The Ocho

A home away from home for the college football fan who's tired of the talking heads not knowing what they're talking about.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Bowl Bids So Far - How Bad Were My Predictions?

Here are the teams who have accepted bowl bids so far:

Arkansas State to the New Orleans Bowl (I picked La.-Monroe as the Sun Belt rep)
Colorado State vs. Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl (I had New Mexico vs NC State)
Toledo is going to the GMAC Bowl (I tapped Bowling Green as the MAC participant)
BYU is in the Las Vegas Bowl (Amazingly, I picked that one right, though not its opponent . . .)
The Insight Bowl matches Arizona State and Rutgers (I had Rutgers, and figured the Pac 10 wouldn't fill its slot, so I had Houston picking up the slack)
Utah is going to the Emerald Bowl (Hey, I had Colo. State to come from the MWC)
Fresno State is going to Memphis to play in the Liberty Bowl (And here I thought it would be TCU)
TCU, meanwhile, is travelling over I-30, and down I-45 to go to the Houston Bowl (See above for my thoughts on TCU)
The Cardinals of Louisville are going to the Gator Bowl (I think the Gator Bowl reps figured that ND would get its BCS bid, and, unfortunately, didn't like my pick of South Florida)

There you have it: Out of the 11 teams that have accepted bowl bids so far, I picked 2 correctly. 2 of 11 - at least I'm doing better at this than Syracuse did this year at football (that's what you get for taking the "men" out of your name, 'Cuse!)

Friday, November 25, 2005

Enough already: PSU vs. VT in the Rose Bowl

The last two weeks have proven conclusively that the two teams shoved down are throats as #1 and #2 this year are vastly overrated. USC gave up 42 to Fresno. Giving up 42, anywhere, to anyone, in regulation should be an immediate disqualifier from a national championship game. Doing so to a WAC team at home is simply inexcusable. Reggie Bush is faster than people who are slow. We get it. Neither he nor LenDale White will be anywhere close to an every down back in the NFL. Playing against real defenses with real speed who can really tackle will be a shock to those guys. Here's hoping UCLA bails us out having to witness ABC announcers drool over the USC players in the Rose.

Texas hasn't played a team of note since week 2 in Columbus, a game they barely won. That was a great win for the 'Horns, but complacency has set in, as the "Big" XII simply doesn't require them to get better in order to roll through. We still see a team making the same mistakes. They can't take care of the football, and Chizik - who is a very good coach - still has the same schematic flaws he's always had, but no longer has the talent to compensate for it. They've now been challenged twice in the Big XII, which should be an automatic disqualifier from the BCS altogether. Texas was very fortunate to win today, as McGee missed wide open receivers right and left (Chiz still can't get the safeties in position), A&M dropped multiple sure INTs, missed on some fumble recoveries, Texas got a bad call on a fumble recovery, and A&M had the botched snap on the PAT. All this against a horrendous football with a losing record.

Let's hope the Coaches poll voters and Harris Poll voters grow a brain and a conscience and give us Penn State as #1 and either VT or LSU (assuming both win out) as #2.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

My Bowl Predictions - Who's Going Where? (Maybe)

From top to bottom, here come my bowl picks for the 2005 season, including what teams are likely to fill slots for those conferences that can't meet all their expectations. Starting with the big game . . .

1. Rose Bowl - Texas vs. USC

While there's a chance either team might stumble, opening up a place for PSU or LSU (if it wins out), neither has managed to do it yet. USC faces one more potential stumble against UCLA, while Texas should rout both A&M and Colorado, its likely Big 12 championship game opponent.

2. Orange Bowl - Penn State vs. Va Tech
24 hours ago, this would have been Penn State-Miami, but Miami has likely lost its ACC championship game slot to Va Tech, with the loss to Ga Tech last night. While the Orange Bowl has its choice of the ACC champ and the Big East champ, Va Tech probably gets the edge on WVU, assuming of course they take care of business against UNC and FSU first. Unless the Fiesta Bowl snags the Lions with their first pick (for losing Texas to the Rose Bowl), the Orange Bowl will snag them, as demonstrated by their presence at the PSU-MSU game yesterday.

3. Sugar Bowl - LSU vs. West Virginia
Why aren't the Tigers undefeated right now? Les Miles has to be hoping that not too many people are wondering how he managed to lose to a Tennessee team that not only isn't going bowling, but lost to Vandy yesterday. Expect LSU to beat Georgia to win the SEC (after beating Arkansas to get there), and WVU to win out and take the Big East.

4. Fiesta Bowl - Notre Dame vs. Oregon
The all at-large bowl. As long as Notre Dame wins out, they'll be in the top 12 of the BCS rankings, and the Fiesta Bowl is likely to scoop them up with their first pick. While there will be other highly ranked teams available (Ohio State, Auburn), expect a loud noise from the West Coast if a one-loss Oregon isn't slotted in. With all the other remaining one-loss teams (if UCLA does lose to USC) likely to have wrapped up their conference championships, the BCS faces rebelliong from the Pac 10 if the Ducks don't go to Tempe.

5. Capital One Bowl - Ohio State vs. Auburn

6. Gator Bowl - Miami vs. South Florida

7. Outback Bowl - Wisconsin vs. Alabama

8. Cotton Bowl - Texas Tech vs. Georgia

9. Liberty Bowl - Central Florida vs. TCU
While the MWC champ no longer has a guaranteed slot in the Liberty Bowl, TCU is likely to be the biggest draw available to the Liberty Bowl, not locked up in a bowl committment.

10. Houston Bowl - Oklahoma vs. Navy
The SEC won't have enough bowl eligible teams to fill this bid, so expect Navy to move in for its third consecutive bowl.

11. Meineke Car Care Bowl - FSU vs. Louisville

12. Peach Bowl - Boston College vs. South Carolina

13. Music City Bowl - Florida vs. Iowa

14. Independence Bowl - Missouri vs. Virginia
Virginia takes the SEC slot.

15. Sun Bowl - Northwestern vs. California

16. Holiday Bowl - UCLA vs. Colorado

17. Emerald Bowl - Colorado State vs. Western Michigan
Western Michigan fills a Pac 10 slot.

18. Alamo Bowl - Iowa State vs. Michigan

19. MPC Computers Bowl - Boise State vs. Clemson

20. Insight Bowl - Houston vs. Rutgers
Houston fills in for a Pac 10 shortfall.

21. Champs Sports Bowl - Ga Tech vs. Nebraska

22. Motor City Bowl - Toledo vs. Minnesota

23. Hawaii Bowl - Tulsa vs. Fresno State

24. Fort Worth Bowl - Southern Miss vs. La Tech
La Tech takes the Big 12 slot here.

25. Poinsettia Bowl - New Mexico vs. NC State

26. Las Vegas Bowl - BYU vs. Arizona State

27. GMAC Bowl - UTEP vs. Bowling Green

28. New Orleans Bowl - ULa-Mo vs. Memphis

Week 12 and All is Well

A weekly roundup, followed up by a preview of this upcoming week, starting off with my boys in blue . . .

1. Nittany Lions in the BCS - JoePa finally wins (at least a share of) his second Big Ten title, 11 years after the first one, and his first BCS bowl bid (though he's won them all before they were the BCS bowls). Though I firmly believe that Penn State should've stopped Michigan on that last play (for God's sake, Vandy could stop the Vols!), the Nittany Lions are only 1 second away from an undefeated season and BCS controversy. To top it off, as the Seminoles have continued to struggle this year, JoePa has cut Bowden's lead down to 5, with 353 wins to 358. Bobby and his boys still have 2 games to play (Florida and the ACC champ), so the margin may keep, but there's always next year. I've got the boys in blue slotted to play in the Orange Bowl, though Miami now looks like it won't be making it to the ACC championship game. Of course, if USC manages to drop one to UCLA (after pulling yet one more out of their ass to Fresno State - well done, Bulldogs. Pat Hill has shown that his boys will play anyone anywhere), or if either A&M or Colorado surprise the Longhorns, it'll be a cat fight between PSU and LSU for that #2 slot (assuming LSU wins out, of course).

2. The Iron Bowl - Though this was mostly a one-sided affair (Auburn had a 28-7 lead at the half, and, much like last year's Sugar Bowl, allowed its opponent to score points that makes it look much closer than it was), the participants had the highest rankings (9 and 11) for over a decade. Auburn, in winning, is pinning its hopes on Arkansas rising up against the other Tigers, while Alabama has seen its hopes for an at-large BCS bid fade away to nothing.

3. Vandy, there was this OTHER team in Tenn. too - Vandy finishes its season with an upset victory against the Vols, and breaks a streak of 21 (22?) years of losing to Tennessee. The Commodores end up 5-6, and not bowl-eligible, because they lost to that other team from Tennessee, Middle Tennessee State. The mighty Blue Raiders. To top it off, Vandy could've also beaten Kentucky, but failed to do that as well. Looking at their schedule, after their 4-0 start, Vandy dropped close games to 4 of the 6 teams that beat them. Florida, MTSU, S. Car., and Kentucky all won by a TD or less -
a little bit more effort, and Vandy would've been bowling. Still and all, though, good run, boys, though your coach may be on the want list for schools looking for a change this year.

4. TCU wins MWC, goes undefeated . . . almost - Being such a fan of Cinderella teams, and anything that embarrasses the BCS, TCU could've been a contender, but for a pack of pesky Mustangs. Though once again the Frogs show that the Big 12 took the wrong private school from the SWC, it's still that entirely inexplicable loss to SMU that keeps them out of BCS contention. TCU is going bowling, but since the Libery Bowl no longer gets the MWC champ, no one knows where yet.

Preview of the big games of Week 13 -

1. The Lone Star Showdown -
This one shouldn't be much of a showdown, right? Right? Well, maybe not, but A&M has three things that may make this more of a challenge than it should be to the Horns. One, it's in Kyle Field (though with mighty Baylor almost pulling off the upset, that may not mean much). Two, A&M needs this win to be bowl eligible and that may give them some more incentive in this game. Three, history has seen that whenever one of these two teams has clinched a berth in the Big 12 championship game, the other rises up and puts the smack down on them (98 for the Horns, 99 for the Aggies). Still, this Longhorn team should be able to march up and down the field against these Aggies. Expect a 49-10 blowout in this one, and a lot of sad faces in the Dixie Chicken.

2. Arkansas at LSU - The Tigers need to win this one to face Georgia in the SEC championship game. The Razorbacks need to win this one to, well, nothing more than be spoilers or pains in the ass. The Hogs aren't going bowling, whether they win or not, but LSU hasn't played with any consistency this year. The Hogs almost pulled off the upset between the hedges, and they'll be looking to do the same against the Tigers. Expect LSU to pull it out, to set up a showdown in Atlanta against the Dawgs, 20-10.

3. Virginia at Miami - With the Canes dropping one to the Rambling Wreck, they need to beat the Wahoos when they come to Coral Gables. Plus, they have to hope that UNC manages an upset win against the Hokies to win back their place in the ACC championship game, and a rematch against the Seminoles. The schizoid Cavaliers, who managed to beat FSU, yet lose to UNC, are a true wild card. Will the real Cavs please stand-up, so we can figure out what you're doing? All the evidence indicates Miami should just run away with this one, but the Cavs make it sticky.

4. The GA Bowl - The game with nothing on the line. Georgia has clinched its spot in the SEC championship game, and can only get to a BCS bowl if they win that game. Ga Tech, meanwhile, despite its upset of Miami, can't get to the ACC championship, and just wants a better bowl bid. This one is always nasty, and pits two dominant defenses against each other. I've got to give the Yellowjackets the edge, as the Reggie Ball-Calvin Johnson connection can take advantage of a Bulldog secondary that allowed Auburn to throw deep and set up the game winning field goal. Ga Tech takes this one, 17-14.

5. Gator eats Seminole, or maybe it's the other way around - Head south from Atlanta, and you find a similar situation. FSU has clinched its place in the ACC champ, while Florida is on the outside looking in. Neither is in the running for a BCS bowl bid, and both have coaches with something to prove. While Bowden hasn't faced the depths of badness that JoePa has, the Seminoles have managed to lose at least 3 games now for 5 years in a row. Urban Meyer, meanwhile, needs to show that his wunderkind status will be able to hold up against the big boys. Florida has the better QB, and the game is in the Swamp, so I've got the Gators chomping on Chief Osceola, 20-17.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Overrated Coaches

In the spirit of balance, I wanted to take a look at some of the most overrated coaches, currently coaching, in no particular order:

1. Tyrone Willingham - Even though I think he was treated poorly by ND (though I don't think it was for racial reasons), his steady slide into mediocrity at ND and his abyssmal start at Washington makes me wonder if that 8-0 start was really a fluke. Aside from the Stanford game, each game in that start was very close, and could've potentially gone either way. That, or Bob Davie was a better recruiter than anyone gave him credit for. By 2004, when he should've had some of his own recruits, Ty limped to a 6-6 record. Perhaps this is unfair, and he would've had as similar success as Charlie Weis has had this year. I'll give him a couple more years at UW, but I think Ty got over-hyped, and couldn't live up to the expectations.

2. Jim Tressel, Ohio State - Yes, he won the NC his second year in with a lot of luck. But with all the scandals surrounding his old program at Youngstown State, and continuing scandals at tOSU, it makes you wonder how much of his success was done fairly. Mix that in with the inability to play offensive football (until the second half of this season), and his NC was won mostly with Cooper's recruits and a fella named Maurice Clarett (see scandals mentioned above), and it makes me wonder how good Mr. Tressel is. Still, he beats Michigan, so his job is secure, unlike his predecessor.

3. Tommy Bowden, Clemson - Doesn't he still just have a job cause he can beat his dad? Every year, Clemson has high hopes that are dashed by mid-season, then the Tigers somehow manage to pull out some unlikely victories down the stretch and just achieve bowl eligibility. I know the ACC is tough, but it's not like this is only the past couple of years. Perhaps Clemson's expectations are unrealistic, but Clemson lost to DUKE last year. That can get a IAA coach fired.

4. Al Groh, Virginia - See above. Hired with so many expectations, Virginia is, year in, year out, a schizoid team that loses games it shouldn't, but wins just enough to keep their coach his job. Just because he was a mediocre coach in the NFL doesn't make him a messiah to the college game (notable exception - Pete Carroll.) 4-5 losses a year is not the promised land.

5. Bob Petrino, Lousiville - Yeah, he did good things in the CUSA, with players John L. Smith recruited. Welcome to the Big East, and a loss to South Florida. While the Bulls seem to be a better team this year, the team that many (even myself) expected to make a big splash in the Big East, maybe even enough to continue to justify its BCS slot, has fallen flat. While WVU remains the team to beat in the Big East, Louisville struggled with an awful Kentucky, lost to South Florida badly, and lost that close game to WVU. While the Big East is a BCS conference, it doesn't necessarily provide tougher competition than CUSA, and Lousiville certainly isn't fulfilling anyone's expectations. Note to ADs: if you go coach hunting this season, leave Bobby out of it, okay?

Close calls, but I need more time to sort them out: Urban Meyer, Mike Stoops, George O'Leary, Dan Hawkins (looked so good last year, but lost his lock on the WAC this year)

Off this list, due to performances this year: Karl Dorrell, Larry Coker

Friday, November 11, 2005

(OT) Arrested Development was cancelled today

For those of you unfamiliar (which, obviously, is a lot of you), Arrested Development is the best (non-cartoon) comedy in some time. It was cancelled today. I blame the Big XII.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Underrated coaches

When people think about great active coaches, names like Bowden and Paterno come to mind. But there are a lot of guys that are doing a lot better than they "should" be doing given the programs that they've got to deal with. Football is the toughest sport in which to build a consistent winner (1 or 2 studs can radically change the fortunes of a basketball team much more so than a football team), but there are some guys that I think, if given enough time, could be the next Beamer. Here are a few:

1) Guy Morriss, Baylor - the guy won 7 games at Kentucky while Kentucky was on probation. He should've won 8, but Nick Saban and the LSU Tigers got ridiculously lucky in Lexington in 2002. Morriss has already beaten Baylor, and could easily have beaten them twice in a row. He could've beaten OU as well. Morriss could well be the next Grant Teaff at Baylor.

2) Randy Walker, Northwestern - Barnett did a great job in raising this program from the dead, but Walker has continued the success, and has them in a bowl game or in contention for one regularly.

3) Jim Grobe, Wake Forest - The best coach you've never heard of. The Deacs play hard, and, despite obvious talent disadvantages, will play smashmouth, old school football with anybody. If this guy ever gets talent, he could challenge, even in the rugged ACC.

4) Jeff Tedford, Cal - The Bears have disappointed a bit this year (he can erase that this Saturday with a win over the Trojans, though), but Cal is a consistent winner. A team that hadn't been to a bowl since 1996 has now had a winning season every year of the Tedford era. He's brought in a solid DC, and is emphasizing defense and the running game in the Pac-10. Those two things will make him competitive in that league for a long time.

Not on the list:

1) Mike Leach, Texas Tech - They were a 4-5 loss program before he got there, and that's what they've remained up to this point. This year, they'll escape that fate b/c they scheduled a bunch of high school teams in OOC and play in a Big XII down by Big XII standards. They will never be players on a national level with Leach there.

2) Steve Spurrier, South Carolina, - He's done a nice job this year, but everyone knew he's a good coach (even he's a bit overrated, though).

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

as the year winds down...

i thought it might be fun to look back at our preseason bcs predictions. since i have the most to lose i'll go first. my picks:

Rose Bowl: Southern Cal v. Texas
Fiesta: Louisville v. Michigan
Sugar: Va Tech v. Florida
Orange: Iowa v. Tenn.

needless to say, i'm glad i didn't put any money on these. although, looks like i'll nail the rose (no biggie), and i've got a shot at the sugar.

upon reviewing earlier posts, i can't find any other bowl predictions. maybe joepa and i were swapping them in e-mail. if anyone else remembers where you made those picks, feel free to add to the thread.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Most impressive/surprising team this year

congrats joepa. penn st. has been unbelievable this year. i will freely admit i expected a 5 or 6 win season at best. here's to beating the spartans and playing in a bcs bowl.

Who Should Be a BCS Conference, Anyway?

There has been a lot of discussion on the relative strengths and merits of the inclusion of the 6 BCS conferences in the BCS. I've argued that 4, currently, are about of equal strength (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, and SEC) year in and year out, with the Pac 10 usually being competitive, and the Big East, even before Miami's departure, being the lame duck. Another viewpoint would drop the Big 12 from the first list, and possibly even replace it with the Pac 10.

So, here are some stats, without commentary on what they mean, to add some more meat to this disagreement. All will consider only the time between now and 1996, the year of the formation of the Big 12.

National Championships:
SEC 3; Big 10 2; Big 12 2; Pac 10 2; Big East 1; ACC 1 (2 split champs)

Bowl records over that time span:
ACC: 26-22
Big 10: 31-28
Big 12: 30-33
Big East: 23-19
Pac 10: 22-26
SEC: 38-27

Monday, November 07, 2005

Week 11 - And then there were 3?

Back from a bit of a schedule/Time Warner imposed hiatus (a full week and a half to fix my broadband), I've got some more insights about the season so far, predictions for what's to come, and a whole lot of love for my alma mater.

1. The Undefeateds - Now it's done to a troika of undefeated teams. USC, Texas, and Alabama are the only three teams that have managed to get this far into the season without a slip-up of some sort. Are all three going to make it to the end, setting up a BCS nightmare like last year's? I don't think so. Texas has a pesky and very exultant Kansas at home and a trip to College Station coming up. Despite Kansas's impressive win over Neb., and its stingy defense, Texas wins out at least until the Big 12 championship game. The OSU first half scare has kicked some more life back into the Longhorns, and don't expecet either of these games to be close. The championship game, likely to be a rematch against Colorado, is only scary because of Mack's past history to blow Round 2. Texas, however, has enough firepower to roll right past the Buffs again.

USC's path seams to have cleared up, following the losses by both Cal and UCLA. The only real danger to USC, who also seems to have learned the lesson of allowing first-half leads and more from its cross-town rival, is the fact that it still has three games in a row at Cal, against a scrappy Fresno State, and against a UCLA squad that will be seeking redemption come Dec. 3.

Alabama faces the toughest road of all three. With a depleted O-line, the loss of its biggest offensive playmaker, and a stingy defense and some field goals separating them from losses so far, Alabama faces 7-1 LSU, 7-2 Auburn, and, if it manages to get over the hump, either Georgia or Florida in the SEC championship game. Not a lot of talk has been made about Alabama being left out in the cold, but I've got to say this - if the Tide does manage to win all three of those games, it will have as much justification to argue for inclusion as Auburn did last year. In fact, Alabama may have a better argument, as it's non-con schedule at the very least has all Div I-A teams. Do I think it'll happen? No, I think the Tide's offensive impotence will catch up to them at least once in that stretch, but if it doesn't expect even more controversy come January.

2. TCU Kicking Itself Again - TCU has clinched the MWC chamiponship, and is likely to end its season undefeated in the MWC. Leading once again to the question - how did the Horned Frogs manage to lose to SMU? The only more inexplicable lost to date is LSU's loss to Tennessee, which I can at least chalk up to Les definitely not being more. While TCU wouldn't have been in the NC mix, it could've followed on Utah's heels, and help strengthen the argument that perhaps the Big East's BCS slot should be moving westward.

3. Coaching report cards - Enough of the season has passed, and the new coaches this year have played enough that we can start separating the wheat from the chaff:
Top of the class: Charlie Weis at ND, Terry Hoeppner at Indiana (not the worst in the Big 10 this year), Steve Spurrier at SC
Dave Wannstedt (Pitt), Hal Mumme (NM State), Mike Gundy (OSU), Greg Robinson (Syracuse)
Sophomore Honorable Mentions: George O'Leary at UCF, Mike Price of UTEP. Welcome back from the penalty box, boys.
On the Hot Seat: Bill Callahan (Neb.), John Bunting (UNC), Rich Brooks (KY)
Coach of the Year: Got to give it to either Charlie Weis or Greg Schiano of Rutgers, for doing so much with so little. Honorable mentions to Guy Morriss at Baylor, and Bobby Johnson at Vanderbilt.

Games of the week -

1. Northwestern at Ohio State -
Time to see if the cardiac 'Cats can keep it up again. Northwestern's offense ought to challenge the Ohio State defense, while the OSU offense, if it can get moving, ought to be able to score points against Northwestern's suspect defense. Expect a shoot-out, with the Buckeyes walking away with a 45-38 victory at the end. Half of those OSU points will be scored by its defense or special teams, so be prepared for some back and forth basketball on grass.

2. Florida at South Carolina - This match-up between old coach and old team proves far more compelling, following Florida's near loss to Vandy in the Swamp, and SC's team remaining in the hunt for a better bowl bid. Spurrier has managed wins not thought possible with what he inherited from Lou Holtz, whereas Urban Meyer is still struggling to play with the big boys. Florida has the talent - SC has the better coach. This one is too close to call for me.

3. USC at Cal - Not a battle of undefeateds, but still a tough test for the Trojans. Cal is the only team to beat them since in nearly 3 years (the win streak started AFTER the 2003 Cal game), but this is not last year's Cal. No Kyle Boller or Jeff Tedford - instead, the ever-unpredictable Joe Ayoob. Still, this game starts off the grind for USC to win out, and the game is in Berkeley. Expect a close game, but USC prevails in the end 35-33.

4. LSU at Bama - LSU has an offense, at times. Not this past Saturday, though, so I expect a battle of good defenses. Bama seems to have the better defense, but you can't count on all your TDs coming on defense against a team like LSU, and one field goal probably won't cut it. Expect the Tide to stop rolling this week, when the Tigers come to town, in a real barnburner, where the total score may be less than 2 digits.

5. Auburn at Georgia - Another set of Tigers go traveling, when the Plainsmen meet up with the Bulldogs of Georgia. This game may well depend on whether D.J. Shockley is able to play, and if Mark Richt will actually let his backup QB play some offense. Without Shockley, and an uber-conservative game plan from Georgia, Auburn's good D and better O win this game. With Shockley, I think this game is a toss-up, with Georgia getting a slight edge since it's between the hedges.

The Penn State Report -

No game this week, as the Lions get to prepare for one last game at MSU. Penn State is one win away from clinching the Big Ten, JoePa's first BCS bowl berth, and years of "what ifs?" looking back at that last second loss to Michigan. Let's be honest - Penn State would be on the outside looking in if it finished as a third or fourth unbeaten this year. That, and as stout as the D has been all year long, Michigan shouldn't have been in position to win with one second left at the end of that game. However, this year is an unqualified success for the boys in blue, and Penn State has exceeded just about everyone's expectations. We're going bowling, and I think it might be on New Year's Day.