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.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Iron Conference - Which Conference Regins Supreme?

Every year, ESPN keeps track of how conferences are doing in the bowl games - which conference beats which, which conference beats no one, etc. While many take this as an indication of the relative strengths and weaknesses of each individual conference, I find it far more telling of the quality of coaches facing off in that particular bowl, and on what the bowl means to each team. Take, for instance, the Alamo Bowl. Lloyd Carr, relatively secure in his position and Michigan having gone bowling for pretty much my lifetime in a row, takes on Bill Callahan's Cornhuskers, with a hot seat and a year sans bowl behind them. Nebraska ends up taking that one (though note I thought the Wolverines would).

Despite my thoughts that it doesn't provide an accurate comparison, here are the results to date, by conference:

ACC: 3 (Clemson, BC, Va) - 2 (Miami, Georgia Tech)
Big 12: 4 (Oklahoma, Neb, Kansas, Missouri) - 1 (Colorado)
Big East: 0-1(Rutgers - sure was a better game than I thought the Scarlet Knights would have, though)
Big 10: 0-3 (Michigan, Northwestern, Minnesota)
CUSA: 2 (Memphis, So. Miss) - 3 (UTEP, UCF, Houston)
Independents: 1 (Navy)-0
MAC: 1 (Toledo) - 1 (Akron)
MWC: 1 (Utah) - 2 (BYU, Colo. St.)
Pac 10: 3 (Cal, ASU, UCLA) - 1 (Oregon - wow, Holiday Bowl deja vu)
SEC: 1 (LSU) - 1 (So. Carolina)
Sun Belt: 0-1 (Arkansas State)
WAC: 1 (Nevada) - 1 (Boise State)

So far, if you think the bowls are demonstrative, the Big 12 is the best conference, with wins over a Pac 10, SEC, Big 10, and CUSA team, with the sole loss coming to an ACC team. Aside from the Sun Belt (whose conference champion wins the right to lose a bowl game), the Big 10 is doing the worst, with 3 losses (though all to BCS conference teams).

There you have it, Iron Conference to date. Whose Conference will regin supreme? Who knows?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

ESPN has reached new heights of absurdity

ESPN has lately been hyping the 2005 USC Trojans as one of the best teams of all time. I know, I started laughing, too, but it gets much worse. This is obviously, easily the worst SC team since the run began in 2002. Nevertheless, there are people on ESPN like Mark May actually saying this USC team would beat 2001 Miami. WTF???? 2001 Miami rivals 1992 Alabama for best defense of the modern era in football. The entire freaking secondary is in the League, as are Wilfork, Vilma, DJ Williams, etc. The only Miami NC team that this USC squad would beat was the ridiculous '83 team that won the championship despite losing by 25 to the third place SEC team.

2004 Auburn was easily one of the top 5 college football teams of all time. Where were these comparisons a year ago? Methinks Tommy Tuberville was on to something with his conspiracy theory.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Why Joe Paterno Really is the Winningest Division I-A Coach

The biggest draw in the Orange Bowl this year is to see the first head to head matchup between NCAA Division I-A's two winningest coaches since 1990 (the Blockbuster Bowl, which FSU won). In light of this, let's examine the quality of the wins, and I'll support my thesis that Bobby Bowden should currently be a distant (by 15 games) second to Joe Paterno.

Joe Paterno's head coaching career has occurred at one team, and one team only: Penn State. JoePa has picked up 353 wins in the 40 seasons he's been the head coach at Penn State. During that time, Penn State has never been classified as anything other than a Division I-A school, or, prior to 1973 when the divisions were added, a Major College in the NCAA University Division (from 1937 to 1973). Moreover, among those 353 wins include two, and only two, wins against teams that are now or were at the time Division I-AA teams: Brown and William and Mary. Both games were played within 3 years of the teams switching from the highest level of NCAA football, which leads me to the speculation that the games were scheduled when the teams were at the highest level. Speculation aside, though, that means JoePa has had 351 wins against Division I-A opponents during his career.

Bobby Bowden, however, follows a different path. He notched 42 wins at West Virginia, before moving over to FSU and racking up 286 wins. He has a total of 359, which leaves him 21 short right now. Where did those wins happen? At what is currently Samford, a Division I-AA school. But wait, you might ask? Was not Samford (or Howard College, as it was known then), in the upper level of NCAA football, much like Brown and William and Mary had been? Not exactly. In referencing the College Football Data Warehouse (www.cfbdatawarehouse.com), it shows a distinct N/A when asked about what NCAA division Samford played in during Bobby Bowden's tenure (1959-1962). So we must look at the nature of the competition that Bobby played while there. Sewanee. Tennessee-Martin. Troy State. West Alabama. Gordon Junior College. Furman. Wofford. University of Mexico. Clearly, Samford was not a Division I-A caliber school, as evidenced by the fact that in 1973, when the NCAA did introduce divisions, Samford began as a Division III school. Bobby has a similar record to JoePa, at FSU and WVU, with him winning 11 games against Division I-AA opponents at WVU and 7 at FSU. Of those 18 wins, 12 of them came against teams that were still at the top level of NCAA football or had very recently left that top level.

Look, I don't want to take anything away from Bobby Bowden. He's a great coach, and he almost singlehandily created Florida State football from scratch. But it's a punch in the gut that the wins he got at Samford are counted in his total, so far as counting toward being the winningest Division I-A coach of all time. If Eddie Robinson of Grambling had coached one season at Division I-A, instead of retiring in Division I-AA, should he be the winningest I-A coach, instead of just the winningest Division I coach? What about John Gagliardi at St. John's in Minnesota? He's the winningest NCAA coach ever - give him a I-A season, and he'll get the record. Or, as we should do with Bobby, we should only count the wins gotten as a coach of a Division I-A team? The NCAA complicates things, by not having a clear divisional system prior to 1973, but every indication is that the Samford of 1959-1962 was not a major college/Division I-A team, nor did Samford play that caliber of opposition.

Come on, NCAA - do the right thing. Count Bobby's wins at Samford toward his overall total, but slash those 21 wins from his Division I-A record and recognize the fact that JoePa is the winningest coach ever in Division I-A football history (not that it will matter much if FSU keeps sliding and PSU keeps winning, but still - it's the principle of the matter).

Monday, December 12, 2005

Compare then to now

Here's the link to SI.com's preseason predictions about this year.

Take a look, and see how well it matched reality:
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/football/ncaa/specials/preview/2005/

The NCAA 2006 Playoff Simulation (x2)

Ain't technology grand? Using just my little old PS2, and the latest copy of EA Sports' NCAA College Football franchise, I can simulate a 16 team playoff in a little over a week.

Using the two formulae I mentioned earlier (the Crawford/Conference Champ vs. the Patterson/Best 16 Teams), I will simulate how a playoff might look, and what its results might be. Keep in mind, these are the teams anticipated at the beginning of the season, and not how the season ended, so no injuries (see Alabama and Tyrone Prothro) will be taken into account, nor will unexpected breakout performances (see the Drews of UCLA, or some freshmen in the Penn State receiving corps). I'll post the results after each round of each formula.

So, first, since this is common to both, I'll talk about locations. Instead of playing games at home fields in the early rounds, I decided to play the games within the bowl system, and take advantage of next year's Plus One game. I took the 14 bowls with the highest payoff, arranged them by round by payoff (except for the Cotton, due entirely to its history and my senitmentality regarding that history), and the NC will be played in the Rose Bowl (which is otherwise a quarter-final site).

Round One: Alamo Bowl, Gator Bowl, Holiday Bowl, Independence Bowl, Liberty Bowl, Outback Bowl, Peach Bowl, and Sun Bowl
Round Two: Capital One Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl
Round Three: Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl
Final: Rose Bowl redux

So, on to the brackets and games, using BCS (or estimated, for Boise State and Arkansas State):

Crawford Method (bowls in alphabetical order):
1. USC vs. 16. Arkansas State - Alamo Bowl
2. Texas vs. 15. Akron - Gator Bowl
3. Penn State vs. 14. Tulsa - Holiday Bowl
4. Ohio State vs. 13. Boise State - Independence Bowl
5. Oregon vs. 12. FSU - Liberty Bowl
6. Notre Dame vs. 11. TCU - Outback Bowl
7. Georgia vs. 10. West Virginia - Peach Bowl
8. Miami vs. 9. Auburn - Sun Bowl

Patterson Method (bowls in alphabetical order):
1. USC vs. 16. UCLA - Alamo
2. Texas vs. 15. Texas Tech - Gator
3. Penn State vs. 14. TCU - Holiday
4. Ohio State vs. 13. Alabama - Independence
5. Oregon vs. 12. LSU - Liberty
6. Notre Dame vs. 11. West Virginia - Outback
7. Georgia vs. 10. Virginia Tech - Peach
8. Miami vs. 9. Auburn - Sun

Stay tuned for the first update, once Round One has been completed on both brackets.

Note: I forgot Akron the first time; poor LSU gets left off my bracket.

Note 2: I also forgot Tulsa the first time - bye bye, Va Tech (I need to actually read my posts before posting again)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Write your congressman: tell him to stay the hell out of our game!

As JoePaUberAlles mentioned, the United States Congress has decided to stick its nose into college football. My first reaction upon hearing this was to reminisce about Libertarian Nominee Harry Browne's comment in the 1996 "Alternative" Debate (which means, "debate for people who have no chance in hell of winning." The college football equivalent is the annual Kentucky-Indiana game). Browne stated that he was a Christian and was opposed to abortion, but, "Given the federal government's success in the war on poverty and the war on drugs, if we start a war on abortions, men would start having abortions." Congress, please don't ruin the greatest sport in America.

post-season awards

i'll have to change my handle to vince4o'brien. that'll be his consolation prize, as it'll take an act of congress to keep bush from winning the heisman.

congrats to michael huff on the thorpe. very deserving.

Coaching changes

Fran survived at A&M, but the ax fell on Gary Barnett at Colorado and may fall on Houston Nutt at Arkansas. With Bill Snyder's retirement at K-State and Barry Alvarez's at Wisocnsion, those are probably the four highest profile head coaching vacancies this year, w (I don't see how Dirk Koetter and Gary Pinkel are holding on, but that's just me).

K-State hired UVA offensive coordinator Ron Prince, which seems to be a mistake for a couple of reasons. First, UVA has underachieved under Groh. Second, I think they could've gotten somebody with HC experience. Third, they needed to go with a defensive guy. Arizona and Stanford have done that in recent years in the Pac 10, and I think that will pay dividends for them long term. You can always hope to hire a great DC, but in that league, a great defensive mind can transform and dominate.

Wisky went with Brett Bielemma, which probably looked like a better idea before the season when it was announced than after this season in which the Badgers were weak on D (and that's being kind).

Colorado is rumored to be interested in Auburn defensive coordinator David Gibbs, a Buff alum and former Denver Broncos coach. I think he's good, but not ready for the HC position. The admin probably screwed their chances at getting a big name, though, by the way they refused to back Barnett two years ago, threw him under the bus after he rode out the storm - and took the Buffs to 4 Big XII CGs in 5 years, winning one - and are now putting together a sham investigation in order to screw him out of $$. There's also some talk that Les Miles would be interested in the job, b/c he finds the stress and scrutiny of the "Tigah" nation and the SEC too much to handle. I hope Miles sticks around Red Stick for a while. LSU could be a dominant program with the right guy in charge, and if Miles left, they just might find the right guy.

At the top of the Ark wish list would be Butch Davis. I'm less impressed with Davis than most are. First, almost everybody off that '90s Dallas staff has flopped (yes, Dave Wannstedt, Norv Turner, and Dave Campo, I'm looking at you). Second, Davis himself flopped in Cleveland. Yes, he did well at Miami, but 1) who couldn't, and 2) he didn't win an NC there, unlike his 3 immediate predecessors, and his immediate successor. That will be a nice situation to walk into for whomever gets it though, at least at first. After two straight losing seasons, spirits are low in Piggyland, but the team improved dramatically over the course of the year, and played the SEC heavyweights - Auburn, Alabama, LSU, and Georgia - very tough after a disastrous start with losses to Vandy and the blowout to USC. All that young talent is getting ready to develop, and whoever is the coach next year will put up nice results.

Who should the Buffs and Hogs go with as their new guys?

The Ocho College Football Poll - Now with true transparency!!!

In light of the revelations in both the coaches poll, and the Harris poll, and some of the moronic decisions made therein, here is the inaguaral Ocho poll, with one voter (so far), with others invited to join. Below is my top 25 and the reasons why. Heck, if the Harris is as crazy next year, we might be the other BCS poll.

So, with no further ado, here are my votes on the top 25, and a brief description of why:

1. Texas - Texas has looked far less vulnerable than USC, and hasn't had a close game since Ohio State
2. USC - Still undefeated, so does it really matter who is first?
3. Penn State - 1 second away from perfect, and the loss was close
4. Oregon - Lost to the then #1 team in the country - by 30
5. West Virginia - Lost to Va Tech, and swept its conference
6. Ohio State - The best ranked 2 loss team: losses came only to Texas and Penn State
7. Auburn - After a slow start against Ga Tech and some kicking troubles in Baton Rouge, the best team in the SEC
8. Georgia - Winner of the SEC, even though the Dawgs lost to #7
9. Notre Dame - Yeah. They played USC to the wire. Great. But they lost to Michigan State!
10. TCU - TCU gets recognition for beating Oklahoma and sweeping their conference. But they lost to SMU.
11. LSU - The Tigers lost to Tenn at home, but beat Auburn there. I don't get it. Also, they got hammered by the Dawgs in the championship game.
12. Texas Tech - Two losses: one to Texas, and one to, well, Oklahoma State.
13. Miami - Yes, Miami has only two losses. One came at the hands of FSU, who I don't have ranked. The other came to Georgia Tech. Doesn't quite compare with some of the other 2 loss teams.
14. Virginia Tech - Despite a good start, the Hokies have completely collapsed in every game that has mattered.
15. Alabama - Great defense, but absent offense since Tyrone Prothro got hurt.
16. Louisville - Only losses to West Virginia (top 10) and, well, South Florida. The Bulls were better than expected, but still . . .
17. UCLA - Got trashed by USC. And by Arizona. That's why they're at the bottom.
18. Wisconsin - The best three-loss team I have ranked. Losses came from Penn State, Ohio State, and, well, Northwestern.
19. Boston College - Losses to FSU and Va Tech - understandable. UNC - you kidding me?
20. Florida - The Gators get a slight penalty for just looking bad in their 2 of their 3 losses, plus the near miss with a much-improved Vandy.
21. Michigan - The best 4 loss team out there. In my mind, that still doesn't make it better than most 3 loss teams.
22. Georgia Tech - Hey, the second best team, recognized for Great Moments against Auburn and Miami, and penalized for losses to NC State and UVA.
23. FSU - Tommy beat Bobby again in the battle of the Bowdens. Then Bobby comes back and beats Va Tech. It's why this Bowden team gets a vote, and the other one doesn't.
24. South Carolina
- Recognition of the Gamecocks successes with so little talent. PLus, a near miss at Georgia and Clemson follow up on the embarrassing score of 85-21 to the two SEC reps in the state of Alabama.
25. Boise State
- My second mid-major, being recognized as its only losses came at Georgia, at Oregon State, and to Fresno State. Why not the Bulldogs? Late season collapse after the USC game, which helped ease USC into the #2 slot. Why not the Wolfpack? They beat Nevada and Nevada also lost to Wash. State and Colo. St.

So that's my top 25. Couple of my biases, right out of the way:
1. I don't like ranking teams with more losses higher than others with fewer, unless there are certain circumstances (mid-major vs. BCS; clear difference in quality of losses)
2. I don't like ranking teams that lost to another team higher than that other team (again, unless there are significant differences in seasons, i.e. Penn State vs. Michigan, Miami vs. FSU and Ga Tech, Auburn vs. LSU)
3. I have much love for the mid-major, despite TCU being the only team deserving of much love this year.

So post your votes, before the first bowl game (Dec. 20), and we'll compile the first-ever, pre-bowl, season ending Ocho Poll. Also, if you want to point out some other biases of mine that you can spot, let me know.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Playoff Pictures, Ideas, and Formulas

Now that the BCS has breathed a sigh of relief, and has two and only two undefeated teams this season, I want to spend some time talking about playoff posibilities - what one would, could, or should look like, and who would be in it.

1. Four team mini-playoff
Let's start with the simplest - a four team playoff, that produces two winners who play for the national championship. The fairest way to do this would be to take the top 4 teams in BCS rankings (USC, Texas, Penn State, and Ohio State), match 1 and 4, 2 and 3, and let the winners battle it out. This system doesn't disrupt the bowls at all, especially with the addition of the "Plus One" game next year. You'd play all the bowls, let two of the big four be the playoff games, and then the two teams standing would go to "Plus One." Alternatively, this system would work if there was a final BCS poll after the bowls, prior to the MNC game, and the #1 and #2 at that point went to the game. Still, that would bear many of the same problems as the current system does.

2. Eight team playoff
This not one of my favorites, but it also has the benefit of not disrupting the current bowl setup too much. Again, the only fair determination would be to take the top eight schools in the BCS rnakings (though an argument could be made to take the 6 BCS conference champs, and the best ranked 2 at-large teams, similar to the current BCS system). In the first, our eight schools would be the four mentioned above, followed by Oregon, ND, Georgia and Miami. Using the BCS conference champs, our field would include USC, Texas, Penn State, West Virginia, Georgia, FSU, Ohio State, and Oregon. As you would need seven games (4, 2, 1), I would propose adding the Cotton Bowl and either the Gator or the Capital One Bowl as playoff bowls, followed up with a "Plus One" game.

3. The Sixteen Team Playoff - My Personal Favorite
I like this setup for one reason - it gives a shot to the have-nots. There are two styles, which I will call the Patterson and the Crawford methods. The Patterson Method would take the top 16 teams in the BCS (which this year would leave out FSU, the ACC champ, but include TCU, the MWC champ). The Crawford Method includes all 11 conference champs (yes, even Arkansas State from the Sun Belt) and the next best 5 teams. Why do I prefer this method? Quite simply, because it still provides a reward to winning a conference, and there is always the slight, small chance for a Cinderella team to pull a couple of upsets along the way. A 16 team playoff could either be played at home fields, or even divvied up like the NCAA baskteball tourney, or could accomodate some of the bowls (14 or 15 of them, depending on the use of a Plus One), leaving the others to continue on as they do now, or even set up an NIT-esque tourney.


But who would our participants be? Here are the Patterson playoff teams:
USC, Texas, Penn State, Ohio State, Oregon, ND, Georgia, Miami, Auburn, Va Tech, West Virginia, LSU, Alabama, TCU, Texas Tech, and UCLA.


Under the Crawford scheme, here would be the playoff field:

USC, Texas, Penn State, Georgia, West Virginia, FSU, TCU, Akron, Tulsa, Arkansas State, and Boise State, as conference champs, with Ohio State, Oregon, ND, Miami, and Auburn as the at-larges.

Either setup has #1 vs. #16, all the way down the line to #7 vs. #8.

Also, to see another version of a sixteen team playoff, visit College Football News's version:
http://www.collegefootballnews.com/2005/Bowls/CFNChampionshipSeries.htm

At the end of the day, what would the merits of a playoff be? No more Mythical National Championship. The champ would be determined on the field (though the field would be determined by polls). No more nightmare like 2004, where you have an unprecedented 5 undefeated teams walking into the bowls. No more nightmares in 2003, where you have 3 one-loss teams, with (mostly) equally good claims on the title game (Sorry, OU, you lost to K State in your conference champ - you shouldn't have been in that game). No more split titles. No more complaints from the non-BCS schools (under the Crawford Method, anyway) that they aren't included or given a fair shot - just prove it on the field.

Will it ever happen? Probably not anytime soon, as the current BCS setup is contracted through 2011. With Congress getting involved, though, and enough pressure from the fans (who, after all, provide the money that these teams get), some playoff, more likely the 4 team version, may eventually be in the works. Until then, marvel at the poll selections made by some of the coaches and the Harris voters, and the ability of the BCS to say that the system doesn't need to be fixed.

Monday, December 05, 2005

See how the coaches voted in the final poll

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/football/front.htm

The coaches were forced to make this final ballot public. Some interesting notes are that Mack and Watson Brown have USC #1, Houston Nutt has Auburn #3, and Frank Solich is absolutely insane.

The BCS Bowls, and a correction

In my previous post, I said that we had 3 teams bowling for the first time: Akron, UCF, and USF. Alas, I forgot the poor Indians of Arkansas State in their first bowl game. So to all those with any affiliation whatsoever to Arkansas State, I apologize for the mistake. Also, I apologize that your first bowl trip probably won't have much of a chance of turning into your first bowl victory.

Now, on to the BCS Bowls, and the continuing count of how badly I predicted the turnout this year:

The Fiesta Bowl (a.k.a. the All At-Large Bowl) - Notre Dame vs. Ohio State (10/50)
The Fighting Irish return to Arizona for a bowl, albeit a much higher profile one this year, while Ohio State gets its first BCS bid since winning it all in the Orange Bowl in 02. ND and tOSU have met only 4 times in their entire history, most recently in 1996. While this will be highly watched and highly profittable, I don't think this game will be close at all. Why, you might ask, since both teams are 9-2? Ohio State lost to #2 Texas by 2 points, and #3 Penn State by 7. ND lost to #1 USC by 3 and Michigan State in OT. The same Mich. State that both Ohio State and Penn State manhandled in conference play. It's be a good year, but you're not winning this one, Charlie Weis.

The Sugar Bowl (a.k.a. I think the Mountaineer is a little too interested in Uga) Bowl - Georgia vs. West Virginia (11/52)
West Virginia has one loss all year, to Virginia Tech, and pretty well dominated most of its Big East competition all year long. Georgia, meanwhile, is one long pass play (Auburn) and playcalling so conservative even Tom DeLay isn't comfortable (Florida) away from being undefeated. While the SEC has had a down year on offense, it has certainly had an up year on defense, and by the time this bowl rolls around, we'll get to see some good proof as to reason behind that. If it's because the SEC defenses were just that good this year, expect Georgia to spank WVU in much the same manner as it did LSU. If it's because the O's were just that bad, expect a back and forth game that Georgia manages to come away with. It'll be experience versus youth, and the old man under center for Georgia (hasn't Shockley been there since the firsth Bush administration?) will carry the day against the freshman that could romp in the Big East. Guess what, Pat White and co.? The SEC ain't the Big East, and the Dawgs will get this done. Still no call on whether on the Mountain Man will successfully woo Uga, though.

The Orange (Stay, and Get Your Condo, Coach) Bowl - Penn State vs. Florida State (12/54)
The two winningest coaches in all of Division IA history. Probably the two oldest coaches to ever face off in a bowl game (79 vs. 76). A team on the rise after 4 troublesome years out of the past five. A team seemingly in a freefall, despite winning its conference championship. A coach who is 6-1 against the other (though the six wins came against West Virginia, not FSU). The battle of the next generation running the offenses. While an 8-4 FSU and a 10-1 PSU doesn't quite have the same punch as a one-loss WVU or one-loss Va Tech (if they hadn't laid an egg, anyway), this matchup sure has plenty of drama surrounding. On paper, JoePa and the boys in blue should be able to advance him to being merely 5 games behind Bobby's boys (though I still protest the 30 odd wins Bowden received at what is now Samford as counting - why not count all of John Gagliardi's or Eddie Robinson's wins, then?). But FSU has been able to play up when it needed to (Miami, Boston College, Va Tech), despite looking awful in its losses (NC State, Clemson, Virginia, Florida). Really, at the end of the day, this game will be determined by one person: Michael Robinson. Penn State has cakewalked to victory most of the year, as long as Robinson didn't turn the ball over and played well. If there are less than two turnovers by Penn State on Jan. 3, the Nittany Lions get JoePa his first bowl win of the 21st century. If not, this game is a toss-up.

The Rose Bowl (a.k.a. Does this really need an alias?), National Championship Game - Texas vs. USC (14/56)
What does this game come down to? One thing - can USC continue to roll against a team that seems to be able to play defense? USC has looked far more vulnerable than the Horns all season long, without a significant difference in the quality of opponents (just plain awful Big 12 North and slumping A&M and Oklahoma vs. the Pac 10). Plus, the Trojans haven't had to face any team with a QB has mobile as Vince Young. While I think the talent levels in this one are close to equal, and I'd give Pete Carroll a nod as the better coach, the Horns stop Pete's bid to be the next Bud Wilkinson on Jan. 4. It'll be close, but the Horns have the better defense and have beaten the better of the two at-large BCS teams, and will bring home the hardware to Texas for the first time in all of the Ocho's writers lifetime.

That's it - that's my rundown on the bowls this year. May my picks be better than my predictions (a truly bad 12 of 56 - stupid LSU and Va Tech losing their conference championship games!).

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The bowls, and the predictions

In chronological order, and keeping count of reality versus my predictions:

New Orleans Bowl - Arkansas State vs. Southern Miss (0/2)
This is the first time North Texas hasn't won the Sun Belt, and gone to the New Orleans Bowl. While both teams have a 6-5 record, Arkansas State did it in the Sun Belt, as compared to North Texas, who would dominate the Sun Belt to lose this game. No question - So. Miss takes this one.

GMAC Bowl - UTEP vs. Toledo (1/4)
Up until the late season collapse by UTEP and Mike Price, which kept them from making it to the CUSA championship game, I would've given the edge to UTEP. The Miners seem to have run out of steam, while Toledo's three losses came to Fresno State, a surprise loss to the Chipewas of Central Michigan, and Northern Ill., keeping them out of the MAC title game. The Rockets still have Bruce Gradkowski, so Toledo walks away with a win.

Las Vegas Bowl - BYU vs. Cal (2/6)
While BYU has shown some improvement under the reign of Bronco Mendenhall this year (can we give this guy Best Coach's Name of the Year?), Cal still has some weapons despite a disappointing showing in the Pac 10 this year. The Cowboys of Wyoming took out UCLA last year, but the odds should be with the Golden Bears this year.

Poinsettia Bowl - Colorado State vs. Navy (2/8)
Neither of my picks made it to this one, but this one looks like a win for the Rams. Navy has managed wins against such perennial powerhouses such as Rice and Tulane, while losing to non-bowl bound teams Maryland and Stanford, and former Big East basement dweller Rutgers. The Rams have played tougher competition, and won't fold. Congrats to the Middies for making their third bowl in a row, but their record will fall to 1-2 after this one.

Fort Worth Bowl - Kansas vs. Houston (2/10)
Another blank for me in the prediction department, but I think I can predict this one. Kansas is 6-0 in Lawrence this year. They have an overall record of 6-5. The Cougars get to take one for CUSA this time.

Hawaii Bowl - UCF vs. Nevada (2/12)
The Golden Knights of Central Florida get their first bowl bid ever, and in a good location. Nevada, meanwhile, gave itself a share of the WAC title by upsetting the Fresno State team that had pushed USC to its limits. Seeing as Fresno State laid an egg the next week to La Tech (way to use that win against Boise State, boys), the Wolfpack's accomplishment looks that much worse. At the same time, UCF lost to the Golden Hurricanes to put a little rain into their Cinderella season this year. George O'Leary has done an amazing job this year, but I think Ault's Wolfpack bring home the hardware in this one.

Motor City Bowl - Akron vs. Memphis (2/14)
Speaking of teams with first ever bowl appearances - the Zips, as a result of their win over Northern Illinois, get to visit Detroit to take on the Memphis Tigers, taking a Big 10 slot due to Ohio State's selection as a BCS at-large team. Memphis, however, has been here before and has one of the best backs that's not going to the Downtown Athletic Club this year, DeAngelo Williams. With over 1800 yards, and averaging 6.5 yards a carry, Williams, and the Tigers, are going to be too much for the Zips to handle.

Champs Sports Bowl - Clemson vs. Colorado (2/16)
The Tigers, avoiding a post-South Carolina brawl, get to go bowling against the cream of the crop of the Big 12 North. Fresh off of a 70-3 shellacking by Texas, the Buffs aren't likely to put up much of a fight in this one. While Gary Barnett needs to rise up and win to perhaps maintain his position after back to back embarassing losses to Nebraska and Texas, Tommy Bowden's boys will win, and keep him off the hot seat for yet another win.

Insight Bowl - Arizona State vs. Rutgers (3/18)
Finally, I manage to get my third pick correct. Rutgers hasn't been bowling since 1978 (longer than at least one of our contributors has been alive), while Arizona State finished poorly after getting a good start. This is almost a home game for the Sun Devils, and as much as the Scarlet Knights want a bowl win, I don't see it happening here. Arizona State has too much talent, and Rutgers hasn't played in December in 27 years. Expect a Sun Devil win here.

MPC Computers Bowl - Boise State vs. Boston College (4/20)
This game is played at Boise State's home field, on the Smurf Turf. Boise State hasn't lost a game at home since 2001. Boston College - enjoy the trip from snowy Chestnut Hill to scenic and . . . snowy Boise. The Broncos take this one on the blue field, and once again we get to wonder at why there's a bowl game outdoors in Boise.

Alamo Bowl - Michigan vs. Nebraska (5/22)
The Wolverines may be the best 4 loss team in the country, as ridiculous as that sounds. Meanwhile, either the Huskers have figured out how to incorporate the forward pass into their game scheme, or Colorado really really really sucks. I tend toward the latter, and expect Michigan to win this one. Certainly Lloyd Carr needs to win this one, after yet another disappointing season capped off by a loss to Ohio State. Lloyd - remember John Cooper? Don't you miss him?

Emerald Bowl - Utah vs. Ga Tech (5/24)
So much for my streak of getting it at least half right. What is up with Georgia Tech? It manages wins against Auburn (poss. the best team in the SEC this season, and the only one to beat Georgia with a healthy D.J. Shockley) and Miami, yet managed to lose to NC State and Virginia (another schizo team this year). This one should be no contest, with the Yellowjackets winning easily, but I am always prepared for that unwelcome surprise from Ga Tech.

Holiday Bowl - Oregon vs. Oklahome (5/26 - noticing a trend here?)
Poor Oregon. One loss all season long, and it came at the hands of the #1 team in the country. Meanwhile, a two-loss Ohio State (to #2 and #3 respectively) gets that Fiesta Bowl bid. I tell you, the Ducks get no respect, which will continue if they can't manage to beat the limping Sooners. While Oklahoma is playing much better football than at the beginning of the season, the Sooners are still a 4-loss team. By the transitive property, since Oklahoma lost to UCLA who lost to USC much worse than the Ducks did, Oregon should win this one. However, expect a performance reminiscent of Cal's last year, as the snubbed team gets drubbed by the Big 12's representative. That, and to hear Boomer Sooner a lot.

Sun Bowl - Northwestern vs. UCLA (6/28 - yay! Another one right!)
The Wildcats have been competitive in a very tough Big Ten this year, and eplosive offensively, but its defense has been questionable. UCLA has been explosive at times on the offensive side of the ball, but its defense has been questionable, especially against the run. Expect a 66-63 shootout in this one. Who wins? Well, which team lost to Arizona this year? Not them.

Independence Bowl - South Carolina vs. Missouri (7/30)
The Old Ball Coach goes bowling again, and Brad Smith gets to try to close out a somewhat disappointing college career with a win against a legendary coach. Well, unfortunately for the Tigers, I think the Gamecocks are better coached, and are going to be better prepared. Spurrier's boys almost upset Georgia - expect a close game, but the W goes to the Cocks.

Music City Bowl - Minnesota vs. Virginia (7/32)
The Gophers return to Nashville to go bowling again, against the schizoid Cavs. After trying to figure out Virginia all year, I just can't call this game. Surely, Minnesota, with Lawrence Maroney and the dominating offensive line, should be able to beat a team that lost to UNC. Right? My gut tells me the Gophers win this one, but Virginia has a way of coming out and beating good teams, and losing to crappy ones. Don't be too surprised if the Cavs rise up again.

Peach Bowl - Miami vs. LSU (7/34)
Two conference also-rans. Maybe that's a bit harsh - for LSU, anyway. Miami had a spot in the ACC championship game locked up until an unfortunate loss to Georgia Tech. Seeing as Va Tech managed to fall, somehow, to the recently abyssmal Seminoles, maybe it's just as well they didn't get the rematch. Meanwhile, Les Miles's true colors shined through in an embarrassing loss to Georgia in the SEC championship game. Miami's losses - FSU and Ga Tech. LSU's - Georgia and Tennessee!!! Larry Coker, you get another 10 win season - Les, the death watch in Baton Rouge starts Dec. 30.

Meineke Car Care Bowl - South Florida vs. NC State (7/36)
My record keeps getting worse and worse, but this game gets an official "who cares?" from the rest of America. A 6-5 USF from a depleted Big East against a 6-5 NC State - why is this game being broadcast anywhere besides North Carolina and Florida? While the Bulls performed fairly well in their first year in the Big East, and are bowling for the first time (that's 3 this year), NC State played in what might have been the most competitive conference this season. Expect the Wolfpack to win this one.

Houston Bowl - Iowa State vs. TCU (7/38)
If not for a loss to SMU, TCU would be undefeated this season, and possibly be holding a BCS berth. Instead, they get to travel to Houston and take on Iowa State. The Cyclones, who for two seasons in a row have controlled their destiny to go to the Big 12 championship game and come up short, are probably outmatched by the Horned Frogs. Heck, had TCU played in the Big 12 North this year, they likely would've gone to Houston to get pummelled by the Longhorns. Expect the Frogs to win, and wonder about what could've been on the trip back to Fort Worth.

Liberty Bowl - Tulsa vs. Fresno State (7/40)
Fresno State comes into this game on a two game losing streak, while Tulsa rose up and snatched the CUSA title and title game shot from two other newcomers, UTEP and UCF. Give Pat Hill credit where credit is due - the 27 days from now until the bowl game is going to be enough time for him to settle his team down, and get it back to the point where it almost upset both Oregon and USC. The Golden Hurricanes are going to get doused by a well-prepared Fresno State team come New Year's Eve.

Cotton Bowl - Texas Tech vs. Alabama (8/42)
Does Alabama have Tyrone Prothro back? It doesn't - well, then expect the Red Raiders to win this one. The strange spread offense created by Mike Leach can move the bowl and score some points, and, more to the point, the Raiders can actually play defense this year. While Alabama has played wonderful defense all season long, it's offense has been nothing short of non-existent since Prothro was hurt in the Florida game. While the Tide may keep the Raiders out of the end zone for most of the game, I don't think Tech will need more than one touchdown to win this game.

Outback Bowl - Iowa vs. Florida (8/44)
I just don't know about this game, other than the defense will be tight, and the score will be low. Iowa finished the season relatively strongly, as did Florida with its win against FSU. Both teams stuggled, though, throughout the season on offense. Call this a toss up, and expect either some last minute score or overtime to decide this one. But, I'll flip the coin, and go with Florida.

Gator Bowl - Virginia Tech vs. Louisville (8/46)
One of the best offenses this year against one of the best defenses and a competent offense, as long as the game doesn't matter. Thankfully for the Hokies, this game doesn't matter, though it will have national attention, since it is one of the more prestigious second tier bowls. Va Tech looked great all year, except for its two losses to Miami and FSU, where it looked awful in the first, and pedestrian in the second. Meanwhile, Louisville was unstoppable in Papa John's Stadium, but managed to lose to South Florida and West Virginia on the road. So, the question is: does Va Tech's inability to show up to the big game this year trump Lousiville's road troubles? I say yes, as the Hokies, falling from grace and out of a BCS bowl bid, don't have much to play for, while Lousiville has a little bit to prove this first year in the Big East.

Captial One (No, Dammit, it's the Citrus) Bowl - Auburn vs. Wisconsin (9/48)
As I said earlier, Auburn may very well be the best team in the SEC, and only inexplicable kicker troubles in Baton Rouge kept them from beating the Tigers of LSU. Wisconsin, meanwhile, after managing to win in the Big House, and hand Barry Alvarez his only win over Michigan, fell at Northwestern, at Penn State, and to a much improved from the first half Iowa at home. The problem for the Badgers, though, is that Auburn can play defense, and Wisconsin hasn't shown that much ability to do that this season. While the Badgers have also put up gaudy scoring numbers and yardage, they looked miserable against the two best defenses they played (Penn State and Iowa). Don't forget that nice 14-5 win over North Carolina, either. The Tigers take out their frustration at not being in a BCS bowl against the Badgers, who don't manage to send off Barry with one last bowl win.

Next up, and in the next post, the BCS bowls. So far, I'm a just plain awful 9/48 in my picks. Can't even make .500 at this point, and the championship games' results and Ohio State sneaking up to #4 in the BCS blew out a lot of my guesses about the BCS. So, what will happen in the Orange (Coaches who Could be Retirees) Bowl, the Fiesta (No Champions Here) Bowl, the Sugar (All-Redneck) Bowl, and the Granddaddy of them all, the Rose (For all the Marbles) Bowl? Stay tuned.


Chokie, Chokie, Chokie, Hi!

Virginia Tech continues to be the best team in the country - as long as nobody is watching. Their performances in the two "spotlight" games this year were so painful to watch I was reminded of Marcus singing "Killing Me Softly" at his school assembly in "About a Boy." It's ironic that their latest undressing came at the hands of the Florida State Seminoles, the program once notorious for choking in the big games.

Say what you will about SC and Texas (I don't think either would be a serious contender in an 8 team playoff), but they performed at their highest levels when the stakes were the highest. Perhaps Mack Brown should give Frank Beamer advice on how to win the big game.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Reggie Bush must be really, really good

He's running for a lot of yards against the 115 ranked run defense in the nation. Sigh. The Holiday Bowl is supposed to be on December 29 in San Diego, not Jan 4 in Pasadena.

The real Ocho grudge match

Which Ocho contributor's team will win the Pontiac game changing performance? Alabama vs. So. Miss, Penn St. vs. N'western, Texas vs. Oklahoma State, or Auburn vs. Georgia?