Tuesday, December 31, 2013

BCS Bowl Picks

Final Regular Season Standings
1) Hoying              48-22    (1-14 upset)
2) Schweinfurth    46-24    (4-11 upset)
3) Draper                43-27    (3-12 upset)
4) Seeberg               5-7      (0-2 upset)

Bowl Prediction Records Through December 30
1) Hoying                 12-7
2) Schweinfurth       9-10
2) Seeberg                9-10
4) Draper                  7-12

Rose Bowl: Stanford Cardinal vs. Michigan State Spartans
Draper: This may be the most boring game of the bowl season.  Two teams with similar schemes will just beat the crap out of each other.  The loss of defensive leader Max Bullough is immense.  The Spartans are a good team, but the strength is stopping the pass--not as important vs. the Cardinal.  If Stanford watched the B1G Championship, they'll know to feed Gaffney and continue to slam the rock.  MSU will hang for awhile, but Stanford pulls away late.  Stan: 27--MSU: 17
Hoying: After a few years of "almost" under Mark Dantonio, the Spartans have finally taken their B1G step toward national relevance. Going into championship week, I didn't feel too good about Sparty's ability to compete in the Rose Bowl, but I saw a truly complete team crush my Buckeyes' hopes and dreams at Lucas Oil Stadium. Unfortunately, at the same time, Stanford was busy dismantling a very good Arizona State team for the second time. The Cardinal are basically a better version of Michigan State, a tough, physical team with super defense. The Spartans will be ready to play in this one, but the Connor Cook's success against Pitt Brown and C.J. Barnett won't translate into success against a tough Stanford secondary. Kevin Hogan will find just enough holes in the "no-fly zone" to lead the Cardinal to their second straight Rose Bowl victory. Stan: 24--MSU: 16
Seeberg:  This one will be in a style that would make Woody proud.  Lots of running, lots of physicality, not much of that thing where two things can go wrong, you know, passing.  Michigan State has had the best defensive player in this game in Max Bullough, but his suspension is a big blow to MSU's strongest unit.  Before his suspension I had MSU winning a nail-biter, 16-13 or something in that vicinity.  Losing their defensive signal-caller, however, will prove too much for the Spartans to overcome.  The tree prevails in a slugfest.  Stan: 20--MSU: 13

Fiesta Bowl: UCF Knights vs. Baylor Bears
Draper: Both teams have had relatively charmed seasons, but Baylor has faced MUCH better competition.  The Bears have scored on everyone they've faced and won fairly easily while the Knights have squeaked out a few late in the season by the skin of their teeth.  This shouldn't be close. Brice Petty and Seastrunk should have their way.  The American representative was really hoping for a better matchup.  UCF: 24--Baylor: 44
Hoying: For a team in the awful awful AAC, UCF actually has a pretty decent resume, with a great road win over Penn State and a near victory over South Carolina. Unfortunately, they've been playing like absolute garbage down the stretch, limping to lifeless wins over terrible teams like USF, Memphis, and SMU. Meanwhile, Baylor shook off the spiders of the Oklahoma State blowout to dominate Texas on their way to their first Big 12 championship. You think the Bears won't be excited to play in this game? You think UCF can slow down the nation's top offense? You think they'll ever catch the guy who really killed Kennedy and Oswald? UCF: 20--Bay: 59
Seeberg:  On paper, this game shouldn't be close.  It won't be close on the field either.  Blake Bortles is playing some darn good QB for UCF, arguably better than his conference foe Teddy Bridgewater (whom, it bears mentioning, he beat on Bridgewater's home field).  Baylor's D, or extreme lack thereof, will allow UCF to hang around for a quarter or two, but in the end Bryce Petty and Co. will put the Knights away.  UCF: 27--Bay: 52

Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma Sooners vs. Alabama Crimson Tide
Draper: The only question is which Alabama team shows up--Will the dominant defense full of NFL draft picks impose their will or will we see a total 'we-don't-care' Tide that faced Utah in 2009 Sugar Bowl.  If Bama plays with some pride, this game will be a blowout over a completely overmatched Sooner squad.  The Sooners are lucky to be here after upsetting their rivals to end the season.  Their big fanbase doesn't hurt either.  Saban won't let this team relent as he's seen a Sugar Bowl collapse before.  This one's done by halftime.  OU: 10--Bama: 34
Hoying: Another year, another Oklahoma appearance in a BCS bowl. Big Game Bob has led the Sooners to the promised land at the end of 9 of the 16 BCS seasons. Unfortunately, they've struggled a bit in the last 10 years, losing 5 straight BCS bowls before a gimme against 8-4 Connecticut. But let's not pile on the hate and accusations (that's reserved for teams with 6 BCS wins). Miracle win against the Cowboys aside, the Sooners haven't really had a great season: they're still not settled at QB and they were demolished in their two most significant matchups (Texas and Baylor). Alabama has looked great, but there's a potential letdown factor after a heartbreaking loss on one of the more memorable plays in college football history. Coach Saban's hunger for victory is insatiable, and unless AJ McCarron wants his still-beating heart ripped from his chest and fed to the volcano, he'll spur the Tide on to a win. OU: 13--Ala: 24
Seeberg:  So...we have Florida State against a team from Alabama in the national title game.  All is right with the world, or is it?  'Bama's well-chronicled loss to Auburn almost transcended hyperbole as the most incredible way to lose a football game that has ever been conceived...if only all the band was out on the field.  Oklahoma benefitted from a Big 12 that was markedly weaker than in recent years and was able to sneak into another BCS game courtesy of their voodoo-like influence over their in-state rivals, the other OSU.  Alabama is superior in all three phrases with the possible exception of defending against returned field goals, but thankfully for the Tide this game will not be anywhere near close enough for another miracle to cost them a win.  A.J. McCarron finishes his career with one final W.  OU: 10--Ala: 35

 Orange Bowl: Clemson Tigers vs. THE Ohio State University Buckeyes
Draper: If you like offense.... Will ANYONE get a stop?  The Buckeyes are littered with injuries/scratches (but thankfully, Shazier, the only real defensive player, will be play for lots of money).  This game is going to come down to: Is Clemson, gonna Clemson?  Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins should have their way with the Buckeye defense, but let's not forget the Miller and Hyde should do the same to the Tiger defense.  Mistakes will right the headlines.  Miller CANNOT turn the ball over.  The Buckeyes game plan should be to never get rattled and hold onto the ball at all costs.  Boyd makes a few key mistakes as Buckeyenation gives the traditional homefield advantage.  Just stay the course and the Bucks can steal a shootout.  Clem: 48--OSU: 52
Hoying: For all you who hated the defense down the stretch, I have good news: it seems like none of them will be there for this game. No Roby, no Grant, no Bryant, no Spence. I'd be worried, but after watching the Silver Bullets give up 34 to Connor Cook and Michigan State I wasn't really counting on the D in this one. Fortunately, it appears the only thing that can stop Ohio State's rushing attack is Tom Herman's play calling. Just run Hyde until Clemson stops him, and if the game ends first, all the better. I'm really worried about this one, more than any other this year (including both Michigan teams) but in the end, the coaching differential between Urban and Dabo should make up for any trouble stopping Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. Clem: 45--OSU: 49
Seeberg:  I am absolutely, positively terrified to pick this game.  It is a distinct possibility that the Buckeyes will need to win this game to save the B1G from the ignominious distinction of an 0fer in the bowl season.  When combined with the MAC's dismal performance, the Midwest will suddenly be the national laughing stock of college football.  This game hinges on exactly what went wrong in the two games against the teams from up north:  play-calling.  We have the ability to score 60 on Clemson without much resistance, but if we call nothing but behind-the-line passes and bombs with nothing in between, and take the ball out of Hyde's hands, we may be in trouble.  On the defensive side of the ball, just sitting back against a turnover-prone Tajh Boyd and Clemson would be a HUGE mistake, and hopefully they take some cues from the Gamecocks who forced SIX turnovers in their season finale (five while the game was still in question) by bringing consistent pressure and not sitting 12 yards off of every wideout.  I fear that we will sit off and allow Boyd to pick us apart, primarily due to the plethora of defensive starters who may miss the game.  I actually fielded a call from Luke Fickell asking if I was available for his secondary in emergency situations (hey, I had a pick-six once, true story!  So what if it was in middle school?).  Sadly, my eligibility has expired, so Fickell will be forced to make due.  It won't be pretty, but the D forces a couple of turnovers to offset the points given up, and Braxton and Hyde pound out a win in the fourth quarter.  Clem: 38--OSU: 45

BCS National Championship: Florida State Seminoles vs. Auburn Tigers
Draper: Yes, the Noles schedule has been weak. Yes, the Tigers have some premier wins (albeit on miracle plays).  I've watched a lot of FSU this year, and I don't see a glaring weakness on this team.  The offense is a force behind Jameis and the best trio of wideouts in the country (Shaw, Greene, Benjamin), not to mention 2 great RBs and the Golden Cub at TE.  The defense is better than most know which has led to the enormous margins of victory.  Auburn has a fantastic running game but the defense is suspect.  Also, I don't think Marshall's arm can defeat the Nole secondary.  FSU will be the 2nd best defense the Tigers have faced--and the offense is MUCH better than Alabama.  There will be no decided advantage in Pasadena for the crowd, but the Noles have been as good on the road as at home.  The Tigers need that homefield bump for the miracles to occur.  This game reminds me of last year with one team leading a charmed existence facing a juggernaut of a complete team...we know how that ended.  FSU: 45--Aub: 31
Hoying: At first glance, this looks like a total mismatch. The Noles have been a veritable juggernaut on both sides of the ball, blasting through their schedule with ease. The Tigers won 2 games on miracle plays and were thoroughly outclassed by LSU. But, at the risk of dredging up ugly old arguments, who has Florida State played? The Miami team that just got obliterated by Louisville? The Maryland team that lost to Marshall? Bethune-Cookman? The Clemson win still looks nice, but if Ohio State gives them the West Virginia treatment on Friday night, Seminole fans might start getting nervous. Auburn has dealt with adversity, and they feature the nation's top rushing attack (sigh), but Jameis Winston is just too good and too consistent to let the Heisman jinx affect him. Congrats, Chief. FSU: 31--Aub: 30
Seeberg:  With apologies to Clemson fans, this is easily the best test the Seminoles have seen all year.  Auburn's ground game rarely turns the ball over and the Tigers (Auburn Tigers, that is) will not beat themselves and they will score TDs, not just settle for field goals.  That said, barring a Troy Smith-esque Heisman jinx debacle (or a celebratory ankle sprain following a kickoff-return TD), Jameis Winston and FSU are more explosive on offense than Alabama and every bit as talented on D.  Auburn scores 28 again, just as they did against 'Bama until the miracle FG-return, but FSU scores more, and Chief has his national title, albeit with the garnet and gold instead of the scarlet and gray.  FSU: 45--Aub: 28

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Grading the Bucks: B1G Championship: Michigan State "A Lost Opportunity"

Offense: C-
This game showed one thing that has been an issue for the past 3 weeks: Braxton can't throw.  The passing game has been nonexistent of late and it's now biting the Buckeyes. The receivers dropped passes left and right, but most were off target or late.  Braxton is a freakish athlete and ran like a beast, but the throws were not there.  The TD to Philly Brown showed me problems in the passing game for Braxton (yes, the TD made me angry).  On that pass (which was surprisingly well thrown), Braxton read the safety and threw into coverage....but he had Hyde and Wilson WIDE OPEN in the flat. So wide open they wouldn't have been touched yet...and he missed 2 people with no defenders within 15 yards.  The rushing attack worked (regardless of what you hear).  Carlos still ran like a beast...but why only 18 carries? see below.  Last offense comment concerns the O-line.  They were awful in the 1st quarter but became their monstrous selves throughout the rest of the game.  Pulling guards often had to seek out someone to block as the holes opened were so large.

Defense: C
The defense wasn't why we lost this game.  I'll say it again: the defense wasn't the reason we lost this game.  Overall, the defense played pretty well.  The mistakes came on stupid mistakes and big plays.  Most of the problems came from the safety position.  Pitt Brown and C.J. Barnett were just awful and continually got beat deep.  This cannot happen from the safety position.  Overall, the run D was fine until the game was more or less over.  Shazier (aside from the stupid DPI on the first drive) was fantastic and Bosa was a manchild.  Spence wasn't called often since the Spartans avoided his side and rolled away.  The defense still has problems defensing throwback screens.  Minimize the big plays and we'd be fine.

Special Teams: B-
Shazier blocks a punt which was great, but the kick catch interference was terrible.  Another negative was the onside/pooch kick in the 4th was unbelievably close to being recovered by the Spartans.  Only a stroke of good luck allowed the Buckeyes to prevent disaster, and the crowd had no clue.  I'll credit Dantonio for the surprise attack, but the Buckeyes weren't ready.

Coaching: D-/F
And now we come to my biggest complaint: playcalling.  Many blame Fickell and the defense, but I blame Herman and the horrendous playcalling.  OSU is one of the most dynamic offenses in the country due to their fantastic run game.  The Buckeyes seemed to fear the #1 MSU rush defense...and they torched it.  However, even though the Buckeyes ran for 7.7 yards a carry, there was a unfounded dedication to the passing game...which wasn't working at all.  The 3rd down conversion percentage was atrocious because almost every 3rd down was a pass.  3rd and 3? 4th and 2? Put the ball in the hands of your best player...here's a hint: It's not Braxton.  Braxton is a freakish athlete that makes something out of nothing, but Carlos Hyde is the bread and butter.  I've heard it said on the radio that this team cannot win without a balanced attack.  I totally disagree.  The backfield of the Bucks is special enough to pound it out and steamroll anyone (even MSU).  Some say predictability is a prescription for disaster, but I say that the O-line, RB, and QB, are good enough to beat the defense even if they know what's coming.  This was an absolute failure of preparation and knowledge of your team's skills.  Watch the runs up the middle.  They gained 5 a pop...even when MSU stuffed the box.  Ride the beast of El Guapo and victory is assured.

Overall: C-
Don't listen to the talking heads.  Michigan State's defense did not win this game/slow the OSU offense.  The OSU offense slowed the OSU offense.  I'll give credit to Connor Cook for an excellent game, a MSU defense that shut down the passing game, and to a Spartan coaching staff that didn't play scared, but I won't say that the Bucks couldn't beat the Spartan D.  MSU gave up 0 100-yard rushers all year...until we played them...and we had 2.  Maybe if OSU utilized their own strengths more efficiently, the outcome would be different.  All in all, this was a lost opportunity.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Week 15: Conference Championships

1) Hoying              44-20    (1-13 upset)
2) Schweinfurth    43-21    (4-10 upset)
3) Draper                41-23    (3-11 upset)
4) Seeberg               3-3      (0-1 upset)

SEC: Missouri Tigers vs. Auburn Tigers
Draper: I remember 2006 when a team defeated their rival (as a top 5 matchup) and believed the season was over.  They had reached the pinnacle, and the championship was a formality.  After the game, I believe I watched one of the biggest flops in history as the Gators stomped the Buckeyes and stole the Title.  The Bucks were slow, lazy, and unprepared.  Seems like we are seeing a repeat here with Auburn.  Missouri is one of those teams a coach has to hate planning for: they are good at everything, with no one thing to focus on.  Auburn has been great (and lucky), but they've laid it all on the table while Mizzou is quietly waiting for their chance.  While Auburn argues against OSU, the Tigers (Missouri brand) are prepping to slow down the Auburn rushing attack.  James Franklin and crew steal the 'assumed' SEC championship and send Auburn from arguing about the title game to the Cotton Bowl. Mizzou: 31--Aub: 28
Hoying: On October 30, in our first BCS projections of the season, I predicted that Auburn would land in the Sugar Bowl, not as a replacement for Alabama in the Championship Game, but as the SEC champion. Two miracles against Georgia and Alabama later (propelling me to the top of the picks standings), I...am abandoning my projection. Why? I thought (correctly) that Nick Marshall's dual-threat capability would keep Auburn in the game against Bama long enough for a little rivalry magic to strike. However, across the SEC, Missouri's defense was busy throttling everyone's favorite waning Heisman contender, Johnny Football. Am I implying that Missouri has a better defense than Alabama? Maybe, but what I'm really saying is that I don't expect lightning to strike 3 times. Missouri has been solid in every phase of the game, from James Franklin's excellent quarterback play, to possibly the best stable of receivers in the game, to a fantastic rushing attack behind the one-two punch of Josey and Hansbrough, to the terrific defense led by the SEC's leading sack and TFL leader Michael Sam. Tigers win, jump up to #3 in the BCS (spoilers on two picks below), and bring their magical 2nd SEC season into the Sugar Bowl. Mizzou: 27--Aub: 20
Schweinfurth: Auburn should have "Livin' On A Prayer" as their fight song this year.  Seriously? A miracle Hail Mary to end the Georgia game and then that finish last week.  One would think that Gus Malzahn's magic has to run out at some point.  I believe that will be this week.  James Franklin and the Mizzou Tigers are flat rolling right now.  I do believe the Missouri defense will give up some points (a good pass rush can be hurt by the misdirection offense).  This will not be the SEC Championship games of old. Mizzou: 38--Aub: 35
Seeberg:  At this time last week, I would have picked Missouri in this matchup without too much hesitation.  James Franklin had returned and I figured they would blow TAMU out pretty handily.  Not only was the game close, however, but Mizzou only mustered 28 points against a pretty lousy defense.  That said, holding Johnny Sign-a-Football to just 21 points has been no small feat the last two seasons.  Despite their offensive struggles, Franklin now has a week of gameplay under his belt since returning from injury and I still believe that the Tigers (Missouri Tigers, that is) have the more multi-dimensional offense which will, in the end, prove the difference.  Mizzou: 31--Aub: 21

ACC: Duke Blue Devils vs. Florida State Seminoles
Draper: Duke is playing one of their best season's in history and no one is giving them a prayer...and they're right.  The Noles have been nearly flawless this season stepping on the throat early and not letting up.  The trio of receivers and stellar backfield are not even talked about with Famous Jameis leading the way.  Oh yeah, the defense is pretty darn good too.  This will be a traditional FSU game of 2013 with a 30+ point halftime lead and a cruise to Pasadena.  FSU: 55--Duke: 13
Hoying: Florida State has been the most dominant team in college football this year. The Noles lead in scoring defense and sit second behind Baylor in scoring. Sure, FSU has had its share of cupcakes on the schedule, much like our beloved Buckeyes, but it's not like Duke went 10-2 against any tougher of a schedule. The Blue Devils are a nice story, but they've been squeaking through to the finish. Duke also got to duke it out against a Miami without Duke Johnson, while the Noles licked the Canes even with their best player intact. There's no reason this should be close. Unless...no, there's no reason.  FSU: 45--Duke: 13
Schweinfurth: Duke has had a season to be remembered.  The Blue Devils have risen from the ashes to become relevant in the ACC for the first time in, oh, forever.  David Cutclife and the rest of the Dukies should be truly proud of this magical season.  Unfortunately it is all about to come crashing down.  Florida State, with or without Jamies Winston, is an absolute force on offense.  If Clemson couldn't keep up with the 'Noles, Duke definitely cannot.  Expect the Blue Devils to play with some emotion and hang on for part of the first quarter, but then it's all FSU, all night long.  FSU: 52--Duke: 20
Seeberg:  A recent statement from the Florida State Attorney's office stated that there may be a decision on the impending Jameis Winston issue before the weekend.  In other words, the Florida State Attorney's office has a significantly better chance of thwarting FSU's season than the Duke defense does.  Fourth-quarter comeback wins against the likes of Wake Forest (whose stadium, it bears mentioning, is roughly 25 miles from my apartment and is barely half-full for most games) make for a good story, but the Seminoles will write the last chapter much to the Blue Devils' dismay.  FSU: 52--Duke: 17

Pac-12: Stanford Cardinal @ Arizona State Sun Devils
Draper: Rematch! But in a new place... How good is Stanford? They have good wins, but 2 losses (one good one bad).  How good is ASU? Good wins and...2 losses (one good--Stanford, and one eh..).  I could see this one going either way, but I'm going with the home team.  Todd Graham has his team churning along without the hype of Stanford.  Stanford assumes the title after beating Oregon, but Oregon showed their true nature over the last few weeks.  Go Sparky! Stan: 20--ASU: 24
Hoying: Aaaagh, this is the worst kind of conference championship game. It's like a reboot of last year's Stanford-UCLA rematch, only with a twist: the team that won the head-to-head this time is less deserving of the title. True, Stanford already beat Arizona State earlier in the season, but the Cardinal has collected two Pac-12 losses since then against teams that ASU beat (Utah and USC). That being said, I don't see any reason why this game shouldn't play out much the same as the first matchup, a convincing Cardinal victory. Home field might make some difference, but not enough to keep Stanford from its first back-to-back Rose Bowls since 1971-72. Stan: 35--ASU: 27
Schweinfurth: I have to be honest when I say that I really have not watched much Pac-12 football this year.  Arizona State has played well but has a loss to Stanford already this season.  I don't see ASU not turning the ball over a couple times here (you can't put the ball up 50+ times a game and not have a pick or two).  This game will be closer than the matchup early in the season but Stanford turns that turnover into points. Stan: 31--ASU: 24
Seeberg:  Stanford has been very up and down the last month:  dominating Oregon, then losing to USC.  Annihilating Cal in a rivalry game, then struggling to put away Notre Dame.  ASU has not lost since early October, but a couple of weeks before that they were handled pretty easily by- you guessed it- Stanford.  The Sun Devils get this title game at home and are coming off a whipping of their in-state rivals who had just whipped Oregon (at least De'Anthony Thomas doesn't have to go to the Rose Bowl now, you know, since he wasn't that interested in going anyway).  Arizona State only scores 28 again, but it's enough, unlike last time.  Stan: 21--ASU: 28

Oklahoma Sooners @ Oklahoma State Cowboys
Draper: Bedlam is always a good time.  OU has sputtered this whole year with all kinds of problems--especially questionable QB play.  OSU stomped Baylor in their first 'Game of the Century (of the Year)' but it all is for naught without a big win at home in Bedlam.  I love the Poke home field advantage and their poise in the last big game (Baylor) and I don't see a difference here.  Rivalries make for interesting things, but the Pokes behind Clint Chelf look ready to go.  The loss to WVU just doesn't make sense.  The rebound continues on the way to the Fiesta.  OU: 27--OSU: 38
Hoying: Shuffle, shuffle, do the quarterback shuffle. Both teams enter Bedlam with season-long quarterback issues. The Cowboys seem to have settled on senior slinger Clint Chelf, especially after a fantastic performance against Baylor, while the Sooners have rediscovered their love for freshman phenom Trevor Knight after Blake Bell bit badly getting beat by the Baylor Bears. This one looks like an easy pick for the Cowboys, but I'm not so sure. The Cowboys historically underperform against the Sooners, and I just have a feeling that with a 2nd Big 12 title in 3 years in their grasp, OSU will let the moment slip away. Big Game Bob comes through and the Bedlam series becomes even more lopsided. OU: 31--OSU: 28
Schweinfurth: If last week's rivalry games told us anything, it's that these games are flat unpredictable.  Ultimately, the Cowboys have looked very good against some very good offenses this year, see Baylor.  OSU likes to jam the receivers at the line and this throws the timing of these offenses way off.  The Cowboy offense is very efficient and has played well all year.  Oklahoma is good enough to keep it close but OSU is the better team. OU: 28--OSU: 38
After crushing Baylor on a national stage, OSU #2 (remember, they got crushed 33-7 by THE OSU in the Alamo Bowl several years ago) has faded back into relative obscurity, no doubt angrily.  For those who may not recall, Oklahoma State missed out on a chance to play LSU for the national title a couple years back by mere thousandths of a point in the BCS.  I don't think anyone argued that 'Bama was better, but they didn't even win their conference, and the Cowboys are feeling slighted yet again.  Both teams have two weeks to prep, but the Oklahoma St. offense is the best of the four units that will be on the field:  advantage- OSU #2.  OSU: 38--OU: 24

Texas Longhorns @ Baylor Bears
Draper: Texas showed life in the midseason after blowing out OU, but then crashed back down to earth.  Baylor was rocking and rolling until OSU and faceplanted.  Last week showed a hangover as they struggled with TCU as well.  What about this week?  Both teams have something to play for as a loss for the Cowboys catapults the winner into the Fiesta Bowl.  Baylor has had struggles of late, but they were on the road.  The home stadium in Waco may not be unstoppable, but they feed off the energy.  I like Baylor to return home and beat the Horns to wrap up no worse than second.  Stir the rumor mill for Mack Brown.  UT: 30--Baylor: 45
Hoying: I thought Texas had turned it around. I thought Mack Brown had righted the ship. Then Oklahoma State happened. We should've seen it coming after terrible terrible West Virginia took the Horns to 3OT. Yeah, yeah, you blew out a Texas Tech team that hasn't beaten a good team all year. Meanwhile, Baylor almost let the Cowboys beat them 2 weeks in a row, needing an INT on an ill-advised pass to hold off a bad TCU team. But now the Bears are back in their den. And they're ready to unleash the nation's top offense against a Texas defense that can't stop it. This one is going to be ugly. UT: 24--Baylor: 52
Schweinfurth: Texas has made a decent comeback on the Mack Brown redemption tour this year.  Then the ship started to take on water yet again.  The Longhorn's are getting Baylor at a very bad time.  Baylor can seal a BCS berth with a win hear and continue the upswing they have been on.  Unless Texas can shut down that Bear rushing attack, it's gonna be a long day...and it will be a loooong day. Baylor wins big. UT: 28--Baylor: 55
Seeberg:  Similar to the SEC title game, this game felt like a no-brainer, this time for the Baylor Bears, until their near-debacle last week, giving up 38 points to a TCU squad that might be Gary Patterson's worst since he took over the program 13 seasons ago.  Baylor should win, and should win easily, but Texas's D has largely played well the second half of the season.  Texas hangs in for Mack Brown, but Bryce Petty makes enough plays to pull away late.  UT: 21--Baylor: 37

B1G: Michigan State Spartans vs. THE Ohio State University Buckeyes
Draper: Sparty defense vs. Buckeye offense...man, I wish I had some Buckeye offense to plow my sidewalk.  In the new look NFL/NCAA, defense may win championships, but a great defense cannot stop a great offense.  Look at the TAMU/Bama game.  Bama won in a shootout...because A&M defense sucked and the stout Tide D couldn't stop Johnny Football.  Sparty will slow the Buckeyes somewhat, but you can't stop being bludgeoned repeated by Hyde and Miller.  The rushing attack of the Buckeyes and the O-line will wear down the Spartans.  On the other side of the ball, the Buckeye D was awful last week...but let's not forget about the walrus himself calling plays in East Lansing--Vrabs is coming for you Bollman!  I think the Buckeye defense will be able to stop 'Dave' enough times to earn a hard fought win and a trip to Pasadena for the title.  MSU: 20--OSU: 35
Hoying: After the Buckeyes watched Auburn's insane kick-six to topple Alabama, the team went wild for a few minutes. They knew their last uncontrollable obstacle to a national title been removed. Then Philly Brown stood up and reminded the men of the scarlet and gray that for that new #2 ranking to mean anything, it had to be cemented with one more victory. Can the Bucks take down a Sparty squad that appears to be headed to the Rose Bowl regardless of the game's outcome? Much is being made of Ohio State's meltdown on defense against the Wolverines. However, Michigan was playing out of its mind, showing glimpses of the powerful attack that steamrolled Notre Dame before tripping over its own shoelaces during the past month. The run D wasn't terrible; it was Gardner gashing us through the air that almost derailed the championship train. MSU's Connor Cook has been improving, but this is the guy who led the Spartan offense to 14 points against Purdue. Purdue. Roby, Barnett, Grant, and Brown should have little to fear this Saturday. On the other side of the ball, Carlos Hyde is still unstoppable, running for 226 yards against a pretty good Michigan run D. I don't think the Spartans are capable of shutting down both Hyde and Miller, and they might not get to either. I boldly predicted last year that as long as Braxton was on the field for the Buckeyes, they wouldn't lose another game. It's served me well so far. Buckeyes win the final Legends-Leaders battle and thus definitely secure a spot in the BCS National ChampionshipMSU: 16--OSU: 28
Schweinfurth: Michigan State has a defense, oh yes, Sparty has a defense.  They are not the #1 rated defense in the nation for nothing.  However, the Spartans have faced some spread offense this year and they have given up some points, see 28 points to both Nebraska and Indiana.  Ohio State's offense is much, much, much better that those two teams.  Who do you try and stop?  Keep Miller from running the ball?  He'll throw some quick screens or give to Hyde?  Stop Hyde? Now you have Miller running wild and throwing.  The Spartans want to talk "no fly zone" but they will be stressed vertically and horizontally by the physical Ohio State receivers.  Michigan State's offense matches up well with the Silver Bullets.  Yes, OSU gives up passing yards but they are very good against conventional power run teams (just look at the Wisconsin game).  That Spartan defense will be enough to keep Michigan State in the game (and maybe even a fake kick or two) but there is a Walrus calling the plays on offense.  That bucket of fish will run out quickly and Miller earns himself a trip to New York and the Bucks a trip to the second game in Pasadena.  OSU: 34--MSU:  19
Seeberg:  Last week, I had OSU winning by "only" three touchdowns and quite frankly, that high margin of victory made me a bit nervous.  However, nobody (except the hilariously partial Desmond Howard) had TTUN with 2.5 yards separating them from a win with less than a minute to go.  Devin Gardner looked like a flat-out stud, primarily because, for reasons unbeknownst to this fan sitting in the 58th row, he was put under minimal duress, even after hurting his leg in the 3rd quarter.  Our D consistently rushed four and dropped seven, and was consistently picked apart as a result.  The only conceivable reason for this decision is that TTUN's O-line has struggled mightily in recent weeks and Fickell, Vrabel & Co. must have believed they could get consistent pressure with just four rushers.  They were wrong, and if our defense sits back like that again, it may give MSU enough of an opening to spring the upset.  Gratefully, however, Connor Cook does not have the skill set of Devin Gardner, even when Gardner is limping around the pocket.  MSU's D against OSU's O is perhaps the most intriguing matchup anywhere in college football all year.  Braxton has not thrown the ball well in recent weeks, but I believe the offense will come out throwing short-to-intermediate passes to get Braxton in a rhythm and loosen up the D for Hyde to get rolling.  The D attacks, the O largely maintains its form against a tough MSU D, and OSU is 25-0 under Urban.  MSU: 17--OSU: 34

Upset Special
Draper: Cincinnati over Louisville
Hoying: Utah State over Fresno State
Schweinfurth: SMU over UCF
Seeberg: Army over Navy 

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Top 25, Rankings, Heisman Ballots--Week 15

Draper Top 25
1. Florida State
2. Ohio State
3. Auburn
4. Missouri
5. Alabama
6. Oklahoma State
7. Michigan State
8. South Carolina
9. Baylor
10. Stanford
11. Arizona State
12. UCF
13. Oregon
14. Clemson
15. NIU
16. LSU
17. Oklahoma
18. Duke
19. Wisconsin
20. Louisville
21. UCLA
22. Cincinnati
23. Texas
24. Fresno State
25. Georgia

Draper Heisman Ballot
1. Jameis Winston (QB--FSU)
2. Jordan Lynch (QB--NIU)
3. Carlos Hyde (RB--OSU)

BCS Bowls
Orange: Alabama vs. Clemson
Sugar: Missouri vs. UCF
Fiesta: Oklahoma State vs. NIU
Rose: Arizona State vs. Michigan State
National Championship: Florida State vs. Ohio State

Hoying Top 25 (with movement from last rankings)
1. Florida State (up 1)
2. Ohio State (up 1)
3. Auburn (up 2)
4. South Carolina (up 2)
5. Stanford (up 2)
6. Oklahoma State (down 2)
7. Arizona State (up 1)
8. Baylor (up 1)
9. Alabama (down 8)
10. Missouri (up 2)
11. UCF (down 1)
12. Michigan State (up 1)
13. Northern Illinois (up 3)
14. LSU (up 4)
15. Oregon (up 5)
16. Clemson (down 5)
17. Oklahoma (down 2)
18. Notre Dame (down 1)
19. UCLA (up 3)
20. Georgia (up 6 [from unranked])
21. Wisconsin (down 7)
22. Texas (up 2)
23. Louisville (no change)
24. USC (down 5)
25. Duke (no change)

Fresno State drops out (down 5)

Hoying Heisman Ballot
1. Jameis Winston (QB--FSU)
2. Carlos Hyde (RB--OSU)
3. Jordan Lynch (QB--NIU)

BCS Bowls
Orange: Alabama vs. Clemson
Sugar: Missouri vs. UCF
Fiesta: Baylor vs. Northern Illinois
Rose: Stanford vs. Michigan State
National Championship: Florida State vs. Ohio State

Schweinfurth Top 25
1. Florida State
2. Ohio State
3. Auburn
4. Alabama
5. Michigan State
6. Missouri
7. Baylor
8. Stanford
9. South Carolina
10. Arizona State
11. Oregon
12. Clemson
13. NIU
14. LSU
15. UCF
16. UCLA
17. Oklahoma
18. Louisville
19. Duke
20. Wisconsin
21. Texas
22. Texas A&M
23. Georgia
24. Cincinnati
25. USC

Schweinfurth Heisman Ballot
1. Jameis Winston (QB--FSU)
2. Jordan Lynch (QB--NIU)
3. Braxton Miller (QB--OSU)

BCS Bowls
Orange: Alabama vs. UCF
Sugar: Missouri vs. Oklahoma State
Fiesta: Baylor vs. NIU
Rose: Michigan State vs. Stanford
National Championship: Florida State vs. Ohio State

Seeberg Top 25
1. Florida State
2. Ohio State
3. Auburn
4. Alabama
5. Oklahoma State
6. Missouri
7. South Carolina
8. Michigan State
9. Stanford
10. Baylor
11. Arizona State
12. Oregon
13. Clemson
14. Northern Illinois
15. LSU
16. UCLA
17. Wisconsin
18. UCF
19. Oklahoma
20. Louisville
21. Fresno State
22. Duke
23. Georgia
24. Iowa
25. Texas

Seeberg Heisman Ballot
1. Jameis Winston (QB- FSU)
2. Jordan Lynch (QB- NIU)
3. Andre Williams (RB- BC)

BCS Bowls
Orange: Clemson over Baylor
Sugar:  Auburn over Northern Illinois
Fiesta:  Oklahoma State over UCF
Rose: Alabama over Arizona State (sad day, only one B1G team in the BCS)
National Championship: Florida State over Ohio State

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Grading the Bucks--Week 14: M!ch!g@n

Offense: A-
The offense was certainly not the issue in the close win thanks to Mr. Miller and Mr. Hyde.  This OSU ground game is fantastic (#2 in the nation behind Army).  While we have the most dynamic backfield in the nation, the Buckeye offensive line needs more credit.  They have been absolute studs frontlined by Jack Mewhort.  The downgrade comes from the incessant need to bomb downfield and the lack of short passes.  Braxton hasn't been right passing for the last few games.  The running game has hidden the blemishes in the passing game, but it's apparent to anyone watching the games.  That first pass attempt for Miller was an easy completion and he whiffed.  I've seen him perform far better and expect more.  Don't fall into the trap of excusing it for a better defense.  Michigan's defense isn't much better than the rest of the trash the Buckeyes have faced.

Defense: D
This defense...woof.  Let's be very clear: Michigan is not good.  They have some weapons (Funyons and Gallon are studs), but Devin Gardner is not an elite QB.  The secondary has some serious issue that will likely not be fixed without another year and some new personnel.  The loss of Christian Bryant is more and more apparent with each passing game (Philly Brown had a horrible game).  Ryan Shazier's performance is being overlooked as he's been an absolute beast, but the overall performance of the defense is not near where it needs to be.  I was surprised with the lines lack of pressure throughout the game.  I know Lewan will play at the next level, but the rest of the line is awful.  I'm very nervous about the performance of this defense in a bowl game.

Special Teams: B-
No major hiccups so why the downgrade?  I think we all know why.  The fight was unacceptable as were the punches thrown.  Was it 'fair' that 2 Bucks were thrown out and only 1 Wolverine when they 'started it'?  No, but I just don't care.  This cannot happen in any game; even when emotions are this high.  Punches? Brawls? Beat them on the field.  I liked what Cameron Johnston did as usual and the coverage teams were fine.

Coaching: C-
Back to the brawl.  Marcus Hall was clearly flipping out.  Where was a coach to settle him?  Tough to be everywhere at once, but someone on the staff needed to identify the tantrum and calm the situation.  Back to the game, Braxton needs confidence and he's not getting it on deep bombs.  I believe we need more short dump off passes (screens/slants) so he trusts his arm a bit more.  There's clearly no lack of confidence in his legs, but there always needs to be a double threat.  Defensively, I was surprised there wasn't some adjustment to defend the passing game, but the return of Dileo gave the Wolverines 3 offensive threats that the Buckeyes couldn't cover.  The weak offensive line suggested we needed to blitz more in the hopes Gardner was on his back before picking us apart.

Overall: C+
Beating your rival (even by a point) is always sweet.  There are no moral victories.  Again, Michigan is BAD and there are no excuses for that defensive performance.  It appears the Buckeyes control their destiny for the Championship, but they need to step it up in preparation for an elite opponent (on both sides of the ball).

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Another Terrific Week of Football, Another Fake Controversy

Let's begin by just reflecting on what a wonderfully bizarre day of football yesterday was. Rivalry games are special even without exciting finishes, but when college football's two greatest rivalries lead to two of the best last-minute thrill rides of the season, America gets a solid reminder of why college football is, without a doubt, better than the NFL.

NFL players don't sit crying in the tunnel after a triumph over their most hated, heavily favored opponent slips from their grasp. NFL games don't end with home underdogs sending their offense out on a point-after attempt when the outcome is triumph or defeat of the highest order, with no middle ground. NFL games don't come to a conclusion with the greatest coach in the game getting outfoxed on a special teams play that no one in the stadium saw coming but the upstart opposing coach his eleven men on the field. Plays like this are rare in college football as well, but what's commonplace at the college level, and what is missing from the NFL, is the level of total dedication displayed by every member of those Buckeye, Wolverine, Tide, and Tiger players.  They understood that the stakes of their games yesterday could not be higher, not because of any championship implications, but because a loss to your bitter rival consumes your soul for the next 364 days, or if you're a senior, forever.

NFL bashing aside, let's turn our focus to the implications of yesterday's clashes of the titans. On October 20th, the day the BCS rankings were released, the Buckeyes looked to be in a pretty dark place. Sure, they were 6-0 and still in the hunt for a B1G title and possibly more, but they were ranked #4 of 8 undefeated BCS conference teams, and there was no guarantee that any of the 4 lower teams wouldn't jump them during their quest for #2. Shortly before the rankings were released, I wrote a piece assuring Buckeye Nation (and Bear Nation and Hurricane Nation etc.) that there was nothing to fear; the BCS rankings are always muddled in October but they almost always sort themselves out to the two deserving teams by season's end. Sure enough, 6 of the 8 undefeated BCS teams lost, leaving the path open to a neat and tidy matchup of the only two unbeatens. This was why the BCS was developed: to ensure that if there were two undefeated teams that wouldn't get to play each other because of existing bowl tie-ins, they'd get a chance to have it out on the field to determine who the real national champion was.

During the 15 years of the BCS, this has only occurred 4 times (1999, 2002, 2005, 2010). Among the years of multiple-BCS-undefeateds controversy (2004, 2009), and lesser squabbles among 1-loss teams (1998, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012) or two-loss teams (2007), these 4 matchups were the opportunities for the BCS to pat itself on the back for a job well done. No controversy, no arguments, no disputing who the real national champion was once the bowl games were played.

So the BCS has a chance to get the correct result in its last hurrah, right? That's what I thought after Auburn's unconventional kick return against Alabama. But imagine my surprise when I woke up to see the most bizarre comments spewed all over my Twitter feed and the Worldwide Leader's website. They boiled down to some version of "Well, Michigan State will probably beat Ohio State and end this controversy anyway."


Regardless of whether Sparty will or won't win on Saturday (I don't think they will, come back later this week for our picks), what is this controversy of which people speak, and why does a Michigan State win resolve it? A little deeper digging revealed that the dispute was whether an undefeated Ohio State or a 1-loss Auburn should go to the BCS National Championship to face Florida State.


Before we have that debate, it's important to note all the assumptions implicit in such a farce, and how totally without merit they are.

Assumption #1: Florida State obviously deserves to be #1 (assuming a win over Duke).
Counter: Why? Let's take a look at who's been #1 when the 2 vs. 3 arguments have reared their ugly heads.
1998: #1 Tennessee - only undefeated BCS team
1999: No 2 vs. 3 dispute
2000: #1 Oklahoma - only undefeated BCS team
2001: #1 Miami - only undefeated BCS team
2002: No 2 vs. 3 dispute
2003: #1, #2, and #3 all in dispute
2004: #1 USC - won share of 2003 title, ranked #1 preseason and never fell from that spot
2005: No 2 vs. 3 dispute
2006: #1 Ohio State - only undefeated BCS team
2007: #1 Ohio State - only 1-loss or fewer BCS team
2008: #1, #2, and #3 all in dispute
2009: No real 2 vs. 3 dispute (sorry Cincinnati)
2010: No 2 vs. 3 dispute
2011: #1 LSU - only undefeated BCS team
2012: #1 Notre Dame - only undefeated BCS team

So we see that when there's a dispute over who should be #2, the only time the conflict doesn't extend to the #1 team as well is when the #1 team has had fewer losses than any other BCS team. Except 2004. That season had a few wrinkles pertinent to this analysis.* USC, Oklahoma, and Auburn all finished undefeated. USC got the nod for the Orange Bowl because USC was fresh off an AP-championship season and spent the season at #1 wire-to-wire.

Given what we observe from the history of the BCS, why does Florida State get a free pass at #1? They're not alone at 12-0: Ohio State is right there with them. They weren't preseason #1; they were preseason #12, far behind #2 Ohio State. Maybe they're getting the benefit of the doubt from their prior BCS history:

Florida State:
1998 vs. Tennessee
1999 W vs. Virginia Tech (National Champions)
2000 L vs. Oklahoma
2002 L vs. Georgia
2003 L vs. Miami
2005 L vs. Penn State
2012 W vs. Northern Illinois

Ohio State:
1998 W vs. Texas A&M
2002 W vs. Miami (National Champions)
2003 W vs. Kansas State
2005 W vs. Notre Dame
2006 L vs. Florida
2007 L vs. LSU
2008 L vs. Texas
2009 W vs. Oregon
2010 W vs. Arkansas

Well...no help here, unless people are really impressed by that win over a MAC team. The pundits must be focusing on what Florida State has done this season only (good for them).

Let's take a look at each team's strength of schedule.

Florida State opponents' records: 61-60
Ohio State opponents' records: 62-59

Uh...hmm...that doesn't appear to help matters. Maybe if we look at wins over teams with winning records.

Florida State: @Clemson (10-2), vs. Miami (9-3), @Boston College (7-5), vs. Maryland (7-5)
Ohio State: vs. Wisconsin (9-3), vs. Iowa (8-4), @Michigan (7-5), vs. Penn State (7-5), vs. San Diego State (7-5), vs. Buffalo (8-4)

Erm...no answers there either, particularly when you consider that Ohio State faces Michigan State (11-1) in their final game while Florida State faces Duke (10-2), and NO ONE is suggesting that the Bucks have any hope of jumping the Noles after next weekend.

Let's try margin of victory.

Florida State: +28, +55, +48, +14, +63, +37, +32, +27, +56, +56, +66, +30.  Average: 42.2
Ohio State: +20, +35, +18, +76, +7, +10, +10, +49, +56, +25, +28, +1.  Average: 23.5

Mystery solved. If you want to be untouchable at #1, beat your mediocre-to-good opponents by more than your fellow undefeated competitor.

Assumption #2: It's ok for a 1-loss BCS conference team to finish ahead of an undefeated BCS conference team.
Counter: Show me the precedent. In 15 years of the BCS we've had at least 1 BCS conference team finish undefeated 12 times. WITHOUT EXCEPTION, these teams have finished ahead of every team with a loss, even though during all 12 of these seasons, there has been at least one 1-loss BCS team available. Obviously this doesn't mean that a 1-loss team finishing higher can't happen, but it does create quite the suffocating presumption to overcome.

Assumption #3: The SEC champion is without question the most deserving 1-loss team available.
Counter: I agree that the body of work of the SEC champion will be stronger than any other 1-loss team. However, the gap is not particularly wide, especially if Missouri beats Auburn. Missouri would have a great win over Auburn, and some good wins over Georgia, Vanderbilt, and Texas A&M. Is this really that much better than Oklahoma State's potential win list of Baylor, Oklahoma, and Texas? Or Michigan State's potential win list of Ohio State, Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota? Again, I think Missouri would have the better claim, but to state that such a comparison would be less controversial than the false one brewing between Ohio State and Auburn/Missouri makes no sense unless you accept implicitly that...

Assumption #4: The SEC is light-years ahead of any other conference.
Counter: This is the argument you're going to hear pounded into your skull for the next 7 days. You've heard it ever since Urban Meyer's Florida beat Jim Tressel's Ohio State, and the rabid southerners and other such partisan hacks aren't going to abandon it now. Obviously there's no denying that an SEC member has won the last 7 BCS national championships and 9 BCS titles out of 15 total. But this doesn't necessarily say anything about the league itself; it could be far and away the best, or it could be just top-heavy. To know more, we have to look at the SEC's performance top-to-bottom against other conferences.

In the BCS Era
SEC vs. Pac-12 in regular season: 12-12
SEC vs. Pac-12 in bowl games: 1-0
SEC vs. Big 12 in regular season: 6-11
SEC vs. Big 12 in bowl games: 22-8
SEC vs. ACC in regular season: 47-37
SEC vs. ACC in bowl games: 17-10
SEC vs. Big Ten in regular season: 8-5
SEC vs. Big Ten in bowl games: 21-19
SEC vs. Big East in regular season: 16-18
SEC vs. Big East in bowl games: 4-9

Good? Yes. Dominant? Not so clear. Other than dominating the Big 12 in bowl games and the ACC in general, and getting beat by the Big East of all conferences, I'm not sure what we're supposed to take away from this, particularly when we consider that all of the SEC's bowl games take place within the conference's geographic footprint, far from the territory of the Big Ten, the Big 12, or where the Big East was located during the BCS era.

On a side note, which team will leave the BCS era with the most BCS bowl wins? It's a tie between USC (who's not going to a BCS bowl this year) and Ohio State, whose last BCS win came at the hands of...Arkansas from the SEC, making Ohio State 1-2 against the SEC in BCS games. And yes, the Sugar Bowl win was vacated because of the tattoo scandal, but does anyone really think Ohio State's rule-breaking behavior led to them gaining a competitive advantage in that game? Put another way, if Ohio State players weren't getting the occasional free tattoo, would they still have beaten Arkansas to cap a 12-1 season?

On another side note, one of the teams tied for most BCS losses is Florida State, but you won't hear about their BCS struggles this week, even though the Noles have never beaten a Big Ten or an SEC team in a BCS bowl (0-3).

Whoopty-Doo! What does it all mean, Basil?

The assumptions necessary to even have a debate about Ohio State falling below #2 are so flawed that the debate itself is nonsensical. Only the most blinded, unabashed SEC homer would dare to make a case to leave an undefeated Ohio State out of the national championship game at this point. While SEC teams have made many trips to many BCS bowls and Alabama, Florida, and LSU have had great success there, Auburn cannot rely on past history (2 BCS appearances in 15 years), nor can Missouri (0 BCS appearances in 15 years) to rush past an Ohio State team (or, for that matter, a Florida State team) that played a big-boy schedule, in a big-boy conference, and did not lose a game. The Bucks and the Noles have earned their way to the title game before, and with two victories on Saturday, they'll do it again, much to the wailing and gnashing of teeth of all in SECSPN country.

*Remember the 2004 season mentioned earlier? Oklahoma went to the title game ahead of undefeated Auburn because they were the preseason #2 and had also occupied the #2 spot all season long, even though Oklahoma had lost the BCS Championship game to an SEC team, LSU, at the end of the previous seasonIn other words, an SEC team winning the prior season's national championship did not give the league the benefit of the doubt needed for an undefeated Auburn to jump an undefeated Oklahoma. How much more ridiculous would it be for a 1-loss team to jump an undefeated preseason #2 Ohio State?

In case you're still wavering about the merits of Auburn or Missouri vis-a-vis Florida State and Ohio State, here are your nails in the coffin (check out Massey Ratings' Game Graph Connecting Path to do this yourself).

Florida State beat Clemson
who beat Georgia
who beat LSU
who beat Auburn.

Ohio State beat Penn State
who beat Syracuse
who beat Maryland
who beat West Virginia
who beat Oklahoma State
who beat Mississippi State
who beat Mississippi
who beat LSU
who beat Auburn.

Florida State beat Clemson
who beat Georgia
who beat South Carolina
who beat Missouri.

Ohio State beat Wisconsin
who beat BYU
who beat Georgia Tech
who beat Duke
who beat Miami
who beat Florida
who beat Tennessee
who beat South Carolina
who beat Missouri.

"Big deal," you might say, "you can do this with almost any two teams if you want."


Not Ohio State or Florida State.

Because they haven't lost.

On to 13-0 and a place in the final BCS National Championship in Pasadena.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Week 14--Rivalry Week

1) Schweinfurth    40-18    (4-9 upset)
2) Hoying               39-19   (1-10 upset)
3) Draper                38-20     (3-10 upset)

Alabama Crimson Tide @ Auburn Tigers
Draper: Huge implications in the Iron Bowl. I hear every talking about the first top 5 matchup in this 'storied' rivalry...while surprising, this doesn't do wonders for the argument of 'best' rivalry.  Give Auburn credit for a phenomenal turnaround under Gus Malzahn, but they have one win of note (TAMU).  The miracle at Jordan-Hare crushed my pick chances, but reinforces my belief in a strong Bama win.  Saban's squad seems to shine in the spotlight games and limp through the layups.  YJ Yeldon will run all over the Tiger defense and the Tide will pressure Nick Marshall into enough mistakes to keep the train rolling.  Cam Newton ain't walkin through that door.  Sorry Bucks.  Bama: 27--AU: 13
Hoying: Earn your title, Tide. The debate isn't settled as to whether Ohio State or Florida State has the tougher overall path to 13-0 this season, but neither faces the murderer's row Alabama has to deal with this week and (possibly) the next. Back in September, we picked Auburn-LSU as an afterthought, the token fourth game. None of us could have foreseen that tilt providing Auburn's only loss to date. What a difference not having Gene Chizik makes. The Auburn offense has roared to life behind dual-threat QB Nick Marshall, but he's developed as more of a runner than a passer as the season has progressed. The Tide defense has been slowly choking opponents all season long, only cracking against...the other dual-threat QB they faced. Nick Marshall isn't Johnny Manziel, but with the friendly Jordan-Hare crowd behind him, he'll do just enough to pull off the upset. Bama: 27--AU: 28
Schweinfurth: It's weird but the numbers are actually against Alabama winning this game.  If I remember correctly, Nick Saban has never beaten a 10 win Auburn team.  Well coming into this game, Auburn is 10-1.  Alabama has problems with mobile quarterbacks and Auburn seems to have found Cam Newton lite in Nick Marshall.  I know all of this is stacked against 'Bama and my heart says that Auburn will do Ohio State (and the rest of the college football world) a favor and roll the Tide.  My brain says Bama is better.  Bama: 24--AU: 21
Seeberg:   Disclaimer:  I want Auburn to win this game with every fiber of my being.  Florida State’s schedule is too soft the rest of the way, so an Alabama slip is virtually OSU’s only chance to get into the BCS title game.  That aside, this is not a good match-up for Auburn.  Auburn runs the ball, ‘Bama stops the run; classic strength against strength.  ‘Bama’s weaker on pass D, but not tip-the-ball-straight-to-a-WR-on-4th-and-18 weak.  If Auburn can force an early turnover or two and get a lead, they may be able to shorten the game and keep it interesting.  In the end, however, ‘Bama will score touchdowns and limit Auburn to a couple of field goals, allowing the Tide to, regrettably, pull away late.  Bama: 35--AU: 20

Clemson Tigers @ South Carolina Gamecocks
Draper: Can the Tigers keep the streak of vanquishing SEC foes going?  Clemson has had 2 games of note--squeaking out a win against a fully-healthy UGA and getting run off the field vs. the Noles.  The Gamecocks haven't lived up to expectations but that will happen when your best player can easily be taken out of the game via double-team/scheme.  Connor Shaw vs. Tajh Boyd...who fails less.  I don't think the Cocks have enough on offense to keep up.  I'm hoping that Clemson keeps it going with standout wide receiver Sammy Watkins because it hurts the SEC (and ESPN narrative) and helps the Noles.  Huge game in an underrated rivalry for Dabo and the Tigers.  Clem: 38--SoCar: 24
Hoying: Is there a more overrated team in the country than Clemson? The opening win over Georgia was nice, although it hasn't matured well. Other than that, the schedule has left something to be desired. Nothing like a win over Missouri over UCF stands out on Clemson's schedule. South Carolina's been winning ugly, but they've been winning. Now that Connor Shaw is back behind center for Cocky, the Tigers will have more of a problem stopping a balanced South Carolina attack. Tajh will be terrific, but Clemson will fall short. Clem: 27--SoCar: 31
Schweinfurth: South Carolina has slowly creeped up this rankings after a sluggish start to the season.  Clemson has held on to a sure BCS berth behind Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd.  I honestly believe that the SEC is severely over valued this year (especially the east).  With that said, I expect a big day out of Boyd and more useless talk about Jadavion Clowney.  Clem: 45--SoCar: 35
Seeberg:  It’s official, the world is ending:  The cheapest Clemson/South Carolina tickets are going for more than twice as much as the cheapest OSU/TTUN tickets on a ticket brokerage site.  Find your bomb shelters now.  Clemson has quietly snuck back near the top five, primarily because they’ve been beating a lot of nobodies since getting waxed by FSU.  Also amazingly, South Carolina’s vaunted defense is actually allowing more points per game than OSU.  “But the SEC is SO tough they can’t help it!”- every SEC fan.  Yeah, that 28-spot that SEC-bottom feeder Kentucky scored on them really makes me trust the Gamecock defense.  If UK can score 28 at South Carolina, Clemson will score more, and it will be enough to win.  Clem: 41--SoCar: 31

Texas A&M Aggies @ Missouri Tigers
Draper: Johnny Football...my how the mighty has fallen.  What a face plant on Saturday in a huge moment. Mizzou has it on the table for this Big 12...er...SEC showdown.  The Tigers are a team that simply takes care of their business without fanfare.  The Aggies will score with a return of Johnny Manziel 'greatness' but the A&M defense is a total sieve.  Maty Mauk/James Franklin (whoever is the starter) will keep step for step with TAMU.  The difference is the Tiger defense which will get one stop and take the shootout on the way to the SEC Championship.  TAMU: 38--Mizzou: 41
Hoying: If not for James Franklin's injury against Georgia, this game may have decided the all-SEC QB in a stacked conference. Thankfully, Franklin and Manziel will still get the chance to go head-to-head, but the game is going to suuuuuuck. Remember LSU's dismantling of A&M a week ago? Use that as a starting point, add a better opposing quarterback and a much better defense, and you get a Missouri beatdown. Don't expect the Tigers to blink at home with an SEC East title within their grasp. TAMU: 17--Mizzou: 48
Schweinfurth: My goodness did the Aggies look horrible last week.  Les Miles must keep some sort of Johnny Football kryptonite in his pocket for those games. James Franklin kept the Tigers chugging on all cylinders last week and that offense has been a nightmare for the mighty SEC defenses.  I definitely expect this game to devolve into an old fashioned Big 12 shootout.  TAMU: 38--Mizzou: 42
Seeberg:  At the start of the season, a lot of people probably assumed this game would have SEC West title implications.  SEC East?  Not so much.  James Franklin is back for Mizzou (taking over for Kenton-bred backup Maty Mauk) and that’s bad news for an A&M defense that gives up over 30 a game.  Incidentally, does anyone remember that A&M and Mizzou joined the conference just two years ago and everybody thought they would be cannon fodder?  Perhaps the SEC isn’t the gauntlet we all perceive it to be.  In any event, onto the title game for Mizzou.  TAMU: 27--Mizzou: 42

UCLA Bruins @ USC Trojans
Draper: This one is for Coach O.  A win here would make it really hard to let him go.  The Trojans have been playing really good football lately and no one is noticing.  Beating Stanford (but were they playing Stanford football?) was huge when the Cardinal had everything on the line.  The Bruins, on the other hand, have limped down the stretch.  I'll go with the hot hand and the Trojans re-institute the football monopoly in LA.  UCLA: 20--USC: 24
Hoying: Don't call it a comeback, but USC has recovered nicely from the cancer that plagued their program for three and a half seasons. The Trojans are on a roll, winners of their last 5, which included a nice home win over a very good Stanford team. UCLA is no slouch, either, but they haven't impressed down the stretch, scraping by Arizona and Washington and falling to Arizona State. This game will come down to which quarterback can have success. Both Brett Hundley and Cody Kessler are superb slingers, but Hundley has to face a tough Trojan D, while Kessler will have a little more room for error. Fight on. UCLA: 20--USC: 27
Schweinfurth: I really know nothing about these two teams other than Lane Kiffin was a terrible coach and Ogeron has that team going good again.  Other than Keith Price, I know nothing about UCLA.  USC is at home? Good enough for me.  UCLA: 17--USC: 21
Seeberg: This is likely Ed Orgeron’s last game as USC’s head coach, which is a shame, given how well he has revived the life-support squad he inherited from Lane Kiffin.  He seems to have galvanized a pretty talented team, and they should send him out with a win against their in-city rivals.  The Bruins go as Brett Hundley goes, and USC’s defense will give him fits.  UCLA: 16--USC: 27

Notre Dame Fighting Irish @ Stanford Cardinal
Draper: This is a ranked matchup but.... Notre Dame has been taking care of business lately, but Stanford was recently given a shot in the arm thanks to the choke job by the Ducks.  This isn't a conference game, but now that they have the Rose Bowl back on the horizon, I expect a focused team on the Farm vs. a historical contender.  The Cardinal defense should make Tommy Rees's life a living hell while the running game churns up a solid win over a ranked team.  If they play 'Stanford football', do they jump OSU? ND: 13--Stan: 31
Hoying: Let's play the road and home game. Notre Dame on the road: 2-2, beating terrible terrible Purdue and Air Force, and losing at bleh Michigan and bleeeeh Pitt. Stanford at home: 6-0, beating Arizona State, Washington, UCLA, and Oregon. Uh-oh. ND: 17--Stan: 27
Schweinfurth: Again, two teams I have paid next to no attention to.  Stanford's better, I do know that much.  ND: 10--Stan: 19
Seeberg:  #25 Notre Dame at #8 Stan…wait, Notre Dame is ranked again?  Granted, they do have a W over Michigan State and another one over Arizona State, but this team is just not that good.  Stanford is likely pretty angry after USC took away their PAC-12 (it’s still difficult to refrain from calling it the PAC-10) title hopes, as well as their slim hopes to squeeze into the national championship.  Further, the Cardinal does not want a repeat of last year’s OT loss which is why this game will not be nearly close enough for that to be an issue for the dancing tree.  Stan: 31--ND: 10

THE Ohio State University Buckeyes @ That School Up North
Draper: Ah....The Game is here.  Tough to get excited with the struggles in Ann Arbor, but there will be no lack of motivation.  Urban has the boys locked onto TSUN with laser focus.  Michigan is in a tailspin, but will certainly put up a fight...it won't be enough.  Gardner will be on the ground courtesy of Bosa, Spence, and Co. while Shazier cleans up.  The OSU secondary will give up too much (as we've come to expect), but the offense should have a field day.  Expect 300+ on the ground as the passing game is being left by the wayside.  Herman will try to get Braxton going with the passing game, but it won't work until he starts utilizing some quick slants and screens.  The deep ball is there but Braxton has been hesitant to throw vertically--preferring to trust his feet.  Hopefully, he can develop the confidence over the next 3 games/year.  Bucks roll. OSU: 51--TSUN: 31
Hoying: There's always a quickening of the heart when I see the Scarlet and Gray take the field against the Maize and Blue. Unfortunately, that won't happen this year (stupid all-white uniforms) but The Game is a HUGE deal nonetheless. No matter how hapless the Wolverines are, this is always the most important game of the season. Fortunately, the Buckeyes seem to get this, and there's no chance of a look-ahead to that other northern team. As Tony Gerdeman at TheOzone pointed out, the team that wins the rushing battle has won the last 12 iterations of the rivalry. Does anyone see Devin Gardner, Derrick Green, and Fitzgerald Toussaint outperforming Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde, and Dontre Wilson? Really? OSU: 45--TSUN: 13
Schweinfurth: We have finally arrived at The Game.  For some reason I have been having flashbacks to the 90's.  Visions of Desmond's Heisman pose and Tim Biakabatuka have been haunting my dreams all week.  So much failure, that decade.  Then I look at the sideline and see Urban Meyer, who ownes (pwns?) in rivalry games.  The man takes these games personally and it shows in the way his teams play.  It also helps that the Silver Bullets' defensive line is full of studs versus an offensive line that operates as a sieve.  In a way I feel for Gardner (but not really).  At least he will have some friends in the backfield.  And by friends I mean Noah Spence and Joey Bosa charging with bad intentions.  On offense Ohio State has this Braxton Miller guy along with the wrecking ball that is El Guapo.  Ohio State hasn't won by more than 11 points at that POS stadium since 1962.  Throw that one out the window and bring on the Spartans!!!  
OSU: 60--TSUN: 14 (with negative rushing yards)
Seeberg:  OK OSU fans, if you were born after about 1991, you may not understand this, but Buckeye faithful tend to get nervous around this time of year, particularly when we have the objectively superior team.  Our dominant 90s squads routinely underperformed against TSUN, and it ultimately got Cooper fired.  In a 4-year span we had a Heisman winner in Eddie George and TWO first overall draft picks in Big Daddy Dan Wilkinson and Orlando Pace.  In that span from 1993-96, OSU went just 1-3 against TSUN.  Tressel changed all of that with his stellar 9-1 record; that one blemish?  Ten years ago, at the big house, and I was in attendance.  I am going up to Ann Arbor for the second time ever this weekend, so I sincerely hope it wasn’t my fault a decade ago.  As for the game itself?  A LOT of things have to go wrong for Ohio State to lose (turnovers, injuries, a cameo by Batman at QB for TSUN).  A few of them will go wrong, but not enough of them to stop the Buckeye train.  Onto MSU unblemished.  OSU: 38--TSUN: 17

Upset Special
Draper: Pittsburgh over Miami (FL)
Hoying: Washington State over Washington
Schweinfurth: Oregon State over Oregon
Seeberg:  Arizona over Arizona State
(Heads up: Carolina is favored over Duke)

Top 25 rankings, Heisman Ballots, and BCS Projections

Rankings, as always, are based on what teams have done so far, not how we believe they'll finish.

Draper Top 25
1. Alabama
2. Florida State
3. Ohio State
4. Auburn
5. Missouri
6. Clemson
7. Michigan State
8. Oklahoma State
9. South Carolina
10. Baylor
11. Stanford
13. Arizona State
14. UCF
15. LSU
16. Fresno State
17. Northern Illinois
18. Oregon 
19. Louisville

20. Oklahoma
21. USC
22. Duke
23. UCLA
24. Cincinnati
25. Texas A&M

Draper Heisman Ballot (This is over barring charges being filed--gap between 1 and 2 is huge)
1. Jameis Winston (QB--FSU)
2. Andre Williams (RB--BC)--Can't ignore the numbers and everyone else shooting themselves in foot
3. Johnny Manziel (QB--TAMU)

(Next up: Carlos Hyde (RB--OSU))

Draper BCS Projections
Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Michigan State
Sugar Bowl: Auburn vs. UCF
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Fresno State

Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Stanford
BCS National Championship: Alabama vs. Florida State

Hoying Top 25
1. Alabama
2. Florida State
3. Ohio State
4. Oklahoma State
5. Auburn
6. South Carolina
7. Stanford
8. Arizona State
9. Baylor
10. UCF
11. Clemson
12. Missouri
13. Michigan State
14. Wisconsin
15. Oklahoma
16. Northern Illinois
17. Notre Dame
18. LSU
19. USC
20. Oregon
21. Fresno State
22. UCLA
23. Louisville
24. Texas
25. Duke

Hoying Heisman Ballot
1. Jameis Winston (QB--FSU)
2. Jordan Lynch (QB--NIU)
3. Ryan Shazier (LB--OSU)

Hoying BCS Projections
Orange Bowl: Alabama vs. Clemson
Sugar Bowl: Auburn vs. UCF
Fiesta Bowl: Baylor vs. Northern Illinois
Rose Bowl: Stanford vs. Michigan State
BCS National Championship: Florida State vs. Ohio State

Schweinfurth Top 10
1. Alabama
2. Florida State
3. Ohio State
4. Auburn
5. Missouri
6.Oklahoma State
7. Baylor
8. Clemson
9. Michigan State
10. Oregon

Schweinfurth Heisman Ballot
1. Jamies Winston (QB--FSU)
2. Johnny Manziel (QB--TAMU)
3. Andre Williams (RB--BC)

Schweinfurth BCS Projections

Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Wisconsin
Sugar Bowl: Auburn vs. Fresno State
Fiesta Bowl: Baylor vs. UCF
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Stanford
BCS National Championship: Florida State vs.Alabama