Friday, December 20, 2013

How Did My Bold College Football Predictions for 2013 Turn Out?

Over the summer, we all make predictions about the upcoming college football season. Here were mine. And then by December, we never take time to look back.

How bad were those predictions? Why were they so bad? What if I was actually right about something?

So for fun before the holidays and the upcoming bowl season, let’s review my predictions. And we should start with the one that garnered the most preseason attention.

Yep, mea culpa time.

I was wrong. They didn’t lose that many games. In fact, they only lost once. It wasn’t the season Louisville fans wanted. And I suspect most are already thinking about the Kentucky game on Dec. 28 instead of the Russell Athletic Bowl. But that doesn’t change the fact I was wrong.

Why I was wrong? Two reasons.

First, Teddy Bridgewater was better than I thought. I knew Teddy was good. I didn’t realize he was that good.

teddy bridgewater nflThere is a huge difference in college football when one team has a future starting NFL QB and the other team, well it doesn’t. The best recent example is TCU and Andy Dalton. While he was in college, everyone knew Dalton was good. It wasn’t until he left that we realized just how good he was. He’s now a playoff quarterback in the NFL, he won a Rose Bowl at TCU – read that last part again, a Rose Bowl, at TCU – and since he left, TCU has basically fallen apart.

In fact, the only game Louisville did lose was to a UCF team that has its own potential starting NFL QB on the roster.

It took me a while to realize how good Bridgewater was until the finale against Cincinnati, in the team’s only difficult road game. Without Bridgewater and his tremendous performance, they lose that game. That’s not even a question. He was the difference. If they lose that game and finish 10-2, I feel a bit better about my prediction and can blame it on reason #2. Instead, I have to give Teddy his props and hope like hell he ends up as my Jets quarterback next year.

As a bonus 2014 bold prediction, if Teddy Bridgewater does decide to come back, Louisville will make the four-team college football playoff. Write it down.

The second reason, which I did not take into account, was how putrid the bottom half of the American Athletic Conference would be and how easy Louisville’s schedule would be.

The conference had four good teams. Cincinnati and Houston are fringe Top 25 teams. UCF and Louisville are Top 10-15 teams. That’s it. The other 6 teams, even including bowl-bound Rutgers, are hot, steaming garbage. I thought teams like USF and UConn would be 5-7, 6-6 bad…they were historically awful.

The road schedule Louisville played up until the Cincinnati game may be the most comical in major college football history. At Kentucky, Temple, USF and UConn – those four had a combined record of 9 wins, 39 losses. Good Lord. UConn at 3-9 was the toughest road game Louisville played before Cincinnati and UConn was winless at the time.

So to all the Louisville fans that wrote horrible things about me…you were right, I was wrong. Happy now?

Alabama will not win the National Championship
Alright, I got one right! Though to be fair, I did say that I thought they would make the BCS title game and lose it in the National Title game, and even compared them to the 2002 Miami and 2005 USC teams that lost in all-time classics in the title games.

So their season sort of played out like I predicted, I just had no idea – like everyone else in the world – that the all-time classic would take place in the Iron Bowl against Auburn.

Georgia will annihilate Clemson in Week 1
Oops. To be fair, when Todd Gurley busted out for his huge touchdown run early against Clemson, I thought I was right. But that run doubled as the very last moment Georgia would be healthy in 2013. Gurley battled injuries. Wide receivers went down like MASH unit each week. And eventually, it even nabbed Aaron Murray.

We’ll revisit Georgia later, but I really believe if Gurley plays all 60 minutes, they do annihilate Clemson because Clemson couldn’t stop him. And kudos to Clemson, they showed up and weren’t afraid of Georgia. I was envisioning they would put on the performance they eventually did against Florida State, which is to say essentially wetting themselves on broadcast television.

Boise State will lose to Washington in Week 1
This was too easy. Boise State was down. Washington was up and the opening of a new Husky Stadium was going to be too much. I mean, I didn’t see a total destruction coming like it was – this game basically ended the Chris Petersen era in Boise – but I was right.

An American Athletic Conference team will be in the National Title hunt in November
So, not exactly. Though in my initial post, I mentioned that UCF had the best chance because of the schedule through October – road games at Penn State and Louisville and South Carolina at home. And the three-point loss to South Carolina ruined it. I want to take another opportunity to point out how absurd UCF’s current ranking is. If South Carolina is #9, how is UCF, with a better record, not #10?  Let’s move on.

Ohio State will play Michigan twice
Ohio State will lose to Michigan once
It will cost them a spot in the title game
Technically, I got the last of these three predictions right since the scenario I laid out – an undefeated Ohio State team losing in the Big Ten championship game to lose a BCS title spot – did happen. I just had the wrong state school from Michigan. Nothing I would change about that, even through the first two weeks of the season. Michigan looked awesome in beating Notre Dame – Michigan State looked putrid on offense in losing to Notre Dame. You live, you learn, you keep giving Michigan too much credit.

Baylor will win the Big 12
I’m going to quote myself because I absolutely nailed this one:

“The Big 12 is not going to have a banner year. No other conference was hurt more by players graduating or leaving early. Texas seems to be perpetually down. Kansas State won’t play back to last year’s level. Oklahoma, well, they just seem off. It opens up a bit of a power vacuum for this year and no team is more poised to claim it than Baylor.”

There will be no BCS Buster
It took through the last Friday of the regular season, but this turned out to be correct. There were no non-BCS schools that appeared to be at the level of, say, a 2008 Utah or 2010 TCU. However, Fresno State did appear it could pull off a 2007 Hawaii-type run until San Jose State ended that. I did not see how good Northern Illinois would be, and that’s partly why I would’ve voted Jordan Lynch for Heisman with Jameis Winston as #2. NIU is a one-man team and Lynch almost pulled off the unthinkable all by himself.

Texas A&M will lose at least 3 games
This was too easy. They lost a lot of talent from 2012 and everyone knew the defense was going to be awful. Johnny Football single-handedly kept this team in games against Auburn and Alabama they had no business, in retrospect, of even being close in. Once Johnny Football hit a bit of a down patch late, against LSU and Missouri, the team fell apart.

Another bold prediction for 2014: Texas A&M is going to be bad next year if Manziel goes pro.

This will be Mack Brown’s last year at Texas
“Another offseason of hype will lead to another early season disappointment. “

“The Texas job search will be the main off-the-field storyline through the bowl season.”

Some things are so obvious, you know? I lose a point for predicting Texas to end up in the Holiday Bowl, which would have happened if Oklahoma hadn’t made the BCS. I also said the resignation would not turn into an ugly Bobby Bowden-type fiasco, but it was somehow even uglier with the Nick Saban leaks and the chaos going on at the university.

Jadeveon Clowney will win the Heisman Trophy
I should’ve realized he never had a chance. I thought the offseason hype would help him. Instead, it just focused a microscope on everything he did. And defensive ends are a lot like baseball hitters – they fail more than they succeed. A hitter can strike out 7 out of 10 times and still go to the Hall of Fame. Well, Clowney can get 2 sacks on 70 plays and be the best player in football.

The real problem is that defensive line might be the easiest position to neutralize. Yeah, it may take three guys, but you can eliminate Clowney and focus on the other 10 guys. South Carolina is #9 in large part because of Clowney’s presence. He will be much better in the NFL when triple-teams can’t happen.

florida state clemsonNotre Dame will lose 1 game, and not to who you think
I severely underestimated the loss of Everett Golson and how bad Tommy Rees is at preventing turnovers. Let’s move on.

The ACC will not have a national contender by October 1
Great job buddy. They actually had three at the time. I even predicted Pitt to beat Florida State. I’m really stupid sometimes.

Pitt and Syracuse will both win at least 8 games
Clearly, I was high when I wrote this.

Army will beat Navy
I thought Army’s heart-breaking loss to Navy would be a launching pad to a big 2013 for Army, thinking they would use that game as motivation and evidence they were closing the gap with Navy. Except for an inspired first half at home against Stanford, Army was really bad this year while Navy more or less returned to form. The next Army head coach will be an interesting hire to watch – there’s no reason why Navy can win 7 or 8 games every year but Army can’t.

Penn State will not have a winning record
Close but not quite, as the surprising season-ending victory on the road against Wisconsin got Penn State to 7-5. They also scored big wins against Syracuse and Michigan that I didn’t think they’d get – especially the Syracuse game, since it was the opener with a true freshman QB. All the credit in the world to Bill O’Brien on this one.

USC will win the Pac-12 and play in the Rose Bowl
Not only was this insanely stupid, I doubled down by writing an entire post explaining why USC would be back in 2013. I was sort of right, as Coach O’s run proved, because there was enough talent there for USC to win the Pac-12. But the lack of depth caught up with them. Also, I had zero idea how bad things had gotten under Kiffin.

2 SEC teams will play in the National Title game
Georgia will win the National Championship
Well I was almost right on the first part, and would have been if Duke had done the unimaginable on Championship Saturday. But they didn’t, and I was wrong. I may save that prediction for next year when a four-team playoff makes that scenario far more likely.

As for Georgia, what can I say? Despite the loss to Clemson, I felt good about this prediction through September after wins against LSU and South Carolina. But the injuries piled, they didn’t take Missouri seriously and it all fell apart.

So, I made 21 bold predictions and I got 7 right. A .333 batting average? I’d be the best hitter on the Mets!

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

2013-14 Bowl Picks Part 3: New Year’s Day and the BCS

Click here for Part 1
Click here for Part 2

If the BCS never changed, it may be preparing for Year 17 in 2014 instead of being replaced by the impending four-team college football playoff.

Whether that’s a good thing or not, isn’t really debatable – the BCS was terrible. Or was it?

texas bowl
In fact, for the first 8 years of the BCS, the system was actually working out extremely well. Well, sort of. Oh, there’s always a "sort of" with the BCS.

In the first 8 years, the BCS set the stage for two of the greatest games in college football history – the 2003 Fiesta Bowl and the 2006 Rose Bowl – that could not have happened in a pre-BCS world thanks to the Rose Bowl’s Pac-10 and Big Ten tie-ins. For that alone, the BCS should be applauded.

But the other title games left a lot to be desired. From Miami left out in 2000 to Oregon left out in 2001 to #1 USC somehow now making the title game in 2003, the system seemed to do everything except succeed. It made for such a strange dynamic. Look at the two title games the Rose Bowl hosted in that time. One, Miami/Nebraska, was probably the worst title game in college football history. The other, Texas/USC, was possibly the greatest.

One long-forgotten aspect of the original BCS is how it did not destroy – at least not completely – New Year’s Day. With only four games, the season was always wrapped up by January 3 or 4. The title game was never played 10 days into the New Year. There were no Jan. 4 Sugar Bowls played in front of 20,000 empty seats.

Then came the dreaded double hosting model – an idea so bad, it should reside next to Baseball Night in America in the bad idea Hall of Fame. The BCS added that extra game under pressure from Congress and the system would begin its descent. The double hosting model ruined, well, just about everything.

Teams, like Ohio State in 2006, waited 50+ days to play a title game. There were the aforementioned weeknight, post-holiday bowl games that drew flies. The bowl hosted the title game always ignored the first bowl game, leading to debacles such as the Sugar Bowl in 2011 selecting Virginia Tech because they had been there before and were familiar with the game.

Yes, familiarity was a reason why Virginia Tech made a supposedly prestigious bowl game in 2011.

It also unnecessarily dragged out the bowl season. The reason New Year’s Day worked in the past – and why it will next year – is that casual fans were easily able to carve out a day or two to watch football. The bloated, double-hosting BCS required four nights that, again this cannot be overstated, took place after the holidays ended.

That part has been righted and starting next year, New Year’s Day, and New Year’s Eve, will return to hosting the most important bowl games. It’s a move, oh, 20 years overdue. But next year’s bowl schedule will be better than this year’s lineup.

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

North Texas (-6.5) over UNLV
I watch a lot of college football. Have you noticed? So despite having access to just about every college football game played in a given week, save for the elusive Pac-12, I have seen a grand total of six plays combined from these two teams. And all six of them occurred when I watched UNLV try to come back against Utah State when that night’s Notre Dame game had me wanting to rip my eyeballs out.

So I haven’t watched North Texas for a second this year. I know UNLV beat San Diego State like a drum to finish the regular season, but Good Lord, did they look awful in trying to make that comeback against Utah State. While UNLV hasn’t been a to a bowl in 13 years, North Texas hasn’t been to one since 2004 and Denton, Texas is a lot closer to Dallas than Las Vegas. The Mean Green faithful are really excited – as they should – to play a New Year’s Day bowl game in the Cotton Bowl stadium, even if most mock it. I’m making this pick based solely on motivation and crowd support. Do not take it to the bank.

georiga nebraska
Georgia (-9) over Nebraska
Nebraska has to be sick of playing SEC teams in Florida on New Year’s Day, eh? Two years ago, it was South Carolina. Last year, it was Georgia.

You would think they’d have a chance this year because of Aaron Murray. If this was last year’s Nebraska team – or even the 2011 version – I might be inclined to agree with you. But this is this year’s Nebraska team and they aren’t very good. They are a Hail Mary away from behind the bottom team on the Big Ten pecking order. They beat absolutely no one of consquence, unless you consider 7-5 Michigan good, and ended the season in disastrous fashion.

Meanwhile, Georgia overcame the loss of QB Aaron Murray to stun archrival Georgia Tech in the season finale. Nebraska wants to rally around an embattled coach. Georgia has already rallied around its injured star and a star-crossed season in which everything and anything went wrong.

Georgia will end this season on a high note because it deserves to. Also, it’s like three touchdowns better than Nebraska.

South Carolina (+1) over Wisconsin *Best Bet*
This line annoys me. Wisconsin’s last game was a beatdown loss at home against Penn State. South Carolina’s last game was a beatdown win at home against Clemson.

What am I missing here? Ugh, I know whenever a line seems wrong, Vegas ends up being right. But I refuse to believe Wisconsin is a better team than South Carolina. And I don’t believe the Gamecocks won’t show up – it may be a close game, like last year’s Outback Bowl, but Spurrier will come out on top.

LSU (-7) over Iowa
I am so glad that this might be the last year of the ESPN-inspired “SEC-Big Ten roadblock” that has resulted in a seemingly never-ending stream of SEC buttwhoopings to start off the New Year. Remember in 2010, when the two Big Ten Michigan schools lost bowl games by, I believe, a combined score of 175-6?

As in 2010, the Big Ten got two deserving teams into the BCS. The problem? The rest of the league sucks. I know Zach Mettenberger is hurt and won’t play. It doesn’t matter. If LSU didn’t throw the ball once, they’d win by 10. They will likely throw it, thus they will win by a lot more than 10.

I don’t want to disparage Iowa – they had a very solid season and they had nothing but good losses. But they were still losses. This game could play out similarly to Iowa’s loss to Ohio State or Wisconsin, where they battled for three quarters but eventually fell off.

So at least this game has that going for it, right? It could be close at halftime…

Stanford (-4.5) over Michigan State
I have no good insight here. These teams are mirror images of each other. It will be a battle of wills, strength and determination.

And when I say that, I mean turnovers. Whoever commits more turnovers will lose the game. Stanford has been here before – this is their fourth BCS bowl in a row. Michigan State has not – this is their first Rose Bowl in 25 years*. I’m going with the calm, cool Stanford demeanor and betting that Michigan State makes one mistake too many.

*Watch this. Love this. "We did it! We did it! We did it!"



UCF (+16) over Baylor *Upset Special*
I love UCF in this game. They have been my upset special twice – on the road against Penn State and on the road against Louisville – and they came through in spectacular fashion both times. Why does no one believe in this UCF team? They have an NFL quarterback. They have athletes all over the field. The defense can be questionable but can make big plays. Their only loss was a 3-point defeat to Top 10 South Carolina. What am I missing?

As for Baylor, I haven’t loved them all year and have picked against them repeatedly, which hasn’t been the best course of action. Except that game against Oklahoma State. My feelings on Baylor? They are really good but a down year for the Big 12, in addition to a soft nonconference schedule, has skewed popular opinion.

In my mind, Baylor should be favored by about 5 points. So I’m getting an extra 11. Easy money baby!

Alabama (-15) over Oklahoma
This is a pretty easy game to pick because Alabama is miles better than Oklahoma. It all comes down to one question – does Alabama show up? Their no show in the 2009 Sugar Bowl against Utah has become stuff of legend, even if that Utah team is way better than people give it credit.

To me, this game feels a lot like the 2010 Sugar Bowl where a Florida team that had its national title dreams ripped away in their finale rallied around Tim Tebow – insert A.J. McCarron here – and delivered one of the most epic beatdowns in New Year’s Day history. It may not be 54-3. But I don’t think it’ll be close.

Missouri (-1) over Oklahoma State
I believe the SEC is better than the Big 12. Like, by a lot. And the Cotton Bowl in recent years has become a game of horrors for the Big 12, as they have lost the last five games and the last three haven’t been close. The last Big 12 team to win the Cotton Bowl? Missouri. They win again. Missouri that is, not the Big 12.

urban meyer orange bowl
Ohio State (-2.5) over Clemson
The more I think about this game, the more I get excited about it. It really is what bowl games – at least of the non-title variety – should be about. Two teams with great offenses, no defense and playing with nothing to lose to get a huge season-ending victory. While this game marks the end of an era for Clemson, with the loss of Tahj Boyd and the likely loss of Sammy Watkins, this feels like Ohio State’s first game in a road to redemption and a playoff berth in 2014.

Clemson played 3 big games this year. They beat Georgia. They got embarrassed by Florida State and South Carolina. Ohio State may not be as good as any of those teams – but I can’t trust Clemson in this spot. Not when they gave up 70 during their last bowl trip. Not when they haven’t beaten South Carolina in half-a-decade. Not when they have lost almost every big game they’ve played in the past 3 years, with the notable exception of this year’s opener.

And I’ll take Urban Meyer over Dabo Swinney in a big-game coaching matchup every day of the week.

Houston (+3) over Vanderbilt
Houston is either the luckiest team in the country or the most underrated. They were one of the nation’s best in turnover margin, which could mask a lot of deficiencies. On the other hand, their four losses all came by one score or less to teams with at least 8 wins – BYU, Cincinnati, Louisville and UCF. Vanderbilt likewise only lost to good teams, but they tended to be of the blowout variety.

It seems a bit foolish to even be making a pick now since any job opening – cough, Texas – means another round of rumors for James Franklin. And if I’m Franklin, I’d be on the first flight to Austin. I respect what he’s done at Vanderbilt but that program will never consistently beat out the Georgia’s and South Carolina’s of the world. And his rise coincided with a rare trip to the abyss for Tennessee.

That stuff aside, I think Houston is better than people think, I don’t think Vanderbilt is as good as people think and I bet Houston will be highly motivated to make a loud statement for the maligned American Athletic Conference. Remember UConn over South Carolina in 2009? Okay, you probably don’t. But I do. And that’s what I forsee happening.

Ball State (-9) over Arkansas State
Arkansas State lost its coach to Boise State. As I type this, Ball State hasn’t lost their hotshot coach, Pete Lembo, to anybody.

Also, Ball State is a 10-win team that has only lost to Northern Illinois since September. I think the MAC is marginally better than the Sun Belt. I think Ball State is decidedly better than Arkanas State. Not thrilled with giving 9 points in what will essentially be a home game, but I have to go with the better team.

My title game pick will come after the holidays…enjoy all the football.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Spoiler Alert: I Hate Spoiler Alerts

I don’t watch Homeland. So I don’t know the character’s names. I don’t know what season it is. I really don’t care about the show.

So I usually gloss over anything Homeland related until I saw this tweet from a sportswriter I follow.


Hmm, that’s odd. I thought Homeland aired on Sunday nights? It does. And it did. The Variety tweet is now long gone and they apologized for it, but not before people complained and did what annoying people usually do via social media. 

To review, a publication dedicated to the entertainment industry wrote about a show that aired in its entirety the night before – some 12+ hours prior to the tweet in question – and it was considered by many as a spoiler. It’s absurd. See this headline from the Daily News – not a spoiler if it has already aired.

And thus, we’ve reached critical mass.

I know a lot of people are into binge-watching and DVRs and on-demand and the like. I’m not a fan of binge-watching, but I do watch many shows on-demand after they are. Many times, this is due to sports. I could have watched Kenny Powers on Sunday night, but I chose to watch Sunday Night Football 99% of the time. And, it provided me the added bonus of having a new Kenny Powers episode to come home to after my Monday at work.

homeland spoiler
The same thing applied to Mad Men – I almost always watched it Monday after work.

In both cases, the onus was on me to avoid spoiler alerts. I wouldn’t click on links about the show, or about the ratings, or really anything that could pertain to the show for that Monday.

Now, it can be impossible in this day and age to completely unplug yourself and rid yourself of potential spoilers. There were times I would read tweets about Mad Men – mostly cryptic – that would allude to things that were happening with characters. Again, this was on me. I could watch turn off my social media or I could watch live – the choice was mine.

But we have reached a point where the people waiting to watch feel that they have now been emboldened to squash any discussion about any show lest they have seen it.

That’s not what television is about.

During the Breaking Bad finale, I read tweets from people complaining about other people tweeting about the finale. This is America, dammit, and if people want to share with what they’re watching, God bless them. If you’re not watching what promised to be one of the year’s most-discussed episodes of any show as it happened, then get the fuck off of Twitter!

Everyone wants to point to DVRs and on-demand as the reason why scripted television shows have seen their ratings crater in the past decade. Did people not own VCRs? Is recording television shows really that new of a phenomenon?

No, the big change has become the discourse around how we discuss entertainment. For movies, very little has changed. When movies came out, people would give other people some time to see it – it wasn’t being aired at the same time on the same channel for everybody.

When people started talking about a movie, you had to go out and watch it to join the conversation. There are few things more painful and socially awkward as when a group at a bar or a party starts talking about the latest hot movie, and you have to excuse yourself – or bullshit your way through it – because you haven’t seen it.

With television, that was likewise the accepted norm. Until recently. Now, nearly all discussion about television shows is muted and hush-hushed away.

The water cooler discussion? How can you have a water cooler discussion when there needs to be a 100% quorum to discuss anything?

And why do scripted shows get treated differently in our culture than live events? Why can we immediately discuss the results of the Voice as it happens but scripted shows are held to a different standard? Because a portion of the audience wants to watch later? Why does that portion – almost undoubtedly a smaller percentage than those that watch live – get to schedule our discussion?

The worst part about our “spoiler-free” is how willingly publications and television networks have gone along with this, in a desperate attempt to glean any remnants of viewers they can from a fractured landscape.
All that has managed to do is foster a culture where watching television shows as they air is no longer necessary. If anything, it seems quaint and nostalgic.

I was excited on Sunday night, at 8:30 p.m., to watch the Christmas episode for this season’s Bob’s Burgers. I really like that show. It’s got a great timeslot, for me, where I can watch the episode before checking in on the football game. I try to watch that show live every week.

It is, without a doubt, the way television was meant to be consumed. More importantly, it is the best way for it to be consumed.

We consume all sorts of media in all sorts of different ways today. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. Whether I read the latest about Bob Diaco in print or online, nothing is changing about the information or the experience – I’m still reading a newspaper.

Scripted television shows are no longer must-watch because everyone is enabling that and it’s not good. Once a television shows airs, it’s free game to talk about it. If you haven’t seen it, that’s not my fault.

You don’t have to be on Twitter. You don’t have to check Facebook. You don’t need to be clicking links and surfing the Internet. You can excuse yourself from conversations.

If the previous 1,000 words haven’t given this away – I am sick and tired of spoiler alerts and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

A spoiler alert is when you are giving away information about an entertainment show that has not aired yet. If Variety sent their tweet out 12 hours prior to Homeland airing, I wouldn’t be writing this. When Variety sends out a tweet about something that happened 12 hours after, I shouldn’t have to write this.

I know that newspapers and publications will still show good judgment. And I know they will still label things “spoiler alerts” when writing about shows that already happened. I get that.

But the masses – they need to stop. If you come across a spoiler, it’s your fault. In the end, that’s the point of this rambling mess of a blog post.

If you watch something, you can talk about it and you can post about it. It’s called social media for a reason.

If you don’t watch something, then it’s up to you to avoid spoiler alerts.

It’s not Variety’s fault. It’s your fault.

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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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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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Selfies, President Obama and the Look at Me Generation

“Did you see it?”

“Oh God, what now?”

“Why are you always so unhappy to hear from me?”

“Because you only call me when you want to get me ranting about something stupid like Sharknado or Miley Cyrus acting like a ho.”

“Now, now, let’s not forget about that awful Jack Swagger video…”

“Why would you remind me of that?!? I almost forgot about the time the WWE told the whole world that wrestling was fake, the characters were fake and no one should take it seriously. Please, thank you very much for that reminder. I needed that!”

“Well aren’t we fired up this morning?”

“Sorry, I’m a little on edge. I stayed up until like 3am reading about UConn’s next football coach.”

“Your thoughts?”

I love his hair. And I love that he’s not 1,000 years old.”

“So a good hire?”

“Well, it’s about a billion times better than the last hire, so I’m going to give it 9 thumbs up.”

“Fantastic. Now that we’ve gotten through your usual bluster and blubbering, will you answer my question?”

“Ugh, again, as I always respond – what are you talking about?”

the obama selfie
“The selfie with President Obama and the Danish prime minister.”

“Rawr.”

“What was that?”

“Rawr. The sound of an excited cat.”

“Really?”

“Look, the chick was hot and wanted a piece of Obama, so he gave her a little flirting. It was a festive atmosphere. It was a celebration. People are taking it the wrong way; it was a funeral like we think of funerals.”

“So it’s still cool to openly flirt with another world leader and take a selfie at a dead man’s celebration?”

“Why isn’t David Cameron getting any flack for this? He was right there too. The Danish PM didn’t want him though. She wanted Obama. What’s so wrong with that? A little flirting never hurt anybody.”

“Says the man who watches pro wrestling on YouTube...”

“I watched This Tuesday in Texas last night. What a show! Very underrated. 10 thumbs up. I was surprised.”

“Can we focus?”

“Oh yes, of course, let’s get you a blog post for your precious blog that is so well-read. How can I help you go viral? Want me to say something provocative and-or stupid?”

“Sure.”

“Obama didn’t do anything wrong. Period, end of story. He got a little caught up in the moment, flirted with a hot blonde and is probably paying for it now behind closed doors. Game, set, match, we’re done here.”

“Your sports metaphors are awful at times.”

“Well, there are 33 rounds in boxing so try me.”

“Now you’re just aping Kevin Hart.”

“He aped me!”

“This is running off the rails quickly. Are you drunk?”

“I am not sober, no. Does that answer your question?”

“No.”

“Excellent.”

“This is going nowhere.”

“What do you expect? I’m not gonna hate on our President for acting like a human being. We always bitch and moan, ya know? I wish our political leaders were more like us. I wish celebrities were real people. I wish athletes didn’t just speak in clich├ęs. Well here is our President acting just like us and we fucking hate it.”

“Just like us?”

“The word of the year is selfie! Mashable just made a list of the most memorable selfies of the year. I want to live in a world where we’re over selfies.”

“How many selfies have you posted to Instagram?”

“That’s not the point!”

“Answer me!”

“One”

“I want the truth!”

“You can’t handle the truth!!”

Laughter

“Okay that was awesome. But back to your selfie hatred, why?”

“What do you mean why?”

“Why do you hate selfies? You do it. I do it. Everyone does it.”

“And if everyone jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge…”

“Okay, Nana, I get that argument. But you’re doing it!”

“Look, we’re all self-absorbed assholes who only care about ourselves. That’s who we are. Social media, the Internet, television, it’s all putting the spotlight on ourselves. And there’s no easier way to draw attention than snapping a quick pic of yourself. The Look at Me Generation – that’s what we’ve devolved into. It’s brutal.”

“The Look at Me Generation – I like the ring of that.”

“Patent pending.”

“For what?”

“The novel I’m writing with that title.”

“Since when?”

“Since about 14 seconds ago. It does have a good ring to it!”

“So what does the future hold for this generation?”

“Hopefully, something that forces people to get up off their couch and do something. I’m scared for the future. Can I be serious for a moment?”

“I guess.”

reading a newspaper
“The Metro this morning, and every morning, is filled with two types of people – those reading a printed newspaper and those reading their cell phone. I would bet that the people reading the newspaper are more successful. This is based on absolutely nothing but conjecture. But they are not absorbed in themselves – they are absorbed in the world.”

“The people on the phones aren’t?”

“Not to the same degree, because they can’t be divorced from their network for even a second. It’s sad. I saw something from my buddy Kevin Hart that made an impact on me. Before he went on stage – I think it was Laugh At My Pain, he gathers with his buddies and says, ‘Everyone wants to be famous, but nobody wants to put the work in’ or something like that. It’s the best description I’ve ever heard of this generation.”

“No one wants to work?”

“Man, we don’t want to do shit. Look at the selfie. Look at YouTube. Everyone sees Kim Kardashian, who has literally never done anything of note except to get f—“

“Hey now…”

“You know what made her famous. But she’s a role model because everyone sees that and thinks, if she can get rich doing nothing, so can I! Our whole society has become the equivalent of those Internet ads – would you like to make 6-figures from your couch? Here’s how!’

“So your view of society is not good?”

“It’s terrible. And depressing.”

“But Obama’s selfie was okay?”

“Hell no, the selfie was tacky because all selfies are tacky and stupid.”

“In closing, you’re anti-selfie, pro-flirting and anti-today’s youth.”

“And pro-Diaco.”

“Yes, go Huskies.”

“Go Huskies!”

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The 16-Team College Football Playoff That Needs to Happen

This year’s Iron Bowl, a game which set the sports world on fire, would have meant nothing next year.

That is not hyperbole. Sadly, it is fact. If the four-team college football playoff was in place, Auburn’s reward for beating Alabama could potentially be playing Alabama again, except this time in Pasadena in the Rose Bowl.

college football playoff
This year, that Iron Bowl ended Alabama’s championship dreams. Next year, it would have merely given them an extra week off – no SEC title game – while Auburn played Missouri for a playoff berth.

The problem here – and why I’ve railed against the playoff before – is that college football cannot have bowls and a playoff. It has to choose one or the other. By attempting to do both, they are essentially doing neither.

The playoff will work in year 1 because it’s shiny, it’s new and it’s perceived to be better than the BCS. Also, the 2014-15 bowl schedule has the playoff games on New Year’s Day. What happens for the 2015 season when the playoff games are on New Year’s Eve and the Rose Bowl feels like the NIT of college football?

They said the BCS would preserve the bowls – ask the ancient and irrelevant Orange Bowl how they feel about that.

I have the solution. Sure, everyone says they have the perfect system for college football. But I actually do. Gaze in wonder at the most perfect 16-team college playoff ever devised. Let’s walk through it and why it would work.

16 Teams, 10 Conference Champions, 6 Wild Cards
For a playoff to work, every conference has to be represented. The four-team playoff, as Tom Osborne essentially said today, will be cut off from non-power league schools even if they go undefeated. These schools never had a chance to play for a national title but now, even in a playoff, Northern Illinois will never have a chance.

Well why not? They deserve a chance. And more importantly, the top seeds need to earn something. In a four-team playoff, there is next to no difference between being ranked #1 or #3, except for being closer to a neutral site. In this playoff, being a top seed does earn you something – a relatively easy first round game.

Top 4 seeds are conference champions
In the four-team college playoff, it is believed that being a conference champion will carry weight but there is nothing definitive. As such, an 11-1 Alabama team will get in over a 11-2 Stanford team without much controversy. That’s fine, but it’s not right. Being a conference champion should earn you something. In this case, it’s a top seed and…

First two rounds on campus sites
Two home games. So being a conference champion* ensures that you get two home games on your way to the semifinals. In this case, Alabama’s loss has a huge impact, if not the Earth-shattering “dream is dead” impact of this year’s game. By losing that game, Alabama falls from the top 4 and will have to play at least one true road game before reaching the semifinals. That severely damages championship hopes.

*Edit: I meant to write a Top 4 conference champion. Ultimate point is, the top 4 seeds are protected for conference champions, sort of like how the NFL gives home games to division champions over wild cards with better records.

Also, how great would it be to see college football playoff games on campus? I don’t even need to go into detail about this. Just close your eyes and imagine Oregon taking the field at Jordan-Hare stadium or Alabama visiting Stanford. It’s amazing.

Semifinals on New Year’s Day
The way the college football playoff is set up next year is perfect – playoff game in the Rose Bowl in the afternoon, playoff game in the Sugar Bowl in the evening. In fact, it’s so good that it should be that way for the rest of time.

Other bowls can still exist
There are 16 teams in my playoff. There are 79 bowl eligible teams this year. That means there would still be 63 teams (!!) that would like to play in bowl games. So instead of the 35 we have this year, we could have 31 bowl games and 15 playoff games. That would work, no?

As you’ll see after I show who would make this hypothetical playoff, there are still very good teams that would probably like to play in bowl games around New Year’s – teams like LSU, UCLA and Texas A&M. In fact, the schedule of bowls that will be in place next year could be in place every year for the rest of time as well. And as in the current system, while the other four major bowls, like the Orange or Cotton, won’t host playoff games, they could certainly host bowl games and a potential title game.

The creation of a true College Football Super Bowl
The game would still be played on a Monday night a week or so after New Year’s Day. It would be massively huge. It could instantly become the second biggest annual sporting event in terms of ratings – a title now held by the NFL’s Championship Sunday. Could a true college football championship game draw 40 million viewers? 50? 60? What is the limit? Is there a limit?

The regular season will mean something for everyone
Nothing irritates me more than the notion that a playoff system would diminish the regular season. By November, there are only a couple games each week that impact the national champion. Look at the ratings from last Saturday – the Pac-12 title game barely registered a blip because it mean “nothing” to 99% of the sporting public, merely a spot in the Rose Bowl.

Well what happens when the winner of that game is guaranteed a playoff spot? What about the Conference USA title game? Or the Sun Belt? So many more games will mean something.

This year, Clemson/South Carolina was a game that truly meant nothing – the loser made the BCS, the winner did not. In this system, the game would be for a Wild Card berth and would mean everything.

Most annoying is the fact that many believe college teams would start resting players like they do in the NFL. I’m sorry, does Tom Brady sit before the Patriots clinch home-field advantage? Of course not. Yes, starters rest in Week 17 but that’s usually when a team cannot change their seeding.

No team could rest at any point because they would be giving up home-field and a top seed if they did. If anything, this increases the importance of the regular season because every game will be analyzed and overanalyzed. Which leads me to…

Better games, better schedules, better crowds
What is killing college football’s attendance? Poor games and “meaningless” games. By spreading out a playoff, so many more games have meaning on a weekly basis. November would be one gigantic playoff push for, what, 40 teams? Who wouldn’t go crazy for that?

More importantly, resumes will be dissected like they are in college basketball. Do you see all the awesome nonconference games played in that sport? There are a lot. This is a good thing! We need more teams playing better games. We need road wins to matter so Alabama will play road games in September against non-SEC teams.

college football super bowl
The month of December is there for the taking
There will always be Saturdays in December longing for football. In some years, this would conflict with Army/Navy & the Heisman – like this year because Thanksgiving fell extremely late. This is the exception rather than the rule – there would be some years with a week between Championship Saturday and the playoffs, some years there wouldn’t. This is not a deal breaker.

As an example, schedule in 2012 would have been Round of 16 on Dec. 15, Quarterfinals on Dec. 22, Semifinals on Jan. 1, Title Game on Jan. 14.

This year, we would have the Round of 16 on Dec. 14, Quarterfinals on Dec. 21, Semifinals on Jan. 1 and the Title Game on Jan. 13.

Crowning a true national champion
College football has never crowned a true national champion – despite what everyone says about the sanctity of the regular season and that bullshit. Florida State will play one good team (Auburn) that doesn’t play in its conference. Same for Auburn – its best nonconference foe was Washington State, which went 6-6.

We know nothing about our top teams because college football has too many teams playing too few games to crown a true national champion with a 2-team playoff or a 4-team playoff. The best teams need to play each other and determine it on the field. The Auburn/Alabama finish was tremendous. So was the Patriots/Broncos Sunday night game a few weeks ago.

In this system, Alabama would be punished for the loss – lower seed, tougher matchup, a road game – but not eliminated. Let’s look at how this playoff could shake out:

First Round

#16 Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4) at #1 Auburn (12-1)
In college basketball, the number of losses is almost irrelevant for the top seeds and this is a crucial piece missing from college football where everything is predicated on the number of losses, without any other criteria. Auburn has 2 wins better than Florida State’s best win as Alabama and Missouri are both better than Clemson.

We also need to accept that in college football, there are significant differences between losses. For example, Stanford lost on the road to a 4-8 Utah team – that’s a bad loss. Auburn lost on the road to a 9-3 LSU team – that’s a good loss.

And by virtue of a #1 seed, Auburn gets a relative bye to the second round – the regular season means something because it brings a team closer to a championship.

#15 Rice (10-3) at #2 Florida State (13-0)
There is relatively no difference between #1 and #2, except that Florida State has a marginally more difficult first round opponent. And why wouldn’t college football want to emulate the best part of college basketball? Sure, Rice might be 50-point underdogs…but isn’t that the point of sports?

#14 Bowling Green (10-3) at #3 Michigan State (12-1)
You think that MAC title game was big this year? Imagine if the stakes were raised this high.

#13 Fresno State (11-1) at #4 Baylor (11-1)
The power of being a conference champion is show here as Baylor gets rewarded with the possibility of two home games and an easier first round opponent than if it was a Wild Card.

#12 UCF (11-1) at #5 Alabama (11-1)
See why the regular season still matters? At 12-0, Alabama would be playing a mediocre team in the first round and guaranteed two home games. Instead, it has a feisty (if overmatched) first round opponent and would be forced to travel on the road to Waco in an effort to make the semifinals (if Baylor isn’t upset).

Next year, Alabama would be placed into the semifinals regardless of the loss to Auburn. You tell me which system means more.

#11 Ohio State (12-1) at #6 Stanford (11-2)
Ohio State is the final wild card and, frankly, I’m not sure they would make it over Oklahoma State or LSU if we were really looking at resumes like we should. Ohio State is #7 in the BCS standings. That’s absurd. By instituting  a playoff, we will be able to analyze teams subjectively because we know that the bubble teams mean less than what we have now.

If this were next year, we’d be debating whether the Big Ten champ or the Pac-12 champ should get a chance to play for a title. In a 16-team playoff, we’d be debating between Ohio State and Oklahoma State – both good teams for sure, but if they’re left out they have only themselves to blame.

#10 Oklahoma (10-2) at #7 Missouri (11-2)
#9 Oregon (10-2)  at #8 South Carolina (10-2)
This further illustrates why being a Wild Card is such a huge disadvantage –to win a championship, you will have to win 4 tough games, with at most 1 coming at home. These teams won’t complain, much like wild cards in the NFL can still win a title, it just makes the road that much more difficult. And makes the viewing experience so much better.

Second Round
For fun, a quick glance at what a quarterfinal round could look like:

#9 Oregon at #1 Auburn
#10 Oklahoma at #2 Florida State
#6 Stanford at #3 Michigan State
#5 Alabama at #4 Baylor

Would you like to see those games? I think I would.

Now if we could only convince ESPN to fork over about $8 billion dollars to make this happen…

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