The Pi-Rate Ratings

December 13, 2011

PiRate Ratings: NFL For Week 15–December 15-19, 2011

How Things Stand With Three Weeks To Go

We have been projecting our playoff teams for several weeks, and there has been little movement.  So, beginning this week, we will show you where any possible moves may come from.  First, let’s reveal the legitimate play-off tiebreaking procedures.  There are more than what we show, but the chances that any of them will ever be used is infinitesimal.

 

To Break A Tie Within A Division:

1. Head-to-head record—if one team sweeps the other or goes 1-0-1, stop here.

2. Division W-L record

3. Common Games W-L record

4. Conference W-L record

5. Strength of victory (Combined W-L % of all teams defeated)

6. Strength of schedule (Combined W-L% of all teams played)

 

To Break A Tie For The Wildcard Between Two Teams (Different Divisions)

1. Head to head

2. Conference W-L record

3. Common Games W-L record (Must be at least 4 common games)

4. Strength of victory (Combined W-L % of all teams defeated)

5. Strength of schedule (Combined W-L% of all teams played)

 

To Break A Tie Of Multiple Teams For the Wildcard:

First, if any of these tied teams are in the same division, apply the division tiebreaker to come up with just one team per division.

 

1. Head-to-head sweep by one team over all the other teams in the tiebreaker

2. Conference W-L record

3. Common Games W-L record (Must be at least 4 common games for all teams)

4. Strength of victory (Combined W-L % of all teams defeated)

5. Strength of schedule (Combined W-L% of all teams played)

 

Here is a brief tutorial of all eight divisions after 14 weeks.

 

NFC East

The New York Giants currently hold the tiebreaker over Dallas, because of head-to-head.  Of course, they have to play Dallas in week 17.  Both are 2-2 in the division.  Dallas has a 5-4 conference record while the Giants are just 4-6.  Dallas has two other conference games prior to the finale with the Giants—at Tampa Bay and at home against Philadelphia.  New York hosts Washington this week and must win to have any chance to win the division if they lose to Dallas in week 17 and finish tied in the standings.

 

In the event that New York beats Washington and loses to Dallas, while the Cowboys lose to Philadelphia and beat Tampa Bay, the top two tiebreakers would push.  In common games, the Giants would win the tiebreaker.

 

The key game may very well be the Giants-Jets game.  If the Jets win, Dallas could win the East outright with a win in week 17.  The Cowboys are very much alive in the wildcard race, and at 10-6, their chances of getting in would be high.  There are still too many possibilities to go into all the different tiebreakers.

 

NFC South

New Orleans is up two with three to go, and the Saints will not lose three in a row.  Atlanta is leading in the wildcard race, holding the tiebreaker over Detroit.  The Falcons host Jacksonville and should pick up a ninth win this weekend.  In week 16, they face the Saints in New Orleans, and the Saints are tough at home and will be looking for the #2 seed.  A week 17 home game with Tampa Bay gives the Falcons an excellent chance to clinch the #5 seed.

 

NFC North

Green Bay has already clinched the division and has almost clinched homefield advantage to the Super Bowl. 

 

Detroit holds onto the second wildcard spot at the moment, while Chicago is one game back.  This is an interesting possible tiebreaker.  Both the Lions and Bears face the Packers in Green Bay.  For argument’s sake, let’s say the Packers win both.  Chicago finishes at Minnesota in week 17, and the Bears would have to win and hope the Lions lose to Oakland this week and San Diego next week, because Detroit would win the tiebreaker if they finished tied.  Basically, Chicago has to win out and have Green Bay beat Detroit to move ahead of the Lions.  That means winning at Lambeau Field.

 

NFC West

San Francisco has already clinched the division.  Seattle and Arizona have very slim chances at wildcard bids.  Either will have to win out to finish at 9-7 and then hope that three from among the NFC East runnerup, Atlanta, Detroit, and Chicago fell to 9-7 or worse.

 

AFC East

New England has a commanding lead and would have to lose out not to win the division.  Forget that happening; the Pats are in.

 

The Jets were almost given up for dead a few weeks ago, after they fell to 5-5 with a loss to King Tebow and the Broncos.  Coach Rex Ryan’s troops have won three in a row to take over the second playoff spot.  The Jets have two pivotal games against the NFC East—The Eagles and Giants—before finishing at Miami in week 17.  If they drop one of these games and finish at 10-6, then they could lose out to Tennessee if the Titans close with three wins.  Tennessee has an easy closing three games and could run the table.

 

AFC South

Houston won its first division title with their win over Cincinnati.  They can still earn homefield advantage to the Super Bowl, and if it could play a direct role in determining the wildcard.  The Texans should dismiss Carolina and Indianapolis the next two week to move to 12-3.  They would then earn the top seed with a week 17 victory over the Titans.

 

Here is where things get interesting.  Tennessee has Indianapolis and Jacksonville the next two weeks and should be 9-6 when they close the season at Houston.  If the Jets have lost a game, then the Titans would earn the final wildcard spot with a win.  If Houston is playing for homefield advantage, the Texans would use all their regulars and should win.  If homefield advantage is not an issue, because the Texans have already clinched, or been eliminated, look for Tennessee to win against Houston’s reserves. 

 

AFC North

Pittsburgh and Baltimore are tied for first and both headed to the playoffs.  The Steelers have a crucial game at San Francisco this week.  They host the Rams next week before finishing at Cleveland in week 17; that is a trap game if there ever was one.

 

Baltimore has its own trap game.  The Ravens go to San Diego this week, and the Chargers are playing like they were supposed to all along.  Baltimore has been stung on three road games this year, and this one has them travelling three time zones to the West Coast.  The Ravens close with Cleveland at home and Cincinnati on the road.  We expect the Bengals to be out of the race by that time, so Baltimore should be okay for that road game.

 

If the Ravens and Steelers finished tied, Baltimore wins the tiebreaker by virtue of better division record.  Either way, the runnerup will be the #5 seed.

 

AFC West

Can anybody stop the Tebow Express?  Yes, and it will happen this week, when New England wins by more than a touchdown.  However, the Broncos close with Buffalo and Kansas City, two teams the Broncos can beat.  So, let’s figure Denver to finish 10-6.

 

San Diego is 6-7 and thus would be eliminated from the race if that happens.  Oakland is 7-6, so what happens if the Raiders were to win out and finish 7-6?  Denver would still win the tiebreaker based on a better conference record.

 

So, what if Denver goes 9-7, losing at Buffalo in week 16, while Oakland and/or San Diego finish 9-7 as well?  Denver wins all tiebreakers again.  The only way for either Oakland or San Diego to win the division is to pass Denver in the standings.  It looks like Tebow will play in January.

 

This Week’s PiRate Ratings

NFC East

PiRate

Mean

Biased

HFA

Won

 

Lost

 

Tied

Pts

Opp

New York Giants

102.3

101.4

102.8

1.5

7

6

0

324

349

Dallas Cowboys

101.5

101.5

101.4

3.5

7

6

0

317

281

Philadelphia Eagles

101.1

99.8

99.8

2

5

8

0

297

292

Washington Redskins

93.7

95.0

94.4

3

4

9

0

229

290

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NFC North

PiRate

Mean

Biased

HFA

Won

 

Lost

 

Tied

Pts

Opp

Green Bay Packers

114.0

113.2

109.8

3

13

0

0

466

278

Detroit Lions

101.7

103.5

103.1

2.5

8

5

0

367

305

Chicago Bears

95.7

96.6

100.2

4

7

6

0

301

255

Minnesota Vikings

94.6

94.3

92.6

4

2

11

0

274

364

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NFC South

PiRate

Mean

Biased

HFA

Won

 

Lost

 

Tied

Pts

Opp

New Orleans Saints

109.6

108.9

105.8

5

10

3

0

415

286

Atlanta Falcons

105.0

104.2

106.0

3

8

5

0

300

267

Carolina Panthers

96.4

96.9

98.2

2

4

9

0

313

355

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

92.0

92.9

94.5

2.5

4

9

0

232

370

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NFC West

PiRate

Mean

Biased

HFA

Won

 

Lost

 

Tied

Pts

Opp

San Francisco 49ers

105.3

106.0

104.7

3.5

10

3

0

307

182

Seattle Seahawks

98.7

99.4

99.9

3

6

7

0

246

259

Arizona Cardinals

98.2

97.8

100.9

2.5

6

7

0

253

288

St. Louis Rams

90.9

90.1

88.0

2

2

11

0

153

326

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFC East

PiRate

Mean

Biased

HFA

Won

 

Lost

 

Tied

Pts

Opp

New England Patriots

109.2

108.4

107.8

1.5

10

3

0

396

274

New York Jets

104.8

104.5

102.7

3.5

8

5

0

327

270

Miami Dolphins

102.2

101.0

100.2

3

4

9

0

256

246

Buffalo Bills

92.7

95.5

98.8

4.5

5

8

0

288

341

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFC North

PiRate

Mean

Biased

HFA

Won

 

Lost

 

Tied

Pts

Opp

Pittsburgh Steelers

108.2

107.6

105.4

4.5

10

3

0

282

198

Baltimore Ravens

106.9

107.1

107.2

4

10

3

0

320

202

Cincinnati Bengals

98.2

99.2

101.7

2

7

6

0

285

270

Cleveland Browns

94.3

95.1

94.1

2

4

9

0

178

254

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFC South

PiRate

Mean

Biased

HFA

Won

 

Lost

 

Tied

Pts

Opp

Houston Texans

102.0

103.3

103.9

1.5

10

3

0

330

208

Tennessee Titans

100.7

100.9

100.6

1.5

7

6

0

266

251

Jacksonville Jaguars

98.5

97.1

94.6

3

4

9

0

193

252

Indianapolis Colts

90.0

88.1

86.3

2

0

13

0

184

382

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFC West

PiRate

Mean

Biased

HFA

Won

 

Lost

 

Tied

Pts

Opp

San Diego Chargers

102.8

101.3

100.7

2.5

6

7

0

324

299

Denver Broncos

98.0

98.8

102.4

1.5

8

5

0

269

302

Oakland Raiders

97.4

97.5

99.2

1.5

7

6

0

290

354

Kansas City Chiefs

94.7

92.7

92.3

1.5

5

8

0

173

305

 

This Week’s PiRate, Mean, and Biased Spreads

Week: 15—December 15-19, 2011

Vegas Line as of December 13, 4:30 PM EST

 

Home Team in CAPS

Favorite Underdog

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Vegas

Totals

ATLANTA Jacksonville

9.5

10.1

14.4

11   

42 1/2

Dallas TAMPA BAY

7.0

6.1

4.4

7   

46 1/2

NEW YORK GIANTS Washington

10.1

7.9

9.9

7   

45 1/2

Green Bay KANSAS CITY

13.8

19.0

16.0

14   

45 1/2

New Orleans MINNESOTA

11.0

10.6

9.2

7   

50 1/2

CHICAGO Seattle

1.0

1.2

4.3

3 1/2

35 1/2

BUFFALO Miami

5.0

1.0

-3.1

1   

42 1/2

HOUSTON Carolina

7.1

7.9

7.2

6 1/2

46   

Tennessee INDIANAPOLIS

8.7

10.8

12.3

6 1/2

41   

Cincinnati ST. LOUIS

5.3

7.1

11.7

6   

38 1/2

Detroit OAKLAND

2.8

4.5

2.4

1   

47 1/2

New England DENVER

9.7

8.1

3.9

6   

45 1/2

PHILADELPHIA New York Jets

1.7

2.7

0.9

2 1/2

44   

ARIZONA Cleveland

6.4

5.2

9.3

6 1/2

37 1/2

Baltimore SAN DIEGO

1.6

3.3

4.0

2 1/2

44   

SAN FRANCISCO Pittsburgh

0.6

1.9

2.8

2   

40 1/2

 

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December 6, 2011

PiRate Ratings: NFL For Week 14–December 8-12, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 9:06 pm

It Can’t Work, So Now Look For More Teams To Try It

How many weeks in a row have you heard some NFL pundit proclaim that Denver’s option offense cannot work, even with the great Tim Tebow running the team and with two excellent running backs in Willis McGahee and Lance Ball?  Throw in a healthy Knowshon Moreno, assuming he will come back full strength from his knee injury in 2012, and this offense could put up more rushing yards than the old Miami Dolphins Super Bowl Champion teams in 1972 and 1973.

 

With Tebow as starting quarterback, Denver has averaged 200 rushing yards per game on 40 attempts for a 5.0 average per rush.  The 1972 Dolphins averaged 211 rushing yards per game (with Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris both topping 1,000 yards rushing) on 44 attempts (4.8 avg. per rush).  The 1958 Cleveland Browns, with the greatest running back ever in Jim Brown, averaged 211 rushing yards per game on 40 attempts (5.3 avg per rush).

 

Let’s address some of the issues these so-called experts drag up every week.

 

1. You cannot win if you don’t have a top passing quarterback.

First of all, Tebow’s QB passer rating is 87.9.  That would place him 10th in the league if he had enough attempts to qualify.  He is ahead of Carson Palmer, Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez, Cam Newton, Phillip Rivers, and Jay Cutler this season. 

 

Second, Tebow’s stats are not the liability experts believe them to be.  With him at QB, Coach John Fox has relied on longer passing plays, ala the old days of the American Football League.  Tebow’s numbers look like an old AFL quarterback’s stats.  He is completing 47.5% of his passes, which is about what Joe Namath completed.  He is averaging 14.1 yards per completion, which is what Namath and Daryle Lamonica averaged when the Jets and Raiders led the AFL in offense.  Best of all, Tebow has tossed 10 touchdown passes against just one interception, something that speaks more of Bart Starr at his peak with the Packers.

 

2. Tebow is going to get hit so many times, he will never withstand it and miss several games.

 

Tebow is 6-3 and 245 pounds, and he carries the ball about 10-12 times per game on average.  Arian Foster is 6-1 and 224 and carries the ball about twice that much.  Tebow stands just as much if not more chance of getting hurt standing back in the pocket than when he is on the move, and by being on the move, his momentum makes him more like Csonka and Brown, or like Joe Kapp or Tobin Rote, quarterbacks from the 1960’s that were known to throw their powerful bodies at smaller defensive backs.

 

Did the pundits of the day question Vince Lombardi when he moved quarterback Paul Hornung to running back and give him the ball 15 times a game? 

 

3. Defenses can stop this offense by putting 8 or 9 in the box.

 

All NFL teams put 8 or 9 in the box in short yardage situations and near the goalline, yet teams still convert for first downs and touchdowns.  Most teams have just one running threat, and defenses can key on that one back, and yet the backs frequently find success.

 

Denver has two and sometimes three backs that can threaten the defense on a play.  If the defense overreacts to the threat of the first runner, they could be burned if he is only being used as a fake.  Throw 8 or 9 defenders to the line and make the wrong move, and any back can burn a defense for a long gain. 

 

Also, when Tebow throws, he often goes deep or at least 5-10 yards longer than most teams go these days.  Just one long completion is enough to turn a game around.  Tebow may throw deep 5 or more times in a game, and if he completed just one, that usually will be enough to force defenses to put only 7 in the box.  Just the threat of the deep pass is enough in itself.  He may not be Aaron Rodgers, but he isn’t Jimmy Clausen either.

 

This new option offense being used by the Broncos may be so impossible to succeed in the NFL, that by next year, you could see two or three more teams trying it out.

 

The truth is that any offense that threatens to stretch the field horizontally and vertically has a chance to succeed if the blocking is good enough.  Yes, it is the offensive line that really determines how good an offense will be.  Tebow will succeed or not succeed based on how the five Horses up front perform.

 

Let us take a look at one other team from the past—the 1976 New England Patriots.  Coach Chuck Fairbanks had come to the NFL from Oklahoma, where he made the Sooners the most lethal running team of all time.  His 1971 team averaged over 470 yards rushing per game.  Prior to 1976, the Patriots had failed as a passing team with Jim Plunkett manning the controls.  Fairbanks turned to youthful Steve Grogan to pilot the Pat Attack.  He had Andy Johnson and Sam “Bam” Cunningham as his principle backs in a split backfield.  The Patriots surprised everyone by running to an 11-3-0 record and earning a wildcard berth.  They penned the only loss on the Raiders, blowing Oakland off the field 48-17.

 

In the playoffs, the Patriots faced the Raiders at Oakland in the opening round.  They led 21-10 at the start of the fourth quarter and were leading 21-17 late in the game when Oakland faced a crucial third and long.  Quarterback Ken Stabler dropped back to pass, and fired off target bringing up fourth and long—except, the referee tossed a flag.  He called a roughing the passer penalty on the Patriots and every camera on instant replay showed there was no roughing.  The penalty gave the Raiders a first down, and they scored the winning touchdown in the final moments. 

 

That Patriot team was good enough to win the Super Bowl.  They were definitely better than the Super Bowl Champion Raiders.  New England could not throw the ball at all.  Grogan’s passer rating was a paltry 60.6.  However, he could run the ball, and he averaged better than six yards per attempt.  Overall, the Pats rushed for 211 yards on 42 attempts (5.0 avg per carry).  They averaged only 125 passing yards per game, more than 25 yards less per game than the Broncos when Tebow starts.

 

PiRate Ratings For The Week

NFC East

PiRate

Mean

Biased

HFA

Won

 

Lost

 

Tied

Pts

Opp

Dallas Cowboys

102.2

103.1

104.5

3.5

7

5

0

283

244

New York Giants

101.6

100.5

102.7

2

6

6

0

287

315

Philadelphia Eagles

98.6

98.5

98.1

2.5

4

8

0

271

282

Washington Redskins

92.9

94.0

93.6

3

4

8

0

202

256

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NFC North

PiRate

Mean

Biased

HFA

Won

 

Lost

 

Tied

Pts

Opp

Green Bay Packers

113.3

112.3

109.3

3

12

0

0

420

262

Detroit Lions

102.0

104.9

102.3

2.5

7

5

0

333

277

Chicago Bears

95.5

95.1

99.0

4

7

5

0

291

242

Minnesota Vikings

94.3

94.5

91.6

4

2

10

0

246

330

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NFC South

PiRate

Mean

Biased

HFA

Won

 

Lost

 

Tied

Pts

Opp

New Orleans Saints

109.8

108.7

106.4

5

9

3

0

393

269

Atlanta Falcons

104.9

104.0

105.6

2.5

7

5

0

269

244

Carolina Panthers

96.5

96.6

98.9

2

4

8

0

290

324

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

94.0

94.6

97.5

2

4

8

0

218

329

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NFC West

PiRate

Mean

Biased

HFA

Won

 

Lost

 

Tied

Pts

Opp

San Francisco 49ers

106.0

106.6

104.9

3

10

2

0

288

161

Seattle Seahawks

98.2

98.9

96.9

3

5

7

0

216

246

Arizona Cardinals

97.5

96.4

100.3

2.5

5

7

0

232

269

St. Louis Rams

91.4

90.4

87.8

2.5

2

10

0

140

296

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFC East

PiRate

Mean

Biased

HFA

Won

 

Lost

 

Tied

Pts

Opp

New England Patriots

110.0

109.6

108.1

1.5

9

3

0

362

247

Miami Dolphins

104.7

104.1

104.4

4

4

8

0

246

220

New York Jets

103.6

103.7

100.5

3

7

5

0

290

260

Buffalo Bills

93.7

97.0

100.7

4

5

7

0

278

304

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFC North

PiRate

Mean

Biased

HFA

Won

 

Lost

 

Tied

Pts

Opp

Pittsburgh Steelers

108.6

108.1

105.0

5

9

3

0

268

195

Baltimore Ravens

107.2

107.7

107.0

4

9

3

0

296

192

Cincinnati Bengals

98.2

98.9

102.5

1.5

7

5

0

266

250

Cleveland Browns

93.9

94.8

94.8

2.5

4

8

0

175

240

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFC South

PiRate

Mean

Biased

HFA

Won

 

Lost

 

Tied

Pts

Opp

Houston Texans

102.0

101.3

101.6

1.5

9

3

0

310

189

Tennessee Titans

100.5

100.8

102.5

2

7

5

0

249

229

Jacksonville Jaguars

96.5

96.1

93.0

2.5

3

9

0

152

238

Indianapolis Colts

89.7

88.4

85.9

2.5

0

12

0

174

358

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFC West

PiRate

Mean

Biased

HFA

Won

 

Lost

 

Tied

Pts

Opp

San Diego Chargers

101.8

99.9

100.1

2.5

5

7

0

287

289

Denver Broncos

98.2

97.8

101.0

1.5

7

5

0

256

292

Oakland Raiders

98.1

99.2

99.9

1.5

7

5

0

274

308

Kansas City Chiefs

95.9

93.6

93.5

1

5

7

0

163

268

 

PiRate, Mean, and Biased Spreads For This Week

Home Team in CAPS

Vegas Line as of: Tuesday, December 06, 2011 @ 5:00 PM EST

 

Favorite Underdog

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Vegas

Totals

PITTSBURGH Cleveland

19.7

18.3

15.2

14   

39   

BALTIMORE Indianapolis

21.5

23.3

25.1

16 1/2

41   

Houston CINCINNATI

2.3

0.9

-2.4

-3   

37 1/2

GREEN BAY Oakland

18.2

16.1

12.4

11   

52 1/2

NEW YORK JETS Kansas City

10.7

13.1

10.0

9   

36 1/2

DETROIT Minnesota

10.2

12.9

13.2

7   

48 1/2

New Orleans TENNESSEE

7.3

5.9

1.9

4   

48 1/2

MIAMI Philadelphia

10.1

9.6

10.3

3   

44   

New England WASHINGTON

18.6

17.1

16.0

8   

48   

Atlanta CAROLINA

6.4

5.4

4.7

2 1/2

48   

JACKSONVILLE Tampa Bay

5.5

4.0

-2.0

-1   

37 ½

San Francisco ARIZONA

6.0

7.7

2.1

3 1/2

39 ½

DENVER Chicago

4.2

4.2

3.5

3 1/2

35 ½

SAN DIEGO Buffalo

10.6

5.4

1.9

6 1/2

47 ½

DALLAS New York Giants

4.1

6.1

5.3

3 1/2

49   

SEATTLE St. Louis

9.8

11.5

12.1

6 1/2

39 ½

 

This Week’s Playoff Projections

We have some changes in this week’s projection.  The Chicago Bears continue to slide with the loss of Jay Cutler and now Matt Forte.  We show the Bears missing out of the playoffs, and there will be a real dogfight for the final playoff berth in the NFC.  Once thought to be out of the race entirely, teams like Arizona and Seattle have something to play for, as 9-7 just might be good enough to finish with the final wildcard spot.  The Detroit Lions could also fall to 9-7, and this would throw both wildcard spots up for grabs.  For now, we will let the Lions keep one and give the other to the Falcons, even though they are limping along.  A 2-2 finish ought to be good enough for Atlanta.

 

In the AFC, we have made only a minor adjustment by moving Pittsburgh ahead of New England for the top spot.  We believe the Steelers have a great chance to win out and get homefield advantage.

 

A F C

1. Pittsburgh 13-3

2. New England 13-3

3. Houston 11-5

4. Denver 10-6

5. Baltimore 11-5

6. Cincinnati 11-5

 

N F C

1. Green Bay 16-0

2. San Francisco 13-3

3. New Orleans 13-3

4. Dallas 9-7

5. Detroit 9-7

6. Atlanta 9-7

 

Wildcard Round

Cincinnati over Houston

Denver over Baltimore

New Orleans over Detroit

Dallas over Atlanta

 

Divisional Round

Pittsburgh over Cincinnati

New England over Denver

Green Bay over Dallas

New Orleans over San Francisco

 

Conference Championships

Pittsburgh over New England

Green Bay over New Orleans

 

Super Bowl

Green Bay over Pittsburgh

September 22, 2009

The Best Week Of The Season For College Football

Every year, there is one week of the college football season where the schedule presents more than a dozen games that are not just interesting, they are foretelling.  While the season’s final two weeks usually mean everything, usually a mid-season week turns out to be the week where teams either put up or shut up.  We here at the PiRate Ratings believe this is that week.  Let’s look at the 25 games where we see a major interest in watching or listening to this week. 

 

Thursday Night

7:30 PM: Ole Miss at South Carolina—The Rebels play their first important game of the year after clobbering two patsies.  The Gamecocks aren’t a Top 25 team, but in Columbia, they are tough to beat.  It won’t hurt that USC had already played a Thursday night game.  This should be a high scoring game, weather permitting (chance of thunderstorms), and it could be another one of those recent SEC “Arena Football League Games.”

The PiRate computer says Ole Miss should win by 13.3, while the old Mean rating picks the Rebels by 5.  Vegas has Ole Miss by 3 as of midday Monday.  PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

Saturday Games (all times EDT)

12 Noon: Indiana at Michigan—This Hoosier team is 3-0, but make no comparison between it and the cardiac kids of 1967, or even the Bill Mallory teams of 1987 and 1988.  We’ll soon find out if it is another version of the 2007 team.  Indiana struggled to beat Eastern Kentucky and Western Michigan.  Michigan could be on the verge of challenging Penn State, Iowa, and Ohio State for conference supremacy.  They proved themselves valid with a win over Notre Dame, and now they get a chance to move upward.  The PiRate computer picks Michigan by 20.3, and the Mean picks the Wolverines by 14.  PiRate Viewer Rating: B

 

12 Noon: Michigan State at Wisconsin—In August, it looked like this game could be a battle of unbeaten teams, but the Spartans have slipped up with a 1-2 start.  This game becomes a must-win game for MSU, because they face Michigan next week.  Coach Mark Dantonio’s team could be looking at 1-5 or even 1-6 if they slip up this week.  As for the Badgers, this is their sixth consecutive year starting 3-0.  Except for 2006, the season hasn’t finished up like it started.  This could be the pivotal game in the UW coaching career for Bret Bielema.  A win here sets them up for a huge rivalry match at Minnesota next week where a win would send the Badgers to Ohio State with a chance to move into Rose Bowl contention.  Wisconsin avoids Penn State and gets Iowa and Michigan at home this year.  A loss could start the ball rolling toward 7-5 or even 6-6. PiRate Rating: Wisconsin by 0.6/Mean: Wisconsin by 4/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

12 Noon: South Florida at Florida State—We’ve been looking at this matchup for quite some time.  This should be a hard-fought thriller.  USF has wanted a shot at any of the three big teams in the Sunshine State, and the economy has made this one possible.  Florida State’s opening game loss to Miami could be explained.  The letdown against Jacksonville State wasn’t totally surprising.  The 26-point win at BYU was a shock.  That makes Miami look all the more talented.  USF has yet to play quality opposition, and this game will give us a good gauge of the ACC against the Big East.  If the Bulls can win this one, then they should be 5-0 when they host Cincinnati on Thursday, October 15.  PiRate Rating: FSU by 14.3/Mean Rating: FSU by 9/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

12 Noon: Fresno State at Cincinnati—Fresno State has played well in losses to Wisconsin and Boise State, but now they face the hardest game on their schedule.  We don’t think the Bulldogs have much chance of adding another big upset to their 21st Century resume, but we do see this as a gauge game.  Cincinnati has looked like a Top 10 team and maybe contender for the National Championship Game through three games.  If Cinti can do to Fresno State what they did to Rutgers, they will move into the Top 12.  If they cannot win by more than three touchdowns, then it makes Boise State look all the more better.  PiRate Rating: Cinti by 21.7/Mean Rating: Cinti by 20/PiRate Viewer Rating: A

 

12 Noon: Southern Mississippi at Kansas—The Golden Eagles aren’t ranked, but Coach Larry Fedora has a strong team in Hattiesburg.  Southern Miss is 3-0 after their great comeback win over Virginia.  Tough road games remain against Houston, Marshall, and East Carolina, so they probably have little or no chance of running the table and sneaking into the BCS Bowl picture.  Kansas will vie with Missouri and Nebraska for the Big 12 North title this year.  They just missed the last two years, and a big win in this game could set the table for finally breaking through.  An impressive win here, followed by wins over Iowa State and Colorado would have the Jayhawks at 6-0 when Oklahoma invades Lawrence on October 24.  KU QB Todd Reesing may be the best passer without much chance of getting drafted.  At 5-11, he’s considered too small for the NFL.  PiRate Rating: Kansas by 17.1/Mean Rating: 14/PiRate Viewer Rating: A

 

12 Noon: North Carolina at Georgia Tech—This game is interesting because the Tar Heels catch Georgia Tech coming off a disastrous road loss to Miami.  If Coach Butch Davis has UNC ready to challenge on the national scene, then the Heels need to do something close to what Miami did to the Yellow Jackets.  They will stack the box to take away the option and force Josh Nesbitt to beat them through the air.  It can be done, but it won’t be easy.  A Tech win means the winner of the Virginia Tech-Miami game will be in the driver’s seat in the Coastal Division.  PiRate Rating: Tech by 1.9/Mean Rating: Tech by 2/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

12:20 PM: L S U at Mississippi State—The AP and USA Today polls have LSU at number 7, but the Tigers are only the fourth highest-ranked SEC team.  The win at Washington looks much more impressive now, but the lackluster win over Vanderbilt becomes a great comparison here.  New Mississippi State Coach Dan Mullen saw his Bullies stop Vanderbilt in Nashville more impressively than LSU’s win over the Commodores in Tiger Stadium.  This game hasn’t been close since Jackie Sherrill was coaching in Starkville.  We think it might be this year, and with some lucky bounces, MSU could actually be there at the end.  PiRate Rating: LSU by 15.9/Mean Rating: LSU by 12/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

1:00 PM: Marshall at Memphis—Here’s a game that should determine a bowl spot for the winner and doom the loser to the wrong side of .500 for the season.  We think Marshall is primed to break out and save Coach Mark Snyder’s job this year.  It’s been six years since the Thundering Herd last enjoyed a winning season, and we see at least seven wins in their near future.  This is the C-USA opener for both teams.  The schedule sets up well for Marshall if they can win this road game.  They get East Carolina and Southern Miss. at home, and it wouldn’t be a big surprise to us if they could sneak into contention in the East.  PiRate Rating: Marshall by 3.5/Mean Rating: Marshall by 2/PiRate Viewer Rating: B+

 

3:00 PM: UNLV at Wyoming—The Rebels have never been a Division 1-A (FBS) heavyweight.  The 2000 season is the only good year they’ve had since moving up in classification 30 years ago.  UNLV has a chance to get back to a bowl game this year, as long as quarterback Omar Clayton can remain healthy.  On a gimpy knee, he guided the Rebels to a comeback victory over Hawaii.  This becomes a must win game, and Wyoming is beatable.  However, in Laramie, the Cowboys play tough.  Tell Mack Brown that the Cowboys are an easy pushover.  One slip up by UNLV this week makes their bowl hunt much more difficult.  PiRate Rating: UNLV by 3.4/Mean Rating: UNLV by 5/PiRate Viewer Rating: B

 

3:30 PM: Arkansas at Alabama—Arkansas’s passing game will show everybody whether Alabama’s pass defense is national championship caliber.  We don’t expect the Hogs to threaten an upset here, but this game should tell us whether Alabama is good enough to run the table and get to the SEC Championship Game for a second consecutive season.  To this point in the season, Alabama has actually looked like the top team in the conference if not the nation.  If the Tide is going to rise and become the South’s elite, they need to win this one by 20 or more points.  PiRate Rating: Bama by 20.8/Mean Rating: Bama by 20/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

3:30 PM: California at Oregon—The Bears didn’t look like a championship caliber team in their win at Minnesota last week, while Oregon handled Utah.  Cal has a home date with Southern Cal next week, but the players better concentrate on this game.  Autzen Stadium is still one of the toughest places to play as a visitor, and Oregon isn’t Washington State.  If Cal doesn’t come out ready for bear, the game with Southern Cal could be for 5th place in the standings.  Jahvid Best needs to put two good halves together to move up on the Heisman Trophy list.  PiRate Rating: Cal by 15.5/Mean Rating: Cal by 3/PiRate Viewer Rating: A+

 

3:30 PM: TCU at Clemson—With BYU and Utah losing to BCS conference teams this past weekend, the Horned Frogs may be the last legitimate shot for a Mountain West team to make it to a BCS Bowl Game.  A win at Clemson could move TCU up into the top 12.  We don’t think this Horned Frog team has the same tough defense as the recent teams in Ft. Worth.  Clemson could easily be 3-0 today, but several questionable miscues cost them against Georgia Tech.  After watching Miami destroy Tech, could the Yellow Jackets be overrated, and thus could Clemson not be as tough as they were supposed to be?  This game may not supply the answers, but at least the winner will move up on the early bowl bubble.  PiRate Rating: Clemson by 4.5/Mean Rating: Tossup/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

3:30 PM: Pittsburgh at North Carolina State—We here at the PiRate Ratings must remain impartial, as the only thing we truly root for is to be correct when we pick games.  However, a couple of us would be happy if Dave Wannstedt had a BCS Bowl team.  This may be Pittsburgh’s best team since 1982.  Then, again, this could be another year like 2000.  We should have a lot more evidence to make that call after this game.  The Panthers have a one-two punch in quarterback Bill Stull and blazing fast running back Dion Lewis.  North Carolina State is a little better than average but not the juggernaut they were seven years ago.  It Pittsburgh can win in Raleigh, a double-digit win season is possible.  PiRate Rating: Pitt by 2.0/Mean Rating: 6/PiRate Viewer Rating: B+

 

3:30 PM: Miami (Fla.) at Virginia Tech—This game is the one of the top three of the day.  Two games into the season, this edition of Hurricanes is more like Camille than a tropical depression.  Quarterback Jacory Harris may be the top passer in the ACC, and he may soon move high up on the list of NFL prospects in the next couple of years.  He has a live and accurate arm, and his ability to pass on the run makes it difficult to sack him.  Virginia Tech beat Nebraska last week in a close game, and the Hokies have won 38 of the last 43 games at Lane Stadium.  If Miami can win this game, it will set up an even more interesting battle against Oklahoma next week.  PiRate Rating: Virginia Tech by 6.7/Mean Rating: Virginia Tech by 4/PiRate Viewer Rating: A+

 

4:30 PM: Troy at Arkansas State—There are two key games in the Sunbelt Conference this week.  Troy has been the Southern Cal of the SBC as of late, but the Trojans may not be quite as strong this year.  Arkansas State had an extra week to prepare for this game and gets the Trojans in Jonesboro.  These teams have split the last four games in this series, and the Red Wolves have what it takes to pull off the mild upset.  An ASU win throws this race wide open.  PiRate Rating: Troy by 2.4/Mean Rating: Troy by 1/PiRate Viewer Rating: B

 

6:00 PM: Florida at Kentucky—Two years ago, Kentucky upset number one LSU in Lexington.  No, we don’t expect a repeat Saturday.  The Wildcats start a grueling stretch of games that call for the Cats to play Alabama, at South Carolina, and at Auburn after this game, so UK could easily be 2-4 when Louisiana Monroe comes to town on October 24.  Florida needs something to show the pollsters and computers that they deserve their lofty ranking.  What should be an unbelievable year like Nebraska in 1995 could fail to materialize over the lack of all-conference receivers.  Can Tim Tebow do it all on the offensive side?  Think Larry Csonka with Bob Griese’s arm.  You bet he can lead the Gators to Pasadena in January.  PiRate Rating: Florida by 32.7/Mean Rating: Florida by 20/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

6:00 PM: Colorado State at BYU—Had the Cougars won last week in a grueling game, we were prepared to check this game as a possible letdown game and go with the Rams and the points.  The Cougars exited Lavell Edwards Stadium thoroughly bewitched, bothered, and bewildered after losing to Florida State 54-28.  Colorado State is 3-0 for the first time since 1994.  That team went 10-1 in the regular season including a 28-21 win at BYU.  We don’t expect a repeat in 2009, but a good showing could be the next step on the long climb back to the top in the MWC.  The Rams should win eight games this year, but this won’t be one of them.  PiRate Rating: BYU by 16.9/Mean Rating: BYU by 16/PiRate Viewer Rating: B+

 

7:00 PM: Arizona State at Georgia—Arizona State has never played in an SEC stadium (unless you count the 1951 visit to then Southwest Conference member Arkansas).  In their only two games against SEC teams, the Sun Devils lost at home to Georgia last year and at home to LSU in 2005.  ASU Coach Dennis Erickson knows a little about winning in the Deep South, having claimed a national title at Miami.  He may have an average squad or some degree better, but wins against Idaho State and Louisiana Monroe has yet to prove anything.  Georgia has already played three tough games, winning two SEC battles already.  The Bulldog defense has yet to shut anybody down, but the offense has looked impressive in wins over South Carolina and Arkansas.  This game will tell us a lot more about these two conferences as the season progresses, but it should be exciting itself.  The weather could be a major factor as well.  PiRate Rating: Georgia by 15.6/Mean Rating: Georgia by 7/PiRate Viewer Rating: A

 

7:00 PM: Army at Iowa State—Say What?  This game is an important one?  You betcha!  It looks like the “trade” of Gene Chizik to Auburn for Paul Rhoads could prove to be a win-win decision.  Iowa State could be looking at a possibility of sneaking into the eighth or ninth Big 12 bowl slot if they can win this game.  Kansas State, Texas A&M, Colorado, and Baylor present winnable games if the Cyclones can stop the option game of the Cadets.  On the other side of the equation, Army needs only to become bowl eligible to earn a guaranteed bowl bid.  The Cadets are 2-1 and have winnable games left against Tulane, Vanderbilt, Temple, VMI, North Texas, and of course Navy.  If Army wins this game, then we are confident in saying they will earn their first bowl trip since 1996.  This game becomes, in essence, a bowl qualifier.  That’s why it makes our list of the key 25 games this week.  PiRate Rating: ISU by 12.4/Mean Rating: ISU by 10/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

7:00 PM: Middle Tennessee at North Texas—This is the second key Sunbelt Conference game this week.  Middle Tennessee is the only SBC team to own four wins on the road against teams from BCS conferences, and the Blue Raiders made it number four last week by winning at Maryland (the second consecutive win over the Terps).  North Texas showed signs of life this year in winning at Ball State and giving Ohio U a great battle, but quarterback Riley Dodge went down with an injury in the third quarter of that game.  He missed last week’s blowout loss at Alabama, but he will return this week.  He gives the Mean Green a chance in this game.  PiRate Rating: Middle Tenn by 8.7/Mean Rating: Middle Tenn by 8/PiRate Viewer Rating: B

 

7:30 PM: Arizona at Oregon State—Both teams lost to undefeated, out-of-conference opponents last week, but the winner of this game could challenge in the Pac-10.  We don’t think either can go on the road and beat both Cal and USC (both play these two powers on the road), but the winner of this game should stay in contention for one of the Pac-10’s top four bowls.  PiRate Rating: Oregon State by 3.9/Mean Rating: Oregon State by 2/PiRate Viewer Rating: B

 

8:00 PM: Iowa at Penn State—Could this game be for the Big 10 Championship?  It’s possible.  Iowa stumbled out of the gate with Northern Iowa, but impressive wins over Iowa State and Arizona have the Hawkeyes 3-0 for the third time in four years.  This is more than just any big game for Penn State; the Nittany Lions came into this game last year ranked number three at 9-0 and lost 24-23 in Iowa City.  Penn State is undefeated again and ranked number five this time, but Joe Pa’s team has played three patsies.  The winner of this game will be the leader in the clubhouse in the Big 10, but with Michigan, Ohio State, and even Wisconsin still around, they won’t have it wrapped up.  PiRate Rating: Penn State by 5.6/Mean Rating: Penn State by 4/PiRate Viewer Rating: A+

 

9:00 PM: Washington at Stanford—Can you believe this game?  Washington is the second ever team to crack the AP poll rankings in September after being winless the year before (Florida in 1980).  Stanford is close to being 3-0, and the Cardinal have not been this good since 2001.  Simply put, the winner of this contest is going to a bowl game this year.  You’ll see two great quarterbacks in this one.  Stanford’s Andrew Luck is just a freshman, but he’s averaging 9.3 yards per pass attempt and completing 62.3% of his passes.  Washington’s Jake Locker is leading the Pac-10 in total offense.  PiRate Rating: Stanford by 9.5/Mean Rating: Stanford by 8/PiRate Viewer Rating: A

 

9:15 PM: Texas Tech at Houston—These teams haven’t played each other since the Southwest Conference days, and it should be one of the most exciting games of the season.  You have two teams that average better than 400 passing yards per game.  Houston’s Case Keenum has a shot at an NFL career in a couple of years, while Texas Tech’s Taylor Potts may be the best quarterback Coach Mike Leach has placed in his offense.  PiRate Rating: Texas Tech by 6.2/Mean Rating: Texas Tech by 3/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

September 2, 2009

2009 Southeastern Conference Preview

2009 Southeastern Conference Preview

A PiRate Look

Welcome to the conference where football is not just a sport; it’s a way of life for millions.  SEC fans at 11 schools act like their teams are football factories and not institutions of higher learning.  The average capacity of the perennial six powers (Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee in the East and Alabama, Auburn, and LSU in the West) exceeds 92,500, and on home game Saturdays, there are more people in the stands of half these teams than there are in the cities in which they are located.

This year, the SEC begins the season as the top-ranked league.  Throw in the fact that the member teams, for the most part, are playing non-conference schedules as weak as the teams in the Sunbelt Conference, and there’s a good chance that nine bowl eligible teams could emerge (which by the way equals the number of bowl tie-ins).

Here are the preseason PiRate ratings for the league.  The ratings have been rounded to the nearest whole number even though we calculate them to two decimal places.  Thus, when you see multiple teams with the same rating, they are not actually exactly even.  To understand what the rating means, it is set so that 100 is average.  Thus, a rating of 90 means the team is 10 points weaker than the average team in the FBS.  The average of all 120 FBS teams should round to 100 if the math has been successfully calculated.

For those who have not followed the PiRate Ratings before and wonder about the home field advantage, we do not assign set in stone advantages.  These are assigned on a game-by-game basis.  For instance, if Vanderbilt hosts Tennessee at the end of the year, when the Commodores are 4-7 and the Vols are 9-1, then the game could actually be a “home game on the road” for the Vols.  Tennessee might actually receive a couple of points if it appears 75% of the fans at the stadium will be wearing orange.  If that same Vanderbilt team begins the season 2-0 and hosts New Mexico State, then the Commodores would receive about four to six points.  The PiRates think it’s ridiculous to issue a blank home field advantage for all teams or even assign a range of set home field advantages.

 

Southeastern Conference Preseason PiRate Ratings

 
   

 

Prediction *

 
  Team

PiRate

SEC

Overall

 
  East

 

 

 

 
  Florida

142

8-0

13-0

#
  Georgia

114

5-3

8-4

 
  Tennessee

106

3-5

7-5

 
  Vanderbilt

104

2-6

5-7

 
  South Carolina

103

4-4

6-6

 
  Kentucky

100

1-7

5-7

 
   

 

 

 

 
  West

 

 

 

 
  Ole Miss

120

6-2

10-2

 
  Alabama

120

7-1

11-2

#
  L S U

114

6-2

10-2

 
  Arkansas

108

4-4

8-4

 
  Auburn

105

2-6

5-7

 
  Mississippi St.

91

0-8

1-11

 

 

 

*  Predictions not based on PiRate Rating but

 
 

on expected changes to rating during the year

 
 

# Florida picked to beat Alabama

 
 

in SEC Championship Game

 

 

SEC East

Florida: What is there to say that hasn’t already been said?  It will be a disappointing year if the Gators go 13-0 in the regular season but don’t win every game by more than three touchdowns.  Their 142 preseason PiRate Rating places them in some heavy company.  The only other preseason 140 or higher-rated teams were Nebraska in 1995, Miami of Florida in 2001, and Ohio State in 1975.

Tim Tebow is being called the greatest collegiate player ever.  We don’t know about that, but he is the best college quarterback in the nation in 2009.  He led the Gators in rushing with 673 yards and 12 touchdowns, but Coach Urban Meyer would probably like to cut his carries some to protect him and to showcase his passing arm to the NFL.  We expect Tebow will pass the ball more than the 21 times a game he passed last year.  Look for his attempts to rise to about 28, unless he is out of too many games after Florida has a five touchdown lead at the half, and his passing yardage to top 3,500.

The Gators rushed for 231 yards per game last year, and none of the backs/slot receivers topped 675 yards.  The depth is so great here that five players could top 500 yards.  Jeffrey Demps, Chris Rainey, and Emmanuel Moody will run 1-2-3 at the running back position.

The receiving unit will definitely miss all-everything Percy Harvin, who might make life easier for Brett Favre this year.  Louis Murphy is also gone, so this area is the only area of concern.  Riley Cooper, David Nelson, Deonte Thompson, and tight end Aaron Hernandez still make up one of the three best receiving units in the conference.

When you have the best offensive line in the league and second best to Southern Cal’s nationally, the superior skill players become even more dangerous.  The Pouncey brothers, center Maurkice and guard Mike, may both be ready to place their names in the NFL draft next spring.

There’s no catchy way to describe the Gator defense.  It just doesn’t seem like it could be real.  All 11 starters from last year’s top-flight defense plus 10 of the second 11 return!  That’s 21 of the top 22 players from a defense that gave up just 12.9 points and 285 yards per game.  In this day and age, shutouts don’t occur all that often like they did in past decades, but the Gators could post more than one this season. 21 players recorded double digit tackles, and of course, they are all back. 

In the defensive line, Carlos Dunlap had 9 ½ sacks from his end position.  Jermaine Cunningham had six sacks and four other tackles for loss.  Sophomore Jaye Howard isn’t one of the 21 returning key contributors, but he will be a big one this year from his tackle spot.

The head of the second line of defense is middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, who led UF with 93 tackles.  Ryan Stamper, A. J. Jones, Dustin Doe, Brandon Hicks, and Lorenzo Edwards all have the potential to make an All-SEC team.

In the secondary, safety Ahmad Black intercepted seven passes last year.  Cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Joe Haden had six interceptions, and they batted away 25 balls.  The Gators allowed just 53.1% completions, and they actually could bring that number under 50% this year.

The only possible games where the Gators could face a little trouble are the October 10 game at LSU, and the Cocktail Party against Georgia in Jacksonville on October 31.  No matter which team wins the other division, we see Florida winning the SEC Championship Game by three touchdowns.  Who will the Gators play for all the marbles?  It would be interesting to see them square off in Pasadena against Southern Cal, but the Trojans would need help.  A 12-0 USC team will not make it if Oklahoma or Texas goes undefeated.  We think one will, and that team will face the Gators.

Georgia: The Bulldogs are a clear second place pick here, but they begin the season a full four touchdowns behind Florida.  Coach Mark Richt faces a minor rebuilding project on the offensive side, but the defense should be a little stronger this year—maybe as good as the defenses of 2002-2006, when UGA gave up an aggregate of 16 points per game.

The defense will rely on a strong trio of linebackers to stop opponents this year.  Rennie Curran is likely to leave for the pros after this year if he simply repeats last year’s production of 115 tackles, three sacks, and 10 total tackles for loss. 

The front four needs to get a better pass rush, or the secondary will not be able to top last year’s numbers.  The secondary gave up 190 yards per game and 55.7% completions, and strong safety Reshad Jones was the big star last year with five interceptions to go with 76 tackles.  If the pass rush doesn’t improve, those numbers will get a little ugly; in addition to facing Tebow and the other SEC passers, this defense will have to face Zac Robinson on his home turf.

Joe Cox will not approach Matthew Stafford’s passing numbers from 2008, but he won’t be a total bust either.  Cox has an accurate arm, but he doesn’t have the velocity of Stafford.

Replacing running back Knowshon Moreno may be a tougher assignment.  Richard Samuel, Carlton Thomas, and Caleb King will split the carries, but the three of them combined may not gain the 1,400 yards Moreno gained nor score 16 touchdowns.

Even with the departure of Mohamed Massaquoi, the receiving unit will be the strength of the offense.  A. J. Green is one of the top three receivers in the league.  He led the Bulldogs with 56 receptions and 963 yards in 2008.  Michael Moore should see his totals jump, maybe double, this year after grabbing 29 passes for 451 yards last year.

The offensive line should be better this year than last.  Tackle Clint Boling is a returning 1st Team All-SEC player.  Look for the ‘Dogs to match last year’s low number of 17 sacks.

Richt wasn’t scared to schedule a road game against Oklahoma State to begin the season.  This game will be close to a tossup, and the Bulldogs will have a chance at the upset.  Outside of the Florida game, the rest of the schedule is manageable.  The key to returning to a New Year’s Day bowl is the LSU game.  The winner will still be in contention for an at-large BCS Bowl bid.

Tennessee: Welcome to the Orange Soap Opera!  Did Lane Kiffin come away with permanent damage after working for Al Davis?  And Tom Cable didn’t even punch him in the head.  Actually, Kiffin is being crazy like a fox.  Now if he can coach as good as he can market himself, the Volunteers are going to become a top-flight program once again.

Tennessee had one half of a great team last year.  Their defense gave up 16.8 points and only 264 total yards per game.  Adding defensive guru and Lane’s dad Monte Kiffin as defensive coordinator and Ed Orgeron as defensive line coach can only make a good situation better.

Coach Kiffin promised his recruits that they would be given a real chance to play as true freshmen, and he has kept his word.  Freshmen dot the two-deep on both sides of the ball.  The top recruit is running back Bryce Brown, who some say was the overall top high school recruit last year.  He will contribute immediately and maybe start ahead of Montario Hardesty.  UT rushed for just 123 yards and 3.6 yards per carry last year, and Brown gives this unit an immediate boost.  If he stays healthy, and if the offensive line can develop its run blocking skills, Brown could rush for 1,000 yards in year one.

The passing game was nothing to shout about last year, as Jonathan Crompton and Nick Stephens combined for just 146 yards per game and completed less than half of their passes with a TD/INT ratio of 8/8.  Sports pundits said it was the overly difficult offense designed by former offensive coordinator Dave Clawson that accounted for the lack of success. 

The offensive line just wasn’t up to standards last year, and this will be the problem once again.  None of the heralded freshmen are Offensive linemen, and if the returning players don’t improve a good deal, the offense will still struggle against good teams.

The Vols’ best player and maybe the best defensive player in all of college football is strong safety Eric Berry.  Berry intercepted seven passes and knocked down six in 2008.  He recorded 72 tackles, had three QB sacks, and registered 5 ½ other tackles behind the line of scrimmage.  If he played for Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, or Southern Cal, he might be one of the five finalists invited to the Downtown Athletic Club in New York on December 12.

The other two units on the stop side may be a little weaker this year than last, even with the elder Kiffin directing it.  No middle linebacker has come to the forefront, and in Kiffin’s defense, a multi-talented MLB is required.  Rico McCoy is an exceptional outside linebacker.  In the trenches, nose tackle Dan Williams returns after making 8 ½ stops behind the line.  The Vols yielded just 2.8 yards per rush in ’08 and got to enemy quarterbacks 25 times.  They will probably get more sacks this year, but the yards allowed per rush will be higher.

 The schedule gives the Vols a decent shot at getting back to a bowl.  The four out-of-conference games are Western Kentucky, UCLA, Ohio, and Memphis, which will all be played at Neyland Stadium.  The Vols also draw a rebuilding Auburn team at home and finish with Vanderbilt and Kentucky, two teams they have dominated for decades.

Vanderbilt: There’s a television program called “Magic’s Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed,” where a masked magician shows the viewing audience how all the big magic tricks are done.  Recently, enquiring minds just had to know who was behind the mask.  They hired someone to get onto that show as an assistant and pull the mask off and find out just who the guy was.  Guess what, it was Commodore head coach Bobby Johnson!  No, not really, but it might as well had been after the way Johnson produced Vanderbilt’s first winning season since 1982 and first bowl win since January 1, 1956!

Looking at the statistics, Vanderbilt was outgained by 64 yards per game, 76 in conference play.  They scored their fewest amount of points since Johnson’s first year.  They completed less than half of their passes and averaged just 3.7 yards per rush.  How did they win?  They came up with timely plays on defense and special teams, and they were +9 in turnover margin.

The offense should show signs of improvement this year.  Larry Smith, who made his first start in the bowl game, looks to have the tools necessary to play in the SEC.  He’s got a quick release, accurate arm, and decent zip on the ball.

Just who will be on the other end of those passes is the problem.  Vanderbilt lost top receiver Sean Walker to graduation, and it wasn’t like the Commodores were loaded at this position last year.  Former star defensive back D. J. Moore played both ways toward the end of the year, and it was his big plays against Kentucky that gave VU that important sixth win.  Vandy may use two tight ends more often this year to take advantage of good depth there.  Look for Brandon Barden, Austin Monahan, and Justin Green to combine for 50 or more receptions. 

Vanderbilt had a hard time running the ball past the line of scrimmage last year, and they have improved this position with the addition of some talented freshmen.  Jared Hawkins led the team with 593 rushing yards, but he may see fewer chances this year with Warren Norman and Zac Stacy getting significant playing time.

The offensive line returns intact with a lot of depth, and there could be some shuffling in the depth chart.  One player who won’t be shuffled is tackle Thomas Welch, the next Vandy OL who will play in the NFL.

The defense will be just as tough as last year, but only if the two new secondary starters can prove they are SEC caliber defenders.  Replacing Moore and safety Reshard Langford won’t be easy.  Look for better play in the front seven to give the secondary a fair chance at covering receivers.

Vanderbilt’s schedule is the reason they may not repeat last year’s feats.  The Commodores play two bowl teams in their four non-conference games.  They must visit Rice, which won’t be an easy win, and they host Georgia Tech at the end of October.  An even bigger concern is the fact that they have no off weeks.  Injuries will pile up, and the depth isn’t strong enough to withstand more than a couple of lost starts.  Vanderbilt won five games in 2007 and 2005; they may make it a pattern and win five in 2009, unless they can pull off a big upset.

South Carolina: Steve Spurrier has not turned this program around like everybody theorized would happen when he took the job in 2005.  The Gamecocks have won seven, eight, six, and seven games in his first four seasons, only marginally better than before he arrived.  Add to the disappointment the fact that USC has some rebuilding to do on both sides of the ball, and Spurrier will have to perform wonders to get this team to eight wins.

Last year, the offensive line wrecked the offense.  They played like a quintet of matadors.  The Gamecocks rushed for just 94 yards per game, and the quarterbacks went down 39 times and threw 27 interceptions.  Unless new coaching can make them better, there isn’t much chance that there will be much improvement here.

Quarterback Stephen Garcia has the tools needed to be a good SEC passer, but Tim Tebow would have a hard time succeeding if he was rushed as much as Garcia was last year.  Garcia alternated with departed QB Chris Smelley and proved to be more of a dual threat out of the spread offense.

USC lost their top two receivers in Kenny McKinley and Jared Cook, who combined for 91 receptions and 1,225 yards.  True freshman Alshon Jeffrey could eventually be as talented as McKinley, but it won’t happen this year.  Another true freshman, DeMario Bennett should see playing time as well.  The ‘Cocks will have to rely on a receiver by committee approach.

The running game will be handed over to freshman Jarvis Giles, who at least has the moves to avoid a big loss when the defense is already in the backfield at the time of the handoff.  Freshman Kenny Miles may see some snaps as well.

On the defensive side, things are not as sad and gloomy.  New coordinator Ellis Johnson inherits some rather talented troops, and South Carolina could even better last year’s stats (21.1 points and 292 yards allowed per game).  The front seven is considerably stronger than the secondary, so expect to see the focus of attention on getting a great pass rush. 

Linebacker Eric Norwood finished second in the league with nine sacks, but he’s the only returning starter to the unit.  Defensive end Cliff Matthews heads the front line, but there will be some shuffling following the suspension of opposite terminal Clifton Geathers.

There is experienced talent at safety, but cornerback is a different matter.  True freshman Stephon Gilmore and sophomore Akeem Auguste are the new starters.

South Carolina plays too tough ACC opponents (at North Carolina State, Clemson) as well as both Alabama and Ole Miss from the West Division.  The Gamecocks will have to win one or two road games from among Georgia, Tennessee, and Arkansas in order to gain bowl eligibility.

Kentucky: In Lexington, it’s the football and baseball programs that are getting it done these days.  Do they play any other sports there?  It’s hard to believe it, but UK has won three consecutive bowl games.  If Coach Rich Brooks can guide his team to another bowl game this year, he should be nominated for national coach of the year. 

The Wildcats relied more on defense to win games last year, and the stop troops gave up just 21.5 points and 332 yards per game.  Seven starters from that side are now gone, including four of the top five tacklers plus 2nd Team All-SEC end Jeremy Jarmon.

UK still has two potential 1st Team All-Americans on the defensive side.  Trevard Lindley is the best cornerback and second best defensive player in the SEC.  He comes off a season in which he intercepted four passes and knocked away 11 others.

Linebacker Micah Johnson was a 1st Team All-SEC choice last year after making 93 tackles with 13 for lost yardage.  He wasn’t even 100% most of the year, so he should have an even better production in ’09.

Up front, the late loss of Jarmon is going to take its toll.  Corey Peters is the only holdover up front.

There was a major reclamation in the 2008 offense, and it’s still a work in progress.  Quarterback Mike Hartline returns for his second season as the starter.  He completed 55.3% of his passes for 1,666 yards last year.  Former QB Randall Cobb is now strictly a receiver, but he will get snaps in the wildcat formation.

Cobb will team with Chris Matthews and Kyrus Lanxter to form a formidable trio at wide out.  Mathews, a junior college transfer, is big, quick, and agile.  Look for him to make a big contribution this year.

The running attack was not as potent last year following the 2007 graduation of Rafael Little.  Leading rusher Tony Dixon has moved on, but his contribution was minimal at 3.3 yards per carry.  Alfonso Smith, Derrick Locke, and Moncell Allen will share the load this season.

Up front, the offensive line returns three starters from a unit that allowed a league low 13 sacks.  Tackle Zipp Duncan is the leader of this unit.

An easy non-conference schedule (Miami-OH, Louisville, Louisiana-Monroe, and Eastern Kentucky) will give the ‘Cats four wins.  A home game with Mississippi State should be win number five.  Their best chance for a sixth win will come from Auburn, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee.

SEC West

Ole Miss: Houston Nutt couldn’t have picked a better time to inherit a job.  Former coach Ed Orgeron left him with a full cupboard.  In year two at the Nutthouse, Ole Miss is the sexy pick for SEC West Division champion.  The PiRate Ratings formula gives them the edge over Alabama by .09 points to start the season.  All five of us agree that the Rebels will be plenty good, just not the division winner.

The offense was strong all season, and there’s no reason to think it won’t be just as strong or stronger.  Eight starters return to an attack that averaged 32.1 points and 408 yards per game.

Quarterback Jevan Snead has had to take a backseat to two great quarterbacks.  He left Texas after Colt McCoy got the job.  Now, he plays Sham to Tim Tebow’s Secretariat.  Snead passed for 2,762 yards and 26 touchdowns last year.

The running game is stocked with talent, and it’s not just running backs that carry the ball.  Wide out Dexter McCluster led the Rebels with 655 yards rushing (6.0 avg).  He ran the ball out of the wildcat formation.  He tried to pass the ball five times, and he threw two interceptions without a completion.  Cordera Eason,  Brandon Bolden, and Enrique Davis will split time at running back.

McCluster will team with Shay Hodge and top recruit Pat Patterson to form a trio of wide outs.  Tight end Gerald Harris is used more as a blocker.

Speaking of blockers, the Rebels have a big, but slightly inexperienced offensive line.  Tackle John Jerry is a monster at 6’5 and 350 pounds.

Ole Miss improved defensively as the season progressed.  The Rebels gave up 25 points per game in the first half of the year and 11 points per game in the second half.  It all begins up front, where the four starters (Kentrell Lockett and Marcus Tillman at DE and Lawon Scott or Justin Smith and Ted Laurent at DT) form the best front four in the league.  They will send a lot of backs to the ground before they get back to the line of scrimmage.  If Greg Hardy ever returns to 100% health, then this unit will be dominating.  In limited action last year, he made 8 ½ QB sacks.

The back seven are not as talented as the front four, but they are above average compared to the league as a whole.  Linebackers Jonathan Cornell and Allen Walker return after teaming for 86 tackles. 

The secondary is the weakest unit on the stop side.  Three starters return there, with free safety Kendrick Lewis being the closest thing to a star player.  He led the Rebels with 85 tackles, four interceptions, and six passes batted away.

Ole Miss should easily win their four non-league games (Memphis, Southeast Louisiana, UAB, and Northern Arizona).  They avoid both Florida and Georgia from the East.  It will all come down to how they perform in a trio of games to determine whether they can get to Atlanta for a great rematch with Florida.  They host Alabama on October 10, host Arkansas on October 24, and host LSU on November 21.  Even though they get all three of these games at home, we think they will slip up in one of these.  Our founder believes the Thursday night, September 24 game at South Carolina could actually be the hardest game they have on their schedule.

Alabama: It was almost a great story in Tideland in 2008.  Alabama won all 12 of their regular season games and entered the SEC Championship game ranked number one in the nation.  They were a 10-point underdog as the top-ranked team, something that has never happened before in modern times.  They failed to cover and lost by 11 to Florida.  Then, in the Sugar Bowl, they were embarrassed by Utah.

Some teams would fall apart when their prior season ended that way.  We believe the Crimson Tide will be just as hard to beat this year, even with major losses on the attack side.

The offense returns just four starters from last year.  Among the missing are quarterback John Parker Wilson and running back Glen Coffee.  The new quarterback is Greg McElroy, who saw limited action as a freshman last year.  He should be able to approach Wilson’s numbers if he stays healthy, but if he gets injured, ‘Bama is in trouble and will have to go with untested freshmen.

The running game will be okay if Mark Ingram stays eligible to play, and the NCAA investigators don’t go on a fishing expedition trying to declare him ineligible.  Number two back Terry Grant will be used more on passing downs, as he has good hands and great speed to turn a short pass into a long gain.

Julio Jones is in the same boat as Ingram, but if the star wide out loses some games due to the famous fishing trip, the Tide will suffer much more than they would at running back.  Jones led Alabama with 58 receptions and 924 yards.  The next leading returnee, Mike McCoy, had just 16 catches.

Three new starters dot the offensive line.  Guard Mike Johnson is the best of the blockers. 

The Tide defense was stingy last year until the last two games.  In the 12-0 start, they gave up 11.5 points and 249 yards per game.  Most of the key contributors are back for more this year, and the Tide could challenge Florida for top defense in the league.

Middle linebacker Rolando McClain led the defense with 95 tackles and 12 total tackles for loss.  He batted away eight passes as well.  He’ll be joined by three more than capable mates, Don’t’A Hightower, Eryk Anders, and Cory Reamer.

The three-man front is anchored by nose guard Terrence Cody, who at 365 pounds, plugs two gaps by himself.  End Brandon Deaderick is an excellent pass rusher.

The secondary features three returning starters and a top reserve from a year ago.  Cornerbacks  Javier Arenas and Kareem Jackson combined for 17 deflected passes in ’08.  Safety Justin Woodall picked off four passed and knocked away eight others.

The kicking game is first-rate with Leigh Tiffin having the best leg in the conference.

The Tide get a big test to start the season, taking on Virginia Tech in Atlanta.  We believe Coach Nick Saban’s club will win that game in a grind-it-out style.  If so, they should be 5-0 when they travel to Oxford to take on Ole Miss on October 10.  The LSU game in Tuscaloosa on November 7 is the only other game where they won’t be favored by a touchdown or more.  Alabama could go 12-0 in the regular season and lose to Florida in the SEC Championship for the second year in a row. 

Note: Brandon Deaderick was shot in the forearm Monday August 31, and his status for the Virginia Tech game is still undecided.

L S U: 8-5 is not an acceptable record at LSU these days.  It’s been rumored that back-to-back 8-5 records could even get a coach in trouble, even though he won a national championship two years ago.  Warning to Bayou Bengal Fans:  11-2 could get a coach a job at Michigan.

The Tigers return seven starters to both the offense and the defense.  Some exceptional talent returns, but there are a couple of holes in the lineup as well.

Quarterback Jordan Jefferson emerged as a potential star during the big comeback against Troy and later proved himself the position during last year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl.  He has good legs and can run the spread offense better than backup Jarrett Lee.

Jefferson is not the star of this backfield though.  Charles Scott is the top running back in the SEC.  He picked up 1,174 yards and 18 touchdowns last year.  Keiland Williams is an able backup who can make his own hole if one isn’t there.

Brandon LaFell may be the best receiver in the league.  He led LSU with 63 receptions for 929 yards and eight touchdowns.

The offensive line returns three starters, and it is strongest at tackle with Ciron Black and Joseph Barksdale.

The Tigers averaged 30.9 points and 368 yards per game in 2008, and we see those numbers improving to 32 points and 400-425 yards per game.  Defensively, LSU gave up too many points and yards last year (24.2 and 326).  Coach Les Myles brought in former Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis to fix the problem.

There won’t be a need for much tinkering in the secondary with three quality starters returning.  Cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Chris Hawkins and safety Chad Jones combined for 141 tackles, five interceptions, and 18 deflected passes.

All three starting linebackers from last year return, plus team leading tackler Harry Coleman moves up from safety, giving this unit even more athleticism.

The problem area is the defensive line.  Three starters finished their college careers, including the great Tyson Jackson.  End Rahim Alem led the team with eight sacks, and he will lead the rebuilt trenchmen.

The Tigers have one of the best punt and kick returners in the nation in lightning quick Trindon Holliday.  He’s a threat to take any punt back for a score.

LSU is just as talented as Alabama and Ole Miss.  They just get penalized this year for having to play both Florida and Georgia out of the East Division and Alabama and Ole Miss on the road.  They could easily lose all four of these games, and if they do, the natives will be getting restless in Baton Rouge.

Arkansas: Year one wasn’t a pleasant one in Fayetteville for Coach Bobby Petrino.  His Razorbacks were drilled by Alabama, Texas, and Florida in successive games by a combined score of 139-31, and the team never really recovered.  After falling to South Carolina and Mississippi State to drop out of bowl contention, they ended the season on a high note with an upset of LSU.  This year promises to be different.  Arkansas will be bowl eligible once again with an exciting team.

Let’s start the excitement reporting on the attack side.  New quarterback Ryan Mallett left Michigan when Rich Rodriguez came in as coach.  He’s matured physically and mentally in that time, and he could be the best QB in the league after Tebow and Snead.  Mallett has three experienced starters and several able reserves to catch his passes.  We expect the Arkansas passing game to produce 275-300 yards per game this season, but only if the protection improves.  Arkansas QBs were dumped 46 times last year.

Michael Smith returns at running back after topping 1,000 yards last year.  True freshman Ronnie Wingo could see action immediately.

The offensive line needs some repairs after three starters graduated.  One of the returning starters, center Wade Grayson, has been bumped to second string by Seth Oxner, so there should be some improvement there.  Mitch Petrus has a chance to become a 1st Team All-SEC guard after making the 2nd team last year. 

How much the defense improves will determine how many games over .500 this team finishes in 2009.  The top 10 tacklers are back, but the Razorbacks gave up a very generous 31.2 points and 375 yards per game in ’08.  There will be some, but not much improvement this year, as there are liabilities in all three units.

The star of the stop side is tackle Malcolm Sheppard.  He finished second on the team with 68 tackles, and he led with 6 ½ sacks and eight other tackles for loss.

The secondary was burned too many times last year, and it will continue to happen somewhat this season.  There’s been some shuffling in the depth chart, but it appears that the answer has yet to be found.  The loss of Isaac Madison is big.

The linebackers are in better shape than the secondary, but this trio isn’t going to be compared to Alabama or Ole Miss’s trio. 

The Hogs should win all four non-conference games against Missouri State, Texas A&M, Eastern Michigan, and Troy, but the latter three could pull off an upset if Arkansas isn’t ready to play.  The Razorbacks get Auburn, South Carolina, and Mississippi State at home.  They have seven winnable games and, we think they could pull off an upset along the way.  Arkansas could even sneak into the New Year’s Day Bowl picture.

Auburn: The Tigers suffered through a rare losing season, and Coach Tommy Tuberville decided to call it quits at the end.  Like Tennessee, the defense was good enough to win big, but the offense couldn’t adjust to a new philosophy.

Enter Gene Chizik.  An offensive guru, he isn’t.  He’s the architect of defenses that produced undefeated seasons in 2004 at Auburn and 2005 at Texas.  In three years at Iowa State, his teams compiled a 5-19 record. 

Chizik made a great hire at offensive coordinator, taking Gus Malzahn away from Tulsa.  His Tulsa offense scored 47.2 points per game and gained 570 yards per game last year.  Auburn averaged 17.3 points and 302 yards per game.  Look for immediate improvement, but don’t even think about this team averaging 30 points and 400 yards this year.

There has been a change at quarterback, where Chris Todd supplants last year’s starter Kodi Burns.  Burns is a much better runner, while Todd is a much better passer.  Todd didn’t handle former offensive coordinator Tony Franklin’s spread offense.

Todd doesn’t have any stars running routes to catch his passes.  Leading returning receiver Montez Billings will miss at least four games to start the season, and it will take him a week or two to shake the cobwebs off.  Tight end Tommy Trott has the potential to be a difference maker.

Ben Tate has the potential to be a 1,000 yard rusher for the Tigers.  He gained 664 yards last year after gaining over 900 as a sophomore in 2007.  Mario Fannin is excellent compliment to Tate, and Auburn should increase their rushing numbers from 137 to 150 or more yards per game.

The offensive line has beefed up and should do a better job with four guys back who saw extensive action. 

On the defensive side, the back seven should be tough, but the front four will be short on depth.  In the secondary, cornerback Walter McFadden batted away eight passes, and free safety Zac Etheridge led the Tigers with 75 tackles.

Linebackers Josh Bynes and Craig Stevens anchor the second tier of the defense after teaming for 107 tackles in 2008. 

The defensive line will miss tackle Sen’Derrick Marks and his 10 total tackles for loss.  Ends Michael Goggans and Antonio Coleman are tough to run on, and Mike Blanc holds his position as good as any tackle.

Auburn can win six or seven games and return to a minor bowl this year, but it won’t be easy.  The opening game against Louisiana Tech could be a tough one if the Tigers come out tight on offense.  A week two game with Mississippi State could be interesting, after they won 3-2 last year.  The third game, against West Virginia, is the game that will show how well the War Eagles have improved.  Auburn needs to be at least 2-1 after that game in order to make a run to a bowl.  They need to be at least 6-4 after the Furman game, or it won’t happen.

Mississippi State:  Former Florida quarterback coach Dan Mullen takes over as coach in Starkville this year, but he couldn’t bring his QB with him.  That means, it is going to be a long year in Bulldog country. 

Tyson Lee isn’t terrible, especially if his knee is 100% healthy, but he’s a bit on the small side at 5’11.  True freshman Tyler Russell may take over before the year is out.  He’s got one really good receiver to locate in Brandon McRae, who caught 51 passes last year.  Mullen recruited eight receivers, and two or three will see significant action this year.

At running back, Anthony Dixon is capable of rushing for 1,000 yards again after doing so two years ago.  He runs downhill when he gets the ball, and rarely can one man bring him down.

 The offensive line is a problem both in talent and depth.  Two starters return, and inexperienced underclassmen will see a lot of playing time.  A lack of consistent blocking will keep Mullen’s offense from taking off in year one.

The defense is another story.  The Bulldogs gave up just 328 total yards per game last year, and were one of the best against the pass.  It should continue to impress, as Mullen hired Carl Torbush as coordinator.  Expect maybe a minor increase in yards and points given up because the new offense will add total plays to the games.

The front four welcomes three new starters, and they should give up about 150-160 rushing yards again.  The Bulldogs only recorded 19 sacks, so those numbers won’t go down much if at all.

Only one starting linebacker returns from last year, but the star from 2007, Jamar Chaney, returns after missing all of last year.  Chaney should be the leading tackler if he stays healthy.

The secondary has just one returning starter.  Marcus Washington is a decent cornerback, but this unit will be torched by a few teams.

Mullen will open his career 1-0, because the Bulldogs play Jackson State.  After that, things will head south.  Games at Auburn and Vanderbilt, followed by three consecutive home games against LSU, Georgia Tech, and Houston should leave MSU 1-5 heading to Murfreesboro, TN to face Middle Tennessee.  That game could be an embarrassing loss.  If they lose it, we think they will fold up like a tent and drop the final five games by about 150 points.  A 1-11 season would be a weak start, but give Mullen time.  He just might turn things around in Starkville.

Next up: We save our own neighborhood conference for last.  The Big Ten may not be as strong as the Big 12 and SEC this year, but we believe the competition will be much more exciting with upwards of five teams capable of winning the conference championship.

January 7, 2009

College Football Computer Simulation Playoffs–Championship Game

NCAA 2008 College Football Playoff Simulation

Championship Round

 

Welcome to season number two of the NCAA College Football Playoff Simulation.  For those reading this blog for the first time, the PiRate College Football Playoffs take the champions of the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, and SEC as automatic qualifiers.  Any of the remaining conference champions (including the top independent) that finish in the top 16 in the final regular season BCS Standings also qualify automatically.  At-large teams are then selected in the order of BCS finish until 12 total teams have been selected.  The 12 teams are seeded by BCS ranking.

 

Here is how the 12 teams were selected for the 2008 playoffs.

 

Top Six Conference Champions

ACC-Virginia Tech 9-4 seeded 12th

Big East Champion-Cincinnati 11-2 seeded 11th

Big Ten-Penn State 11-1 seeded 8th

Big 12-Oklahoma 12-1 seeded 1st

Pac-10-Southern Cal 11-1 seeded 5th

SEC-Florida 12-1 seeded 2nd

 

Automatic Qualifiers By Virtue Of Top 16 In BCS

MWC-Utah 12-0 seeded 6th

WAC-Boise State 12-0 seeded 9th

 

Top Four At-Large To Fill Out 12-Team Field

Texas 11-1 seeded 3rd

Alabama 12-1 seeded 4th

Texas Tech 11-1 seeded 7th

Ohio State 10-2 seeded 10th

 

The PiRate Playoff System uses the top 11 bowl games to play the four rounds.  The 5th through 12th seeds must play in the first round, while the top four seeds receive byes to the quarterfinals.

 

The First Round games were simulated Saturday, December 13.  Here were the results of those games.

 

Insight Bowl: #5 Southern Cal 20 #12 Virginia Tech 6

 

Cotton Bowl: #6 Utah 23 #11 Cincinnati 20 2ot

 

Chick-Fil-a Bowl:  #10 Ohio State 45 #7 Texas Tech 31

 

Outback Bowl: #9 Boise State 34 #8 Penn State 23

 

 

Quarterfinal Round Matches

Simulated December 20

 

Fiesta Bowl

#1 Oklahoma 48  #9 Boise State 21

 

Sugar Bowl

#2 Florida 34  #10 Ohio State 17

 

Capital One Bowl

#3 Texas 35  #6 Utah 17

 

Gator Bowl

#5 Southern Cal 17  #4 Alabama 10

 

 

FINAL FOUR

 

Rose Bowl

 

Southern California 27  Oklahoma 14

 

Orange Bowl

 

Florida 49  Texas 35

 

 

National Championship Game

 

Florida 14-1  vs. Southern Cal 14-1

 

AND THE WINNER IS………….

 

Southern California Trojans

 

Final Score:  USC 27  Florida 23

 

Team

1

2

3

4

OT

F

USC

3

10

14

0

 

27

Fla

6

3

6

8

 

23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

USC

Stat

Fla

 

 

 

 

18

FD

14

 

 

 

 

46-148

Rush-Yds

29-77

 

 

 

 

239

Pass Yds

223

 

 

 

 

19-32-0

Passes

19-35-2

 

 

 

 

5-41.8

Punt

6-40.5

 

 

 

 

3-46

PR

2-17

 

 

 

 

7-60

Pen

6-50

 

 

 

 

1-0

Fum

2-1

 

 

 

 

68

Play

64

 

 

 

 

387

Tot Yds

300

 

 

 

USC-Buehler 36 yd. FG, 1st Qtr. 10:33 (USC 3 FL 0)

Fla-Tebow 4 yd. run, kick blocked, 1st Qtr. 3:11 (FL 6 USC 3)

Fla-Phillips 29 yd. FG, 2nd Qtr. 7:55 (FL 9 USC 3)

USC-Turner 17 yd. pass from Sanchez, Buehler Kick 2nd qtr. 3:09 (USC 10 FL 9)

USC-Buehler 45 yd. FG, 2nd Qtr. 0:00 (USC 13 FL 9)

USC-Gable 9 yd. run, Buehler Kick, 3rd Qtr. 12:46 (USC 20 FL 9)

USC-Maualuga 44 yd. interception return, Buehler Kick, 3rd Qtr. 9:15 (USC 27 FL 9)

Fla-Demps 2 yd. run, 2-point try failed, 3rd Qtr. 0:54 (USC 27 FL 15)

Fla-Murphy 31 yd. pass from Tebow, Tebow run for 2, 4th Qtr. 2:27 (USC 27 FL 23)

 

Congratulations go to Southern California for winning the simulated national championship playoffs for the second year in a row!

 

 

The Real BCS Championship Game Simulated 100 Times

 

Florida won 59 of the 100 Simulations by an average score of 36 to 32.

Five of the games went to overtime, with one simulation going four overtimes.  Oklahoma won that one 68-66.

Florida won 11 games by 10 or more points with their biggest margin of victory being 23 points in a 55-32 win.

Oklahoma won three games by 10 or more points with their biggest margin of victory being 19 points at 49-30.

29 of the simulations were decided by three points or less, with Florida winning 15 and Oklahoma winning 14.

 

Regardless of the outcome of this game, there will be discussion that three other teams were just as deserving.

 

If Oklahoma wins this game, Texas has every bit as much right if not more to proclaim themselves champions.  They beat Oklahoma on a neutral field.

 

If Florida wins this game, then Utah has every bit as much right it nor more to proclaim themselves champions.  The Utes beat Alabama by more points than Florida did, and Utah had to play this game as if they were the road team.  Utah won at Oregon State, something that Southern Cal did not do.

 

Speaking of Southern Cal, the Trojans are hands down the best college team in the nation.  Most football experts, including the wise guys in Nevada understand this fact and would list USC as a favorite over any other team.

December 21, 2008

PiRate College Football Computer Simulation: Quarterfinal Round–December 21, 2008

NCAA 2008 College Football Playoff Simulation

Quarterfinal Round

 

Welcome to season number two of the NCAA College Football Playoff Simulation.  For those reading this blog for the first time, the PiRate College Football Playoffs take the champions of the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, and SEC as automatic qualifiers.  Any of the remaining conference champions (including the top independent) that finish in the top 16 in the final regular season BCS Standings also qualify automatically.  At-large teams are then selected in the order of BCS finish until 12 total teams have been selected.  The 12 teams are seeded by BCS ranking.

 

Here is how the 12 teams were selected for the 2008 playoffs.

 

Top Six Conference Champions

ACC-Virginia Tech 9-4 seeded 12th

Big East Champion-Cincinnati 11-2 seeded 11th

Big Ten-Penn State 11-1 seeded 8th

Big 12-Oklahoma 12-1 seeded 1st

Pac-10-Southern Cal 11-1 seeded 5th

SEC-Florida 12-1 seeded 2nd

 

Automatic Qualifiers By Virtue Of Top 16 In BCS

MWC-Utah 12-0 seeded 6th

WAC-Boise State 12-0 seeded 9th

 

Top Four At-Large To Fill Out 12-Team Field

Texas 11-1 seeded 3rd

Alabama 12-1 seeded 4th

Texas Tech 11-1 seeded 7th

Ohio State 10-2 seeded 10th

 

The PiRate Playoff System uses the top 11 bowl games to play the four rounds.  The 5th through 12th seeds must play in the first round, while the top four seeds receive byes to the quarterfinals.

 

The First Round games were simulated Saturday, December 13.  Here are the results of those games.

 

Insight Bowl: #5 Southern Cal 20 #12 Virginia Tech 6

 

Cotton Bowl: #6 Utah 23 #11 Cincinnati 20 2ot

 

Chick-Fil-a Bowl:  #10 Ohio State 45 #7 Texas Tech 31

 

Outback Bowl: #9 Boise State 34 #8 Penn State 23

 

 

Quarterfinal Round Matches

Simulated December 20

 

Fiesta Bowl

#1 Oklahoma 12-1 vs. #9 Boise State 13-0

 

Final Score: Oklahoma 48  Boise State 21

 

Chris Brown rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns, and Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford passed for four scores, as Oklahoma scored on touchdowns on their first three possessions to win rather easily.

 

The top-seeded Sooners now advance to the semifinal round where they will take on Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.

 

 

Team

1

2

3

4

OT

F

Oklahoma

21

10

10

7

 

48

Boise St.

0

7

0

14

 

21

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OKL

Stat

BSU

 

 

 

 

26

FD

17

 

 

 

 

37-177

Rush-Yds

32-74

 

 

 

 

348

Pass Yds

213

 

 

 

 

24-37-0

Passes

19-32-1

 

 

 

 

2-40.5

Punt

6-39.3

 

 

 

 

2-14

PR

1-5

 

 

 

 

4-33

Pen

6-47

 

 

 

 

0-0

Fum

0-0

 

 

 

 

74

Play

64

 

 

 

 

525

Tot Yds

287

 

 

 

 

 

Sugar Bowl

#2 Florida 12-1 vs. #10 Ohio State 11-2

 

Final Score: Florida 34  Ohio State 17

 

Tim Tebow may have lost out on a second consecutive Heisman Trophy award, but the junior Gator Quarterback showed the nation that he is still the most versatile quarterback in college football.  Tebow opened the game with a 72-yard scoring pass to Louis Murphy.  On the Gators’ next possession, Tebow completed six consecutive passes and then ran off left tackle for 22 yards and a touchdown.  He finished the game with 67 yard rushing and 312 total yards.

 

The number two seed Gators now advance to the Orange Bowl and will play Texas on New Year’s Day.

 

Team

1

2

3

4

OT

F

Florida

14

10

3

7

 

34

Ohio State

0

3

14

0

 

17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fla

Stat

OSU

 

 

 

 

23

FD

17

 

 

 

 

50-286

Rush-Yds

25-90

 

 

 

 

245

Pass Yds

219

 

 

 

 

17-25-0

Passes

18-34-3

 

 

 

 

4-42.8

Punt

7-39.6

 

 

 

 

5-73

PR

3-16

 

 

 

 

7-60

Pen

6-52

 

 

 

 

0-0

Fum

1-1

 

 

 

 

67

Play

59

 

 

 

 

531

Tot Yds

309

 

 

 

 

Capital One Bowl

#3 Texas 11-1 vs. #6 Utah 13-0

 

Final Score: Texas 35  Utah 17

 

Colt McCoy completed his first 14 passes and joines two other Longhorns with more than 50 yards rushing, as Texas crushed Utah and advanced to the Orange Bowl against Florida.

 

McCoy rushed for 51 yards on 12 carries; Vondrell McGee picked up 57 yards on 17 carries, and Cody Johnson rushed for 71 yards on just 11 carries and scored two touchdowns.

 

Team

1

2

3

4

OT

F

Texas

14

7

14

0

 

35

Utah

0

0

3

14

 

17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tex

Stat

Utah

 

 

 

 

26

FD

15

 

 

 

 

40-179

Rush-Yds

27-58

 

 

 

 

301

Pass Yds

241

 

 

 

 

25-32-0

Passes

20-37-1

 

 

 

 

3-41.0

Punt

6-40.7

 

 

 

 

1-8

PR

0-0

 

 

 

 

6-50

Pen

8-67

 

 

 

 

1-0

Fum

2-1

 

 

 

 

72

Play

64

 

 

 

 

480

Tot Yds

299

 

 

 

 

Gator Bowl

#4 Alabama 12-1 vs. #5 Southern Cal 12-1

 

Final Score: Southern Cal 17  Alabama 10

 

Southern Cal took advantage of three Alabama turnovers inside Crimson Tide territory, and the stellar Trojan defense kept Alabama out of the end zone.  Alabama’s lone touchdown came on a blocked punt recovered in the end zone.

 

USC now advances to the Rose Bowl, where the Trojans will take on Oklahoma in a battle of the best offense versus the best defense.

 

Team

1

2

3

4

OT

F

Alabama

0

3

0

7

 

10

USC

0

7

10

0

 

17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ala

Stat

USC

 

 

 

 

8

FD

16

 

 

 

 

32-51

Rush-Yds

35-119

 

 

 

 

144

Pass Yds

207

 

 

 

 

15-27-1

Passes

19-31-1

 

 

 

 

8-41.6

Punt

6-33.3

 

 

 

 

3-22

PR

5-69

 

 

 

 

4-30

Pen

5-40

 

 

 

 

3-2

Fum

0-0

 

 

 

 

59

Play

66

 

 

 

 

195

Tot Yds

326

 

 

 

November 11, 2008

PiRate Ratings For College Football: Week Of November 11-15, 2008

NCAA Week 12: BCS Could Be On Verge Of Getting Quite Muddled

 

Bye Bye Penn State.  Alabama just barely survived in the Bayou.  Florida and Southern Cal showed they are the two best teams in the nation, but it’s going to take a few more losses at the top before that match-up has any chance of ever occurring.

 

Last week’s games really threw a monkey wrench into the lower bowls.  There is a good chance now that at least six bowls will have to look for at-large teams because the conferences that have agreements with these bowls will not have enough bowl eligible teams.  Read below in my bowl section to see the ensuing problems.

 

The PiRate Top 25 is different from the polls.  I do not rank the teams based on what they have done to date.  These teams are rated on how I think they will perform in the future (predictive ratings).

 

NCAA Top 25 For 11-Nov-2008
Rank Team PiRate Won Lost
1 Florida  135 8 1
2 Southern Cal 132 8 1
3 Texas Tech 127 10 0
4 Oklahoma 127 9 1
5 Texas 126 9 1
6 Ohio St. 126 8 2
7 Penn St. 124 9 1
8 Missouri 121 8 2
9 Alabama 120 10 0
10 Georgia  120 8 2
11 Oklahoma St. 117 8 2
12 T C U 117 9 2
13 Boise State 116 9 0
14 Oregon State 116 6 3
15 South Carolina 115 7 3
16 Utah 114 10 0
17 Ball State 114 9 0
18 Oregon 114 7 3
19 California 114 6 3
20 L S U 113 6 3
21 Iowa 112 6 4
22 Arizona 112 6 3
23 West Virginia 112 6 3
24 Cincinnati 111 7 2
25 Florida State 111 7 2
         
Note: Ratings rounded to nearest whole number
even though I rank them to two decimal points

 

PiRate Ratings By Conference

 

Atlantic Coast Conference
Atlantic Division          
Team Conf. Overall Rating Off Def
Florida State 4-2 7-2 111 70 41
Clemson 2-4 4-5 107 65 42
Boston College 2-3 6-3 105 64 41
Maryland 3-2 6-3 104 64 40
Wake Forest 4-2 6-3 103 56 47
North Carolina State 1-4 3-6 98 66 32
           
Coastal Division          
Team Conf. Overall Rating Off Def
North Carolina 3-2 7-2 110 69 41
Virginia Tech 3-2 6-3 108 67 41
Miami 3-2 6-3 104 61 43
Georgia Tech 4-3 7-3 102 62 40
Virginia  3-3 5-5 101 59 42
Duke 1-4 4-5 94 61 33

 

Big East Conference
           
Team Conf. Overall Rating Off Def
West Virginia 3-1 6-3 112 67 45
Cincinnati 3-1 7-2 111 65 46
South Florida 1-3 6-3 109 69 40
Rutgers 3-2 4-5 108 65 43
Pittsburgh 3-1 7-2 108 65 43
Connecticut 2-2 6-3 103 64 39
Louisville 1-3 5-4 96 59 37
Syracuse 1-4 2-7 88 55 33

 

Big Ten
           
Team Conf. Overall Rating Off Def
Ohio State 5-1 8-2 126 70 56
Penn State 5-1 9-1 124 75 49
Iowa 3-3 6-4 112 70 42
Wisconsin 2-5 5-5 110 71 39
Michigan State 6-1 9-2 106 64 42
Illinois 3-3 5-5 106 67 39
Michigan 2-4 3-7 100 60 40
Northwestern 3-3 7-3 99 62 37
Minnesota 3-3 7-3 97 61 36
Purdue 1-5 3-7 97 63 34
Indiana 1-5 3-7 85 57 28

 

Big 12
North Division          
Team Conf. Overall Rating Off Def
Missouri 4-2 8-2 121 75 46
Kansas 3-3 6-4 108 67 41
Nebraska 3-3 6-4 106 68 38
Kansas State 1-5 4-6 97 68 29
Colorado 2-4 5-5 93 56 37
Iowa State 0-6 2-8 85 57 28
South Division          
Team Conf. Overall Rating Off Def
Texas Tech 6-0 10-0 127 86 41
Oklahoma 5-1 9-1 127 86 41
Texas 5-1 9-1 126 81 45
Oklahoma State 4-2 8-2 117 71 46
Baylor 1-5 3-7 102 65 37
Texas A&M 2-4 4-6 92 57 35

 

Conference USA
East Division          
Team Conf. Overall Rating Off Def
East Carolina 4-1 6-3 97 62 35
Southern Miss. 2-4 4-6 95 64 31
Marshall 3-2 4-5 94 59 35
Memphis 3-3 5-5 90 60 30
Central Florida 1-4 2-7 87 48 39
U A B 1-4 2-7 79 51 28
West Division          
Team Conf. Overall Rating Off Def
Tulsa 5-0 8-1 106 72 34
Houston 4-1 5-4 95 63 32
Rice 5-1 7-3 91 62 29
U T E P 3-2 4-5 87 59 28
S M U 0-6 1-9 81 59 22
Tulane 1-4 2-7 79 53 26

 

Independents
           
Team   Overall Rating Off Def
Notre Dame   5-4 103 61 42
Navy   6-3 97 60 37
Army   3-7 86 49 37

 

Mid American Conference
East Division          
Team Conf. Overall Rating Off Def
Bowling Green 3-3 5-5 99 66 33
Buffalo 3-2 5-4 98 65 33
Temple 2-3 3-6 96 56 40
Akron 3-2 5-4 93 62 31
Kent State 1-4 2-7 89 58 31
Ohio U 1-5 2-8 87 48 39
Miami (O) 1-4 2-7 86 57 29
           
West Division          
Team Conf. Overall Rating Off Def
Ball State 5-0 9-0 114 74 40
Western Michigan 5-1 8-2 102 64 38
Central Michigan 5-0 7-2 98 66 32
Northern Illinois 4-2 5-4 98 60 38
Toledo 1-4 2-7 86 56 30
Eastern Michigan 1-5 2-8 83 52 31

 

Mountain West Conference
           
Team Conf. Overall Rating Off Def
T C U 6-1 9-2 117 66 51
Utah 6-0 10-0 114 68 46
Brigham Young 5-1 9-1 106 66 40
Air Force 5-1 8-2 99 60 39
New Mexico 2-5 4-7 96 59 37
UNLV 1-5 4-6 90 59 31
Colorado State 2-4 4-6 89 58 31
Wyoming 1-5 4-6 88 53 35
San Diego State 0-6 1-9 72 47 25

 

Pac-10 Conference
           
Team Conf. Overall Rating Off Def
Southern Cal 6-1 8-1 132 73 59
Oregon State 5-1 6-3 116 74 42
Oregon 5-2 7-3 114 71 43
California 4-2 6-3 114 72 42
Arizona 4-2 6-3 112 73 39
Stanford 4-3 5-5 108 65 43
Arizona State 2-4 3-6 105 64 41
U C L A 2-4 3-6 98 56 42
Washington 0-6 0-9 87 57 30
Washington State 0-7 1-9 71 48 23

 

Southeastern Conference
East Division          
Team Conf. Overall Rating Off Def
Florida  6-1 8-1 135 84 51
Georgia  5-2 8-2 120 74 46
South Carolina 4-3 7-3 115 67 48
Kentucky 2-4 6-4 106 63 43
Vanderbilt 3-3 5-4 104 58 46
Tennessee 1-5 3-7 101 59 42
West Division          
Team Conf. Overall Rating Off Def
Alabama 6-0 10-0 120 68 52
L S U 3-3 6-3 113 71 42
Ole Miss 3-3 5-4 110 67 43
Auburn 2-4 5-5 105 58 47
Mississippi State 1-4 3-6 102 57 45
Arkansas 1-5 4-6 101 67 34

 

Sunbelt Conference
           
Team Conf. Overall Rating Off Def
Troy 4-1 6-3 97 64 33
Louisiana-Lafayette 4-0 5-4 93 67 26
Florida Atlantic 2-2 4-5 93 62 31
Arkansas State 2-2 4-5 89 59 30
Middle Tennessee 2-3 3-6 88 56 32
Louisiana-Monroe 2-4 3-7 88 57 31
Florida International 3-2 4-5 86 56 30
* Western Kentucky 0-0 2-8 83 52 31
North Texas 0-5 1-9 70 54 16
           
* Western Kentucky will become eligible in 2009      
Their games will not count in the SBC Standings in 2008    

 

Western Athletic Conference
           
Team Conf. Overall Rating Off Def
Boise State 5-0 9-0 116 72 44
Fresno State 2-3 5-4 92 64 28
Nevada 3-2 5-4 99 71 28
San Jose State 4-2 6-4 89 54 35
Louisiana Tech 3-2 5-4 96 56 40
Hawaii 4-3 5-5 90 54 36
Utah State 2-4 2-8 87 54 33
New Mexico State 1-4 3-6 77 50 27
Idaho 1-5 2-8 75 58 17

 

This Week’s Games–PiRate Ratings
Home Team in CAPS (N) Denotes Neutral Site    
       
Tuesday, November 11      
Favorite Underdog Pred. Spread Approx. Score
Ball State MIAMI (O) 25 45-20
       
Wednesday, November 12      
Favorite Underdog Pred. Spread Approx. Score
Temple KENT STATE 4 24-20
NORTHERN ILLINOIS Central Michigan 3 30-27
       
Thursday, November 13      
Favorite Underdog Pred. Spread Approx. Score
Buffalo AKRON 2 33-31
Va. Tech MIAMI-FL 1 22-21
UNLV Wyoming 5 26-21
       
Friday, November 14      
Favorite Underdog Pred. Spread Approx. Score
Cincinnati LOUISVILLE 12 26-14
       
Saturday, November 15      
Favorite Underdog Pred. Spread Approx. Score
PENN STATE Indiana 42 49-7
Ohio State ILLINOIS 17 30-13
SOUTH FLORIDA Rutgers 4 27-23
MICHIGAN Northwestern 4 24-20
CLEMSON Duke 16 33-17
Notre Dame NAVY           (Baltimore) 4 24-20
IOWA Purdue 18 38-20
Texas KANSAS 15 40-25
Georgia AUBURN 12 24-12
Middle Tennessee WESTERN KENTUCKY 2 23-21
New Mexico COLORADO STATE 4 27-23
OLE MISS Louisiana-Monroe 25 38-13
WESTERN MICHIGAN Toledo 19 35-16
LOUISIANA TECH Utah State 12 24-12
SOUTHERN MISS. East Carolina 1 31-30
TULANE U a b 3 27-24
FLORIDA South Carolina 23 37-14
North Carolina MARYLAND 3 27-24
B y u AIR FORCE 4 27-23
Wake Forest N.C. STATE 2 22-20
OREGON STATE California 5 33-28
WISCONSIN Minnesota 16 37-21
OREGON  Arizona 5 34-29
Nebraska KANSAS STATE 6 37-31
FLORIDA ATLANTIC Louisiana-Lafayette 3 38-35
BAYLOR Texas A&M 13 31-18
NEVADA San Jose State 13 37-24
MARSHALL Central Florida 10 20-10
Boise State IDAHO 38 52-14
FRESNO STATE New Mexico State 18 38-20
ARIZONA STATE Washington State 37 44-7
Missouri IOWA STATE 33 45-12
Southern Cal STANFORD 21 28-7
Connecticut SYRACUSE 12 28-16
ALABAMA Mississippi State 22 35-13
Utah SAN DIEGO STATE 39 42-3
Oklahoma State COLORADO 21 34-13
FLORIDA STATE Boston College 9 30-21
L S U Troy 19 38-19
Tulsa HOUSTON 8 38-30
KENTUCKY Vanderbilt 5 17-12
U T E P S m u 9 37-28
U c l a WASHINGTON  8 25-17

 

This Week’s Games–Mean Ratings
Home Team in CAPS (N) Denotes Neutral Site  
Tuesday, November 11    
Favorite Underdog Predicted Score
Ball State MIAMI (O) 37-14
     
Wednesday, November 12    
Favorite Underdog Predicted Score
Temple KENT STATE 28-23
NORTHERN ILLINOIS Central Michigan 24-23
     
Thursday, November 13    
Favorite Underdog Predicted Score
AKRON Buffalo 28-27
MIAMI-FL Virginia Tech 24-20
UNLV Wyoming 28-20
     
Friday, November 14    
Favorite Underdog Predicted Score
Cincinnati LOUISVILLE 24-17
     
Saturday, November 15    
Favorite Underdog Predicted Score
PENN STATE Indiana 41-7
Ohio State ILLINOIS 23-14
SOUTH FLORIDA Rutgers 27-19
Northwestern MICHIGAN 31-26
CLEMSON Duke 28-23
NAVY Notre Dame 27-26
IOWA Purdue 28-13
Texas KANSAS 40-27
Georgia AUBURN 20-10
Middle Tennessee WESTERN KENTUCKY 16-14
New Mexico COLORADO STATE 24-23
OLE MISS Louisiana-Monroe 38-14
WESTERN MICHIGAN Toledo 35-19
LOUISIANA TECH Utah State 31-21
East Carolina SOUTHERN MISS. 24-24 to ot
TULANE U a b 30-24
FLORIDA South Carolina 41-21
North Carolina MARYLAND 21-16
B y u AIR FORCE 27-27 to ot
Wake Forest N.C. STATE 24-16
OREGON STATE California 31-27
WISCONSIN Minnesota 38-33
OREGON  Arizona 30-26
KANSAS STATE Nebraska 37-31
FLORIDA ATLANTIC Louisiana-Lafayette 24-23
BAYLOR Texas A&M  34-28
NEVADA San Jose State 31-23
MARSHALL Central Florida 21-13
Boise State IDAHO 44-10
FRESNO STATE New Mexico State 40-27
ARIZONA STATE Washington State 45-21
Missouri IOWA STATE 40-14
Southern Cal STANFORD 23-3
Connecticut SYRACUSE 28-16
ALABAMA Mississippi State 35-7
Utah SAN DIEGO STATE 35-3
Oklahoma State COLORADO 38-23
FLORIDA STATE Boston College 28-20
L S U Troy 31-17
Tulsa HOUSTON 42-35
KENTUCKY Vanderbilt 14-10
U T E P S m u 40-27
U c l a WASHINGTON  26-21

 

 

Bowl Outlook by Conference

 

As I mentioned above, this is becoming a mess.  Let’s take a look at the possible problems facing the bowls that must rely on conferences to produce seven to nine bowl eligible teams.  A half-dozen bowls and maybe more could be forced to find at-large teams.

 

Teams in all CAPS have already accepted invitations to that bowl.

 

ACC

North Carolina State, Virginia, Clemson, and Duke are on the verge of elimination, and I believe three of the four will fail to get to six wins.  The ACC has nine tie-ins, and it looks like they will just barely have nine bowl-eligible schools.  The Clemson-Virginia game at Charlottesville on November 22 will be a bowl elimination game.

 

1. Orange Bowl-North Carolina 11-2 vs. Cincinnati

2. Chick-fil-a-Virginia Tech 8-4 vs. Kentucky

3. Gator-Florida State 8-4 vs. Missouri

4. Champs Sports-Wake Forest 9-4 vs. Northwestern

5. Music City-Miami 8-4 vs. Ole Miss

6. Meineke Car Care-Georgia Tech 8-4 vs. West Virginia

7. Eagle Bank-Maryland 7-5 vs. NAVY

8. Emerald-Boston College 7-5 vs. Arizona

9. Humanitarian-Virginia 6-6 vs. San Jose State

 

Big East

Another week, another leader in the pack for the Big East-Cincinnati is the new team on top.  The Bearcats won at West Virginia, and wins over Louisville this Friday and Pittsburgh the following week will sew up the Big East title.  They could lose either or both games, but for now, I have them penciled in as the champion.

 

With Notre Dame’s consecutive losses and almost assured to lose to Southern Cal, I have removed the Irish from the Big East equation.  However, they will certainly grab an at-large bid from the first bowl that loses a tie-in.

 

I have Rutgers as the sole 6-6 team getting an at-large bowl bid.  Should someone like Temple or Akron finish 7-5, they will take the at-large bid away.

 

1. Orange-Cincinnati 10-3 vs. North Carolina

2. Sun-Pittsburgh 9-3 vs. Oregon State

3. St. Petersburg-South Florida 8-4 vs. East Carolina

4. Meineke Car Care-West Virginia 7-5 vs. Georgia Tech

5. International-Connecticut 7-5 vs. Central Michigan

6. Papa John’s-Louisville 6-6 vs. Florida Atlantic

7. Hawaii (at-large)-Rutgers 6-6

 

Big Ten

Penn State’s loss has virtually relegated the Nittany Lions to the Rose Bowl.  Should Michigan State beat them, then Ohio State can back into Pasadena for a possible rematch with Southern Cal.  Illinois lost to Western Michigan, and now the Illini must beat either Ohio State or Northwestern to gain eligibility.  For now, I have them out of the bowl picture, and that means the Big 10 will likely fall one team short of its obligations.  That means the Motor City Bowl will need to search for a substitute.  Notre Dame would fit in perfectly here, but if Ball State runs the table and finishes 13-0, it could present a special situation for the Motor City Bowl to make a deal with the WAC and take a 12-0 Boise State team for a dream match.

 

Minnesota’s loss to Michigan opens the door for another team to sneak into a New Year’s Bowl, but for now I have the Gophers still there.

 

1. Rose-Penn State 11-1 vs. Southern Cal

2. Fiesta-Ohio State 10-2 vs. Texas

3. Capital One-Michigan State 9-3 vs. Georgia

4. Outback-Minnesota 8-4 vs. South Carolina

5. Champs Sports-Northwestern 8-4 vs. Wake Forest

6. Alamo-Iowa 7-5 vs. Nebraska

7. Insight-Wisconsin 7-5 vs. Kansas

8. Motor City-No Team Available

 

Big 12

Texas Tech looked like a championship team against Oklahoma State, but I think they will find it difficult to win at Oklahoma.  If the Sooners beat the Red Raiders, they will then have to beat Oklahoma State in Stillwater in order to finish in a three-way tie in the Big 12 South.  If they win both games, they should finish with the highest BCS rating among the trio and acquire the bid to the Big 12 Championship Game.  I have them doing just that.  Now, here is where I think the evils of money will win out over what is just.  At 11-1, Texas Tech would deserve an at-large BCS Bowl bid over 11-1 Texas, but I am sure greed would win out.  Texas would get that bid.

 

Colorado and Kansas State still have much work to do to gain bowl eligibility.  I think the Buffaloes will miss out, and it could mean big trouble for Coach Dan Hawkins in Boulder.  Kansas State has a decent chance to upset Nebraska and knock off Iowa State to sneak in at 6-6.  If they lose to the Cornhuskers, then the Big 12 will fall two teams short in their allotments.

 

1. BCS National Championship-Oklahoma 12-1 vs. Florida

2. Fiesta-Texas 11-1 vs. Ohio State

3. Cotton-Texas Tech 11-1 vs. LSU

4. Gator-Missouri 10-3 vs. Florida State

5. Holiday-Oklahoma State 9-3 vs. California

6. Alamo-Nebraska 7-5 vs. Iowa

7. Insight-Kansas 6-6 vs. Wisconsin

8. Independence-Kansas State 6-6 vs. Louisiana Tech

9. Texas-No Qualifying team

 

C-USA

This is a big week in the C-USA, as both divisions have key showdowns that will go a long way in determining their representatives in the conference title game.  Houston hosts Tulsa, and should the Cougars win, the West Division will be tied three ways between these two and Rice.  Houston concludes the season at Rice.  Tulsa holds the tiebreaker over Rice, and Houston would hold the tiebreaker over Tulsa if they beat the Golden Hurricane.

 

In the East, East Carolina visits Southern Mississippi.  If the Pirates win, they are in the title game.  Marshall still has an outside chance to win this division, but I believe the Thundering Herd will lose at least two more games and fail to gain bowl eligibility. 

 

After a start that looked like it would cost Tommy West his job, his Memphis team is the hottest squad in the East Division.  I look for the Tigers to win out and earn their fifth bowl game in six years.

 

Southern Mississippi must defeat ECU and SMU to get to six wins; for now, I have them doing that, but it is quite a tenuous supposition.  Chances are about 60% that the New Orleans Bowl will have to find an at-large team.

 

1. Liberty-Tulsa 11-2 vs. Vanderbilt

2. St. Petersburg-East Carolina 8-5 vs. South Florida

3. G M A C-Rice 9-3 vs. Western Michigan

4. Armed Forces-Houston 7-5 vs. U N L V

5. Texas-Memphis 7-5 vs. Buffalo

6. New Orleans-Southern Miss. 6-6 vs. Troy

 

Independent

The one sure thing is that Navy is headed to the first Eagle Bank Bowl in Washington, D.C.  Notre Dame should be bowl eligible, and at 7-5 they will definitely be invited to fill an at-large spot.  They could still steal the Sun Bowl bid from the Big East, but I believe there will be more deserving teams to go to El Paso.

 

1. Sun-Notre Dame 7-5 vs. Arizona

2. Eagle Bank-NAVY 7-5 vs. Wake Forest

 

M A C

Here is where the bowl situation becomes a bloody mess.  Let’s start with the possibility that Ball State could finish 13-0 and in the top 15 and not qualify for an at-large BCS Bowl.  At 13-0, it would be terrible for the Cardinals to face a 6-6 Big 10 team or some at-large team that barely qualified at 7-5.  I believe an excellent situation would be available if both Boise State and Ball State finished undefeated.  A deal could be struck for the two teams to play, leaving a western bowl with two more evenly-matched teams.  Should Utah lose to BYU, then Ball State would still need a Boise State loss to back into a possible Sugar Bowl bid.

 

Since it is silly to try to predict a back room deal, I am leaving the bowl tie-ins alone for now, but with the above caveat in place.

 

As for the rest of the league, this is getting very interesting.  The MAC finishes the season with November games on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.  Last week, the nation saw Ball State destroy a good Northern Illinois team.  Tonight (Tuesday), the Cardinals should blow Miami of Ohio off the field.  Three more key conference games tomorrow and Thursday could play important roles in determining bowl bids.  Akron and Buffalo hook up in the Rubber Bowl, where the winner takes a commanding lead in the East.  Temple goes to Kent State, where an Owl win puts them in position to challenge for a piece of the division title.  Northern Illinois and Central Michigan play Wednesday in Dekalb, and if the Chippewas win on the road, they may be a major obstacle for Ball State the following Wednesday.

 

1. Motor City-Ball State 13-0 vs. Notre Dame (Boise State?)

2. International-Central Michigan 9-3 vs. Connecticut

3. G M A C-Western Michigan 9-3 vs. Rice

4. Poinsettia (at-large)-Northern Illinois 7-5 vs. BYU

5. Texas (at-large)-Buffalo 7-6 vs. Memphis

 

Mountain West

Utah’s come-from-behind win over TCU has them firmly holding onto the at-large BCS Bowl bid.  A win over a weakening BYU team will clinch it.  That means, the MWC will get an extra bowl bid, and there will be an available team.  That team will be the one that finishes 6-6 from among UNLV, Wyoming, and Colorado State.  Wyoming plays the other two to finish out the season, while UNLV also plays San Diego State and Colorado State also plays New Mexico.  The Rebels have the easiest path to 6-6.

 

See the WAC for an explanation of the New Mexico.

 

1. Sugar-Utah 12-0 vs. Alabama

2. Las Vegas-TCU 10-2 vs. Oregon

3. Poinsettia-BYU 9-3 vs. Northern Illinois

4. New Mexico-Air Force 9-3 vs. Boise State (Notre Dame?)

5. Armed Forces-UNLV 6-6 vs. Houston

 

Pac-10

Oregon State still controls its own destiny in the Pac-10.  If the Beavers beat California, Arizona, and Oregon, they are in the Rose Bowl no matter what USC does in their games.  An Oregon State-Penn State rematch would not be all that exciting.  I think OSU will lose one of those final three, and USC will win out.

 

Stanford must upset either USC or Cal to gain bowl eligibility, and I don’t believe they can do that.  UCLA will most certainly not win out, so the Bruins will not get to six wins.  Arizona State has a remote chance of winning out to finish 6-6, but for now I have them finishing 5-7.  That means the Pac-10 will fall two teams shy of their bowl allotments.

 

 

1. Rose-Southern Cal 11-1 vs. Penn State

2. Holiday-California 8-4 vs. Oklahoma State

3. Sun-Oregon State 8-4 vs. Pittsburgh

4. Las Vegas-Oregon 8-4 vs. TCU

5. Emerald-Arizona 8-4 vs. Boston College

6. Poinsettia-No qualifying team

7. Hawaii- No qualifying team

 

S E C

Has there ever been a more dominant one-loss team in college football than the 2008 Florida Gators?  I can only compare them to a few past teams, mostly from six decades past.  In 1943, a 9-1 Notre Dame team easily destroyed eight of their opponents before surviving against one military all-star team and losing late to another.  Of course, the Irish were so dominant then with help of WWII.  I liken this Florida team to the 1968 UCLA Bruin basketball team.  UCLA lost by two points on the road to the best team since 1956 not coached by John Wooden.  They lost with Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar) still hampered by an eye injury.  When the Bruins faced Houston in the Final Four, they led by over 40 points with eight minutes remaining before Coach Wooden emptied the bench.  Now Florida did not lose on the road at Alabama, Texas Tech, or USC.  Tim Tebow was not recovering from an injury at the time the Gators lost at home to Ole Miss.  However, this is SEC football.  Any SEC team that is headed to a bowl is by definition one of the best in the nation.  We all know the Gators would beat Ole Miss by five touchdowns in a rematch.  I think Florida today can beat any college team by two touchdowns or more, with the exception of Southern Cal, and they would beat them by 7-10 points. 

 

Alabama is still unbeaten and ranked number one.  The Tide should reach the SEC Championship Game at 12-0, but I’m willing to wager that an 11-1 Florida team will be favored by the wise guys in Las Vegas, who know who is the best team in the nation.  Penn State’s losing last week crushed the hopes of the Rose Bowl to get the Tide out to Pasadena.  If Southern Cal could move into the top spot, then a 12-1 Bama team could still make it west for the first time since January of 1946.  Fat Chance!

 

The SEC is going to fall at least two teams short in meeting their bowl obligations.  Tennessee was eliminated last week.  Auburn would have to beat either Georgia or Alabama, and that won’t happen.  Mississippi State would have to beat Alabama, Arkansas, and Ole Miss, and there’s no chance.  Arkansas might beat Mississippi State, but they won’t defeat LSU and will finish under .500.  Vanderbilt still needs one win and has Kentucky, Tennessee, and Wake Forest left.  For now, I am calling the Tennessee game a win, but I am not confident about that.  They could easily finish 5-7 after starting 5-0 and really put daggers in the hearts of their fans.

 

1. National Championship-Florida 12-1 vs. Oklahoma

2. Sugar-Alabama 12-1 vs. Utah

3. Capital One-Georgia 10-2 vs. Michigan State

4. Outback-South Carolina 8-4 vs. Minnesota

5. Cotton-L S U 9-3 vs. Texas Tech

6. Chick-fil-a-Kentucky 7-5 vs. Virginia Tech

7. Music City-Ole Miss 7-5 vs. Miami

8. Liberty-Vanderbilt 6-6 vs. Tulsa

9. Independence-No qualifying team

10. Papa John’s-No qualifying team

 

Sunbelt

Troy is still in command here, but the Trojans have a tough game remaining against Louisiana-Lafayette.  Troy would have gotten an extra week to prepare for this game, but their game with LSU had to be rescheduled after the September hurricane.  The ULL game is in Troy, so I still have the Trojans penciled in darkly as probable SBC champs.

 

With all the at-large possibilities, chances are quite strong that a second team will get a bowl bid.  There is even a slim chance that a third team could earn one too.

 

1. New Orleans-Troy 8-4 vs. Southern Miss.

2. Papa John’s (at-large)-Florida Atlantic 7-5 vs. Louisville

 

W A C

Boise State should finish 12-0, and they should finish in the top 10.  Unless Utah loses, the Broncos will be left out in the cold when the BCS doles out its big bowl bids.  Personally, I would love to see a Utah-Boise State Fiesta Bowl or even Cotton Bowl, but that isn’t going to happen.  What could happen is a deal for Boise State to be released from their WAC bowl alliance to face Ball State if both are unbeaten. 

 

San Jose State is the only other WAC team that has secured bowl eligibility, and there are four other teams vying for the remaining two bowls.  I believe three will get to seven wins, and one of the trio will get an at-large invitation.

 

1. New Mexico-Boise State 12-0 vs. Air Force

(Boise State could swap with Notre Dame and face a 13-0 Ball State team.  I am sure the New Mexico Bowl would gladly take Notre Dame.)

2. Humanitarian-San Jose State 7-5 vs. Virginia

3. Hawaii-Hawaii 7-6 vs. Rutgers

4. Independence (at-large)-Louisiana Tech 8-4 vs. Kansas St.

 

December 31, 2007

PiRate Look at the Bowls–January 1 through January 6

 

New Year’s Bowl Game Match-ups (1/1-1/6)

Disclaimer: I am giving advice on pointspreads totally as an act of fun.  I do not personally wager money on these games, and I do not advocate you doing so either.  It’s just a game like Monopoly to me.

Here it is New Year’s Eve as this is written, and I still have yet to spend one minute watching or listening to any of the bowls so far.  Who would have thought that the top game in the holiday season would be a Saturday night contest between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants?  The next most important games in this time were the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears, the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys, the Denver Broncos and the Minnesota Vikings, and the Indianapolis Colts and the Tennessee Titans.  These games actually had something on the line, as these teams were fighting to make history or the playoffs.

To the contrary, these bowls have been meaningless to me and most of the country, since they don’t contribute to the national title.  Looking at traffic to this site, it appears more people are interested in the computer simulated playoffs than the actual bowl breakdowns, so I have reduced the coverage of these games.

As I previously stated, if the bowls were used for NCAA playoffs, the Cotton Bowl might have an important quarterfinal round game featuring the eventual National Champion instead of a meaningless game that won’t draw many viewers nor return much bang for their sponsor’s buck.  What if LSU and Southern Cal played in the Cotton Bowl instead of Arkansas and Missouri?  I dare say FOX Sports would get a much higher rating for the game, and AT&T, as the sponsor, would receive a bigger return on their investment.

Here is a brief breakdown of the third wave of bowls.  These used to be the most exciting football games of the year when several of them played a part in the national title decision.  Under the old system, Ohio State would have been playing Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl; LSU would have played Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl (using the theory that LSU played an undefeated Wyoming team in January 1968); Kansas and Virginia Tech would still have played in the Orange Bowl, but with the game having national title repercussions; Oklahoma would have played Arizona State in the Fiesta Bowl; and the Cotton Bowl would have featured Texas against Missouri.  At least three bowls would have played a part in the championship picture, and if LSU, Ohio State, and Kansas would have lost, it would have thrown the door open for a host of teams to claim a part of a national title.  Now, we have the winner of one game and one game only.  It will be played six days after New Year’s Day, so the January 1st bowl games are now a waste of time; there’s no reason to watch unless your favorite team is playing.

The one prediction I can make with absolute certitude is that I won’t spend a minute watching or listening to these games. 

Point spreads and totals are those listed as of 9:00 AM ET Monday, December 31, 2007

Times given are Eastern Standard Tome Zone

Tuesday, January 1-11:00 AM ESPN

Outback Bowl-Tampa

Tennessee 9-4  vs.  Wisconsin 9-3

Vegas:  Tennessee by 1½

PiRate: Tennessee by 2

Mean: Tennessee 30  Wisconsin 28

Tennessee has some distractions heading into this game with offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe now the head coach at Duke.

Wisconsin has defensive liabilities that Tennessee can exploit, but the Badgers’ offense is strong enough to make this game a shootout.  Give the Vols an ever so slight edge here, but it’s almost a 50-50 proposition.

Predicted Score: Tennessee 27  Wisconsin 25

Tuesday, January 1-11:30 AM Fox

Cotton Bowl-Dallas

Arkansas 8-4 vs. Missouri 11-2

Vegas: Missouri by 3½

PiRate: Missouri by 2

Mean: Missouri 37  Arkansas 30

Oh how this bowl has fallen from the penthouse to near the outhouse.  This bowl frequently hosted the eventual national champion in past years; now, an invitation to this bowl gets your coach on the hot seat.  Arkansas coach Houston Nutt fled for Ole Miss, after his Hogs were delegated to this now lower-tier bowl.

Chase Daniel versus Darren McFadden gives this game some appeal, but the overwhelming populace will be watching the Tournament of Roses Parade instead of this game.

For those that do tune this one in on their sets, they should see an exciting, high-scoring game.  Give Daniel the slight edge, unless the turf is a sloppy mess.

Predicted Score: Missouri 35  Arkansas 33

Tuesday, January 1-1:00 PM  CBS

Gator Bowl-Jacksonville

Texas Tech 8-4  vs. Virginia 9-3

Vegas: Texas Tech by 6

PiRate: Tossup

Mean: Texas Tech 29  Virginia 27

Here’s another bowl game that has disappeared from the national limelight.  This game used to feature top 10 teams.  Now, it gets middle of the pack teams from their conferences.  Ho hum!  Texas Tech will pass the ball 50-60 times, many of which are nothing more than running plays that begin with a forward toss behind the line of scrimmage.  It’s not much different from the pitchout plays of the pass.

Virginia’s defense has the potential to slow down the Red Raiders, but they won’t be able to stop it.  The Cavs should be able to score just as easily against Tech’s defense, so expect this one to be decided on a big play in the second half, or even go to overtime.

Predicted Score: 34-34 Tie heading to overtime

Tuesday, January 1-1:00 PM  ABC

Capital One Bowl-Orlando

Florida 9-3  vs.  Michigan 8-4

Vegas:  Florida by 10½  

PiRate: Florida by 21

Mean:  Florida 33  Michigan 23

The Heisman Trophy winner gets to play his first game since he received the trophy.  Michigan gets to pay its first game since the 1990’s without Lloyd Carr.  This one should be a dud.  Even if it’s close, there’s no reason to watch unless you are a Gator or Wolverine at heart.  The bigger news in this one is the impending lawsuit between new coach Rich Rodriguez, and his old school.  That will be an interesting event in the coming year.

Predicted Score: Florida 38  Michigan 17

Tuesday, January 1-5:00 PM

Rose Bowl-Pasadena, CA

Southern California 10-2  vs.  Illinois 9-3

Vegas: USC by 13½  

PiRate: USC by 18

Mean: USC 29  Illinois 21

The Grandaddy of them all won’t be much of a battle.  Southern Cal is probably the best team in the nation, even though they won’t have a chance to play for that title.  Yes, they lost twice this year.  So did LSU.  Yes, they fell to Stanford.  LSU lost to Kentucky and Arkansas.  Oh, by the way, Ohio State lost to Illinois, and that’s who the Trojans get to wallop in Pasadena.  In my opinion, a Trojan blowout victory coupled with a small win by either team in the National Championship Game, might give the AP voters reason to think before they cast their final ballots.

Predicted Score: USC 35  Illinois 17

Tuesday, January 1-8:30 PM

Sugar Bowl-New Orleans

Georgia 10-2  vs.  Hawaii 12-0

Vegas: Georgia by 8

PiRate: Georgia by 9

Mean: Georgia 34  Hawaii 28

This will be a game where you will see a future star quarterback in the NFL.  Yes, I’m talking about Matthew Stafford of Georgia.  Stafford is quite underrated, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him outshine Colt Brennan in this game.  Georgia will also be able to control the line of scrimmage when they run the ball, and that will spell doom for the undefeated Warriors.  Wyoming once came to this bowl at 10-0 to face 7-3 LSU.  They had star back Jim Kiick among others.  They gave the Tigers all they could handle-for one half.  LSU dominated in the final 30 minutes and won.  I expect much of the same thing here.

Predicted Score: Georgia 30  Hawaii 21

Wednesday, January 2-8:30 PM  Fox

Fiesta Bowl-Tempe, AZ

Oklahoma 11-2  vs.  West Virginia 10-2

Vegas: Oklahoma by 7½  

PiRate: Oklahoma by 6

Mean: Oklahoma 31  West Virginia 29

This might have been the National Championship Game if Oklahoma had not been upset by Texas Tech and West Virginia had not lost to Pittsburgh in their regular season finale.  Now, this game is overshadowed by the lawsuit filed by the West Virginia against former coach Rich Rodriguez.  Maybe Court TV’s ratings of this trial would be better viewing material than this game.  I don’t like these bowl games being played after New Year’s Day (unless New Year’s Day is a Sunday).  On January 2, the holidays are over, and it’s time to concentrate on the bigger game-the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Primaries.

Predicted Score: Oklahoma 28  West Virginia 22

Thursday, January 3-8:30 PM  Fox

Orange Bowl-Miami

Virginia Tech 11-2  vs.  Kansas 11-1

Vegas: Virginia Tech by 3

PiRate: Virginia Tech by 2

Mean: Virginia Tech 27  Kansas 26  

Forget this game!  This is Iowa Caucus night, and that’s the big game that matters on this day.  My picks for the big game are John Edwards and Mitt Romney.  I expect Romney to come from behind with a late touchdown in the fourth quarter due to Mike Huckabee’s second half fumbles.  I expect Edwards to pick up some blocking (from those candidates who fail to receive 15% support) to make and end run and edge Obama and Clinton.

As for the game, I may not know who won until the 2008 football preview magazines hit the stands in the spring.

Predicted Score: Virginia Tech 24  Kansas 22

Saturday, January 5-12:00 PM  ESPN2

International Bowl-Toronto

Ball State 7-5  vs.  Rutgers 7-5

Vegas: Rutgers by 10

PiRate: Rutgers by 12

Mean: Rutgers 32  Ball State 24  

Is this really a bowl?  It’s from Canada.  Maybe this is a hockey match.  It shouldn’t be played if it’s really a football game.  Who gives a flip by January 5? They should have played back around December 20 considering the teams involved.  Saturday is the first round of NFL Playoffs.  You here that, you NCAA dolts?  The playoffs!  That means all the games mean something.  That means multi-millions will be putting everything else aside to tune in to see the first pieces of the Super Bowl puzzle.  Your bowl game wouldn’t generate power if it were moved to Niagara Falls.

Predicted Score: Rutgers 33  Ball State 21

Sunday, January 6-8:00 PM  ESPN

GMAC Bowl-Mobile, AL

Tulsa 9-4  vs.  Bowling Green 8-4

Vegas: Tulsa by 4½

PiRate: Tulsa by 4

Mean: Tulsa 36  Bowling Green 33  

I could have copy and pasted the above description from that Canadian bowl for this one.  This game would have been just as meaningless if it had been played before all the others.  You get more NFL playoffs on Sunday, and the folks in Mobile will spurn this game for the actual one that matters-the Senior Bowl.

Predicted Score: Tulsa 35  Bowling Green 31

This Week’s “Picks”

It seems to be working every week since I instituted this strategy in mid-November, so I will continue to employ the same formula for picking games during the bowls.  So far, these picks are 6-3 against the spread through bowl games of December 30.

Where the PiRates and Mean both fall on the same side of the spread and the difference is more than 2.5 points, that game will be picked against the spread.  When they both agree on the winner, and the line is 10 points or less, that game will be picked on the money line.  There will be no totals or teasers picked. 

Straight Plays Against the Spread

# 1:  Virginia +6 vs. Texas Tech

Money Line Picks

# 2:  Tennessee -120 vs. Wisconsin

# 3:  Missouri -160 vs. Arkansas

# 4:  Georgia -280 vs. Hawaii

# 5:  Oklahoma -270 vs. West Virginia

# 6:  Virginia Tech -150 vs. Kansas

# 7:  Rutgers -380 vs. Ball State

# 8:  Tulsa -195 vs. Bowling Green

UP NEXT: THE ONLY POST-SEASON COLLEGE FOOTBALL GAME THAT MATTERS-AN IN-DEPTH PREVIEW OF LSU-OHIO STATE. 

Look for the preview to appear here Friday, January 4.

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