Friday, December 01, 2017

Week 14: Step by Step

Standings
1. Draper (45-17, 2-11 upset)
2. Seeberg (42-20, 5-8 upset)
3. Schweinfurth (42-20, 0-13 upset)
4. Hoying (40-22, 1-12 upset)

Step by step, day by day
A fresh start over, a different hand to play
The deeper we fall, the stronger we stay
And we'll be better the second time around

-"Second Time Around", theme song of Step by Step (set in Port Washington, Wisconsin)

Welcome to Championship Week! Nine conferences feature conference championship games this weekend (with the Sun Belt joining the fun next year), and seven, yes, SEVEN of them are rematches. One of the few teams to face a fresh opponent is Ohio State, returning to Indy for the first time since their 2014 tilt against...Wisconsin. The Buckeyes are itching to take the final step toward their third College Football Playoff berth in 4 years, while a septet of other teams just hope to make it better their second time around.

FRIDAY

Pac-12: Stanford Cardinal vs. USC Trojans
Draper: I was the only person that picked USC in the first matchup, but the (stupid) rematch gives me pause.  I finally got to watch a little Bryce Love last week and dude can ball.  I was extremely impressed....but...he had a few injury concerns pop up recently.  He gashed ND (like every team he's faced) unlike Ronald Jones of USC who was stuffed, but Notre Dame was a different team with hopes and dreams when they faced USC--Miami took that swagger from the Irish.  Is it actually time to call USC 'back'? No they won't make the playoff, but a conference championship for the first time since 2008? I think it's time to Fight On once again.  Stan: 20--USC: 30
Hoying: If I haven't made myself perfectly clear by now (I write most of the intros to these posts), I HATE rematches. ESPECIALLY pointless rematches (which most rematches are). And I'm generally not too keen on conference championship games either (guess why). So, this year, I am going to start every pick with a How Pointless? rating, where I weigh in on just how unnecessary the contest at hand is. Ahem.
How Pointless? Super Pointless. USC walloped Stanford back in September, then proceeded to finish 8-1 in conference play while Stanford finished 7-2. Any reason to expect something different this time? No. Bryce Love is the same Bryce Love he was back then, while Sam Darnold has eased up on the turnovers he was coughing all over the field early this season. Yeah, that game was in LA and this is in San Francisco-ish but USC is still better, games against Notre Dame notwithstanding. Stan: 24--USC: 34
Schweinfurth: This really feels like it is USC's game to lose. Stanford is beat up. Bryce Love is not the same running back he was before the ankle injury (which is frustrating to watch because the dude is probably the best RB in FBS, suck it Barkley). The only question for me is, can Sam Darnold protect the football. Darnold is a very good quarteback, but makes stupid mistakes at bad times. I think he will throw it to the Cardinal a few times, but USC really is the better team here. Stan: 28--USC: 38
Seeberg:  Pretty easy to have picked this matchup for the PAC-12 title preseason, though maybe not where the teams would be sitting, with next to 0 chance of making the CFP.  The single best player on the field will still be Bryce Love, but his 160 yards weren't nearly enough to topple the Trojans last time, despite Sam Darnold's early-season penchant for forgetting to which team he should actually throw the ball (including 2 picks against the Cardinal).  If Stanford can keep this game close it will mean Bryce Love can be a factor for all four quarters instead of being forced to throw the ball.  Unfortunately, given the 623 yards USC racked up last time, that's unlikely to be the case.  Stan: 20--USC: 35

SATURDAY

AAC: Memphis Tigers @ UCF Knights
Draper: Haven't we seen this before? (Oh yeah, pretty much all these are rematches.)  Will the coaches and players still play for that mystical undefeated season when Scott Frost's moving van is more or less already packed for Lincoln? There has to be enough pride on the line to keep that 0 in the L column.  UCF is feeling the disrespect from the committee and a win over Memphis...won't change much, but it will help them always have the argument that they belonged.  Winner does get a New Year's Six berth so there's more than just pride on the line.  The Golden Knights finish the regular season unblemished.  Mem: 27--UCF: 40
Hoying: How Pointless? Very Pointless. UCF dismantled Memphis back in October and has been on a tear ever since. It's not like another stellar performance against an AAC team is suddenly going to vault the undefeated Knights into the playoff. The only possible storyline of interest here is UCF coach Scott Frost's focus. It's a coach's market in the carousel this offseason (although NFL coaches are apparently being turned away to keep spots open for Brady Hoke), and Frost is squarely in the crosshairs at his alma mater, Nebraska. Probably won't be enough to make a difference. Mem: 17--UCF: 34
Schweinfurth: UCF is rolling and got really lucky with that kick return last week. Memphis has been known to put up points this year. There is a HUGE cloud around this program with Scott Frost (he gone). It's not enough of a distraction right now for the Knights to blow a spectacular season, but it could be enough to keep it close for a while. Mem: 24--UCF: 35
Seeberg:  I'm not 100% sold on the Knights, but they should probably be ranked higher than #14.  They did beat a Power 5 team by four touchdowns after all (does Maryland count as a power 5 team?).  In any event, this is another rematch where one team is just too much better than the other for the familiarity to make a big enough difference.  It probably won't be a 27-point dismantling again, but I don't think the outcome will be in doubt for much of the fourth quarter.  Mem: 20--UCF: 38

Big 12: TCU Horned Frogs vs. Oklahoma Sooners
Draper: Why oh why? THe Big 12 has the most pointless championship game because it will ALWAYS be a rematch.  Who cares if you lost the first one, the second one determines the "One True Champion"-- FAAARRRTT. I truly want TCU to take down the Sooners to ensure chaos upon chaos, but OU is a juggernaut.  Baker Mayfield is an absolute lock for the Heisman and he'll put his finishing move on the Horned Frogs.  He may be a jerk, but he's far and away the best player this year.  Hot take: even if OU loses this game, they have a really good argument to still make the playoffs.  TCU: 24--OU: 35
Hoying: How Pointless? PEAK Pointless. Every team plays every other team in the Big 12. These teams have IDENTICAL wins and losses in conference play except that they had to play each other, and Oklahoma won handily. Even if the Horned Frogs were to somehow win this game, is anyone going to be impressed with "Big 12 Champion" TCU? With a win, TCU would then have the exact same resume as Oklahoma, only without the marquee out-of-conference win. I made the mistake of picking TCU last time in this game. I don't see anyone slowing down the OU offense anytime soon, and there's no way the Horned Frog offense can keep up. TCU: 20--OU: 35
Schweinfurth: TCU has defensively torched most of the Big 12 this year...except for Oklahoma. The Sooners ran up and down the field on the Frogs in the first matchup. I do believe TCU will play better this time. However, the Sooners have soon-to-be-Heisman winner Baker Mayfield and that will be all the Sooners need to move on to the CFP. TCU: 35--OU: 42
Seeberg:  Honestly, this rematch, despite being #3 vs. #11, is as yawn-inducing as any in championship week.  I'd rather watch MACtion.  Rematches have a tendency to go in the opposite direction when teams are roughly equal in terms of talent...which is precisely why this one will NOT go the other way.  Sooners big.  TCU: 24--OU: 42

SEC: Georgia Bulldogs vs. Auburn Tigers
Draper: This game and the Pac 12 title game are very intriguing.  Georgia was embarrassed by Auburn in Jordan Hare 3 weeks ago, and Malzahn had no qualms about running it up.  Auburn has been red hot (except against ULM in the first half), but is it time to come down from the extreme emotional high? The Auburn defensive line is fantastic and disruptive.  UGA was destroyed in the first meeting and will seek revenge.  The running game MUST be successful or the Auburn defense will feast.  I think the "more home-field like" confines of Atlanta will make a difference (don't forget, the two season changing wins came in a ballistic Jordan-Hare).  The injury to Kerryon Johnson is very concerning for the Tigers as well.  If he isn't 100%, I think the Dawgs get their revenge and take their spot in the playoff.  Honestly, there's not a great reason to pick UGA with how amazing Auburn's been lately, but I'm going for it.  UGA: 30--Aub: 28
Hoying: How Pointless? Moderately to Highly Pointless. Both teams finished 7-1 in conference, with Auburn holding the convincing head-to-head victory and playing in the tougher division. And now, after steamrolling the #1 team in the country (again), Auburn has to travel to Atlanta to prove that they weren't kidding the first time they blasted the Dawgs. Auburn RB Kerryon Johnson may be a little banged up, but the steady hand of Jarett Stidham and suffocating Tiger defense should be enough to keep the dream season alive for another month. UGA: 24--Aub: 27
Schweinfurth: This one will be fun, and I don't say that often about these SEC games. Auburn absolutely wrecked Georgia in Athens. That in and of it's self is enough to say the Dawgs are fighting mad (H8 Fuels the Dawg). Auburn is riding that high that comes with knocking off two number one teams. Which is nice, until you realize Kirby Smart comes from the Nick Saban school of revenge. Auburn's defense will play well, but it's the Dawg defense that steps up. It will be nice to see a non-Alabama based school win the SEC for once. UGA: 21--Aub: 17
Seeberg:  See above.  Kirby Smart has the Bulldogs playing about as well as they're capable and they still got their doors blown off by Auburn the first time around.  IIIFFFFF Georgia can capitalize on an Auburn team that comes out flat after their huge Iron Bowl win, then they could pull this one out.  But as you can see, that's a pretty big "if".  I do expect Auburn to start slow, but not slowly enough for the Bulldogs to get the revenge W.  At least one team from Alabama will make the CFP, let's just not hope for two.  UGA: 21--Aub: 31

ACC: Miami Hurricanes vs. Clemson Tigers
Draper: Of all the games this week, I have a feeling this one could get UG-LY.  It looked like the Canes were "back" with the turnover chain swagger....but did it? They were fantastic against Notre Dame, but more or less fell into wins over FSU, Georgia Tech, UNC, and to a lesser extent UVA.  The team simply thrives off turnovers (credit to Manny Diaz for bringing the chain to daU.  Clemson, when healthy, is one of, if not the most complete team in the country.  They pooped themselves against Cuse, but they have rocked on the big stage.  I don't expect anything different here.  The Canes have lost their top receiver on top of other injuries as well and Rozier is not consistent enough to overcome.  Tigers big.  UM: 10--Clem: 37
Hoying: How Pointless? Actually, not at all. Both teams enter with one (really bad) loss on an otherwise unblemished season. There were no last minute garbage heroics for Miami against Pitt last week, and now Da U has to pick itself up and face its toughest test to date, another Clemson juggernaut that's showed no signs of slowing down after last year's championship run. The Tigers should let their stifling defense choke the life out of a mediocre Hurricane O, avoid taking chances, and keep the turnover chain on the sideline. Miami is...not quite back. UM: 17--Clem: 34
Schweinfurth: Miami has been living off of turnovers all year. Which is good, until you don't get them and have to drive the full length of the field. Oh, that's what happened last week. And the Hurricanes lost, to Pitt. Clemson is the far superior team here. Mark Richt truely is this generation's John Cooper (Sorry Coop, but it's true)...he just can't win the big one. This one can, and most likely will get ugly. UM:10--Clem: 38
Seeberg:  So the U finally caved.  This is a CLASSIC Mark Richt team- playing up to the level of competition (see ND, Va Tech) but also down (see just about everyone else- remember, Toledo was beating them at the half).  I expect Clemson to bring out the best in the Hurricanes, but their mediocre QB play is just too much to overcome.  Tigers pull away late.  UM: 13--Clem: 31

B1G: THE Ohio State University Buckeyes vs. Wisconsin Badgers
Draper: How easy could this be?  The Buckeyes enter the game after defeating their bitter rival after their all-Big -Ten QB was lost due to injury to face a solid Wisconsin team with a stellar running game.  We've seen this play out before! Of course, the Badgers enter this contest with an unblemished record while the Bucks have 2 marks against them.  What that tells me is, as we all know, the Buckeyes are very inconsistent.  What people don't seem to understand is that 'inconsistent' doesn't mean 'bad'.  Which Buckeye team will show up? Will it be the team that blew the doors off the Spartans or the one that looked like second-teamers in Iowa City? The team that couldn't defend home turf vs. the Sooners or the one that fought through adversity, injuries, and an early deficit during the vaunted Wolverine defense (yes, they're really good)?  I don't know, but I have to believe that Urban will know how to get the team prepared and good to go.  The more I think about it, deserved or undeserved, the Buckeyes will make the playoff with a win over the Badgers and B1G title.  Can JT fight through it all (pain, haters, Bucky) to take everything from Wisconsin? It is excruciatingly important the Buckeye's establish a running game (could be with Barrett) and I'd love to see some short crossing routes keep the linebackers on their toes.  Defensively, the Bucks need to slow the Badager rushing attack and contain Fumigalli (easier said than done for these linebackers).  If the defensive line can turn up the heat early (they took a half before they broke through the Wolverine O-line), the Bucks should take care of business.  As for a pick? We've seen this before! It's a clear as day.  Go Bucks!! OSU: 59 -- Wisc: 0
Hoying: How Pointless? Low-to-somewhat. Wisconsin is undefeated, while Ohio State is decidedly not. One could argue that the Badgers played in the weaker division, but it was a common opponent, the Hawkeyes from the B1G West, that ran OSU out of the building. At least there's no rematch here, although the Buckeyes and Badgers did meet on this very field only 3 years ago. Wisconsin is no stranger to Indianapolis, making their 5th appearance in the 7-year history of the championship. But they haven't won it all since way back in 2012, when they snuck in behind ineligible Ohio State and Penn State in the Leaders division and embarrassed Nebraska. 59-0 is practically a lifetime ago, but don't expect these Badgers to forget the near-flawless first half they frittered away against the Buckeyes in Madison last season. How do these teams stack up this year? Well, as mentioned above, the Badgers are still undefeated after 12 games, and keep riding the disrespekt train beyond Sparty's wildest dreams. Yeah, their schedule is a little soft, but it's not like they've been falling backwards into wins like Miami has. That Iowa team that made Ohio State look like Rutgers? Wisconsin held them to 66 yards. That Michigan team that jumped out to a 14-0 lead last week? Wisconsin held them to 10 points for the whole game, and that was with a competent quarterback for a half. On the other side of the ball, the Badgers only have the only running back in the B1G outperforming Dobbins this year, Jonathan Taylor (Thomas?), who also happens to be a freshman. No one's going to mistake Alex Hornibrook for JT Barrett anytime soon, but if the Silver Slugs at LB and safety don't lock on to TE Troy Fumagalli early and often, it won't matter. There's too much uncertainty here. The Buckeyes are coming off an emotional win that re-revealed some lingering problems on defense, their star QB is a solid blow to the knee away from spending another postseason on the sidelines, and Wisconsin has just the talent and size on the O-line to negate the Buckeyes' greatest strength, their punishing pass rush. If the Buckeyes can outduel the Badgers on the ground and get big games out of Dobbins and Weber, they can return to Columbus as B1G champions, but Wisconsin is too consistent and too legitimately good. Buckeyes lose a heartbreaker. OSU: 21--UW: 24
Schweinfurth: I want to believe in this team. I want to believe that the Buckeyes are legitimately pissed off that one of their coaches was dragged through the mud. I want to believe the linebackers can cover the tight end. I want to believe that JT Barrett's knee is okay after the scope. I can keep going but it would take all day to list all of the things stacked against the Buckeyes. Here's the deal, the Buckeyes need to get the linebackers help in the secondary on Fumagalli. Watch the line of scrimmage in this one. I think the defensive front will be able to wear down the fat guys of Wisconsin. If the Bullets get at push, watch out. I don't think Taylor will go for over 100 yards. I believe Jazz Peavy, who torched the Bucks last year is out for this game. That will help. This team seams to play its best with their backs against the wall. I think the Badgers win if this game were in Madison. It's not and I think the Bucks are pissed off about Schiano. JT will play, but how much? Haskins is competent and how poetic would if be for another OSU backup to beat Wisconsin in the B1G? GO BUCKS! BEAT THE BADGERS! GET THAT RING! OSU: 30--UW: 21
Seeberg:  Okay, we all know the Buckeyes need to win this game- hopefully in style- and have some other things happen ahead of them in the rankings to perhaps squeeze into the playoffs.  Let's get down to the basics.  Wisconsin is good, very good.  Like TTUN version 3.0 with a marginal QB (though markedly better than anything the maize and blue can trot out), a MUCH better offensive line, a comparably stout defense, and a stud RB.  Granted, their schedule has been essentially paper mache, but they did hold the Hawkeye offense completely scoreless, you know, the same team that hung 48 offensive points on the Silver Not-Nearly-As-Quick-As-Bullets.  It comes down to two things.  When the Bucks have the ball, it needs to go to Dobbins and Weber, early and often.  LOTS of crosses/slants/intermediate pass routes will open up in play action if J.T. gets the ball out of his hands in the run game early.  On defense, the Bucks HAVE to cover TEs and RBs out of the backfield.  Hell, bring in a safety to cover Fumagalli I don't care, just do NOT let a TE beat us.  I believe the Badgers will impose their will to an extent, especially early, but the depth of the DL for the Buckeyes will start to wear their O-line down in much the same way their O-line is accustomed to wearing out opposing defenses.  Avoid the early letdown, take care of the football, and the Bucks superior depth and speed will eventually win the day.  Oh, and I'm still toying with the idea of going to this game Saturday night, anybody wanna go?  OSU: 31--UW: 21

Upset Special
Draper: Troy over Arkansas State
Hoying: Idaho over Georgia State

Schweinfurth: North Texas over FAU
Seeberg:  Coastal Carolina over Georgia Southern

Bonus:
MAC: Akron Zips vs. Toledo Rockets
How Pointless? Exceedingly pointless. The Rockets blew the doors off the Zips back in October, and now Akron is sitting at 6-2 in conference and 7-5 overall. Woof.
C-USA: North Texas Mean Green @ Florida Atlantic Owls
How Pointless? Quite Pointless. The Mean Green have one conference loss, a 69-31 waxing at the hands of...Florida Atlantic, who hasn't lost a C-USA game yet. And now North Texas goes back to Boca Raton to do it again.
Mountain West: Fresno State Bulldogs @ Boise State Broncos
How Pointless? Moderately Pointless. Fresno State lost to a UNLV team that Boise State didn't play, but these teams LITERALLY PLAYED LAST WEEK, with Fresno State earning a comfortable win.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Grading the Bucks: Week 13-- M!ch!g@n

Just. win. baby.  Short post coming here (finals suck) but here goes!

Offense: B
I don't think people realized before this game how good Michigan's defense was.  They are (by far) the best defense OSU has faced this year and they balled out.  Even with that, and the adversity of playing from behind, and losing a 3 time All-Big-10 QB, the Buckeye offense put up 31 points.  That is no small feat on the road against that defense that believes.  Major props to Dwayne Haskins for stepping in in a tough spot and delivering.  I still see some hesitancy in his mental game, but I love the potential and the future he will bring to Buckeye football.  JT, thank you.  People still don't give you credit, but you played a good (not great) game while suffering from a weird pregame and ingame injury.  All was laid on the line and the team emerged victorious.  The running backs were ok (some great some eh...) and the O-line was a Jekyll and Hyde (Billy Price had some beautiful 'sit-down' blocks and a few HUGE mental mistakes).  No matter what, 31 points against that defense with a half from a backup QB? HUGE.  I got major dejavu of one of my favorite plays in The Game  seeing Austin Mack (No.11) make that catch in traffic in the Big House.

Defense: C-
John O'Korn....really.  You let John Freaking O'Korn look competent at times. Quite frankly, had John O'Korn been competent, the Buckeyes would have been in real trouble as his consistently missed wide open receivers.  Yes, he had a few nice balls, but there were far too many defensive breakdowns for my liking.  On top of that, the number of missed tackles was astounding.  One of the worst tackling games OSU has had in a while.  Nevertheless, when crunch time entered, the Bucks stiffened up and took care of business.  Sam Hubbard had a game and he deserves the props.  The tackling needs to be fixed before Wisconsin as does the linebackers coverage (gulp, Iowa).

Special Teams: C
Made the FG, punted OK, but the first real punts returned all year gave the punt coverage units fits.  DPJ is a really good return man, but he made a play or two that gave the Wolverines hope.  That is unacceptable.  A 10 yard return? Fine.  A 50 yard return to set up a mediocre-to-bad offense up for a 4 yard TD drive? Nope.  Didn't give up a kickoff return for a TD so there's that...

Coaching: B-
Again, the playcalling has been a complete mystery.  No, I am not on the OSUTwitter bandwagon of "give it to the running back on every play and run into a brickwall", but a little variety would be nice.  Also, the lack of slant and crossing routes on early downs is bothersome.  Once again, let JT thrive with the underneath passing routes and go over the top when the safeties creep up.  It still seems that the coaches want to force JT to throw deep downfield every play (which he's competent but not specialized at) and throw passes with pinpoint accuracy.  That is not his skill set.  His best talent is his ability to mentally breakdown the defense and find the opening.  I would love a dink and dunk offense because that's the skill set.  Finally, running JT Barrett is OK (in fact, I'd like more).  His mental ability to read the oncoming rushers makes him a savant at the read option (he almost never makes a mistake).  Haskins could have sealed the game late had he pulled the ball and taken off (granted that was likely not in the playcall, but...). Yes, JT should hand the ball off on designed runs, but with backs like Dobbins and Weber, the defense collapses on the RB on the zone reads leaving JT free to take off.  If it gets me the first down, I'll take it.  Defensively, I don't know what was up.  Allowing free receivers that even O'Korn should have been able to hit (but often didn't) was frustrating beyond belief.  I think the coaches expected to get pressure on every play and didn't focus on any sort of route concepts for the defense.

Overall: A
Weird playcalling, questionable offense, defense out of position...blah, blah, blah.  What matters in The Game?
31-20 (Called by me by the way). 
It was ugly, but...
31-20. 
It should have been worse, but...
31-20. 

6 in a row.
13 of the last 14. 
All we do is complain and whine.  Imagine being in that cesspool to the North.  All the ineptitude and failure.  We are blessed.  Only one thing left to do...win the whole thing.  Go Bucks!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Playoff Scenarios: Order vs. Chaos

Say what you want about the College Football playoffs, but it creates quite the whirlwind of thrilling controversy every year. And this season may be the worst yet. With only one more week of football until the field is selected, there are still about 8 or so teams with a realistic shot at a semifinal berth, with a couple more dreamers clinging to delusional hope. Maybe you would like everything nicely and neatly wrapped up by the time you go to bed on Saturday, or maybe you want to imagine the Committee staying up all night arguing and sweating it out until noon on Sunday. Here's your Let's Go Bucks! guide to Order vs. Chaos.

Order scenario:

Oklahoma beats TCU
Georgia beats Auburn
Clemson beats Miami
Wisconsin beats Ohio State

If the idea of conflict frightens you or you're just perfectly content with not learning anything about how the Committee narrows the playoff field to four teams, then this is the scenario for you. Wisconsin gets in as the lone unbeaten Power 5 team, and Oklahoma, Georgia, and Clemson join them as the only 1-loss Power 5 champions. 11-1 Alabama whimpers for a few minutes before fading away.

Chaos scenario:

TCU blows out Oklahoma
Auburn squeaks by Georgia
Miami grazes Clemson
Ohio State beats Wisconsin competently
(Bonus) USC annihilates Stanford

Oh boy. Now we have some problems.

1-loss teams:

  • Miami (11-1, ACC champion)
  • Wisconsin (12-1, B1G East champion)
  • Alabama (11-1, SEC West co-champion)

2-loss teams:

  • Auburn (11-2, SEC champion)
  • Ohio State (11-2, B1G champion)
  • TCU (11-2, Big 12 champion)
  • USC (11-2, Pac-12 champion)
  • Clemson (11-2, ACC Atlantic champion)
  • Georgia (11-2, SEC East champion)
  • Oklahoma (11-2, Big 12...something?)
  • Washington (10-2, Pac-12 North co-champion)

Miami's pretty clearly in as the only 1-loss Power 5 champion. That leaves 3 spots for 10 teams. And you can't put any of them in because...
  • Wisconsin played a weak schedule, beating exactly one ranked team (#20 or so Northwestern), and didn't win their conference. So you can't put them ahead of Ohio State, Auburn, or TCU (conference champions with tougher schedules), or Clemson, Oklahoma, or Georgia (division champions with tougher schedules)
  • Alabama also played a weak schedule, beating exactly two ranked teams (#15-20 or so LSU and Mississippi State). So you can't put them ahead of Ohio State, Auburn, or TCU (conference champions with tougher schedules), or Oklahoma (??? champion with better wins)
  • Auburn lost to Clemson, who has the same record. So you can't put them ahead of Clemson (who has their own problems, see below).
  • Ohio State got blown out twice, once to Oklahoma and once at an unranked opponent. So you can't put them in ahead of Oklahoma, you can't put them in ahead of TCU (who beat Oklahoma), and it's tough to put them in ahead of Alabama, who lost once, on the road, to a top-tier opponent.
  • TCU has two wins against ranked opponents (Oklahoma and #15 or so Oklahoma State), but they went 1-1 against Oklahoma, tainting their top win somewhat. So you can't put them ahead of Auburn or Ohio State (conference champions with tougher schedules). Or even Oklahoma, who has the same record, better wins, a win over TCU, the best regular season Big 12 record, and only doesn't have the Big 12 championship because of a contrived extra game.
  • USC got destroyed by Notre Dame and their only win of note is Stanford (twice). Add in that the Pac-12 is the weakest Power 5 conference this season. So you can't put them ahead of Auburn, Ohio State, or TCU (conference champions with better schedules).
  • Clemson's loss to Syracuse is the worst of any playoff contender in 4 years. And they lack a conference title. So you can't put them ahead of Auburn, Ohio State, or TCU (conference champions with comparable schedules, except maybe TCU) or Oklahoma or Georgia (forgivable losses, comparable wins)
  • Georgia lost twice to Auburn, a team Clemson beat. So you can't put them ahead of Auburn or Clemson, and you can't put them ahead of Ohio State, TCU, or USC (conference champions).
  • Oklahoma lost to TCU and didn't win their conference. So you can't put them ahead of TCU, or ahead of Auburn or Ohio State (conference champions with comparable schedules).
  • Washington's resume is bad and they should feel bad.

How would such a scenario end up? Only the Committee knows for sure (to the extent they consider hypotheticals), but my guess would be something like this:
#1 Miami (conference champ with best record)
#2 Auburn (conference champ with best wins and forgivable losses)
#3 Ohio State (conference champ with next best wins overcome losses and head-to-head)
#4 Oklahoma (1-1 vs. Big 12 champ TCU with better wins, and better wins than other contenders)
#5 TCU (similar resume to Oklahoma plus conference title minus Ohio State win)
#6 Alabama (dominant wins over mediocre teams)

Friday, November 24, 2017

Week 13: Turkey and Gravy

Standings
1. Draper (41-15, 2-10 upset)
2. Seeberg (38-18, 5-7 upset)
3. Schweinfurth (37-19, 0-12 upset)
4. Hoying (35-21, 1-11 upset)

It's that wonderful week of the year once again. This year we're thankful for turkey and gravy. The gravy is the chance for a sixth straight victory over our rivals to the north after already punching our tickets for Indianapolis next week. And the turkey? That's whatever fool Khakeesi trots out at QB to get devoured by the OSU D line. Happy holidays to rivalries near and far!

FRIDAY

South Florida Bulls @ Central Florida Knights
Draper: This epic battle of group of 5 squads has petered out in a way as the Bulls dropped a contest to Houston, and that is not allowed in the world of the NCAA second tier.  While Charlie Strong has the Bulls playing well, Scott Frost is bettering that in Orlando.  Has Frost checked out to head to greener pastures in Lincoln? I don't think so.  Still work to finish.  Neither of these schools has beaten anything with a pulse but one will escape victorious.  I'll lean on the Knights.  USF: 28 -- UCF: 38
Hoying: The road to the New Year's Six goes through Orlando. South Florida entered this season as the hot crew with the big-shot coach (Charlie Strong) ready to produce a splash. But the schedule was soft, and a loss against Houston took the shine off the apple. UCF, to the contrary, has been shredding foes left and right behind the county's #1 prolific offense. The Knights' quarterback could be the best player you've not heard of this season, and he'll be energized to deliver an AAC east title and take one step closer to a prestigious bowl bid, so long as his coach hasn't absconded to Nebraska by Friday. USF: 24--UCF: 41
Schweinfurth: I have to be fully honest that I have no idea on these two. UCF is higher ranked and not playing on the road. We'll go with that. USF: 35--UCF: 45
Seeberg:  This is, in a weird way, by a WIDE gap, the intrastate Florida contest that is absolutely crucial to sort out potential New Year's Six bowls.  Anybody have that preseason?  Didn't think so.  South Florida looked to be in the driver's seat in the non-power 5 until tripping up against Houston (yours truly had that upset).  UCF gladly took the torch and hasn't looked back.  No reason to believe they will stop now.  USF: 31--UCF: 42

SATURDAY

Alaba_a Cri_son Tide @ Auburn Tigers
Draper: Honestly, I don't know if there is a good reason to pick the Tide. Their best win is likely over a healthy FSU squad that is fighting for bowl eligibility.  Auburn nearly dethroned the reigning holders of the crystal football, defeated the H8 Dawgs of UGA, and have just generally been the better squad all year.  And yet....It's still Nick Saban and the Tide.  I just get the feeling that this is the contest in which everything gels and the grown adults that reside in Tuscaloosa step up and assert their power over the Tigers.  Both defensive lines are solid, but the offensive line for the Tide is always ridiculous.  Bo Scarborough and Jalen Hurts get a couple big plays to try to erase the bad recollections of the Kick 6 (news flash: they won't erase everything), but Saban and Co. return to Atlanta for the trillionth straight SEC title bout (at least is feels like that).  Ala: 17--Aub: 14
Hoying: Fun fact: Nick Saban has never defeated an Auburn squad that finished a season with at least 9 wins. And here approaches Auburn at 9-2 already. One of these two has been tested on a few occasions this season, with varying results (Georgia good, LSU bad). The other ain't played nobody, Pawwwwwl, but hasn't shown a lot of vulnerability until very recently. Generally, the script for the Tide is to have a scare against an inferior opponent (read: any opponent) and then blow the doors off the next one. The difficulty is that the Tigers are actually an equal challenge to the Tide, they're playing on their own field, and they have a world of possibilities open if they keep winning. This year's Tide isn't quite as good as the group that lost on the Kick Six back in 2013, but they've tightened their grip on their rivals since, and even that standout Auburn crew needed an agelessly fluky play to walk away with a victory. Just don't bet against Nick Saban. Ala: 24--Aub: 17
Schweinfurth: This one deserves a PAWWWWWWWL. It's not quite Ohio State vs TTUN but this one is always entertaining to watch. The Tigers just love to torture the Tide in Jordan-Hare (think Kick Six). Auburn's D is legit and showed it by keeping Georgia in the dog house. I still have questions with Jalen Hurts throwing the ball and the Tide D is really banged up. It hurts the Bucks, but I think the Tigers pull this one out. Ala: 17--Aub: 24
Seeberg:  Wow, can another Iron Bowl live up to the hype?  If Auburn's destruction of Georgia is any indication, the answer is "probably".  The difference with this Tide squad as to years' past is they tend to start faster rather than allowing groups to hang around to potentially snatch a W at the end.  Auburn is plenty good enough to hang in this one regardless, but Saban and Co. know that- the shellacking of the Bulldogs will have their attention.  Saban has struggled to beat good Auburn squads, but the law of averages is bound to start creeping in soon, and the average is Saban winning...a lot.  Definitely tuning in for what should be a classic.  Ala: 24--Aub: 20

Notre Da_e Fighting Irish @ Stanford Cardinal
Draper: I have a thing against Stanford.  I can't explain it, but I always think they're fake good.  Look through past posts and you'll see that track record across the years.  I picked USC and Wazzu to win without a lot of support this year and was rewarded.  That being said, I have no idea what the Irish are.  They had a close loss to UGA and a blowout win over SC...but also a trashing by the Hurricanes and another close call vs. Navy.  I will bank on recent history in which ND looked shaky and pick the hated Cardinal.  Bryce Love has a decent showing to shore up his spot next to Baker as he hoists the top award in college football.  ND: 17--Stan:24
Hoying: Here we have the What-Could-Have-Been Bowl. Stanford's Bryce Love and ND's Josh Allen have both been stellar this year but have taken enough Saturdays off to be cease to be a threat to Senor Crotch Chop in the chase for everyone's favorite individual honor. As far as what's still in view for the rest of the players, Stanford can play for a Pac-12 title if the Huskies take care of business this week (they will, see below), and the Irish still have the outsidiest of outside chances to crash the playoff if lots of bed pooping happens these next two weeks. As for this one, both schools are obviously going to sell out to stop the run, and we saw what happened when the Hurricanes did so: ND fell totally to pieces. Would Stanford do any better if they faced a real defense? I don't know, but until I see it happen, I'll take what I know to be true over what I only suspect. Pride will cost you, ND. It's a Cardinal sin. ND: 20--Stan: 28
Schweinfurth: Can the Irish stop Bryce Love? No, but I do think they can slow down the beast. The Stanford has looked pretty eh in a few big contests. I'll take the Irish. Lot's of running in this one though. ND: 21--Stan: 17
Seeberg:  Despite there not being a ton on the line here this is an intriguing contest.  Two power run squads trying to exert their will on each other.  I believe Stanford possesses the superior running back in Bryce Love, but ND has the better lines, particularly on the defensive side.  That fact should be just enough to grind out another W.  ND: 27--Stan: 21

Washington State Cougars @ Washington Huskies
Draper: Everyone's favorite rivalry that no one knows about (is that  nonsensical? Probably).  I stayed up last night with the Pac 12 After Dark crew and learned 2 things: 1) Rod G. is a terrible stick in the wet dirt and 2) Washington isn't very good.  Wazzu, on the other hand, is led by everyone's favorite giver of advice.  While Washington's Browning is capable of delivering the ball, he's not surrounded by enough talent to consistently succeed.  The Cougars high-octane, frenetic offense is fun to watch with Leach playing 20-D chess (while all his notes are on a used dinner napkin).  I think the Cougars get a second crack at the Trojans to hopefully rinse and repeat the first outing.  WSU: 41--UW: 34
Hoying:  This ain't your slightly older brother's Crapple Cup. Last year was the first instance since 2000 that the winner was ranked in the top 25, and now both of these traditional punching bags enter ranked in the top 20. The Huskies have looked great this season against a total cupcake schedule that would have Wisconsin drooling. The Cougars, on the other hand, have the Pac-12's best win (beating USC) and a couple of puzzling blowout losses to Arizona and Cal. Coach Leach will be pulling out all the stops to get Washington State to its first Apple Cup victory since 2012 and its first Pac-12 title since 2002, but Washington is just too good on both sides of the ball to let WSU's pass-only attack and ruthless pass rush be causes for concern. This should be fun, but extra fun for the purple and gold. WSU: 27--UW: 35
Schweinfurth: This will be high scoring for sure, and all because of the Cougars. The Huskies play just enough defense and probably force a few turnovers. I think this is PAC-12 after dark, so enjoy loss sleep if you want to watch the Huskies win the Apple Cup. WSU: 28--UW: 42
Seeberg:  The Apple Cup.  It's actually relevant again!  I still don't trust any club run by crazy Leach, but they appear to have righted the ship after a couple of blunders.  Washington, in turn, was one of what appeared to be roughly two-thirds of the PAC-12 that had a chance at a 0 or 1-loss season and a CFP birth before blowing it.  WAZZOU's wins are better (USC, Stanford) but their losses are worse (Cal by 34?? Ouch.)  When all else fails in a relatively even rivalry tilt, go with the squad playing in friendly confines.  Huskies in a fun one.  WSU: 31--UW: 35

Cle_son Tigers @ South Carolina Ga_ecocks
Draper: Question I posed earlier this season: if I gave 10-1 odds on the Tide and Tigers in the title for the 3rd straight year, would you take it? At that point, I think intelligent cash said yes.  While I'd like better odds now, there is no real reason to think we won't see round three.  Dabo's boys are incredibly talented and had a hiccup (see Urban in Iowa City).  It was a bad loss, but the unit overfloweth with talent.  USC-East has been a pleasant surprise with Crazy Will at the fore.  Can they rise up to derail the Tigers? I still say no.  The Tigers has an overabundance of firepower with Etienne and Bryant while the defense is just plain nasty.  On to Charlotte and the Canes for the playoffs.  Tigers: 31 -- 'Cocks: 17
Hoying: Is South Carolina good enough to stand toe-to-toe with Dabo and take their first win since Spurrier walked the sidelines? Well, no. On the one hand, SC kept it respectable against Georgia, but they also barely sneaked by Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Florida. As for the Tigers, they already Tigered as hard as they could Tiger against 4-7 Syracuse, so I wouldn't look for that to be a deciding factor here. Onward toward a huge showdown against da U. Tigers: 38--'Cocks: 20
Schweinfurth: I agree with Hoying on this. South Carolina just doesn't have the horses to hang with the Tigers. Spurier didn't exactly leave the current staff with a full cupboard. Tigers win big. Tigers: 42--SC: 10
Seeberg:  The current trajectories of these two schools create a "rivalry in na*e only" situation here.  Not a lot to break down.  The Tigers are good, the 'cocks are not.  That's that.  Cle_: 31--: SC: 13

THE Ohio State University Buckeyes @ That School Up North
Draper: The Buckeyes return to the ugliness of Ann Arbor for another epic battle for nothing but the respect and love of our loved ones for the rest of our lives.  J.T. Barrett looks to finish with an unsullied slate vs. the hated Wolverines with four straight wins (a feat no OSU QB has achieved).  This could solidify his legacy in the Scarlet and Gray forever (honestly, it should be solidified already, but why not build it to new unseen heights?).  Let's be honest, the Bucks enter with the superior offense (by a LIGHT YEAR) and probably equal defense.  The Wolverines do sport a very good defense, but JT, Dobbins, Weber, and Parris should be able to dent the facade of the sun and gold.  On the other side of the ball, the Bullet defensive line should wreak absolute havoc in the OKorn backfield.  I predict 4-6 sacks as the Blue offensive line is just awful.  The Wolverine defense will keep this scary close for a quarter or two, but talent wins out. JT rides off into the sunset (of Indianapolis) as we're not done yet.  OSU: 31 -- TTUN: 20
Hoying: Spot the difference if you can. In 2013, a juggernaut, possibly BCS bound Buckeye squad headed up north to face a Wolverine group with losses to Penn State and Little Brother. Near identical script so far... And 2013 Ohio State barely escaped with a one point victory after Devin Gardner practically drained his life force to will the Wolverines to victory.  The difference this year? These Buckeyes know their various vulnerabilities. The 2013 trip to Ann Arbor was the canary in the shaft, the opening scene in a 3-act play showing what an absolute joke the Buckeye defense had devolved into. Hopefully, HOPEFULLY, 55 points courtesy of the Hawkeyes have taught the 2017 Buckeyes their lesson already. Since Brandon Peters got a little tap on the head last week, and Wilton Speight is still recovering after going all "The Dark Knight Rises" against Purdue, the Wolverines will probably have to look to John No-Scorin O'Korin to lead the once-victors to another upset of the century. Against this Buckeye defense? I wouldn't count on it. Last year showed what can happen when JT and friends can't get any consistent attack going, but the Bucks (still) have weapons aplenty beyond what You-Know-Who can handle. It shouldn't be close. It shouldn't be close. It shouldn't...OSU: 28--TSUN: 13
Schweinfurth: Was that a good enough send off for JT last week? It depends. He can have a better send off if the Bucks win and he is the first OSU QB to go 4-0 against the Harboogers. The Blue guys have a very good defensive line and, yes, JT will take a few sacks. That offense for TTUN is just horrendous. I don't care if Peters plays or O'Korn, there is a large talent gap between the Bucks and Blue. I still relive the 90's when this contest arrives every year (90's kid, sorry) and dread the final score. The Harboogers are still in denial about "The Spot" and I love it. View last year through that lens and forget about the train that is flying up the tracks this week. Hit hard, run the ball, don't get ejected (Bosa), and show Harharharbooger that a life long contract is a joke if he ever wants to win a B1G East title. 42 is a lucky score for Urban. GO BUCKS!!! BEAT BLUE!!! OSU: 42--TTUN: 17
Seeberg:  Good lord, the season is nearly over again!  When did that happen??  Such is life, the good die young.  After the Illinois shellacking and *ichigan Week officially began, the local post-contest radio show was debating whether it was better to play TTUN right away or savor the full week.  I think it depends.  I will always, ALWAYS be wary of TTUN, having grown up in the Cooper years when our beloved Buckeyes frequently had a superior squad only to lose, often in odd or spectacular fashion, so when the Bucks are the clear favorites I dread the build-up, lest we experience a letdown.  Now, however?  In Urban we trust.  This year's version of The School Up North boasts a very solid defense, as usual, and...I guess technically an offense?  Which, hilariously, is also typical of the squads that Harbaugh has trotted out since he arrived.  I've long since lost track of where their current QB actually resides on their full-strength depth chart (side note:  TTUN fans will naturally use that as an excuse which is hysterical given our recent title with a 3rd-string QB).  Once again, feed J.K. and Weber, execute a few throws, and please avoid OT- the road setting is less forgiving.  On(to) Wisconsin.  OSU: 27--TTUN: 17

Upset Special
Draper: Georgia Tech over UGA
Hoying: Texas Aggies over LSU

Schweinfurth: WVU over OU 
Seeberg:  Navy over Houston
P.S. for a special news flash, read the first word of each OSU selection :)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

One Loss or Two? Ohio State and the Playoffs

By now you've surely read Dr. Draper's outline of Ohio State's playoff chances, about how everything will fall nicely into place if Ohio State, Alabama, Miami, and Oklahoma win out (and Wisconsin drops another game for good measure).

Well, suppose that doesn't happen. Suppose that, in order to make the playoffs, 2-loss Ohio State has to finish ahead of at least one 1-loss Power 5 team. Oh, the screaming you'll hear (especially from Penn State fans, although it'll be hard to notice because they never shut up). "Ohio State made the playoffs last year instead of Penn State, and Penn State had a conference championship AND a head-to-head win! The Committee has spoken, and a 2-loss team can't take a 1-loss team's spot!"

Now, I've been a fan of the Committee's work over these last 3 years; each year they've put in the same 4 teams that I would've (although in a different order each year). Which means that, yes, I agreed with the Committee that Ohio State deserved a playoff spot ahead of Penn State, even with no conference championship. Does this mean that this season, for the sake of consistency, the Committee would need to rank an 11-2 B1G champion Ohio State below a potential 1-loss conference also-ran?

No. Not necessarily. To understand why not, we need to revisit what an anomaly the 2016 Ohio State team was.

In 2015, Ohio State had maybe its most talented team ever (see also 2003, 2005). They opened with a smashing road win over Virginia Tech and closed out their regular season with a crushing road win over top-15 Michigan to finish 11-1. Their only loss along the way was on a last-second field goal to the B1G champion, #3-ranked Michigan State.

And Ohio State finished ranked #7, notably behind Pac-12 champion 11-2 Stanford.

Fast forward a year. 2016 Ohio State again finished the regular season 11-1 after losing to the B1G champions. And yet these Buckeyes finished ranked #3, ahead of B1G champion 11-2 Penn State. Why?

Because they had the most absurd resume of any 1-loss team in College Football Playoff history.

The 2016 Buckeyes had wins over #6 Michigan, #7 Oklahoma, and #8 Wisconsin, the latter 2 on the road. And their one loss was on a blocked field goal on the road at #5 Penn State. Only one other 1-loss playoff contender has ever had even TWO wins over top ten teams: 2015 Michigan State beat #5 Iowa and #7 Ohio State, and their loss was to 6-6 Nebraska.

2016 Clemson's resume sure didn't stack up to OSU's, with their best win being over #11 Florida State and their loss to #23 Pitt, but Clemson finished #2 while OSU finished #3, showing that the Committee wasn't giving Ohio State a free pass for not winning their conference title championship. The message was clear: the Committee really, really wants to put conference champions into the playoff, but if you have a better record than the conference champion, AND you're an absolute world-beater who got hosed out of a conference title on tiebreakers, they'll make an exception.

A rare exception, I'd wager. It's almost a shame that this rogue conference non-champion barged into the playoffs so early in the format's existence. 2016 Ohio State is going to set a lot of fan bases up for disappointment. My guess is that 10 years down the line, we'll have only seen another 1 or 2 non-champions in the playoff, and then only under striking circumstances (if we don't have a watered down 8-team abomination by then).

Which leads us to this year. Are there any potential 1-loss conference non-champions who could stand between an 11-2 B1G champion Ohio State and the playoff? First, let's list all the Power 5 teams that could finish with one loss and not win their conference:
  • Alabama (could lose to Auburn and go 11-1, or lose to Georgia and go 12-1)
  • Miami (could lose to Clemson and go 11-1)
  • Wisconsin (could lose to Ohio State and go 12-1)
How do these teams' resumes stack up?
  • Alabama: wins over...Mississippi State and LSU? Maybe a win over Auburn if they then get knocked off in the title game? Their loss would be pretty good, either Auburn or Georgia.
  • Miami: a great win over Notre Dame...and then? Maybe VT will crack the rankings again, but the overall resume is still terribly thin. A loss to Clemson would be eminently forgivable.
  • Wisconsin: wins over... ... ...Northwestern? Michigan, who won't be ranked if they lose to Ohio State? Iowa (hey, great win over OSU)? Not a lot of meat on these bones. And losing to Ohio State would not help Wisconsin's case.
Not a particularly strong candidate among them. These teams are looking an awful lot more like 2015 Ohio State than 2016 Ohio State, which means that I don't see any of them making the playoff if they don't walk away with their conference championships. Heck, even Notre Dame and USC would be knocking on the semifinals' door before these teams.

And that's the rub. Ironically, this year, the bigger threat seems to come from the potential 2-loss conference non-champions. A 2-loss non-champion getting in over a 2-loss champion would be real uncharted territory, but then again, so would any 2-loss team getting in at all. Let's go to the resumes:
  • Clemson (could lose to Miami and go 11-2)
    • Well, the Auburn win could look really good, especially if the Tigers win the SEC, but otherwise these Tigers' next best win is NC State? Va Tech? They'd have lots of wins over 6-6 or so bowl teams, but not many flashy splashy victories. And the Syracuse loss is the worst of any playoff contender.
  • Oklahoma (could lose to TCU (or whomever) and go 11-2)
    • Here's your flashy splashy wins: TCU, Oklahoma State, Ohio State. Oklahoma should be ranked ahead of Clemson now (and my guess is that this corrects itself before championship week) and would likely stay ahead of Ohio State even with a loss, thanks to the head-to-head road win and comparable resume otherwise.
  • Notre Dame (cannot win a conference championship without a conference)
    • Resume looks great now with losses to two top teams and wins over USC, Michigan State, and NC State. But I'm not sure if it beats out wins over Wisconsin, Penn State, and Michigan State, even if the Irish does pick up Stanford along the way.
  • Penn State, Washington (could win out and not play for a conference title)
    • Hahahaha no.
This post is not intended to make the case that any of the above teams should or should not make the playoff ahead of Ohio State. Rather, the point is that just because 2016 Ohio State jumped Penn State to take a playoff slot despite no conference title, it doesn't follow that the 2017 Ohio State Buckeyes need to quietly step aside to let a similarly situated Alabama or Miami past them. It's not always (usually, but not always) as simple as one loss versus two.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Week 12: Plenty O' Nuttin'

Standings
1. Draper (39-15, 2-9 upset)
2. Seeberg (36-18, 5-6 upset)
3. Schweinfurth (35-19, 0-11 upset)
4. Hoying (33-21, 1-10 upset)

We hope you enjoyed the last two earth-shattering weeks across the college football landscape, which saw our beloved Buckeyes' playoff hopes unceremoniously dashed and then resurrected as the world crumbled around them. Because you're not going to enjoy this week. There's a total of one ranked matchup, so that's all you're going to get (along with going through the motions of picking Ohio State to disintegrate Illinois).


Michigan Wolverines @ Wisconsin Badgers
Draper: So does Michigan have anything left? This has been a year of wild swinging Wolverine emotions that has settled down to: maybe losing our entire defense to the NFL might hurt our team this year.  Enter Brandon Peters who has looked decent in relief (although White Goodman with the chicken legs would have been an upgrade), but the Badgers D has turned up the heat.  I'm still not 100% sold on Wisconsin (yes, they trashed Iowa who trashed OSU, but you'll see in last weeks picks that I totally expected that), but I think they'll be able to handle a mediocre young QB in their house.  Michigan does still have a pretty good defense (even though PSU took care of them in the whiteout, but the slow and steady Badgers just sit on them with their 500 lb fat guys.  The inexorable Bucky moves on.  UM: 10 -- UW: 19
Hoying: Finally we'll get to see if these overrated hacks can get a win over a team ranked in the top 50 or so. But enough about Michigan...Wisconsin has played very steady all year, not having to sweat a game in the 4th quarter (except mayyybe Northwestern). Can the Wolverines turn the heat up in Camp Randall? I don't think they'll be able to match the Badgers from a motivation factor. This is practically a one-game season for the Badgers, while Michigan may have other upcoming battles to worry about. Peters has looked OK replacing O'Korn, but he hasn't really had to do anything yet. This week he'll have to chase down DBs after throwing picks all over the field in a vain attempt to lead the Wolverines back against a punishing Badger D. Michigan's late season slide starts...now. UM: 13--UW: 20

Schweinfurth: Does anyone really think this game will be competitive? I don't. Michigan has been thrashing teams they are supposed to whip. Wisconsin has been steadily rolling along. Johnathan Taylor has looked like a beast behind the Badgers' large mammals. No Jazz Peavy could make it interesting, but Wisconsin just grinds the Harboogers down for the Bucks next week. UM: 10--UW: 35
Seeberg:  Well the Wolverines are back in the rankings.  Anybody think they'd see the day when a 3-loss MSU team would be 7 spots ahead of a 2-loss UM team?  Further proof that times have changed...but wait!  Isn't the Khaki-nator going to bring UM back to prominence?  Well it's season three and so far, not so much.  Conference relevance (barely) and that's about it thus far.  Meanwhile, Wisconsin's defense allowed a big fat goose egg to Iowa last week (you know, the same team that somehow hung 48 offensive points on our Buckeyes the week before), as the Hawkeyes managed only two pick-sixes to get on the scoreboard.  In any event, a good defense going up against what the Wolverines trot out as a purported offense is not a good recipe for a victory.  Enjoy returning to the ranks of the unranked, maize and blue.  UM: 10--UW: 21

Illinois Fighting Illini @ THE Ohio State University Buckeyes
Draper: Let's be honest, this game should be about one thing and one thing only: sending JT Barrett out of the Shoe on a high note. He has been here for his 123 years and in true Aaron Craftinan manner, caused fits for all the Buckeye foes.  He deserves to be sent out on a high note, as does all time starts king Billy Price.  These seniors have been involved in a fantastic four (five) years) and deserve the praise and accolades coming to them.  There is a game this week, but Illinois just plain sucks...they're the suckiest bunch of sucks who ever sucked (sorry, Buttgers).  There is absolutely no reason for this to be close after the first quarter (it better not be).  Don't take it lightly because I remember another Senior Day vs. Illinois as my last home game in the band (psst...it didn't go well).  This should be a shellacking and the crowd should give these seniors (especially JT) their warmest thanks.  We are lucky to have had them represent the school.  Keep rocking and hope for more chaos! Ill: 9 -- OSU: 52
Hoying: I don't even know what to say about this game. You saw Ohio State play the likes of Rutgers, and Maryland, and Nebraska earlier this year. Well, Illinois is worse than those teams. By a lot. Booker and Baker (and Candlestick Maker) should be back to roam the field again this week for the Silver Bullets, and it'll be interesting to see if last week's phenomenally successful LB shakeup will continue now that the regular guys are back. Other than that, just don't lose. It would be bad. Ill: 6--OSU: 45

Schweinfurth: I did not see that coming. Seriously, I picked OSU 17-10 last week. THAT was the Buckeye team that needed to show up all year and did against Penn State. The zone read and down field passing have their place in the Bucks offense but this is a power running team. This game will be nothing but ground and pound from Dobbins and Weber (that forecast tomorrow is all rain). Nothing more is needed. Illinois is B. A. D. BAD. Keep the offense and defense rolling and on to everyone's favorite week of the year. The Bullets get the shutout for the seniors. Ill: 0--OSU: 45
Seeberg: I officially cannot figure this team out.  The only thing I know to be true- and I'm far from the only one- is that this team is virtually unstoppable on offense when the RBs get enough carries.  Remember, Zeke had 696 by himself rushing the ball in the last 3 games of 2014 and we all know how that season ended.  We may not have a transcendent talent at RB (though Dobbins is pushing to be just that), but the two-headed beast of Weber and Dobbins is every bit as formidable.  None of this should matter against Illinois, of course, but hopefully Urban, Kevin and Co. finally learned their lesson.  It's almost Xichigan week kids!  Ill: 3--OSU: 49

Upset Special
Draper: UVA over da U
Hoying: UCLA over USC

Schweinfurth: Minnesota over Northwestern
Seeberg:  Texas Tech over TCU

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Grading the Bucks: Week 11 -- Michigan State

Aahhhh..much better.

Offense: B+
The running game was back to old form with Dobbins and Weber taking care of business while JT quietly had a nice ground game as well.  The offensive line was fantastic as well both passing and running.  The major knock came on the questionable (to say the least) interceptions thrown by Mr. Barrett.  The second was a clear attempt by Meyer to get the stats a little better for Barrett in a blow out so it wasn't terrible...other than the throw showed he had checked out by that time.  The passing game was actually pretty good but the interceptions were just dumb.  No matter what, the running game was the star.  Mike Weber reminds Buckeye Nation (again) that he's really good while Dobbins still impressed.  When the team is clicking, look out.

Defense: A
That's how you turn things around in a big way.  It looked like the defensive line decided to man up after being embarrassed last week.  It certainly didn't hurt having Bosa in for a full 60, but it was nice to see this team not give up on the season after the abomination in Iowa City.  I'll give major props to the linebackers who appeared to be night and day compared to the Hawkeye game.  Baker has been awful lately so the worry was what are his backups looking like. Borland was phenomenal in the middle and moving Worley to outside linebacker seems like the right move going forward.  He looked much more comfortable in that position.  While MSU isn't going to wow the top teams in the nation with their offensive prowess, Iowa was considered to be Sparty lite (run the ball and pass to the TEs).  The defensive adjustments over the last week were a work of art.

Special Teams: B+
You know what? I didn't even remember the special teams existed...and that's what I want from Urban's boys.  No missed kicks, no turnovers, no stupid blunders...I'll take that all day every day.

Coaching: B+
The gameplan was beautiful and worked like a charm.  Getting this team to play for something when all appeared lost was a major victory in and of itself.  Michigan State was completely befuddled on both sides of the ball and simply couldn't stop the Buckeyes.  I was disappointed that JT was in the game so late.  There was no reason to risk injury or do anything dumb when the game was well in hand.  While I agree that injuries can't be planned for, the first unit seemed to have checked out of the game at halftime.  That's not optimal, but when they showed they had the ability and stomped another good team, I think it was time to get some reps for the second teamers.  The lack of 100% effort in the late 3rd early 4th was noticeable.  I think the coaches should have sent a message that if you don't go 100%, don't bother checking in.  Hard to fault the coaches too much.  This was a beautiful bounce back victory.

Overall: A-
Michigan State is a very good (not great team) and the Buckeyes embarrassed them when all the momentum and energy sided with the roaring Spartans (Buckeyes coming off a historic loss while the Spartans just beat Penn State and had control of the division).  Don't underestimate the effort the coaches must have put in this week to get these kids to play hard.  The players were mentally challenged this week and came out on the other side with new hope.  The new goal, don't get ahead of yourselves.  Nothing matters this week, but one thing...beating a hapless Illinois team on Senior Day (PS that didn't go so well last time).  Take care of your business.



Sunday, November 12, 2017

So you're telling me there's a chance--Buckeyes in the Playoff?

Alright, the Buckeyes were buried for dead as the clock struck zero in Iowa City just over a week ago.  By the fans, by the media, by everyone.  But that little magic inherent in College Football known as #TeamChaos reared its beautiful head and we're right back in it.  Let's discuss.  While this is indeed a 'homer' Buckeye blog, this post is real.  I will do my best to take an objective view of the current climate and demonstrate that the Buckeye's making the playoff for the 3rd time in 4 years is not a pipe dream...even after that horrid game vs. the Hawkeyes.

The Teams that Control Their Destinies
Extremely surprisingly, I count 7 (perhaps 8 teams) who are in a legitimate 'win out and you're in' scenario. 

1) Alabama Crimson Tide: In the 'duh' category, we have Saban's crew.  As one of three unbeaten Power 5 teams, there is (clearly) no chance for an undefeated Bama to miss out on their 4th (of 4) playoffs.  The road is bumpy with two meetings (maybe only one) with other controllers of destiny.  Simple plan for the Tide: Beat the Tigers and the Bulldogs and you're the number 1 seed.

2) Miami Hurricanes: This makes me sick to my stomach, but 'the U' is back to relevance and shame on the doubters (including me).  This is also a 'duh' contender.  Beat UVA, Pitt, and Clemson and enter the playoff as no worse than the 2 seed. 

3) Oklahoma Sooners: This team just continues to roll on offense and...well, they're good on offense.  Baker Mayfield can put the Heisman on his resume now as well as another playoff appearance (2nd of 4) if they win out.  Beating an angry TCU team in a rematch might be tough but the wins over OSU, Oklahoma St, and TCU are too good to ignore.

4) Clemson Tigers: Clemson has the lone blemish to a questionable Syracuse team but wins over Auburn, Virginia Tech, NC State, and Miami in the ACC Title game would put the champs back into the playoff for their 3rd go round.

5) Wisconsin Badgers: Stop the talk.  If the Badgers win out, they're in. There is no question and no argument.  Yes, the schedule is poo, but wins over Iowa, Northwestern, Michigan, and Ohio State (or another East team barring disaster) will be enough.  The zero in the loss column will guarantee the large dairy farmers a shot at the title.

6) Georgia Bulldogs: Well, the beatdown at Jordan Hare left a mark, but UGA is in a fine position.  Beat Bama or a rematch vs. Auburn and they'll be in the playoff without a doubt.  The SEC East is probably the worst division in football, but the win over Notre Dame is the gift that keeps on giving.

7) Auburn Tigers: Ok, this one wasn't expected, but the absolute demolition of the Bulldogs followed by dates against Bama and possibly the Bulldogs again? The close losses to Clemson and LSU will be completely ignored.  Get hot and take down the king and you're in.  Honestly, this is a guarantee in my mind.

The contenders
8) TCU Horned Frogs: This is the team that might actually control their destiny as well, but it's not a done deal...yet.  Winning out includes beating OU in a rematch.  A two loss team with wins over OU (on the second try), Oklahoma State, and West Virginia MIGHT be enough, but I'm not willing to rubber stamp it.  If they drop another, bye bye.

9) THE Ohio State Buckeyes: The sky was falling, but winning out would include beating Illinois (woo....), Michigan (better), and Wisconsin (nice!).  Beating Wisconsin also removes them from our path (maybe) which is cool and all.  The committee loves the Buckeyes because they know the Urban Meyer coached teams are capable of beating anyone (and losing to anyone...).  I think the Buckeyes are in a beautiful spot to sneak in if they can run the table with wins over PSU, MSU, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

10) Notre Dame Fighting Irish: This one is really interesting.  The Irish have nice wins over BC (eh), USC, and Michigan State, but everyone saw that Miami game.  Did it dishearten the Irish?  Can they come back from that and beat Stanford? If they take care of business, their resume looks very much like the Buckeyes.  It will be very interesting.

11) USC Trojans: The Trojans are coming on strong, but wins over Stanford and... Washington or Washington State? I seriously doubt they have a legit shot, but a Pac12 champion has an outside outside outside shot with the name/athletes that USC has.

Thanks for playing but miracles are needed
12) Oklahoma State: I love Mike Gundy's squad, but they aren't winning the Big 12 and there's nothing to hang their hat on.
13) Washington Huskies: crap schedule with best win against WSU or USC and NOTHING else
14) UCF: Nice season but no.
15) Penn State: ha. Did they beat anyone other than Michigan?

"So what does it all mean Basil?"
Let's look closely at the top two tiers: Almost all teams are in the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, or ACC (exceptions: Notre Dame, USC): translation: cannibalism.  The only conferences that could even feasibly get 2 teams in are the SEC and ACC (and that would only happen with 1-loss Bama or 1- loss Miami--and they wouldn't be locks).  This is why Ohio State lives! Let's admit it: 2 spots are locked up (barring a ton of stupid upsets): SEC Champ and ACC Champ.  Oklahoma is a lock with a Big 12 title with the win in September in Columbus.  This leaves one spot for craziness and OSU is ready to pounce.  What is the optimal scenario for the Buckeyes? For whom should we root?

Best case sceneario
Obviously, if any of those 10 teams (not OSU) lose some stupid game to another team not listed above, that would be great (and funny).  Root for that.

1) Ohio State must win out: This is obvious but often forgotten.  Buckeye fans will come up with a multitude of crazy scenarios to ensure their team a shot but forget that one loss, and there is absolutely no coming back. 

2) Bama wins out: "But we hates Bama, precious?"  Root for Bama to clear out Georgia and Auburn.  A one loss Bama has a smidgen of hope as well.  Don't risk giving 2 spots to the SEC.  Take that spot as the SEC's and make sure Saban gets it.  We'll just beat them in the Sugar Bowl again right?...RIGHT?!?!

3) Oklahoma wins out: This knocks the specter of TCU out of the picture (prevent reverse 2014?).  Also, it's almost impossible to imagine OSU jumping a 2-loss Oklahoma even if they win the Big Ten.  We all remember Sept 9th and the committee will too.  But what about Penn State last year? The committee looks at head to head when the records and resumes are similar.  OU and OSU's resumes will be similar.  Last year, OSU had a much better resume and one fewer loss than PSU.  They followed the principles then, and I believe they will again.

4) For safety sake, the U wins out (barf): This knocks Clemson out and prevent a comparison of 2 loss B1G Champion OSU vs. 1-loss Miami.  OSU would have better wins overall, but the loss to Iowa will be tough to ignore.

5) Would be nice for Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Penn State to win out (prior to championship weekend): Help keep those wins on the resume looking good.

If this happens, your playoff will be:
1. Alabama
2. Miami
3. Oklahoma
4. ?????

Who's left to fight?
B1G Champ OSU
1 loss Wisconsin
2 loss Notre Dame
2 loss Georgia
2 loss Pac12 Champ USC (or Washington)
2 loss Clemson

By no means is this a slam dunk for Ohio State, but I like our chances. 

vs. Wisky: Lasting image of defeating the Badgers in their only real test.  A 59-0 pasting would be nice as well.  This could get interesting, but I doubt it would.

vs. Notre Dame: This one is close, but playing the "conference champion" card is big.  Notre Dame has better losses but OSU has better wins (with Wisconsin on the belt)

vs. Georgia: They have no conference championship, a win of Notre Dame in September, and...Nothing else.

vs. Pac12 Champ: zzzzzzzzzz look at the resumes

vs. Clemson: Tigers have no conference championship and a worse loss.  Slight edge to Clemson in body of work, but that B1G championship...


Overall:
We only control one part of this mess. 

Just.
Win.
Baby.

I believe everything laid out above will be the 'Vegas' favorite with the possible exception of Miami over Clemson.  We know we can't plan for everything to go right, but this is real.  Even if the best case scenario doesn't happen, the Bucks have a better than average shot if they win out.  Based on the numbers, the Buckeyes have a 62% chance to make the playoffs if they win out regardless of the other teams outcomes. If you gave me those odds after last week, I'd say you were crazy, but then again...it's college football.  Sit back and enjoy the ride.  It may not have the desired outcome, but man is it a lot of fun!