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Thursday, 27 November 2014

RIVALRY WEEK!!!
#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!!

#CIS

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

Friday, 21 November 2014

College Football Heating Up While Temperatures Cool Down
#CFBPlayoff Gets Interesting, #CIS National Semi-Finals Highlight the Weekend Action

#TwineTime is back from a a memorable trip in Iceland, just in time for some college football action.  While I was unable to make predictions last week, it was still an entertaining week to watch unfold.  the #CFBPlayoff is causing lots of interesting conversations while up here in Canada, #CIS action has crowned conference champions (some a HUGE surprise) and are ready for national semi-final action.

#NCAA

Last Week (ok, 2 weeks ago really):  30 - 13 (70%)
Overall:  187 - 74 (69%)

Last time I checked in on this blog, we had 3 SEC teams in the Top 5 with many arguing the probability of all 3 making the playoff.  Fast forward two weeks and it appears we have 1 clear cut favorite from the SEC but the theory of 2, let alone 3, teams making the playoff is questionable.  Let's take a look at the playoff standings from the committee and compare to how I rank the top teams:

Selection Committee                                           #TwineTime

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

Well, don't we have some explaining to do this week.  The past few weeks I have generally been on board with the selection committee choices.  This week, CHAOS!!  Oregon as a 1 or 2 seems like a sure thing right now, assuming they win out.  I honestly have no issue with them being in either of these spots.  I will admit I may be a bit biased in my opinion as I think the PAC-12 is a stronger conference than the ACC and I think could challenge the SEC this year.  Florida State being ranked 3 does seem weird.  They are the defending national champions and are the last major undefeated team (sorry Marshall, I love you guys but you are not a major player in this conversation).  Yes, FSU is escaping some of their games but they are still winning.  Alabama has not been a dominant team in all their games either.  They lost to an Ole Miss team that keeps struggling and is not as good as their ranking.  They barely escaped an average Arkansas team and barely escaped LSU and Mississippi State the past two weeks.  Now I will agree, those teams carry a higher weight of influence over the teams Florida State has beaten, but FSU is still undefeated and I think that counts for something.  In the end, all 3 of these teams seem like locks for the Final 4 assuming they win out.  I suppose arguing over placement is a bit minor in the grand scheme (at least for now).

Again, it is that 4th position that will cause the biggest argument amongst teams, the committee, media and fans.  Is Mississippi State getting this 4th spot just reaffirming the SEC bias that has always been argued?  Does Ohio State really deserve to be ranked above Baylor when the Big 10 has been weak all season and the Buckeyes one loss to Virginia Tech is looking worse as the season goes on?  Why are TCU and Baylor getting no love when both have looked very good all season?  Shouldn't Baylor's 1 loss in West Virgina and victory over TCU outweigh Ohio State's win over Michigan State and loss to VTech?  TCU has a loss to Baylor but, unlike the Bears, did win at West Virginia.  I think if you put TCU or Baylor on the field vs. Mississippi State in an elimination game, neutral field, the Frogs/Bears walk out with the victory.  As of right now, Baylor did beat TCU.  According to my rankings, that would come down to a de facto elimination tiebreaker game.  The Baylor Bears won and deserve to be in the playoff, right now.  They still have to beat Kansas State at the end of the year, but that game is at home...advantage Bears!

Let's get on to this week's games (and I am still trying to stay perfect on Friday night games btw)....

Rice over UTEP - Ok if there was a Friday night game where my winning streak could end, it is tonight and it is this game.  This is a tough call but I am going with the home team favorites.

Air Force over San Diego State

Utah State over San Jose State

Florida over Eastern Kentucky - SEC vs Cupcake 1

Georgia over Charleston Southern - SEC vs Cupcake 2

South Carolina over South Alabama - SEC vs Cupcake 3 (notice a trend this week??)

Fordham over Army

(25) Minnesota over (23) Nebraska - I still believe in the Gophers and after the ass kicking Wisconsin handed the Huskers last weekend, I like the Gophers chances to kick their prey while they are down.

Northwestern over Purdue

(11) Michigan State over Rutgers

Marshall over UAB - This could be the trap game for Marshall.  At UAB, against a good Dragons team, this could be the week the undefeated streak comes to an end.  Marshall is still playing for one of the prestigious New Years bowl games and Colorado State is breathing down their necks for that one spot.  They cannot slip up...

Western Kentucky over UTSA

UCF over SMU - Stay winless Mustangs!

(21) Oklahoma over Kansas

Penn State over Illinois

(6) Ohio State over Indiana - Buckeyes need to keep winning to hold onto their dream of making the playoff, victories over Indiana will not help though.  Unfortunately a loss would kill them.  This is a no win game for Buckey.

Virginia Tech over Wake Forest

Louisiana Tech over Old Dominion - Tech trying to stay undefeated in C-USA

Western Michigan over Central Michigan - It has been awhile since two directional Michigan schools played each other in a very meaningful game.  Western is 7-3, 5-1 MAC and Central is 7-4, 5-2 MAC.  This is going to be a great game.

(13) Arizona State over Washington State - Oh Sun Devils, you had everything going for you.  An easy schedule and alignment to the PAC-12 championship game vs Oregon.  You had a shot at the Final 4.  Then the Beavers ruined it all!  Good luck making the PAC-12 championship game now and those national championship dreams are gone.  Let's see if Wazzu can take advantage of disheartened Devils team this weekend.

Colorado State over New Mexico - See description of Marshall game above.

LA-Lafayette over Appalachian State - Cajuns trying to run the Sun Belt undefeated.

Ball State over Eastern Michigan

BYU over Savannah State

(17) Utah over (15) Arizona - Expect this game to go into OT, with the winning team pulling out a 1 - 3 point victory.  It is going to be a close battle.  Both teams with outside shots of winning the PAC-12 South.  One team's dream will continue, one will be done.  Utah at home could be the difference.

Arkansas over (8) Ole Miss - See all my previous blogs for my thoughts on Ole Miss (hint: OVERRATED!!).  Arkansas is looking very good, coming off a HUGE shutout win over LSU and finally have their first SEC win of the season.  Can you say SEC winning streak?

(24) Louisville over Notre Dame - I have picked on the Irish all season as being overrated and Northwestern proved me correct.  Yes this game is in South Bend, a difficult place to win for opposing teams.  But the Wildcats did it, the Cards are a better team, thus the Cards can win as well.

(3) Florida State over Boston College - If this game was at BC, I would actually say FSu could be primed for an upset in this one.  But being in friendly Tallahassee, cannot see the Seminoles losing now.

(22) Clemson over Georgia State

(16) Wisconsin over Iowa - Hear that loud stampede running towards you?  That is the might running badgers!  Watch out for them...they are looking like the perfect team to walk away as Big 10 champs this year!

Maryland over Michigan

Iowa State over Texas Tech - Finally the Cyclones pick up a Big 12 victory.  If this game wasn't in Ames, I probably would be taking the Red Raiders.

FIU over North Texas

East Carolina over Tulane - Remember when the Pirates looked to be the team to break through into the playoff?  Nope, neither does anyone else now.

Pittsburgh over Syracuse

Memphis over South Florida

Stanford over Cal - Ah The Big Game rivalry.  It is interesting to see both teams with 5-5 records but both enter this game on opposite sides of the ball.  Stanford has to consider this season a huge disappointment.  Cal is considering this season to be a huge unexpected surprise.  In the end though, that Cardinal D should out muscle the Bears.  Strike up the band....

Alabama over Western Carolina - SEC vs Cupcake 4...embarrassing to see the number 1 team in the country still scheduling games like this, this late in the season.  The SEC should be embarrassed and almost punished for this kind of scheduling.

UL Monroe over New Mexico State

(2) Oregon over Colorado - Ducks have their last home game of the season, not the time to slip up.  Should have clear sailing to the Final 4 right now...SHOULD!

(14) Auburn over Samford - SEC vs Cupcake 5

Miami (Fl) over Virginia

Middle Tennessee over Florida Atlantic

(7) Baylor over Oklahoma State - Bears are 29.5 pt favorites in this game and cannot let their guard down.  The Bears have 3 games left to impress the committee, all at home.  Win out and a playoff spot should be theirs.

(20) Missouri over Tennessee - This is a trendy "upset" game to pick with home team and favorite Tennessee being picked to knock off the ranked Tigers.  Remember this is an 8-2, 5-1 SEC Tigers team playing for a spot in the SEC championship game.  I would not sell on this team quite yet.

(4) Mississippi State over Vanderbilt - SEC vs Cupca....oh wait, nope this is an all-SEC battle.  Oops!

(9) UCLA over (19) USC - Another PAC-12 South elimination game.  UCLA is in the drivers seat for the championship match-up with Oregon.  The Trojans still have dreams of their own to make it to that game....and would love to be the team to end the Bruins dream.  Expect a blood bath in this rivalry game.

Cincinnati over UCONN

Boise State over Wyoming

Nevada over Fresno State

Washington over Oregon State - Ok Oregon State, last weekend was impressive.  I didn't know you had it in you.  Unfortunately I think you have reached midnight on your season.  Glass slipper will fall off this week in Seattle.  The Huskies enter the game feeling like they should have beat Arizona last weekend and will want some revenge.  Do Huskies eat Beavers?  This week, I think so!

Hawaii over UNLV - Hawaii at home vs a weaker opponent?  Yup Hawaii is the favorite, by 10.5 points!!  Wowzers....

#CIS

Last Week (2 weeks, you get it):  6 - 1 (86%)
Overall:  42 - 17 (71%)

Welcome to Canada's edition of the #CFBPlayoff Final 4!!  We are two games away from finding out who will play for the Vanier Cup in Montreal this year.  We have our two semi-final bowl games (Uteck and Mitchell) this weekend.  

I missed last weekend's three conference championship games but I will be honest with you...what a surprise!  I honestly would not have picked Montreal to upset Laval in Laval or Manitoba to upset Calgary in Calgary.  These were HUGE upsets!  Sure added a more exciting dynamic to this weekend's semi-final games.  Honestly, any four of the teams playing this weekend I can see playing in the Vanier and winning.  We really do have a coin toss here people.  I know the action south of the border gets most of the attention but this weekend, I am actually really looking forward to watching these two games.  Sidenote, it will be a battle of the "M" schools...oddly enough the Final 4 are all schools beginning with the letter "M" (Manitoba, Montreal, McMaster, Mount Allison).  I don't think that has ever happened before!

UTECK BOWL - Canada West @ RSEQ

Manitoba (4-4, 2-0) over Montreal (7-1, 2-0) - Ok so Montreal is coming off a HUGE upset of Laval.  Montreal is playing at home.  Montreal is hosting the Vanier Cup next weekend.  This game is sold out.  Montreal has the better record this season and is ranked higher.  So why am I going with the Bisons?  The Bisons have burned me more times this season than any other team.  They have an explosive offense, shown in their playoff games (47 and 27 points scored on the road).  The Carabins have not seen as explosive of an offense all season.  The Canada West is known to be able to score points and lots of them.  Montreal does have the advantage of defense mind you, they held the number one ranked Rouge et Or to only 9 points last weekend.  However a 12 - 9 OT win may look impressive defensively, the lack of offense is worrisome.  The Bison entered the playoffs without a road win all season, now they have two....from the playoffs...in Saskatoon and Calgary.  If Montreal can keep the Bison high-scoring offense in line, the Carabins could roll to a win.  If Manitoba finds the end zone, they can go blow for blow with the Montreal offense and come out on top.  Low scoring game, Montreal wins.  High scoring game, advantage Manitoba!

Mitchell Bowl - AUS @ OUA

Mount Allison (8-0, 1-0) over McMaster (7-1, 2-0) - I am taking the upset in this game.  McMaster is home and will be the overwhelming favorite.  Generally Ontario schools usually push around the Atlantic schools.  On paper, many people may think this should be a cake walk win for McMaster.  I am not so sure.  Mount Allison is the only undefeated team in the country.  They won the Loney Bowl (AUS Championship) two weeks ago and had the advantage of sitting back last weekend and watching the Yates Cup to see who they would be playing.  In a season full of upsets, why can't we expect to see one more huge upset.  Can Mount Allison be the surprise of the season and take home the Vanier Cup?  Why not?  Well McMaster may have something to say about it.  McMaster is a very good team.  They won the Vanier Cup three years ago (a game I was at and actually caught the championship winning field goal btw).  They lost the Vanier Cup rematch vs. Laval two years ago.  This is a team that expects to win....and wins a lot.  History is on the side of the home team.  A team from the AUS hasn't made the Vanier Cup since 2007, when Saint Mary's lost to Manitoba.  In fact, in the past 6 seasons, the AUS champ has not even put up a close fight in the semi-final game.  This year could be different.   

There you have it.  I am actually taking both upsets this weekend.  If my predictions are correct, we will see a Manitoba vs Mount Allison Vanier Cup next weekend....who would have bet on that match up when the season started?  Of course, if recent history has taught us anything, expect a McMaster vs Montreal Vanier Cup.

Enjoy the gridiron action......

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Euro's Are Coming....The Euro's Are Coming
Time to crown a Continental Champion

Well most of North American curling fans have their attention dialed to the action on the ice in the Soo, our European curling friends will be enjoying the beautiful backdrop of Champery, Switzerland for the 2014 European Curling Championships.  The top European men's and women's teams will be looking to not only become European Champions but also qualify for the 2015 World Curling Championship.

A few points of interest heading into this event:

  • The European Curling Federation is divided into three pools.  The A Pool is the championship group, where the winners become European champions.  Also, only teams competing in the A pool can qualify for the upcoming world championship
  • The 2 bottom finishers from the A pool are regulated into the B pool the following year, while the top 2 teams from B are promoted (similar to how many European football leagues operate).  This is the same for teams moving from C to B (and vice versa)
  • The defending men's champions are Team Sven Michel (Switzerland) and Team Margaretha Sigfridsson (Sweden).  Team Michel is back to try and defend their title while Team Sigfidsson was not selected as the Sweden representative
  • Worth noting, just because a team wins the Europeans and/or qualifies for the World Championship, does not mean that will be the team representing the country at the World Championship.  This event serves as a qualifier for the country, but not necessarily the team.  National federations, in some countries, choose which teams to send to the both competitions.  Some countries hold national championships to determine their designated teams (similar to Canada)
  • For 2014, Germany and Italy were promoted to the A pool while France and Finland were relegated to Pool B for the men.  Norway and Italy were regulated for the women while Finland and Estonia (a first for the small nation) were promoted
  • Overall, Scotland has won the most men's European championships with 12 (last being 2008) and Sweden has won the most women's European championships with 19 (last being 2013)
  • Pool A and Pool B both take place at the same time.  The top 8 nations, men and women, from Pool A (Championship Round) will qualify for the World Championship
MEN - Championship Pool

The Favorites

Team Norway Thomas Ulsrud (5 Order of Merit/20 Year to Date) - Team Fancy Pants is hard to bet against.  They are the defending world champions after all.  They have had a relatively quiet year on the tour this year though.  We have only seen them in 3 events but they have a victory in Baden and qualified in Basel.  It appears these boys curl well when in Switzerland...and where does the European Championships happen to take place this year?  Yup, chocolate for everyone!

Watch Out For

Team Sweden Niklas Edin (9/9) - Team Edin started the season strong, qualifying in 4 of their first 5 events.  However, they have failed to qualify in their past 3 events.  However, Edin is a European Champion (2012) and has the experience to lead this team to another title.  Remember as well, members of this new team finished runner-up to Team Ulsrud at the World Championship last year.

Team Switzerland Sven Michel (12/12) - Never count out the defending champions.  Many were surprised last year when Sven and his Swiss team came through and won this championship.  They will not be considered under the radar this year though.  As well, they are the hometown team.  Even if they have a tough game, that hometown crowd can be a pick me up to get you through.

Dark Horse

Team Scotland David Edwards (62/69) - Oh you haven't heard of Team Edwards before?  Don't worry, many curling fans have not.  But you will after this event.  This team came out and surprised David Murdoch and his Olympic Silver-winning team as well as Tom Brewster's team at the Scottish Championships a few weeks ago to claim their spot at the Europeans.  Don't let the rankings fool you, this is a good team.  They are more than capable of pulling off some "upsets" and finding new fans along the way.

Projected Final Round Robin Standings (Q=playoffs, q=qualified for worlds, R=regulated)

1.  Sweden (Edin) Q
2.  Norway (Ulsrud) Q
3.  Switzerland (Michel) Q
4.  Denmark (Sterjne) Q
5.  Scotland (Edwards) q
6.  Czech Republic (Snitil) q
7.  Russia (Arkhipov) q
8.  Germany (Baumann) q
9.  Latvia (Gulbis) R
10.  Italy (Mosaner) R

Men's Championship - Team Sweden (Edin) over Team Norway (Ulsrud)

Projected Pool B Promoted Nations:  Finland (Kauste) and Hungary (Hall)


WOMEN - CHAMPIONSHIP POOL

 The Favorites

Team Switzerland Binia Feltscher (9/10) - The defending women's world champions and home town team....what's not to like about putting the Favorite label on this team?  They won the event in Basel earlier this year and went undefeated in the round robin at the Masters a few weeks ago.  Sure they lost in the QF of the event, but they sure looked strong throughout the entire event.  Do not be surprised to see these ladies become the Swiss darlings on home ice and add another gold medal to their hardware collection.

Watch Our For

Team Scotland Eve Muirhead (3/8) - It has been a bit of an up and down year for the Scottish champs.  One event they look like the world champion contenders we expect, the next they look like they are struggling.  However, they enter this event fresh off a tour victory in Saskatoon a few weeks ago, where they went undefeated en route to the title.  Eve has a medal at the last 4 European Championships, winning Gold in 2011 and a silver last year.  Remember it was only 2 years ago when Eve was also a world champion.  This team comes to play in the big international events.

Dark Horse

Team Germany Andrea Schopp (63/80) - Ok so she probably is not a threat to win this championship with her best curling days behind her but never count out a two-time World Champion and seven-time European Champion.  They are also coming off a 4th place finish at their recent tour event in Switzerland, a good sign heading into Euro's.  Will they be playing for a medal at the end of the event, probably not.  Will they qualify Germany for the World Championship and give the top teams a run for the money all week, count on it. 


Projected Final Round Robin Standings (Q=playoffs, q=qualified for worlds, R=regulated)

1.  Switzerland (Feltscher)  Q
2.  Scotland (Muirhead)  Q
3.  Russia (Sidorova)  Q
4.  Denmark (Nielsen)  Q
5.  Sweden (Hasselborg)  q
6.  Germany (Schopp)  q
7.  Latvia (Stasa-Sarsune)  q
8.  Czech Republic (Klimova)  q
9.  Finland (Puustinen) R
10.  Estonia (Molder)  R

Women's Championship -  Team Switzerland (Feltscher) over Team Scotland (Muirhead)

Projected Pool B Promoted Nations:  England (Fowler) and Austria (Toth)


Rock on Europe!!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Welcome to the Soo Curling Fans
Home of Olympic Champs & the 2014 National Grand Slam

#TwineTime is back!  I know you are just as excited as I am.  After taking a one-week hiatus to enjoy the luxury of Iceland (I blogged a bit of the experience HERE), time to get back to it and what a perfect week to do so.  The men of the world curling tour hit the ice in the Soo this weekend for the second leg of the grand slam, The National!  This is an event dominated by 2 provinces in the past: Alberta and Ontario.  Even more specific, Kevin Martin (4 wins) and Glenn Howard (4 wins).  Teams from Quebec (Martin Ferland, 2003), The Rock (Brad Gushue, 2010) and Manitoba (Jeff Stoughton, 2013) have found success in the purple rings as well.  Howard is back, with a slightly different team of course, to try and repeat.  Gushue and Stoughton also return, also with different teams.  For the first time in a grand slam we welcome the Islanders from P.E.I. (Team Adam Casey). 

18 teams will be competing this year, the most of the grand slam events this season.  One point of interest this year is the lack of European teams competing.  The European Championships will begin this upcoming weekend as well (my preview of this will be posted soon), causing many of the top teams from across the pond (Peter de Cruz's Switzerland team will be in the Soo) to miss this grand slam event.  The schedule could be a blessing for another Canadian or the two American teams however who probably would not have been invited to attend if not for the crossover of two big events. 

Note the format for this event.  The 18 teams are divided into 3 pools of 6, with each team playing the other teams within their pool.  Only 8 teams will qualify for the playoff round though so competition is going to get tight quick.  That is 5 games played per team over only 9 draws.  2 losses could land you in a tiebreaker and even eliminated so every game is going to be high drama, high pressure and high expectations for each team.  No team can afford a slow start to this event.  So let's go right for the double takeout and here is my preview:

POOL A

Team Matthew Blandford (34 Order of Merit/34 YTD Ranking) "The Unknown" - Many people watching the action this weekend may not know of this team.  They are in for a treat though.  I was lucky enough to watch this team at the Boston Pizza Cup earlier this year (AB Provincial Championship) and was very impressed by them.  A 3rd place finish there only put them on the track to success this season.  They have qualified in 4 of their 5 events this season.  Worth noting vice Darren Moulding and Second Brent Hamilton won the 2014 Canadian Mixed Curling Championship as well.  This team has experience, has the results but do have the stomach to handle the big pressure?
Projection: 1 - 4

Team Adam Casey (18/11) "The Islanders" - Welcome to the Grand Slam P.E.I.  Finally we see an island team play at the grand slam.  And what a team to represent our smallest province.  I commented in previous blogs that this team seems to step up every week, having qualified in 5 of their 7 events this season (Stay away from Stu Sells events boys!!).  In fact, they enter this weekend after back-to-back runner-up finishes in their recent events, totaling 3 runner-up finishes this season.  Small province yes, big-time curling YES, YES, YES!! 
Projection: 2 - 3

Team John Epping (7/2) "The Surprise" - I do not think entering this season many expected Team Epping to be sitting at Number 2 on the Year to Date ranking list.  This is a new team, well old team with a new skip but still.  They have looked great.  This will be their 10th event of the season so these boys have A LOT of ice time under their belts.  They also enter on a winning streak, having just won the Gord Carroll Curling Classic last weekend.  I underestimated this team at the Masters and paid for it, I promised them on twitter I would not make that mistake again.  I am backing up my statement here!
Projection: 4 - 1

Team Mark Kean (20/20) "The Switch 2.0" - This is a new team as well this year, with all 4 guys playing with different teams last year.  Last year they were all competitors with one another in Ontario, this year they have come together to try and form a team to rival Ontario favorites Howard and Epping.  So far it has been mixed results.  Third place finishes in Oakville and Cookstown are promising but the missed qualification in 4 events, including last weekend in Whitby, are of concern.  These 4 guys switched gears and teams this year for better results, can they pull another switch this weekend and turn their season around?
Projection: 0 - 5

Team Glenn Howard (8/9) "The Champs" - Hard to argue against Glenn in this event, with 4 wins to his name.  Sure new team, same success though.  Why would anyone think this weekend should be any different?  They have qualified for the semi-final round in 3 of their 4 events this year.  However, no final appearances yet and their last event, The Masters, was a bit of a disappointment failing to qualify for the playoffs.  Can they regroup and defend the title here in the Soo?
Projection: 4 - 1

Team Brad Jacobs (1/3) "The Home Town Boys" - Ok so there are a few titles to give these guys "Team Muscle" "Team Golden" "Team Olympic" but they have those titles all throughout the year.  This is the one event where they are 100% the hometown team.  They have picked up a 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finish in 4 events this year, as well as a surprising missed qualification in Portage.  This is a grand slam event though, at home!  I expect them to come out fired up and ready to rock.  My only question would be how they handle the pressure of playing at home but hey these are Olympic champs.  They played on the largest ice possible and came out successful so why not here?
Projection: 4 - 1

POOL B


Team Steve Laycock (11/13) "Team Green" - Ok I know, these guys actually wear more orange during tour events but they are recent Sask representatives at the Brier and the only Saskatchewan team playing this weekend.  I have been open with admitting my slight bias towards this team this year, being from Sask originally and being very impressed with how they played at the 2014 Brier.  Plus, I have a slight bro-crush on Mr. Hot Shot Kirk Muyres, it's in the smile here folks, notice it this weekend and you will agree.  Ok, back to being less creepy....this is a team that can fly under the media attention radar and all of a sudden find themselves in the playoffs.  They have a tour victory already and made the playoffs at the Masters.  Why shouldn't we expect another playoff berth for them here?
Projection: 3 - 2 

Team Heath McCormick (29/68) "Team America" - It has been a tough season for the boys from Blaine (ok none of them are actually listed as living there but yet they are billed from Blaine).  This team has World Championship and Olympic experience though, never to be underestimated.  Unfortunately the results have not been there this year and, given the competition at this event, wins could be hard to come by this weekend.
Projection: 0 - 5

Team Mike McEwen (2/1) "The Favorites" - These boys have to be considered the favorites this weekend.  While that "disappointing" runner-up finish as the Masters ended the 4 event winning streak, the numbers and results put this team way ahead of the pack.  They have not played since the Masters but the time away I doubt will hurt this team.  They have the confidence and you have to think now that the winning streak is over, and given Jacobs will have more attention on him playing at home, could these guys fly a bit under the radar again?  The draw sets up very favorable for them.  Will we also see the return of the burnt sienna pants or will Mike and the boys whip out something new, purple perhaps to match the color scheme of the event?
Projection: 4 - 1

Team John Morris (6/75) "Team Canada" - Ok it is weird maybe to have this title on this team given Jacobs was wearing the red maple leaf winning the Olympics but this is going to be Team Canada at the upcoming Brier in Calgary so we should get used to calling them that now.  This team is still a bit of an unknown to be honest.  Big potential.  Big expectations.  Little time on the ice for fans to see so far.  They only have one event on the ice, at the Masters, and they failed to qualify losing in a tiebreaker.  Given the Masters was their first event playing against teams already well ahead of them in terms of competitive ice time, I would imagine they would still call their result a success.  Expect them to step it up to the competitive nature we are used to seeing from these four guys this weekend.
Projection: 4 - 1

Team John Shuster (23/22) "Team U.S.A." - So we have 2 teams from south of the border joining us in the Soo and they get placed in the same pool.  A bit disappointing in a way actually.  I think it would have been better to have them not be forced to play one another here but it is what it is.  This has been the more successful of the two American men's teams this season, with two qualification successes from the Stu Sells events.  Similar to their American counterparts though, I think the draw is going to work against them here.  This is a very competitive field and I think they will be playing more for bragging rights of America than for a playoff spot by the end of the week.
Projection: 1 - 4

Team Jeff Stoughton (14/7) "Team Turn Back the Clock" - Well anyone who thought Jeff Stoughton was going to ease off into retirement mode at the age of 51 should be kicking themselves.  Jeff went out and got himself a young front end to perfectly team with a seasoned back end and what a successful combination it has become.  They battled through tiebreakers all day to make the playoffs at the Masters and followed up that success with their first tour victory of the season two weeks ago in Swan River.  Forget age, remember experience.  Stoughton is curling as good as he ever has.
Projection: 3 - 2


POOL C


Team Brendan Bottcher (27/25) "Bottcher Express" - Many people who follow junior curling will be familiar with Brendan Bottcher.  He is a World Junior Champ (2012) and a CIS Champ (2013).  This year saw a minor line-up shift when regular vice Mick Lizmore left to form his own team.  Bottcher called up vet Tom Appleman and the combination has been a success.  They won their first event together in Edmonton and have qualified in their past 4 events.  They enter the National on the heels of a runner-up appearance in Red Deer, playing the final this past Monday.  Will the success in Red Deer carry over or will the lack of days off and travel cause issues in their first couple of games?  With this field, a slow start could end your hopes at a playoff before they even begin.
Projection: 1 - 4

Team Reid Carruthers (15/5) "Rama Rollercoaster" - Reid and the boys really have been Team Roller-Coaster this season!  Big expectations from this team heading into the season.  I wouldn't say they have disappointed, they have a huge win at Stu Sells in Toronto but that was over a month ago (see Team Rumfeldt).  They followed up a championship with failing to qualify in Portage, followed by a semi-final appearance in Gatineau to missing out on the playoffs again, two weeks ago in Swan River.  Look at the results this season: 6 - DNQ - DNQ - 1 - DNQ - 4 - DNQ.  So where does the Rama Rollercoaster end up this week?  At the top of the mountain or in the bottom of the valley?  There is something enduring about this team, you want to see Reid be successful moving back to skip and vice Braeden Moskowy find positive results after leaving Saskatchewan to curl with him.  As I have said in past blog posts, you feel this team can get over the hump and be successful, the problem is if they make it over one hump do they just take a fast nose dive down the rollercoaster again?  I am torn on how they will perform this week.
Projection: 2 - 3

Team Peter de Cruz (13/15) "Hopp Schwiiz" - Our 1 European team hitting the ice this weekend, coming from Switzerland.  The Swiss are really becoming a powerhouse threat in men's and women's curling, with many teams showing they are legitimate threats week in and week out.  Team de Cruz, with Benoit Schwarz throwing fourth stones, have had an up and down season.  Great success in qualifying at two events in Switzerland but only one qualification here in Canada (Gatineau).  They failed to qualify at the Masters, finishing with a 1-3 record.  I do expect a rebound event from them here though.  I think they can push for a playoff spot.
Projection: 3 - 2

Team Kevin Koe (4/6) "Watch Out For" - If any team can ruin the homecoming of Team Jacobs, dethrone defending champ Howard or stop Mike and the boys from starting another winning streak, this is the team to do it.  4 events this year, 4 qualifications, 1 title, 1 runner-up.  The results look good.  Remember this is a new team.  Sure Marc and Ben have played together for years but Marc has moved to a new position of vice.  Lainger has come over from Ontario.  These guys are still adjusting to one another.  They have a very favorable draw this week and should be undefeated heading into their final draw match-up with Gushue.  Both teams should already have playoff spots locked up by then as well.  Need a team to watch out for, a team who could easily go undefeated and walk away with a victory this weekend, this is the team!
Projection: 5 - 0

Team Brad Gushue (3/4) "The Rock" - The 2014 Masters Champs enter the second grand slam on a roll.  Brad lost the final of this event only 8 months ago to Glenn, both with very different teams mind you.  Brad has won this event in the past and, according to Kevin Martin's commentary during the Masters, he is the best curler on the ice right now.  They have qualified in every event they have entered this year and are coming off a victory.  Is there any reason not to think these guys could walk away with half of the year grand slam titles around their waist by the end of the weekend?  If you smell what the Rock is cooking, I wouldn't be surprised!
Projection: 4 - 1

Team Rob Rumfeldt (26/27) "Team Upset" - This team will have to really own the "Team Upset" name if they want to qualify for the playoffs this week.  This team has missed qualification in 3 of their 4 events this season but do have a 3rd place finish at Stu Sells Toronto on the resume.  Unfortunately again, that was over a month ago now and little success has been seen by this team since.  Great to be here, should be competitive in most games but wins will be very hard to come by for this team.
Projection: 0 - 5


Qualifiers: Team Koe, Team Epping, Team Howard, Team Jacobs, Team McEwen, Team Morris, Team Gushue, Team Stoughton

Championship: Team Brad Jacobs over Team Kevin Koe


Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Strákarnir okkar
Cheering for "Our Boys"

#TwineTime recently took a small hiatus from blogging to take a much needed vacation last week.  While many may consider a vacation in November as a great time to head south to tropical paradises like the Dominican Republic or Jamaica, I chose to head north: Iceland!

First thing to get out of the way for those who may be unfamiliar with this tiny European nation, well the name Iceland may make the hairs on your arms stand up and thoughts of horrible shrinkage come to mind, it is quite the opposite.  In fact, the average temperature while I was there was around 12C.  In comparison, my current home location hovered around a dismal -14C on average.  That is a 26 degree shift in temperature.  Still sound like a cold place to visit?

The entire trip was amazing.  I highly recommend if you are looking for a place to go on a future vacation, give Iceland a look over.  The people were friendly.  The environment is breath taking.  The entire time you are there you get washed away in sights of the ocean, fresh air, amazing food, laid back and relaxed people.  I cannot sell it enough!

But this is a sports blog, not a travel blog.  The Iceland men's national football (soccer) team is currently in the middle of their Euro 2016 qualification process.  While there were no home games taking place while I was there (disappointing I know!!), the team was in Brussels, Belgium on Wednesday night for a friendly against the Red Dragons.  Being the sports fanatic I am, I knew about this upcoming match ahead of time and, after a few conversations with some local fans, I found a little pub in downtown Reykjavik to sit down and enjoy the match.

A few points to note:
  • Iceland was a HEAVY underdog going into the match.  Belgium was coming off a quarterfinal appearance at the recent 2014 FIFA World Cup and are currently ranked at an all-time high of 4 in the world.  Iceland, on the other hand, missed qualifying for the World Cup in a tough playoff loss to Croatia.  The KSI are up to a highest-ever FIFA ranking of 28 in the world though
  • KSI stands for Knattspyrnusamband Íslands, the governing body of football in Iceland.  I actually asked someone about this.  Yes, I know I should have just went on wikipedia beforehand but sometimes it is better to just hear the answer from someone.
  • Iceland was at their lowest FIFA ranking in June 2012, sitting at 131.  In just over 2 short years, they have jumped 103 places.
  • The first official match for Iceland was in 1946, a 3-0 loss at home to Denmark.
  • Iceland entered the match on the heels of perhaps their biggest win ever, a 2-0 Euro Qualifier victory at home vs. the Netherlands (3rd place at the recent World Cup)

When I first arrived at The English Pub (of course an English Pub in Iceland would be showing the match), I was surrounded by footy fans.  I was glad I was told to get there at least 30 minutes before match start time if I wanted to find a seat.  I parked myself in the back of the bar but still with a decent view of one of the many large screen tv's.  In front of me were two buddies, one wearing an Iceland jacket and one wearing a Belgium shirt.  My first thought was I was in for hearing some good chirping, as would be the case at any bar in Canada/United States during any sport event.  It was quite the opposite actually.  Both men were actually discussing the pros and cons of one another's team of choice.  Both had more positive comments to say about their opponent than bragging rights about why their national team was superior.  It was actually quite nice to see.  Two grown men can sit in a bar cheering for opposing teams and not chirp one another all night?  Who knew this kind of civility existed in a sports world?



The passion of everyone in the pub was clear during the national anthems.  Some people stood.  Everyone sang.  It was a great sight.  All this for just a friendly.  I cannot imagine what a Euro qualifier match or, hopefully some day for these fans and this nation, a World Cup match would be like.  Even the Belgium fans (all 2 of them in attendance) sang during their national anthem.  There was a respect level not often seen in North America.  As the lone 2 Red Dragon fans sang their national anthem in the pub, everyone else sat quietly and let them enjoy their moment.  There was no chirping.  No booing.  No disrespect.  


The game itself started quite fast with Belgium knocking home the first goal only 11 minutes into the match.  Fans seemed a bit down but that was only momentary.  The KSI found the back of the net only 2 minutes later to tie the game.  The remainder of the first half was highlighted by a bunch of near miss attempts by both teams coupled with some great defensive plays and outstanding saves.  Halftime brought a 1-1 tie and everyone was in a happy, drinking mood.  In fact, not sure about how this worked exactly but after the Iceland goal, a guy at the bar got to spin a giant wheel to win a few beers or sorry try again.  As his luck would have it, he landed on the "1 meter beer" spot, equating to 8 beers for him.  Not too bad of a deal!!





Settling in for the second half, having completed my 10" pepperoni pizza and second beer of the night, I was prepared for another equally matched half.  Could the upset be in order?  Belgium came out attacking and it was only a matter of time it seemed until they found the back of the night.  Sure enough, in the 62 minute mark the Red Dragons took the lead.  They were able to seal the victory with another goal in the 73 minute.  The crowd was disappointed.  The 2 Belgium fans rejoiced.

The biggest thing I noticed though was, even at the end of the game, Iceland fans were congratulating the Belgium fans, commenting on what a great match they played.  The Belgium fans were equally polite with similar comments.  There was no negative comments or hard feelings.  Heck, I have been to hockey games when I was 8 years old and been spit on by opposing team fans during a game.  Seeing this calm, relaxed and polite environment during a sporting event was quite odd.  It was also very refreshing!

After the match I made it my mission to find an Iceland team jersey the next day, a little birthday gift to myself.  These are impossible to find!!!  Luckily enough, Thursday night, around 8:30 p.m. I found a small shop in downtown Reykjavik that had some available and in my size.  After trying a few sizes on for comparison (knowing European and North American sizing is quite different) I was able to proudly make my purchase.  The nice blond girl working the store commented on my North American accent and my purchase.  I told her I just could not leave Iceland without this purchase, especially for my birthday.  She laughed and thought it was cute.  She even threw in a free Iceland string bag as a gift, saying it was just her way of showing Iceland saying "Happy Birthday" to me.  Did everyone receive this free item?  Maybe.  I have no idea.  But still, the way she sold it made it feel more special.


In my first trip to Europe, watching my first European football match in a European environment, I could not have asked for a better experience.  Sure it wasn't the result I would have wanted.  Sure it wasn't some crazy celebration scene like a World Cup or Euro match would be.  But it was still memorable and enjoyable.  How often can you sit in the back of a small pub in downtown Reykjavik watching the home country battle a heavily favored nation and just soak it all in?  This experience was by far one of the many highlights of my trip!  Not too bad of a beer on special and enjoyed the thin crust pizza as well :)

Strákarnir okkar!!!


 

Friday, 7 November 2014

Every Week is Playoff Week! 
#CFBPlayoff Race Heats Up

Well the second set of rankings for the #CFBPlayoff were released and, to no surprise, there were changes.  This will not be uncommon in the weeks to come.  I expect to see a different line-up of 4 teams every week for the remainder of the season.  Of course, some weeks might have the same 4 teams but perhaps in a different ranking order.  Not to brag or anything here, but this week's Top 4 from the Selection Committee looks exactly like #TwineTime Top 4 from last week.  I said Ole Miss was overranked and would stumble...now they are basically done.  Hmmm maybe I should be putting my name forward now to argue a position on this board.  Wouldn't that be fun?  A random guest newbie blogger from Canada having a vote for the biggest and most debatable sports playoff?  I like it....

Here are the rankings:

Selection Committee                                       #TwineTime

1. Mississippi State                                         1. Mississippi State
2. Florida State                                                2. Florida State
3. Auburn                                                        3. Auburn
4. Oregon                                                        4. Oregon
5. Alabama                                                      5. TCU
6. TCU                                                            6. Alabama

Ok so first glance it looks like I took the easy way out here but at this point of the season, based on the numbers and criteria used for this ranking, I think the committee basically got it right this week.  Do I think these rankings will look the same next week or the end of the season, heck no!  But as I mentioned last week, these rankings are only to take into consideration the output each team has displayed on the field so far, not what we expect to happen.  Here is a great image to help summarize (courtesy of @SECstats):


Based on the graphic above, I would actually be more inclined to rank Auburn above Florida State.  However, an undefeated defending national champion Seminole team ranked above one-loss Auburn is not a huge injustice I suppose.  The big eye test for me is 'Bama and TCU.  Both beat West Virginia; however, TCU beat Oklahoma and lost to Baylor.  Alabama doesn't have another quality win, barely escaped a few wins earlier this season and has a loss to Ole Miss, a team I have already shared my dislike for.   The team with the most to gain would be the Tide though.  Win out and they will be ranked #1, even if Florida State goes undefeated I would put them at #1.  Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State could in theory almost eliminate one another and we could go from 3 SEC teams in the Final 4 to only one.  Oregon's best hope is to win out and have Arizona State win out as well.  A PAC-12 final between Oregon and Arizona State should almost guarantee the winner a spot in the final 4.  The team with the biggest gripe is going to Michigan State.  Win out, win the Big 10 and I still do not see them making the Final 4.  Oregon losing actually hurts the Spartans.  Ohio State and Nebraska do not have strong enough resumes.  It is not impossible for them to make it but the odds, right now, are heavily stacked against them.  The team least deserving on here is Notre Dame.  The Irish beat nobody and lost to Florida State.  Now should they beat ASU this weekend, ok they can stay in the top 10 but I don't see them rising too high, maybe 8 (only because Kansas State - TCU loser will drop).  One thing is for sure, every week we will see elimination games and while the playoff cloud looks murky and confusing now, I think the results of the upcoming weeks are going to solve the issue on the field...as it should be!  On to the picks...

#NCAA

Last Week: 39 - 13 (75%)
Overall: 157 - 61 (72%)

Quick notes from last week's games and my picks, with major #CFBPlayoff games highlighted:

  • UCONN beat UCF?  WTF?  100% no way I saw that coming...either did the Knights apparently.
  • Temple beat East Carolina - I even mentioned this looked like an upset game and I still didn't pull the trigger.  Lesson learned here folks...sometimes go with your gut!
  • I have been uneasy on Georgia all season and thought they were hyped too much.  The loss to Florida proved me hunch correct, if only I man'd up and made the pick.
  • Ole Miss overrated!!!  Have I made that point enough yet
  • Still undefeated on Friday!!!!!
Memphis over Temple - People may not be familiar with either of these teams in the American conference but if you can watch these game, I recommend it.  These are two very good teams and this should be a huge game in Philadelphia.

Utah State over Wyoming - Wyoming has become my Georgia Tech 2.0.  I can never correctly pick how they will do each week....which means either I am really bad at this (my percentage numbers I think disagree) or the Pokes are one of the most inconsistent teams this season.

Penn State over Indiana

(4) Oregon over (17) Utah - Huge game for the PAC-12.  Oregon will sew up the North title with one more victory.  Utah is fighting to win the South and needs this win and some help after the loss to ASU last weekend.  This is also Oregon's last chance to impress the committee before the PAC-12 championship game.  A big road win over a very good Utah team will help.  Worth noting, ranked teams are only 1-4 on the road vs a ranked Utah team.

Louisiana Tech over UAB - Tech on their way to an undefeated conference record?

Rice over UTSA

Tulsa over SMU - Pillowfight of the Week!  1-7 hosting 0-7.  Stay winless SMU!

Minnesota over Iowa - Ok minus the unexplainable loss to Illinois a few weeks back, most people would be taking the Gophers at home.  They have had two weeks to prepare for this game.  Iowa hasn't looked that good of a team until last weekends big win.  Both teams are 3-1 in the Big 10 and trying to position themselves for a better bowl game invite.

(12) Baylor over (15) Oklahoma - If the Bears lose this game, playoff hopes are gone.  They need the win to have a shot at the Big 12 Championship and, even then, still might be a long shot to make the Final 4.  Huge opportunity though to pick up a big road win and impress the committee.  Remember this Bears team should have beat TCU and could have been undefeated right now.

(25) Wisconsin over Purdue

(20) Georgia over Kentucky

(24) Georgia Tech over NC State - Tech curse continues?

Arkansas State over South Alabama

Troy over Georgia State - Pillowfight of the Week 2.0.  These are two 1-8 teams battling it out.  Can Georgia State pick up their 1st conference win?  I'm taking the home team.

Appalachian State over UL Monroe

(3) Auburn over Texas A&M - The Aggies were once thought of a team that could make the Final 4.  Now nobody is paying attention to them and they are huge underdogs in this game.  The Tigers should roll here at home.  Not a meaningful win opportunity here for Auburn but a home loss could take them right out of the Final 4 playoff.

(9) Arizona State over (10) Notre Dame - The Irish have been unimpressive.  The Sun Devils are explosive.  ASU is at home.  This game should prove the Irish are overrated.  I might be eating my words next week, but I think I am safe in this one.

Connecticut over Army - Well if the Huskies team that beat up on UCF show up this weekend as well, Army is in for a long day.

Houston over Tulane

FIU over Old Dominion

(23) West Virginia over Texas - I only highlight this game not because I think WVU has a shot at the playoff but more because how they do the rest of the season will impact the resume of the teams above them in the Big 12.  They keep winning, others benefit.

Northwestern over Michigan

Iowa State over Kansas - Finally someone will win a conference game.  Cyclones are a better team.

UTEP over Western Kentucky

Air Force over UNLV

Oregon State over Washington State

(1) Mississippi State over UT Martin - An SEC team playing a cupcake game in the middle of the season?  Well that never happens?!?! #sarcasm

Georgia Southern over Texas State - The battle for the Sun Belt championship perhaps?

San Diego State over Idaho

(2) Florida State over Virginia - FSU cannot allow a slip up for the rest of the season.  I cannot see a one-loss Seminole team making the Final 4 over a few other one-loss teams.  They have to win out..and they have the easy enough schedule to do so.

Florida Atlantic over North Texas

Marshall over Southern Miss - Come on committee, give the Herd some love.  They are undefeated.  sure easy schedule but still...throw some sympathy votes their way.  It's not their fault their conference sucks!  I hope Marshall ends up being the last undefeated team standing.

Boise State over New Mexico

Colorado State over Hawaii

(18) UCLA over Washington

Louisville over Boston College

(6) TCU over (7) Kansas State - Basically a playoff game here.  Winner has a great opportunity.  Loser is eliminated.  Biggest game of the week in regards to the rankings.  TCU at home though...

Florida over Vanderbilt

(16) LSU over (5) Alabama - See my thoughts above on Bama.  LSU at home, looking better week in and week out, going with the slight upset here.  Put the SEC in more chaos please...

LA-Lafayette over New Mexico State

(8) Michigan State over (14) Ohio State - Basically the de facto Big 10 championship game.  Oddly enough, a Spartan win helps Oregon more than anything.  The Spartans are going to have a tough time jumping ahead of anyone.

(19) Arizona over Colorado

San Jose State over Fresno State


Enjoy the action this weekend everyone.....