Saturday, December 31, 2005

Preliminary Thoughts - Meineke Car Care Bowl

Here is a tale of the tape on South Florida and North Carolina State in terms of the general statistics:

The South Florida Bulls have averaged 352 yards per game on offense (143 passing, 209 rushing)
while the defense has allowed 313 yards (169 passing and 144 rushing).

The Wolfpack has averaged 316 yards on offense (196 passing and 120 rushing)
and has allowed 299 on defense (195 passing and 104 rushing).

Virginia Tech barely beat North Carolina State 20-16 early in the season and were unable to get their running game moving, so that South Florida will have trouble establishing its strong running game, and if they can not do so, they will probably lose this game. If they can establish the running game, as they did against Louisville, however, they will win.

We have predicted a South Florida win, but upon reviewing the data, we are not so sure, because the defense may give the Wolfpack the edge.

Update: North Carolina State made its 2nd touchdown with 20 seconds to play in the first half and will go into the half-time break with a 14-0 lead. South Florida has been unable to move the ball against the Wolfpack, rushing for 36 yards and passing for 4 yards, an exercise in offensive futility. Moreover, the Bulls coaches have not adjusted well, as the Wolfpack has sacked Pat Julmiste, the Bulls QB, three times already, although he has thrown only 8 passes and completed only three.

There is no way that South Florida can win this game now. They do not have the offense to master the Wolfpack defense. Indeed, there is a good chance they will get shut out in this game, if the first half is any indicator.
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Preliminary Thoughts on the Houston Bowl - Iowa State vs. TCU

Football wins and losses are sometimes the result of the matchups of team strengths and weaknesses. Team A may be stronger than Team B, and Team B may be stronger than Team C, but Team C may be stronger than Team A, if the matchups have the right correspondence.

To assess Iowa State's chances against TCU in the EV1.net Houston, it is important to recognize that the Cyclones 23-3 win over a very strong and then 8th-ranked Iowa team early in the season was no fluke.

Rather, Iowa State shut down the potent Iowa passing attack, allowing the Hawkeye quarterbacks only 174 yards on 42 throws, sacking them three times and interecepting two.

Take a look at these Big 12 Conference Leaders via The Sports Network

INTERCEPTIONS

Rank Player Gm Int Yds TD IntPgm
1. C.J. Wilson, Baylor 11 5 54 0 .45
1. DeAndre Jackson, Iowa St. 11 5 18 0 .45
3. LaMarcus Hicks, Iowa St. 11 4 44 1 .36
3. Nik Moser, Iowa St. 11 4 19 0 .36
3. Clint Ingram, Oklahoma 11 4 63 1 .36
6. Theo Baines, Kansas 12 4 48 0 .33
6. Vincent Meeks, Texas Tech 9 3 16 0 .33
8. Jaxson Appel, Texas A&M 10 3 0 0 .30
9. Anthony Arline, Baylor 11 3 8 0 .27
9. Justin McKinney, Kansas St. 11 3 4 0 .27
9. Steve Paris, Iowa St. 11 3 58 0 .27
9. Corey McKeon, Nebraska 11 3 57 1 .27
9. Marquis Carpenter, Texas A&M 11 3 45 0 .27

Iowa State has three of the top four and four of the top 6 spots (plus ties) for pass interceptions, meaning that TCU will very likely have problems with the Cyclone defense when passing.

Nevertheless, that secondary is not impermeable, as Zac Taylor of Nebraska threw against Iowa State for 431 yards in the Huskers 27-20 2-overtime victory (36 of 55, 2TDs, no interceptions). Still, it was only 13-13 at the end of regulation time, so that it is difficult to score in the air against the Cyclones in the red zone.

Iowa State has a very strong team, and only 19 points separate them from an undefeated season, as THREE of their four losses were in overtime (to Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas - all bowl game victors) and their improbable loss to Baylor was caused by a fumble into the endzone, nullifying the sure touchdown and leading to a Baylor score, which cost them the game. It is not without reason that the TCU coach Gary Patterson has been cited as saying that they were preparing for this game as if they were playing a 10-1 caliber team. They surely are.

TCU last played November 12, nearly a two-month layoff, the longest in the NCAA and that might hurt them, at least early in the game, but that remains to be seen.
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Result - Peach Bowl

Miami of Florida was favored to win by a touchdown (6.5 points) so that the 40-3 rout of the Hurricanes by LSU in the Peach Bowl is a shocker, not so much because the Tigers won, but because of the margin of victory and the manner in which LSU dominated the nationally-ranked Miami defense, especially since LSU was playing with its backup quarterback Matt Flynn, who had to step in due to an injury to the normal starting QB JaMarcus Russell. Flynn completed 13 of 22 passes for 196 yards, 2 TDS and no interceptions, while the running game, led by Joseph Addai, topped 250 yards. Flynn's performance was hardly predictable, as in the previous game he went 3 for 11 in the air against Georgia for 36 yards, 1 TD, and 1 interception.

I think people were misled by the 34-14 season-ending loss to Georgia, in which LSU actually had more total net yards than the Bulldogs, but just could not score, in part due to poor field position, also as a result of poor comparative punting.

We did not call the winner of this game, putting us 10-8 in that category, but we did beat the spread as we predicted a Miami win by only four points, thus putting us 9-8-1 against the spread.
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Should the NCAA Protect Quarterbacks Better?

SI.com has an AP article on injured quarterback Joel Klatt of the Colorado Buffaloes:

Sounding off: Klatt says 'terribly run' NCAA needs to protect players.

Is Klatt right that stricter rules along NFL guidelines need to be implemented by the NCAA to protect college quarterbacks better?

We think Klatt is right that cheap shots and unnecessary roughness should be penalized more strictly than they currently are. Although football is a contact sport, we still want to see games won or lost on the basis of skill and strength and not because opposing players have been put out of commission by impermissible brutality.

There is another lesson in the Klatt story. Colorado was down by 67 points in the 3rd quarter against Texas at the time of the injury and there was no reason at all for Klatt to still be in the game, since he would be needed in the forthcoming bowl game against Clemson. Since the game was far out of reach, Klatt was not expecting such energetic play be the Texas defense, and that was wrong. They were there to play. The then Colorado coach Barnett should have taken Klatt out of the game much earlier since the game was clearly lost and should have given the reserve quarterbacks a chance to earn some valuable experience, which they were lacking in the subsequent bowl game.

As usual, this kind of a tragedy results only when multiple bad decisions have been made somewhere along the line by those who should know better.
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The Rose Bowl and Comparative Scores

USC beat Oregon by 45-13, makes them 32 points better than Oregon.
Texas beat Oklahoma by 45-12, makes Texas 33 points better than Oklahoma.
Oklahoma beat Oregon by 17-14, makes Oklahoma 3 points better than Oregon.

As a matter of comparative scores, this would make Trojans 29 points better than the Sooners but 4 points worse than the Longhorns, or similarly, it would make Texas 36 points better than Oregon, and thus 4 points better than USC.

That might be the correct "spread" except that Oregon nearly beat Oklahoma on its last series of plays, and had they done so, then this same analysis would be 3 points in favor of USC. The ultimate conclusion might be that the game is going to be pretty even and quite a battle unless one team or the other gets the upper hand somewhere in the course of the Rose Bowl game.

The computer predictions give an 8/10 of a point advantage to the Longhorns.

But imagine if one team or the other wins this game like 50 to 10. What would we all say then? The fact is, no one really knows how it will turn out, and that is what the excitement is all about.
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Result - Independence Bowl

Missouri had a worst possible start against South Carolina, allowing the Gamecocks to score twice on their first two normal drives and fumbling the ball away on their own first play possession to result in another touchdown. Hence, they were behind 21-0 after just 6 minutes of play and had an uphill battle all the way, finally catching up with the Gamecocks at 28-28 in the fourth quarter and going on to win 38-31.

Mike Davis of South Carolina had 19 rushes for 125 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Gamecock quarterback Blake Mitchell completed 20 of 38 passes for 266 yards, with 2 TDs and 3 interceptions.

Missouri must have some good coaching. Coming back from a 21-0 deficit is no easy task against such a strong team as South Carolina.

The difference in the game, as we had predicted, was QB Brad Smith of the Tigers, who completed 21 of 37 passes for 281 yards (1 TD and 1 interception) and had 21 rushes for 151 yards and 3 touchdowns for 432 yards total offense. The man must be made of iron. It was an incredible career-closing performance for the senior from Youngstown, Ohio.

The Big 12 is now 4-1 in bowl games with wins by Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Missouri and a lone loss by Colorado. The Nebraska, Oklahoma and Missouri games were all upsets against the betting favorite. Three games are left for Big 12 teams: TCU vs. Iowa State (TCU is favored by about 3), Texas Tech vs. Alabama (Texas Tech is favored by about 3.5), and Texas vs. USC (USC is favored by about 7.5).

South Carolina was favored to win this game and we had predicted a Missouri win, 34-27, so, for a change, we came somewhat closer to the actual result. Our record in prognosticating bowl game winners is now 10-7 and we are 8-8-1 against the spread.

Result - Vitalis Sun Bowl

He did not play against USC and was apparently determined to show the coaches that they had made a mistake. If he never plays another game, UCLA sophomore wide receiver Brandon Breazell, 6 feet tall and weighing in only at 165 pounds according to the Bruin roster, is surely in the football record books to stay as a result of his performance in the Vitalis Sun Bowl. He has perfected a play which is not regular fare in most playbooks - the return of an onside kick for a touchdown. Or, perhaps the lesson of this story is, when a man really wants to score, look out.

In the fourth quarter of the wild UCLA game against Northwestern, in which the Wildcats muffed too many scoring opportunities within close range of the end zone, Northwestern had narrowed the score to 36-31 with 2:29 to play and tried an onside kick, which UCLA's Breazell returned for ca. 43 yards for a touchdown. After the extra point it was 43-31 and UCLA kicked off. Northwestern promptly marched down the field for yet another touchdown, making the score 43-38 with 28 seconds left to play in the game. Northwestern again tried an onside kick and AGAIN, Breazell returned the onside kick for ca. 43 yards for a touchdown. (Gee coaches, why kick in THAT players direction again?) After the extra point, that made the final score 50-38 and hardly representative of the fact that UCLA was very lucky to win this game, being out-offensed by Northwestern, who rolled up 582 yards rushing and and passing, with 39 of 70 passes by Brett Basanez for 420 yards, with 2 TDs and 2 interceptions.

The Bruins Drew Olson was only a surprisingly ineffective 10 of 24 pass completions for 144 yards (but did have 3 TD passes, as well as 3 interceptions) and the bulk of the UCLA offense came from the running of freshman Kahlil Bell (135 yards and 2 TDs) and sophomore Chris Markey (151 yards), who took over for injured All-American Maurice Drew (a junior), so look for UCLA to have a great running attack for years to come.

In any case, we predicted a Northwestern victory so that our record in predicting the winners of bowl games now has dropped to 9-7 and against the spread 7-8-1. This is not one of our better years in bowl forecasting.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Music City Bowl (Gaylord Hotels) - Result

How a strong rushing team like Minnesota with Laurence Maroney running for 109 yards and Gary Russell running for 85 yards could have its QB Bryan Capito also throw four touchdown passes, entertain a 21-7 lead and wind up losing to Virginia 34-31 in the Music City Bowl (Gaylord Hotels) is one of those mysteries that make bowl games interesting.

The Cavaliers countered with Marques Hagans who completed 25 of 32 passes for 358 yards for 2 TDs, with 1 interception. Hagans also scored twice running, rushing for 26 yards on 10 carries, not exactly running figures to strike fear into the hearts of the Golden Gopher linebackers, and yet, Virginia won, mostly because its defense held Minnesota to only 10 points in the 2nd half.

Possible culprits for the poor Minnesota performance are University of Minnesota officials, who according to the ESPN.com game report might have demotivated the coaches:

"The Gophers might have been distracted in what could be coach Glen Mason's final game at Minnesota. He has a year left, but school officials want to make a decision by Saturday night when they must either terminate his assistants' contracts or see them roll over to 2006."

In our view, that is no way to do business. A coach's job should never be on line because of just one game, and for sure never because of a bowl game. A coach fearing for his job will simply coach his team differently than normal and that appears to be what happened.

This game makes us 9-6 in calling the winners of the bowl games and 7-7-1 against the spread. Ouch. Not a great performance on our part either, and it looks like more trouble down the road. Both of our next two picks are trailing in the games under way. Missouri at the moment trails South Carolina 28-7 in the 2nd quarter and Northwestern has managed to blow a 22-0 lead to trail by 36-22 against UCLA in the 3rd quarter. Wild.
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Bowl Results - Emerald Bowl and Holiday Bowl

The bowl games on Thursday, December 29, 2005 had two surprises in store: one was for us and one was for those who favored Oregon.

In the Emerald Bowl, Utah thumped Georgia Tech convincingly 38-10 in what must be regarded as the most unexpected outcome of the current bowl season from this pundit's viewpoint. Utah played as if they were still being coached by Urban Meyer and were quarterbacked as if Alex Smith were still at the helm.

In the Holiday Bowl, as we predicted, Oklahoma beat Oregon, 17-14. Except for the Colorado game, where the Buffaloes played without their superb starting QB Joel Klatt, the Big 12 has won all of their games (Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma) and if we are right in our predictions, is going to win a few more, as the computer ratings would also predict.

As a matter of statistics the Sooners and Ducks were even in almost all categories, with Oklahoma having a slight edge, except in the category of penalties, where the Sooners were assessed what must be a record 166 yards.

Adrian Peterson was kept under 100 yards rushing, although he had a good second half, and the Sooners won the game on the arm of QB Rhett Bomar, who completed 17 of 30 passes for 229 yards and 1 touchdown. One pass was interecepted. The Ducks used two quarterbacks, Dennis Dixon and later Brady Leaf, who each threw equally well in terms of statistics and matched the Sooners in the air, throwing for 243 total passing yards, one TD, and one interception. Leaf was in fact much more effective in leading the team down the field.

Nevertheless, it was Leaf who was intercepted on a critical play as Oklahoma linebacker Clint Ingram intercepted Leaf's pass at the 10-yard line with 33 seconds to play to preserve the win. At that point, the game in fact could have gone either way.

The unsung heroes of the game were the excellent defenses, which kept the offenses in check most of the time, resulting in the 2nd lowest scoring game in Holiday Bowl history.

In the game matching Utah against Georgia Tech, the Utes dominated the game in every category, with the apparent star of the game clearly being Travis LaTendresse, the Utah wide receiver who made 16 receptions for 214 yards and 4 touchdowns. Our explanation for the Utah success, however, is that Urban Meyer successor designate Kyle Whittingham had been using the wrong quarterback throughout the year. Brian Johnson, the starting QB was injured in the BYU game and was replaced by backup QB Brett Ratliff, who seems to have the kind of winning knack that only surfaces under game conditions in some players. This is one reason that coaches have to experiment more with QBs under real game conditions, rather than relying on impressions gained during practice, which can be misleading.

Ratliff has clearly shown himself to be the QB of preference and as a junior, should clearly be given the nod next year. The normal starting quarterback Johnson, a sophomore who will also be back, did not show the same kind of winning talent during the year. Perhaps he was simply too young? or perhaps Ratliff has that special something which is gold in a QB, the nose for victory.

In any case, this was a case of the Yellow Jackets being ambushed by a back-up QB who played better than any quarterback they were able to study on the game films. It was in fact Ratliff's first game as starting QB for Utah and he was clearly the MVP in our book and the reason for the Utah dominance. Also to be mentioned here is the Utah defense, which held the Yellow Jackets scoreless in the second half.

With these two bowl games, we are now 9-5 in calling bowl game winners and 7-6-1 against the spread. To do as well as we did last year, we would have to call nearly every coming game correctly, which is doubtful.
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Thursday, December 29, 2005

NJCAA - National Junior College Athletic Association final football rankings

The Junior Colleges are playing an ever-increasing role as a preparatory arena for players who later transfer to play college football at 4-year schools with their remaining eligibility.

The final 2005 rankings of the NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) are found here.

See also the "Dirty 30" national rankings.

Glendale Community College (11-0) of Glendale, Arizona won this year's 2005 championship.
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Alamo Bowl Final: Nebraska 32 Michigan 28 The Huskers are Back

Oh my, in less than a minute, Michigan moves down the field.
NU is in the WRONG defense again.

Henne passes to Avant for 11 yard gain
Henne passes to Avant for 6 yard gain
Henne passes to Avant for 4 yard gain
Hart rushes for 8 yard gain
Hart rushes for 16 yard gain
5-yard penalty on Michigan
3:19 to play
3rd and 8 on the Nebraska 18
4th and 8 on the Nebraska 19

a field goal will not help
pass incomplete

2:34 to play
NU now has to run out the clock

4th and 2 at the NU 26 after three rushes by Cory Ross
Time left 18 seconds
They have to punt
Breaston returns punt 19 yards
7 seconds left, ball at the Michigan 37
pass incomplete
2 seconds left
last play, several laterals, not enough
NU wins.

Hat off to Callahan. Maybe he does have it. He did get lucky, but a win is a win.
The Huskers are back.

Yahoo sports writes: "Remember the Alamo: Cornhuskers in wild finish".

Finally, an upset win in a bowl game.
This makes us 8-4 in calling the bowl game winners and 6-5-1 against the spread, as Michigan was favored to win by at least 10.

NU now has again earned some respect.
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Alamo Bowl - 4th quarter - Michigan fumbles NU scores

After the NU touchdown Michigan ball at the 20 after the kickoff.
Hart rushed for 5, Henne threw an incomplete pass and on the next play fumbled, recoved by Nebraska's Ola Dagunduro (DT 6-2 290 JR (2V) Inglewood, CA (Compton CC)).

On 3rd and 6 at the Michigan 13, Zac Taylor (QB 6-2 210 JR Norman, OK (Butler County CC)) passes to Terrence Nunn (WR 6-0 185 SO Houston, TX (Cypress Falls HS)) for the touchdown and Jordan Congdon (K 5-11 180 FR (HS) San Diego, CA (St. Augustine HS)) makes the PAT.

An unbelievable turn of events. Nebraska 32 Michigan 28.

Time remaining in the 4th quarter, 4:29.

Can the Huskers hold this lead? We are sceptical.
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Alamo Bowl - Interim - Michigan 28 Nebraska 25

What a surprise!

The Huskers get lucky as cornerback Cortney Grixby (played for Omaha Central) returns punt for 28 yards and Cory Ross (RB 5-6 195 SR Denver, CO Thomas Jefferson HS) runs 31 yards for a touchdown.

The Cornhuskers wisely go for a 2-point conversion, and are successful as Zac Taylor passes to Todd Peterson (6 foot 4 205 pound wide receiver freshman from Grand Island, NE, Central Catholic HS).

Michigan 28 Nebraska 25.

Nebraska is still in the game but can not allow Michigan to score again. Their defense has to improve.

6:49 to go.

Alamo Bowl - 4th Quarter - NU shows how NOT to call plays

NU is down by 11 in the 4th quarter and shoud be passing - more long than short - at every opportunity.

Here are the last two series of downs for the Huskers (NU down by 4):

1st-10, NEB20 1:06 Z. Taylor incomplete pass to the left
2nd-10, NEB20 1:00 Z. Taylor rushed up the middle for 7 yard loss
3rd-17, NEB13 0:22 C. Ross rushed to the right for 3 yard gain
4th-14, NEB16 15:00 S. Koch punt, no return. NEB committed 15 yard penalty

NU down by 11:

1st-10, NEB23 Z. Taylor passed to T. Nunn to the right for 1 yard gain
2nd-9, NEB24 Z. Taylor incomplete pass to the right
3rd-9, NEB24 Z. Taylor rushed up the middle for 1 yard loss
4th-10, NEB23 S. Koch punt, no return

You wonder what in the world the coaches are thinking to have miserable playcalling like this. No wonder they are losing. Callahan just does not have it. Forget it.
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Alamo Bowl - 4th Quarter - Interim Report

NU starts at their own 20 after the interception and moves the ball backward to their own 16 and has to punt. Once again, the NU playcalling is miserable.

On the punt, NU continues their string of errors and gets a 15-yard penalty, once again giving Michigan great field position at their own 48. Callahan should try to get his offense to stay on the field rather than having the NU defense permanently backing up against the Michigan offense. We suggest a bit more creative playcalling. Callahan thinks like an offensive line coach, it is a bit of a bore and easy to see through.

The Huskers still lead Michigan in total net yards passing and rushing but are behind on the scoreboard, thanks to poor coaching, two interceptions, penalties and the running of the Michigan special teams on kickoffs and punt returns.

Michigan has yet another 3rd down and makes another long pass completion - this time 26 yards. The NU coaches still do not have their team in the right defense on 3rd down situations. Are they preparing for quarterback sneaks? Henne has not been sacked even once in this game, so there is not sufficient pressure on him.

1st and 10 on the NU 21. The defense is tired. Henne rushes for 12 yards. 1st and goal on the 7. Henne rushes again for the 7 yard TD. That's the game.

NU will lose because Carr has done a better job of coaching in the 2nd half and the Husker coaches have not properly adjusted, either in defense or offense.

Alamo Bowl 3rd Quarter - Michigan 21 NU 17

NU has to settle for a field goal in a situation in which they should have made a touchdown. Nebraska 17 Michigan 14.

Michigan scores on a 3rd and 19 from the NU 22. What kind of defense were the Huskers in to let this improbability happen??? That kind of thing should be next to impossible if the pass defense is set to prevent the first down and/or the TD.

It is now 21-17. That may be the beginning of the end for NU. They are just making too many stupid mistakes.

Breaston returns a punt for 19 yards. Have the Husker coaches learned nothing from the first half? Why are they kicking to this man? It gives Michigan good field position at their own 41.

With 4th and 1 at the 50, Michigan goes for the 1st down with a quarterback sneak and makes it easily. Is NU asleep? That is disrespect.

Bowman intercepts Henne pass. The Huskers are lucky this time around.
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Why Texas will beat USC - Texas Coach Mack Brown

If you want to see some good reasons - other than just the quality of players - as to why Texas may beat USC, read this ESPN article about Mack Brown, the University of Texas coach.
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Nebraska 14 Michigan 14 Halftime at the Alamo Bowl

Nebraska coach Bill Callahan is a good recruiter, no doubt about that, but his record as head coach is unproven, based only on one good season with the Oakland Raiders, where he inherited a great team, and took them to the Super Bowl with a 13-6 record, a team which subsequently went 4-12 the next year under Callahan's leadership.

One area in which we are sceptical about Callahan's coaching abilities is his seeming inability to prepare his players for the obvious, although Callahan is alleged to be "meticulous". As Larry Kehres of Mount Union has stated - the job of the coach is in fact "to prepare the players for the game". On the other hand, Kehres does not let his players get banged up in practice like Callahan foolishly does in his allegedly planned search for perfection, which has led in 2005 to half the linebackers being out for the season.

In the first half of the Alamo Bowl game against Michigan, Leon Hall, known by everyone to be very fleet on foot as a defensive cornerback, has already intercepted two passes for Michigan. Why are they throwing recklessly to his area, knowing the danger that he poses? Similarly, Steve Breaston is Michigan's top return specialist, having ranked in the top 25 nationally this year for both punt and kickoff returns. Yet, the Huskers kicked long directly to him twice in a row, resulting in a 70-yard kickoff return after the initial NU touchdown and a 21-yard punt return after Nebraska failed to move the ball on their next series of downs.

That is all the result of poor preparation of players for the game. It is ridiculous to practice endlessly and often unnecessariy on the field, but not get players prepared mentally for the opposition. You do not throw and kick to the opponents strengths, but should rather be looking for their weaknesses. The game is now 14-14 at the half at the time that I write this and in fact the Huskers should be leading 14-0 if it were not for these coach-avoidable lapses. In fact, opponents this year have often scored many quick first quarter points against the Huskers precisely because the team is not mentally well prepared for the matchups they are facing.

Indeed, one of our main worries in the second half of the Alamo Bowl game is that the Michigan coach, Lloyd Carr, will do a much better job of preparing his team for the 2nd half than Callahan does, which does not seem to be his specialty. We shall see.
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Result - MPC Computers Bowl, Boise, Idaho

Boise State almost rallied from a 27-0 deficit, but Boston College lucked out the win 27-21 and continued the "march of favorites" in this year's college bowl games, as the betting favorite won for the 10th straight game.

The home win streak at Boise State is at an end at 31 games as the Broncos could not capitalize on a 1st and 5 at the BC 5-yard line with one minute left to play. Jared Zabransky, the Boise State QB was first sacked, then threw an incompletion and finished with a pass which was intercepted by safety Ryan Glasper for BC. Obviously, Hawkins called the wrong plays in that situation. He should have gone a safer route.

The Eagles thus literally grasped victory from the jaws of defeat.

As it was, the Broncos were in a position to win, not through the expected passing arm of Zabransky, who threw for only one touchdown on 20 of 36 for 278 yards, but rather through a 92 yard punt return by Quinton Jones of Boise State with four minutes left in the game. The Bronco defense held the Eagles on the next series of downs, leading to the last minute drama.

The total net yards passing and rushing was identical for both teams and Matt Ryan provided the heroics for the Eagles with 19 of 36 passes for 255 yards and 3 touchdowns.

For this observer, the Boise State offense was disappointing, producing only 21 points, whereas BC scored about the number of points expected. Perhaps that last bit of motivation failed the Broncos, as this was the last game for Dan Hawkins as Boise State coach. He now moves on to bigger and better things at Colorado in the 2006 football season. Hawkins' first home field game as Boise State coach was a loss and he won all the rest, except for this last one. His winning record at Boise State thus closed out with an impressive 53 wins and 11 losses.

This game makes us 7-4 in calling the bowl games and 5-5-1 against the spread.
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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Results - Champs Bowl and Insight Bowl

Champs Bowl

Colorado had the potential winning player sitting on the bench for 80 percent of the game as back-up QB Cox was leading the Buffaloes to a nearly net zero total offense on 4 of 12 passing for 26 yards while losing 28 on the ground for a net gain of -2 yards. Why the coaches waited so long to put in sophomore QB Brian White, who went 7 of 12 in the last 7 minutes of the game for 81 yards and one touchdown is anyone's guess. And when it counted the Colorado defense, which had been strong all game long, collapsed, after getting back in the game 13-10 with under 6 minutes left and having merely to hold the Clemson Tigers one more time to get another crack at the end zone. But Clemson scored and that was the ball game. As it was, White again moved the Buffaloes down the field quickly, but time ran out.

Obviously, the coaches made a grievous error in sticking with an ineffective Cox for so long and also called the wrong defenses on that last Clemson drive. How lucky the Colorado fans are to have Dan Hawkins waiting in the wings to take over the reigns next season to revamp the Colorado football program.

We called an upset for the Buffaloes which never materialized, so that our record in bowl game predictions is now 6-3 although we beat the spread of 10.5 (see covers.com) by one, giving us a record of 5-3-1 against the spread.

Insight Bowl

The line favoring Arizona State had dropped steadily in the week as much of the ASU team was weakened by a flu (the opening line had been 13.5 but the final line was 8.5). Arizona State won by only five, 45-40, as they allowed the Rutgers offense too many points. We are now 7-3 in predicting the bowl game winners and only 5-4-1 against the spread.

General Comment

Thus far in the bowl games, except for the Mount Union victory which we include in our results, no underdog has won and every favorite has emerged the victor. Hence, anyone simply predicting a win by the betting favorite in the I-A bowl games would now be 9-0 on predicting game winners (but would of course not necessariy be winning against the spread). Since we called the game for the underdogs in the next two games, it will be interesting to see if there is any change in this pattern of wins by favorites, which is unlikely.

Upcoming Games Today

Nebraska's second leading tackler, Bo Ruud, broke his arm in practice and is out of the Alamo Bowl, continuing to affirm my opinion that Callahan is not a top coach. Top coaches do not let their best players get banged up needlessly in practice. NU has now lost three top linebackers this season to injuries. Nebraska talent is thin and they should be doing more simulated practice and less physical contact, but Callahan does not appear to understand this. That loss of Ruud alone - a key defensive player - is enough to now favor Michigan unequivocally.

Boise State's main problem will be the Boston College offensive line, which averages 6 foot 6 and 314 pounds. In terms of the quality of teams beaten, Boston College is a clear favorite in this game and it all depends on how strong the home field advantage will be to Boise State's balanced offense. I am a Boise State and Dan Hawkins fan, so I have opted for Boise State. Based strictly on the statistics, one would have to go with BC.
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College Bowl Games Affected by Injuries, Illness and Suspensions

The Sports Network carries a list of injuries and other hurts (such as player suspensions) in college football. See

Teams alphabetically A to M

Teams alphabetically N to Z

These lists are important to view in assessing game outcomes, since, as we see in the Colorado-Clemson game, which is currently 6-3 in favor of Clemson at the half, the Buffaloes' regular quarterback, Joel Klatt, who completed 241 of 399 passes (60.4%) for 2696 yards, is still out with a severe concussion suffered in the Texas game. This is a CRITICAL LOSS for Colorado. His replacement, QB James Cox, a junior, who has played minimally this year, is just 2 for 10 passing in the first half against Clemson. Cox was 1 of 8 for 9 yards against Texas after Klatt was injured.

The Buffaloes are holding their own defensively thus far against the Tigers, but where is the offense going to come from in the 2nd half to beat Clemson? They have only 22 net yards in the first half and only 3 first downs. Indeed, they are are 0 for 7 in 3rd-down situations. How can it be that a major college team has a backup QB that throws this badly?

In any case, one sees clearly here how important the quarterback is for team offense.

Given the first half result and the fact that Klatt is not playing, we see very little chance that the Buffaloes can win. Clemson had 200 net yards total offense the first half and Colorado is lucky that the Tigers scored only two field goals, a meager production for all that yardage.

In any case, there are a number of other teams about which one must worry, based on what one reads at that Sports Network injury list, including Arizona State and Northwestern.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

College Football Bowl Game Predictions 2005-2006 - Motor City Bowl Result

We certianly missed the call on this game. DeAngelo Williams ran for 233 yards on 30 carries and set an NCAA career record of a total 7,568 all-purpose yards to lead the Memphis Tigers to a 38-31 victory over the Akron Zips, whose sputtering offense got moving only late in the 4th quarter, as they recovered from a 38-17 deficit in the last three minutes of the game. Akron QB Luke Getsy completed 34 of 59 passes for 455 yards, 4 touchdowns and no interceptions, but was contained in the first half as Akron scored only 3 points. The net yardage gained of both teams was about even, but the Tigers were the dominant team most of the game.

We had predicted an Akron upset 24-21 against the favored Tigers so our record now is now 6-2 in predicting the winners of bowl games and 4-3-1 against the spread, which is not good, and not much better than flipping a coin.

We hope to improve in coming games. At the moment it is 3-3 between Colorado and Clemson in the 2nd quarter, confirming our prediction that the Buffaloes would be intent on rebounding from the terrible end that their season took. But of course, we will have to see how that game turns out on the final scoreboard.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas from SportPundit



College Football Bowl Game Predictions 2005-2006 - Hawaii Sheraton Bowl Result

Merry Christmas. What a surprise performance by UCF. The 2005 Hawaii Sheraton Bowl definitely made us a fan of UCF Coach George O'Leary. Even though the Golden Knights were down, they came back to almost win this game.

The Nevada vs. Central Florida game was a masterpiece of drama. UCF was down 42-32 when they kicked a field goal with 1:30 left in the game to make it 42-35. They then recovered the onside kick, and with no time outs left, drove for the touchdown and tying kick at 42-42, putting the game into overtime.

The game ending was as improbable as the UCF comeback. Nevada (which finished 9-3 on the season) won the game in overtime 49-48 when the UCF kicker, Matt Prater, who had kicked field goals of 47, 40 and 46 yards and converted three extra points, missed the extra point wide to the right, somehow an unjust ending for this excellent kicker.

The Wolf Pack won the game on the ground, rushing for 367 yards, including 126 by Robert Hubbard on 15 rushes for three touchdowns. Nevada received running competition from the Golden Knights, who ran for 251 yards, although their primary weapon was WR Brandon Marshall, who caught 11 passes for 209 yards and three touchdowns. Nevada had the statistical edge in almost every department, but UCF still almost won. That is generally a sign that a team is very well coached.

Indeed, in spite of the loss, UCF (which finished 8-5 on the season) and their new coach, George O'Leary, can look back on their tremendous and unexpectedy successful season with a great deal of pride, having come back from an 0-11 winless record last year to break a 17-game losing streak, college football's longest at the time, and thus to forge the greatest turnaround in college football in 2005.

We had Nevada by 3, 27-24, the line was 2 and 1/2 in favor of the Wolf Pack, and the computers ranked them about 1-point favorites. Hence, we got the winner right but lost to the spread, making our prediction of bowl winners 6-1, but dropping our record against the spread to 4-2-1.
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Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Keyboard L is Not Always Working

Dear Readers,

If you see an "L" missing here or there, it is because the L on my keyboard is not working properly and I do not always catch it. I often catch the missing L if I reread the posts and probably should start using a spell checker.

I have asked Santa for a new keyboard, but thus far, the chimney is empty.

College Football Bowl Game Predictions 2005-2006 - Fort Worth Bowl Result

We hit the Kansas score right on the head with 42 points but were a bit high with our prediction of 28 points for Houston, as the Cougars only scored 13, caused primarily by having three passes interecepted. This makes us 5-1 in predicting bowl game winners and 4-1-1 against the spread.

The difference for KU in the second half of the season was QB Jason Swanson, who was injured to start the year, and who became the starting quarterback only mid-season. With Swanson at the helm the Jayhawks won 4 of 5 games. Unfortunately for KU, the senior will not return next year, so KU will have to find an adequate replacement.

Houston's touted QB Kevin Kolb struggled against KU and the Cougars' total offense was held to half of their normal output.

We think that this game outcome emphasizes that the Big 12, which is ranked 2nd by the computers this year behind the Big 10 in terms of league performance, has not been properly gauged by most prognosticators, who predict Big 12 losses in most of the bowl games that they will be playing beyond this one, and we think some of those predictions may be in error.
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Friday, December 23, 2005

Results - Las Vegas Bowl and Poinsettia Bowl

The Cal-BYU game went pretty much according to prognosis. We predicted a 48-40 win and Cal won 35-28 after leading by 35-14. Since the spread was 7 we neither won nor lost against the spread.

Navy was a big surprise for us, but not for some, as Navy started the game a 2.5 point favorite, and rolled over Colorado state 51-30, whose hapless defense had so much trouble with the Midshipmen's triple-option running attack, that Navy did not punt once in the game. Colorado State gained almost as many net yards as Navy, but several times could not convert these into points, and that was the ball game, which we erroneously called 30-27 for Colorado State, getting their point total right, but not that of the Midshipmen.

We are now 4-1 on picking the game winners and 3-1-1 on the spread.

Predictions on Forthcoming Bowl Games III

Texas Tech vs. Alabama - Cotton Bowl (AT&T), Jan. 2

OL=2.50 UL=2.50 (computer ratings prediction average=2.33)
Massey Consensus ranks Texas Tech Nr. 14 and Alabama Nr. 15

We call it Texas Tech 28 Alabama 24.

A great offense meets a great defense. The Crimson Tide allowed winning Auburn 28 points, losing Southern Miss 21 points and winning LSU 16 points. Every other opponent scored less and lost. 3rd-year coach Mike Shula is doing a great job there.

But the trouble for Alabama is that even if Texas Tech plays badly and Alabama plays great, the Red Raiders will probably still score three touchdowns at least and Alabama's problem will then be one of catch-up, with an offense that has trouble scoring this year, except for a 31-3 win over an as yet offensively inept Florida. If Texas Tech plays up to potential, the Crimson Tide can not win this one.

In some ways, the season was a disappointment for Alabama, which started out 9-0 and then lost 16-13 to Nr. 5 LSU and 28-18 to Nr. 11 Auburn. Alabama could win this bowl game, but the odds are in favor of the passing arm of Cody Hodges, as the Texas Tech passing offense has averaged over 400 yards a game. Not only is the offense superb, but the defense is also strong.

Nevertheless, no matter who wins this game, we will not be surprised. This is one of the games I personally would never bet on, as the outcome is just too uncertain.

Florida vs. Iowa - Outback Bowl, Jan 2

OL=2.50 UL=3.00 (computer ratings prediction average=-1.05)
Massey Consensus ranks Florida Nr. 19 and Iowa Nr. 23

OK, we are fans of Urban Meyer and we call it Florida 35 Iowa 28, although we are also fans of Iowa, so this was a tough choice.

To beat Iowa, you have to stop their passing game and Florida has had an excellent pass defense this year, which is the main reason that we favor the Gators in this game. It will not be easy as the Iowa front line is rock solid.

A major concern for Florida is that their Nr. 2 quarterback has transferred due to not enough playing time at Florida. Now Florida has no backup for Chris Leak, so Leak has to stay healthy. To achieve that, Meyer should now probably take a lesson from Larry Kehres at Mt. Union and John Gagliardi at St. John's of Minnesota, who allow very little physical contact in their practice sessions in order not to bang up their own players needlessly.

Still, Florida will continue to get better as Urban Meyer installs his system and recruits the players that fit that system. We definitely expect the Gators to be better next year.

Virginia Tech vs. Louisville - Gator Bowl (Toyota), Jan. 2

OL=10.00 UL=7.50 (computer ratings prediction average=5.25)
Massey Consensus ranks Virginia Tech Nr. 5 and Louisville Nr. 18

We call it Virginia Tech 37 and Louisville 35, but there is a great uncertainty in this game which makes picking a winner dangerous.

Louisville has lost its starting quarterback, Brian Brohm, due to injury, so that the drop in the line here is hard to understand, except as a reaction to Virginia Tech's season-ending loss to Florida State. Louisville did win its season finale against Connecticut 30-20, behind rookie freshman QB Hunter Cantwell, who went 16 of 25 for 271 yards, with one TD and one interception. Still, in a bowl game, experience will count.

We think in any case that Virginia Tech will find it as difficult to stop the Louisville offense as Louisville will to halt the Virginia Tech ground game, so we expect a lot of points to be scored. This is not a game we would wager on.

Auburn vs. Wisconsin - Capital One Bowl, Jan. 2

OL=9.50 UL=10.00 (computer ratings prediction average=5.86)
Massey Consensus ranks Auburn Nr. 11 and Wisconsin Nr. 17

We call it Auburn 41 and Wisconsin 21 because we think the Tigers are a far better team right now than their rankings show.

Auburn's biggest win was 63-3 over Ball State, but their most impressive wins to close out the season were over ranked top ten teams Georgia 31-30 (10-2) and Alabama 28-18 (9-2). Auburn's worst losses were to Georgia Tech (7-4) to open the season (23-14) and to LSU 20-17 in overtime (10-2). The Tigers are very strong. Except for poor preparation in game 1 and the overtime loss to LSU, they could easily have gone undefeated this year.

Wisconsin's biggest win this year was against Temple 65-0 (0-11). The Badgers most impressive win was 23-20 over Michigan (7-4). Their worst loss was 35-14 to Penn State (10-1) and they lost an offensive donnybrook to Northwestern 51-48 (7-4). It is their defensive weakness, however, which should make this game a solid win for Auburn.

The Princeton Review recently ranked Wisconsin as the Nr. 1 party school in the country, so that the Badgers surely enjoyed the season. This will be the last game as head coach for Barry Alvarez, who is heading to the sidelines after 16 years on the sidelines. They will be up for this one, so the score could be closer than expected. In fact, the Big 10 was very strong this year.

Ohio State vs. Notre Dame - Fiesta Bowl (Tostitos), Jan. 2

OL=5.50 UL=3.50 (computer rating prediction is 5.62)
Massey BCS has Ohio State ranked 4th and Notre Dame ranked 14th.

We call it Ohio State 28 and Notre Dame 21.

The betting line on Notre Dame games is often skewed because apparently many people bet on Notre Dame for sentimental reasons. If we compare their performance against Michigan State, Ohio State is about two touchdowns better, even if their new coach, Charlie Weis, has led the Irish to a tremendous season in which they almost beat USC. However, the Irish may yet be a season or two from being able to beat the Buckeyes. We would not be surprised if the Buckeyes win by more than 7.

Georgia vs. West Virginia - Sugar Bowl (Nokia), Jan. 2

OL=7.00 UL=8.50 (computer ratings prediction average=1.27)
Massey Consensus ranks Georgia Nr. 8 and West Virginia Nr. 10

We call it Georgia 28 West Virginia 24.

As SEC champion, one knows that Georgia has a very strong team, especially after their 34-14 win over LSU (10-2) in the title game. There is no question that the Big East is a weaker conference so that the Mountaineers, with a record of 10-1 and one loss out of conference to Virginia Tech 34-17, may not have the caliber of play that it takes to play against Georgia and win. The Mountaineers also barely beat East Carolina, a team with six losses.

On the other hand, the computers predict a closer game than the spread would indicate, so we called this one on the safe side and not by a large margin.

Penn State vs. Florida State - Orange Bowl (FedEx), Jan. 3
OL=9.00 UL=8.50 (computer ratings prediction average=12.03)
Massey Consensus ranks Penn State Nr. 3 and Florida State Nr. 27

On paper, the Nittany Lions should win this one in a cakewalk and the computer prediction shows what is among the highest of spreads in any of the bowl games. It is in fact remarkable that a 7-4 Florida State team got a BCS berth, which goes to the Atlantic Coast champion, based on their 27-22 upset win over Virginia Tech. With losses to Virginia, North Carolina State, Clemson and Florida, we doubt that they will be able to handle Penn State, which beat Ohio State 17-10 and only lost a close one to a perennially strong Michigan team 27-25, losing on a 10-yard pass in the final second of the game.

USC vs. Texas - Rose Bowl (Citi), Jan 4
OL=6.00 UL=7.00 (computer ratings prediction average=-0.75)
Massey Consensus ranks Texas Nr. 1 and USC Nr. 2.
Note the large discrepancy between the computer predictions and the actual line.

Look out. Texas used a no-huddle offense against Colorado and blew them away, leading 70-3 after 3 quarters (!). Here is what the Kansas coach Mangino said about Texas after their game with the Longhorns: "I don't think I've ever been on a field where I have seen so many big, strong, fast, talented kids," said Mangino, who called Young "phenomenal."

It is true that Ohio State came close to Texas early in the year, but in that Longhorns 25-22 win, the Buckeyes had 5 field goals and only 1 touchdown. That is a statement.

The USC defense has been very vulnerable all year but has been able to roll up high scores and come back from deficits in the first half to win in the second half, pulling out several games late in the 4th quarter. They are not going to be able to do that against the Longhorns. We think the nation's longest winning streak will come to an end in this year's Rose Bowl.
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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Predictions on Forthcoming Bowl Games II

Arizona State (ASU) vs. Rutgers - Insight Bowl, Dec. 27

OL=13.50 UL=11.50 (computer ratings prediction average=7.67)
We see that the update line on Dec. 20 is 10.50 but we stick to our updated line of Dec. 12, when we made these predictions. The computer predictions average 7.67 points.
Massey Consensus ranks Arizona State Nr. 34 and Rutgers Nr. 51

Arizona State's best wins were 63-16 over Temple (0-11) and bowl-bound Northwestern 52-21 (7-4). Their worst loss was to Oregon 31-17 (10-1). They played Arizona 23-20 (3-8) and Washington State 27-24 (4-7) about even. They Lost to LSU (10-2) by 35-31 and USC (12-0) by 38-28. Arizona State has fared much better against top competition than Rutgers and should be too much for Rutgers, but the team lacks that special punch and tends to keep games close rather than thumping opponents. Arizona State has pretty much the home field advantage for this game, worth about 3 points.

Rutgers best win was at Cincinnati 44-9 (4-7) and worst loss at Louisville 56-5 (9-2). They won an even match at UConn 26-24 (5-6).

As stated on the Rutgers athletics page: "In 1869, Rutgers and Princeton played the first game of intercollegiate football in a New Brunswick field overlooking the Raritan. For the record, Rutgers came out victorious, by a score of 6 to 4."

My mother in law went to Rutgers and I worked at a project at the Sun Devil law school, so no personal preference prevails here. Based on comparative scores, we make Arizona State at least a 16-point favorite and call it ASU 37 Rutgers 21 because ASU beat Temple 63-16, a difference of 47, Navy beat Temple by 38-17, a difference of 21, Rutgers beat Navy 31-21, a difference of 10. Makes a net difference of 16, 47 minus 21 minus 10. It is not a great way of analyzing the outcome, but better than guessing. Sometimes comparative scores are useful, sometimes not. You have to assess whether the games compared actually manifested the potential of the teams involved. If yes, comparative scores can be extremely useful.

Update: The last time Rutgers played in a bowl was in the 1978 Garden State Bowl, amazingly, also against Arizona State. ASU won 34-18, i.e. by the margin we predict for this new reenactment of a game played nearly 30 years ago.

Boise State vs. Boston College - MPC Computers Bowl, Boise, Idaho, Dec. 28

Idaho is a long way from Boston and it can get bitter cold there in winter. I have been in that area of the country, driving from California to Nebraska over Christmas in my law school days.
OL=3.00 UL=0.00 (computer ratings prediction average=-4.90)
Massey Consensus ranks Boston College Nr. 20 and Boise State Nr. 36

Boise State had a rough start this season, getting blown out of the stadium by Georgia (10-2) 48-13. Except for a 27-7 loss to Fresno State (8-4), they won the rest. Their biggest win was over New Mexico State 56-6 (0-12) . They closed out the season with a sound win over Louisiana Tach 30-13 (7-4) which beat Fresno State 40-28 the next week. If they get their offense going, they can probably beat anybody.

Boston College had their biggest win over Army 44-7 (4-7). Their worst loss was to Virginia Tech 30-10 (10-2). The opening line had Boise State favored, but that has changed, and the computers predict a Boston College win. But as Fresno State showed against USC, on any given day in modern football, watch out. Boise State started out slow but picked up in the course of the season. This bowl game takes place on their home turf and they have won 31 games in a row there, which says something about playing in Idaho. The games that BC lost were lost in the air, and that is Boise State's strength. The Bronco's losses came only in two games where its passing attack was stymied. BC does not have that kind of a pass defense.

We call it for the Broncos 37-26 on the basis of their superior offense and their undenied and significant home advantage.

Update: A late fly in the soup is the fact that Colorado, which fired head coach Gary Barnett last week (who formally resigned), has hired Boise State coach Dan Hawkins as the new Colorado head coach for the coming season. It is hard to tell what kind of an impact this kind of news will have on the Boise State team. What the news does mean is that Colorado will be a powerhouse again several seasons down the road. Hawkins was one of the coaches we suggested as head coach for Nebraska before they hired Callahan, and we also suggested Urban Meyer to NU even before he went to Utah. We think Hawkins will do his best to go out a winner. His current record at Boise State is 53-10 and do we hear "Car 54 Where Are You?"

Michigan vs. Nebraska - Alamo Bowl, Master Card, Dec. 28

OL=13.00 UL=11.50 (computer ratings prediction average=10.61)
Massey Consensus ranks Michigan Nr. 13 and Nebraska Nr. 33

I call it 24-21 for Nebraska because I am an NU alum. My wife is a University of Michigan alum. She surely sees the score reversed. In any case, no matter who wins, it is all in the family, so may the best team win.

The strength of the Michigan team is shown by their 27-25 defeat of 3rd-ranked Penn State (10-1) and their narrow 25-21 loss to 4th-ranked Ohio State (9-2).

On paper, Nebraska would appear not to stand a snowball's chance against the Wolverines, who, in spite of 4 losses, were only 17 points removed from a perfect season, but there is hope for NU. Big 10 teams have played Big 12 teams twice this year and lost both games, Iowa State defeating Iowa, and Texas beating Ohio State.

The Michigan team as a whole is much stronger in terms of personnel than NU, but its offense is not great and neither is its defense - this is a function of coaching. Its losses came because the offense scored too few points (about 28 a game), whereas their defense allowed about an average of 20. If you take out the Eastern Michigan game, then these numbers are much closer to each other, i.e. about 23-20, regardless of the opposition, which means that the team is not optimally coached on the field and seems to follow the same general game plan against every opponent, no matter who it is, with similar results. They can, as in the case of Penn State, win, 27-25 or as in the case of Ohio State, lose 21-25. Michigan also had three point wins or losses against Wisconsin, Michigan State, Minnesota and Iowa.

This may be Nebraska's chance since Michigan should otherwise normally blow them off the field, but will not, because that is not the way they are coached to play. Hence, the game will likely be close and in my opinion will be decided by about 3 points with the score running about 24-21. If I were not an NU alum, I might pick Michigan, but since I am an NU alum, I will pick NU in an upset, 24-21.

Update: Michigan coach Lloyd Carr has criticized the bowl system in a rather sad case of sour grapes for having "only" been selected to play in a "December" bowl. Had he won all 11 regular season games, he would be in no position to make such complaints. If you go 7-4, you can not complain about not being in one of the top bowls. Given its many bowl appearances in the last 10 years, it is rather absurd for Michigan to criticize the bowl system. It would only be justice if the Cornhuskers whupped the Wolverines in the Alamo Bowl. I would certainly put his comments up in the locker room to fire up the team. A lack of respect can often end in defeat.

Georgia Tech vs. Utah - Emerald Bowl, Dec. 29

OL=7.00 UL=7.50 (computer ratings prediction average=8.06)
Massey Consensus ranks Georgia Tech Nr. 25 and Utah Nr. 64

The Yellow Jackets have a good defensive team, in spite of a thumping 51-7 loss to Virginia Tech. They beat rankedteams Auburn (23-14) and Miami of Florida (14-10), so that this is very good football team.

Urban Meyer is gone from Utah and the Utes went 6-5, having to win their last game 41-34 against BYU to become bowl eligible.

Georgia Tech beat North Carolina 27-21, whereas the Tar Heels beat Utah 31-17. On paper, the Yellow Jackets should win in a breeze. However, we call it close, 31-28 for Georgia Tech, because Georgia Tech has not scored a lot of points this year, so that Utah should be able to stay in the game and make it interesting.

Oregon vs. Oklahoma - Holiday Bowl (Pacific Life), Dec. 29

OL=0.50 UL=3.00 (computer ratings prediction average=5.49)
Massey Consensus ranks Oregon Nr. 6 and Oklahoma Nr. 24

We pick Oklahoma 31-24 over Oregon.

We think the Ducks are in for a surprise. Oklahoma started out the year poorly with a freshman quarterback and their top running back Adrian Peterson was hobbled by an ankle injury during the season. They closed very strong, winning five of six, losing only to Texas Tech (9-2) on the last - unclear - play of the game and beating Oklahoma State 34-14, a hot-cold team that led Texas by 19 before falling 47-28. Peterson is healthy again and Rhett Bomar has picked up valuable experience at QB. He is a different quarterback than when he started the season. Oregon's weakness is its defense, which gave up lots of points this year at times, and a functioning Sooner offense will give the Ducks problems.

Minnesota vs. Virgina - Music City Bowl (Gaylord Hotels), Dec. 30

OL=3.00 UL=3.00 (computer ratings prediction average=6.85)
Massey Consensus ranks Minnesota Nr. 22 and Virginia Nr. 41

We call it Minnesota 27 Virginia 21.

Virginia has a strong team, having beaten ranked Florida State 26-21 and Georgia Tech 27-17, but they got trounced by the running game of Virginia Tech 52-14 and we see no way they can stop the very strong Minnesota running game, which they have to do to give their own passing offense a chance to move down the field.

Minnesota beat two ranked teams during the season and lost to three ranked teams. It also lost its last game to Iowa 52-28 precisely because Iowa was able to stop the running attack and then put its own potent aerial offense to work (Iowa loses only when its air attack is stymied, as against Iowa State).

This game appears to be a great matchup for the Golden Gophers, less so for the Cavaliers.

Northwestern vs. UCLA - Sun Bowl (Vitalis), Dec. 30

OL=5.50 UL=3.50 (computer ratings prediction average=1.56)
Massey Consensus ranks UCLA Nr. 21 and Northwestern Nr. 26 but Massey BCS ranks Northwestern 16 and UCLA 24.

We call it Northwestern 47-44 over UCLA.

This could be a wild one, as both teams have porous defenses and potent passing attacks. Northewestern has been able to hold its own against good teams with weak defenses and that may be UCLA. However, the Northwestern pass defense can be had, as shown by their 52-21 loss to Arizona State, where ASU passed for nearly 500 yards, and Drew Olson of UCLA is capable of throwing for that many, as he showed in UCLA's 45-35 victory over ASU where he had 510 yards. QB Brett Basanez of Northwestern will counter. It should be a high-scoring affair.

South Carolina vs. Missouri - Independence Bowl, Dec. 30

OL=3.50 UL=3.50 (computer ratings prediction average=4.67)
Massey Consensus ranks South Carolina Nr. 30 and Missouri Nr. 47

We pick Mizzou over the Gamecocks 34-27.

On paper, South Carolina is surely the team to be favored, having beaten ranked teams, whereas the same can not be said for Missouri.

Steve Spurrier's South Carolina closed out the season by losing to Clemson, 13-9. South Carolina is a difficult team to judge because of its inconsistent season, beating Florida 30-22 and Tennessee 16-15, barely losing to Georgia 17-15 and then geting blown away by Auburn 48-7 and Alabama 37-14.

Against strong opposition, the Gamecocks offense is weak, generally being limited to two touchowns. Indeed, both Auburn and Alabama shut down the Gamecocks rushing, and that was the ball game.

In this regard, the Missouri defense is leaky and has given up a lot of points this year, which may be in South Carolina's favor.

Missouri finished the season by losing to Kansas State 36-28 and has lost 3 of its last 4 games. Is their offense, which concentrates on Brad Smith, simply too one-sided? It certainly was not against Nebraska, where Brad Smith set a school record for total offense (480 yards), with over 200 yards each both passing and rushing. And as Smith goes, so will the game. We have doubts that the Gamecock's defense can control him.

Miami of Florida vs. LSU - Peach Bowl (Chick-fil-A), Dec. 30

(no line) (computer ratings prediction average=2.87)
Massey Consensus ranks Miami of Florida Nr. 7 and Louisiana State Nr. 12

We favor Miami of Florida over LSU 21-17.

This should be a great game, matching two of the best teams in the country, although we give a slight edge to the Hurricanes, whose weakness this year has been their offense. We thus expect a lower scoring game.

By comparative scores, Georgia beat Georgia Tech 14-7, Miami lost to Georgia Tech 14-10, makes Georgia 11 points better than Miami. LSU lost to Georgia by 20. Makes Miami about a one-touchdown favorite. Again, this works only if the comparative scores reflect actual team strengths.

North Carolina State vs. South Florida - Meineke Car Care Bowl, Dec. 31

OL=7.00 UL=6.00 (computer ratings prediction average=0.26)
Massey Consensus ranks NC State Nr. 39 and South Florida Nr. 37

We call it: South Florida 31 North Carolina State 24

Here is a case where the computer ratings are telling us to be careful. Although NC State is favored by about a touchdown, the computers call the game about even, and the Massey Consensus even gives South Florida a slight edge.

South Florida lost their last two games, to Connecticutt and to West Virginia, whereas NC State won their last two, over Middle Tennessee and Maryland. South Florida's claim to fame this year is a 45-15 rout of then 9th ranked Louisville, which lost only one more game all season, a 46-44 cliffhanger to West Virginia.

NC State played Virginia Tech close 20-16 and beat Florida State 20-15, while losing to weaker teams such as Wake Forest 27-19. Except for the game against Eastern Kentucky, NC State has trouble mustering more than 20 points, whereas, depending on the opposing team, South Florida has been able to put some points on the board.

The game is being played in Charlotte, North Carolina, so that the Wolfpack can be considered to have the home advantage, which may play a role.

Fresno State vs. Tulsa - Liberty Bowl (AutoZone), Dec. 31

OL=9.50 UL=7.00 (computer ratings prediction average=3.71)
Massey Consensus ranks Fresno State Nr. 35 and Tulsa Nr. 43

Since the motivation of Fresno State is the unknown element, we'll call for a close game and see it as Fresno State 35 and Tulsa 31.

After nearly felling USC, Fresno State self-destructed in its last two games, losing to Nevada 38-35 and then to Louisiana Tech 40-28, thus finishing the season with three straight losses, clearly a fall from glory which surely has mentally and motivationally to do with the "close, but no horseshoes" result in the USC game, which Fresno State lost 50-42 after being ahead 42-41 in the 4th quarter. By the time this bowl game rolls around, perhaps the team has regained its composure, but this is still a large unknown. So close, and yet so far....

Tulsa has had a good season, finishing with a 44-27 win over UCF to win the Conference USA championship. Still, Tulsa is a good two or three touchdowns removed from the level at which Fresno State is able to play, when it plays well.

TCU vs. Iowa State - Houston Bowl (EV1.net), Dec. 31

Our call is Iowa State 34 TCU 30.
OL=3.50 UL=4.00 (computer ratings prediction average=4.11)
Massey Consensus ranks TCU Nr. 16 and Iowa State Nr. 29

We call it Iowa State 34 TCU 30.

We think that the Big 12 is somewhat underrated by the prognosticators, and computer rankings place Big 12 performance this year just after the Big 10, ranked the number one conference this year by the digital machines.

TCU shocked Oklahoma to start the season by winning 17-10 as Oklahoma started a freshman quarterback who struggled through the year for the Sooners. TCU then lost in a let-down in the following game to SMU 21-10, winning all of their games afterwards, with some close ones at Utah 23-20, BYU 51-50 and San Diego State 23-20. A good case can be made that QB Jeff Ballard, who replaced injured starting QB Tye Gunn in the BYU game, has made the Frogs stronger, bringing them back from a 19-point deficit in the BYU game and winning ever since.

Iowa State and TCU played one common opponent, Army, beaten by Iowa State 28-21 and by TCU 38-17, which by comparative scores would make TCU a two-touchdown favorite. Similarly, TCU beat Colorado State by 33-6 whereas Iowa State beat Colorado 30-16, a team which beat Colorado State 31-28, a 10-point advantage to TCU. However, Iowa State has had a very stingy defense this year, giving up maximally 27 points in losses to Nebraska and Missouri, and will be tough to pass against. If they hold TCU to around 27 points, we think Iowa State can win. In any case, we are not convinced that TCU can beat a top Big 12 team in a bowl game this year, so we shall see. Those are two different leagues.

(continued in the next posting)
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Predictions on Forthcoming Bowl Games I

We are not going to have the time necessary to comment after each game, so we have decided, contrary to our original statement, to post some of our comment now on the upcoming bowl games and our predictions on them. Please do not wager based on our prognostications. This is just for fun.

California vs. BYU - Las Vegas Bowl (Pioneer PureVision) Dec. 22, 2005

OL=6.50 UL=7.00 (computer ratings prediction average=7.61)
Massey Consensus ranks California Nr. 32 and Brigham Young Nr. 53
Cal beat Washington 56-17 and Stanford 27-3, losing to UCLA and Oregon by a touchdown, and losing by 35-10 to USC. BYU played some strong opponents losing to BC 20-3, TCU 51-50 and Notre Dame 49-23. BYU has a potent offense that was accompanied by a defense that had shown large flaws, even in wins such as the 62-41 triumph over Air Force. We expect a lot of points to be scored in this game, similar to the BYU-TCU game, and call it for Cal 48-40 thinking that the spread should have been greater. Interesting here is that the former BYU coach, now athlectic director Tom Holmoe was the former coach at Cal but went 12-43 there and BYU's new first-year coach Bronco Mendenhall will now be playing against some of the players Holmoe recruited.
Using comparative scores, Cal beat Arizona by 28-0, Utah beat Arizona 27-24, and BYU lost to Utah 41-34. This would make Cal a strong favorite in our book.

Colorado State vs. Navy - Poinsettia Bowl (SD County Credit Union), Dec. 22

OL=0.50 UL=-2.50 (computer ratings prediction average=-1.27)
Massey Consensus ranks Colorado State Nr. 56 and Navy Nr. 66
Colorado State beat Air Force 41- 23, Navy beat Air Force 27-24. Although Colorado State had a bad game against San Diego State and had trouble beating a weak UNLV team, we are still at a loss to see how the computers rank Navy above Colorado State and have thus called this game 30-27 for the Rams.

Kansas vs. Houston - Fort Worth Bowl Dec. 23

OL=1.50 UL=3.00 (computer ratings prediction average=6.58)
Massey Consensus ranks Kansas Nr. 42 and Houston Nr. 74
We call this game 42-28 for Kansas.
Note the difference between the betting line and computer ratings prediction average, which makes Kansas about a one-touchdown favorite, whereas we predict a two-touchdown win. Kansas became bowl eligible by beating Iowa State 24-21 in the last game of the season, thus keeping the Cyclones out of the Big 12 championship game and allowing Colorado to back in. Kansas has good players and their 2006 recruiting also looks good, so they will be stronger next year. The KU losses this year were all to strong teams (Texas Tech 30-17, Oklahoma 19-3, Colorado 44-13, Texas 66-14), excluding the inexplicable 12-3 loss to archrival Kansas State. The Jayhawks were hindered by what is essentially a weak offense, which picked up late in the season. Moreover, they are playing against a Houston team not having a particularly great defense, so that the Jayhawk's chances of winning this game are good.

The Houston record should be better than it is as they lost to Memphis by fumbling twice into the end zone and losing sure touchdowns, leading to opposing TDs. Houston beat Sam Houston State 31-10, a team which Texas Tech beat 80-21. KU lost to the Red Raiders 30-17. Houston's best game was against Oregon, where they led 21-20 before losing 38-24. Houston closed the season by beating 1-10 Rice 35-18. For our prognosis, we take the 34-14 win by Kansas over Louisiana Tech as indicative of the strength of the team, which afterwards had to face the tough opposition in the Big 12. Boise State beat the Bulldogs only 30-13 and Louisiana Tech closed out the season with a 40-28 win over strong Fresno State. Hence, we think that Kansas is about as strong as Boise State, and that is too much for Houston.

Central Florida (UCF) vs. Nevada - Hawaii Bowl (Sheraton) Dec. 24

A Christmas Eve Bowl in Hawaii - which is a bit of a seasonal mind-boggler.
OL=1.00 UL=-2.50 (computer ratings prediction average=-0.93)
The opening line had Central Florida as the favorite, but the updated line is now in favor of Nevada.
Massey Consensus ranks UCF Nr. 54 and Nevada Nr. 55
Our prediction here is a 27-24 win by Nevada, and we are being conservative.

That UCF (8-3) is in this bowl game is next to a miracle. The Golden Knights were 0-11 last year (!) Earlier this year, they ended the nations longest losing streak at 17 games. It is understandable that their coach, George O'Leary, previously at Georgia Tech and the Minnesota Vikings, is a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year award.

UCF closed out the season ith a 31-28 win over Rice (1-10) and a 44-27 loss to Tulsa, which beat Rice 41-21, a rare case of meshing comparative scores, showing that the 17-point difference to Tulsa was legitimate.

Nevada finished the season with an upset win over 16th-ranked Fresno State, 38-35. Nevada thus tied Boise State in the conference at 7-1, with the championship going to Boise State due to its 49-14 win over Nevada. Fresno State, which almost beat USC, finished 3rd.

By comparative scores, Nevada beat Hawaii by 10, 38-28. That same Hawaii lost to Wisconsin by 17, makes Wisconsin better than Nevada by 7. Minnesota lost to Wisconsin by 4, makes Minnesota 3 beter than Nevada.

Minnesota beat Tulsa by 31. Tulsa is 17 better than UCF. Although there are limits to this kind of analysis, it could be said that Nevada is separated from the good mid-level Big 10 teams by a touchdown, which makes it strong favorite over UCF, which is not - yet - in the same league. Give O'Leary a couple more seasons. Win or lose, UCF has had a great season.

Memphis vs. Akron - Motor City Bowl, Dec. 26

OL=6.50 UL=6.00 (computer ratings prediction average=2.63)
Massey Consensus ranks Memphis Nr. 73 and Akron Nr. 80

Our prediction is Akron 24 and Memphis 21.

Memphis finished the season very strong, barely losing to Tennesse 10-16 and winning its last two games against bowl-bound Southern Miss 24-22 and 4-7 Marshall 27-3.
The Akron Zips beat Northern Illinois in the regular season 48-42 and 31-30 in the conference championship to emerge as the unexpected Mid-American champ. Their bowl ticket contingent was sold out so they will have a strong rooting section. Akron is a passing team and had 1000 more yards passing than their opponents.

Memphis beat UTEP 27-20, a team which Toledo, from Akron's conference, beat 45-13 in the GMAC Bowl. We definitely think that Akron has a chance to win this game, even though it is nearly a one touchdown underdog. Hence, we have picked an upset here.

Clemson v. Colorado - Champs Sports Bowl Dec. 27

(no line) (computer ratings prediction average=3.08)
Massey Consensus ranks Clemson Nr. 28 and Colorado Nr. 31

With a little bit of luck, Clemson could have gone undefeated this year. This is a superb team. Clemson's four losses were all heartbreakers. They played four then-ranked teams during the year and beat three of them (Texas A&M, Florida State (35-14!)and South Carolina), losing only to Miami of Florida 36-30 in the 3rd overtime. The Tigers also lost to Georgia Tech (by 1), Boston College (now ranked), in overtime, and Wake Forest in the last minutes (perhaps lost because of risky coaching by Terry Bowden, and faulty coaching is often the cause of the loss of close games.)

Colorado's best win was 39-0 over New Mexico State (0-11) and they had impressive wins over Missouri (41-12), Kansas (44-13), Oklahoma State (34-0) and Texas A&M (41-20). Their worst loss was to Texas 70-3 (that was the score after 3 quarters) in the Big 12 championship game.. The team just collapsed at the end of the year, perhaps due to enormous scandalous problems with their football program generally and numerous serious incidents outlined in the press which we do not wish to repeat or link to here. Who knows how the Buffaloes will play after losing their last three games.

Just a few days ago, their coach, Gary Barnett, resigned (was fired), so it is impossible to know what kind of an impact this will have on the team. Defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz will serve as "interim head football coach for the Buffs" in preparation for the bowl game. Clemson (they are not Texas) is not going to be able to run against Colorado, which can normally only be beaten through the air, which was aptly demonstrated by Nebraska and the Iowa State Cyclones. On paper, Clemson should win this game easily, but with all the turmoil at Colorado, who really knows. We call it an upset 31-28 for the Buffaloes.

(predictions continued in the next posting)
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College Football Bowl Game Predictions 2005-2006 - GMACBowl Result

The 2005 GMAC Bowl featured the Toledo Rockets vs. the UTEP (University of Texas at El Paso) Miners
OL=3.50 UL=3.00 (computer ratings prediction average=3.30)
Massey Consensus ranked Toledo Nr. 50 and UTEP (Texas El-Paso) Nr. 58

We predicted that Toledo would win 35-27 and they won handily 45-13. Our record in bowl game predictions is thus 3-0 in predicting the winners and 3-0 against the spread.

There is no question that UTEP has an excellent new coach of two seasons in the controversial Mike Price (recall the Alabama story), who took an El Paso team that had three consecutive seasons with only two wins, and turned them into a bowl-eligible team both last year and this. See generally.
In this game, however, Price made an error at the end of the first half. After taking a long touchdown on the chin to make the score 28-13, UTEP moved the ball down the field in the last minute of the first half to have a 3rd and 8 within easy field goal range with 8 seconds to play. Rather than taking the sure field goal, they went for a passing play and the quarterback was sacked. That must have killed the team motivation, since 3 more points on the board would have put UTEP within 2 TDs. Had they made that field goal, the game may have been closer than it was.

We gave the nod to Toledo in this game on basis of their superb passing quarterback Bruce Gradkowski who averages about 70% completion. That Toledo lost at all this season has to do in part with their 44-14 loss to Fresno State, a game in which Gradkowski could not play because of a severe concussion. The Central Michigan game should have been won, but was lost when a pass in the last seconds hit the fingertips of the receiver. Against Northern Illinois, Toledo led 14-7 at the half, but Gradkowski had a terrible second half and Toledo lost.

MAC teams were 4-0 in the GMAC Bowl going into this game. UTEP had not won a bowl game since 1967. Hence, the fact that Toledo was favored was understandable, although we found the spread to be too small for a Rockets team that beat a strong Bowling Green team to get to this bowl. That is why our predicted score was Toledo 35 UTEP 27, with Toledo having averaged 34.9 points per game this year. UTEP fell a bit behind our offensive expectations.
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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

College Football Bowl Game Predictions 2005-2006 - New Orleans Bowl Result

In subsequent posts, OL=opening line and UL=updated line as of Dec. 12 (9:43:21 A.M.). The lines and computer prediction averages were taken from T. Beck's College Football Prediction Tracker)

In our prognostications, we were particularly intrigued by cases where the betting line diverged from the computer predictions - this applied especially to the USC-Texas game, where the pundits pick USC but where the computers favor Texas.

We also pay attention to the Massey Consensus Rankings.

Warning! These prognostications are NOT made for people who wager on football. Do not do it. Professional betters, who make money at their profession, never bet on all games, and have special rules for betting which this kind of a bowl prediction of all games violates. This analysis is just for fun ONLY.

Southern Miss vs. Arkansas State in the New Orleans Bowl Game, Dec. 20
OL=17.50 UL=17.00 (computer ratings prediction average=12.85)
Massey Consensus ranks Southern Mississippi Nr. 65 and Arkansas State Nr. 101

We predicted a 31-20 outcome to this game in favor of Southern Miss and the final score was 31-19, with Arkansas State losing in spite of a surprising 10-10 tie at halftime. This puts our bowl picks thus far as 2-0 in picking the winners and 2-0 against the spread.

Whenever the betting spreads are as high as for this game, one has to ask, is one team so much better than the other that the sky is the limit, in which case the spread is often too low, or is one team thought to be quite a bit better than the other, but not greatly superior as judged by the statistics, in which case the spread is often too high. We had the latter case here as the computer rankers saw just a bit more than a 12-point spread as justified.

I picked 31 points for Southern Miss because that is what the Golden Eagles had last year in their 31-10 win over North Texas in last year's New Orleans Bowl. Judging Arkansas State was difficult because they just moved back up from Division I-AA play, so I figured - in a pinch - rely on the computers, but since 18 or 19 points seemed unlikely, I picked 20.

It is interesting to note that predictions for this kind of a game between lesser known teams can sometimes be better than for better known teams, where one's objective view can be blurred by already established subjective judgments about a certain team's strength, leading to conclusions which may not be substantiated by a good analysis of the stats. For some games, I too just simply follow "hunches", and those can be right or wrong, and often defy explanation.

A good example here is my prediction last year that Marshall would beat Cincinnati in the Plains Capital Fort Worth Bowl. Here is what I wrote:

"Cincinnati (6-5) is favored by 2 over Marshall (6-5). Cincinnati had a number of impressive wins over 3 bowl-bound teams this year but were taken apart by Louisville in the season final 70-7. So they will have something to prove. Marshall lost 4 times to bowl bound teams, barely losing to Troy State, Ohio State and Georgia early in the season and to Bowling Green later in the year. Both beat a good Miami of Ohio team. It's a toss-up, but we give the advantage to Marshall 31-30. "

So here is a Cincinnati team that had beaten 3 bowl-bound teams and a Marshall team that had lost to 4 bowl-bound teams. Was I crazy for picking Marshall? No, but I let myself be too influenced by Cincinnati's blowout 70-7 loss to Louisville, and in fact Cincinnati won the bowl game easily 32-14. We kept this experience in mind in calling the Colorado-Clemson game this year. Clemson has a very strong team, but we would not like to be the team playing Colorado in the bowl game after their 70-3 loss to Texas (that was already the score in the 3rd quarter!) and the many problems that the Buffaloes have had this year in addition, including a change of coaches. Look out. Teams that get beaten that badly have something to prove in the next game. And the Buffaloes have the players, no doubt about that, it is the motivation that was bad. If that changes noticeably, it's a whole new ball game.
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College Football Bowl Game Predictions 2005-2006 - Stagg Bowl Result

OK. Let's get things into perspective.

Via digg
(see comments there, especially the Giordano Bruno quote by Orcim T. Fos), we discover that "Scientists figure out our place in the Milky Way" (article by Bjorn Carey of Space.com).

Here we are (see the image below) ....

Our Our

Yup. Just a speck of dust in the big picture.

And now...on to the results of my College Football Bowl Game predictions for 2005-2006. This year, in order not to mislead people into making bad football wagers, I merely posted my own prognostications, without any analysis, because it may be that the analysis, which could be faulty, might lead people to make bad bets. We post our predictions ONLY for fun.

STAGG BOWL RESULT: Mount Union 35 UW-Whitewater 28

Is Purple regal? It is in Division III. The Division III Stagg Bowl in Salem, Virginia, on December 17, 2005 matched two Purple Powers:
1) the perennial power: the Mount Union (Alliance, Ohio) Purple Raiders
(colors: royal purple and white)
vs.
2) the up and coming challenger: the UW-Whitewhater (University of Wisconsin at Whitewater) Warhawks
(colors: purple and white)

In fact, even though it was playing the perennial champion, UW-Whitewater was favored to win this game.

Peter R. Wolfe ranked the pre-Stagg Bowl 14-0 Warhawks 1st in Division III based primarily on the strength of their win against defending champion Linfield and had Mount Union (who lost unexpectedly in the regular season to Ohio Northern) ranked 3rd.

However, we saw a definite difference between the two teams in their points for and against comparison: with Whitewater having scored 589 points and having allowed 210 points in 14 games and Mount Union having scored 585 points in 14 games but having allowed only 126 - and that was done in the historically toughest Division III conference. Indeed, nearly half the total points allowed by Larry Kehres' Mount Union team occurred in two games against the same team, Capital University (Columbus, Ohio), the second strongest team in their own Ohio league. Capital was beaten (barely) both in conference and in the Divison III playoffs. [It is in our opinion a mistake to put two teams from the same conference in the same brackets, if that can at all be avoided, because that neutralizes league strength. Also, there is little doubt that Ohio Northern should also have been in the playoffs. Some changes should be made in team selections for the playoffs.]

Based on the above analysis, we thought that Mount Union would prevail in the final game based on its defense. Indeed, Mount Union took a 28-7 lead in the 3rd quarter before having to struggle to stay ahead, as the potent UW-Whitewater offense awakened late in the game, with its final touchdown coming with only 2 seconds left on the clock.

Peter R. Wolfe and 2005 College Football

Wolfe by the way has some other analysis at his website page which is worth looking at, e.g. a comparison of the strength of the various football conferences based upon their play this season. The Big Ten and Big Twelve are ranked 1st and 2nd, respectively. In addition, he also has a computer number for home field advantage in Division I-A football which is 2.42 points, a number which might play a role in several of the bowl games, e.g. Boise State vs. Boston College.

The Result

I do not know if there was an official betting line for the game, but I do know that Whitewater was generally favored to win, whereas Mount Union won, as we predicted. Hence, our current bowl record is 1-0 on predicting the winner and 1-0 against the spread, whatever it was.
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College Football Bowl Predictions 2005-2006

Here are our college football bowl predictions for the 2005-2006 bowl season.
We have our reasons for our choices, but in the end, only the score counts.

Dec. 17 Stagg Bowl: Mount Union 28 UW-Whitewater 24 (Update: The game result was Mount Union 35 UW-Whitewater 28)
Dec. 20 New Orleans Bowl: Southern Miss 31 Arkansas State 20 (Update: It was 10:10 at halftime when we posted this post, sorry to be so late with the predictions.)
Dec. 21 GMAC Bowl: Toledo 35 UTEP 27
Dec. 22 Las Vegas Bowl (Poineer PureVision): Cal 48 BYU 40
Dec. 22 Poinsettia Bowl (SD County Credit Union): Colorado State 30 Navy 27
Dec. 23 Fort Worth Bowl: Kansas 42 Houston 28
Dec. 24 Hawaii Bowl (Sheraton): Nevada 27 Central Florida 24
Dec. 26 Motor City Bowl: Akron 24 Memphis 21
Dec. 27 Champs Sports Bowl: Colorado 31 Clemson 28
Dec. 27 Insight Bowl: ASU 37 Rutgers 21
Dec. 28 MPC Computers Bowl: Boise State 37 Boston College 26
Dec. 28 Alamo Bowl: Nebraska 24 Michigan 21
Dec. 29 Emerald Bowl: Georgia Tech 31 Utah 28
Dec. 29 Holiday Bowl (Pacific Life): Oklahoma 31 Oregon 24
Dec. 30 Music City Bowl (Gaylord Hotels): Minnesota 27 Virginia 21
Dec. 30 Sun Bowl (Vitalis): Northwestern 47 UCLA 44
Dec. 30 Independence Bowl: Missouri 34 South Carolina 27
Dec. 30 Peach Bowl (Chick-fil-A): Miami of Florida 21 LSU 17
Dec. 31 Meineke Car Care Bowl: South Florida 31 North Caroina State 24
Dec. 31 Liberty Bowl (AutoZone): Fresno State 35 Tulsa 31
Dec. 31 Houston Bowl (EV1.net): Iowa State 34 TCU 30
Jan. 02 Cotton Bowl (AT&T): Texas Tech 28 Alabama 24
Jan. 02 Outback Bowl: Florida 35 Iowa 28
Jan. 02 Gator Bowl (Toyota): Virginia Tech 37 Louisville 35
Jan. 02 Capital One Bowl: Auburn 41 Wisconsin 21
Jan. 02 Fiesta Bowl (Tostitos): Ohio State 28 Notre Dame 21
Jan. 02 Sugar Bowl (Nokia): Georgia 28 West Virginia 24
Jan. 03 Orange Bowl (FedEx):Penn State 35 Florida State 28
Jan. 04 Rose Bowl (Citi): Texas 42 USC 35

We have not done well this season at all on our football prognostications so whatever you do, do NOT rely on these predictions to make any football wagers of any kind. The above predictions are made just for fun. May the best team - on the field on the day of the game - win.
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Monday, December 12, 2005

The Best of the Best in College and Pro Football

[Update: see the ESPN Place in History Rankings just under way]

We took some time off this weekend to look into the American football world.

Did you know that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a blog (Ben Roethlisberger - Official Blog) and a website (BigBen7)? or that former Dallas Cowboy star Bob Lilly is into photography? or that James Lofton is available for speaking engagements? or that Lee Roy Selmon has a "Southern Cooking" website?

Speaking of football, one of our favorite pastimes is armchair quarterbacking the college football season. We have been reading numerous ESPN articles in the process of making our game predictions for the upcoming college football bowl games and came across a story in which 3 out of 5 expert college football analysts ranked Nebraska fans the best in the country. As an NU alum, this was a nice read, so we kept reading....

That same ESPN article also presents the choice of these same five experts for the best college football players of all time, and also includes their selections for many other "best categories", such as best team, best game, etc. Since we wanted to add to some of their selections, we made our own list. There are of course many possible rankings, see e.g. the College Football News (CFN) and their 100 Greatest Players. This is all in the spirit of sport.

Here are our own selections of an all-time all-star team (players are listed alphabetically for each position and not in terms of preference). We back our choices up by links where we can:

Quarterbacks
John Elway, Stanford (PFHF=Pro Football Hall of Fame), see also Pro Football Hall of Famers by Draft Year, Nr. 1 overall draft pick 1983 (As a Stanford alumnus, we point out that Stanford has won the Directors' Cup for the best NCAA athletic program (determined by the standings of its teams in all sports) the last eleven consecutive years. Only in the first year of the award was Stanford surpassed by the University of North Carolina. Stanford has won the award every year since then. See here.)
Joe "The Ultimate Winner" Montana, Notre Dame (PFHF), SportsCentury Nr. 25 All-Time Athlete, drafted 3rd round, 1979
"Broadway" Joe Namath, Alabama (PFHF) , drafted Nr. 5 overall by the AFL and Nr. 12 overall by the NFL 1965 (draft held in November, 1964)
Johnny Unitas, Louisville (PFHF), SportsCentury Nr. 32 All-Time Athlete, 9th round draft choice in 1955 (102nd overall).

Running Backs
Jim Brown, Syracuse (PFHF) (see Gifford on Brown), Nr. 6 overall draft pick 1957, SportsCentury Nr. 4 All-Time Athlete
Walter Payton, Jackson State U in Mississippi (PFHF), SportsCentury Nr. 39 All-Time Athlete, Nr. 4 overall draft pick 1975 (see also the Walter & Connie Payton Foundation)
Barry Sanders, Oklahoma State (PFHF), Heisman Trophy, Nr. 3 overall draft pick 1989
Gale Sayers, Kansas (PFHF) In a November, 19, 1963 23-9 loss to Nebraska, Sayers scored on a 99-yard run from scrimmage, the longest in NCAA history. The LawPundit (then age 16) was at that game and saw that run. Sayers was phenomenal.
To honor the older greats, we also add Jim Thorpe, Carlisle (PFHF), SportsCentury Nr. 7 All-Time Athlete and Red Grange, Illinois (PFHF), SportsCentury Nr. 28 All-Time Athlete.
A good modern candidate here is freshly crowned Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush, USC. Interesting here is that Bush has been training with LaDainian Tomlinson, TCU, rated by USA Today as the NFL's current Nr. 1 running back.

Wide Receivers
Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch, Wisconsin and Michigan (PFHF), Nr. 5 overall draft pick 1945
Steve Largent, Tulsa (PFHF), 4th round draft pick 1976
James Lofton, Stanford (PFHF), Nr. 6 overall draft pick 1978
Lenny "Spats" Moore, Penn State (PFHF) , Nr. 9 overall draft pick 1956
Jerry Rice, Mississippi Valley State, Sports Century Nr. 27 All-Time Athlete, Nr. 16 overall draft pick1985
Paul Warfield, Ohio State (PFHF), Nr. 11 overall draft pick 1964

Offensive Line
Larry Allen, Sonoma State, Nr. 46 overall draft pick 1994, John Madden calls him the best offensive lineman ever to play in the NFL
Bob (Boomer) Brown, Nebraska, "no one ever beat him", Nr. 2 overall draft pick 1964
John Hannah, Alabama (PFHF) , Nr. 4 overall draft pick
Anthony Muñoz, USC, Latino Legends in Sports, Nr. 3 overall draft pick 1980
Orlando (Pancake Block) Pace, Ohio State, Lombardi Award, Outland Trophy, Nr. 1 overall draft pick 1997
Dave Rimington, Nebraska, Nr. 25 overall draft pick 1983 (see also Rimington Youth Football Camp and Rimington Trophy)
Ron Yary
, Cerritos JC, USC (PFHF), Outland Trophy, Nr. 1 overall draft pick 1968

Defensive Line
Carl Eller, Minnesota (PFHF), Nr. 6 overall draft pick 1964
"Mean" Joe Greene
, North Texas State (now University of North Texas) (PFHF) , Nr. 4. overall draft pick 1969
Bob Lilly, TCU (PFHF) , Nr. 13 overall draft pick 1961
Merlin Olsen, Utah State (PFHF), Nr. 3 overall draft pick 1962, (see also sportscasters)
Warren Sapp, Miami, Nr. 12 overall draft pick 1995
Bruce "The Sack Man" Smith, Virginia Tech, Outland Trophy, Nr. 1 overall draft pick 1985
Reggie "Minister of Defense" White, Tennessee, see Reggie White Foundation, No. 4 overall choice of the league's supplemental draft of USFL players

Linebackers
Dick Butkus, Illinois (PFHF), Nr. 3 overall draft pick 1965
Jack Lambert, Kent State (PFHF) , 2nd round draft pick 1974
Ray Nitschke, Illinois (PFHF) , 3rd round draft pick 1958
Lee Roy Selmon, Oklahoma (PFHF), Nr. 1 overall draft pick, 1976
Mike Singletary, Baylor (PFHF), 2nd round draft pick 1981
Lawrence Taylor, North Carolina (PFHF), Nr. 2 overall draft pick 1981, SportsCentury Nr. 40 All-Time Athlete

Defensive Backs
Dick (Night Train) Lane, Scottsbluff, Nebraska JC (PFHF), free agent in the pros
Ronnie Lott, USC (PFHF), Nr. 8 overall draft pick 1981
Deion Sanders, Florida State, Nr. 5 overall draft pick 1989
Charles Woodson, Michigan, Heisman Trophy, Nr. 4 overall draft pick 1998
Rod Woodson, Purdue, Nr. 10 overall draft pick 1987

Kick Returner
Johnny Rodgers, Nebraska, Heisman Trophy, Nr. 25 overall draft pick 1973

Punter
Yale Lary, Texas A&M (PFHF), 3rd round draft pick 1952

Field Goal Kicker:
Jan Stenerud, Montana State (PFHF), 3rd round draft pick in the AFL

Best Team: We agree with the Sports Illustrated viz. CBS and Sagarin, the CFN (College Football News) rank and with Chris Fowler that this was National Champion Nebraska in 1995. At the subsequent Fiesta Bowl 1996 (see also here and here), Tom Osborne's NU played Steve Spurrier's Florida. Although the line had Florida favored by 9, we predicted then that NU would win by 50-10 and they won, 62-24. Something like 15 players from the NU starting lineup wound up playing in the NFL over the years and the college draft for that year, i.e. 1996 in the pros has sparkled in performance, showing generally strong players in the college ranks, i.e. a very strong year. With many of the same players from 1995, NU had also been the national champion in 1994 with a 13-0 record, although some polls had undefeated Penn State as the Nr. 1 that year as well. To show how good that NU team was in 1995, in the subsequent 1996 football season, Florida (12-1), which had been humbled in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl by NU, became the national champion. AS SI writes about the 1995 Cornhuskers:

"On a CBS list of the 10 greatest teams, this one was voted No. 1. Football computer analyst Jeff Sagarin also ranks this team as the best college football team since 1956. Want to know why? The Huskers offense averaged 52.4 points a game and also led the nation in rushing (399.8 yards per game). They didn't beat opponents, they destroyed them. Think Mike Tyson and Rocky Marciano at the peak of their careers."

[Update: But see also Billingsley's Top 200 Teams of All-Time which ranks the 1971 Cornhuskers as the best team of all time and the 1994 and 1995 Cornhuskers 3rd and 4th, with the 2004 USC team ranked 10th.]

Best Season: We think that the 1971 season was the best all around season for college football, involving the win of the national championship by a Nebraska team ranked second all-time to the 1995 national champs, also from Nebraska. But 1971 also had the fabled Nebraska-Oklahoma matchup on Thanksgiving - see Best Game below, and except for that 4-point win over the Nr. 2 team in the country, NU won each game by at least 24 points.

Note that Sports Illustrated puts the USC Trojans of 2004 as 4th on the best teams of all time. But there is little chance that the 2005 USC team will rank higher, as it has often been behind this season, even against much weaker opponents, and has had to struggle to beat teams such as Fresno State, and was lucky to win against Notre Dame.

Best Game: We agree with Beano Cook that the best game ever was the regular season Thanksgiving, November 25, 1971, classic in front of a TV audience of 55 million, between the Nr. 1 and Nr. 2 ranked teams in the country, which ended with Nebraska winning over Oklahoma 35-31 (see Nebraska 35 Oklahoma 31). At CFN, they only rank this game 3rd best on their list of 100 Greatest Games, even though the fans picked it Nr. 1. For various theoretical and unconvincing reasons, CFN picks Miami's 31-30 victory over Nebraska in the January 1, 1984 Orange Bowl as Nr. 1, and Ohio State's 31-24 overtime victory over Miami in the January 3, 2003 Fiesta Bowl as Nr. 2, but we doubt that bowl games are ever really as objectively good as regular season games toward the end of the season. Teams then are (or should be) playing up to their best potential, whereas they have long layoffs prior to bowl games, which - in our opinion - makes bowl games less representative of true team strengths than late regular season games.

Biggest Upset: We agree with Beano Cook that is was Navy's win over Army, 14-2 in 1950, where the Midshipmen came in with a record of 2-6 and were facing a 28-game Cadet winning streak. Army had been favored by three touchdowns but were truly upset.

Best Bowl Game: Definitely Miami's 31-30 victory over NU in the January 1, 1984 Orange Bowl game when NU coach Tom Osborne - perhaps foolishly - decided to go for 2 and the national championship rather than the sure tie through the extra point kick in the closing seconds in the days when there was no overtime. It was high drama, no question about it, especially since many thought that the 1983 Huskers were one of the great teams of all time.

Best Stadium: The Big House, University of Michigan, with competition from the Rose Bowl and Ohio Stadium.

Best Fans: As 3 of 5 experts have noted, Nebraska. We agree. We think the NU fans are especially gracious to opponents. See 100 Reasons Why I'm a Cornhusker Fan.

Best Uniforms: "Most Distinctive" is perhaps a better label. As Chris Fowler writes, the USC Trojans cardinal and gold definitely fit this description, but note also the similar Arizona State University Sun Devils maroon and gold (ASU, for a bit of trivia, where the LawPundit worked on a legal project some years ago, is the largest university in the United States in terms of student enrollment.) In the same vein, very distinctive also are the maize and blue of Michigan, as selected by Lee Corso. Of course, we love the "Big Red" uniforms of the Huskers (see them at the JournalStar blog postings here), but the red is not that distinctive a color, as witnessed by our other alma mater, Stanford University and the Stanford Cardinal (see the video clip).

Best Book (well, let's say most recent): ESPN College Football Encyclopedia : The Complete History of the Game (Hardcover), published September 1, 2005.

Favorite Coach(es): Larry Kehres, Mount Union who has a fantastic football record at a school which gives NO football scholarships. Mount Union is again in the Division III National Championship game, the Stagg Bowl, this season. At the Division I level, our choices of course are Tom Osborne and Bob Devaney. Devaney became NU coach through a suggestion made to then NU Chancellor Clifford Hardin by Michigan State coach Duffy Daugherty. See here for other top coaches. See also the Division I coaches who were national champions.

Favorite Player:
We choose fellow blogger Ben Roethlisberger, who also has a website at BigBen7. See also Ben Roethlisberger, and Miami of Ohio.

Most Improbable End to a Game:
Cal v. Stanford, November 20, 1982. Hard to believe that Elway lost this one.

Crossposted to LawPundit.

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