunity to righteously enact some minor harmless violence on a Buckeye mouth-breather. We were sick of the cockiness and undeserved arrogance that 2002 had brought to their already aggravating fan base. Until that win we had little to say in response. Now? We were back. Our fall from the mountain brief.
The cops came and it was broken up. We all laughed about how stupid a guy must be to initiate a fight with Michigan fans in Ann Arbor after The Game. Our sense of superiority - already mounting after the victory and the subsequent field-storming - grew ever larger. We were content. Order had been restored to the Michigan football universe after a national championship was delivered to Columbus the previous fall. We planned a trip to Los Angeles for the Rose Bowl that coming New Year's.
I recalled that moment this week for a number of reasons, not the least of which was my desire to feel connected somehow to the emotions that must be flowing through Ann Arbor right now. I couldn't recall whether I had joined the fray. I believe a handful of my friends had, and I somewhat often found myself needlessly entering frays in college and shortly thereafter. While this was partially due to some heightened sense of duty to my friends - although that usually was my (post-hoc) justification - I've always found that there's something inherently and undeniably thrilling about knocking someone down who deserves it. Also, blind rage. That doesn't suit my narrative though.
We all know it by now: the notion that football is just better down there. But why? For the most part, those advocating for this point-of-view make one or more of the following arguments:
1. The best team in the country annually comes from the SEC, and not from any of the other power conferences.
2. Other conferences don’t fare well in bowl matchups against SEC teams.
From this commentators conclude that SEC teams are just faster, which means the SEC region (sometimes stretched to include all of Texas) just has better athletes, ergo domination. Drew Sharp (and no, I won’t link out to him) has made a particularly strong variation on this last one, arguing that migration patterns from the Midwest to the Southeast essentially mean that all the good athletes from Ohio or Michigan now reside in Florida or Alabama, which ensures the eternal viability of SEC national championship campaigns, and mostly dooms those from Big 10 country—this despite the fact that migration patterns are long-term processes whose social effects are generally felt across generations, not year-to-year. If this were true, one would assume the effects would be more wide-ranging across time. So let’s look more closely at this issue…
1. Where does the best team in the country come from?
Since 2006, it has been the SEC. No doubt about that. But since 1990, it breaks down as follows (with split championships counted as 2, and with teams assigned to their 2010 conferences):
Big 12: 5/24
Pac 10: 3/24
Big 10: 2/24
Looking at 1990-2005, it breaks down as follows:
Big 12: 5/19
Pac 10: 3/19
Big 10: 2/19
Taking this longer-view shows that SEC dominance is largely in the short-term. Prior to 2006, the SEC was decidedly middle-of-the-pack.
2. How do other conferences fare against the SEC in bowl matchups?
In 2010 the SEC went a dominating…5-5. Middling though this sounds, the other power conferences did even worse:
Phil Steele has some handy figures for the years 2000-9:
Here we see that the SEC has, in fact, been the best conference in the country in terms of bowl record, to the tune of a 48-31 record. The MWC and Pac 10 did next best. The other power conferences were less successful, including our beloved Big 10. From this we can conclude that the SEC has, in fact, generally done better than the other conferences in bowl matchups during the last decade, but that this success isn’t quite sui generis.
While I didn’t find a site listing conference records in bowl games for the 1990s, I did find a site that listed the most successful programs of that decade:
The SEC contributed 2 (Florida and Tenessee, at #s 4 and 5), the Big 10 3 (PSU, Michigan and Ohio at #s 6, 7 and 10), while the top 2 were Florida State and Nebraska. This suggests the SEC was not quite the top conference in the ‘90s that it would become in the ‘00s, which in turn suggests that the rise of the SEC has more to do with specific developments than innate or natural advantages.
So what about that migrations theory?
It’s not completely baseless, if you also count other sites of in-migration like the Southwest and West, but then again…Arizona and ASU aren’t exactly lighting it up, are they. But it’s nota very good explanation either. Here are better ones:
1. Warm weather schools have training advantages that cold weather schools don’t, particularly at the high school level, where kids don’t have access to the multimillion dollar conditioning facilities that colleges have. This is most evident in speed conditioning. Just think about it…what’s a better place to practice your 100-meter dash in January: suburban Miami or the Upper Peninsula? It’s not just the SEC that benefits, though. It’s a general advantage for southern and Western schools over Midwestern and Eastern ones. As the game moved towards a greater emphasis on speed over brawn over the past two decades, this translated into an advantage for schools recruiting primarily within the warmer parts of the country. Given the fast pace of advancements in conditioning, and the increasingly nationalized recruiting process, expect this advantage to soften over time.
2. The rise of the SEC in the ‘00s came at the moment of the ACC’s decline. Remember when Florida State used to annually beat Florida? Me too. From 1990-1999, FSU went 7-4-1 (and 7-3-1 if you discount the rematch in 1996-7). From 2000-2009, FSU went 3-7. So what gives? Bobby Bowden getting old and FSU losing ground in the in-state recruiting battles. Oh, and Miami’s post-Coker hangover didn’t hurt either. Actually, the whole ACC declined in stature during the ‘00s, which opened up recruiting lanes for several SEC schools that were previously more competitive. This suggests less a “natural” advantage than an historical one. Since the ACC doesn’t look to be coming back anytime soon, it may be a long-term development. At the same time, it also suggests that the Big 10 could benefit from similar declines in the Big 12 and Big East—provided the conference and its programs take advantage of that.
3. SEC schools have aggressively pursued excellent coaches and been willing to pay money for them. After a Zook experiment, Florida hired Urban Meyer. LSU hired Nick Saban, and later Les Miles. Alabama hired Nick Saban. South Carolina hired Steve Spurrier. Arkansas hired Bobby Petrino. Auburn hired Gene Chizik. Just as importantly, they all paid big money so these guys could build the staffs they wanted.
Big 10 schools are getting there, but it’s taking longer. Michigan is finally paying top dollar for top coordinators; Ohio will be too. Though their ceilings are lower, Little Brother and Wisconsin have also managed to put together efficient, competitive programs on tighter budgets. (Who knows what will happen to PSU—will they go for someone creative like Dan Mullen, or fall into a series of Notre Dame-like FAILS?) A lot of SEC success can be attributed to expensive coaching hires, which translates into a competitive advantage until the rest catch up. This won’t last forever.
4. Oversigning. Not every successful SEC program does this, but some of the most successful (Alabama and LSU, particularly) do. This ensures that certain programs have, say, 4 good choices for WDE rather than 3. Since not all top recruits pan out, oversigning raises the odds that you have someone who will at every position. It’s also a competitive advantage that won’t last, as virtually everyone in the world realizes practices like forcibly granting medical redshirts to college kids are unethical. Virtually everyone.
The SEC has, at least for the past 5 years, and probably for the past 10, been the best conference in the FBS. But the idea of some endless supremacy peddled by homers and haters (I’m looking at you, Drew) are as silly as Karl Rove’s dream of a “permanent Republican majority” in 2004, or Rahm Emmanuel’s similar dream of a “cascading wave of legislative victories” after 2008. Like politics, college football goes in cycles. At certain times, certain identifiable things provide certain empirically verifiable advantages. After some time, others either catch up or conditions change so that those advantages cease to be the assets they once were. We’re almost certainly going to have an SEC champion in 2011-12, and at least three programs in that conference are built for lasting success. But nothing lasts forever.
Pickerington (OH) North defensive end Jake Butt, a four-star and the #70 player overall in the 2013 247Sports rankings, visited the Big House on Saturday holding offers from Bowling Green, Buffalo, Duke, Iowa, Kent State, Maryland, Northwestern, Purdue, Syracuse, Toledo, and UCLA. Today, he added two schools to that list, Indiana and Michigan. Jake was busy fielding congratulatory phone calls and interview requests, but took the time for a quick chat this afternoon:
ACE: First of all, you visited for the Ohio State game, what was that experience like for you?
JAKE: It was crazy, you know, it was unbelievable. I was blessed because I also got to go to the Notre Dame game, and those were two excellent games to be down in the Big House for. It was amazing.
ACE: You just got your Michigan offer. How'd you learn that you were getting the offer, and what does it mean in terms of your recruitment?
JAKE: Actually, it started off earlier today, I got offered by Indiana as well. My coach texted me in class and told me congratulations and that Indiana had offered me, so I was really excited about that. I didn't really expect to get offered. Their recruiting coordinator, Coach Smith, was in practice today—I thought he was just checking me out, to see my size, see me move a little bit in person. Then I actually got a text from a few people saying congratulations on the offer to Michigan, and I hadn't heard news of it yet, so I called my head coach and was like, "Has Michigan offered?" and he said "Yeah." I'm really excited about both the offers, for sure.
ACE: So where do you stand now in terms of what schools have shown the most interest. Have you been able to narrow it down at all or are you still trying to figure things out?
JAKE: It's still too early for me to narrow anything down. I'm getting a lot of great opportunities right now, but it's still much too early for me to narrow anything down.
ACE: The last time I talked to you, [Pickerington North] was 5-1 at that point. How did the season finish out for you, and how do you think you played this year?
JAKE: You know, we could've, should've finished out 10-0, but we actually finished out 8-2, and unfortunately missed the playoffs, which, just, that was a dagger, we should've made it. I can't sugarcoat it for you, we should've made those freakin' playoffs, but we didn't, so we're back at it next year. Individually, I thought it was the best season I've ever had in any of my sports.
ACE: Being at the game on Saturday, were you able to get in touch with any of the other guys being recruited by Michigan?
JAKE: Yeah, I got in touch with a few of the recruits. [Any specifically?] Yeah, my dad played rugby with a guy, his son, Sean Welsh, he's a big, big line recruit, he's a stud, I was talking to him, and I met a few kids from Trotwood too.
ACE: Do you have any idea in terms of a timeline for your recruitment, or is it still too early to say?
JAKE: Still much too early.
Via Lost Letterman. They're reporting Tressel will interview with Akron today or tomorrow. They have a HC vacancy and are looking to hire. I'm not sure why on earth they'd touch Tressel, but what do I know.
Perhaps this is just to employ him as a consultant in the search, not as a candidate.
Edit: An interesting point I found while on the Akron football page is they recycled Faust after his poor showing at ND. So it's not unprecendent for them to take on a big name with issues.