Thursday, December 29, 2011

College Bowl Picks - Part 5

Florida State vs. Notre Dame
Line: Florida State -3.5

You can't really bring motivation in to the conversation here since both teams aspired for something bigger than the Champs Sports Bowl. Before the year. Florida State was ranked in the Top 10 in the preseason and Notre Dame in the Top 20 in both polls. This game boils down to two things for me, better QB and better defense and in both cases Florida State has both. Couple that with the game being played in Florida and it's kind of a no-brainer for me.

The Pick: Florida State -3.5

Washington vs. Baylor
Line: Baylor -9.5

When all else fails I am a fan of taking the team that has the best player on the field which in this case is obviously Robert Griffin III. You couple that with the game being played in Texas and I shouldn't have to look much further than that. But why do I find myself leaning towards Washington? Both defenses are awful but Baylor's more awful, Washington was only 7-5 and their bad loss was a late hiccup at Oregon State. Other than that their losses were at Nebraska, at Stanford, at USC and at home against Oregon. Those are excusable to me. There is something in my gut that tells me it's going to be a one score shootout and 9.5 is a lot.

The Pick: Washington +9.5

BYU vs. Tulsa
Line: Pick Em

I can't take anything BYU has done this year seriously. The beginning of the year looked promising. Beating a lousy SEC team on the road and then lost by 1 at Texas back when we thought Texas was good. Since then they have only been tested once in a "neutral" site game against TCU (in Arlington, TX). On the year BYU has beaten one team that is participating in a Bowl game and that is (after their loss in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl) 7-6 Utah State at home and that was on a fluky tipped TD pass at the end of the game). If you take TCU away, the combined record of their opponents is 50-84. As for Tulsa, they don't have any remarkable wins either but at least they beat two teams going to bowls and their 4 losses were at Oklahoma and Boise and home to Oklahoma St and Houston. That's the top of college football right there. Don't get me wrong, I think it's going to be a close game but I like Tulsa's running game and senior QB to pull it out.

The Pick: Tulsa


Rutgers vs. Iowa State
Line: Rutgers -1.5

Big East football is dreadful. On the last week of the year Rutgers had a shot at a share of the Big East title and a place in the Orange Bowl. They laid an egg, turned the ball over 6 times and lost to a (at the time) 4-6 UConn team. If I'm Rutgers than I'm thinking one of two things: 1) how close we were to a BCS Bowl and this doesn't compare or 2) we are better than we really are. I'm not a big Iowa State fan but at least they are the reason we are seeing a rematch of LSU/Alabama in the BCS Championship instead of LSU/Oklahoma State.

The Pick: Iowa State +1.5

Mississippi State vs. Wake Forest
Line: Mississippi State -6.5

There are few Bowl games I care less about than this one. Wake Forest doesn't do any thing particularly well. Mississippi State held opponents to less than 20 points a game. They did only go 2-6 in the SEC West. But it's the SEC West. Alabama, LSU, Arkansas and on top of that, the top 2 teams in the SEC East in Georgia and South Carolina. Going from playing teams like that to Wake Forest should seem like slow motion. Wake Forest also lost 4 out of 5 coming in to the Bowl. I can't think of a reason to take them

The Pick: Mississippi State -6.5

Iowa vs. Oklahoma
Line: Oklahoma -14

Like I mentioned before with Texas. Guys don't come to Oklahoma to play in the Insight Bowl. 14 points is a lot in a Bowl game. Landry Jones has hit a funk and hasn't thrown a TD pass since November 5th. Oklahoma is going to win but Iowa is going to want it more enough to keep it within 14 points.

The Pick: Iowa +14


Texas A&M vs. Northwestern
Line: Texas A&M -10

With the exception of the Boise State/Arizona State game, I don't like big spreads in these smaller bowl games. Wacky things happen in these things. Texas A&M come in losing 4 of 5 while Northwestern comes in winning 4 of 5 (including a win at Nebraska last month). Like the Insight Bowl above, I think Texas A&M will end up ultimately winning the game but not by more than a score.
My two concerns are that A&M have the geographical advantage and Northwestern is turnover prone. It's a concern but not enough to overcome getting double digits.

The Pick: Northwestern +10


Georgia Tech vs. Utah
Line: Georgia Tech -2.5

These are the type of games that get me in trouble. Utah is behind the 8-Ball with me from the get go. They finished under .500 in the Pac12 without having to play Stanford or Oregon. What team worth their while loses home games to Washington, Arizona State and Colorado. I'm tempted to take Utah here because Georgia Tech just doesn't win Bowl games lately. Four weeks to prepare for the option attack nullifies it a bit. The problem I have with betting on an option team is that if they fall behind and have to play catch up they are done. Utah is offensively challenged enough that I don't think they have the firepower to jump out to a big enough lead. I think Georgia Tech is due to break their 6 bowl losing streak.

The Pick: Georgia Tech

Cincinnati vs. Vanderbilt
Line: Vanderbilt -1.5

I know I'm giving another Big East team the short straw but this is pretty much a home game for Vandy. Vandy played a lot better defense that Cincy in the best conference in college football. Zach Collaros is coming back from an injury so you don't know what you're going to get. I would have taken Vandy up to 3.5 to 4 points.

The Pick: Vanderbilt -1.5

Illinois vs. UCLA
Line: Illinois -2.5

This line doesn't make much sense to me. I know the game is in California but I'm high on Illinois in this one. When in a rush I'll just go with the simplistic train of thought and say "they shouldn't even be in a bowl, they aren't going to win." But that gets me in trouble during the NCAA Basketball tournament so I didn't just discard UCLA without looking at the match up. My absolute favorite stat when picking football games is how a team can run and stop the run. Illinois doesn't run it at an elite level (171 yards/game which is 42nd overall out of 120 teams) but UCLA is towards the bottom of the FBS is run defense. On the flip side, UCLA can run the ball (better than Illinois actually. 190.7 yds/game) but Illinois is around the top 3rd in run defense and 7th overall in total yards allowed per game. With all the off the field stuff at UCLA, I don't see how Illinois doesn't win this by at least a touchdown.

The Pick: Illinois -2.5

Chick-fil-A BOWL
Virginia vs. Auburn
Line: Auburn -3

All things being equal I would like Auburn a lot in this game. But all things are not equal. Auburn's coaching staff is in disarray with both offensive and defensive coordinators getting hired elsewhere. Also Auburn's best player Michael Dyer is suspended. They are towards the bottom of the FBS in passing and without Dyer you can't say they are going to justify their 39th over ranking in rushing in this game. Virginia has a pretty good defense. Good enough to stop Auburn. I like Virginia to win outright in a low scoring game.

The Pick: Virginia +3

A couple of late additions. Busy weekend so I didn't have time for the full write ups.

Houston (-6.5) over Penn State
Michigan State (+2.5) over Georgia
Nebraska (+3) over South Carolina
Florida (-3) over Ohio State
Oregon (-4.5) over Wisconsin
Oklahoma State (-4.5) over Stanford

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bowl Pick Em - Part 4

Western Michigan vs. Purdue
Line: Purdue -3

This is one of games you take a look at and think "there are too many bowls." If I was actually going to bet this game (which I probably won't) I'd probably just lean towards the conference strength and go Purdue. In the interest of "breaking it down" though, the one thing Western Michigan does well is throw the ball (close to 329 yards a game). Purdue is in the Top 3rd in NCAA in Pass Defense though. Both teams are pretty even in turnover ratio. Western is Even and Purdue is -2 for the season. But ultimately it is going to come back to conference strength. Western was 100th out of 121 in Total Yards allowed in the FBS and that was primarily against a MAC schedule. Purdue was around the middle of the pack defensively overall but at least it was against the Big Ten.

The Pick: Purdue -3

Louisville vs. NC State
Line: NC State -1.5

This is a very simplistic way of looking at this game but can I really bet on a team that lost to both participants in the Beef O' Brady's Bowl at home this year? The game is in North Carolina so NC State has the big geographical edge here. Both defenses are in the upper half of the FBS in yards allowed but NC State led all college football in INTs. I can't justify taking Louisville here.

I didn't know Belk was a department store.

The Pick: NC State -1.5

Toledo vs. Air Force
Line: Toledo -3

Can I really pick against Air Force in the Military Bowl? Toledo has trouble stopping the pass (113th out of 120) but Air Force doesn't pass (113th in total pass yards). Toledo is 28th in the country against the run and Air Force is a rushing attack. Home field advantage does go to Air Force with it being the Miliary Bowl and everything but I don't think they'll be able keep up offensively with Toledo.

The Pick: Toledo -3

California vs. Texas
Line: +4

I think this is a pretty even matchup on paper. Texas is coming in to the Bowl game losing 3 out of 4. Granted it was against pretty good competition but nevertheless. Since there isn't a lot to go on statistically in this game, I'm turning to geography and motivation. Geography favors Cal since the game is being playing in the state of California. This current group of Texas players either played in or were recruited during the back-to-back BCS Bowls in 2008 and 2009 with the latter year being for a National Title. I doubt these guys came to Texas to play in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl. I'm going to happily take the points.

The Pick: California +4

Overall: 5-3

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bowl Pick Em - Part 3

I'm doing these two together

Nevada vs. Southern Miss
Line: Southern Miss -8.5

Missouri vs. North Carolina
Line: Missouri -5.5

If I was doing a confidence pool I would definately have these two bowl games (Independence Bowl as well) at the bottom of my list. I don't know how to read either game. Southern Miss got snubbed for the Liberty Bowl, Southern Miss's Larry Fedora is on his way to UNC after the game, UNC's Interim Coach is on his way to coach under Urban Meyer at Ohio State, Missouri didn't get selected for one of the Big 12 affiliated bowls....I don't know what any one's motivation is.

In the Hawaii Bowl, Nevada was 7-5 but their worst loss was at Texas Tech by 1 point. This is the 3rd time in 7 years Nevada is playing in this bowl. They play that weird offense. Southern Miss was impressive against Houston and I'm an Austin Davis fan but I like teams that can run and 8.5 is a big line for a Bowl like this.

In the Independence Bowl, North Carolina did backslide towards the end of the season finishing 2-4. Missouri lost Henry Josey for the year but Kendial Lawrence did fill in well enough so I don't know if Missouri will lose much there.

So gun to my head....

The Pick: Nevada +8.5

The Pick: Missouri -5.5

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

College Bowl Picks - 2nd Batch

Here is the next batch of games to be played during this week:

Florida International vs. Marshall
Line: Florida International -4

Florida International clearly has the geographical edge here by being in Florida and a trip that is roughly 10 hours closer than the Thundering Herd fans will have to travel.

The game looks pretty even. They actually both won at Louisville earlier in the year but looking at some stats that I deem important, FIU takes care of the ball a little better, runs it a little better and D's up a little better.

When I was in college, if Buffalo made it's first bowl game ever and they won on a last second field goal I'd kick myself for not going. The following year if they made another bowl I'd want to recreate what I missed and more. That's the situation FIU fans are in this year. So based on my reasons above plus the easy trip for FIU fans. I'm liking them in this game.

X Factor - I'm not going to pretend I've ever seen him kick but FIU's kicker is 21-25 on the year including 5-7 over 40. For a college kicker that's pretty solid.

The pick: FIU -4

TCU vs. Louisiana Tech
Line: TCU -10

It's so easy to want to just take TCU. They are clearly the more superior team. But how does a team with BCS Bowl aspirations gear up for the Poinsettia Bowl against a WAC school?

I'm not going to lie and say I'm very familiar with Louisiana Tech but looking in to them and trying to find some real reasons to pick them, I was able to find a few. Louisiana Tech can pick balls off. They were their in the FBs with 20 INTs with 5 of them going for TDs. Two of the picks were against Case Keenum who only had 5 all year. So Casey Pachall only having thrown 6 picks on the year doesn't worry me. Chances are La Tech will get their hands on one.

Looking at La Tech from a betting aspect they are 7-0 ATS as an underdog this year (4-0 as an underdog of 3.5 to 10 points). They are 4-1 ATS in non-conference games (10-2 for the season). TCU on the other hand is only 4-6 ATS as a favorite.

I've done it. I've convinced myself. I'm banking on TCU overlooking this game and just anxious to get into the Big 12. It's not as if any of TCUs best players are seniors. QB, top 2 RBs, team leading WR and pass rusher are all back for the next year or two.

The pick: Louisiana Tech +10

Arizona State vs. Boise State
Line: Boise State -14

Like the game above I question Boise State's motivation for this game after being snubbed by the BCS again. But unlike TCU I believe Boise will be sending Kellen Moore out on a high note. Chris Petersen has been one of, if not the most vocal coach about the BCS mess. I believe he'll get Boise up to show the college football world that they got screwed with a monster blowout of Arizona State.

Arizona State is a mess. They fired their coach and arguably their best defensive player might not play. Their lone bright spot in the QB but Boise defends the pass pretty well. I just can't make any arguments for them

The pick: Boise State -14

Overall Record: 1-2

Monday, December 19, 2011

Couldn't "Help" But Be Surprised

Since my son was born, the amount of movies I watch has gone from roughly five a week to roughly five a year. This weekend I asked my wife if she wanted to watch a movie. She said yes but followed it with "Is The Help on demand yet?" Being the movie lover in the family I generally get to pick the movie so my excitement level went from "Sweet I'm watching a movie tonight!" to "At least I'm watching a movie tonight." I justified it to myself because I generally like to see the movies that are up during awards season and The Help is just the type of movie that I'd prioritize last when trying to watch them all by The Oscars.

Anyway, the whole point of this wasn't to review the movie or anything. I just wanted to give a heads up that I found it to be a surprisingly pretty entertaining two hours and 24 minutes. And besides, I rarely find Emma Stone to be anything short of delightful in whatever movie she's in.

Couldn't "Help" But Be Surprised....get it?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Let's Bowl, Let's Bowl, Let's Rock-'n-Roll - Part 1

If you are going to use a lyric from Grease 2 this has to be the time, right?

It's the start of Bowl Season. I'm going to do my picks in bunches so I can pick against the most accurate line. So here is my first set picks for the first day of bowls on 12/17.

Temple vs. Wyoming
Line: Temple -7

Temple is 7th in the nation in rushing yards per game. Wyoming is 6th WORST in the nation in rushing yards allowed. Temple is also 3rd in the nation in points allowed per game (13.8). Both teams finished the seaosn well. Temple with 5 straight wins and Wyoming winning 5 of their last 7 but losing to Boise and TCU.

Statistical analysis aside, it should be a pro Wyoming crowd. It's easier to bus fans 600 miles to a game than it is to get fans from 1900 miles away. Plus Wyoming played in this bowl two years ago. They are playing a freshman QB but there is probably some familiarity with this situation for a bunch of players on Wyoming. I'm sure Temple wants to make a good showing here after being the only bowl eligible team to not be invited to a bowl last year (despite having the same 8 win record).

FYI - As per Wikipedia, Gildan is a clothing company which produces basic apparel and hosiery.

Earlier in the week I was leaning heavily towards Wyoming. While it doesn't look like I made much of a case for Wyoming, it really wouldn't surprise me to see them win this game. My ultimate deciding factor was that while Wyoming is a good football team, they don't excel at any one part of the game. Temple on the other hand, can run the ball and play D at higher level than Wyoming can.

The Pick: Temple -7

Ohio vs. Utah State
Line: Utah State -1.5

Ohio was so close to playing in the prestigious Bowl but they blew a 20 point half time lead to lose the MAC Championship. I don't play MAC football so I don't pretend to know if every player in the MAC has a " Bowl or Bust" mentality? Did Ohio punter Paul Hershey just say what the whole Ohio team was thinking?

I'm going to go ahead and say yes. Forget about what bowl Ohio and Northern Illinois ended up going to. Winning a MAC Championship is the thing that means something to the players. And having to play on the first day of bowl season means that Ohio is only playing these games 15 days apart. I'm banking on Ohio still having a hangover from that game. Utah State on the other hand was sitting at 2-5 heading in to November before rattling off 5 in a row. I'm guessing Utah State is happier to be there than Ohio. Couple that with Boise being only 4 hours from Logan, Utah and I know who I'm going with.

The Pick: Utah State -1.5

San Diego State vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
Line: San Diego State -4.5

I'm having a tough time with this one because geograpically and motivationally Louisiana-Layayette should be my pick. They are playing in their home state and this is the first bowl in 41 years. They should be fired up.

But I'm actually leaning towards Sand Diego State. They won 4 of 5 heading in to their bowl (with their loss being to Boise State) and they will have the best player in the game in Ronnie Hillman. Louisiana-Lafayette on the other hand is going in to the bowl on a two game skid. These teams are trending in opposite directions.

FYI - R+L Carriers are a Global Transportation Solution. They ship anything, anywhere, anytime.

The Pick: San Diego State -4.5

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Its That Time of Year

Its the most wonderful time of year. Why? Not because Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are fast approaching. Not because of the beautiful lights and decorations that make us all feel so warm inside. And no, not because of the excitement in my sons eyes when we talk about Santa Clause coming to visit. Its because its time to start making lists. And lists are mint.

My first list of the season is the essential 12 (one for each day of Christmas?) holiday songs for any great holiday party mix. Enjoy.

1. Mele Kalikimaka - Bing Crosby
Not only does this song conjure up images of Chevy Chase imagining a swimming pool in Christmas Vacation, but it transports you to a relaxed tropical paradise for 2:54.
2. Christmastime is Here (Vocal)- Vince Guaraldi
This is probably my favorite of all time. Beautiful, serene, and hopeful.
3. Last Christmas - Wham!
What can I say? Its a classic.
4. Christmas All Over Again - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Probably the best blend of holiday and rock you can find anywhere.
5. Little Saint Nick - Beach Boys
Everyone loves it. And best of all people know the words and its an original.
6. Merry Christmas Baby - Bruce Springsteen
I wasn't sure about this song. I like it, but not sure if its top 12 material. Ultimately I decided that much like Petty, this song rocks and helps a mix.
7. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town - Jackson 5
Great song, and even greater lyrics. "Curly haired dolls that tootle and coo?" Really?
8. What Christmas Means to Me - Stevie Wonder
I have had to listen to the Jessica Simpson version of this song so much that I almost forget how awesome the original is.
9. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) - Mariah Carey
Don't mock me. Its fun.
10. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Jimmy Sommers featuring Chris Botti
I'm a sucker for Jazz renditions of Christmas songs. This one is perfect.
11. Auld Lang Syne - James Taylor
My wife thought this song was called Old Man Time. And even if it was, it would still be awesome.
12. Christmas Must be Tonight - Hall & Oates
"Son of a carpenter. Mary carried the light." Nuff said.

*The She & Him and My Morning Jacket Holiday CD's are too new to consider for this list.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Coming To Grips With Losing Jose Reyes

If there is one thing the Mets executed perfectly since the end of the season was to condition the Mets fans to expect to lose Jose Reyes. While I'm very disappointed Jose Reyes is gone, it took me zero time to get over it. If I went in to this off season thinking there was chance the Mets could seriously re-signed Jose Reyes back and I got blindsided by the ESPN scroll that he signed with the Marlins, I would have been devastated.

Jose Reyes has faults. He hasn't played over 133 games since 2008. He has what could be described as "chronic" hamstring problems which is a problem for a guy whose #1 attribute is speed. But I'm a traditionalist. If I have a good home grown player, I want him to start and end his career in a Mets jersey. It's not just with the Mets, I like to see that everywhere in every sport. I don't want to see Pujols leave St. Louis and LeBron shouldn't have left Cleveland. I just like when a star stays with one franchise like Tony Gwynn or Cal Ripken. We're coming to a point where when everyone comes back for an Old Timers day, Gaylord Perry's jersey won't look so unique.
I was recently thinking though, while Jose Reyes said all the right things about loving New York and wanting to come back, could you really blame him for really wanting to leave? In 2004 they signed Kaz Matsui and moved him over to 2nd base, somehow the Mets got him to sign a 4 year 23.25 million dollar contract that was way under market value (when David Wright got 6 years/55 million the same month) and he's the only major league player that I've seen have to be re-taught how to run. Was he really treated that great by the organization?

It's crazy but one of the things that annoy me the most about it is from a statistical and historical standpoint. He's the Mets all time leader in Triples and Stolen Bases. Reyes is no longer a Met but he took those records from a beloved, all-time Met in Mookie Wilson which is what I really hoped he would be. Now those records just belong to some former Met that never really lived up to the promise of what we wanted his career to look like.