Monday, July 23, 2018

Bowl Games 2017: Epilogue

Since I'm about to do the previews soon, I should probably wrap up last season's bowl coverage.

The page has been updated with the grim news: this was my poorest year, by far, since 2005, which was the last time I got less than 50% right. Fortunately, I've been doing this for so long (since 1999!) that it didn't put much of a dent in my overall percentage, where I've gotten 54.5% correct over all those years.

We'll crank up the 2018 out-of-conference previews soon!

Friday, June 01, 2018

World Cup 2018 Readable TV Schedule

Below is the full TV schedule for the 2018 World Cup. All times are Eastern Daylight Time (UTC-4). Will be updated as warranted. A superscript "a" indicates that a team has clinched advancement, but not in a particular place. A superscript "e" indicates that a team has been eliminated A superscript "t" indicates a result after extra time, with penalty shootout results following in parenthesis.

Match Group Date Time Team A vs. Team B Location Network
1 A 6-14-2018 11:00 AM Russia 5-0 Saudi Arabia Moscow-Luzniki FOX
2 A 6-15-2018 08:00 AM Egypt 0-1 Uruguay Yekaterinburg FS1
4 B 6-15-2018 11:00 AM Morocco 0-1 Iran St. Petersburg FOX
3 B 6-15-2018 02:00 PM Portugal 3-3 Spain Sochi FOX
5 C 6-16-2018 06:00 AM France 2-1 Australia Kazan FS1
7 D 6-16-2018 09:00 AM Argentina 1-1 Iceland Moscow-Otkritie FOX
6 C 6-16-2018 12:00 PM Peru 0-1 Denmark Saransk FS1
8 D 6-16-2018 02:00 PM Croatia 2-0 Nigeria Kaliningrad FS1
10 E 6-17-2018 08:00 AM Costa Rica 0-1 Serbia Samara FOX
11 F 6-17-2018 11:00 AM Germany 0-1 Mexico Moscow-Luzniki FS1
9 E 6-17-2018 02:00 PM Brazil 1-1 Switzerland Rostov-on-Don FS1
12 F 6-18-2018 08:00 AM Sweden 1-0 Korea Republic Nizhny Novgorod FS1
13 G 6-18-2018 11:00 AM Belgium 3-0 Panama Sochi FS1
14 G 6-18-2018 02:00 PM Tunisia 1-2 England Volgograd FS1
16 H 6-19-2018 08:00 AM Colombia 1-2 Japan Saransk FS1
15 H 6-19-2018 11:00 AM Poland 1-2 Senegal Moscow-Otkritie FOX
17 A 6-19-2018 02:00 PM Russia 3-1 Egypt St. Petersburg FOX
19 B 6-20-2018 08:00 AM Portugal 1-0 Morocco Moscow-Luzniki FS1
18 A 6-20-2018 11:00 AM Uruguay 1-0 Saudi Arabia Rostov-on-Don FOX
20 B 6-20-2018 02:00 PM Iran 0-1 Spain Kazan FOX
22 C 6-21-2018 08:00 AM Denmark 1-1 Australia Samara FS1
21 C 6-21-2018 11:00 AM France 1-0 Peru Yekaterinburg FOX
23 D 6-21-2018 02:00 PM Argentina 0-3 Croatia Nizhny Novgorod FOX
25 E 6-22-2018 08:00 AM Brazil 2-0 Costa Rica St. Petersburg FS1
24 D 6-22-2018 11:00 AM Nigeria 2-0 Iceland Volgograd FOX
26 E 6-22-2018 02:00 PM Serbia 1-2 Switzerland Kaliningrad FOX
29 G 6-23-2018 08:00 AM Belgium 5-2 Tunisia Moscow-Otkritie FOX
28 F 6-23-2018 11:00 AM Korea Republic 1-2 Mexico Rostov-on-Don FOX
27 F 6-23-2018 02:00 PM Germany 2-1 Sweden Sochi FOX
30 G 6-24-2018 08:00 AM England 6-1 Panama Nizhny Novgorod FS1
32 H 6-24-2018 11:00 AM Japan 2-2 Senegal Yekaterinburg FOX
31 H 6-24-2018 02:00 PM Poland 0-3 Colombia Kazan FOX
33 A 6-25-2018 10:00 AM Uruguaya 3-0 Russiaa Samara FOX
34 A 6-25-2018 10:00 AM Saudi Arabiae 2-1 Egypte Volgograd FS1
35 B 6-25-2018 02:00 PM Iran 1-1 Portugal Saransk FOX
36 B 6-25-2018 02:00 PM Spain 2-2 Moroccoe Kaliningrad FS1
37 C 6-26-2018 10:00 AM Denmark 0-0 Francea Moscow-Luzniki FOX
38 C 6-26-2018 10:00 AM Australia 0-2 Perue Sochi FS1
39 D 6-26-2018 02:00 PM Nigeria 1-2 Argentina St. Petersburg FOX
40 D 6-26-2018 02:00 PM Iceland 1-2 Croatiaa Rostov-on-Don FS1
43 F 6-27-2018 10:00 AM Korea Republic 2-0 Germany Kazan FS1
44 F 6-27-2018 10:00 AM Mexico 0-3 Sweden Yekaterinburg FOX
41 E 6-27-2018 02:00 PM Serbia 0-2 Brazil Moscow-Otkritie FOX
42 E 6-27-2018 02:00 PM Switzerland 2-2 Costa Ricae Nizhny Novgorod FS1
47 H 6-28-2018 10:00 AM Japan 0-1 Polande Volgograd FS1
48 H 6-28-2018 10:00 AM Senegal 0-1 Colombia Samara FOX
45 G 6-28-2018 02:00 PM Englanda 0-1 Belgiuma Kaliningrad FOX
46 G 6-28-2018 02:00 PM Panamae 1-2 Tunisiae Saransk FS1
50 R16 6-30-2018 10:00 AM France 4-3 Argentina Kazan FOX
49 R16 6-30-2018 02:00 PM Uruguay 2-1 Portugal Sochi FOX
51 R16 7-1-2018 10:00 AM Spain 1-1t
Russia Moscow-Luzniki FOX
52 R16 7-1-2018 02:00 PM Croatia 1-1t
Denmark Nizhny Novgorod FOX
53 R16 7-2-2018 10:00 AM Brazil 2-0 Mexico Samara FS1
54 R16 7-2-2018 02:00 PM Belgium 3-2 Japan Rostov-on-Don FOX
55 R16 7-3-2018 10:00 AM Sweden 1-0 Switzerland St. Petersburg FS1
56 R16 7-3-2018 02:00 PM Colombia 1-1t
England Moscow-Otkritie FOX
57 QF 7-6-2018 10:00 AM Uruguay 0-2 France Nizhny Novgorod FS1
58 QF 7-6-2018 02:00 PM Brazil 1-2 Belgium Kazan FS1
60 QF 7-7-2018 10:00 AM Sweden 0-2 England Samara FOX
59 QF 7-7-2018 02:00 PM Russia 2-2t
Croatia Sochi FOX
61 SF 7-10-2018 02:00 PM France 1-0 Belgium St. Petersburg FOX
62 SF 7-11-2018 02:00 PM Croatia 2-1t England Moscow-Luzniki FOX
63 3rd 7-14-2018 10:00 AM Belgium 2-0 England St. Petersburg FOX
64 Final 7-15-2018 11:00 AM France 4-2 Croatia Moscow-Luzniki FOX

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Bowl Games 2017: Final

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

8:00: Alabama vs. Georgia (College Football Playoff National Championship Game @ Atlanta, GA; ESPN): I hate this game. I will watch it, because I am a college football fan and it is the last game for seven months. It is also the most import game of the year, because a champion will be crowned. But regardless, I hate this game. Let me count the ways:
1) I grew up in Alabama, rooting for Auburn because my third grade teacher, on the last day of school before the Iron Bowl one year, was rooting for Auburn. That's pretty much it. I don't care for Auburn so much these days, but I cannot root for Alabama under any circumstance.
2) In 2003, I matriculated at Georgia Tech. Our biggest rival is Georgia. This rivalry is called "Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate" for a reason. Enough said.
3) It's not like Alabama needs more titles, they already claim somewhere between a dozen and like 500 (I always forget).
4) Oh, yeah, and Auburn's second biggest rival? Georgia.
5) Did you watch that Sugar Bowl, where Alabama basically took a freshman quarterback and sucked all the life out the Clemson offense? That 24-6 score is ridiculous. Bama could have won the game by not even fielding an offense, because their defense scored more points than Clemson did. And indeed, the Clemson defense had a pretty good game, but it didn't matter because their offense was dead on arrival.
6) Okay, yes, the Rose Bowl was exciting even if the result went the wrong way. (If only Oklahoma fielded an even average defense...) But the fact of the matter is that Fromm hasn't seen anything like this Alabama defense, which used the bowl break to get healthy. Now they're back.
7) Of course, it could be argued the Bama defense hasn't seen an offense like this all year, but if there's any kind of offense an Alabama defense can stop it's a run-first offense like Georgia's.
8) Georgia's defense is pretty good. Yes, they just gave up 531 yards of offense, but no one is going to confuse Jalen Hurts for Baker Mayfield.
9) Add it all up, and it looks for all the world like a tight, low-scoring game where the team that makes the least mistakes will win. And given that, you have to figure it's going to be Alabama. I hate whoever is going to win either way, but given everything I think this game favors the Tide.
S&P+ line: Alabama by 2.3
Watchability tier: [redacted]
Previous meetings: Interestingly, despite having been in the same conference since 1921 (when both joined the original Southern Conference; both also left for the new SEC in 1933), they've only played 67 times. Generally speaking, schools used to have considerable leeway over even conference scheduling (famously, until recently Georgia Tech had only played the two Mississippi* schools five times combined despite having been in the SEC together for decades), but even still 67 times in nearly a century is not a lot. They did play every year from 1944 through 1965, but since then they've only met 16 times. I can explain the gap after 1992, since that's when the SEC began divisional play and placed the two in opposite divisions, but between 1965 and 1992 I don't really know why they didn't play more often,  even given scheduling considerations in the then 10-team league. At any rate, Alabama won the last regular season meeting in 2015, 38-10. The series began in 1895 with a 30-6 Georgia win, and Alabama is sitting on a three game winning streak. Alabama also has a 38-25-4 all-time series lead.
*: Somewhat hilariously, this will change in the near future, but despite the above Alabama has played Georgia more times than Ole Miss. (And also founding SEC members Kentucky and Florida.)
Last bowl game: See the previous post.
Announcers: Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit

Monday, January 01, 2018

Bowl Games 2017: Happy New Year!

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Noon: Michigan vs. South Carolina (Outback Bowl @ Tampa, FL; ESPN2): These two teams actually have similar profiles in the basic stats: limited offenses backed by pretty good defenses. Unfortunately, I don't have a stronger opinion about this than that. I don't think it'll be especially exciting, but it will be close, and I think Michigan will win in the end.
S&P+ line: Michigan by 8.3
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Three, and South Carolina has won two of them. They first met in 1980, a 17-14 USC win, following by a 34-3 Michigan win in 1985. Since, they met in the 2012-13 version of this game, which USC won 33-28.
Last bowl game: This is the third straight bowl game for the Wolverines. Last year they lost 33-32 in the Orange Bowl. South Carolina lost last year's Birmingham Bowl to South Florida 46-39.
Announcers: Adam Amin and Dusty Dvoracek

12:30: Central Florida vs. Auburn (Peach Bowl @ Atlanta, GA; ESPN): This is mainly a III on the "watchability tier" because, hey, there's the potential that UCF could prevail here. (And heck, S&P+ likes the Knights.) But there's the thing: if Auburn plays their game, there's every reason to think their offense will prevail and that their defense will shut down UCF's high-flying offense. I'd like to see a game here, and I definitely think we could, but I can't commit to the idea that we will.
S&P+ line: UCF by 0.9
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Three, and it's pretty much what you'd expect. They played in the 1997 through 1999 regular seasons and Auburn won 41-14, 10-6, and 28-10.
Last bowl game: UCF lost last year's Cure Bowl 31-13 to Arkansas State. For the Tigers, this is their fifth straight bowl game, going back to the 2013-14 BCS Championship Game, where they lost 34-31 to Florida State. Last season, they lost 35-19 to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Flemming and Brock Huard

1:00: Notre Dame vs. Louisiana State (Citrus Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ABC): Notre Dame's offense was generally stymied against any team that actually plays defense, and boy howdy does LSU play defense. The thing is, the Irish weren't so bad themselves, and LSU's offense doesn't strike fear into the hearts of anyone, especially if all the rumors about Matt Canada are true. Nonetheless, I think LSU will be too big and physical for the Irish.
S&P+ line: Notre Dame by 1.9
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Eleven, dating back to the 1970 regular season, where Notre Dame won what I'm sure was a rousing 3-0 contest. Since, they've met 10 more times, most recently in the 2014 Music City Bowl, which the Domers won 21-28. Notre Dame holds a 6-5 series lead.
Last bowl game: Notre Dame went 4-8 last year, so their last bowl game was the 2015-16 Fiesta Bowl, where they got blown out 44-28 by Ohio State. This is LSU's eighteenth straight bowl game, going back to a 28-14 in the 2000 Peach Bowl over Georgia Tech. Last year they beat Louisville 29-9 in the Citrus Bowl.
Announcers: Mark Jones and Rod Gilmore

5:00: Oklahoma vs. Georgia (Rose Bowl @ Pasadena, CA; ESPN): I actually like Oklahoma's chances to win this game, but I'll be honest and admit that it's partially due to wanting to Georgia to lose very, very badly. Essentially, I think Oklahoma is the best offense in the nation. Georgia's defense is good, very good, but I don't thing they've been tested a lot this year. They did break one time, against Auburn. They were able to tame the Tigers the second time around, but they haven't seen any quarterback like Baker Mayfield. I think these are the scenarios: 1) if it's a shootout, where Georgia can't stop Oklahoma and the Sooners match UGA punch-for-punch, then the "Dawgs" will blink first and Oklahoma will prevail; or 2) Georgia's defense does what no one else could outside of Ames, Iowa, and frustrates Mayfield, including either stopping them or playing keep away with the ball by handing to their running backs and making sure it doesn't come down to Fromm having to match Mayfield. I like scenario 1 better.
S&P+ line: Oklahoma by 2.2
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: For the Sooners, this is their nineteenth straight bowl game, going back to a 27-25 loss to Ole Miss in the 1999 Independence Bowl. Last season, they beat Auburn 35-19 in the Sugar Bowl. For Georgia, this is their 21st consecutive bowl appearance, going back to a 33-6 win over Wisconsin in the 1997-1998 Outback Bowl. Last year they defeated TCU 31-23 in the Liberty Bowl.
Announcers: Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit

8:45: Clemson vs. Alabama (Sugar Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): Clemson is playing up the "underdog" angle on this game as much as they can (Kelly Bryant told the press last week that they'd been underdogs in "almost every" game this season, when this is the first game they haven't been favored in all year), but I don't blame them. Alabama's offense has been mediocre against teams capable of stopping them (see: Florida State, Auburn) and Clemson and their ridiculous, NFL-ready defensive line is more than capable. Clemson's offense isn't as good as it was last year (which makes sense, seeing as how they now lack Deshaun Watson and all), but it's still more dynamic than Alabama's. Don't get me wrong, Alabama's good. But I think Clemson can very much look at what Auburn did to stem the Tide and execute it even better than Auburn did. I'm not couching this like I did the OU-UGA game: I think Clemson will win.
S&P+ line: Alabama by 3.6
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: They've met 17 times; you may've heard about the last couple. Last season's win for Clemson was their first since 1905 and their fourth all-time, as the Tide still hold a 13-4 series lead.
Last bowl game: This is the Tigers's thirteenth straight bowl game, going back to the 2005 Champs Sports Bowl, a 19-10 win over Colorado. Last season, they beat Ohio State 31-0 in the Fiesta Bowl and then defeated Alabama 35-31 in the championship game. This is Bama's fourteenth straight bowl game, going back to a 2004 Music Bowl win over Minnesota, 20-16. Last season, they beat Washington 24-7 in the Peach Bowl and then lost the title game to Clemson, as previously described.
Announcers: Joe Tessitore and Todd Blackledge

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Bowl Games 2017: Arriving at the Ballroom

My overall percentage has perked up to 40%, despite a brutal day on Wednesday where I went 0-4. That said, we're in the homestretch now. Today we'll cover today's and tomorrow's game, and a separate post will cover the New Year's Day games. Also, the master bowl page is updated with predictions for all the remaining games.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Friday, December 29
1:00: Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M (Belk Bowl @ Charlotte, NC; ESPN): This is once again a hard to read game because by any reasonable standard, TAMU is more talented than Wake. The problem is, bowl games lean a lot on who's more motivated, and I would think that would go to the Demon Deacons, given the offeseason drama at TAMU. But in this case I can't ignore the talent gap and besides, you can come up with narratives where the Aggies would be motivated (i.e., send out the interim coach with a win, impress Jimbo Fisher, etc.). So I'm going with a narrow Aggie win here.
S&P+ line: Wake by 5.4
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: For Wake, this is their second straight bowl. Last season they beat Temple 24-26 in the Military Bowl. This is TAMU's ninth straight bowl game, going back to the 2009 Independence Bowl where they lost 44-20 to Georgia. Last year, they lost 33-28 to Kansas State in the Texas Bowl.
Announcers: Jason Benetti and Kelly Stouffer

3:00: North Carolina State vs. Arizona State (Sun Bowl @ El Paso, TX; CBS): Okay, speaking of motivation, the tire fire of a coaching situation that Arizona State makes it hard to be optimistic about the Sun Devils' situation. (In case you aren't aware, ASU fired coach Todd Graham after the season, and then bizarrely hired Herm Edwards, who hasn't coach in college in literal decades. The reason cited for this is because they wanted a "CEO type" guy and they wanted to keep their coordinators. Naturally, both coordinators left within a week, which makes the plan look even more bizarre.) At any rate, the Wolfpack offense is potent enough to make Arizona State's awful defense pay, so I'm going with them.
S&P+ line: NCSU by 5.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Back in 1960, ASU won 25-22, and then in 1974 NCSU won 35-14.
Last bowl game: This is the fourth straight bowl game for the Wolfpack, going back to a 2014 Bitcoin Bowl win over UCF, 34-27. Last year they defeated Vanderbilt 41-17 in the Independence Bowl. ASU's last bowl was the 2015-16 Cactus Bowl, where they lost 43-42 to West Virginia.
Announcers: Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson

4:30: Northwestern vs. Kentucky (Music City Bowl @ Nashville, TN; ESPN): Kentucky comes in 7-5 and sporting the 91st and 81st ranked scoring offenses and defenses, respectively. Northwestern has a pretty good defense and a much more solid resume at 9-3. Stuff can happen in bowl games, yes, but this opening Big Ten vs. SEC salvo (and Wildcats vs. Wildcats!) should go to the team from the Chicago 'burbs.
S&P+ line: Northwestern by 9.1
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Just one, back in 1928. Northwestern won 7-0.
Last bowl game: This is the third straight bowl for the Chicago-based Wildcats, going back to the 2015-16 Outback Bowl, where they lost 45-6 to Tennessee. Last season they beat Pitt in the Pinstripe Bowl 31-24. Kentucky lost 33-18 to Georgia Tech in last season's Taxslayer Bowl.
Announcers: Taylor Zarzour and Andre Ware

5:30: Utah State vs. New Mexico State (Arizona Bowl @ Tuscon, AZ; CBSS): The main reason to care about this game at all is that New Mexico State is about to get the boot from the Sun Belt yet managed to go 6-6 and secure their first bowl bid since 1960. And, well, the Northwestern-Kentucky game figures to be kind of boring and low scoring. This figures not to be low scoring, but mostly in the sense that this is likely to be a Utah State rout, but hey, it's NMSU's first bowl in 67 years, anything can happen! (Also, somehow this game also has two teams with the same nickname, these two both being Aggies.)
S&P+ line: Utah State by 2.2
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: Their first meeting of 37 total was back in the 1960 Sun Bowl (more on that in a second). Since, both were in the WAC for a bit, so they've racked up the meetings, but after meeting nearly every year from 1985 through 2012, Utah State has a 30-7 series lead.
Last bowl game: Utah State's last bowl appearance was the 2015 Potato Bowl, where they lost 23-21 to Akron. This is New Mexico State's fourth bowl all-time, and the first one that's not a Sun Bowl. Their last bowl game was the 1960 Sun Bowl against... Utah State. They won 20-13.
Announcers: Dave Ryan and Corey Chavous

8:30: Southern California vs. Ohio State (Cotton Bowl @ Arlington, TX; ESPN): Ohio State has looked like a legitimately great team for most of the season, except for that one time against the guy who won the Heisman and, well, it's well established at this point that Kinnick Stadium is where Big Ten East title contenders go to die. The Trojans also look like a great team (hey, they won the Pac-12), but then you look at their numbers and realize they don't really hold a candle to the Buckeyes. That said, the Trojans are talented enough to keep the game close, but ultimately, I think, not close enough.
S&P+ line: Ohio State by 12.1
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: Twenty-three, and as you might guess, there's a handful of Rose Bowls involved. Seven, to be exact. That means, though, the other sixteen were regular season matchups, dating back to the 1937 tilt that USC won 13-12. From 1937 through 1949 they'd play eight times total, with the Buckeyes taking a 4-3-1 series lead. They then met in the 1954-55 Rose Bowl, which Ohio St won 20-7. From there, they met a few more times in the regular season and then played in six Rose Bowls, including consecutive appearances from the 1972-73 and 1974-75 seasons. USC has won seven in a row dating to the 1974-75 Rose Bowl and then regular season matchups in 1989, 1990, 2008, and 2009. The Trojans hold a 13-9-1 all-time series lead.
Last bowl game: This is USC's sixth straight bowl, going back to the the 2012 Sun Bowl, which they lost 21-7 to Georgia Tech. Last season they prevailed 52-49 in a classic Rose Bowl over Penn State. This is the fifth straight bowl game for Ohio State, going back to a 40-35 loss to Clemson in the 2012-13 Orange Bowl. Last season they got blanked by Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, 31-0.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Brock Huard

Saturday, December 30
Noon: Louisville vs. Mississippi State (Taxslayer Bowl @ Jacksonville, FL; ESPN): It's your last chance to watch Lamar Jackson desperately try to keep his team's above water, since he can't really help them play defense. That said, Mississippi State is probably bad enough that it can work, but you really can't count out the Cardinals defense's ability to make anyone look good. I still like them here, though.
S&P+ line: Louisville by 2.3
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Four, and all in the regular season from 1973-1976. Louisville lost all four.
Last bowl game: This is Louisville's eighth straight bowl game, going back to a 31-28 win over Southern Miss in the Beef 'O'Brady's bowl in 2010. Last season Lamar Jackson and Co. lost to LSU 29-9 in the Citrus Bowl. The Bulldogs are in their eighth straight bowl game going back to the 2010-11 Gator Bowl, a 52-14 win over Michigan. Last season they defeated Miami (the one in Ohio) 17-16 in the St. Petersburg Bowl.
Announcers: Tom Hart and Jordan Rodgers
Fun fact: It's not really fun, per se, but remember college football fans: the upside of Lamar Jackson not really getting any NFL draft buzz is that it likely means he'll end up with a good team that knows how to use him and not, you know, the Browns.

12:30: Iowa State vs. Memphis (Liberty Bowl @ Memphis, TN; ABC): The Cyclones will be right at home defending Memphis's spread passing attack. Additionally, Memphis needs to watch out for the fact that they're actually favored and playing at home, which is a good way to ensure that Iowa State will be both up for this game and completely willing to pull off the upset (see: Oklahoma and TCU). In other words, I'm talking myself into taking this mild upset and picking the Cyclones.
S&P+ line: Memphis by 4.6
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: For the Cyclones, this is their first bowl game since the 2012 Liberty Bowl, a 31-17 loss to Tulsa. For Memphis, they've got a four game bowl streak going back to the 2014 Miami Beach Bowl, a 55-48 brawltastic win over BYU. Last season they lost 51-31 to Western Kentucky in the Boca Raton Bowl.
Announcers: Mike Patrick and Tommy Tuberville

4:00: Washington vs. Pennsylvania State (Fiesta Bowl @ Glendale, AZ; ESPN): Washington comes in with a pretty good defense, but Penn State comes in with both a really good offense and a really good defense. I'm figuring the Huskies are going to have a hard time keeping up with the Nittany Lions, but I'm also secretly hoping that we get as good of a game as we did in last season's Rose Bowl.
S&P+ line: UDub by 0.1
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Two. Penn State won the first one in the 1921 regular season 21-7, and then won 13-10 in the 1983 Aloha Bowl.
Last bowl game: This is UDub's eighth straight bowl, going back to the 2010 Holiday Bowl, a 19-7 win over Nebraska. Last season they lost their playoff game in the Peach Bowl 24-7 in the Peach Bowl. This is the Nittany Lions's fourth straight bowl, going back to a 31-30 win over Boston College in the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Pasch and Greg McElroy

8:00: Miami vs. Wisconsin (Orange Bowl @ Miami Gardens, FL; ESPN): Everyone and everything favors Wisconsin. The Badgers are big, beefy, can run the ball and pass pretty competently when they need to. They play an aggressive and dominating brand of defense. And boy howdy, sitting on a .400 winning percentage after 25 games picking winners and losers should motivate me to stick to the chalk. So... I'm picking Miami. Yes, a Miami team that got absolutely destroyed by Clemson in the ACC title game after blowing a playoff shot by losing to an awful Pitt team. Why? The usual reason one favors Florida teams over teams from the Midwest: they're faster. Look, who knows which version of the Canes actually shows up, but I feel like we already saw this movie in Miami's brutal 41-8 win over Notre Dame.
S&P+ line: Wisconsin by 7.6
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Four. Wisconsin won the first back in the 1958 regular season, 20-0. Miami reeled off two straight during their heyday, though. In 1988 they won 23-3 and then in 1989 they delievered a 51-3 walloping. Wisconsin got the last laugh back in the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl, though, with a 20-14 win.
Last bowl game: For the Canes, this is their fifth straight bowl, going back to the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl, a 36-9 loss to Louisville. Last season, they beat West Virginia 31-14 in the Russell Athletic Bowl. For the Badgers, this is their sixteenth straight bowl game, going back to the 2002 Alamo Bowl, a 31-28 win over Colorado. Last season, they beat Western Michigan 24-16 in the Cotton Bowl.
Announcers: Steve Levy and Brian Griese

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Bowl Games 2017: Warming Up for the Big Dance

When you see how badly my predictions have gone so far, just remember the below disclaimer:

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Tuesday, December 26
1:30: West Virginia vs. Utah (Heart of Dallas Bowl @ Dallas, TX; ESPN): Ah, the Zombie Cotton Bowl gets us back into the swing of things. Anyway, I don't have a very good read on this game, to be honest. WVU is kind of stumbling in after losing their last two, and really it's not like Utah is that much better, though they did at least have the benefit of beating Utah 34-13 in their final game and giving Washington all they wanted. WVU's offense is more potent and Utah's pass defense is kind of mediocre, so I'm going with the 'Neers, barely.
S&P+ line: Utah by 3.8
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Just one, back in the 1964 Liberty Bowl. Utah won, 32-6.
Last bowl game: West Virginia is on a four game bowl streak, starting with the 2014 Liberty Bowl, which they lost 45-37 to Texas A&M. Last year, they lost 31-14 to Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl. For the Utes, this is also their fourth straight bowl, going back to the 2014 Las Vegas Bowl where they beat Colorado State 45-10. Last season, they defeated Indiana in the Foster Farms Bowl 26-24.
Announcers: Roy Philpott and Rene Ingoglia

5:15: Northern Illinois vs. Duke (Quick Lane Bowl @ Detroit, MI; ESPN): These two teams have similar strengths: kind of mediocre offenses paired with above-average defenses. In that situation, I'll take the Power 5 team every time.
S&P+ line: NIU by 3.6
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: NIU had an eight-game bowl streak snapped last season, so their last appearance was the 2015 Poinsettia Bowl, where they lost 55-7 to Boise State. Duke's last postseason appearance was the 2015 Pinstripe Bowl, where they defeated Indiana 44-41.
Announcers: Mike Couzens and Ray Bentley

9:00: Kansas State vs. California-Los Angeles (Cactus Bowl @ Phoenix, AZ; ESPN): Around mid-October, I'd written off Bill Synder's wizardry and the Wildcats. Naturally, K-State rallied to win 4 of their last 5 including an upset on the road at Oklahoma State. UCLA is pretty much... well, I just think K-State will be more motivated.
S&P+ line: K-State by 0.9
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Three of them, and all relatively recently. There was a reguar season series in 2009 and 2010. UCLA won the first 23-9, and K-State won 31-22 in the second. They then met in the 2014-15 Alamo Bowl, where UCLA won 40-35.
Last bowl game: This is K-State's eighth straight bowl game, going back to the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl, which they lost 36-34 to Sryacuse. Last season they beat Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl 33-28. UCLA's last bowl game was the 2015 Foster Farms Bowl, where they lost 37-29 to Nebraska.
Announcers: Jason Benetti and Jordan Rodgers

Wednesday, December 27
1:30: Florida State vs. Southern Mississippi (Independence Bowl @ Shreveport, LA; ESPN): Whether or not FSU is technically eligible for this game is kind of beside the point. The point is that it's incredible hard to predict victory here for a team that just saw their coach voluntarily leave for an arguably worse job (after all, how many BCS bowl/playoff bids does Texas A&M have?) after they had to play a rescheduled game to wind up in Shreveport, of all places. (And no, it's not going to snow.) I'll take USM here based entirely on motivation.
S&P+ line: Southern Miss by 3.7
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: Twenty-two! They played 6 times from 1952-1957, and then 4 times between 1960 and 1964, 5 times in the 70's and then 6 times in the 80's. However, after FSU joined the ACC they've met just once, in 1996. Southern Miss led the series 6-3-1 before FSU became, well, FSU in the 70's, and since then FSU has taken a 13-8-1 series lead. FSU won the last meeting in 1996 54-14.
Last bowl game: As we all know, Florida State has the longest active bowl streak in the country, now numbering 36 consecutive postseason appearances. Once again, I'll point that the streak started in the 1982 Gator Bowl, where they beat West Virginia 31-12. And Shreveport probably feels a lot farther away from Miami than it actually is, as that's where FSU defeated Michigan 33-32 last season in the Orange Bowl. For Southern Miss, this is their third straight bowl game. They lost 44-31 to Washington in the Zombie Cotton Bowl two seasons ago and beat UL-Lafayette 28-31 in the New Orleans Bowl last year.
Announcers: Anish Shroff and Ahmad Brooks

5:15: Boston College vs. Iowa (Pinstripe Bowl @ New York, NY; ESPN): Boston College's weirdly resurgent offense finally gets a national stage, and it maybe worth watching just to see Iowa fans react to seeing something that looks a lot like what the platonic ideal of Iowa offense is.
S&P+ line: Iowa by 3.3
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Boston College defeated Maryland in last year's Quick Lane Bowl 36-30. For the Hawkeyes, this is their fifth straight bowl game, going back to the 2012-13 Outback Bowl, where they lost 21-14 to LSU. Last season they also lost in the Outback Bowl, 30-3 to Florida.
Announcers: Kevin Negandhi, Mack Brown, and Booger McFarland

8:30: Purdue vs. Arizona (Foster Farms Bowl @ Santa Clara, CA; FOX): This is pretty much the exact definition of a college football hipster game. You've got Jeff Brohm's new-look Purdue offense versus the most exciting player in college football you've probably never heard of in Khalil Tate. The problem for Purdue this year is that it's been tough sledding for that offense for any defense with a pulse, which unfortunately for them is most of the Big Ten. But! Arizona's defense is awful, so they'll have a chance in this one. I still like the Wildcats, though I could see this one coming down to who has the ball last.
S&P+ line: Purdue by 1.6
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Just two, both in the regular season. Purdue won 59-7 in 2003 and 31-24 in 2005.
Last bowl game: Purdue's last postseason appearance was the 2012-13 Heart of Dallas Bowl, where they lost 58-14 to Oklahoma State. Arizona's was the 2015 New Mexico Bowl, where they beat New Mexico 45-37.
Announcers: Joe Davis and Brady Quinn

9:00: Texas vs. Missouri (Texas Bowl @ Houston, TX; ESPN): Mizzou started out 1-5 and was left for dead, so naturally they discovered a passing offense and reeled off six in a row as their schedule got significantly easier. The main problem for the Longhorns is that they aren't particularly good at anything, and their offense has looked downright awful at times this year. That said, I could see Texas getting a lot better... next season. I like the Tigers here.
S&P+ line: Mizzou by 4.3
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Texas holds an all-time 17-6 series lead, which doesn't seem like a lot until you remember that they were only really in the same conference for about 20 years. The series does go all the way back to 1894, though (Mizzou won 28-0) and the two met in the 1945-46 Cotton Bowl (Texas won 40-27). Since 1931, Texas is 16-2 and was 7-2 when they were both in the Big 12, though Mizzou did win the last meeting in 2011 17-5.
Last bowl game: It's kind of hard to believe, but this is the first bowl game for Texas since the 2014 Texas Bowl, where they lost 31-7 to Arkansas. Mizzou's last bowl was the 2014-15 Citrus Bowl, where they beat Minnesota 33-17.
Announcers: Adam Amin and Dusty Dvoracek

Thursday, December 28
1:30: Virginia vs. Navy (Military Bowl @ Annapolis, MD; ESPN): This game got a Tier II rating below because, hey, Navy's fun to watch, but less fun is to note that they've lost six of their last seven. Of course, UVA's not that much better in that regard. After getting to six wins against Georgia Tech (ugh), they immediately lost their last three games including a 10-0 clunker to Virginia Tech, meaning the Cavs have lost five of their last six. In a battle of who's probably going to be more motivated and want it more, you have to go with the service academy right? Probably doesn't hurt they're playing at home, either.
S&P+ line: Virginia by 0.4
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Considering the age of their programs and geographical proximity, it's no surprise that they've met 38 times. Navy holds a 27-11 all-time lead that dates back to 1889 (a 22-12 win for the Midshipmen). They haven't met since 1994, when Virginia won 47-10 and is on a 5-game winning streak from 1990 through that 1994 game.
Last bowl game: UVA's last bowl game was the 2011 Chick-fil-a Bowl, where they lost 43-24 to Auburn. This is Navy's sixth straight bowl appearance, starting with a 62-28 loss to Arizona State in the 2012 Fight Hunger Bowl. Last season they lost 48-45 to Louisiana Tech in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Announcers: Clay Matvick and Kirk Morrison

5:15: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State (Camping World Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ESPN): This could well be a shootout. Oklahoma State sports one of the game's best passing offenses against one of the top defenses in the country, so what I mean by that is that I think the Pokes' offense is just that good. It'll be a shootout in the sense that Oklahoma State's defense, well, leaves a lot to be desired and could allow VPI to stay in the game. Overall, though, if this is high scoring, then that definitely favors State.
S&P+ line: OSU by 5.1
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Just two, back in the 1971 and 1972 regular seasons. Oklahoma State won the first 24-16 and VPI won the second 34-32.
Last bowl game: Virginia Tech owns the second longest bowl streak in the country, with this being their 25th straight bowl game. The streak started with the 1993 Independence Bowl, where VPI beat Indiana 45-20. Last season, they defeated Arkansas 35-24 in the Belk Bowl. Oklahoma State has a pretty good run themselves, as this is this their twelth straight bowl game, starting with the 2006 Independence Bowl, a 34-31 win over Alabama. (Ah, the good ol' days.) Last year they smoked Colorado in the Alamo Bowl, 38-8.
Announcers: Beth Mowins and Anthony Becht

9:00: Texas Christian vs. Stanford (Alamo Bowl @ San Antonio, TX; ESPN): If Bryce Love's ankle has had a chance to get healthy over the past few weeks off, then Stanford's got a chance here. Otherwise, it's hard to see Stanford generating enough offense to win.
S&P+ line: TCU by 4
Watchability tier: III (provisional, II if Bryce Love isn't appreciably healthier)
Previous meetings: Just two, back in the 2007 and 2008 regular seasons. TCU won both 38-36 and 31-14, respectively.
Last bowl game: This is TCU's fourth straight bowl game, going back to a 42-3 win over Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl in 2014. Last season they lost to Georgia 31-23 in the Liberty Bowl. Stanford's got a nine game streak going themselves, going back to the 2009 Sun Bowl, which they lost 31-27 to Oklahoma. Last season they had a much better Sun Bowl experience, beating North Carolina 25-23.
Announcers: Rece Davis, Joey Galloway, and David Pollack

9:00: Michigan State vs. Washington State (Holiday Bowl @ San Diego, CA; FS1): The Spartans have managed to convert a 3-9 season last year into a 9-3 season this year, which is no small feat. However, so many of their wins were so flukey (see: the Michigan and Penn State games) that this team could easily be 7-5. Given that this game is in San Diego, I don't think any monsoons are in the forecast (though Southern California could really use the rain), which means that I think Sparty will be too offensively limited to keep up with the Cougars.
S&P+ line: Sparty by 0.1
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Seven, and none of them in a bowl game, surprisingly. The first meeting was a 25-13 Wazzu win in 1942. The Spartans then reeled off 5 straight, only to lose in the last meeting back in 1977, 23-21.
Last bowl game: Sparty's last bowl game was that 38-0 loss to Alabama in the 2015 Cotton Bowl, a playoff game. For Wazzu, this is their third straight bowl game. Two seasons ago they beat Miami in the Sun Bowl 20-14, and last season they lost to Minnesota 17-12 in the Holiday Bowl.
Announcers: Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt