Thursday, December 12, 2013

2013-14 Bowl Picks Part 1: Giving the Gift of Football

Click here for Part 2
Click here for Part 3

The bowl season hasn’t always lasted for three weeks. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is up to you – I’m pretty sure ESPN is happy about.

The BCS is entering its 16th and final bowl season and there’s been one lasting impact that is sure to survive next year and beyond. And that would be the bloated schedule.

las vegas bowl 2012
In the last pre-BCS year, there were 20 bowl games – a significant number, but certainly not the 35-bowl world we live in now. The most amazing aspect is that 19 games were played between Christmas and the title game on January 2.

In 1997, there was a grand total of one pre-Christmas bowl game. A year later, there were two. Fast forward to 2013 and there are four pre-Christmas bowl games…on December 21. There are six in total, down from seven a year ago as the Poinsettia Bowl moves to the day after Christmas.

It is but one of the reasons as someone obsessed with bowls as to what the 2014-15 bowl schedule will look like. Will the new playoff system condense the bowl system to its pre-BCS ways of getting everything done during the in-between-holiday week? Will all bowls be played before New Year’s Day, per tradition? And will that inflate the number of pre-Christmas bowls next year?

Those are questions that will be answered. For 2013, we have a bloated bowl season to get to. So let’s pick every single damn bowl game…

Regular Season Record: 88-76-2
Best Bet: 6-9
Upset Special: 9-6
I picked winners 53.6% of the time. I beat the house! I have to be honest, finishing 12 games above .500 for the year is way better than I thought would do. The one week I went 9-2 was the difference. I spent the last few weeks of the season at 5-6 or 6-5. The strange thing is that I did very good with my upset picks but absolutely brutal on the game I was most sure of. Sports handicapping is hard.

Washington State (-4) over Colorado State
A pretty interesting game to start the bowl season, right? It is almost mind-boggling that Washington State hasn’t been to a bowl game since they beat Vince Young in the 2003 Holiday Bowl. That seems like 3 lifetimes ago. Colorado State, for its part, hasn’t played in the postseason since the 2008 version of this game.

So we have two motivated teams. It should be a good crowd, with Colorado State trying to rally the troops. In the end, I’m going with power conference over a mid-major. The Mountain West was a dreadful conference this year, there’s no other way to put it. Boise State was down. Utah State lost Chuckie Keeton. More importantly, for Colorado State, there was no depth in the league.

The opposite is true for Washington State, which survived the meat grinder of a stacked Pac-12 and a ridiculous 9-game schedule – you don’t need 9 games if you have only 12 teams – to hit the magic 6-game mark. Simply put, I think Washington State is a better team.

Fresno State (+5.5) over USC
I’m worried about USC’s state of mind for this game. They were on such a roll and such an emotional high with Ed Orgeron that it seemed like the balloon was popped during the second half of the UCLA game. The lack of depth, the coaching changes, the chaos – it seemed like it all came crashing down and the team simply couldn’t keep up anymore.

This will be USC’s third coach of the season in this bowl game. Yes, the game is in Vegas, on ABC and should attract a good deal of attention – but this game is simply far more important to Fresno State than USC. Let’s not forget that it’s Fresno State QB Derek Carr’s last game and I have to imagine the Bulldogs will come out on fire.

Sometimes, picking a bowl game winner comes down to motivation. I don’t see USC being motivated as much as Fresno State, and I think that overcomes the fact Fresno has a terrible defense.

San Diego State (+2.5) over Buffalo
San Diego State has had one of the strangest seasons in the country. Everyone seemed confused when they got creamed by FCS team Eastern Illinois by three touchdowns. Well, that Eastern Illinois team lost one game all year – on the road, by 4, to Northern Illinois. So they were pretty good and whoever scheduled that game is probably collecting unemployment.

Regardless, San Diego State recovered, finished strong, beat Boise State and nearly beat Fresno State. They even won five in a row before inexplicably getting housed at UNLV to end the season. Speaking of motivation, this is a team that believed – and publicly campaigned – that it would unfairly be left out of a bowl. They’ve never been so happy to visit Boise in December.

On the other side, Buffalo boasts all-world LB Khalil Mack…and that’s about it. Buffalo wilted down the stretch, getting rocked by Toledo and then getting dominated by Bowling Green with a MAC Title Game berth on the line. Both teams finished poorly. Buffalo finished worst. At least they’ll be used to the weather?

Tulane (PK) over Louisiana-Lafayette
Really, the bowl game isn’t really a continuation of the regular season. It’s at least two weeks after the team’s last game. There is a lot of change. There can be coaching turnover. Practices are different. Coaches try things. Motivation levels vary. It can be foolish to base picks on how a team ended a season.

Yet, here I go doing just that. The Superdome will be rocking for this one as two local teams hook it up. Why do I like Tulane? Because they have a lengthy bowl drought, it could be their last game in the Dome for a while as a new campus stadium opens in 2014 and their finale was a tough 17-13 loss to Rice.

How did Lafayette end the season? By losing to two non-bowling6-6 teams Louisiana-Monroe and South Alabama, the latter of which won 30-8. Yikes. I’m taking Tulane and crossing my fingers.

East Carolina (-13.5) over Ohio
Ohio is putrid. They lost to Buffalo 30-3. They lost to Bowling Green 49-0. And most damning, they lost – at home!! – to 4-8 Kent State 44-13.

Get out of here. East Carolina should win this game by 50. The only reason that doesn’t happen, and the only reason this is not my best bet, is the crappy nature of the bowl, ranked #35 on my exclusive bowl ranking list. It’s being played in a crappy baseball stadium at 2 p.m. on Monday, December 23. That is not a holiday. Quite possibly the strangest kickoff time for a football game I can remember.

That’s a long-winded way of saying – East Carolina might not show up.

Boise State (+2) over Oregon State
Oregon State, along with Oklahoma, has baffled me all year. I thought they were good. They weren’t. When I realized they were bad, they flipped the script and played well. I don’t get it. I do know that they’re going to score a bunch.

As for Boise State – they aren’t good this year, right? It feels so weird to see an average Boise State team and to see Chris Petersen bolt for Washington. I can’t get a read on this game. Oregon State looked really good against Oregon in the finale, so they must be due for a regression, right?

Here’s my angle – again, not necessarily a good angle, but an angle – Boise State comes out with something to prove. The hiring on Bryan Harsin kept things in the Boise State family but has been met with skepticism nationwide. Consider this Christmas Eve an opportunity for Boise State to prove they aren’t becoming irrelevant.

mac title game
Bowling Green (-6) over Pittsburgh
In hindsight, maybe Bowling Green’s win over Northern Illinois wasn’t such an upset. In hindsight, Bowling Green might be the hottest team in the country. They won their last four regular season games – including two bowl teams – by a combined score of 176-17. I don’t have enough exclamation points at my disposal to properly convey my emotions. They were winning by an average of 40 points. Why was Northern Illinois my Best Bet on Championship Saturday??

Look, I know Bowling Green lost its coach to Wake Forest. But they favored by a touchdown over an ACC team for a reason – they’re really good. Okay, two reasons, because Pitt is also terrible and wouldn’t be even in the bowl season if Notre Dame played the absolute worst game they could have possibly played in Pittsburgh. Pitt finished the season on a red-hot 3-5 streak. Wait, what? Ugh.

Northern Illinois (-1.5) over Utah State *Best Bet*
I love this matchup because Jordan Lynch against a really good defense should be fun. Whoever wins that battle, wins this game. I’m going with the Heisman finalist. And thanks to their last performances – gritty Utah State loss to Fresno State, awful NIU loss to Bowling Green – the spread has been reduced to a virtual pick ‘em. Thank you, very much*.

*Whenever I like a line too much, I am guaranteed to lose. So there’s that.

Maryland (+2.5) over Marshall
Is this the first “must win” in Military Bowl history? Marshall is basically playing with house money. They won their division. They made the Conference USA title game. They won 10 games. The program is trending up. Rakeem Cato is (I believe) going to be back next year. A win over Maryland would merely be the cherry on top.

Maryland? Randy Edsall? They need to win this game, with the emphasis on need…or win…or both. Regardless, Maryland cannot lose this game. The pressure is already on since they’re returning to the bowl that essentially got Ralph Friedgen fired. Okay, that’s too simplistic but that’s how many view the Terps trip here.

It is also the last game before Maryland joins the Big Ten next year and into a division with Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State. Yikes! At least they get to beat up on Rutgers. Maryland desperately needs to win this game for momentum and recruiting purposes. The fact they are actually an underdog in their home state to a Conference USA team is even further proof that Maryland must win.

Minnesota (-4) over Syracuse
Do I have to? The more I look over the bowl schedule, the more I realize this game blows. Syracuse stinks. Minnesota deserved better.

The worst part is that I have this day off and I almost certainly will watch a large portion of it. Sigh. At least the nightcap on Dec. 27 is worth it.

BYU (+3) over Washington
There’s always one bowl game that serves as the unofficial start of the real games. The first few games are like appetizers, a little football to whet your appetite before the good games start. As an example, the 2011 bowl season didn’t really get going until Notre Dame played Florida State followed by Baylor and Washington in the insane Alamo Bowl.

So this will be a big game. It’s the last time this bowl gets played at the Giants’ ballpark, which is probably a good thing. But the smallish stadium will ensure a likely sellout and a raucous atmosphere. It will feel like a big game.

But what will happen? There are a lot of good vibes around Washington right now, who managed to lose their coach to USC and end up with an even better coach. I’m pretty sure that’s never happened before.

These teams seem very similar, in terms of how their seasons turned out. Washington lost four games, all to ranked teams. BYU played a tough schedule and lost two tough games on the road late to Wisconsin and Notre Dame – head-scratching September losses to Virginia and Utah notwithstanding.

Ultimately, I’m going with BYU because they’ve proven they can beat a good team. I’m not in love with the pick and see this as an ultimate toss-up, so I’m taking the 3 points and wussing out.  

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5 comments:

  1. Good picks exccept Marshall is going to beat Maryland

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  2. 2-9 on this page bro, nice work. You cost me $3,160 so far.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sucks to be an idiot eh?

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    2. I went 4-2 on New Year's Day. So there's that.

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  3. Don't quit your day job

    ReplyDelete