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

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 

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