Friday, December 13, 2013

2013-14 Bowl Picks Part 2: The Most Wonderful Week of the Year

Click here for Part 1
Click here for Part 3

ESPN still runs the commercial, but it’s not the same.

If you’ve read this blog for any period longer than 30 seconds, you’ve probably come to realize that I really like college football. And if you’ve read this blog in the past month, you’ve definitely understood that I am obsessed with bowl games.

espn bowl week
It’s hard to overstate how much I liked bowl games when I was younger – and why some of the allure has faded. I’m not that old but as a kid in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, there was a lot less football on. Like maybe 1/100th the amount of televised college football. Seems crazy, right? So the bowl games served as the opportunity to watch every single team play over the course of one glorious week.

The old ESPN commercials – that I somehow cannot find on the Internet, which is supposed to have everything – re-wrote the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” with football lyrics and it warmed my heart in December. I knew I’d have a week off from school. I knew I’d have some Christmas presents to play with. And I knew I’d have football to watch every single day.

There’s still football on – in fact, there’s a lot of it. Maybe even too much, which is why you should read my ranking of what bowls you should watch. There are probably too many bowls. There is still not a good way to crown a national champion. Who knows if there will ever be a true college football playoff?

But sometimes, it doesn’t matter. We rely on our traditions in America. It’s good to know that every year, between Christmas and New Year’s, there is going to be a ton of football on, played across the country.

This year, ESPN has really outdone themselves with quadruple-headers – you’re looking at about 14 straight hours of football – on Saturday, Dec. 28, and Monday, Dec. 30, with a tripleheader on New Year’s Eve with CBS airing the Sun Bowl.

A football overdose? My favorite Christmas gift.

Regular Season Record: 88-76-2
Best Bet: 6-9
Upset Special: 9-6

Notre Dame (-15.5) over Rutgers
Well this is a pretty terrible Christmas gift. North Dakota State and Eastern Illinois – FCS powers – beat more bowl-bound teams than Rutgers. So did 4-8 Utah and 3-9 UConn. Okay, so UConn only had one but it was against Rutgers and Rutgers had zero.

Ultimately, this is a cakewalk for Notre Dame and I still don’t know why this game isn’t Houston and Notre Dame. That would have been a far more competitive game and provided some intrigue, as it could’ve been a rematch of the 1979 Cotton Bowl, aka the Chicken Soup Game. Instead, we get this mismatch.

The only possible angle you could take in picking Rutgers is that Notre Dame won’t show up. I’m not buying that, for one big reason – I think the Irish are excited to put this year behind them and go out with an easy “We’re better than you” win.

The most underrated subplot of the 2013 college football season was the loss of Everett Golson for Notre Dame. The Irish went 8-4 in 2011 and 2013 with Tommy Rees at QB and throwing crippling interceptions at seemingly every turn. In 2012, they went 12-0 and played for a national title.  This year’s Irish would be in a BCS bowl with Golson, despite the injuries, because they would’ve beat Pitt and would’ve beat either Oklahoma or Michigan – both losses helped along by Turnover Tommy.

That’s a long-winded way of saying the light at the end of the tunnel is near – next year is a big one for the Irish and there’s going to be a mountain of expectations. In this one? They get to send out Tommy Rees with a thank you win over a crappy Rutgers team.

Cincinnati (+3) over North Carolina
This is a weird matchup in terms of motivation. Cincinnati is 9-3 for the second year in a row and playing a 6-6 mediocre ACC team for the second year in a row. Not exactly a game you’d think they’d be hyped for. However, they play in the American Athletic Conference and desperate for any sliver of recognition and respect. A big win on ESPN with a huge TV audience would do the trick.

For UNC, this season was a disappointment. They were 8-4 last year, 6-6 this year. Not only did they not win their ACC division, they had to watch their rival and perennial cellar-dweller Duke do so – and clinch on their homefield. Ouch! However, UNC wasn’t able to play in a bowl last year and a win over a solid, 9-win, fringe Top 25 team would do wonders for the offseason.

I’m going with Cincinnati because I think they’re a better team. And I think they’ll rebound from the painful season-ending loss to Louisville better than UNC will for its loss to Duke. As for that Louisville team…

Louisville (-3) over Miami *Best Bet*
The strangest ranking of the year easily goes to the fact that Miami was a Top 10 team this year. They played three good to great teams – Florida State, Virginia Tech and Duke – all in a row and they got blown out by all three. Louisville isn’t Florida State, but it’s certainly as good, if not better, than Virginia Tech and Duke.

Throw in the fact it’s Teddy Bridgewater’s swan song against his hometown school, and this could get ugly.

Michigan (+3.5) over Kansas State
This is a thoroughly fascinating game because I have no Earthly idea who is going to win. How’s that for a ringing endorsement?

I’m going with Michigan because I like points in a toss-up – that extra half-point is glorious – and I think Michigan is ultimately more talented. Say what you will about Ohio State, but Michigan went toe-to-toe with them for 60 minutes. Kansas State benefitted from a Big 12 that was bereft of depth and cleaned up on the bottom half of the league to get to 7 wins. Michigan beat Notre Dame.

If I’m wrong, chalk it up to my inability to realize the Big Ten is really bad.

Navy (-6) over Middle Tennessee
I haven’t watched Middle Tennessee play football for a second this year, so I’m probably not the guy to be making a pick here.

So I’m going to go with Navy because I did watch them play and they looked really good in beating Pittsburgh and even better in nearly beating Notre Dame. In terms of motivation, it’s one of the biggest games Middle Tennessee has ever played – against a national brand on national TV. But for Navy, they need a big performance to make the program forget about last year’s bowl debacle against Arizona State.

Ole Miss (-3) over Georgia Tech
I don’t know what to make of Ole Miss. They were pretty terrible down the stretch, losing to Missouri and Mississippi State. While the former could be excused due to the quality of opponent, the latter on Thanksgiving was a televised faceplant. It wasn’t pretty.

Yet, it still wasn’t as bad as the complete meltdown Georgia Tech completed that weekend by blowing a huge lead (at home!) to a Georgia team that had just lost Aaron Murray the week before. That loss will sting the Yellow Jackets (a-ha!) for a while.

Ultimately, Ole Miss still improved in year 2 under Hugh Freeze, beat Texas on the road, beat LSU at home and won 7 games despite a brutally tough schedule. Expectations will be higher next year, especially coming off of another nice bowl victory.

mack brown texas
Texas (+13) over Oregon *Upset Special*
Just a hunch here, nothing more. Oregon players didn’t want to go to the Rose Bowl, do you think they’re going to be all that excited about the Alamo Bowl?

For Texas, it’s all about motivation. As I write this, it appears it will be Mack Brown’s last game. Remember what a crappy Florida State team did for Bobby Bowden’s last game? Texas will play out of their mind and over their heads to send Mack out a winner.

And if it’s determined Mack Brown is coming back next, kindly ignore this pick.

Arizona State (-13.5) over Texas Tech
Biggest mismatch of the bowl season. Texas Tech is dreadful, propped up like Kansas State by the dregs of the Big 12. Except Kansas State smashed Texas Tech in Lubbock. The schedule worked in Tech’s favor – they got nice publicity from the hot start – but it also hurt them, because it unrealistically raised expectations.

Arizona State is a really, really good team that went 0-2 against Stanford and 10-1 against everyone else, only losing to Notre Dame out of conference. Clearly, Arizona State is an improving, excellent football team that has trouble with big, physical teams.

Texas Tech is not big or physical. Texas Tech does not have a chance, if Arizona State shows up. If they don’t, cue up the 2004 Holiday Bowl footage.

Boston College (+7.5) over Arizona
I love this matchup, which is why I ranked it as one of the top bowls to watch this year. Two great running backs, two improving teams and two coaches that appear to have their programs on the rise. The winner gets a huge boost going into 2014 and a summer-full of “returning to prominence” stories that once-proud programs love to read about during the offseason.

Arizona has the most impressive win between the two, with its destruction of Oregon. But Boston College may have had the best performance, when it gave Florida State its toughest game of the season – a game that FSU needed a first-half Hail Mary and possibly Jameis Winston’s best overall performance to secure. Andre Williams was hurt in the finale against Syracuse, so I’m considering that a toss-out, to steal a horse racing term.

Ultimately, this line is too high. At 3 or 4, maybe I lean toward Arizona. But this feels like a game that is decided in the final minute – and I’ll gladly take that extra half-point here too.

UCLA (-7) over Virginia Tech
UCLA has a great offense and a bad defense. Virginia Tech has a great defense and a bad offense. In my opinion, this game is not decided by strengths – it’s decided by weaknesses. UCLA’s bad defense is better than Virginia Tech’s bad offense.

UCLA will get its points, even if they score 24 instead of 38. I just don’t see Virginia Tech scoring that much.

Rice (+7) over Mississippi State
Bowling Green gave Mississippi State a whale of a game, losing 21-20. Do you think Conference USA champion Rice is as good as MAC champion Bowling Green?

If yes, you pick Rice. If no, you pick Mississippi State. My pick gives you my answer. And I want to link to the Rice players going crazy over the Liberty Bowl again.

Texas A&M (-11.5) over Duke
You think I’m picking against Johnny Football in his last college game, in primetime, on ESPN, on New Year’s Eve? Forget Miley in Times Square – Manziel will give a better performance to close out 2013. 

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7 comments:

  1. BC over Arizona? No way dude.

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  2. UCLA bad defense? Surely you must be joking. Anthony Barr, Myles Jack? If anything UCLA 's defense is better than their offense.

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  3. You love college football? Well for a guy who is obsessed with it YOU ARE NOW 3-12 ON YOUR BOWL PICKS!

    If you took the team that appears first in the alphabet, you would be 9-6. I hope for your familys sake, you are not betting these games! You will end up living in a dryer box!

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  4. Totally agree! I've never seen so many losing picks in a row on a web page. You've lost 8 of your last 9 games.

    You need to find a new hobby, because posting your pathetic picks in a public forum is not your game son.

    I suggest you find a local gamblers anonymous group in your area and get some help dude!

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    Replies
    1. I went 4-2 on New Year's Day. Had to get into a rhythm. I think it's karma for the having a good regular season...the house won't let me finish over .500

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  5. Reading your picks gives me great hope that the Hokies will beat the Bruins since you are more often wrong. Cinci over UNC? Texas to cover against Oregon? I have a feeling that I should bet on that one. Oregon will most likely win by at least three TDs.

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