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Thursday, 27 November 2014

#CFBPlayoff Discussion, Major Bowl Game Predictions & #VanierCup

Oh the playoff is really starting to get people excited!  Rivalry Week games can propel a team towards the championship or crush the hopes of a dream so close to your grasp.  Let's compare the committee rankings with my rankings:

Selection Committee                                                    #TwineTime

1. Alabama                                                                   1. Oregon
2. Oregon                                                                      2. Florida State
3. Florida State                                                             3. Alabama
4. Mississippi State                                                      4. TCU
5. TCU                                                                          5. Baylor
6. Ohio State                                                                 6. Ohio State
7. Baylor                                                                       7. Mississippi State
8. UCLA                                                                       8. UCLA

Ok so a few differences here.  Again, the Top 3 teams are virtual locks right now.  All 3 win out, all 3 advance to the playoff.  I have little expectations the selection committee will change their rankings if all 3 win out, but I still think Oregon and Florida State are the better teams and deserve to be ranked above Alabama.  But let's discuss the always hot topic of #4.

Last week I made my case for Baylor.  I still feel Baylor will be the #4 ranked team in the playoff by the end of the season.  However, I will admit the continued success of Minnesota does make TCU have the stronger case...right now!  Yes Baylor has the victory over the Frogs but little else to show for the impressive season.  Now, should Baylor beat Kansas State next weekend, coupled with beating TCU, the Bears move up the rankings and grab that final spot.  I do not think the Big 12 Champ should be penalized for not having a championship game when their top 2 teams are considered Top 5 teams by the selection committee.

Mississippi State!!  Always the Bulldogs.  People are going to think I have a hatred for the state of Mississippi, with my lack of love for MSU and my continued argument of how overrated Ole Miss has been all season.  But let's look at the facts here.  MSY has one loss, to the #1 ranked team in the nation.  True!  But what about the rest of that "impressive" resume?  Yes they beat LSU, Auburn and Texas A&M when they were highly ranked but where are those teams now?  Two unranked and looking like mediocre competition and Auburn is barely holding on to their ranking.  If the Tigers loss to Alabama this weekend, they could drop out of the polls.  That would mean all of MSU's top wins are against teams no longer ranked.  And we want to reward them for that?  Baylor, TCU and Kansas State are all still ranked and had to battle through one another.  The B1G Champ will have also defeated a few strong ranked teams.  What about the PAC-12?  UCLA could survive a PAC-12 South division where 4 teams are ranked in the Top 25.  Those resumes look more impressive on paper than Mississippi State, no?  

Since many people are starting to offer up their bowl projections, I thought I should provide my projections as well.  Remember, my rankings above are based on games played to this point of the season.  These projections are based on how the entire season will unfold heading into the bowl season.

Peach (At-large vs. At-large): Ohio State vs. Marshall
Fiesta (At-large vs. At-large): UCLA vs. Michigan State
Orange (ACC vs SEC/B1G/ND): Georgia Tech vs. Mississippi State
Cotton (At-large vs At-large): TCU vs. Wisconsin
Rose (CFB #1 vs CFB #4):  Oregon vs. Baylor
Sugar (CFB #2 vs. CFB #3):  Florida State vs. Alabama

Last Week:  42 - 10 (81%)

Overall:  229 - 84 (73%)

Rivalry Week is one of the best week's in college football.  The teams on the field, regardless of records or how their season has been, generally have a strong dislike towards one another.  With  seven to nine teams arguably still with a realistic shot at the playoff, many games will take on a whole new meaning this year.  While a few may look like mismatches on paper based on season performances and records, this is the one week of the year where you can expect a few upsets (Right West Virginia?  Right Pittsburgh?).  Imagine playing, for some, the final game of a long disappointing season and standing across from you on the field is your most hated rival, a team having an outstanding season with dreams of a playoff spot and a national championship.  You play the game of your life and crush the hopes of your rivals.  Even if you don't make a bowl game with the victory, the taste of destroying the hopes of a hated team is champagne and caviar for the entire off-season!  On the flip side, teams on the road to the playoff will take even more enjoyment of dismissing their "weaker" rival and taking home the national championship.  Either way, we are in for a stellar few days of action!

A few notes on last week's games, leading into the big Rivalry Week showdowns:

  • I suffered my 1st Friday night loss when San Diego State upset Air Force
  • Virginia Tech and Wake Forest played to a 0-0 tie after regulation, setting up the exciting doublt OT 6-3 for the Demon Decons.  Wow have to feel bad for the fans who paid to watch that game...and for you poor Ohio State fans, that one hurt!
  • Iowa State, I am sorry I have ever had faith in you.  You have burned me numerous time....no idea why I had such a soft spot for the Cyclones this season but I really did expect better than a winless Big 12 campaign
  • Ole Miss - TOLD YOU SO!!!

Thursday Games

(5) TCU over Texas - Huge game for both programs.  TCU is right in the hunt for the playoff spot.  Texas is trying to end their season with a positive, what better way than derail the Frogs playoff hopes.  The Horns have looked better since their loss to K-State but TCU has too much firepower and motivation to be derailed in this game.

LSU over Texas A&M - The battle of the underwhelming.  Both teams expected more out of their seasons, playing for pride in this one.

Friday Games

Western Michigan over Northern Illinois - The winner could take the MAC West title (depending on how Toledo performs) and advance to the MAC Championship.  Both teams have looked strong all season.  Western is home for this game, which should provide some advantage.  If this game were played a few weeks ago, I would have sided with the Huskies.  However, the Huskies have looked rather average in recent weeks, defeating opponents they should be easily beating.  Western, on the other hand, has been taking care of business with relative ease.  Western is the better playing team right now.

Iowa over Nebraska - Both recently played Wisconsin.  One was completely destroyed.  One almost won.  For that reason, and the fact Iowa is at home and very hard to beat at home, I am going with the Hawkeyes.  The Huskers look like a shell of their former selves right now.

(24) Marshall over Western Kentucky - I have been saying for weeks Marshall should be getting some voter love for being undefeated.  Yes the opposition hasn't been the strongest but they are still going out week after week and winning.  Keep driving towards one of those major 6 bowl games Thundering Herd!  I still believe in them...

UCF over South Florida

Houston over SMU - Stay winless Mustangs!

Toledo over Eastern Michigan - A Toledo win (expected against a 2-9 Eastern team) coupled with a Western Michigan win would put the Rockets in the MAC Championship.

Bowling Green over Ball State - The Falcons are already in the MAC Championship.  Just waiting to see who their opponent will be. 

UMASS over Buffalo - Remember when UMASS was winless and looked like the worst team in the nation?  Well they are going for win #4 this weekend and, if they pull it off at home, could actually finish 3rd in the MAC East.

Akron over Kent State - A winless MAC season for the Golden Flashes.  Disappointing

(17) Missouri over Arkansas - The big matchup with plenty of ramifications.  Tigers win at home, they repeat as SEC East champs.  Razorbacks pull the upset, Georgia goes to Atlanta for the SEC Championship.  Georgia still has dreams of a major bowl game as well but that will likely not happen if they cannot win the SEC East even.  Arkansas is everyone's hot favorite team, well deserved coming off back-to-back shutouts over (at the time) ranked teams.  So which teams come to play?  The recent dominating Razorbacks who destroyed Ole Miss and LSU?  Can the Tigers finally put that embarrassing loss to Indiana (INDIANA!!!) behind them with a victory?  The Tigers aren't sexy to watch or cheer for, but they can pull off the wins.  Expect a shoot-out folks!

Navy over South Alabama

(11) Arizona over (13) Arizona State - The winner of the state rivalry could take the PAC-12 South if UCLA falters in their game.  Arizona looked dominate last week, destroying Utah on the road.  The Wildcats are a tough team to beat at home.  The Sun Devils looked to be the easy favorite in this game a few weeks back but the loss at Oregon State looked concerning.  ASU is going to be left thinking about the season that could have been....

(8) UCLA over Stanford - It's simple for Bruins fans: Win and you are in!  A W over the Cardinal hand UCLA the PAC-12 South and a rematch with Oregon in the PAC-12 championship, as well as a possible spot in the playoff still.  The Bruins are the better team and have so much more to play for in this game.  I cannot see Stanford pulling the upset, but anything can happen ( Again, right West Virginia?)

Colorado State over Air Force - The Rams still holding out some hope for a big 6 bowl game, should Boise and Marshall be on the wrong side of upsets this week.  Regardless of other results, win this game and the Rams finish 11-1 on the season.  I would say that is considered a successful season.

Virginia over Virginia Tech - Nobody wants to see a Tech upset more than Ohio State.

East Carolina over Tulsa

Saturday Games

(10) Michigan State over Penn State - Happy Valley is never a happy place for visiting teams and the Nittany Lions have been known to play spoiler in the past.  However, the Spartan offense is too strong and the PSU offense is basically non-existent lately.  They did just lose to Illinois last week remember!

(2) Oregon over Oregon State - The Civil War rages on!  Sure the Ducks already have a spot in the PAC-12 Championship game locked up but a loss in this game would eliminate any hope at the playoff game.  The Beavers have not won this rivalry in 6 years.  This game is in Corvallis though, where the Beavers are coming off the upset W over Arizona State.  OSU is also playing for a bowl game spot.  Lots on the line.  But regardless, both teams could be winless and the intensity would be just as high in both locker rooms.  I have been fortunate to attend a Civil War battle in Autzen, it is CRAZY!  These teams HATE one another.  Both have derailed Rose Bowl bids and Championship possibilities in the past for one another.  Can the Beavers do it again?  With Heisman front-runner Marcus Mariota at the helm, playing in the thick of the national championship picture, not likely!

Cincinatti over Temple

(21) Clemson over South Carolina - Disappointing season for both teams comes to an end.  Neither wants to add a rivalry loss to the season.

(9) Georgia over (16) Georgia Tech - This could be an interesting game.  Not so much with what's at stake and being an in-state rivalry game but more in how these teams show up for this game.  Tech already knows they are playing Florida State next week in the ACC Championship.  Georgia will already know if they are playing in the SEC Championship based on Friday night results.  There is little up for grabs in this game and, with the possibility of both teams having larger impact games the following week, how hard will these teams push one another for a victory?

(22) Louisville over Kentucky

West Virginia over Iowa State - You burned me too often ISU, enjoy your winless Big 12 campaign.

(6) Ohio State over Michigan - OSU cannot afford a slip-up in this rivalry game.  They cannot look ahead to the B1G Championship game next weekend either.  They still have hopes on making the playoff.  Enter the Wolverines, having a horrible season by their standards but with the possibility of ending the national title dreams of the hated Buckeyes.  This could get rough and ugly early.

North Texas over UTSA

Old Dominion over Florida Atlantic

Louisiana Tech over Rice - Winner of this game claims the C-USA West title.

Northwestern over Illinois - A bowl play-in game if you will.  Winner advances to some lesser bowl game, loser has their season end.

Indiana over Purdue

North Carolina over NC State

Boston College over Syracuse

LA-Lafayette over Troy

(25) Utah over Colorado

Texas State over Georgia State

Appalachian State over Idaho

Arkansas State over New Mexico State

Wyoming over New Mexico

San Diego State over San Jose State

USC over Notre Dame

(4) Mississippi State over (19) Ole Miss - The Egg Bowl lost some luster after the Rebels have tanked their last few games.  The Bulldogs still have dreams of the national championship.  I expect a good game...in the first half.  MSU should pull away in the 3rd though.

(3) Florida State over Florida - FSU is a cat with nine lives.  They should have lost numerous games this season but continue to grind out the victories.  Florida has underwhelmed all season.

(7) Baylor over Texas Tech - The Bears still hoping for a BIG 12 Championship and playoff spot.  They cannot get caught looking ahead to the big battle with Kansas State next weekend though, especially on the road.

(14) Wisconsin over (18) Minnesota - Can the Gopher dream season carry them to a B1G Championship game rematch with OSU?  Nobody in the country can be a bigger Gopher fan than TCU.  As Minnesota keeps winning, the TCU victory over then keeps looking better and better.  I think reality sets in this weekend though.  The Badgers have a running game unlike any other the Gophers have seen.  Wisconsin, I think, is the favorite to win the B1G Championship this season.  They can give Ohio State trouble and could sneak right into one of those big 6 bowl games.  Those losses to LSU and Northwestern seem like an entire season ago now.

(12) Kansas State over Kansas - KSU still dreaming of a BIG 12 Championship and big 6 bowl game as well.  Similar to Baylor, they cannot get caught looking ahead to next week.  

Memphis over UCONN

Tennessee over Vanderbilt

California over BYU - Cal playing for a bowl game invite, at home.

Georgia Southern over UL Monroe - Southern playing for an undefeated Sun Belt season.

Fresno State over Hawaii

Duke over Wake Forest

Miami (FL) over Pittsburgh - Imagine the Panthers missing a bowl game if they lose this game.  Did not expect them to not make a bowl game this season.  Disappointing!

Middle Tennessee over UTEP

(1) Alabama over (15) Auburn - A few weeks ago I would have considered the Tigers pulling off the upset.  But the Auburn team weeks ago people considered to have a shot at the playoff are no longer around.  Bad losses to Texas A&M and Georgia have made this team an after thought.  Can they pull the upset?  Sure, why not?  The Iron Bowl has been known for crazy results, close games and weird endings.  Should we expect anything less this year?

Utah State over (23) Boise State - Upset alert here.  Boise is playing on their home "Smurf Turf" and are always a threat to win at home.  Boise has a shot at a major 6 bowl game with the win.  Everything seems to be in line for Boise State.  Enter the Aggies!  Utah State has one of the best defensive units in the country.  They can battle and grind with anyone.  I expect a close battle here but the Aggies look to be the team to end the Boise State dream.

Washington State over Washington - Another Apple Cup match-up nobody is really talking about.  Neither team lived up to any expectations this year.

Nevada over UNLV

With the spirit of rivalry week, coupled with Thanksgiving in America, enjoy the time with your loved ones and be thankful for all that you have.  Take nothing and nobody for granted!

Happy Thanksgiving!!  Happy Rivalry Week!!


Last Week: 0 - 2 (0%)

Overall:  42 - 19 (69%)

It's Vanier Cup time!  The equivalent of the CFB Championship in the US, the Vanier Cup is the culmination of the college football season in Canada.  It is time to crown our national champion.

Of course, I went with both underdog picks last week...and came up short.  Manitoba almost pulled off the upset in Montreal but couldn't finish at the end of the game and find the end zone, sending the Vanier Cup hosts to the final.  McMaster looked dominant in their win over Mount Allison.  I really thought Mount Allison would put up a stronger fight in this game.  The game itself was a bit underwhelming, given the high-octane game between Montreal - Manitoba earlier in the day.  Nonetheless, we have the best teams in the country hitting the field on Saturday to crown a champion.

Montreal (7-1, 3-0) over McMaster (7-1. 3-0) - Montreal really showcased their offense last weekend.  I was questioning whether they could go blow for blow with a strong offense and they proved me wrong.  We already knew the Carabins defense was going to be strong and probably the difference in carrying this team forward, but the offense really stepped up and put the points on the board.  McMaster, on the flip side, I thought played stronger on defense last weekend than I expected.  I thought the McMaster would be the high scoring offense last weekend and struggle on defense.  Both teams pulled a bit of a flip flop on my expectations....and it was great to see.  Those results really make this Vanier Cup a bit of a toss-up.  In year's past, there always seemed to be a clear favorite but I don't see it this year.  I can easily see both of these teams walking out of Montreal carrying the trophy back to the respectful schools.  I think an ultimate difference here is going to be the game being hosted in Montreal.  McMaster has not faced as hostile and rowdy of a crowd as they will on Saturday.  McMaster has the luxury of hosting the Mitchell Bowl last weekend in Hamilton.  Montreal has proven to be unstoppable at home, defeating previous #1 Laval at home and besting Manitoba last weekend in the Uteck Bowl.  Montreal has more to prove in this game.  They have often been considered the little brother to Laval in Quebec.  It is time for them to step up and be the big dog on campus!  I expect a close game but I expect the home-town Montreal fans to be leaving the stadium with a giant smile on their faces.  Montreal over McMaster 31-27