Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Bobs Top 5 Movies of 2014

Hello, yeah it's been a while. Not much, how about you? Lyrics from England Dan and John Ford Coley aside, it has been a while. I had what can only be considered a major computer issue followed by the paralyzing fear of losing data and purchasing a new computer consume the latter part of my 2014. That has rendered my contributions to this blog almost completely nil, but I am back.

And seeing as I am on the heels of some serious movie watching while off from work over the holidays, I had to put pen to paper, or in this case, fingers to keys for my best of list.

UPDATE: While writing this, it occurred to me that my list could only be taken seriously if I sampled enough movies to actually be able to rank them in any meaningful way. I decided that I would comb through every movie released in theaters this year and if I hadn't seen 20, I would not continue writing this post. Well, I just went through the list and I have seen 19. So I am deciding to post this intro to the list, while I attempt to watch at least one movie tomorrow. My goal is to watch any combination of Locke, Unbroken, The Skeleton Twins or The Drop and I will then complete this post.

I know, I know....you are all waiting. And by you all, I mean no one. Sadly, no one is waiting.

Okay, I am ready. Truth be told, I really needed to solidify a 5th and final movie for this list. I was locked in on 4, but I couldn't pull myself to put Wild, Unbroken, This is Where I Leave You, or Begin Again as my 5th so I needed to watch a few more to safely round out the list.

5. Chef - I very easily could've made a case for this to be higher on the list, because frankly I loved everything about this movie. Jon Favreau wrote, directed and starred in this feel good movie about a man who loses his restaurant and is on the verge of losing his family. Great casting of all the leads, including the young Percy (Emjay Anthony) and terrific supporting roles by Robert Downey Jr., Dustin Hoffman and Bobby Canavale make this one of the most well rounded casts I have seen in a while. Why this hasn't shown up on more "best of" lists is beyond me.

4. Locke - This was the movie I needed to see to complete my list. This is a clear top 5 for me, not just because of the incredible performance by Tom Hardy (essentially a one man show) but also because of the daring and innovative filmmaking. You feel the pressure building along with Ivan Locke throughout the 90 minute car ride.

3. Foxcatcher - Fantastic performances by Carell, Tatum, and Ruffalo put this movie on the list but some questionable storyline decisions by Bennett Miller keep this from being the best movie of the year. It's one of those stories that is actually weirder and more interesting in reality versus the onscreen depiction, which chooses to gloss over some very significant details.

2. Grand Budapest Hotel - For some reason, I was not excited about seeing this. I really enjoyed Moonrise Kingdom and consider Wes Anderson to be a top 3 director for me. But the setting and the casting made this not seem like an ordinary Anderson film, so stayed a way for a while. I shouldn't have. GPH has the standard cinematic beauty and deadpan wit that you've become accustomed to, but it also has a Tarantino like suspense that really lands. To me, it's a classic.

1. Whiplash - This should be on every top 10 list this season. While Carell, Ruffalo, Hardy and Fiennes all give tremendous performances, what J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller do in Whiplash is unmatched. Two tour de force performances in one movie is hard to come by, and Whiplash without question provides them. Miles Teller is getting overlooked with the awards discussion this year, but in my book this performance puts him in a new level of elite young actors.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Best of 2014 - Music

At the end of each year I read a lot of those "Best of The Year" lists.  At the end of each year I always feel like I've missed a lot.  In an effort to get ahead of that feeling, one of my New Year's resolutions was to listen to one album a week that was released in 2014.  Fifty-two(I think I'm actually at 54 now) albums is not nearly enough to make me an expert in this year's music but it was a goal.  So based on my modest pool of music I've heard this year, here are some of my favorites:

Top 10 Favorite Albums (No particular order):
Jack White - Lazeretto
New Pornographers - Brill Bruisers
Lydia Loveless - Somewhere Else
Jenny Lewis - The Voyager
Ages and Ages - Divisionary
Lake Street Dive - Bad Self Portraits
Weezer - Everything Will Be Alright In The End
Hozier - Hozier
The New Basement Tapes - Lost of the River
First Aid Kit - Stay Gold

Top 10 Favorite Songs (No particular order):
Slow Motion - PHOX
You Go Down Smooth - Lake Street Dive
Our Demons - Ages and Ages
Low Key - Tweedy
Take Me To Church - Hozier
Alone In My Home - Jack White
Blue Moon - Beck
Kansas City - The New Basement Tapes
Push It - Delta Spirit
Don't Leave Me Now - The Apache Relay

Some notes:

-My inclusion of The New Basement Tapes might not be totally fair.  I was going to own it no matter what because of Jim James' involvement but my enjoyment of the album has been greatly boosted by the documentary about the making of the album.  The documentary probably cost Delta Spirit's 'Into the Wide' a spot.

-Choosing an album a week was largely influenced by my preparation for the 2014 Newport Folk Festival.  I have to thank them for Ages and Ages and First Aid Kit, Lake Street Dive, The Apache Relay, Delta Spirit.

-I consider The New Pornographers to be my third favorite band.  Challengers and Together might not have cracked my Top 10 lists in the years that they were released.  Brill Bruisers is amazing and I hope it's on a lot more Best of 2014 than mine.

-I've long been a fan of Jenny Lewis' voice but I have not been a big fan of her solo stuff since Rilo Kiley broke up.  Voyager was one of the nice surprises of my year.

-I almost bumped 'Take Me To Church' off the list after hearing a remixed EDM verison on a Top 40 station.  It almost made my ears bleed.

-This didn't seem to be the best year of music releases.  I am able to really tell by the fact that I came dangerously close to putting a Taylor Swift song on my top 10 (and it's not Shake It Off).

-Here is a list of all the albums I've listened to this year.

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Sweet Halloween Party Mix

Making a Halloween play list is obviously harder than making a Christmas play list so I've taken the work out of it for you.

Some notes:

-I purposely left Monster Mash and Thriller off this play list.  I feel like they have been overdone on Halloween mixes.  I feel Ghostbusters has as well but I kept it on my play list because it's my play list.

-I know Halloweenhead by Ryan Adams isn't really about Halloween and is probably a metaphor for something that I don't understand, but it has Halloween in the song and if 2000 Miles from the Pretenders can be a Christmas song just because it has the phrase "Christmastime" in the lyrics, Halloweenhead can be on my Halloween mix.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

2014 NFL Over/Unders Game

We made our picks last week before the first game of the year but am only getting around to posting now which actually works out since I can now have a little reflection on my selections after seeing these teams play a real game.  I, of course, can only speak to my selections.

Baltimore Ravens(Over) - I honestly now can't stand this pick.  I don't really think much of this division.  If you told me that the other three teams in this division other than Cleveland would finish 9-7, I wouldn't be surprised.  I had a gut it would be Cleveland.  After Week 1 and the Ray Rice thing it looks like I potentially chose poorly.

Dallas Cowboys(Under) - The Cowboys usually finish 8-8 when their defense is okay.  This team's defense has a chance to be historically bad.  I see a 6-10 type season for them.

Indianapolis Colts(Under) - The offensive line is terrible and on paper I don't think they are better than they were last year but I think every other team in the division is a little better.  I don't see them going 6-0 in the AFC South again this year.

Kansas City Chiefs(Under) - I think they are closer to the 2-5 team that finished 2013 than the 9-0 team that started 2013.  Not a bad team but I don't see a 9 win team when I look at them.

New Orleans Saints(Over) - The Saints are a good bet to be right around that mark.  I like the fact that they play two of their harder games (Green Bay and San Francisco) at home. 

New York Jets(Over) - The QB situation should be better than last year with either Geno Smith improving or Michael Vick playing.  With that defense its not unrealistic to see at least and 8-8 season.

*The bet "prize" will be paid up with a three hour open bar for the winner that will be split between the 2nd place and 3rd place in a (1/3 and 2/3) split. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

New Pornographers at the Brill Building 9/4/14

Over the course of two separate sessions, I had tried tirelessly to answer a New Pornographers trivia question on Twitter from @NPRMusic for the chance to go to last night's show at the Brill Building.  This was the question I that I answered to get my entrance to the show.

Entering the area of the Brill Building where the New Pornographers would play, my expectations were that they were going to probably play their new(and fantastic) album in it's entirety.  What I didn't expect was that I would be seeing them in a space that looked like it was getting remodeled years ago but stopped just after the demolition phase.  There were holes in the floor, holes in the ceiling, exposed beams and random shapes of metal hanging from the ceiling.  If I was asked to sleep there it'd be off-putting, but since I there to see one of my favorite bands live, it made the experience more interesting and memorable.

My expectation was that they'd just play Brill Bruisers start to finish since they were promoting the new album and we were in the Brill Building.  Those expectations got shattered when they opened with Moves and then continued on to play a great fourteen song set.  They played six off the new album but also hit on some old favorites like The Laws Have Changed, Twin Cinema, Mass Romantic, Testament to Youth in Verse and closed the encore with the always fun The Bleeding Heart Show.

I can't wait to see them again in November.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

2014 New York Jets - ESPN's Dumb Game-By-Game Predictions

Using Advanced Football Analytics (formerly NFL Stats), ESPN's projection for the Jets upcoming season is a 7-9 record.  As a Jets fan this is not something that is particularly enjoyable to read, yet at the same time, if someone asked me if I would be surprised if the Jets finished 7-9 I'd say no.

It's not so much the record that bothers me.  It's when I looked at it game by game that the ridiculousness started to stand out.  Look at some of these scores:

-The Jets are going to be outscored 63-17 in their 10th and 11th games at home against Pittsburgh and then in Buffalo?  They are more than capable of losing those games but that doesn't sound right to me.

-Did Advanced Football Analytics predict and some devastating injuries before the Nov. 9 game vs. Pittsburgh?  I thought that was a pretty favorable part of their schedule.  In their last 4 games they have Minnesota, Tennessee and Miami who are not good football teams and it's their game against New England at home.  Not only were they predicted to lose those games; they are predicted to allow over 30 points to both Tennessee and Miami.  3 out of 4 of those games are on the road.  I'm not saying they will win any of them but all of a sudden they are going to go from giving up 17 points a game in their first 9 games to giving up almost 30 in their last 7?  And in those 9 games they average giving up 17 points a game they are play Green Bay, Chicago Detroit, Denver and New England in there and in their last 7 they play Buffalo, Miami (twice) and Tennessee.  These don't make any sense.

I hate game by game projections before a season starts.  I get that the guys who write the season previews have to provide content but it's probably the most useless information you can provide.

*the image to the left will link you to ESPN's NFL Preview

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Some Top Moments (for me) from the 2014 Newport Folk Festival

It's hard for me to pick out my absolute Top 5 or 10 favorite sets from this year's Newport Folk Festival since my plan for this year was to keep mobile and seeing as many acts as I can see even if it meant leaving a set early or showing up late to another.  But what I can share is some moments from the festival that will stick with me for awhile.

-I didn't get to see Lucius's whole set.  I really wanted to but Deer Tick is one of my my favorite bands.  I showed up late to Deer Tick to see as much of Houndmouth as I could so leaving them early wasn't an option for me.  But as soon as they were done I, for the only time all weekend, legit ran over to the Harbor Stage and was able to catch the last few songs of Lucius.  They closed with Two of Us On The Run which was one of the best moments of the festival for me.

-My friend and I were at the bathrooms at the Quad Stage when Jack White walked by.  There was a group of three women who just said hello (in a non-intrusive way, to their credit).  Jack White said hello back without breaking stride.  He then turns around and takes a Polaroid camera out and takes a selfie with the three women and gives it to them.  I hung around to see how the picture came out.  It made those three women's festival.  The one person whose festival wasn't made was the 4th friend who just came out of the Port-A-Potty to the sound of her three friends waving the picture over their head yelling "You'll never believe what just happened!"

-With all the collaborations that happen at the Newport Folk Festival you are going to see alot of unique versions of songs played.  As a big Deer Tick fan getting to see Lis Isenberg come out for Friday XIII was a treat.  Seeing Deer Tick be on the main stage for the first time playing such a live rarity was something I'll never forget.

-I've been in to Ryan Adams since roughly 2003.  I was 25 years old and was really taken with the song playing over the opening sequence for the movie Old School.  I stayed around for the credits and found out that it was To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High) by Ryan Adams and that's when it started for me.  Musically I was a fan.  I bought up all his albums as they came out but everything I ever read about him made him seem like I dude whose music I could enjoy but not someone I would not want to hang out with.  This year's festival was the first time I've ever seen him live and he obviously won me over musically but the best thing for me about hit set is that we saw a guy who was funny and with a personality.  The moment for me was the Michael McDonald impression.  Out of all the sets I planned on watching at the Newport Folk Festival this year, the one I did not plan on laughing the most during was Ryan Adams.

-After Jenny Lewis, whose set list was "festival flawless1" by the way, the plan was to high tail it to the Quad Stage to see as many songs from Lake Street Dive as we could before heading back over for Band of Horses.  So in a hurry my friend and were hustling back to the Fort Stage.  We passed the Harbor Stage just as Robert Hunter started playing Ripple.  Stopped me in my tracks.  It was very moving to see and listen to.  I can comfortably say that it was my favorite moment of the festival.  Two minutes one way or another and I miss that.  I feel very lucky to have caught that.

1 Festival Flawless - playing a set list that is accessable to a crowd of people who might not be familiar with you're entire catalog. Opposite of a "Festival Clueless" set list. An example being The Black Crowes 2008 Newport Folk Festival set.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

What The Newport Folk Festival Means To Me

This is now my third Newport Folk Festival post.  I guess it can now be considered my "2014 Newport Folk Festival Series."

Part 1(Navigating the Newport Folk Festival)
Part 2(10 Songs I Hope To Hear at NFF)

For me, the Newport Folk Festival is not just a three day weekend at the end of July.  These three days are just the culmination of an almost six month journey of music discovery.  This will only be my 5th time since 2008 but this festival has earned my trust and has become my main source of new(to me) music.  I may have come across them on my own one day but I can say that bands like Apache Relay, First Aid Kit, Kingsley Flood, The Last Bison, Hurray For The Riff Riff, Houndmouth, PHOX, The Oh Hello's, J. Roddy Walston & The Business, Lucius and Ages and Ages (to name a few) are now go-to albums for me and will be long after I see them at the Fort.  I give most, if not all the credit, to the Newport Folk Festival for that.

The first time I went to the NFF, I went with my future wife and some friends(the co-author of Exploding Slacks).  I now have a 4 year old and a 2 year old who have been to the festival three and two times respectively.  I love the idea of raising "festival kids."  My parents started going a few years ago too.  I'd be chasing my kids around while my parents hopped from stage to stage.  I'd get a text from them with a picture of them with Apache Relay or a picture of my dad and Jim James.  The NFF has gone beyond creating just musical memories, it's created family memories as well.

An Insiders Guide to the 2014 Newport Folk Festival

First and foremost, I would not consider myself an insider. But this will be my 6th NPFF so I'd like to think I've learned a thing or two. This year we will be attending the festival without kids (despite one of my 5 "tips") with some festival first timers and I hope to impart some of my wisdom on the neophytes. So, in no particular order check out 5 helpful tips to maximize your fun at the best fest on the planet.

1. If you've opted to go without children, next year, bring 'em. As I mentioned earlier, this is my first year going without kids since 2008 and I am very excited about the prospect. Attending beer gardens and maneuvering my way towards the front of the stage are now options that were previously off the table. That being said, this festival is great for families. Don't expect a Bonnaroo or Firefly kind of scene, the NPFF is a family friendly environment with plenty of kid options to keep them entertained. So enjoy your weekend, but next year, pack the kids. I have a feeling I will.

2. Pack two different forms of footwear. I'm not necessarily advocating for two pairs each day, but come prepared with 2 pairs for the weekend. The obvious reason is just in case it rains. But even if it doesn't, after 2 days of standing/walking on cheap flip flops, you may want to switch it up on Sunday.

3. Be mobile. This is harder with kids, but don't be content staying in one spot between sets just because you are comfortable. Bounce around to the rest of the grounds checking out artists that you may not be familiar with. Some of the best sets I have seen have come by stumbling on them as I walked around. This is the best way to truly get a feel for where the energy of the festival is at that moment.

4. Do not over pack your cooler. Although there aren't hundreds of choices, the food at the festival is SOLID. The falafel in years past has been some of the best I have ever had and every year new entrants come in and up the culinary game. Its good to have snacks packed, but don't limit yourself to whats in your fridge at home. You can eat well at the fest for under $20 a day, and it will also provide you some additional local flavor.

5. Water taxi it to/from the festival. Driving is for suckers. I have done both, and sometimes when I am on the water taxi line I curse myself for not driving. But consider the water taxi an extension of the festival with people bustling with excitement on the way in and deconstructing the days highlights on the way back. Throw in a couple of boat sodas (beer) and you can close your eyes and pretend you are one of Newport's yachting elite. Even just for a moment.

Friday, July 18, 2014

2014 Newport Folk Festival - Ten Songs I'd Love To Hear

Picking only 10 songs that I want to hear over the course of what promises to be a great full three days of music was a silly exercise.  A silly exercise I chose to do:

In no particular order:

Our Demons - Ages and Ages

I'm not going to lie.  I've only been listening to Ages and Ages since April 22nd at 10:13am which is about a minute after the Newport Folk Festival announced them.  Since that time, Divisionary is easily on my Top 5 most listened to albums.  They have a lot of good candidates for the song I most want to hear from them but I think this one will really have the audience clapping along...and it's going to be awesome.

Take Me To Church - Hozier

I've been singing this song to myself at least once a day ever since I heard it even on days where I don't hear it.  I have a feeling that if you want to see Hozier's full set at the Harbor Stage then you are going to have to get their early.  I anticipate a crowd to big for the Harbor Stage to handle with the way this song is taking off.

Slow Motion - PHOX

There are a few PHOX songs I'm really looking forward to hearing but how could I not be most looking forward to the one with a clarinet solo!  I used to hate the clarinet.  I wanted to play saxophone in elementary school but they didn't have any left so I got stuck with the clarinet, hated it and dropped it as soon as I could.  If only Slow Motion was around back then maybe I wouldn't have been so quick to dismiss the instrument.

Heavy Bells - J. Roddy Walston & The Business

I've only been going to the Newport Folk Festival since 2008 but I've never been able to hear anything from the Harbor Stage while standing over by the Fort Stage.  I'm pretty sure that Heavy Bells could be the loudest song ever played at the Harbor Stage and I bet those people waiting at the Fort Stage waiting for Shovels and Rope to come on are going to be able to hear this.

Casino(Bad Things) - Houndmouth

I love From The Hills Below The City.  There is not a skippable track on it but this is the songs I always turn up a little bit louder when I hear it in my car.  I couldn't be more excited for this set.

Two of Us on the Run - Lucius

Turn it Around and Hey Doreen might be the songs that will get the crowd up and moving around but I just think Two of Us on the Run will just be a pretty thing to hear at Fort Adams.

You Go Down Smooth - Lake Street Dive

I've told anyone who will listen to me that if can listen to this song and not  at least start tapping your foot, you're probably dead inside.  There is a lot to look forward to for this set but I can't in good conscience head over to Band of Horses without hearing this.

Big House - Deer Tick

I could pick a bunch of songs from these guys I can't wait to hear.  I went Big House because of the stage.  Maybe at the Quad Stage I pick something, else but there is something about this song that I just want to hear permeate out into Narragansett Bay.

Alone In My Home - Jack White

Since the day it came out I have devoured this album.  Like most of the artists who have songs on this list I could have picked a ton of songs I'm looking forward to but I really enjoy this one.  I loved what he did with it on Conan and I'm looking forward to seeing it live for myself. 

La Cienega Just Smiled - Ryan Adams

The one problem I have about seeing a Ryan Adams show is that he has such a big catalog of songs to play that trying to pick one single song you want to hear is tough to do.  La Cienga Just Smiled has long been one of my favorite Ryan Adams songs.  Gold is now 13 years old(!!!) and many albums ago so I know the chances are slim I'll hear it, but my 22 year old self is still really hoping for it.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Navigating the 2014 Newport Folk Festival

It's my third year doing my "Navigating the Newport Folk Festival" post (see 2012 and 2013 here).  So that's enough of a sample size for me to officially dub it my "Annual Navigating the Newport Folk Festival" post.

Like every Newport Folk Festival lineup it's very, very deep.  After reading my last two years of these posts(in which I realize that actually planning this is an exercise in futility), it looks like I'm going to be doing a lot more zigzagging around Fort Adams and splitting sets than in years past.

So I'll be getting new comfortable walking shoes and seeing if I can execute this plan:

I'm driving up from Long Island on Friday morning so my hope is that ferries and traffic all cooperate but assuming I'm there for the gates opening I think the move for me might be hitting up the Tretorn Backyard while taking in some Mandolin Orange.

The first band I'm excited to see is PHOX at 1:50.  Their iTunes Festival album joined me on a lot of bike rides the last few weeks and I've been listening to their first studio album a lot since it came out a few weeks ago.  If there is time I would like to hop over to the end of The Devil Makes Three. 

I've been in to Jenny Lewis from Rilo Kiley to Jenny and Johnny to her solo stuff.  But this is where it gets tough.  I'm looking forward to this set but I will probably bail towards the end to see Lake Street Dive.  You Go Down Smooth is a song I feel like I need to hear played live.  If I hear that before 4:45pm then I will probably high tail if from there over to Band of Horses. 

After Band of Horses the priority is obviously Ryan Adams but in that window of time between their sets I'm going to try for a few Jimmy Cliff songs over at the Quad Stage.

I'm thinking about starting Saturday at the Museum Stage before heading to the Quad Stage to see The Oh Hello's.  I'm always on board with seeing a band that has a lot of pieces on stage.

After The Oh Hello's it gets crazy.  I'm probably going to the Harbor Stage for J. Roddy Walston and The Business, leaving before the end of the set to check out the end of Benjamin Booker, watch a few songs from Shakey Graves before settling in for Houndmouth.

This brings me to the biggest conflict of the whole festival for me.  The Houndmouth/Deer Tick/Lucius trifecta is just brutal.  I really wanted to see as much of Houndmouth as possible which will probably have me showing up to Deer Tick a little late (which as my #2 favorite band on earth is shocking and annoying).  I'm seeing Deer Tick that night at the Newport Blues Cafe so I'm hoping that lessens the sting.  Finally, I've been listening to Wildewoman a ton so I'll high tail it over to the Harbor Stage and hopefully see enough songs to be satisfied. 

From there it's over to Nickel Creek for a bit and then to Puss N Boots before settling in for Jack White.

My early Sunday priority is Ages and Ages.  I'm been loving Divisionary these last few weeks.  Looking forward to them a lot and it looks like I'll be able to relax and catch their whole set without clock watching.  After them I'm open to Caitlin Rose or The Lonesome Trio so I'll make that a game time decision.

Since I probably will not have gone to the Fort Stage beer garden yet, maybe I'll take in the rest of Thao & The Get Down Stay Down from there and wait for Dawes to come on.

Now for my second biggest conflict of the festival.  Dawes into Hozier into Hurray For The Riff Raff.  I love Dawes live.  I've seen them a bunch of times now which today probably doesn't work in their favor.  I'm thinking as long as Dawes doesn't close with When My Time Comes and plays it at least a few songs from the end I can split Hurray For The Riff Raff and Hozier.  I'd really like to at least see Take Me To Church if I can swing it.  That song has been in my head non-stop.

From Hurray For The Riff Raff it's going to get back to zigzagging around the Fort.  Conor Oberst to Trampled By Turtles to Jeff Tweedy to Rodrigo y Gabriela.  Although there is a chance I'll get hung up at the Harbor Stage listening to Lucero so I'll end up splitting the two sets before going over to check out the last hour of Mavis.

If that doesn't sound like the best three days a person can have then I don't know what does.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The 2014 NBA Draft

 Don't like the NBA but love the NBA Draft...go figure.

Some pre-draft thoughts:

- I watched a lot of Kansas basketball last year and I'm still not sure what I'm missing on Andrew Wiggins.  I do think he belongs in the Top 5 somewhere but I'm not as convinced as a lot of people that he will be the best player that comes out of this draft.

- I do like Jabari Parker and Julius Randle a lot.  I think both of those guys the most ready to contribute solid NBA minutes immediately. 

- Elfrid Payton is a nice player but seeing him in the lottery doesn't sit right with me.  If someone takes Payton over Shabazz Napier, that team will regret it short term and long term.  Payton doesn't shoot well enough to justify being picked higher than in the mid-20's.  I would even take Spencer Dinwiddie over him even coming off his injury.

- My pick for the first player drafted in this year's first round to be designated to the D-League: Zach LaVine.  He wasn't ready to play college ball yet and he's definitely not ready to play in the NBA yet.  Hopefully he can get to a team that can afford to wait for him.

- I don't really care about the NBA but if I could see any player in this draft go to the team of my choosing, it would be Kyle Anderson to San Antonio.  He is tailor made for the Spurs.  I realize the chances of that happening are 0.01%, but still.

- I'm not a Knicks fan but I think the trade they made was a coup for them.  They got rid of Felton which was huge for them and scoring two 2nd round picks in this draft can potentially get them players that can help them this year.  A guy like Joe Harris could help immediately as a shooter early in the 2nd round or a guy like Mike Moser who can be a good rebounder and keep defenses honest beyond the arc in the late 2nd round.

- As a University at Buffalo alum, I will be watching the 2nd round as intently as the 1st to see if Javon McCrea gets drafted.  San Antonio has two of the the last three picks in the draft.  I'm looking at you Spurs. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

My Two Cents on the Jets Draft

My ideal first three rounds would be:
1st Round: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
2nd Round: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
3rd Round: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State

I know as a Jets fan I'm supposed to want to upgrade our offense in the first round of the draft.  The Jets leading receiver only had 43 catches for 523 yards.  The guys tied for 2nd wasn't even on the team until Week 5.  So obviously, my dream is for Darqueze Dennard to fall to the Jets at the 18th pick.

That's right.  I want a cornerback again in the first round.  I just don't want any CB, I was Dennard.  If he's gone then fine, go ahead and grab a receiver (except Marqise Lee).  From all the college football I watched this past season, Dennard is ready to play in Rex Ryan's defense from Day 1.  So much more so than Dee Milliner was last year.  I don't really think he'll be around at 18 but you never know.

And for everyone who wants the Jets to draft a WR in the first round, here's some food for thought:  Out of the 24 NFL receivers who caught for over 1000 yards last year, only 7 of them were first round picks in the draft.  Three of them (Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson and A.J. Green) went in the Top 5 overall.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

2014 NCAA Tournament - Bracket Ramblings I

For the first time ever I did not fill out my brackets right away.  I sat with them for a day and thought about the games and even tried to analyse them.  That's a big departure from my usual "get the brackets, devour the brackets" method that I've employed since I started filling them out.  I'm a believer in only doing one bracket and once it's filled out I'm not second guessing myself and changing anything.

That's the last time I do that.

This year I filled out my brackets after I watched countless shows with analysts telling me their Final Fours.  Because of this, my selection process changed from who I think is going to win to "I don't want to pick the same thing as everyone else."  So instead of having Michigan State win the national title like I had planned to do for weeks, I'm now the sucker who will be ripping up his brackets after Iowa State loses to North Carolina or Providence and my champion is out.  I've loved Iowa State all year.  I think they are a Final Four caliber team but, come on, Iowa State doesn't win national titles.  I just didn't want to have the same thing as everyone else.  But that's not the spirit of doing brackets.  It's fill them out as accurately as you can.  It's going to be some kind of variation of Michigan State, Florida, Louisville, Kansas, Michigan and Arizona playing for the national title.  I know that.  We don't live in a world where we are watching Iowa State/Wisconsin on the final Monday.

Next year I go back to normal.  Fill them out immediately.  No outside influence.  Go Cyclones.

Monday, March 17, 2014

My NCAA Bracket Thoughts

-One of the two most talked about topics is Louisville getting a 4 seed.  I personally had them as a 3 seed but I have little problem with a 4.  There really isn't that big of a difference.  The American Athletic Conference was not a very good conference.  Sure, it was top heavy but 40% of the conference fell below the 150 RPI line and a 5th team (Houston) was only a 143.  When half your conference is considered a bad loss you have to make it up in non conference.  Louisville's best non-conference win was Southern Miss who is currently sporting a 3 seed in the NIT.  Their overall non-conference strength of schedule is 159.  They do pass the eyeball test but that can't be reason enough for a two or three seed bump.

-The second most talked about topic is SMU's exclusion from the dance.  Again I have no problem with it.  See above regarding the problems with the AAC and realize that SMU lost to two of those bottom feeders and lost in their first conference tournament game to Houston.  SMU's non conference SOS was 303.  I wouldn't have complained if they did get in, but I'm not up in arms that they didn't.  I had them in over BYU.  BYU got rewarded for playing a tough schedule and a couple of top 50 RPI wins but they are not the same team without Kyle Collinsworth.  They should have been left out with out their second leading scorer, leading assist and rebound guy.

-Ultimately I think the committee did a solid job with who was left in and out of the field.  It was such a weak bubble that you really can't complain with any team that was left out.  I do have some seeding issues like UMass as a 6 seed and Gonzaga as an 8.  There was actually a moment during the bracket reveal where I thought that UMass might be in trouble even making the field.  I thought they should have been in but based on where I saw other A10 teams being seeded, the thought did cross my mind.

-This is a tough year to pick upsets.  Normally there are a few that really stick out to me.  But not this year.  Teams like Stephen F. Austin, NC Central and Manhattan were teams I was looking at pre-bracket reveal that I was targeting to move on with the right match up.  None of those teams got the right match up.  The only lower seed "upsets" I'm probably leaning towards are Providence and Iowa/Tennessee which aren't really upsets to me.

-A lot of people are saying how tough Wichita State's region (Midwest) is.  But that South region is insane.  Without Embiid I don't think Kansas makes it out of the first weekend if they have to play New Mexico but if Florida, Cuse and UCLA were all in different regions they might have all had a shot to get to my Final 4.  Then having VCU and Ohio State sitting there as the 5 and 6 seeds.  It's a brutal region.  Even more so if Kansas can stay alive long enough for Embiid to come back.

-It's interesting to me that Louisville might have to beat Wichita State and Michigan again on it's way to a national title.

-If a 16 seed upsets a 1 this year, is it unreasonable to think Warren Buffet had something to do with fixing a tournament game?  I don't really think there are any live 16 seeds this year though.  Coastal Carolina is technically closer to the arena than Virginia but that's not enough for me to come close to considering it.  If Texas Southern beats Cal Poly then Aaric Murray would be the biggest guy on the floor against Wichita State.  But if that guy could lead his team to a SWAC regular season championship then I'm not banking on him handing Wichita State their first loss of the year.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

My Open Letter To Steve Lavin

Dear Coach Lavin,

Tough loss today.  I'm writing this prior to your press conference which I'll skip as I'm sure you'll spin the loss like you always do.  The guys "played hard til the bitter end" or "kept fighting" or whatever other cliche you'll throw out there.  The fact of the matter is that this season has been a colossal disappointment.  I know you're goal is to make St. John's a consistent winner and a program that doesn't have to sweat out Selection Sundays.  But quite honestly, we're not any closer than we were four years ago.  I'm a Mets and Jets fans too, so I'm familiar with being asked to be patient and that the "plan" will eventually come to fruition.  But the last two years was the waiting part for St. John's.  This team is an NCAA Tournament caliber program.  The NIT is supposed to be a one year stepping stone to the NCAA tournament the following year.  Look no further than the team we beat in the NIT last year and the team we lost to in the second round.  St. Joseph's and Virginia are both improved and are going to the tournament like they were supposed to.

I'm by no means writing you off as St. John's coach.  I do want you here.  The caliber of player you've brought in have been a breath of fresh air after the Mike Jarvis and Norm Roberts years.  But something has to give.  Your guys are juniors and sophomores.  This was the time. 

I know you're probably at the podium making it seem like the NCAA Tournament is still a possibility, but I assure you, it's falling on deaf ears with the selection committee.  It was as soft a tournament bubble as I can remember and by the time a few bids get stolen in these conference tournaments St. John's won't even be mentioned as a bubble team.  This season can only be described as a failure.

Again, the once proud St. John's basketball program will be playing on weekdays during the NCAA Tournament is happening.  Please try to figure it out next year.  We've waited long enough.


Monday, March 10, 2014

The Misclassification of True Detective

True Detective is going to go down as one of television's best shows of 2014.  It was amazingly acted and visually unmatched by anything else currently on television.  But looking back now that it's over, it's funny to think about all the articles and blogs that I've read over the course of the series with all these predictions and theories about who "The Yellow King" was.  The reason it's funny is that True Detective wasn't that kind of show.  The media and fans treated True Detective in the same way they treated Lost.  Combing through the episode more than once looking for clues and Easter eggs that, now that we know the ending, weren't even there.  This show was never about who The Yellow King was.  This show was about the relationship between Marty Hart and Rust Cohle and not much more. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

2014 Newport Folk Festival Lineup Speculation

My counterpart beat me to the punch with his first Newport Folk Festival post of the year.  But now that the Newport Folk Festival set my expectations for the lineup announcement, speculation time officially begins.

Since I started going to the festival in 2008, it has accounted for probably 80% of my yearly music discovery.  I have such a respect for the way that the lineup is put together because bands go from "research" to "bands I'll listen to forever" more often than not.  So when thinking about acts I would like to see at this year's festival, the ones I seem to come up with are mostly the same acts I've been seeing there for years.

It wouldn't be the Newport Folk Festival without Jim James being there in some capacity.  Whether it's solo again, My Morning Jacket, New Multitudes or Monsters of Folk reunion or even just hanging around as a fan sitting in on a song here and there.  Same goes for John McCauley.  Whether it's Deer Tick, solo, Diamond Rugs or a Middle Brother reunion.  Those two have become part of the festival to me.

Some returning acts I'd love to see are The Head and The Heart.  With lineups as good as the Newport Folk Festival there comes a lot of heartbreaking decisions.  In 2011, The Head and The Heart were evenly matched up with Middle Brother.  I tried to bounce back and forth through the tunnel but ultimately it was probably an 85/15 split in Middle Brother's favor.  In 2012, I was bouncing back through the tunnel to see Of Monsters and Men and a little of Gary Clark Jr.  I have no regrets about any of it but I'd love the chance to see The Head and The Heart again in the hopes of a full set.  They are touring this summer behind their new album, but I'm trying not to get my hopes up.  In 2012, one of the albums I really got in to after the lineup was announced was Apache Relay's American Nomad.  That year I brought (at the time) a two year old and and a two month old so we were a little late getting to their set but those last three or four songs I heard left me wanting more.  I believe they are touring behind an album coming in March, so again, I'm trying not to get my hopes up.  Alabama Shakes, First Aid Kit, Tallest Man on Earth...I could actually go on for awhile.

A band I would like to see and whose album has been on heavy rotation for me lately would be Haim.  I'm seeing them pop up at a few other festivals that have had their lineups announced so that would be cool if they were in the area in late July.  Initially I was thinking they might not be the right fit for Fort Adams since they probably classify more as indie pop/rock but Tegan and Sara were there a few years ago and they fit in quite nicely.

No matter what I know I'm not going to be disappointed but half the fun of committing to a music festival is imagining who you might get to see there. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My Newport Folk Festival Lineup Wish List

With tickets already purchased and the lineup still several days away from being announced, I have been killing way too much time thinking about my wish list of performers for this years Newport Folk Festival. Although it's a ridiculous exercise, its enjoyable because there is a solid chance that I land on 1 or 2. And if not, I am certain to be pleased with some of the great surprises they line up for 2014 (Beck last year?!?!)

Below please find the top 10 performers I'd like to see at Fort Adams this year. Keep in mind that I did not include anyone I have already seen during my 4 attended NPFF's nor did I include anyone I thought had no shot of being announced.

10. Josh Ritter - Ritter is tailor made for NPFF and I am borderline shocked that he hasn't surfaced up to this point. I've seen him headline smaller festivals and have no doubt that he would command a huge prescience on any stage.
9. Mike Doughty - I am reluctant to put the former Soul Coughing front man on this list because I have seen him so many times and think his shows lend themselves to small, intimate venues. But far be it from me to keep him in a cage, so let's see him Bust up a Starbucks with the Pell bridge in the background.
8. Jack Johnson - This seems like an odd choice, because JJ hasn't really been in my listening queue lately. But if I am matching artists with the setting, this is a perfect fit.
7. Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - Consider this a "missed opportunity" selection. I absolutely love the new album and am disappointed to not catch any of his local shows (all soldout), so here's hoping I get a shot this July.
6. The New Pornographers - I'm not even sure this is possible considering they haven't played together in ages, but this will be shot in the dark choice. Please note, I'll gladly accept Neko, A.C. Newman or Destroyer as well.
5. Brett Dennen - My wife and I have been on a huge Dennen kick and I am really crossing my fingers that this red haired troubadour is on the NPFF radar screen.
4. Van Morrison - On the list of icons I have yet to see live, Van is on the top.
3. Phoenix - Not sure they fit the mold, but I didn't think the Decemberists did either. I think they have just the right amount of alternative to headline the fest without being out of place.
2. Martin Sexton - I know he has played this festival before, but he has eluded us the last few years. I saw him last week in CT and was reminded how his voice is perhaps the most perfect and powerful out there. Kind of need to hear him crank out "golden road" as the sun sets on the festival.
1. James Taylor - JT has been my favorite singer songwriter of all time, and although I'm unsure if he has ever played the festival before, I think he makes perfect sense. I'm just not sure the festival can afford him but hopefully he has wiggle room for the best festival on the planet.

Monday, January 6, 2014

My Inevitably Bad 2013-2014 College Bowl Picks

Updated through all bowl games

Every couple of days I'll update this post with more games to keep the lines as up to date as possible.  Once I post a pick I won't be changing the line in the post.  I'm getting the lines from Sportsbook.com.

December 21, 2013

Washington State (6-6, 4-5 Pac-12) vs.
Colorado State (7-6, 5-3 MW)
Washington State -5

When picking bowl games I generally look at how motivated a team in to be in the game.  This is a case where both teams are thrilled to be back in a bowl game.  Washington State hasn't been in 10 years and for Colorado State you couple a four year drought with being a potential candidate to not be invited to a bowl(Seven MW teams bowl eligible, 6 tie-ins) and they're plenty happy to be there.  If I'm doing a College Bowl Pick Em using confidence points this one is getting in the running to get the 1.  I'm going to go with Kapri Bibbs and his 1,500+ yards and 28 touchdowns moving the chains and keeping in within range.  Connor Halliday led the nation in attempts and threw 21 picks.  With all those drop backs Shaquil Barrett and his 12 sacks will get a lot of chances to get after him.
The Pick: Colorado State +5

#20 Fresno State (11-1, 7-1 MW) vs.
#25 USC (9-4, 6-3 Pac-12)
USC -6.5

Recruits don't go to USC to play in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl.  After Lane Kiffin got fired they rallied around interim HC
Ed Orgeron so that could have continued to been a rallying point for the team if he was coaching them.  A lot of schools use a bowl game like this as a building block.  USC doesn't need a building block.  They'll reload soon enough.  I'd say Fresno might not be super motivated for this game either since a late loss kept them from a potential BCS Bowl but I'd say having USC as an opponent helps them.  Even though USC isn't a normal USC team, the brand alone would be a nice feather in the cap of Fresno State.  It should be an interesting match up.  Derek Carr is a prolific passer and USC's defense was #1 in the Pac-12.  They held two of the top 5 biggest passers in the conference in check during the regular season.  My biggest worry for USC is their ability to put points on the board.  They have been better since Cody Kessler got the full time job but Silas Redd is probably not playing.
The Pick: Fresno State +6

Buffalo (8-4, 6-2 MAC) vs.
San Diego State (7-5, 6-2 MW)
Buffalo -1

For the one or two people that are going to read this, don't follow me on this pick.  As a Buffalo alum I can't do this objectively.  I do think they'll win the game.  They have arguably the best player on the field when the offense is on the field in Brandon Oliver and definitely the best player on the field when the defense is on the field in Khalil Mack. 
The Pick: Buffalo -1

Tulane (7-5, 5-3 C-USA) vs.
LA-Lafayette (8-4, 5-2 Sun Belt)
Tulane -3

These are two teams that would have benefited by having their bowl game a little later in the schedule as both teams have banged up QBs at the moment.  LA-Lafayette's Terrance Broadway didn't play in their season finale.  He's the reigning MVP of this game and the Ragin' Cajuns are going for their 3rd straight New Orleans Bowl victory so they are familiar with playing in the Super Dome.  Not as familiar as Tulane though who called the Super Dome home during the regular season.  Nick Montana aggravated a separated shoulder in the regular season finale so he'll be dealing with that.  Tulane was 5-1 at the Super Dome with their best win being against East Carolina.  But even with Montana healthy the Tulane offense has been anemic lately.  I'm assuming this line is because of Broadway's injury.  I'm going on the assumption that he's going to play.
The Pick: LA-Lafayette +3

December 23, 2013


Ohio (7-5, 4-4 MAC) vs.
East Carolina (9-3, 6-2 C-USA)
East Carolina -14

I generally don't like taking this many points in bowl games but Ohio really hasn't been a good football team lately.  You can point to the three game losing streak in November but it goes back further than that.  Since their loss to Central Michigan on 10/12 they are 3-3 but their three wins in that stretch came against teams who are a combined 3-33 so I don't put much stock in those.  East Carolina lights up the scoreboard with over 40 points a game.  I'm counting on this one being a laugher.
The Pick: East Carolina -14

December 24, 2013

Boise State (8-4, 6-2 MW) vs.
Oregon State (6-6, 4-5 Pac-12)
Oregon State -3

At one point during the year, Oregon State was 6-1 overall and 4-0 in the Pac-12.  Sean Mannion was completing 68.6% percent of his passes and was sporting a 29-3 touchdown to interception ratio.  Then came the good teams.  Now Oregon State has lost 5 straight and Mannion has thrown 7 TDs and 11 Picks.  All that being said, Oregon State's strength is throwing the ball and Boise isn't very good at stopping it.  Oregon State is also stingy on defense against the pass.  Couple that with Boise is playing without their head coach, I'm thinking Boise's bowl winning streak ends this year.
The Pick: Oregon State -3

December 26, 2013

Pittsburgh (6-6, 3-5 ACC) vs.
Bowling Green (10-3, 7-1 MAC)
Bowling Green -5.5

Bowling Green can play defense and move the ball in the air on and the ground.  They just played at Ford Field in their last game when they crushed Northern Illinois' BCS Bowl dreams.  They will be playing with an interim head coach since their head coach, Dave Clawson, took the job at Wake Forest (where he can play Pitt more often now).  Tom Savage is an adequate QB and Pitt does have some good weapons at receiver and a super stud at defensive tackle.  I think this is a field goal game in either direction.
The Pick: Pittsburgh +5.5

Utah State (8-5, 7-1 MW) vs.
#23 Northern Illinois (12-1, 8-0 MAC)
Northern Illinois -2.5

There are two things that has me going against Northern Illinois in this game.  First, the Poinsettia Bowl is a far cry from the BCS Bowl they were one win away from getting to.  Second, watching the MAC Conference Championship, I saw a good defense contain Jordan Lynch.  Utah State has that type of defense.  The Aggies lost Chuckie Keeton during the season but they were only 3-4 when they went down and Darell Garretson has filled in admirably.  After getting a taste of a BCS Bowl last year and falling short this year, I'm not seeing Northern Illinois getting up for this one.
The Pick: Utah State +2.5

December 27, 2013


Marshall (9-4, 7-1 C-USA) vs.
Maryland (7-5 3-5 ACC)
Marshall -2

This line seems a little low for me which sets off an alarm.  Maryland is dinged up and Marshall's offense is very potent.  This feels a lot like the East Carolina/Ohio game except Maryland is better than Ohio.  Even after losing two of their top receivers, Maryland did find a way to start moving the ball against towards the end of the year.  But ultimately I think this will be a close game through with Marshall pulling away by two scores late in the game.
The Pick: Marshall -2

Syracuse (6-6, 4-4 ACC) vs.
Minnesota (8-4, 4-4 Big Ten)
Minnesota -5

Minnesota's season is why it's best to look preseason rankings as  a way to give sports writers something to do to earn their paycheck in the off season.  The Gophers were largely picked to finish last in the Legends division of the Big Ten but turned in a season where they almost popped their head in on the Top 25.  I don't like to look at common opponents, but in this case Cuse did lose to Penn State and Northwestern earlier in the year with Minnesota beating them both.  With everything that went on with Minnesota coach, Jerry Kill, I think Minnesota is just destined to win this game but I don't think it would be my more than a TD.
The Pick: Syracuse +5

BYU (8-4) vs.
Washington (8-4, 5-4 Pac-12)
Washington -3.5

If it wouldn't surprise you if the underdog won the game, take the points.  That's a betting rule I mostly try to follow.  In this case you have two powerful offenses and the favorite is playing this game without their head coach.  I think BYU can win so I'm taking the points.
The Pick:  BYU +3.5

 December 28, 2013

Rutgers (6-6, 3-5 American) vs.
Notre Dame (8-4)
Notre Dame -14

I'm not really going to waste a lot of time on this game.  Rutgers is a bad football team.  They are lucky that the NY/NJ area has a bowl game because the geographic appeal of them playing in it makes it a little more interesting.  Notre Dame will draw very well so it won't even feel like a Rutgers home game either.  Rutgers' best win was probably against SMU while ND has the scalps of #4 Michigan State, #14 Arizona State and #25 USC.  I'd take ND if the line was -20.
The Pick: Notre Dame -14

Cincinnati (9-3, 6-2 American) vs.
North Carolina (6-6, 4-4 ACC)
North Carolina -3

Both teams come in on a hot stretch with both losing their regular season finale.  Cincinnati has won 6 of their last 7 and UNC overcame a 1-5 start to finish 5-1 and get bowl eligibility.  I'm very anti-American Athletic Conference and I don't really see any quality wins down the stretch and I think UNC's offense is a tick better.
The Pick: North Carolina -3

Miami(FL) (9-3, 5-3 ACC) vs.
#18 Louisville (11-1, 7-1 American)
Louisville -3.5

This game has a few fun story lines.  This teams will be conference mates next season, Teddy Bridgewater originally committed to Miami and this could probably be his last collegiate game.  Louisville is interesting.  They were in the Top 10 in both polls before getting tripped up by UCF which sent them to a 12 spot fall in the polls where they just kind of remained because of the weakness of the AAC.  Knowing what the voters know now that UCF is pretty good football team, would Louisville still be around the Top 10?  That's neither here nor there.  If the coaching staff is nice, they'll let Bridgewater fling the ball all over the field in his probable swan song.  In cases like that you can worry that you can be susceptible to turnovers, but Bridgewater only has 4 picks all year.
The Pick: Louisville -3.5

Michigan (7-5, 3-5 Big Ten) vs
Kansas State (7-5, 5-4 Big 12)
Kansas State -5

This game is supposed to pit the #4 Big Ten team vs the #4 Big 12 team.  The Big 12 sent two teams to the BCS games so K-State gets bumped to this game while the bowl chose to bring Michigan over Nebraska because they are more marketable.  Seems like a mistake now that Devin Gardner broke his foot and freshman Shane Morris is now starting the game.  I'm not going to pretend to know anything about Morris other than that he was recruited with a big arm.  Maybe he can still get Jeremy Gallon his full allotment of touches but it's not just the passing offense that's affected, Gardner was the teams second leading rusher as well.  I generally bet against the unknown which we do have a lot of on Michigan's side.
The Pick: Kansas State -5

December 30, 2013

Middle Tennessee State (8-4, 6-2 C-USA) vs
Navy (8-4)
Navy -6

Sure MTSU won it's last 5 games and started the string by beating Marshall which is what counts for a good win in Conference USA but their last 4 wins have come against teams with a combined 6-42.  So it's hard to tell whether or not MTSU is truly playing their best ball of the season or just beat up on the dregs of a bad football conference.  It's not like Navy's last 4 wins were against world beaters either but they did beat Pitt and made a solid showing in almost going in to South Bend and beating Notre Dame which is a lot more that MTSU can say.  Plus, Navy has record setting QB Keenan Reynolds who will pad his single season TD record in this one.
The Pick: Navy -6

Ole Miss (7-5, 3-5 SEC) vs.
Georgia Tech (7-5, 5-3 ACC)
Ole Miss -3

Ole Miss' season was a disappointment and they ended the season on a two game losing streak.  That all being said, I think they have more play makers than Georgia Tech and should win this by at least a TD
The Pick: Ole Miss -3

 #10 Oregon (10-2, 7-2 Pac-12) vs.
Texas (8-4, 7-2 Big 12)
Oregon -14.5

Despite their 1-2 start, Texas rebounded and had a pretty decent season.  They had a chance at the Big 12 championship in their last game at Baylor.  We all know what Oregon is.  They'll likely light up the scoreboard and this will be a shootout.  I think Texas plays hard in Mack Brown's last game and keeps in within the points.
The Pick: Texas +14.5

 #14 Arizona State (10-3, 8-1 Pac-12) vs.
Texas Tech (7-5, 4-5 Big 12)
Arizona State -15.5

I'm very tempted to just take Arizona State and assume the laugher.  But this is one of those games where you wonder how motivated Arizona State is.  They lost a game at home to miss out on the Rose Bowl and they were given an uninspiring opponent who ended the season on a 5 game losing streak.  But Texas Tech isn't good.  It's a lot of points to give in a bowl game but I don't think this will be close.
The Pick: Arizona State -15.5

December 31, 2013

Arizona (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12) vs.
Boston College (7-5, 4-4 ACC)
Arizona -7

For a couple of teams who couldn't break .500 in their respective conferences this game features arguably the two best running backs in the country.  The X factor for me is the QB position.  B.J. Denker gives the dual threat that I think will put Arizona over.  That being said, these two teams are pretty equal and I think the touchdown line is too high.
The Pick: Boston College +7

Virginia Tech (8-4, 5-3 ACC) vs.
#17 UCLA (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12)

UCLA is ranked and has a QB shooting up draft boards but Virginia Tech sports one of the best defense in all of college football.  The big problem is Virginia Tech's inability to score points.  I think they put up enough points to keep this within the spread.
The Pick: Virginia Tech +8

Rice (10-3, 7-1 C-USA) vs.
Mississippi State (6-6, 3-5 SEC)
Mississippi State -7

Normally I'd say any SEC wouldn't be super motivated to play in the Liberty Bowl but Mississippi State had to scratch and claw with two OT wins to close out the season to even become bowl eligible so I'm sure they are happy to have another game.  Rice is a decent running team and they will be able to move the chains but the disparity of the level of competition these two team played is so great that I don't see Rice throwing a whole lot at Miss St that they have seen done and done a lot better.
The Pick: Mississippi State -7

Chick-fil-A BOWL - ATLANTA, GA
#24 Duke (10-3, 6-2 ACC) vs.
#21 Texas A&M (8-4, 4-4 SEC)
Texas A&M -13.5

Duke had a chance for a BCS bowl before running in to Florida State in the ACC championship.  Normally I'd take pause and consider the motivation factor but in Duke's case, this kind of success is still uncharted territory.  And being that Johnny Manziel is on the field, this is a big stage for Duke.  I think Texas A&M will win this game but Duke can score and A&M's D is allowing 31 PPG so they can be scored upon.
The Pick: Duke +13.5 

January 1, 2013

Nebraska (8-4, 5-3 Big Ten) vs.
#22 Georgia (8-4, 5-3)
Georgia -8.5

Taylor Martinez!  Aaron Murray!...are not playing.  Both team are heading in to this game with their back up QBs.  I like Georgia to win this one but probably not by over a TD.
The Pick: Nebraska +8.5

UNLV (7-5, 5-3 MW) vs.
North Texas (8-4, 6-2 C-USA)
North Texas -7

North Texas is coming in on a hot streak and this game is pretty close to the North Texas campus.
The Pick: North Texas -7

Iowa (8-4, 5-3 Big Ten) vs.
#16 LSU (9-3, 5-3 SEC)
LSU - 8.5

Being without Zach Mettenberger changes this game dramatically.  Iowa's defense is solid and while LSU has the skill position players to make plays on them, it's a matter if Anthony Jennings can get the ball in their hand.  Kirk Ferentz usually has Iowa up for Bowl games.  8.5 is too much.
The Pick: Iowa +8.5

#19 Wisconsin (9-3, 6-2 Big Ten) vs.
#9 South Carolina (10-2, 6-2 SEC)

Wisconsin has a stout defense and a solid running game.  I don't see Jadeveon Clowney making an impact today as he seems to be in "just get to the NFL draft without getting hurt" mode.  Connor Shaw has a knack for making big plays for South Carolina but I think he'll come up a little short in this one.
The Pick: Wisconsin

#5 Stanford (11-2, 7-2 Pac-12) vs.
#4 Michigan State (12-1, 8-0 Big Ten)
Stanford -7

My heart is with Michigan State in this one after they crushed Ohio State's dreams of the BCS Championship game but I didn't think the Big 10 was very good this year, Stanford has better skill position players and Michigan State is missing Max Bullough.  I'd like it to be closer than a TD game but I think Stanford pulls away by two scores late.
The Pick: Stanford -7

#15 UCF (11-1, 8-0 AAC) vs.
#6 Baylor (11-1, 8-1 Big 12)
Baylor -17

A lot is being said about Blake Bortles and his rise up the NFL draft boards.  But the fact of the matter is that he's not in the NFL yet and while the QB on the other sideline isn't the pro prospect Bortles is, in the college game there is no QB edge to either team in this one.  I think this game goes similar to last year's BCS Bowl crasher Northern Illinois/Florida State game(albeit higher scoring).  Baylor pulls away and wins this comfortably.
The Pick: Baylor -17

January 2, 2013

 #11 Oklahoma (10-2, 7-2 Big 12) vs.
#3 Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC)
Alabama -17

Again I hate taking so many points in a BCS bowl game but Alabama is arguably the best team in the country done in by a fluke play.  I do question their motivation in this game but it's hard to bet against a winner like AJ McCarron to lose in this last game.  Oklahoma's running game is really solid but their passing game isn't good enough for Alabama not to load up to stop the run.
The Pick: Alabama -17

January 3, 2013

#13 Oklahoma State (10-2, 7-2 Big 12) vs.
#8 Missouri (11-2, 7-1 SEC)
Oklahoma State -2

This one is going to come down to who scores last.  Oklahoma State has won the last three times they played but that was when Missouri was in the Big 12.  Now they have been battle tested in the tougher SEC.  This is a toss up.
The Pick: Missouri -2

#12 Clemson (10-2, 7-1 ACC) vs.
#7 Ohio State (12-1, 8-0 Big 10)
Ohio State -3

I think Ohio State was so sure they were going to play for the BCS Championship that they overlooked Michigan State.  Ohio State is the slightly better team but I don't think they are going to be as motivated to be here and Clemson.
The Pick: Clemson +3

January 4, 2013

Vanderbilt (8-4, 4-4 SEC) vs
Houston (8-4, 5-3 AAC)
Vanderbilt -3

I think this is a field goal game in either direction.  Jordan Matthews is one of my favorite players in college football.  When Vandy passes the ball everyone knows where it's going yet he still racks up catches.  Houston has the nations best turnover margin and Vandy's QBs do throw some picks in their limited throws. The Pick: Houston +3

January 5, 2013

Arkansas State (7-5, 5-2 Sun Belt) vs.
Ball State (10-2, 7-1 MAC)
Ball State -7

This is Arkansas State's third straight trip to this bowl and for the third time it will be coached by an interim head coach.  But the interim head coach coaching this year was the interim head coach for the bowl last year.  Got it?  That being said, I still like them to win the game outright.  Ball State is a good team but I just have a feeling.
The Pick: Arkansas State +7

January 5, 2014

#1 Florida State (12-1, 7-1 SEC) vs.
#2 Auburn (12-1, 7-1 SEC)
Florida State -10

The tough thing about having a month between these two teams' last game and the BCS Championship is that It gives me time to be swayed.  Ask me when this game was made official and I automatically pick Florida State.  I'm not one to bow at the alter of the SEC but Auburn's road to this game was monumentally harder (and luckier).  The moment I got on board with FSU was when they went in to (#3 at the time) Clemson and destroyed them.  From that moment I knew they'd be in this game.  But a closer look at their schedule and you see that this will technically be the third ranked team they've played all year.  Maryland and Miami were both ranked when they played them but since then they are both outside the top 25.  This will be Auburn's sixth ranked team and second #1 team they've played.  Another side effect of having so much time between games and read enough that I'm now convinced Gus Malzahn is now some kind of offensive super genius.  On the flip side, Florida State has rolled people all year.  Regardless of how difficult their schedule was, they will be confident.  If you are betting on Florida State then you are probably assuming a 50-27 type of game.  A bet for Auburn and you are banking on Auburn punching them in the mouth early and seeing how they handle adversity since they really haven't done that all year.  Time has made me change my tune and I'm going with the latter.
The Pick: Auburn +10