Saturday, December 30, 2006

PicksPal Free Daily Sports Picking Competition

This is not an ad and we get nothing for it, but seeing as how we predict bowl games regularly, we ran across an interesting new site called PicksPal, which provides the free opportunity for picking the winners of sports competitions without the need to spend one's hard earned money.

As written at that site:

PicksPal "is a FREE daily sports & entertainment pick’em game. And home of the Genius Picks, consensus picks of the nation’s smartest sports pickers. "

PicksPal
has a free sign up (only e-mail, password and a freely selectable name are required).

This might be a site of interest for those who gladly predict and prognosticate without the need to wager or bet money on one's picks. Rather, PicksPal functions by means of a points system.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Golfer Michelle Wie accepted to Stanford University

More interesting news from Stanford Univeristy by AP sports writer Doug Ferguson.

As a Stanford alumnus I can say:

The good news is that super-golfer Michelle Wie has been accepted to school at Stanford University, where Tiger Woods played his college golf (for two years before turning pro).

The bad news is that Michelle Wie is not eligible for NCAA golf competition at Stanford, having turned pro in 2005 and thus of course no longer being able to play in amateur events.

Stanford women's golf head coach Caroline O'Connor currently has a team ranked 6th in the nation and thus is not hurting for good women golfers, but you can be sure she might poke her head into a rulebook to see if Wie might not in some way become an amateur again if she dropped her pro activities. If I were coach, I certainly would.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL GAME PREDICTIONS 2006/2007 Nr. 3

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
BOWL GAME PREDICTIONS 2006/2007

Prediction posting Nr. 3 - Bowl Games on or after January 1, 2007
by Andis Kaulins

(Please note that the betting spreads we use may not reflect the odds used elsewhere or may change between the time we checked them and the date of the actual game or the date at which this post is read. The same applies to ratings. Please note also that these predictions are made in good fun only and that no one should rely on them to place bets since sports outcomes are by nature unpredictable. What makes college football predicting such fun is precisely this unpredictability. We expressly disclaim any and all liability for any reliance placed by anyone upon what we write in this posting. Some years our predictions are good and other years they are off the mark. Caveat emptor. And may the best team win.)

[UPDATE December 23: Due to the outcome of the first two bowl games, won convincingly by TCU and BYU of the Mountain West Conference, we now favor a win by New Mexico over San Jose State 27-20.]

FIND BCS BOWL FACTS AT THIS LINK (Rose Bowl, FedEx Orange Bowl, Allstate Sugar Bowl, Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Tostitos BCS National Championship Game

Our predictions for the Bowl Games on or after January 1 follow:

26. Outback Bowl Outback Bowl
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida - Monday, January 1, 2007, 11:00 a.m. EST
Tennessee Volunteers (17) v. Penn State Nittany Lions

Tennessee is rated 15th by Sagarin's Predictor and 13th by Wolfe.
Penn State is rated 32nd by Sagarin's Predictor and 21st by Wolfe.
The current betting line favors Tennessee on average by 4.5 points.

The Vols beat one rated team, Cal, 35-18 to start out the season, and then lost their next three games to rated teams: by one point to Florida, by four points to LSU and by 14 to Arkansas. In those losses, Tennessee put 20, 14 and 24 points on the scoreboard.

Penn State lost four games this year - all to rated teams: Notre Dame (41-24), Ohio State (28-6), Michigan (17-10) and Wisconsin (13-3).

What hampered the Nittany Lions this year was a weak offense that could not muster up enough points to beat teams against which the defense did a very good job. Tennessee on the other hand lost games because their defense could not keep opponents from scoring the deciding points.

In this bowl game, these weaknesses would seem to cancel each other out, so that the Penn State defense against the Tennessee offense will decide this game, which we think will give a very small advantage to the Volunteers. We call it for Tennessee 17-13.

27. AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic Cotton Bowl
Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Texas - Monday, January 1, 2007, 11:30 a.m. EST
Auburn Tigers (10) v. Nebraska Cornhuskers (22) (University of Nebraska at Lincoln)

Dear readers, please note that as a Husker alumnus, and even though I am highly critical of the Callahan coaching staff this year, my views on this game are surely not truly objective, so that I may exaggerate Nebraska strengths at the cost of Auburn weaknesses.

Nebraska has played three teams this year that were ranked in the top 10 when the Huskers played them and lost all three games. Auburn has played two teams this year that were ranked in the top 10 when the Tigers played them and won both games. On paper, Auburn, ranked in the top 10, would from those stats look like the easy winner over a Nebraska team not ranked in the top 20.

Wolfe ranks Auburn 10th and Nebraska 28th, but, perhaps to the surprise of many, Sagarin's Predictor has the Tigers at 23rd and the Huskers at 19th. At the time of this writing, Auburn is favored by 3.

Last year, the SEC and Alabama got the best of the Big 12, as 'Bama won 13-10 in a game in which the Crimson Tide shut down the high-powered Texas Tech passing offense and won the game in spite of its own weak offense, which continued to plague 'Bama this year, leading to the firing of head coach Shula. That kind of a defensive game is not likely to be repeated in this year's game, which is bound to see more scoring due to the kind of football that Nebraska plays.

Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor was the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and defensive end Adam Carriker was Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year. Nebraska has many strong individual players but Coach Callahan and his staff have not yet been able to put them all together to form a dominant football team of the likes of the Huskers of yore, for which this team surely had some potential this year, if not for avoidable playing and coaching lapses. The team continues to play under its full potential, which tends to point to less than optimal coaching.

Auburn will be weakened by the absence of three recently suspended players, but this is still a very strong team, indeed, Auburn is the only team this football season to have beaten BCS championship game finalist Florida, and also was a victor over LSU (which otherwise lost only to Florida).

However, those games tell us something about the weak Auburn offense. Although the Tigers won against the Gators 27-17, they did not score a single offensive touchdown. Against LSU, Auburn won 7-3 while scoring on their only sustained touchdown drive. All of those games show that neither Florida, LSU nor Auburn have awe-inspiring offenses, and each of those teams can potentially be beaten by teams that do have functioning go-go offenses, as shown by Georgia's convincing 37-15 win over Auburn.

Hence, we think this year that the much-touted SEC, no doubt having some great defensive teams, will have their problems in the major bowl games because their own offenses will not be strong enough to put enough points on the board against their opponents, even if their defenses do a good job in holding other teams below their normal point production.

We think that the Huskers have the offense to put at least three touchdowns plus a field goal on the board against Auburn, without the Tigers themselves being able to score more than a maximum of 20 points against the Cornhusker Blackshirt defense.

Hence, we call this game 24-20 in favor of Nebraska, in perhaps unwarranted anticipation of the Nebraska coaching staff properly preparing the team for this game and calling plays like they should be called.

If the Huskers call and play this game conservatively, they will lose, because the Auburn defense will then stifle their every move. Nebraska has to come out very aggressive offensively and stay that way the entire game. Then they will win.

28. Capital One Bowl Capital One Bowl
Orlando, Florida - Monday, January 1, 2007, 1:00 p.m. EST
Arkansas Razorbacks (12) v. Wisconsin Badgers (6)

Wisconsin is rated 9th and Arkansas 11th by Wolfe whereas Sagarin's Predictor has the Razorbacks 17th and Wisconsin 27th. The Razorbacks started out in the betting line as one point favorites, whereas the updated odds are even, and we think that Wisconsin will be going off as favorites by the time the game actually begins, for the reasons given below.

Wisconsin has a superb defense which allowed only 13 touchdowns this season, as opposed to 43 TDs scored. Arkansas by contrast has scored 47 TDs but has allowed 28, more than twice as many as the Wisconsin defense. Since the offenses are about equal, Wisconsin has the clear edge defensively.

Wisconsin's only loss came to a Michigan team which ranked first in the country this year in rushing defense. The Wolverines fully shut down the Badgers running attack. Arkansas does not have that kind of a rush defense, having given up 202 rushing yards to Florida and 193 yards to USC, both in losing causes. If Wisconsin can run against Arkansas, the Hogs will be hard-pressed to win.

Arkansas has a terrific football team this year, but like many teams, their fortune rises and falls with the leadership of its quarterback, whose impact can not be judged by statistics alone. We saw this with last season's Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers and a healthy Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. Ben is a winner.

According to recent news, Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt plans to go again with sophomore quarterback Casey Dick as the starting quarterback for the bowl game, rather than freshman Mitch Mustain, who has an 8-0 record as starter this year, whereas Dick started the last two games, both losses. To this we can add that Nutt went primarily with junior quarterback Robert Johnson in the opening season loss to USC 50-14. It is not clear what criteria Nutt uses to select his starting quarterback, but "winning" is not always his first choice.

Nutt now plans to use Dick for the first two series of plays in the bowl game and then let Mustain have his chance on the third series of plays and see how it goes. We think that kind of coaching is rather foolish. Georgia juggled its quarterbacks all season long and was not very successful doing it until it settled on one, WINNING quarterback. You have to pick a WINNING starting quarterback and stick with him, unless he loses, or is having a very bad day.

We have posted previously about the decisions Nutt has made at the close of this season regarding the quarterback position, which have in our opinion ruined what might otherwise have been a glorious Arkansas football year (see here and here).

Frankly, we have our doubts about Nutt's coaching talents. His winning percentage at Arkansas is only about 60% and he is below 50% in the SEC during his Razorback tenure. Down the years his Arkansas teams seem to show uneven performance regularly. We see in his serendipity decisions regarding the Arkansas QB position why this might be so.

It is not that Mustain's stats are overwhelming, but when he starts and plays, Arkansas wins - at least, up to now. That is the test - winning - and not statistics alone. Whatever the reason, Mustain is a winner, and it was really foolish to replace him as starting quarterback with a quarterback who is losing, regardless of his talents.

This bowl game is therefore extremely difficult to call. With Mustain at starting quarterback, we would pick Arkansas to win, because he apparently has leadership qualities which lead to winning, even against a top team like Auburn. With Dick as the quarterback, whose performance has led to back-to-back losses against two top teams, we fully expect Wisconsin to win.

Some quarterbacks just have the winning touch as leaders and others do not and one essential talent of a good football coach is to be able to spot that rare ability when it appears.

In any case, with Dick as starting quarterback, we think that Arkansas will lose, even if the wizard Gus Malzahn is calling the plays. Has Arkansas considered hiring Malzahn as the head coach? He might lead Arkansas to the greatness that Nutt never will, so our opinion.

We think that this year will be similar for Arkansas to the year 2002, when Nutt's Razorbacks lost to Georgia in the SEC championship game and then lost to Minnesota of the Big 10 by 29-14 in the Music City Bowl.

We call it for the Badgers 21-17.

29. Toyota Gator Bowl Gator Bowl
ALLTEL Stadium, Jacksonville, Florida - Monday, January 1, 2007, 1:00 p.m. EST
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets v. West Virginia Mountaineers (13)

On paper, this is not a good matchup for the Yellow Jackets, a fine team whose worst loss of the season was 31-7 to Clemson, which ran them off the ground. In the Gator Bowl they will be facing a rushing team par excellence in the Mountaineers, so it is difficult to see how they could stop the West Virginia ground attack, ranked Nr. 2 in the nation and powered by the nation's Nr. 2 rusher Steve Slaton, even if the Yellow Jacket defense this year has been pretty good on average.

To make matters worse for Georgia Tech, two star players have been ruled academically ineligible for the Gator Bowl: Quarterback Reggie Ball and Cornerback Kenny Scott. We think it is OK to rule players academically ineligible for a season, but find it is a terrible rule for bowl games after a completed season. This smacks of unfairness which is simply Un-American, by robbing young men of the fruit of their labors. That is not the American way and not the rationale for the academic ineligibility rule. It is a stupid rule which should be changed. A player can always make up failed classes, but once a bowl game is gone, it is gone.

Wolfe has West Virginia 16th and Georgia Tech 27th, while Sagarin's Predictor has West Virginia at 6th (!) and Georgia Tech at 43rd, with the latter making the Mountaineers a very strong favorite - and they are favored by 7 at the time of this writing.

We call the game for West Virginia 40-24.

30. Tournament of Roses Rose Bowl Rose Bowl
Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California- Monday, January 1, 2007, 5:00 p.m. EST
USC Trojans (8) v. Michigan Wolverines (3)

We predicted already early in the season as regards the Husker game against USC that the Trojans could be beaten this year if their opponent was not afraid to play them (Nebraska ducked and ran, and ran), and Oregon State and UCLA proved that this was true. On paper, we think that Michigan should win this game.

Michigan and USC have total offense stats which are fairly even, whereas Michigan has a slight edge on defense.

USC's loss 13-9 to UCLA was due primarily to the UCLA defense stopping the Trojan rushing game, accompanied by permanent harassment of the USC quarterback (see our previous posting on this topic regarding the Bruins), thus keeping the passing offense in check, with the final score breaking the Trojan record NCAA string of 63 games in which USC scored at least 20 points.

The Wolverines have an even stronger rushing defense than the Bruins, so that the only way for USC to win this game will be in the air, and the job of the Michigan defense will be to stop the USC passing game by harassing the USC quarterback Booty without pause and not giving him time to throw. If they can do that effectively and hold USC under 30 points, the Wolverines will win this game, since their offense under running back Mike Hart and quarterback Chad Henne is good for about 30 points a game. USC can be beaten through the air.

The only reason that Michigan lost to Ohio State was because of two long (unexpected and unnecessary) rushing touchdowns which the Buckeyes pulled out of their sleeve. Without those two plays, the Buckeye running game was not making much headway against Michigan and the Buckeyes would otherwise have lost the game, which they won instead 42-39.

Wolfe ranks Michigan 2nd and USC 4th. Sagarin's Predictor has USC 3rd and Michigan 7th. These two teams are not separated by much, at least on paper.

Michigan was favored by 1.5 points in the opening betting line, but that has since then shifted to favor the Trojans by 1 point. However, we do not think that Booty will be as effective against the Wolverines as Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith was, and hence we go in this game in favor of Michigan, 31-29.

31. Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Fiesta Bowl
University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona - Monday, January 1, 2007, 8:00 p.m. EST
Boise State Broncos (9) v. Oklahoma Sooners (7)

Yes, there is another undefeated major football team in the nation besides Ohio State, and the Boise State University Broncos hail from Boise, Idaho and will be playing the University of Oklahoma Sooners from Norman, Oklahoma in the BCS Fiesta Bowl.

Two of the nation's premiere running backs are featured in this contest, Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson and Boise State's Ian Johnson, both All-Americans.

No one really knows how good the Boise State team really is and we will find out in this game. Both the Broncos and the Sooners have allowed 20 touchdowns this year and the per game yardages on defense are equivalent. However Boise State has scored 59 TDs and Oklahoma 43, so that the Broncos have the definite offensive edge, at least on paper, even if it was against weaker opposition.

Wolfe rates Oklahoma 15th and Boise State 8th, whereas Sagarin's Predictor has Oklahoma 9th and Boise State 20th. Olin Buchanan of Rivals.com regards this Big 12 bowl game to be the one with the most likely winner, i.e. Oklahoma. At the time of this writing, Oklahoma is favored by 7.5 points.

After losing to Texas in a game which the Sooners dominated statistically, Oklahoma has won 8 straight games, three of them against ranked opponents (Missouri, Texas A&M, and Nebraska). Boise State, on the other hand, struggled against San Jose State, although the Broncos quarterback, Jared Zabransky, was apparently a bit sick in that game, so that this near loss should perhaps not be taken too seriously.

We'll go for an upset in this game. since we find that Oklahoma has numerous weaknesses this year in both offense and defense. We think that Boise State is pepped up for a move into the big time and call it Boise State 27 Oklahoma 24.

32. FedEx Orange Bowl Orange Bowl
Dolphin Stadium, Miami Gardens, Miami, Florida - Tuesday, January 2, 2007, 8:00 p.m. EST
Wake Forest Demon Deacons (15) v. Louisville Cardinals (5)

The trouble with this game is that even after the winner is declared, we still will not really know how good these two teams are, since neither the Atlantic Coast Conference nor the Big East Conference have the same top-level football reputation that some of the other conferences enjoy. Hence, one must look to comparative scores.

Kansas State, for example, lost five games, one of those to Louisville, and each of them by two to three touchdowns. There was nothing special about Louisville in its 24-6 win over the Wildcats. Louisville beat Middle Tennessee State 44-17, a team vanquished by Oklahoma 59-0 and by South Carolina 52-7.

Wake Forest on its part beat Georgia Tech for the ACC crown 9-6, whereas both teams had lost convincingly to Clemson in the ACC, so that Wake Forest's championship status is weak. The Demon Deacons also struggled early in the season against e.g. winless Duke (0-12) in a game it won only 14-13. In spite of an 11-2 record, the Demon Deacons allowed more yards rushing and passing than their own offense gained. That is not the mark of a dominant team.

Wolfe ranks Louisville 6th and Wake Forest 17th whereas Sagarin's Predictor has Louisville 2nd (!) and Wake forest 44th. We do not understand how Louisville can rank so high in Sagarin's Predictor given our comparison of scores against Middle Tennessee State and Kansas State. It may be true that Louisville beat Temple 62-0 but so did Minnesota by that exact same score, and the Golden Gophers wound up tied for 6th in the Big 10 Conference and closed the season with a 6-6 record. Hence, we think Louisville is not quite as strong as the Sagarin Predictor makes this team out to be, but then again neither is Wake Forest.

Louisville is favored by 10 over Wake Forest and if Sagarin's Predictor were to be heeded, they will beat the Demon Deacons in a runaway. The most points that Wake Forest has given up this year is 27, so we err here on the side of caution and call it Louisville 31 Wake Forest 17, although a larger spread would not surprise us greatly, whereas a Demon Deacon win definitely would be highly unexpected.

33. Allstate Sugar Bowl Sugar Bowl
Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans - Wednesday, January 3, 2007, 7 p.m. CST
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (11) v. LSU Tigers (4) (Louisiana State University)

LSU played four teams that were ranked in the top 10 when the game took place this year and LSU won 2 and lost 2, losing to Auburn and Florida and beating Tennessee and Arkansas.

Notre Dame is one of the most storied football programs in college, and its teams, for sentimental reasons and because of the strong support of its fanatic fans, are often rated somewhat higher than what the Fighting Irish actually deserve. This year Notre Dame played three teams ranked at the time of the game, beating Penn State and losing by about nearly four touchdowns to Michigan 47-21 and three touchdowns 44-24 to USC. These are the primary comparative scores that we use to give the nod to Michigan in the Rose Bowl.

The Irish have an excellent offense run by quarterback Brady Quinn, who was 3rd in the Heisman Trophy voting. The Irish offense is about equal to the LSU offense in terms of success. The Irish have made 49 TDs this year and LSU 50. On defense, however, the Fighting Irish have allowed 30 TDs while LSU has limited their opponents to 16 TDs only. Indeed, no team has scored more than 26 points on the Tigers (Arkansas in a losing cause).

We therefore expect a result in this game which is similar to the Notre Dame games against Michigan and USC, with a smaller point spread. Notre Dame will score its share of points, but these will be fewer than LSU. We call the game 27-17 for LSU.

Wolfe rates LSU at 5th and Notre Dame at 7th, whereas Sagarin's Predictor has LSU at 5th and Notre Dame at 21st, with the latter more nearly reflecting Notre Dame's proper position, given its schedule and results. LSU is favored by 8 at the time of this posting.

Good information about the game is found at the official Sugar Bowl site.

34. International Bowl International Bowl
Rogers Centre, Toronto, Canada - Saturday, January 6, 2007, 12:00 p.m. EST
Western Michigan Broncos v. Cincinnati Bearcats

The inaugural International Bowl is unusual for several reasons. Not only is this the first time the International Bowl has been held, but it takes place in Canada.

Western Michigan finished 2nd to Central Michigan in the West Division of the Mid-American Conference (MAC). Central Michigan beat Ohio, the winner of the East Division, to take the conference crown. That the Broncos are a good football can be seen from their close 28-20 loss to Florida State. The Mid-American Conference teams are no pushovers. In fact, Western Michigan ranks 5th in the nation in rushing defense and they allowed only 23 touchdowns this year. Their weakness is their offense, which scored only 27 TDs.

Cincinnati is a very similar team in terms of those same statistics, having scored 26 touchdowns and given up 24 TDs, in other words, a solid defense but a weak offense. The Bearcats put up a 7-5 win-loss record in spite of a brutal schedule which included ranked Ohio State (37-7 winners), Virginia Tech (29-13 winners), Louisville (23-17 winners), West Virginia (42-24 winners) and Rutgers, who Cincinnati upset impressively 30-11.

Cincinnati played two MAC teams during the regular season and beat them both: Miami of Ohio 24-10 and Akron 20-14, both which ended their season with losing records. Hence, Western Michigan (8-4) is arguably stronger competition.

Wolfe has Cincinnati 34th and Western Michigan 53rd whereas Sagarin's Predictor has Cincinnati 49th and Western Michigan 78th. Cincinnati is favored by 8, in part due to its impressive win over nationally-ranked Rutgers, and in part due to its - new - coach.

In fact, the game has a rare coaching twist. As we have previously written at LawPundit:

"The Central Michigan Chippewas ... will be coached in the bowl game by interim head coach Jeff Quinn, who was named to that position one day after head coach Brian Kelly accepted the head coaching job at Cincinnati, where he will coach the Bearcats in the January 6, 2006 International Bowl.

Although this situation may appear to be somewhat bizarre, there is a precedent in 1998 for a new coach taking over the reigns of a bowl-bound team, when "David Cutcliffe did so for Mississippi after the 1998 campaign, guiding the Rebels to an Independence Bowl win over Texas Tech."
"

We think this game is a toss-up with neither team likely to score more than two or three touchdowns, although Western Michigan has a solid field goal kicker in Nate Meyer, who might be a factor. Kelly as coach of Central Michigan beat Western Michigan 31-7 during the regular season so that we presume he has not lost his touch, but you can be sure that Western Michigan will put up stiff resistance to losing to the same coach twice in one season.

We call it 20-16 for Cincinnati.

35. GMAC Bowl GMAC Bowl
Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama - Sunday January 7, 2007, 8:00 p.m. EST
Ohio Bobcats v. Southern Miss Golden Eagles (University of Southern Mississippi)

As far as football is concerned, much of this year belongs to Ohio. Mount Union won Division III and now Ohio and Ohio State round out the season in the BCS bowl games.

You have to hand it to Ohio head coach and former Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Frank Solich for making it into the GMAC Bowl. Ohio won the East Division of the Mid-American Conference and ended up with a 9-4 record during the regular season, including a 20-17 win over Big 10 Conference opponent Illinois. Against top competition, Ohio lost to Rutgers 24-7 and to Missouri 31-6.

Southern Miss is the representative from Conference USA, where it won the East Division, losing in the conference game to West Division champion Houston 34-20 after having won the regular season match 31-27. Against top competition, Southern Miss lost to Florida 34-7 and to Virginia Tech 36-6.

Wolfe ranks Ohio 52nd and Southern Miss 49th whereas Sagarin's Predictor has Ohio 63rd and Southern Miss 58th. Southern Miss is favored over Ohio by 6.5 points.

The teams are very similar with defensive and offensive performance on both teams being about equal. We call it for Southern Miss, 20-17.

36. Tostitos BCS National Championship Game BCS Championship
University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona - Monday January 8, 2007, 8:00 p.m. EST
Florida (2) v. Ohio State (1)

These two teams have two of the absolute best coaches in the country (Urban Meyer of Florida and Jim Tressel of Ohio State) and that is why they are playing for the BCS Championship. Both Meyer and Tressel have a knack for winning, which makes a game like this difficult to call.

On paper, the Buckeyes would seem to have the superior team, clearly dominating all opponents except for Michigan and a let-up game against Illinois, whereas Florida has had some nip-and-tuck games where the final result was in question down to the closing minutes.

When we compare offenses and defenses, Ohio State has scored 55 touchdowns and allowed 14 TDs while Florida has scored 48 touchdowns and allowed 17 TDs. Summed, the difference per game is about 1 TD. The average total offenses and defenses are very similar, differing only by a few yards.

According to those statistics, Ohio State and Florida are in fact the BCS bowl teams that should be playing for the national championship.

Michigan by contrast scored 41 TDs and allowed 27 TDs, whereas USC scored 44 TDs and allowed 17 TDs. Compare here also Wisconsin which scored 43 TDS and allowed only 13 TDs or teams such as Boise State which scored 59 TDs and allowed 20 TDs and Virginia Tech which scored 32 TDs and allowed ONLY 10 TDs (but still managed to lose 2 games due to its weaker offense).

Note that the Ohio State ratio of 55 to 14 TDs is about 4 to 1 over the opposition. This might be classified as the "ultimate national champion TD ratio" since Mount Union in Division III this year scored 80 TDs while allowing 20, also a 4 to 1 ratio. It is hard to imagine beating this ratio in college football, since other NCAA division champions have lower ratios.

Wolfe rates Ohio State 1st and Florida 3rd, whereas Sagarin's "pure points" Predictor has the Buckeyes 1st and Florida 11th.

Ohio State is favored by 7.5 points at the time of the writing of this posting. If Florida were not coached by Urban Meyer, we would call this game in favor of the Buckeyes by two touchdowns, but comparing the touchdowns for and against, we call this game as a one touchdown win for Ohio State 28-21.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

College Footballl Bowl Game Predictions : Updates

Please note that we are posting red updates(mostly results) to our postings on college football bowl game predictions, including a change of mind on the upcoming New Mexico-San Jose State game, using the common opponent San Diego State as a basis for the prediction.

See e.g.

http://sportpundit.blogspot.com/2006/12/college-football-bowl-game-predictions.html

Our predictions for the college bowl games on or after January 1 will probably be posted sometime today.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Nebraska defeats Stanford to win the NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship 2006

As a graduate of the University of Nebraska (B.A. 1968) and Stanford Law School (J.D. 1971) the LawPundit was very much aware of a sports competition which took place several days ago between the Nebraska and Stanford women's volleyball teams in playing for the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship at Qwest Center in Omaha.

Except for a few sports like football, where the Huskers traditionally have the edge, I thought it was not very often that Nebraska and Stanford competed at the same level in most college sports.

After all, Stanford won the Director's Cup for the best overall collegiate athletics program in NCAA Division I for the 12 straight year this past June.

However, to my surprise, when I checked the final college ratings for the past year, I found that Nebraska ranked in the top 20 of all NCAA Division I collegiate sports programs (19th).

It was then less of a surprise to see the Husker ladies defeat the Cardinal 27-30, 30-26, 30-28, 30-27 in a match which found Stanford playing in its 12th championship match in the 26 years that the tournament has been held. We congratulate the Huskers for coming out on top on this one.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Stanford to Hire former Michigan great and former NFL QB Jim Harbaugh of the University of San Diego as its New Head Football Coach

According to an article by AP sports writer Josh Dubow featured at Yahoo Sports, the current head coach of the University of San Diego non-scholarship Division I-AA football team is to be announced later today as the new head football coach at Stanford.

Although our first choice was Larry Kehres of Mount Union, Harbaugh meets the major criteria that we thought Stanford Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby should follow in selecting a replacement for former coach Walt Harris: pick a winner and pick someone whose coaching success is not entirely dependent on recruiting or a particular system of football.

In other words, the object was to get someone who can coach football well, who can adjust the style of play regardless of the players available to him, and - although Harbaugh is also an experienced and successful recruiter - someone who is not totally at the mercy of the difficulty of recruiting players to Stanford, where few high school graduates have the academic credentials required to be accepted to Stanford's academic program.

In other words, Stanford needs a coach who can get maximum performance from his team, retain the fun of the game, and bring spectators into the stadium, even though his recruiting hands are more-or-less tied by the admissions office. No easy task.

Harbaugh may be just the man to do this. The former University of Michigan quarterback - who finished 3rd in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1986, and who played successfully 15 years in the NFL - put up a 29-6 win-loss record as coach of the San Diego Toreros, winning 27 of the last 29 games, including championship of the Pioneer League and an 11-1 record this season, with only a 37-27 loss to the nationally ranked California-Davis Aggies to mar the perfect season. Gaining respect for his coaching prowess at a higher level of college football is, however, another matter, and only time will give us an answer on that question.

San Diego scored 68 touchdowns this year as opposed to only 21 by opposing teams, putting up nearly 500 yards total offense per game - nearly twice that of the opposition - and outscoring the other teams on average by nearly 43 to 13.

The Toreros closed out the year in the inaugural Gridiron Classic with a 27 to 7 win over the 10-2 Monmouth Hawks, champions of the Northeast Conference. As reported by Yahoo:

"...this gave San Diego (11-1) the mid-major national championship for the second straight year."

As written at the site of Sean Mayers of St. Peter's College, 2005 Brooks-Irvine 1AA Player of the Year:

"Division I-AA Mid-Major is an unofficial grouping of 22 programs that compete in Division I-AA with limited athletics-related or need-based financial aid. The teams that are included are members of the MAAC Football League, the Northeast Conference and the Pioneer League, which is based mostly in the Midwest. The Sports Network is a wire service that has a long background conducting awards programs and polls for I-AA football."

(Note that the Wikipedia entry "Mid-major" is in need of a mid to major revision).

See the final rankings of the Division I-AA Mid-Majors this year at the Sports Network.

We do not know how long Harbaugh's biography will remain online at the University of San Diego website, so we reproduce it below for the record from the Torero site:

"Jim Harbaugh begins his third year as the University of San Diego head football coach and quarterbacks coach. Last year he guided the Toreros to a program-best 11-1 overall record, the PFL North Division title, the outright PFL Championship, and to the No. 1 ranking for all I-AA Mid-Major programs. The Toreros received the Sports Network Cup for being the No. 1 ranked team in the final poll. Additionally, Harbaugh was the PFL North Division Coach of the Year and a nominee for the I-AA Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year. Under his direction the Toreros enter the 2006 campaign having won 16 of their last 17 games.

In 2004, his first year, he directed the Toreros to an overall mark of 7-4, including 5 straight wins to end the season. USD finished 3-1 in the Pioneer Football League North Division, good for a 2nd place finish. Five of his players were recognized as All-America; twelve were recognized as All-PFL; eight players were selected to the PFL All-Academic Team; and quarterback Todd Mortensen, the PFL co-Offensive Player of the Year, signed a free agent contract with the Detroit Lions.

Harbaugh, a former NFL quarterback who played 15 seasons in the league, played locally with the Chargers between 1999-2000. The 41-year-old Harbaugh, who resides in nearby Coronado, played in 177 league games with 140 starts since originally entering the NFL as a first round pick by the Chicago Bears in 1987. For his career, he completed 2,305 of 3,918 passes for 26,288 yards with 129 touchdowns.

Harbaugh played seven seasons for the Bears and passed for a career-high 3,121 yards for Chicago in 1991. He played for the Indianapolis Colts from 1994-97 and in 1995, achieved career highs in completion percentage (63.7) and touchdown passes (17). While with the Colts he led the team to the AFC Championship game; was voted to the Pro Bowl; was named the 1995 Comeback Player of the Year and the AFC Player of the Year; and was runner-up in the NFL MVP voting. Harbaugh played for Baltimore in 1998, and following his two-year stint with the Chargers closed out his NFL career with Carolina in 2001.

In January, 2005, Jim was inducted into the Indianapolis Colts Ring of Honor. Harbaugh, one of the most successful and popular players in the club's 21-year Indianapolis era, played from 1994-98 with the Colts. He was inducted at halftime of the Colts-Denver Wild Card playoff game. Jim started for the majority of his Colts career, completing 746 of 1,230 passes for 8,705 yards and 49 touchdowns. He won the NFL passer rating title in 1995 at 100.7. Harbaugh joins the late Robert Irsay, Bill Brooks, Ted Marchibroda and Chris Hinton in the Colts Ring of Honor.

Harbaugh was a four-year letterman at the University of Michigan and finished his college career in the top five in passing attempts, completions, completion percentage, passing yards and touchdown passes. Playing for Bo Schembechler, he was a three-year starter and led the Wolverines to appearances in the Fiesta, Holiday, and Rose Bowl games. As a senior in 1986 he guided Michigan to a No. 2 national ranking while earning Big Ten Player of the Year honors and finishing third in the Heisman balloting.

Over his final eight seasons in the NFL (1994-2001), Jim was an NCAA-certified unpaid assistant coach under his father, Jack, at Western Kentucky University. Serving as an offensive consultant, he scouted and recruited high school student-athletes throughout several states including Florida, Indiana and Illinois. He was involved in recruiting 17 players on WKU's 2002 I-AA National Championship team. His dad was a football coach for 41 years, including 14-years as Head Coach at Western Kentucky. His brother, John, is currently Special Teams Coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles; and his brother-in-law, Tom Crean, is Head Basketball Coach of Marquette University.

Harbaugh has been very active in Community Service ventures. He has been actively involved with the Harbaugh Hill Foundation, the James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children (Indiana University), Western Kentucky University, the Jim Harbaugh Foundation, the Uhlich's Children's Home and the Children's Miracle Network.

Jim, who resides in Coronado, is the father of three kids - sons, Jay and James, Jr., and one daughter, Grace. "

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Danny Woodhead of Chadron State wins Harlon Hill Trophy as 2006 Division II College Football Player of the Year

We posted previously at SportPundit about Danny Woodhead being the best running back and best "little guy" in NCAA College Football and we are now happy to read that Woodhead has now won the Harlon Hill Trophy as the 2006 Division II College Football Player of the Year.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL GAME PREDICTIONS 2006-2007 Nr. 2

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
BOWL GAME PREDICTIONS 2006/2007
Prediction posting Nr. 2
by Andis Kaulins

(Please note that the betting spreads we use may not reflect the odds used elsewhere or may change between the time we checked them and the date of the actual game or the date at which this post is read. The same applies to ratings. Please note also that these predictions are made in good fun only and that no one should rely on them to place bets since sports outcomes are by nature unpredictable. What makes college football predicting such fun is precisely this unpredictability. We expressly disclaim any and all liability for any reliance placed by anyone upon what we write in this posting. Some years our predictions are good and other years they are off the mark. Caveat emptor. And may the best team win.)

17. Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl presented by Bridgestone
LP Field, Nashville, Tennessee - Friday, December 29, 2006 1:00 p.m. EST
Clemson Tigers v. Kentucky Wildcats

Clemson had a disappointing year in which they lost three close games to strong opponents and beat the only two then ranked teams they played, Florida State and Georgia Tech. This team could easily have been 11-1, but its potent offense and weaker defense let them down in crucial game-ending situations.

Both teams lost to Steve Spurrier's South Carolina, Clemson losing by 3 and Kentucky by 7, although South Carolina scored the game's last 17 points to beat Clemson, dominating in the end with its air attack. Bowden was surely playing too conservatively and lost that game needlessly.

Kentucky surprised with a team that knocked off Georgia for the first time in 10 years, 24-20. On paper, the Wildcats, who come from the stronger SEC conference, have little chance to win, with its very weak defense having surrendered an average of 457.7 yards this year.

Clemson's offense should have a field day and the Tigers are in fact favored by 10 points. Sagarin's Predictor ranks this Clemson team as very strong at 13th nationally, with Kentucky 58th, which would make Clemson about a two TD favorite. Wolfe has Clemson 36th and Kentucky 37th. We have stopped using the Massey Ratings here for comparison by the way because they have converted to difficult-to-use scrolling box-type displays. Forget that.

The Wildcat losses suggest that this Wildcat team is at times better than the statistics show, having lost only to top opposition: Louisville 59-28, Florida 27-6, South Carolina 24-17, LSU 49-0 and Tennessee 17-12. Still, the blowouts are a cause for worry when they face top offensive teams, which Clemson is.

There will be a lot of passing in this game, unless Clemson establishes a strong running attack. We call the game 38-24 for Clemson.

AP writer Jeffrey McMurray puts it correctly when he writes at Yahoo Sports:

"While Kentucky's offensive fireworks weren't unexpected, a defense that came into the game ranked second-to-last nationally made the difference.

"We didn't get any respect coming into this game," said linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who led the Wildcats with 12 tackles. "A lot of people expected our defense to come in and curl up, but that's not a defense. If the game was played on paper, we'd be blown out 50-0."

As it was, Rich Brooks coached a great game, Kentucky played courageously and the subsequent 28-20 win over Clemson was a truly deserved win over a Clemson Tiger team whose offense came poorly prepared to play in this bowl. After spotting the Wildcats the initial touchdown drive, the Tigers on subsequent series of downs in the first half drove short of a TD and then missed a 38-yard field goal, drove short of a TD and then missed a 28-yard field goal, lost a fumble at midfield, blocked a punt and then scored a TD - the only bright spot in an otherwise miserable first half - but then missed the PAT, recovered a fumble at the Kentucky 20 only for the offense to be intercepted on their first play thereafter, recovered a fumble at the Kentucky 28 only for the offense to fumble the ball away again two plays later with about 6 minutes left to play in the half.

After three gains of 2-yards each, Kentucky faced a 4th and 4 on their own 20-yard line with a bit less than three minutes to play in the first half, leading 7-6 and we thought that would be the turning point for Clemson, who would gain possession and score and thus take control of the game going into the intermission. And that is when the Wildcats really stuck it to the Tigers, as Tim Masthay, the regular punter, faked a punt and threw a 10-yard pass completion for the first down. Talk about a courageous call at a critical point in the game. And then, to put icing on the cake, having totally befuddled the Clemson team and coaching staff, the Wildcats capitalized on the general Tiger confusion as Andre Woodson threw a 70-yard scoring bomb to
DeMoreo Ford, the longest TD against the nationally 12-ranked Clemson defense this year. Now, THAT's COACHING and GREAT PLAYCALLING! Well done.

Clemson's offense then came out after half-time and fumbled again on its first series of plays, leading to a fumble recovery by game defensive standout linebacker Wesley Woodyard, which 6 plays later led to a Kentucky TD and a 21-6 lead, so that the game was for all practical purposes over at that point.


This is our 3rd straight bad call, but who expected Clemson to play this poorly and Kentucky so well? We are now 13-6 in picking winners and 10-6 against the spread (three of the games had no spread that we were able to find online).

18. Brut Sun Bowl Sun Bowl
Sun Bowl - El Paso, Texas - Friday, December 29, 2:00 p.m. ET
Oregon State (24) v. Missouri Tigers

Oregon State finished 3rd in the Pac 10 and Missouri (Mizzou) finished 2nd in the Big 12 North Division behind Nebraska.

The Beavers came back in style this season after losing 3 of their first 5 games, winning seven of their last eight, including a totally unexpected victory over USC 33-31, which ended USC's streak of 38 consecutive regular season wins and 27 consecutive regular season Pac 10 wins. The Beavers have a very strong team.

Missouri on the other hand started out very strong this season but lost 4 of their last 6 against mostly very strong opposition. Nevertheless, the loss to Iowa State in the 2nd to last game of the season does not inspire confidence, although Mizzou won going away with a strong win over Kansas 42-17 in their last game.

The Beavers and Tigers are about equal on defense with Missouri having a slight edge in offense. The games which the Tigers lost were games in which the opposing team was able to establish a strong running game, but this is not a forte of the Beavers, so that this game must be considered up for grabs and will be decided by the success of the passing offenses. Oregon State is favored by 3.5 points.

If Missouri were a bit more aggressive on offense they would be much stronger than they are.
We call it close, Missouri 31 Oregon State 30.

Oregon State, down by 14 in the final quarter, rallied to tie the game and win 39-38 in overtime on a cheeky two-point conversion call. The Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel is top-ranked in the nation for overtime games and - as we have previously pointed out - we think this is the product of a timid down-the-stretch coaching style which leads to ties where there should have been victories:

"
A good example is Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, who not only was involved in the first college football overtime game (Toledo vs. Nevada, 1995, in the Las Vegas Bowl, which Toledo won 40-37) but whose Missouri Tigers also hold the NCAA Division I-A record for the most overtime games played, with an 8-3 record in those games. That record would suggest that Pinkel is not aggressive enough as a coach in his playcalling during regulation time."

This game was no exception as Missouri had 100 yards more in total offense and a big lead which was allowed to slip away unnecessarily. That is almost always a sign of coaching failure and timidity toward the end of games, which allows the opponent to get back in the game. Mizzou clearly had the stronger team, but the weaker head coach.

This is the 4th straight game in which we failed to pick the winner. Still, the game outcome is by no means a surprise. It was in fact a one point game as called, but this time we were on the wrong side of the call, even though we beat the spread. We are now 13-7 in picking winners and 11-6 against the spread (three of the games had no spread that we were able to find online).

19. AutoZone Liberty Bowl Liberty Bowl
Memphis, Tennessee - Friday, December 29, 4:30 p.m. EST
Houston Cougars v. South Carolina Gamecocks

Houston, the West champion, won the Conference USA championship by beating East champion Southern Miss 34-20, avenging a regular season 31-27 loss. What impresses about Houston is their 34-25 win over Oklahoma State and their one-point loss 14-13 to Miami of Florida. Houston is led by Kevin Kolb, their record-setting quarterback, and the most prolific passer in Conference USA history.

South Carolina plays in a much tougher conference, the SEC, and lost all five games to ranked teams, including a one-point loss to Florida 17-16. The Gamecocks closed out the season with a 31-28 win over Clemson. Both teams have potent offenses, especially Houston, but both also show weaknesses on defense, where the game will surely be decided.

Wolfe ranks South Carolina 30th and Houston 42nd. Sagarin's Predictor puts the Gamecocks at 28th and the Cougars at 47th.

South Carolina is favored by seven points. We look for Houston to put up a valiant battle but call it 31-27 for the Gamecocks.

We predicted that both offenses would roll but that the game would be decided by the Gamecock defense, which turned out to be the case in the second half, where South Carolina, after trailing Houston 28-27 at the half, shut down the Cougars enough in the second half to go out winners 44-36. AP sports writer Teresa M. Walker quotes South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier as follows:

"
I still believe our defense can play a lot better," Spurrier said. "We got out of position in the first half. But to hold Houston to eight points was a very good defensive effort in the second half."

Both teams topped 500 yards in total offense as
Houston's Kevin Kolb completed 26 of 39 passes for 386 yards and 3TDs. Blake Mitchell, the South Carolina quarterback, completed 19 of 29 passes for 323 yards and 4 TDs.

Well, we finally picked the winner again, but failed to beat the spread in our call of a Gamecock win by four points. We are now 14-7 in picking winners and 11-7 against the spread (three of the games had no spread that we were able to find online).

20. Insight Bowl Insight Bowl
Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona - Friday, December 29, 7:30 p.m. EST
Texas Tech Red Raiders v. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Texas Tech finished 4th in the tough South Division of the Big 12 Conference while Minnesota finished 6th in the Big 10 conference.

Wolfe has Minnesota 43rd and Texas Tech 50th.Sagarin's Predictor has the Red Raiders as 29th nationally and the Golden Gophers at 39th. Since the pure points approach is generally the most accurate, this has made Texas Tech a 7-point favorite, and we definitely agree that the Red Raiders should be favored.

In our analysis, this is a tough matchup for Minnesota. The Golden Gophers have a weaker defense than offense and especially their pass defense is suspect, which plays right into the strength of the Texas Tech passing offense. It appears nearly impossible to us for Minnesota to avoid an offensive Red Raider blowout in this game and we call it Texas Tech 48 Minnesota 24.

Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell uttered a great quotation at the close of this game and as reported at Yahoo Sports by AP writer Andrew Bagnato:

"
"Everyone felt like, 'Hey, we're going to win,' " said Tech quarterback Graham Harrell, who was selected bowl MVP after throwing for 445 yards and two touchdowns. "If you believe, good things can happen.""

In the first half, nothing went right for either the defense or the high-powered Texas Tech offense. Even a pass interception by Red Raider
cornerback Antonio Huffman did not turn into a touchdown as Huffman fumbled the ball into the end zone for a Minnesota touchback. Buoyed by Texas Tech turnovers, Minnesota rolled to an apparently insurmountable 35-7 lead which the Golden Gophers extended to 38-7 on a field goal after the Texas Tech defense held Minnesota out of the end zone in spite of a Golden Gopher first down at the 4-yard line. That field goal (rather than a TD) as it turned out, was the turning point in the ball game, as the Red Raiders mounted an improbable record-setting comeback and tied the game 38-38 as time expired on a last-second 52-yard 4th-quarter field goal, and then won the game 44-41 in the 2nd overtime in the biggest comeback in Division I-A bowl history.

The reason for the comeback was correctly identified by one of the Minnesota players:

"
We just broke down," Minnesota linebacker Mike Sherels said. "You just kind of got the feeling that we were back on our heels and playing not to lose instead of playing to win."

Exactly, and if you play not to lose, rather than playing to win, about which we have previously posted, this is the kind of thing that can happen to you.

We picked the winner again, but failed to beat the spread in our call of a Texas Tech win by 2 TDs.
We are now 15-7 in picking winners and 11-8 against the spread (three of the games had no spread that we were able to find online).

21. Champs Sports Bowl Champs Sports Bowl
Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium, Orlando, Florida - Friday, December 29, 8:00 p.m. EST
Purdue Boilermakers v. Maryland Terrapins

Purdue finished 5th in the tough Big 10 Conference with an 8-5 record, albeit they played neither Ohio State nor Michigan (smart scheduling, there), while Maryland tied for second in the Atlantic division of the Atlantic Coast Conference, posting an 8-4 record with a team that averaged 304 yards on offense in spite of giving up 367 yards per game on defense. The winner of that division of the ACC, Wake Forest, has similarly strange stats, with the defense giving up more yards than the offense gained.

So how do these teams win? It can only be through opportunistic football.

The Boilermakers have an offense which is just as potent as the defense is bad, with both totalling more than 400 yards per game. To us, this game thus looks like an offensive free-for-all.

Sagarin's Predictor puts Purdue at 60th and Maryland at 55th whereas Wolfe ranks Maryland 31st and Purdue 45th.

Maryland is favored over Purdue by 1.5 (down from the opening line of 3.5) and we think that the game is a toss-up. We call it 38-36 for Purdue, giving the edge here to the Big 10 Conference strength.

So much for the strength of the Big 10 Conference as the Boilermakers, tied for 4th in that conference with Penn State, fizzled mightily in succumbing to the ACC Maryland Terrapins 24-7 , who had lost their last two regular season games 38-16 to Boston College and 38-24 to Wake Forest. The difference in the game was the Maryland defense.The Terps, who also lost 45-24 to West Virginia early in the season, had no trouble at all with Purdue's nationally 10th-ranked offense, which they held to 285 total yards, including only 21 net yards rushing. Maryland's Sam Hollenbach passed for 223 yards and 2 TDs as the Maryland offense rolled up 429 yards against a Purdue defense known to be weak. When it was clear that the Purdue offense was going nowhere in this game, the outcome was never in doubt.

We failed to pick the winner again and thus also failed to beat the spread in our call of a Purdue win. We are now 15-8 in picking winners and 11-9 against the spread (three of the games had no spread that we were able to find online).


22. Meineke Car Care Bowl Meineke Bowl
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina - Saturday, December 30, 2006 1:00 p.m. EST
Navy Midshipmen v. Boston College Eagles (23)

Not too many plays separate this excellent Boston College team from a perfect season, but there is no use crying over spilled milk.

Navy on the other hand has made the best of a weak schedule, losing only to a good 8-4 Tulsa team and to rated Rutgers and Notre Dame (by big margins).

Sagarin's Predictor makes Boston College 26th and Navy 5oth, whereas Wolfe has Boston College 23rd and Navy 41st. Boston College is favored by 6.5 points.

On paper, in our opinion, Navy's chances against Boston College are next to zero. Navy's offense depends on the run and the Eagles have a very strong rushing defense. Navy will be running into a stone wall here.

The Eagles look to us to be about three touchdowns better and we call it Boston College 35 Navy 14.

It was a great game by Navy as Boston College won 25-24 on a 37-yard field goal by Steve Aponavicius as time expired in the game. The Eagles are to be commended for coming back from a deficit, but the true game winners were the Navy Midshipmen who put up a terrific and valiant battle against a team that should easily have beat them by three touchdowns. Navy put 322 yards rushing on the board against a rushing defense that had allowed only 90 yards a game all season long against some stellar opponents, while the Boston College offense was stopped throughout the game by various errors and lapses. BC was surely suffering from the fact that its head coach, Tom O'Brien, had left them to become head coach at ACC rival North Carolina State, leaving defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani as interim coach for the bowl game. In the coming season, BC will be coached by Green Bay offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski, who will take over duties when the pro football season has ended.

We picked the winner but failed to beat the spread. We are now 16-8 in picking winners but only 11-10 against the spread (three of the games had no spread that we were able to find online).

23. Alamo Bowl Alamo Bowl
San Antonio, Texas - Saturday December 30, 2006 4:30 p.m. EST
Iowa Hawkeyes v. Texas Longhorns (18)

Last year's Alamo Bowl game was one of the best bowl games of the season, featuring Nebraska's 32-28 win over a Michigan team that, as it turned out, was headed for a high ranking in 2006, whereas the Huskers struggled this year to move into the rankings top 20.

By landing Texas, the Alamo Bowl has again hit paydirt, featuring last year's national champion against a 6-6 Iowa Hawkeye Big Ten that lost its last three games of the season. Surprisingly, in terms of total offense, the teams are fairly even, with Texas holding the edge in defense.

Texas is ranked 21st by Wolfe with Iowa 54th. Sagarin's Predictor has Texas 4th and Iowa 41st, which makes Texas about two touchdowns better, and the Longhorns are in fact favored by 11 points. We look for Texas to win 31-17.

The Texas Longhorns won this game 26-24 after falling behind early 14-0 and having to play catch-up. In terms of the game stats, the two teams played about even and there was little sign left in Texas that this was last year's national championship team as the Iowa Hawkeyes gave them all they could handle.

We again picked the winner and failed to beat the spread.
We are now 17-8 in picking winners but only even 11-11 against the spread (three of the games had no spread that we were able to find online).

24. Chick-fil-A Bowl Chick-fil-A Bowl
Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia - Saturday December 30, 2006 8:00 p.m. EST
Virginia Tech Hokies (14) v. Georgia Bulldogs

This should be a great game.

Georgia (8-4) suffered most of the 2006 season from an inability to stick to one quarterback to run its offense and several players shared these duties. In the course of the season Matthew Stafford won the job and in the last two games of the season led Georgia to wins over ranked Auburn and Georgia Tech. Georgia suddenly looks like a different team so that the Virginia Tech ranking and 10-2 record are not as impressive for this game as they might otherwise be.

After back-to-back midseason losses against Georgia Tech and Boston College, the Hokies returned to their winning ways and finished the season with six straight wins, so that this is a bowl game between two top teams.

Wolfe ranks Virginia Tech 19th and Georgia 25th whereas Sagarin's Predictor makes Virginia Tech 12th and Georgia 37th. Virginia Tech is favored by 2.5 points. We think however that Georgia is back on track and give them the edge, 27-24.

Georgia won 31-24, knocking off its third straight ranked opponent, which was quite unexpected given the halftime score of 21-3 in favor of Virginia Tech. It looked like the Hokies would run Georgia out of the stadium, as Virginia Tech capitalized on an interception, a long punt return and a long touchdown pass to score three unanswered TDs. However, the Georgia defense came out battling in the 2nd half, intercepting Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon 3 times in the final quarter, although the real turning point in the game was a 3rd quarter onside kick after a field goal which Georgia recovered and turned into a touchdown to cut the deficit to 21-13. Thereafter, aggressive playcalling under new offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and good excecution by freshman QB Matthew Stafford and the offense put Georgia into the driver's seat against a Virginia Tech defense which had shut out four opponents this year and had given up an average of only 9.3 points a game. Considering that both teams managed only about 200 yards of total offense and only 9 first downs each, a lot of points were scored.

We picked the winner and beat the spread.
We are now 18-8 in picking winners and 12-11 against the spread (three of the games had no spread that we were able to find online).

25. MPC Computers Bowl MPC Computers Bowl
Bronco Stadium, Boise, Idaho - Sunday December 31, 2006 7:30 p.m. EST
Miami of Florida Hurricanes v. Nevada Wolf Pack

The Miami of Florida Hurricanes went through some hard times in 2006, leading to the firing of their coach Larry Coker, the 2nd winningest active coach in Division I football. However, after four straight losses, they closed the year out with a 17-14 victory over a very strong Boston College team. The bowl game will be Coker's last game as Miami of Florida coach.

Nevada finished the season in a tie for third with San Jose State in a Western Athletic Conference dominated this year by Boise State and Hawaii.

Wolfe ranks Nevada 55th and Miami of Florida 65th and Sagarin's Predictor has Nevada 36th and Miami of Florida 52nd. Nevertheless, the Hurricanes are favored by three points.

Nevada will have trouble running the ball against Miami and will have to rely on its passing game against a Miami pass defense which on average allows about the same yardage as the Wolf Pack averages on passing offense. Nevada lost to ranked Boise State 38-7 to close out the season whereas the Hurricanes beat a ranked team to close out their season.

We think this gives the edge to Hurricanes and we call it Miami of Florida 24 and Nevada 17.

Fired Miami head coach Larry Coker went out a winner, finishing with a 60-15 won-loss record (7-6 in 2006) and one national championship, as Miami of Florida beat Nevada 21-20 in a game in which the Wolf Pack out first-downed the Hurricanes 22-14 and showed clearly that the Western Athletic Conference can compete at any level. The Oklahoma Sooners will have their work cut out for them when they face the Boise State Broncos on New Year's Day.The difference in the game were two long passes by Miami quarterback Kirby Freeman, who threw a 52-yard TD to Ryan Moore in the first half and a 78-yard TD to Sam Shields in the second half. Otherwise, the game was a pretty even match, as both teams punted 6 times and as each had ca. 300 yards total offense. Not only did Nevada have trouble running the ball against the Hurricances (99 yards on 37 rushes), as we predicted, but Miami had even greater problems running against the Wolf Pack, who only allowed 28 net yards on 31 attempts, i.e. less than a yard a try, which really speaks for the Nevada rushing defense. The game was thus decided in the air.

We picked the winner but lost to the spread.
We are now 19-8 in picking winners and 12-12 against the spread (three of the games had no spread that we were able to find online).

Golf Rookie Alvaro Quiros Wins Alfred Dunhill Championship

Mark the name of Spain's 22-year old Alvaro Quiros for the future.

Playing in his first tournament with a European Tour card, the unknown Quiros won last week's Dunhill Championship in South Africa, edging out former tournament winner Charl Schwartzel by a stroke and beating big names such as Ernie Els (tied for 8th seven strokes back) and Lee Westwood (3rd at 4 strokes back).

Quiros did not make the cut (by one stroke) in this week's South African Airways Open, but we fully expect to see this name in the future in the golf news. Anyone who starts out his professional golf tour career with a win has to be good.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL GAME PREDICTIONS 2006/2007 Nr. 1

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
BOWL GAME PREDICTIONS 2006/2007
Prediction posting Nr. 1

by Andis Kaulins

(Please note that the betting spreads we use may not reflect the odds used elsewhere or may change between the time we checked them and the date of the actual game or the date at which this post is read. The same applies to ratings. Please note also that these predictions are made in good fun only and that no one should rely on them to place bets since sports outcomes are by nature unpredictable. What makes college football predicting such fun is precisely this unpredictability. We expressly disclaim any and all liability for any reliance placed by anyone upon what we write in this posting. Some years our predictions are good and other years they are off the mark. Caveat emptor. And may the best team win.

TEAM STATS ARE LINKED TO YAHOO SPORTS TEAM STATS at the TEAM PAGE


1. The Stagg Bowl Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl
Salem, Virginia - Saturday, December 16, 2006, 4:00 p.m. EST
Division III National Championship Football Game
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (2) v. Mount Union (1)

As written at the Whitewater website:

"Audio
and video for the NCAA Division III football championship will be webcast for free on NCAAsports.com and ESPNU.com. The championship game can be seen live on ESPN2 at 3:00 p.m. (CST) and 4:00 p.m. (EST)."

This year's game is a rematch of last year's 35-28 Mount Union Purple Raiders win over the Wisconsin-Whitewater's Warhawks at the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl. As posted by Pat Coleman at the D3football Daily Dose, the XXXIII Stagg Bowl will for the first time use a replay official, adapting the instant replay rules of the SEC. As one can see from the comments to that post, this move is controversial since there is no instant replay official otherwise in Division III football.

The Massey Ratings have Wisconsin-Whitewater - a team beaten by Mount Union last year - ranked 101st and Mount Union, the perennial Division III champion, ranked 149th, which of course is nonsense, pointing to a serious flaw in many rankings which place too much emphasis on the strength of schedule and mere win-loss records without paying attention to the margin of victory, which is the best predictor of future games and the best guide of a team's strength. Here, Peter R. Wolfe's rankings at UCLA make more sense as he has Whitewater ranked 148th and Mount Union at 156th.

Since we are great fans of the coaching skills of Larry Kehres, we pick the defending champion Purple Raiders to win 28-24 over the eleven of Bob Berezowitz, an outstanding coach in his own right who is retiring at the end of this season, so that this might potentially add enough motivation to Whitewater efforts that they might endanger an upset.

Also worthwhile noting is that Nate Kmic of the Purple Raiders is in super form (see bio), having run for 371 yards in the Mount Union 26-14 semifinal win over St. John Fisher and if he continues to run like that against Whitewater in the finals, Mount Union will win going away.

Update. Mount Union repeated as Division III national champion by winning 35-16 over Wisconsin-Whitewater. Larry Kehres continues his magic coaching. Mount Union was favored by 2.5 and we predicted a Purple Raider win 28-24.
We are 1-0 in predicting winners and 1-0 against the spread.


2. Division II Championship Game
Braly Stadium, Florence, Alabama - Saturday, December 16, 2006, 12:00 p.m. EST
To be televised by ESPN
Grand Valley State Lakers v. Northwest Missouri State Bobcats

At this writing, the finalists for the NCAA Division II Football Championship game are still undecided, as the semifinal games take place today, Sunday, December 10, with Grand Valley State, the defending champion, playing Delta State and Bloomsburg playing Northwest Missouri State. The Grand Valley State Lakers and the Northwest Missouri State Bobcats are favored in our book in those games and we call them for Grand Valley State 38-21 and for Northwest Missouri State 24-17, which would result in a rematch of the 2005 championship game, won by the Lakers 21-17.

If that is the matchup in the final, then we think that Northwest Missouri State, in spite of a great defensive showing against Chadron State and NCAA leading rusher Danny Woodhead, may again lose this year (we predict 22-21) to a Grand Valley State which is setting a standard for athletic excellence in Division II. As written at the Wikipedia:

"GVSU's athletic program has also won the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Directors' Cup in 2004, 2005, and 2006 after finishing second the two previous years (2002 & 2003). The Director's Cup is awarded to the top athletic program in each NCAA division based on team overall finishes. Grand Valley is the first NCAA DII school east of the Mississippi to win this prestigious award."

The Massey Ratings for College Football place NW Missouri at 63rd, Grand Valley State at 65th with Miami of Florida at 64th. Could these teams really compete with the Hurricanes? Peter. R. Wolfe's rankings at UCLA show a more realistic ranking, putting NW Missouri State and Grand Valley State at 108th and 109th positions respectively - and we think that the actual should be a real close barnburner.

Update 1: Northwest Missouri beat Bloomsburg 33-3 and Grand Valley State beat Delta State 49-30. Update 2: Grand Valley State beat Northwest Missouri State 17-14 to repeat as national Division II champions. Grand Valley State was favored by 4 and we called it 22-21.
We are 4-0 in predicting winners and 2-0 against the spread.


3. Division I National Championship Game
Finley Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee - Friday, December 15, 2006, 8:00 p.m. EST
To be televised by ESPN
Appalachian State Mountaineers (1, defending champions) v. UMass Minutemen (3, University of Massachusetts at Amherst)

The ill-chosen new names for the previous I-A and I-AA NCAA football "sub"-divisions are going to lead to substantial confusion everywhere. As written at the Wikipedia:
"On August 3, 2006, the Division I Board of Directors took action regarding the two football subdivisions in Division I (Division I-A and I-AA), the Board approved new labels. The presidents approved a change in terminology to "Football Bowl Subdivision" for the former I-A classification and "NCAA Football Championship Subdivision" for the former I-AA group. The Collegiate Commissioners Association helped develop the new labels."

I can think of other names for the two "subdivisions", but none of them is as bad as what the NCAA has now chosen and we can only hope that the NCAA reconsiders this nomenclature.

An example of the problem is the former Division I-AA Championship Game which is now called the Division I National Championship Game. So now the Division I-AA champion will be the Division I National Champion and the BCS bowl teams will be mere "Football Bowl Subdivision" teams - without a divisional champion? So what will the national champion in the BCS and polls be a champion of, if not of Division I?

Answer: that team will be a champion of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision. That is hardly a sensible solution in nomenclature. And what would the champion be called if the BCS system were abandoned in favor of a playoff system in the Football Bowl Subdivision?

We go with the defending champion and call it for Appalachian State 24-20, whose only loss as defending "Division I national champion" was to the football bowl subdivision team North Carolina State. The Sagarin Predictor Ratings would predict an Appalachian State win. The Massey Ratings put UMass at 51st overall (ahead of Florida State !) and Appalachian State 72nd. Wolfe at UCLA has a more sensible ranking of UMass at 67th and Appalachian State 80th, with Florida State 56th.

Update, December 16: Appalachian State repeated as national champion and won the game, 28-17 against UMass as Kevin Richardson ran for 179 yards and 4 touchdowns. Appalachian State was favored by 3 and we called it 24-20 in their favor.
We are 5-0 predicting winners and 3-0 against the spread.


4. NAIA National Football Championship NAIA
Jim Carroll Stadium, Savannah, Hardin County, Tennessee
Saturday, December 16, 2006, noon, CST "Rumble on the River XI"
St. Francis of Indiana Cougars (Fort Wayne, 13-0) (1) v. Sioux Falls Cougars (South Dakota, 13-0) (2)

After four straight incredible years in which Carroll College (Helena, Montana) won the NAIA championship and two years where St. Francis of Indiana was the runner-up (2004 and 2005), there will be a new champion this year, as Carroll College was eliminated in the playoffs by St. Xavier (Chicago and Orland Park, Illinois) 14-7, who themselves were then ousted by St. Francis.

One thing is sure about this football game involving a match-up of the pre-playoff Nr. 1 and Nr. 2 NAIA ranked teams and that is that "the Cougars" will win.

The Sioux Falls team was a finalist for the championship in 2001, semifinalists in 1997, 2002, 2003 and 2005 and quarterfinalists in 1995, 1998, and 2004. This year they beat 5th-ranked and previously undefeated Missouri Valley 25-18 to gain the finals. St. Francis reached the finals by beating 9th-ranked Carroll-ouster Saint Xavier 49-20, for which reason St. Francis would appear to be the clear favorite. However, the Massey Ratings have Sioux Falls 154th and St. Francis 187th and Wolfe has Sioux Falls at 220th and St. Francis at 236th.

We go with St. Francis because of their domination of the bracket which contained the defending champion and call it 27-24 for them against Sioux Falls. May the Cougars win!

Update: Sioux Falls beat St. Francis 23-19 in the NAIA championship game. Although St. Francis outgained Sioux Falls 349 to 214 yards, they lost three fumbles and allowed an 89-yard kickoff return. We can also say, coaching, coaching, coaching. Behind 16-13, St. Francis had a 4th down on the Sioux Falls 40 in the 3rd quarter and the coaching staff "conservatively" decided to punt rather than go for it. The punt misfired as the ball was centered through the legs of the punter, resulting in a 45-yard loss. Sioux Falls subsequently scored and that was the ball game. When teams have greater total offense than their opponents and still lose, always look to judgment mistakes by the coaching staff as one major cause of the loss. Indeed, this is 3rd straight final championship game lost by St. Francis, which may well point to too much conservatism by the coaches in playing the championship game. Should St. Francis make it to the finals again next year, we have a tip - play courageously and go for the win - and THEN you might win.

We are 5-1 in predicting winners and 3-0 against the spread. There was no betting line for this game that we were able to find although most observers thought that St. Francis would win by about a touchdown.

5. The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl Poinsettia Bowl
Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California - Tuesday, December 19, 2006 8:00 p.m. EST
Northern Illinois Huskies v. TCU Horned Frogs (25)

We link to the TCU Team Stats so that one can see the kinds of parameters we take into account for our prognostications. However, we will not link to these details for all the games below since these stats are easily accessible online.

Although Northern Illinois handed Mid-American Conference champion Central Michigan its only loss, 31-10, the Huskies finished 3rd in the West Division of that conference, losing to bowl-bound Toledo (17-13), Western Michigan (16-14) and bowl-bound Ohio (35-23). The Huskies also lost to the bowl-bound Big 10 teams Ohio State (35-12) and Iowa (24-14). This is a very good football team.

Northern Illinois features the NCAA Division I rushing champion in Garrett Wolfe, who rushed for 1900 yards this year for an average of 158.3 yards per game and 6.6 yards per carry.

The Huskies have an excellent rushing defense but a leaky secondary, allowing over 240 passing yards per game.

TCU placed second to BYU in the Mountain West Conference losing in consecutive games 31-17 to BYU and Utah 20-7. TCU beat 24th ranked Texas Tech 12-3.

TCU has a superb rushing defense so that Wolfe may have a hard time rushing against the Frogs, who were beaten in the air by BYU and Utah so that Northern Illinois will have to muster up a good passing offense to stand a chance in this game. See the photograph of Garrett Wolfe and the caption to that photo at page 1 of Stewart Mandel's article at CNNSI Sports Illustrated on Ranking the Bowl Games.

Wolfe ranks TCU 27th and Northern Illinois 71st whereas the Massey Ratings have TCU 43rd and Northern Illinois 88th.

TCU is favored by 12. We look for Northern Illinois to play a spirited game in this bowl and call it a one-touchdown difference, TCU 24 Northern Illinois 17.

Update: TCU held the NCAA Division I leading rusher Garrett Wolfe to 28 yards and the Huskies to only 60 yards total offense, while the Horned Frogs rolled to a 37-7 victory over Northern Illinois behind the 3 touchdown passes by their quarterback Jeff Ballard.

We predicted the winner but did not beat the spread.
We are 6-1 in predicting winners and 3-1 against the spread.

6. Pioneer Pure Vision Las Vegas Bowl Las Vegas Bowl
Las Vegas, Nevada - Thursday, December 21, 2006 8:00 p.m. EST
Oregon Ducks v. BYU (Brigham Young University) Cougars (19)

The Pac-10 has a historical 4-2 edge in this bowl.

Sagarin at USAToday ranks BYU 21st and Oregon 22nd, although his Predictor gives the edge to BYU (10th !) and Oregon (21st). Wolfe has BYU 22nd and Oregon 26th whereas the Massey Ratings have Oregon 21st and BYU 30th.

After losing 2 of their first 3 games in close losses to Arizona 16-13 and Boston College 30-23 in overtime, BYU appeared to get stronger as the season wore on and finished with nine straight wins, including a 31-17 victory over 17th ranked TCU. Oregon had a hotly disputed wrong call instant replay win over Oklahoma in a game which they actually should have lost and also ended the season with three straight losses.

John Beck, the BYU quarterback, is second in the nation in passing efficiency (70.4%) behind Colt Brennan of Hawaii (72.1%), with BYU ranked 5th nationally in total offense and Oregon 8th, so that this could well be a high-scoring ball game, with the outcome likely decided in the air, which would give the edge to BYU.

BYU is favored by 3.5 points, although Oregon comes from the stronger conference, so that our call is a bit courageous, or foolish, as the case may be, depending on the outcome. We call it by 11 points, BYU 42 Oregon 31, but we would not be surprised if the score were reversed.

Update: The Mountain West Conference certainly has put on a great show in the first two NCAA" football bowl subdivision" bowl games as BYU completely dominated Oregon 38-8, with the Cougars more than doubling the Ducks offensive output, 548 yards to 260 yards. If the TCU and BYU games are indicative of the Mountain West Conference team strength at the end of the season, then the upcoming bowl games with Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico are going to be much tougher for their opponents than they might have expected.

BYU won a bowl game for the first time in 10 years and extended their winning streak to 10 games as John Beck threw for 375 yards on 28 of 46 completions. The Ducks lone TD came in the 4th quarter when Dennis Dixon completed a pass to Brian Paysinger for 48 yards.

We are now 7-1 in predicting winners and 4-1 against the spread.

7. R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl New Orleans Bowl
Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana - Friday, December 22, 2006 8:00 p.m. EST
Rice Owls v. Troy Trojans

The fact that Rice and Troy are in any bowl game at all is amazing. Rice lost 5 of its first 6 games including 52-7 and 55-7 pastings by Texas and Florida State, while Troy 4 lost of its first 5, including a 56-0 blowout by the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Yet, both teams to their credit went on to post winning records, in part by virtue of numerous wins in very close games. Indeed, Rice won three of its last games on their last play.

In 2005 Rice was 1-10. In 2006, their new coach Todd Graham, the newly chosen Conference USA Coach of the Year, led the Owls to a 7-5 record and their first bowl game in 45 years. What a success story that is. There is such a thing as a "track record", at least in the case of Graham, whose Rice turnaround is the best in the NCAA this year. He has helped to do it before:

"At West Virginia University under head coach Rich Rodriguez, Graham helped the Mountaineers improve from a 3-8 mark to a 9-3 record in his second season. At Tulsa under Steve Kragthorpe, the Hurricane jumped from 1-11 in 2002 prior to his arrival, to an 8-4 record in '03. Both the WVU and Tulsa turnarounds were the best in NCAA Division I in those seasons."

For Troy, junior quarterback Omar Haugabook was named Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year as the Trojans won their first Sun Belt Conference Championship.

Wolfe ranks Rice 51st and Troy 69th, whereas the Massey Ratings have Rice 61st and Troy 93rd. Sagarin's Predictor has Rice at 68 and Troy at 107.

Rice is favored by 5 points. By comparative scores we give the edge to Rice by 10 points and call it Rice 45 Troy 35.

Upadate: Boy, we sure got this one wrong, as Troy vanquished Rice 41-17. It looks like the common foe Florida State was a good indicator for this game. Troy played the Seminoles nearly even, whereas Rice was routed by them. Of course, when you throw five interceptions, as Owls quarterback Joel Armstrong did, you are not going to win.

We are now 7-2 in predicting the winners and 4-2 against the spread.

8. Papa John's.com Bowl Papa John's.com Bowl

Legion Field, Birmingham, Alabama - Saturday, December 23, 2006 1:00 p.m. EST
South Florida Bulls v. East Carolina Pirates

The Papa John's.com Bowl is partnered with "the Monday Morning Quarterback Club in support of the Crippled Children’s Foundation for 2006."

This match between the Big East's South Florida and the Conference USA's East Carolina is more interesting than might initially expected. In its last regular season game, South Florida upset 7th ranked West Virginia 24-19. East Carolina on its part won 5 of its last 6 games, losing only by one point to a steadily improving Rice.

Wolfe has South Florida 38th and East Carolina 61st. The Massey Ratings have South Florida 31st and East Carolina 62nd, whereas the Sagarin Predictor puts South Florida at 46 and East Carolina at 59.

The Bulls are 3-0 against the Pirates and South Florida is favored by 3.5 points, largely because of the weaker East Carolina defense.

We call it 31 to 24 for South Florida.

Update: South Florida jumped to a quick 14-0 lead and won 24-7 in a game that was scoreless in the second half because of inept coaching by East Carolina. East Carolina outgained South Florida 317-286 by yardage but could not get the ball into the end zone. In one case, they punted in the third quarter with a 4th and 19 at the South Florida 35 which resulted in a touchback and a meaningless net gain of 15 yards - is such a team trying to win?? whereas in the fourth quarter with a first and 4 at the South Florida 4, the East Carolina quarterback was sacked for a 13-yard loss and an 8-yard loss on subsequent plays. About such poor playcalling we can only shake our head.

We are now 8-2 in predicting the winners and 5-2 against the spread.

9. New Mexico Bowl New Mexico Bowl
University Stadium, Albuquerque, New Mexico- Saturday, December 23, 2006 4:30 p.m. EST
San Jose State Spartans v. New Mexico Lobos

San Jose State can be proud of defensive back Dwight Lowery, who was named to the 2006 Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) All-America team on defense, the first such award for a Spartan player in the 60-year history of the FWAA.

New Mexico linebacker Cody Kase was named to ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America Team.

Wolfe ranks San Jose State 59th and New Mexico 84th. The Massey Ratings have San Jose State at 52nd and New Mexico at 78th. However, the Sagarin Predictor places New Mexico at 80 and San Jose State at 84, so that caution is advised in spite of those ratings.

In fact, New Mexico is favored by the oddsmakers by 4. Nevertheless, given the fact that the Lobos have not won a bowl game since 1961, we give the edge to the Spartans and call it San Jose State 30 New Mexico 27.

Update early on December 23, prior to the game. Due to the strong TCU and BYU victories in bowl games, we now predict that New Mexico will win this game 27-20. TCU, BYU and New Mexico play in the same conference and apparently the conference is stronger than originally anticipated.

Update: Well, we should not have changed our mind on this game at all, as San Jose State beat New Mexico 20-12. It just goes to show that one should generally stick with one's initial analysis. Three big touchdown passing plays were the difference in this game as the San Jose State Spartans mustered only 8 first downs against the New Mexico Lobos defense, but scoring is the name of the game and not statistics. The Lobos outgained the Spartans 376 yards to 280 yards, but could not get the ball into the end zone while losing 4 fumbles, two of them within a yard or two of scoring territory, and one because the player was trying to reach the football over the goal line. The Lobo coaches have to learn to teach their players how to hold on to the ball - New Mexico also lost against TCU in the regular season, for example, because of fumbleitis.

We are now 8-3 in predicting the winners and 5-3 against the spread.

10. Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl Armed Forces Bowl
Fort Worth, Texas - Saturday, December 23, 2006 8:00 p.m. EST
Utah Utes v. Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Utah's defense features All-American senior defensive back Eric Weddle, the Mountain West Conference's Defensive Player of the Year.

Tulsa's defense features
senior linebacker Nick Bunting, the 2006 Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year.

Wolfe has Tulsa ranked at 47th and Utah at 64th. The Massey Ratings put Tulsa at 55th and Utah at 63rd.
Sagarin ranks Tulsa 55th and Utah 59th but again, here we see to the contrary that Sagarin's Predictor based on "pure points" puts Utah at 44 and Tulsa at 51 and this pure points predictor accounts for Utah being favored by 2 points over Tulsa.

We know that the pure points approach to a comparison of teams is a more accurate prognosticator than other systems and thus call the game in favor of Utah, 34-27.

Update: Utah put up 405 yards total offense as compared to Tulsa's 254 and Utah won 25-13 after Tulsa came close 19-13 in the 4th quarter. The number of punts generally show the relative dominance of opposing teams and Tulsa punted seven times while Utah punted only three times. Weddle, mentioned above, intercepted a Tulsa pass on the last play and generally had a great game.

We are now 9-3 in predicting the winners and 6-3 against the spread.

11. Sheraton Hawaii Bowl Hawaii Bowl
Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii - Sunday, December 24, 2006 8:00 p.m. EST
Arizona State Sun Devils v. Hawaii Warriors

Although Ohio State's Troy Smith is picking up the big awards this football season (he just won the Heisman Trophy), a good argument can be made that the best pro-type college football quarterback at the present time is Hawaii's Colt Brennan, who leads the nation in most of the statistical quarterback categories and who has also been accorded 2nd team All-American status. A lot of the credit goes to his coach, June Jones, who was selected WAC Coach of the Year.

The Arizona State situation is not optimal for the bowl game since the current head coach, Dirk Koetter, has been fired, and will be replaced in the coming season by Dennis Erickson, the head coach of Idaho, who "has a 149-64-1 record in 18 seasons as a college coach".

Although Koetter's team had a 7-5 won-loss record this year, his tenure as head coach had some visible weaknesses: "Koetter's Sun Devils were 2-19 against ranked teams, 0-12 against Pac-10 teams in California and 21-28 in the Pac-10 overall."

Wolfe ranks ASU 32nd and Hawaii 39th. Massey ranks ASU 24th and Hawaii 37th. The Sagarin ratings have ASU and Hawaii as 27th and 28th respectively, but the Predictor (based on pure points) makes Hawaii 16th and Arizona State 34th. Hawaii is thus favored by 7.5 points, and we think that the Sun Devils pass coverage will have great problems with Colt Brennan, so that we predict a Warrior win 47-31.

Hawaii defeated Arizona State 41-24 as NCAA pass efficiency leader Colt Brennan threw for 5 touchdowns and 559 yards on 33 completions of 42 passes. With that, Brennan broke the NCAA single-season record for touchdown passes, hiking his total to 58 for the season. Brennan: "led the nation in TD passes, passing yards, total offense, passing efficiency, points responsible for and completion percentage." Jason Rivers, the game's co-MVP and an exceptional receiver, had 14 catches for 2 TDs and 308 yards. The Sun Devils held the Warriors to only 3 points in the first half, but were rocked for 38 points after the intermission. The Hawaii offensive dominance was shown by the fact that they punted only once in the game. The perhaps over-rated top-ranked Pac-10 Conference has now lost its first two bowl games while the Western Athletic Conference is 2-0.

We are now 10-3 in predicting the winners and 7-3 against the spread.


12. Motor City Bowl Motor City Bowl
Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan - Tuesday, December 26, 2006 7:30 p.m. EST
Central Michigan Chippewas v. Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders

The Central Michigan Chippewas won the MAC title 31-10 over Ohio. As noted at their web site: "Nationally, the Chippewas rank 19th in passing, 24th in scoring and 31st in total offense."

Here is the twist. The team will be coached in the bowl game by interim head coach Jeff Quinn, who was named to that position one day after head coach Brian Kelly accepted the head coaching job at Cincinnati, where he will coach the Bearcats in the January 6, 2006 International Bowl.

Although this situation may appear to be somewhat bizarre, there is a precedent in 1998 for a new coach taking over the reigns of a bowl-bound team, when "David Cutcliffe did so for Mississippi after the 1998 campaign, guiding the Rebels to an Independence Bowl win over Texas Tech."

When one considers that interim coach Quinn came to Central Michigan from the very successful Grand Valley State football program, this bowl game suddenly increases greatly in fan interest.

The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders were blown off the scoreboard 59-0 by the Oklahoma Sooners early in the season and also lost 44-17 to Louisville and 52-7 to South Carolina, all games in which their leaky pass defense cost them dearly.

Considering that Central Michigan beat Ohio 31-10 in the Mid-American Conference championship game by throwing for 314 yards, those stats do not speak well for the Blue Raiders chances in this bowl game. Sagarin's Predictor ranks Central Michigan 63rd and Middle Tennessee State 82nd, whereas Wolfe has Central Michigan at Nr. 46 and Middle Tennessee State at Nr. 57, with the Massey Ratings putting Central Michigan at 53rd and Middle Tennessee State at 80th.

Central Michigan is favored by 10 points but we think because of the mismatch of a superb passing game against a weak pass defense that that the Chippewas should win this game with ease, that is, if their performance is not hampered by the coaching change. We call it 38-17 for Central Michigan.

Update: Although we called this game correctly and beat the official line, Middle Tennessee State played a surprisingly good game in losing 31-14, by putting up even a few more yards on total offense than the Chippewas and passing for substantially more yardage, which we would not have originally expected, with Clint Marks completing 25 of 37 passes for 251 yards. The difference in the game turned out to be two early Central Michigan scores and a 3rd quarter 56-yard TD interception by Doug Kress of a Marks pass, forced by the Chippewas defensive end Dan Bazuin, an NFL pro prospect, who had a stellar game. Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour passed for one TD and ran for a second and was awarded game MVP honors, having completed 15 of 25 passes for 156 yards and no interceptions.

Update: Going into the Emerald Bowl game between UCLA and Florida State, our prognostication record based on predictions is now 11-3 in picking winners and 8-3 against the spread (three of the games had no spread that we were able to find online).

13. Emerald Bowl Emerald Bowl
AT&T Park, San Francisco, California - Wednesday, December 27, 2006 8:00 p.m. EST
UCLA Bruins v. Florida State Seminoles

This is simply one of best - and unexpectedly good - matchups in all of the bowl games. The organizers of the Emerald Bowl must be grinning from ear to ear.

UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) is fresh off of a win over defending national champion USC, knocking the Trojans out of the BCS championship game this year, so that the Bruins must feel like world-beaters.

Florida State on the other hand had a deeply disappointing season, losing 6 games and barely winning against weaker teams such as Troy and Western Michigan. On the other hand, their losses were for the most part by slim margins against top competition, including their regular season closing loss, a cliffhanger 21-14 to BCS national championship game participant Florida.

Instructive of the Seminole weaknesses this year is their humiliating 30-0 loss to Wake Forest, where they were overwhelmed by a team possessing an opportunistic offense and defense. Indeed, the Demon Deacons, in spite of an 11-2 record, gave up on average more yards per game in total offense than they gained. Wake Forest has a team that is there when it counts.

Does UCLA have a similarly scrappy team to the Demon Deacons? The answer is yes. The Bruins gained only 16.6 yards per game more than their opponents in putting up a 7-5 record and in their win over USC, they had nearly 100 yards less total offense than the Trojans. But scoring and winning is the name of the game, not merely putting yardage stats on the record books. And did UCLA beat the Trojans because of super coaching? You bet they did. Read this report at Yahoo by AP sports writer John Nadel.

In spite of a four-game losing streak at mid-season, UCLA closed with three straight wins over strong competition. Indeed, the Bruins are favored by 5. The Massey Ratings place UCLA 17th and Florida State 52nd. Wolfe has UCLA 24th and the Seminoles 56th. Sagarin's Predictor has UCLA 24th and Florida State 40th, which is probably a more accurate assessment of the relative strength of these two teams, which is not that far apart.

One worry for Bruin supporters is their 37-15 loss to Washington State, where they were hit for over 400 passing yards, so that Florida State, a weak rushing but strong passing team, has a good chance to win this game in the air. The Florida Gators beat the Seminoles only because their pass defense held the Seminoles to 18 of 43 passing completions. The Bruin pass defense is not that good.

In spite of a sentimental leaning to UCLA in whose immediate environs we have many friends, we call it 24-21 for Florida State.

77-year-old virtually legendary head coach Bobby Bowden celebrated his 30th straight winning season, by an eyelash, with a record of 7-6, as Florida State beat UCLA in the Emerald Bowl. As we expected, Florida State passing prowess was a significant factor in this game as Drew Weatherford completed 21 of 43 passes for 325 yards. The game was much closer than the score indicates, as the 44-27 Seminole victory was inflated by a late-game 85-yard interception return for a TD by the Seminole's Tony Carter. The UCLA Bruins actually had four yards more total offense (434 to 430) and led 27-23 going into the 4th quarter. Indeed, it was a gutsy playcall by the Florida State coaching staff that was the chief turning point in the game: "When a Florida State drive stalled early in the fourth quarter with the Seminoles trailing by four, Bowden and his son proved they had nothing to lose by boldly going for it on fourth and long [4th and 9 at the UCLA 30]. Carr easily made his TD catch a step from the end zone when his defender fell down." Time and again we find that it is coaching decisions which can make or break critical game turning points. Unnecessarily conservative UCLA play in the 3rd quarter probably enabled the Florida State comeback in a series of rushing plays which backfired in a blocked punt for a Seminole touchdown. The highly ranked Pac 10 Conference is now 0-3 in bowl games.

We are now 12-3 in picking winners and 9-3 against the spread (three of the games had no spread that we were able to find online).

Update: The next three games involve Big 12 teams, all of which we have picked to win, even though the Big 12 has been ranked quite low as a conference this year, which we have found to be unjustified, but which of course will be proven or not in the bowl games to be played. Obviously, if we have ranked the Big 12 Conference too strong, then all of our prognostications involving Big 12 teams will have to be taken with a grain of salt. The Oklahoma State vs. Alabama game should be a good indicator.

14. PetroSun Independence Bowl Independence Bowl
Independence Stadium, Shreveport, Louisiana - Thursday, December 28, 2006 4:30 p.m. EST
Oklahoma State Cowboys v. Alabama Crimson Tide

The Independence Bowl presents another interesting situation for football fans, namely, a bowl team - Alabama - which at the moment of this writing has no head coach after the firing of Mike Shula. The defensive coordinator, Joe Kines, is the interim head coach.

Oklahoma State has an exceptionally strong option offense (51 touchdowns this year and 409 yards average total offense per game) combined with an exceptionally weak defense which allowed 371 yards total offense on average per game. Given the fact that the Crimson Tide offense has been lackluster this year, it is no surprise that the Cowboys are favored to win this game by 2.5 points, because even if Alabama is halfway successful in containing the Cowboy offense, it is still unlikely that they will score enough points to win.

This was the Alabama weakness all year long, as no team scored more than 28 points against them (Florida, LSU) and yet they still lost 6 games - the cause of Shula's demise. It is not enough in modern football to have a good defense, which 'Bama surely does, but you have to be able to score. If you can not, especially in the SEC, you are doomed to defeat in most games.

In spite of all that, the Massey Ratings have the Crimson Tide at 45th and the Cowboys at 67th. Wolfe puts Alabama at 62nd and Oklahoma State at 58th. Sagarin's Predictor makes Oklahoma State 30th (!) and Alabama only 45th. Again, in terms of its past prognostication record, the pure points-based predictor - on average - beats the other systems hands down.

We call it for the Cowboys, 24-21.

UPDATE: Oklahoma State put up over 400 yards of offense and beat Alabama 34-31. Oklahoma State blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter by allowing an 86-yard punt return by Javier Arenas for a TD and then fumbled away the ensuing kickoff leading to a quick Crimson Tide score and a tied game 31-31, which was only resolved by a Cowboy field goal in the last 9 seconds of the game, as Jason Ricks split the uprights from 27 yards out. Defensive coordinator Joe Kines was the interim coach for 'Bama, which still has found no replacement for fired head coach Mike Shula.

We are now 13-3 in picking winners and 10-3 against the spread (three of the games had no spread that we were able to find online).

15. Texas Bowl Texas Bowl
Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas - Thursday, December 28, 2006 8:00 p.m. ET
Kansas State Wildcats v. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (16)

We were surprised to read regarding this bowl that Houston is America's fourth largest city. The first three are easy to guess (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago) - but the 4th is difficult. And who would have thought that San Jose, California is 10th? See on this score the Wikipedia on Demographics of the United States and for a rank of the top 50 US cities by population see InfoPlease.

Greg Schiano, the Rutgers coach, is Home Depot Coach of the Year. His surprise team of the year lost a BCS berth in their heartbreaking season-ending three overtime loss to West Virginia 41-39. Rutgers football is marked by solid team play without any perceivable great stars.

Kansas State is led by first-year coach Ron Prince, whose team in November upset then fourth-ranked Texas 45-42. The Wildcats are led by freshman quarterback Josh Freeman, who passed for 1651 yards and of course has been improving as the season has progressed.

Cincinnati's upset of Rutgers was due primarily to a very effective passing game of longer gainers (277 yards on 11 of 15 completions) so that Kansas State has a very good chance to win this game in the air, even though Rutgers ranks 9th in the nation in total defense. At the same time, Kansas State has a relatively weak defense, which, however, is a good matchup to the Scarlet Knights average offense.

Rutgers is favored by 7.5 which we regard to be too large a spread against a team that has beaten Texas this year. It is true that K-State lost to Louisville, which was beaten by Rutgers, but the Wildcat loss was early in the season when Freeman was not yet the starting quarterback and when the emphasis was erroneously on K-State defense and not on its offense. If Kansas State were to play the same strategy against Rutgers that they played against Louisville, they would lose for sure. However, this is now a different team - disregarding Freeman's catastrophic 6 turnovers against Kansas to close the season. He had surely not yet adjusted to the win over Texas and the game against the Jayhawks will have been a lesson for him.

We call the game 27-24 for Kansas State.

UPDATE: Rutgers jumped to a quick 14-0 lead and although Kansas State cut the lead to 17-10 at halftime, special teams and the defense were the difference in the second half as Rutgers blew the game open and won going away 37-10. Kansas State seemed to have its will broken on the first play of the second half as Quintero Frierson intercepted Josh Freeman's bad judgment pass for a 27-yard touchdown. Quarterback Freeman continued to plague his team by turnovers as he had in the Kansas game. Why Ron Prince would call such a stupid play to start out the second half is anybody's guess. They should have been going for a long gainer, not a short dangerous pass to start out the half - that is just poor coaching. After a punt, on the next series of downs for Rutgers, Ray Rice rushed for 22 yards and then 46 yards on the unprepared defense for the touchdown and the game was over. Apparently, the Rutgers coaching staff had done their homework at halftime and the Kansas State coaching staff had not. The rest of the game was academic as the strong Rutgers defense allowed only 6 first downs total to a Wildcat offense that was poorly prepared for this bowl game and played worse than they did against Louisville earlier in the season. This was a rather abysmal showing by the Big 12 Conference.

We are now 13-4 in picking winners and 10-4 against the spread (three of the games had no spread that we were able to find online).

16. Pacific Life Holiday Bowl Holiday Bowl
Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California - Thursday, December 28, 8:00 p.m. EST
Texas A&M Aggies (21) v. California Bears (20)

This promises to be one of the best bowl games this year.

Cal finished 2nd in the Pac-10 standings, ending the regular season with a loss to USC 23-9 and a win over 1-win Stanford 26-17, while Texas A&M finished 3rd in the South Division of the Big 12 Conference, closing the season with a stunning 12-7 victory over the then 11th-ranked Texas Longhorns.

Cal is favored by 5 over the Aggies, but we really think that Cal will be hard pressed to win this game. Not only did Texas A&M beat Texas in its last game, but it lost the previous two games by only one point each to very strong and rated Nebraska and Oklahoma teams.

Both teams are about equal in offensive potential, but the Bears have the weaker defensive team, especially against the pass, and so we call this game for Texas A&M 41-38.

UPDATE: We were really wrong on this game. We don't mind being wrong, but are a bit ashamed for the Big 12 Conference. We can at least comprehend a strong Rutgers team beating unranked Kansas State decisively, but we find little excuse for 21st-ranked Texas A&M suffering a humiliating 45-10 destruction by the 20th-ranked California Bears in the Holiday Bowl. The Aggies trailed only 14-10 at halftime and then the whole team fell apart in the second half, partly due to inept playcalling by Aggies coach Dennis Franchione, since poor coaching and playcalling are almost always the major factors in such second half collapses. As written by AP sports writer Bernie Wilson at Yahoo Sports:

"Texas A&M gambled a few times too many. After Bryce Reed gained 7 yards on a fake punt in the first quarter, the drive bogged down and the Aggies went for it on fourth-and-8 from the Cal 32. McGee was sacked by Nu'u Tafisi.

Lynch scored his first TD five plays later.

His second touchdown was set up when Texas A&M's Justin Brantly shanked a punt out of bounds for no gain at the Aggies' 41. Lynch scored four plays later.

The Aggies failed to convert on another fourth-down play in the fourth quarter."

Such comedies of errors do not happen to well-coached teams. If you go for it on 4th down, you do not call plays where the QB can be sacked for large losses, which is contra-productive - then you might as well punt. You also do not have punters shanking punts to open the 2nd half and you do not go for it on 4th down from within your own territory on 4th and 16. All in all, a miserable performance by Texas A&M, whose defense played so poorly that Cal had to punt only once the entire game. How Texas A&M could score so few points and only punt 3 times itself is a great mystery as well. Nathan Longshore completed 80% of his passes for the Bears and Cal also ran for 245 yards so that the A&M defense must have been asleep for most of the game. Even 1-win Stanford played much better against Cal than this Texas A&M team. A very poor showing for the Big 12 Conference.

We are now 13-5 in picking winners and 10-5 against the spread (three of the games had no spread that we were able to find online).

This prediction posting Nr. 1 was made at 2:46 P.M Dec. 16, 2006, Central European Time, CET, i.e. 8:46 A.M. EST. Predictions for the remainder of the bowl games follow in the next prediction postings (Nr. 2 and Nr. 3). The prediction for the Appalachian State - UMass game was made several weeks in advance of this posting, but had not been posted online prior to this posting.

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