Sunday, December 27, 2009

12/27: Urban Decision & Some NFL Talk

Urban Meyer Cares Not If None of the Past 48 Hours Makes Sense to Anyone
So yesterday during an otherwise competitive (if not all that entertaining) bowl game between Pitt and North Carolina that Urban Meyer was stepping down for health reasons. The news initially shocked everyone, caught everyone off guard, and generally made for mass confusion and an ESPN frenzy. News slowly developed to the point where the most definitive chronicle of the problem was a Dec 7th article in Sports Illustrated by S.L. Price which talked about how Meyer had an arachnoid cyst on his brain that caused him great discomfort. The article was otherwise a fairly in-depth description of Meyer's drive and personal ambition. Then a NY Times article by Pete Thamel based on a phone conversation with Meyer came out that really gave great detail. It was clear from the article that Meyer was concerned that he could not half-coach, and if he gave it the full 100% that he was afraid for his health. This of course is really scary for someone with three still fairly young children. This all made sense, even if it did catch us all by surprise. So then I, like most, went to bed wondering who Florida could hire and how recruiting would be affected in the interim.

Then today the story suddenly shifted and it was released that Meyer was changing his mind. Meyer decided to take a leave of absence during which he could calm down, re-evaluate, and get things straightened out. Meanwhile offensive coordinator, and fan whipping boy, Steve Addazio will serve as interim head coach. Suddenly Meyer no longer was thinking of family only, but decided he wasn't quite ready to give up coaching for now. This whole story just sounded confusing, then came the press conference, the whole world watching, here are the highlights:

- Meyer refused to answer based on confidentiality when asked if doctors instructed him to step down for his health.
- He was caught completely off-guard and unsure when asked who would hire the new defensive coordinator.
- He was also only able to say he felt good that he would be coaching in 2010.
- He was also generally looking tired and confused during the entire press conference.
- Meyer also ended his press conference saying he would be calling Steve Spurrier for advice on how to manage stress of the job.

I see there being three possibilities to what is really going on here:

1) Meyer is just doing this in order to save face in recruiting and Florida AD Jeremy Foley has a full year to find a full-time replacement.
2) Meyer doesn't want to totally rule out a return, and so kept the door open.
3) Meyer is going to seriously give it a try to change his style of coaching in order to keep going.

If it's #1 then I award Urbie points for taking care of Florida be doing this. If it's #2 then I understand that he doesn't want Florida to hire someone won't just step down if and when Meyer feels up to it again. The problem I have is if it's #3. Urban Meyer is a high energy and 100% intense coach in all phases of the game. He concerns himself with every aspect of his team all day every day. He talked in his press conference about taking it as a personal failure when they lose and staying up until 4:00AM to work on fixing it. The question is if Meyer can be successful without being that way, because if he can't then he should step aside and realize that this isn't going to work. Meyer in many ways is the kind of perfectionist that thinks intensely every waking hour about making his team better. He undoubtedly spends more time on recruiting than any other coach on his staff. The fact is what works for Spurrier isn't spending all night working with the staff and spending as much time on the playbook as recruiting. The Head Ball Coach likes to golf, leaves recruiting more to his assistants than to himself, and is unlikely to ever be in his office past midnight.

If Meyer cannot win at this kind of pace with a diminished energy level then what kind of end will come in Gainesville. This has disaster written all over it.

Some NFL Talk
Not going to spend a lot of time on this, but here are some quick thoughts I had today watching NFL games (for the record I enjoy NFL as well, but only now is it necessary to write about it as the college season winds down):

- The AFC play-off picture is really confusing.
- The New York Jets control their own destiny, for reasons I am unaware of.
- My Jacksonville Jaguars would be worst play-off team in NFL history if they make it in somehow, seriously.
- NY Giants right now hold award for NFL Choke of the Year.
- On a related note, Matt Moore, interesting.
- Saints, Vikings, and Colts are not going to be playing in Super Bowl for the following reasons: Saints stepped into the empty elevator shaft when they lost to Cowboys, but we all saw it coming as they started struggling every week. Vikings are imploding before our eyes with Favre, AP being stopped, and their secondary showing continued vulnerability. Colts rested starters in second half in loss to Jets, therefor Jim Caldwell learned nothing from Tony Dungy's play-off futility following great regular seasons when starters were rested in the last couple weeks of the year. YOU GET A BYE WEEK FIRST ROUND OF PLAY-OFFS!!!

NFL talk will increase when bowls are over, until then I can focus on the college game... yay.

and now your moment of zen:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

12/24: COUNTERPOINT - Why JJ isn't the male athlete of the year

My article is in response to my esteemed colleague Robbie Mays' post regarding Jimmie Johnson winning AP Male Athlete of the Year.

Now for my argument
When I heard this announced I was surprised. I too shared in the amazement that the mainstream sports media was finally comfortably voting a NASCAR driver to such a high honor. It does say a lot about how much NASCAR has become a more mainstream sport than ever before, for better or worse. Jimmie Johnson's four championships in a row is a true testament to his abilities given that technological advantages are not a great as they were back when over half the field didn't even compete every week. NASCAR has done everything in its power to prevent a single driver or team from blowing away the field. Not just a few decades ago it took a simple breakthrough and there would someone go on a tear of dominance. That's not today's NASCAR, competition has been legislated and regulated. That's why Johnson's achievement is so great.

There's only one problem with this historic moment: Johnson is not the Male Athlete of the Year. Is he the Athlete of the Past Four Years? Yes, but that's not what this award is supposed to be. Johnson won the championship, but he was by no means the dominating athlete of the sport. This year NASCAR had a champion but not a dominant force. Is Johnson the most dominating athlete of the past half-decade, of course and that's the award he should win.

My AP Male Athlete of the Year
Roger Federer
In the four Grand Slams of tennis Federer won two and was runner-up in the other two. A sport like tennis does not lend itself to an overall champion like NASCAR does, but that does not mean that Federer did not dominate in a way that would have resulted in an overwhelming championship as best in his sport. I don't like tennis, but that does not mean that it isn't a sport worth the award. Believing otherwise would just mean we've become the pot vs the traditional media's kettle in the cross-cultural sports perspective.

Others that would have been acceptable: Kobe Bryant, Albert Pujols, and.... Jimmie Johnson
Kobe Bryant was again an all-star, again a champion, and again a Finals MVP. His dominance in basketball gets obscured by the hype surrounding LeBron James, but come play-off time it's Kobe who sets himself apart.
Albert Pujols hit .327 with 47 HR while leading the Cardinals to the play-offs. Is there any doubt that if not for Pujols the Cardinals would be struggling just to make the play-offs? He led a team that resembled baseball's version of the Land of Misfit Toys.
Jimmie Johnson cannot be denied high consideration, and I just wanted to make it clear that I don't discount his prominence amongst athletes today.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

12/16- Big Ten Expansion, Because They Can

Big Ten Catching-Up, 2006 Florida Team Still Not Worried
... and 2007 LSU .... and every other SEC Team last year (except South Carolina, of course, Iowa)
So, the Big Ten is finally making an effort towards expansion to twelve members. I'm sure some of you at home somewhere ask which two schools they are adding, to which I note as always that the Big Ten has eleven members right now. There were ten until they added Penn State over a decade ago. After expansion the Big Ten will have to again consider a name change, but I'd say it's safe to venture that they won't. I think there are any number of appropriate names post-expansion:
- Midwest Conference
- Mid-American Conference
- Little 12
- Shitacular in Bowl Games Conference
- Fuck it's Cold! Conference
- We Hate Children Conference
- Big..... Conference
- The SEC's Bitches Conference
Ok, so in all reality it's not that easy to come up with a new name, so don't expect a change.

Expansion Candidates

As you can see from the above map of Big Ten schools, the conference right now is concentrated in the Mid-West and has lots of big media markets. Included in the conference's footprint is Chicago, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Detroit, Minneapolis, and Columbus. All these markets have pro sports teams and are very much big ratings cities for sports. Keep in mind the Big Ten is very concerned about using expansion to increase their market geographically. So, the candidates are:

PRO: This may not seem a sexy selection, but it actually would make a lot of sense for all parties. It would give the Big Ten a bigger market in St Louis and Kansas City, which Illinois right now does impact to a smaller extent. This is large, public university with solid academics (journalism *cough*) and a decent basketball program history. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this possibility is the conference jumble that could result: Missouri to Big Ten, Arkansas or TCU to Big 12,  and if Arkansas then SEC robs ACC of somebody.
CON: Would Missouri really bolt from the Big 12?

PRO: This is a further expansion of the Pennsylvania area market, and a natural add based on geography. Another program with football, basketball, and academics.
CON: Will JoePa let this happen? My feeling is he still doesn't want to acknowledge another Pennsylvania football program, old bitterness. Another issue is that it does not really add to their market, but only enhances their current presence in this area.

PRO: You want market-share? I got your market-share right here. This is big-time add to the media market with New York coming into play. Despite being bad for much of their history the program is improved and has great tradition (first college football game participants).
CON: This is a situation where maybe the Big Ten doesn't want to bring their market out of the Mid-West, but if they don't mind this might be the best fit financially. The brand of this program nation-wide is not very good still.

PRO: Many of the same as Rutgers, but the expansion into New York market is slightly less. However the tradition and sports fit. This might be the compromise pick for may as it is in a rural part of the state (like much of Big Ten). Good brand on history of sports programs.
CON: Also much the same as Rutgers, but the lesser market hurts more. Also being a small private school makes them different.

PRO: I think this one makes a lot of sense even if many don't consider this a strong candidate. They have a strong basketball program, a decent football program with the right coach, and it fits right into the geography of the Big Ten as it's just across the river from a Big Ten state.
CON: Less tradition in football than others. Just does not have the Big Ten feel, and the media market is not an appealing add.

NOTRE DAME: They will say no again, so no need to review.
CONNECTICUT: Good media expansion, but big travel reach.
BOSTON COLLEGE: Fantastic media expansion, but again travel issue.
ARMY or NAVY: I like the idea, but academies might not want to join and not much to add.
CINCINNATI: Geography is there, but also... Jim Tressel on Line 1, Mr Delaney.

You mean there's more than 12 games? December?
Of course all this means that the Big Ten would move into two divisions and use the SEC model for a championship game design. Most likely an East vs West would develop naturally. Rivalries would remain in place as much as possible, so many trophies to preserve. My question is where to hold a championship game. Do you hold it in the same place every year? (see: SEC Atlanta) Do you rotate it? (Big 12) Do people show up? (ACC)

Championship Game Locations Possible:
- Indianapolis, IN (Lucas Oil Stadium)
- Detroit, MI (Ford Field)
- Minneapolis, MN (Metrodome)
- St Louis, MO (Edward Jones Dome) if Missouri added
- Cleveland, OH (Browns Stadium)
- Chicago, IL (Soldier Field)
- Pittsburgh, PA (Heinz Field)
- East Rutherford, NJ (New Giants Stadium) if Rutgers added
- Buffalo, NY (Ralph Wilson Stadium) if Syracuse added

I would assume if indoors then Indianapolis or Detroit are the most likely choices.
If outdoors then Chicago, Cleveland, or Pittsburgh are most likely choices.
The real question is will the Big Ten hold their game outdoors? Before you answer consider that with Minnesota opening their new stadium this season all current Big Ten member play in outdoor stadiums despite weather. It would be presumably be played either the week of or week before the SEC/Big XII/ACC Championship Game weekend.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Monday After Math: 12/7 - BCS BS, Heisman Hype, and the Kids Table

A Series of Unfortunate Events
The year-long march to a Florida-Texas National Title Showdown of Heisman QBs came to an end Saturday in the Georgia Dome and almost was destroyed in the Jerry Dome.
First came an absolute destruction of the reigning National Champion Florida Gators at the hand of the Alabama Crimson Tide. The stats for this game are staggering for Florida. Florida averaged 442 yards per game on the season,  225 on the ground and 217 through the air, and allowed an average of 253 yards per game, 102 on the ground and 151 through the air. On Saturday Alabama gave up 335 yards, 247 through the air in mostly garbage time and 88 on the ground, and gained 490 yards, 251 on the ground and 239 through the air. The offensive numbers for the Tide and the rushing stats for Florida are what you should really look at to understand what happened in this game. Alabama just lined up and smacked Florida in the mouth offensively and they never recovered as a team. Of those 88 yards only 26 came from players other than Tebow, and the Gators abandoned the run early as they only rushed the ball four times with anyone not named Tim Tebow. The only question that really needs to be asked is if Florida was afraid to run the ball? I really ask it now as I review the stats and realize how thoroughly Florida avoided running the ball. So for all the talk about the Gator D playing poorly, the offense did little on their end to play the typical Florida defensive game.

It was so bad that the words were never as poignant.

....and just when you thought you were shocked then Big XII happened. Texas racked up a walloping 202 total yards of offense, were intercepted three times, gained 18 yards on the ground, and scored a grand total of 13 points. Still those stats were enough to beat a Nebraska team that has quite possibly the country's best defense paired with an offense that might be the worst in the history of football teams that finished above .500. Nebraska gained 106 yards. They also threw three interceptions but I just wanted the total yardage to stand as its own sentence and statement of how putrid the Huskers are when they have the ball. Not only does Nebraska have a great defense, but their kicker has a 57-yarder to the credit of his huge leg. Everyone saw this game and therefor I won't go into much more detail.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Nebraska offense!

BCS BS Display on Fox at 8PM Sunday Night
We all knew that with the Texas survival went not only the hopes and prayers of thousands of Cincinnati and TCU but also those of every college football fan who wants the BCS to die and saw its mortality in those waning moments of Nebraska's lead. It was all at that point dead. A match-up between Alabama and Texas is something no one will complain about since they are traditional powers who were expected to contend. For the record it should be noted that Cincinnati would have faced Alabama had Texas fallen. While I know it's tough to compare Texas to TCU given conference affiliation, but if Cincinnati with no defense and in the Big East had surpassed TCU to play for the National Championship I'd lead the march on Indianapolis to abolish the BCS. It would seem not to matter who plays Alabama given how they played on Saturday but five weeks is a long time for things to change and no games to be played.

Heisman Hype
BREAKING: Finalists Announced
First a straight statement of facts regard the Heisman finalists as announced today:

Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford (1,736 yards 28 TD rushing, both lead the nation)
Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska (82 tackles including 12 sacks, best defensive player in nation by far)
Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama (1,542 yards 15 TD rushing, on #1 team in country)
Colt McCoy, QB, Texas (3,515 yards 27 TD 12 INT passing, 348 yards 3 TD rushing)
Tim Tebow, QB, Florida (2,413 yards 18 TD 5 INT passing, 859 yards 13 TD rushing)

Breaking Down the Candidates
Gerhart is the guy with all the stats on a team that went 8-4 and won't play in a big-time bowl game. He might be the best offensive player in college football right now and has at least the statistics to show that. What helps Gerhart is the geography of voting and his being the only west coast player of note in the race, but what hurts him is Stanford went 8-4 and will face Oklahoma in the Sun Bowl.
Suh is the guy who made the biggest splash on the last day before most voting took place. His 4.5 sacks and overall dominating performance against the Longhorns gave Suh the game by which we can all measure his greatness. What helps Suh is that he is the best player in college football and had a great stage to show off on vs Texas, but what hurts him is he plays defensive tackle.
Ingram is the guy who is the best individual player on the best team in the country. I really can't find much of a rationale other than that because it doesn't seem to matter who runs behind that offensive line in the scheme they run. Trent Richardson looks just as good when he comes in. What helps Ingram is he will be on the field for the national championship game, but what hurts him is his stats leave something to be desired by comparison.
McCoy is the guy who had a great season on a great team. He is the only player we can reasonably associate with the Texas Longhorns the last couple of years. What helps McCoy is that he is a quarterback playing for a national title who has twice missed out on the trophy despite good seasons, but what hurts McCoy is his worst game came this past weekend in the Big XII title game vs the best defense he's seen and one of the few defenses of any note.
Tebow is the career achievement invitee.  This one really steams me given that there is no rational reason to invite his to the ceremony. What helps him is that apparently he is the second coming, but what hurts him is his season wasn't that good and Florida won't be in the national title game.

My Ballot?
As I would have had it:
1. Toby Gerhart - I think best player is how the award should work
2. Ndamukong Suh - Since the trophy doesn't have an "offensive" qualifier I can't vote him any lower
3. C.J. Spiller - I hate Clemson, but know he's a greatplayer and Clemson is garbage without him
4. Colt McCoy - Great player, and his not having won it yet helps his case for me
5. Mark Ingram - I don't think he's that good really, but it's hard to put anyone else here

The Kids Table
"Reservations for two, please." "Ah, I see you're with the Frog-Bronco party, right this way."
I'll make this point as quickly as possible.
Having TCU and Boise State play each other in the Fiesta Bowl is the equivalent of letting someone into a restaurant and seating them at the kids table. "Yeah, you can eat here, but you can't sit with the big people." is what the BCS said yesterday when they announced the match-ups. Don't get me wrong, it will likely be the best game of the five BCS games, but still there is not chance for either team to prove anything. The big boys of the BCS and their conferences were afraid of the thought that there could be two undefeated non-AQ with wins over BCS conference teams in bowl games. Any possibility that TCU could pass up to #1 with a Texas win over Alabama are gone, and you know that was on their minds.

They say "It's the best system," much like Communism in Russia, right?
There's an easy way to fix this, here's my schedule for a play-of this year:

First Round- Saturday, December 19th
Noon: Orange Bowl = Georgia Tech (ACC) vs Cincinnati (Big East)
3:30: Sugar Bowl = Alabama (SEC) vs Boise State (#2 non-AQ)
7:00: Rose Bowl = Oregon (Pac-10) vs Ohio State (Big Ten)
10:30: Fiesta Bowl = Texas (Big XII) vs TCU (#1 non-AQ)

Second Round- Saturday, January 2nd
3:30: Eastern Semi-final- Orange Bowl Champ vs Sugar Bowl Champ in Jacksonville, FL
8:00: Western Semi-final- Rose Bowl Champ vs Fiesta Bowl Champ in San Diego, CA

Championship Game- Saturday, January 9th
8:00: Eastern Semi-final winner vs Western Semi-final winner in Indianapolis, IN

Three Parting Shots
Best Team Spirit Movement of 2009
Runaway winner here:

They've got a website with shirts, hats, signs, and even new gear with a tire added for their bowl game.

Best Ending of 2009
I was one of eight people watching this live, but was greatest ending since Stanford-Cal band pass:

The game included 105 points, 964 total yards of offense, 47 first downs, the obligatory 2 INT for Juice Williams, and 1.5 millions reasons a year Illini fans are going to continue kicking themselves through 2014.

Coach Flip-Out of 2009
Another game I watched as it happened, Lynch gets bonus points if I found out the gum stuck the landing

I chose this particular clip to further illustrate Lynch was completely within his rights to flip-out. It was still early enough in the season to know Michigan was getting some help from the Big Ten, who desperately tried to prop up the Wolverines. For more on that, here's a bonus fourth parting shot with Rivalry Moment Caught on Tape of 2009:

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Rapid Reaction: Part III - BCS Survives on Life Support, Tigers Wrecked, All but Wisc/Hawaii

BCS Survives on Life Support
Texas 13, Nebraska 12
The BCS would have died if not for one of the strangest endings we've every seen to a conference title game. The stats are ugly as Texas outgained the Huskers 202-106, but yet the Huskers had more than a shot to win this game. It has to be said that Nebraska turned in what I have to call the greatest defensive performance of my lifetime. They sacked Colt McCoy nine times, excuse while I emphasize NEBRASKA SACKED COLT MCCOY NINE TIMES! A field goal with a little over a minute left gave Nebraska a 12-10 lead, but we all knew McCoy would lead them after that. The problem is that while in field goal range as the clock was winding down that McCoy almost lost the game for the Horns as he barely avoided the ultimate bonehead move of allowing time to run out, but they survived it to kick the game-winner as time expired. Nebraska lost the game primarily because of these kinds of stats: 2-16 on third down, 39 passing yards, 67 passing yards, Zach Lee 6 of 19 with 3 INT, 5 total first downs, and general offensive futility. They had a change because of these defensive stats: allowed 18 yards on 38 rushes, intercepted McCoy three times, and Ndamukong Suh being an absolute beast who could not be stopped.
My pick result- Loss vs spread, win straight-up

Tigers Wrecked
Georgia Tech 39, Clemson 34
I can't say I watched too much of this game unfortunately, because I was afraid that if I changed the channel Suh was gonna tackle me too. I can see from the box score that Spiller accumulated even more obscene statistics in the loss (233 yards 4 touchdowns on 20 carries). Tech still won the rushing battle 333 to 323 which wouldn't otherwise be shocking if not for Spiller's impressive total. The stat that shocks me more than any today? Georgia Tech won the passing yardage battle for what I have to presume is the first time since Paul Johnson's arrival as QB Josh Nesbitt went 9 of 16 for 136 yards and a touchdown. Clemson QB Kyle Parker went 10 of 17 for 91 yards with two interceptions. If there's one thing I know it's that the Jackets are vulnerable to the pass, but apparently Clemson stuck with their best player rather than there best chance to win and kept it on the ground.
My pick result- Win vs spread and straight-up

"Tebow of the Northwest" Avenges Real Tebow
Washington 42, California 10
They call Washington QB Jack Locker the Tebow of the Northwest, and so I assume he needed to avenge the Tebow loss to Alabama earlier in the day. That's the only way to explain his 19 of 23 for 248 yards and three touchdowns through the air AND 14 carries for 77 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. I suppose it could also be that he's pretty damn good and a likely top 15 pick in this NFL Draft. I really didn't watch this between the SEC title game, the SoCal-Arizona Game and the 8:00 kick-offs, so I won't get too much into detail. I just want to make sure we all understand that Jack Locker is Tim Tebow with better mechanics and an easier transition to NFL coming.
My pick result- Win vs spread and straight-up

Huskies Finish Strong After Season of Emotion
Connecticut 29, South Florida 27
The Huskies of Connecticut ended a regular season of a few ups and more downs than any team in the country with a win over South Florida on a 40+ yard field goal in the snowy conditions of the Northeast. USF QB B.J. Daniels kept the game alive after the Bulls were down 20-7 in this game with three rushing scores on the game. Connecticut played just well enough to pull out the last-second victory that seemed to elude them all season. After all the game UConn lost that they nearly won it was nice to see them finish the season with a victory. As for the cold winter it's likely to get colder with Randy Edsall's squad likely headed to Toronto for the International Bowl.
My pick result- Win vs the spread and straight-up

Owls Win
Florida Atlantic 28, Florida International 21
I've got nothing intelligent to say about this one nor do I feel this game requires a more creative headline. Apparently the FAU QB's name is Jeff Vancamp, what happened to Rusty Smith? Guess he must've gotten injured at some point vs Sun Belt conference rival SCLSU. Go Mud Dogs!
My pick result- Win vs the spread and straight-up

Holy Garbage Late Game Batman!
Wisconsin leading Hawaii with time left in second quarter
This is the only game left and currently I have the winning team but it appears the Badgers will also cover unless a defensive collapse is upcoming. Then I was thinking......

via text alert I find out Magic lead Warriors 100-97... at end of third quarter... HOLY LACK OF DEFENSE BATMAN!

So far I'm 9-4 vs the spread and 9-4 straight-up, I'd guess a 10-4 and 9-5 are upcoming if Wisconsin tackles in the second half. Likely won't make it to end of this game, but will listen to 'Sconsin broadcast on XM Radio as I drift away to the kind of sleep the people at the BCS cannot enjoy as they spend their days killing puppies and baby seals with claw hammers and feeding hacked up human fetuses to their pet snakes.

Rapid Reaction: Part II - SEC, Zona-SoCal, & Boise blow-out

Gators Rolled
Alabama 32, Florida 13
Coming into the game I expected Tebow to be the difference-maker in a tightly-contested SEC title game. Tebow went 20 of 35 for 246 yards passing with 1 TD 1 INT and 63 yards on 10 carries. Alabama QB Greg McElroy went 12 of 18 for 239 yards with a TD. So in effect McElroy averaged 20 yards per completion. While Tebow's 63 yards rushing may sound nice you have to know the game was decided by that fact that his teammates added 26 yards total rushing to Florida's total of 89 yards on the ground. Alabama stuffed the Gators run game whether up the middle or to the outside, and the Tide ran over the Florida D for 251 yards including 28 carries for 113 yards and 3 touchdowns for RB Mark Ingram. Not sure if this was the final revealing of Florida's offensive weaknesses or if Alabama really is that good, but right now it's hard to think Alabama won't be celebrating a national title a month.
My pick result- Win vs the spread, loss straight-up

Trojans' Swoon Completed
Arizona 21, Southern Cal 17
Pete Carroll has a history of strong finishes at Southern Cal, but today their swoon was completed by a home loss to Mike Stoops' Arizona squad. In the end it came down to the fact the Arizona got better play from their passing game, and that overcame the Southern Cal ground advantage. QB Nick Foles went 22 of 40 for 239 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception for the Wildcats. A nice TD pass to Juron Criner of 36 yards and some nice footwork gave Arizona the lead for good. The Trojans were forced to go for it on fourth down deep in their own territory and failed. Trojans got the ball back with 0:03 left after Arizona ran the clock down as far as they could, and the prayer of a pass attempt failed.
My pick result- Win vs the spread, loss straight-up

Boise State Does Their Best to Seal BCS At-Large Berth
Boise St 42, New Mexico St 7
I would have had to go to ESPN360 to watch this game, and with Boise up 28-0 at the half you can guess how much of this I watched. Boise put up 544 yards of offense against the Aggies to continue their domination of the WAC. The only point of interest with Boise today will start with the Big XII title game and continue to tomorrow. What Boise is seeking is an at-large berth to a BCS game (Fiesta Bowl likely). To earn that bid Boise needs Texas to win tonite vs Nebraska. A Husker victory would get two Big XII teams in the BCS and leave no room for the Broncos unless the BCS bowl were to pass up a second Big Ten team (Iowa?) which is somewhere just this side of a snowball in hell's chance. I like Boise, but the chance for a BCS meltdown intrigues me more, so go Huskers!
My pick result- Win vs the spread and straight-up

By the way, apparently there's a high school all-star game being played in Tampa on ESPN right now.

Rapid Reaction: Noon/12:30 Games

If the rest of the day is this good I might not watch football tomorrow
Cincinnati 45, Pittsburgh 44 - Seemed like the 'Stache had it in the bag, but with 9 minutes left up 38-30 Pitt had to give it back to Cincy. It was at that point I knew we'd be in for a finish. Sure enough the Manbearpigcats of Cincinnati soon had it tied 38 all. Suddenly Pitt raced down the field, probably a little too quick, to take a lead after a missed PAT 44-38. Again, you kinda knew what was next. Brian Kelly's crew scored the TD and got their PAT to lead 45-44. From there it was all over as Pitt showed their greatest weakness was the ability to move the ball quickly in crunch time. So to the Orange Bowl goes Cincinnati unless their is some big Big XII craziness tonight followed by voter shenanigans tomorrow, and likely to the Bowl goes Pitt after a great season. Listen, I don't want to play Pitt, but there's also the matter of the Panthers deserving better in their bowl invite. The Panthers were 9-3 with all three losses coming close (@ NC State 38-31 and @West Va 19-16 being the other losses) and a trip to a BCS bowl in the wings. Instead it's likely that WVU will get the Gator Bowl invite to play FSU and the Charlotte Bowl (Car Care whatever) will have to decide between taking the better team in Pitt or the better draw with someone like Rutgers. Here's hoping for the sake of both Pitt and South Carolina that the Panthers get to at least go to Charlotte.
My pick result- Lost vs spread and straight-up

Fresno St 53, Illinois 52 - Okay, so this was actually the best finish of the day despite the greatness of the Cincy-Pitt game. The game was apparently played with defense turned out by the controller (EA SPORTS, it's in the game!). The Illini out-rushed (331-233), out-passed (217-183), out-gained (548-416), and out-turned over (3-1) the Bulldogs on the day. Really with Juice Williams three turnovers seems a moral victory, but it should be credited in this game to the Fresno coaching staff. Keep in mind that the Illini have been raking in recruits with the Zooker at the helm, but Pat Hill is one hell of a coach who knows how to get it done as he got his team again to an impressive 8-4 season. The reason for best finish on this game? Fresno scored a TD with 0:02 left and opted to go for two and the win. The Fresno QB was in the process of being sacked as he heaved the ball towards the endzone, the ball seemed in the hand of a receiver, was knocked out from behind by defender, and then the ball found its way into the hands of an offensive lineman who rumbled into the endzone to complete the try. Pat Hill proved that he's the better coach and has balls the size of watermelons.
My pick result- Won vs spread and straight-up

East Carolina 38, Houston 32- This game was a close second to the Pitt-Cincy game in terms of how much I watched it. I watched it because I wanted to see Case Keenum and I like Skip Holtz. I also figured that Houston would look good an offense and that their defense would make ECU look much better on offense than usual. Keenum had 527 yards passing but is the current clubhouse leader for the Rix Trophy with 3 interceptions and a fumble. As predicted the more fundamental team won this game and the Pirates are headed to the Liberty Bowl to likely square off against the Arkansas Razorbacks.
My pick result- Won vs spread and straight-up

West Virginia 24, Rutgers 21- I watched only the final couple of kneel downs in the game by the time I realized Rutgers had closed the gap, and so I can only provide some stats for this one. Rutgers QB Savage went 9 for 27 with 153 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INT. West Virginia won the rushing battle 162-65. The teams combined for a putrid 3 of 29 on third down attempts. It was likely a truly awful football game to watch unless of course you were a drunk WVU fan, which come to think of it is unnecessary specification, so pretty much if you are a WVU you were the only ones enjoying this.
My pick result- Lost vs spread and straight-up

Louisiana Tech 55, San Jose St 20- May God have mercy on the souls of all eight of you who watched this game. It's the game so bad even doesn't have a recap posted yet. La Tech covered the spread, we as a nation covered our eyes, and in all reality no one will remember this game tomorrow which is the most fitting ending to this story.
My pick result- Lost vs spread, won straight-up

12/5 - Championship Saturday Picks

Not all games are championship games today
Unfortunately some conferences haven't evolved to a title game model, here they are today

West Virginia @ Rutgers (-1.5) Noon ESPN
What's at stake? Little really, as West Virginia seems destined for a happy send-off against Bobby Bowden in the Gator Bowl regardless of record. Rutgers seems to have a little more motivation as they want to secure a berth in the Car Care Bowl if things fall their way, which would be their most geographically kind invitation yet. Between the Scarlet Knights having homefield advantage, coaching advantage, and the motivation advantage, I'll take the home team in this one.
Bottom line: Rutgers has more to play for.
Prediction: Rutgers 31, West Virginia 23

Fresno State @ Illinois (-3) 12:30 Big Ten Network
What's at stake? Fresno State has an opportunity to win their 8th game of the year and finish at 8-4, but for Illinois their 4th win. Normally the edge would go to Illinois, but given their improved play the last few weeks (see their hanging in there with Cincinnati last Friday) it's hard to figure if the Illini have any fight left in them. I think I will again go with the team that needs the victory more, but really don't feel good with the Zooker playing out a bad season (his most dangerous position). Still I like Fresno RB Ryan Matthews in this one, he's enough to make me watch some of this game.
Bottom line: Do the Illini care enough to play four quarters?
Prediction: Fresno St 41, Illinois 37

San Jose St @ Louisiana Tech (-23.5) 2:00 ESPN+
What's at stake? Neither team can become bowl eligible with a win, La Tech is 3-8 and SJ St 2-9, and so absolutely nothing is at stake. This is the kind of game you can only throw a dart and see if it sticks.
Bottom line: This game cannot be predicted, not sure if either cares
Prediction: Louisiana Tech 38, San Jose St 17

New Mexico St @ Boise St (-48) 3:00
What's at stake? Nothing for NMSU (3-9), but everything for the Broncos of Boise State. Boise is trying to stay alive for BCS at-large consideration, and while they will be huge Texas fans in the Big XII title game they can do their own part of the job by obliterating their over-matched opponent.
Bottom line: Broncos keep bucking their way to BCS consideration
Prediction: Boise St 61, New Mexico St 27

Arizona @ Southern Cal (-7) 3:30 ABC
What's at stake? The Pac-10 run their bowl invites so that by rule you have take a team with the best available finish, in other words you can't take a 5-4 conference record team over a 6-3. So what does that mean? It means the loser of this game will best be able to finish 5th in the Pac-10 pecking order, but the winner would be in a position to be the first non-BCS selection for the Holiday Bowl if those bowl officials like the idea. So the winner and loser could both play their bowl games in San Diego (winner- Holiday Bowl, loser- Poinsettia Bowl). This should be an interesting game in that both teams excel at defense and have had off games in terms of offense this season. I think the home team has to be the favorite, but Arizona might be more motivated by virtue of the different in expectations at these programs.
Bottom line: If your bowl invite is in San Diego how is either team a loser?
Prediction: Southern Cal 24, Arizona 20

California (-7) @ Washington 6:30 FSNNW
What's at stake? Cal also has a change to go to San Diego as the Holiday Bowl Pac-10 representative, but they would likely need an Arizona win over SoCal to make that happen. Washington is already eliminated from bowl contention at 4-7, but this could be QB Jake Locker's last game as a Husky. If this is Locker's last game in the purple and gold then being in front of the home crowd should provide the kind of boost this Washington team would need to overcome the strong finish the Golden Bears have put forth going into this game (winning at Arizona and versus Stanford, each was ranked 17th at the time of the game). This is another one of those potential sleeper games on Championship Saturday. I like the Huskies to pull the upset, but my confidence is very low.
Bottom line: Cal's strong finish vs Locker's potential swan song
Prediction: Washington 34, California 31

Florida Atlantic @ Florida International (-1.5) 7:00 CSS (
What's at stake? After three straight bowl appearances the FAU Owls will not make it to bowl eligibility and neither will their rivals, the FIU Panthers. This game is known locally as the Shula Bowl, named after legendary Miami Dolphin Coach Don Shula, and attracts little attention even locally given the lack of relevance of both programs to date.
Bottom line: Howard Schnellenberger will out-coach Mario Cristobal, that's the edge
Prediction: FAU 31, FIU 30

South Florida @ Connecticut (-7.5) 8:00 ESPN2
What's at stake? For South Florida there's little at stake other than bowl-positioning, but for Connecticut the final game at home after their emotional roller coaster of a season it seems like a chance to finish well. A win for UConn would even the overall and conference records for these two Big East teams. A loss might relegate USF to the St. Petersburg Bowl, a trip all the way across the Tampa Bay, but for Connecticut they could get their best bowl invite in program history with a win (although it's debatable). I like the emotion of the Huskies to prevail in yet another UConn thriller.
Bottom Line: Connecticut has provided great finishes every week win or lose, final game is a win for #6
Prediction: UConn 33, S. Florida 30

Wisconsin (-12.5) @ Hawaii 11:30 ESPN2
What's at stake? For Wisconsin this is very much just a first-of-two bowl game situation with the trip to the islands. For Hawaii it's a chance to secure bowl-eligibility since at 6-6 Hawaii's bowl fate will be determined by this game. The Warriors have won four straight games going into this week but have beaten just one team with a winning record all year, last week against 8-4 Navy. I think Hawaii will be fighting for their bowl lives, but Wisconsin will win this game unless they completely mail it in as a vacation.
Bottom line: Hawaii will come to play, will the Badgers?
Prediction: Wisconsin 38, Hawaii 35


Cincinnati (-2) @ Pittsburgh Noon ABC
What's at stake? The winner of this game will represent the Big East in the BCS, and the Bearcats have aspirations that things will fall their way to play for a National Title. It would be easy to say Cincinnati has more to play for, but in this case the motivation is mutual. Winning your conference title and knocking off the undefeated championship contenders is all the motivation the Panthers need to even out this fight. I like the Cincinnati offense with its explosiveness, but I question their defense. The Pittsburgh offense is powered by the run and an improved quarterback this year, and their defense is solid. I think the weakest unit in this game is the Cincinnati D, and when you add the homefield advantage for Pitt I think this game leans towards the Wannstache.
Bottom line: BCS or bust for the Big East title
Prediction: Pitt 41, Cincy 38

Houston (-2.5) @ East Carolina Noon ESPN2
What's at stake? A conference title and a trip to Memphis for the Liberty Bowl is what's at stake here plain and simple. Each of these teams has reached the championship game and won it, but really the thing you need to know is the difference in style between these two squads. Houston has a high-powered spread offense with QB Case Keenum throwing for 4,922 yards and 38 touchdowns, that's an average for 410 yards and 3 touchdowns PER GAME. The ECU Pirates are team based more on the team concept of playing well enough to win. They don't have a game-breaker but seem to play well each week. The contrast in style is reminiscent of the Oregon-Oregon St game Thursday night and makes this a tough pick, but I will go with ECU based on getting homefield. Incidentally, Pirates vs Cougars sounds like a cheesy and cheap adult film theme.
Bottom line: The game is in Greenville, NC... ARRRR!!!!!
Prediction: ECU 37, Houston 33

Florida (-5.5) vs Alabama, Georgia Dome, Atlanta GA, 4:00 CBS
What's at stake? A trip to Pasadena for the National Title. This is the game everyone will have their eyes on today. I will not disrupt the general feeling that this game will be one hell of a game. Both teams have a tremendous defense and an offense that thrives on power while struggling to be explosive. This game has explosive defenses and inefficient offenses. I call the defensive comparison a draw, give Alabama the advantage at running back and receiver, but give Florida the advantage at quarterback. The question is what factor matters most, and the answer in quarterback. If, as predicted, this game goes down to the final minutes of the fourth quarter then I would think the best QB would find a way to win. Florida: Tim Tebow, ready for fourth-and-Tebow in this game (went 3-3 on 3rd down inside the 10 yard line in last year's game). Alabama: Greg McElroy, first year starter who has in many ways been a weakness and the reason Alabama at times struggles to score.
Bottom Line: Get your popcorn ready.
Prediction: Florida 20, Alabama 17

Clemson vs Georgia Tech (pick 'em), Raymond James Stadium, Tampa FL, 8:00 ESPN
What's at stake? The winner gets to go to the Orange Bowl and collect the check for BCS appearance, and the loser could fall to Nashville or Orlando for a middle-tier bowl game. Neither team is really all that great, as evidenced by both losing to the third and fourth play SEC East Division teams. On offense both have explosive ability with Clemson having star rusher CJ Spiller and Tech running the vaunted triple option attack. The biggest weakness in this game is the Tech D, but is the offensive advantage enough for Tech to overcome that? I think it will be, as Tech normally runs their offense to the edges, but i they saw Clemson's game against their instate rivals last week they'd know that the Tiger D is vulnerable up the middle. I think this will be a close game, but I think I like the coaching advantage for the Jackets. FYI, the pictures above are of the ACC title game a few years ago in Jacksonville vs a Florida-Georgia game in the same stadium. ACC Football: The tree in the woods you keep in hearing about having fell some time ago but not sure when.
Bottom Line: Whose idea was it to put this on tv same time as Big XII Title Game? FIRED!
Prediction: Georgia Tech 37, Clemson 27

Nebraska vs Texas (-14), Cowboy Stadium, Arlington TX, 8:00 ABC
What's at stake? For Texasit would mean a National Championship apearance, and for the Huskers it would mean a return to prominence in the Big XII. Here's the breakdown that matters, Nebraska has a far better defense while Texas has by far and away the best offense. I think the advantage for the Horns on offense is bigger than the Husker advantage on D.
Bottom Line: The difference in points for-points against Texas 516-185, Nebraska 307-133.
Prediction: Texas 38, Nebraska 20