Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mission Accomplished

Forgive me for stealing the words of George W. Bush but an achievement this great deserves the words of an equally great man. After years and years of coming up short, William Clay Ford finally reached what had clearly become his obsession: 0-16. It had become all too obvious over the last decade that Ford eyed the doughnut-season as much as Robert Kraft and Jerry Jones eye the Super Bowl. It wasn’t easy. Ford attacked the mark from virtually every conceivable angle but never fared better than 2-14 before this season. Ford’s persistence paid off. His philosophy of hiring grossly unqualified people at every position of the organizational ladder was solid. He just needed the right mix of players to supplement the plan. Chemistry is such a delicate art in the NFL. Ford finally nailed it.

It’s too bad that everything I just wrote isn’t true. Going 0-16 sounds a whole lot better when it was done purposefully. Anyhow, instead of dwelling on whatever negatives come with a 0-16 season and a 40-104 decade, let’s talk about the fact that Ford and his brain trust (is that an oxymoron?) have accidentally stumbled upon one of the great draft positions in recent memory. The Lions will draft #1 overall in the first round. They will also draft #20 overall in the first round because the Cowboys a). wanted badly to have two Roy Williams on their team and b). detonated an IED in their locker room in the form of T.O. Having two selections among the first 20 picks is a GM’s dream. Unfortunately, it looks like it will be Martin Mayhew’s dream since Ford woke up long enough to name Mayhew the permanent GM. Who needs to talk to Bill Parcells, Bill Cowher, or Scott Pioli when you have Matt Millen’s understudy?

Nonetheless, Mayhew will have a bounty of draft picks to shape the future of the franchise. He did pull off the heist of the Cowboys by orchestrating a first and third round pick for Williams. Hopefully that is a sign of competency. The Dolphins were in a similar position last year. Wayne Huizenga called on Bill Parcells to rebuild the franchise and the Tuna answered. The Dolphins tied an NFL record with a 10-win improvement. Parcells targeted the offensive and defensive lines in the draft. He acquired Chad Pennington who despite being one of the most criticized QBs in the NFL also happens to be the most accurate QB in NFL history. Parcells then focused on the positions that are the most vital to success in the NFL: the lines. The Lions need to do the same. All positions are important but if you can’t block or rush-the-passer, then you are, well, the 2008 Detroit Lions. The Lions need to come away with an elite offensive lineman. The best in the draft will probably be Andre Smith from Alabama. Miami took Jake Long last year with the #1 overall pick and he solidified its line. Smith would team with Gosder Cherulis to give the Lions a talented, young line. Kevin Smith is too good to waste. Calvin Johnson is too good to waste. Andre Smith should be the key to opening up space for them.

The 2009 Draft will be fairly deep at most positions which is good because the Lions need help at most positions. Barring any trades, the Lions will have nine selections including five of the first 84 picks. That—along with a savvy free agent acquisition— is enough ammunition to turn the entire fortunes of a franchise around. Miami and Atlanta combined to go 5-27 in 2007. This year they went 22-10. They each picked up an important player turned-MVP-candidate via free agency (Pennington and Michael Turner) and they each made outstanding selections with their first round picks. Miami took Long first overall and Atlanta took Matt Ryan third overall. Both sets of acquisitions helped turn moribund offenses (27th and 29th respectively in 2007) into solid units in 2008. The Lions already have two key offensive cogs in K. Smith and C. Johnson. The only thing missing offensively is an elite tackle and a capable QB. Where have we heard that before? If the Lions follow the lead of the Dolphins and Falcons, they can pick up one of those in the draft (Andre Smith) and one in free agency (Matt Cassell or Kurt Warner). Or, they can draft Matt Stafford and watch him get sacked 64,000 times.

As bad as the Lions have been on and off the field, they have actually made three average-to-excellent first round picks in a row. Ernie Sims and Calvin Johnson are above average NFL players and Gosder Cherilus should end up being a decent right tackle. Maybe Mayhew was behind those picks or maybe the Lions just got lucky. Either way, there is reason for optimism. And by that I mean that there is a non-zero chance that Ford will move the Lions to another city. I can’t believe I actually got excited about the Lions for a second. What was I thinking? Can we somehow work out a trade with, say, Los Angeles? Maybe we can import some of its smog in exchange for the Lions. It took William Clay Ford less than 18 hours to name an in-house candidate as the GM of the worst franchise in the history of professional sports. If you think this thing is getting better anytime soon, then I have a Lions hat that I’d like to sell you.

P.S. How did the Red Sox get Brad Penny for $5 million?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

4th annual Bowl Extravaganza

Welcome back for the 4th edition of my bowl extravaganza. The bowl extravaganza is not exclusively anything. There are no rules. I don’t have a format. Sometimes I make picks. Sometimes I’m incredibly boring. Sometimes I fall asleep. I may talk about the game or I might talk about something completely different. The only guarantee is that it’s long. You might assume that I enjoy the bowl season since I spend so much of my free time writing close to 9,000 words on bowl games. And, you’d be wrong. The bowl season has become a cruel comedy. Rematches have become more common. Teams are playing the same opponent too many times over a few years. Too many games are turning into functional home games. The good news is that 18 of the 34 bowl games have a spread of three points or less. The bad news is that, in my opinion, there has never been a more boring slate of bowl games. Yahoo! should create a fantasy bowl game where the winner is the person who watches the most total hours of bowl games. I wouldn’t stand a chance in that league. There are at least 15 games that would cause me to bang my head against the wall and profess my admiration of Gary Danielson if I had to watch more than 10 minutes. Hopefully the next 9,000 words do not cause you to do the same.

EagleBank Bowl

Wake Forest (7-5) vs. Navy (8-4)—Washington, D.C.

December 20, ESPN, 11 a.m.

What a way to kick off the bowl season. Who isn’t excited about watching Wake Forest and Navy square-off for the third time in the last 14 months? I’ve already made reservations on my couch for this baby. Who comes up with these ideas? I hate to say it, but this bowl epitomizes college football's shortcomings. With all due respect to Wake Forest and Navy—because they’ve had successful seasons and deserve to play in a postseason game—a rematch of a non-conference game from earlier in the year in a bowl named after a bank that nobody has ever heard of is not anyone's idea of compelling. Like apple pie and the Lions getting blown out at home on Thanksgiving, though, lame rematches have become a staple of American culture. Last year it was the much anticipated rematch of the Purdue-Central Michigan blowout that shockingly ended with Purdue winning again albeit in a squeaker. More people might have noticed and appreciated CMU’s near-victory the second time around if they weren’t so pissed that they had to watch CMU play Purdue again. Last year also brought us a BYU-UCLA rematch. Common Opponent Alert: Both teams played Duke. Navy lost by ten. Wake Forest won by three. Rematch Alert: Navy beat Wake Forest. Look for Wake Forest to exact revenge. It’s OK to lose to Navy once but losing to Navy twice in the same season is where the Demon Deacons draw the line. In all seriousness, Wake turned the ball over six times against Navy in its first meeting and only turned it over a total of 13 times in its remaining 11 games. That won't happen again; so Navy likely won't win again.

New Mexico Bowl

Colorado St. (6-6) vs. Fresno St. (7-5)--Albuquerque, NM

December 20, ESPN, 12:30 p.m.

Now this is more like it. Colorado St. and Fresno St. haven't faced each other since, well, 2006. Hmm. I don't think bowl organizers understand that bowl games are supposed to be entertaining. Maybe Colorado St. vs. Fresno St. was entertaining once upon a time. Sure, it was entertaining in 1999 and then again in 2001. It was entertaining in 2002 and maybe even in 2003. By 2006, though, this non-conference matchup officially became excruciating which, appropriately, has become the theme of the 2008 bowl season. Fresno should win this game but that's going to be it for the analysis. The more I write about this game, the more violent the thoughts in my head get. So, for the safety of everyone involved, I'm moving on...

Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl

BYU (10-2) vs. Arizona (7-5)--Las Vegas, Nevada

December 20, ESPN, 8 p.m.

Now we're cookin'. These offensive powerhouses haven't met since...2007. Thanks to the geniuses that run the Las Vegas Bowl, we are fortunate enough to see BYU play Arizona for the third time in the last 27 months. Thank you, Las Vegas Bowl organizers. If there's one thing lacking in my life, it’s the final stanza of the epic BYU-Arizona trilogy. This will be the fourth consecutive season that BYU has played a middle-of-the-road Pac-10 team in a bowl game. The trend has been that the Pac-10 team comes in highly unmotivated to play a mid-major while BYU comes in highly-motivated to prove it belongs among the Pac-10 elite. Except, Arizona is coming off its first winning season since 1998. The Wildcats will want to put a stamp on their season. I don't think motivation will be a factor. Defense might be, however. Common Opponent Alert: These teams combined to clobber UCLA, 89-10. That tells us more about Tennessee than it does about either of these teams. Double Common Opponent Alert: Arizona inexplicably lost to a terrible New Mexico team while BYU handled its business against the Lobos. Neither of these teams was particularly impressive on the road so it should be close and ugly. I'm torn here. BYU was far from impressive in many of its wins. The Cougars got cold-cocked in their only two legitimate tests against TCU and Utah. I may live to regret this but I'm feeling Arizona in this one.

magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl

South Florida (7-5) vs. Memphis (6-6)--St. Petersburg, FL

December, 20, 9 p.m.

The only way this game could be watchable is if Billy Mays were added to the announcing crew. If he can make the Awesome Auger sound as important as water and food, just think what he could do with the magicJack Bowl. Something has to be done to spice this game up because the bowl organizers have laid yet another egg. South Florida has been a I-A football team for nine years. This will be the fifth time that it has played Memphis. Do we really need the fifth installment right now? Can't it wait 50 years? South Florida would be a heavy favorite no matter where the game was played but the fact that it's in Florida makes it even worse. Memphis clawed its way to bowl eligibility by getting six wins against teams without winning records. Memphis feasted on such powerhouses as Nicholls St., SMU, and Tulane. Nicholls St. is a I-AA team and a bad one at that. SMU and Tulane combined to go 3-23. Last year, the Bulls reeled off six straight wins to start the season climbing to #2 in the polls before finishing 3-4 in their last seven. This year, USF started off 5-0 and ranked #10 before finishing 2-4 in their last six. Jim Leavitt is quickly earning a reputation as a weak-finisher. That didn't work out so well for Glen Mason and Dirk Koetter. Common Opponent Alert: Both of these teams played UCF. S. Florida won at UCF. Memphis lost at home to UCF. Double Common Opponent Alert: Both lost to a bad Louisville team. If beating Memphis makes a team feel good, then S. Florida will feel good when this is over.

R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Troy (8-4) vs. Southern Mississippi (6-6)--New Orleans, LA

December 21, ESPN, 8 p.m.

This is actually the first time these teams have ever met so I can skip the sarcastic intro and go right to the game. These teams are better and worse than their records, respectively. Troy played at Ohio St., at Oklahoma St., and at LSU. Troy led LSU in the 4th quarter and trailed Ohio St. 14-10 in the 4th quarter. This team has proven that it can play with the best. Southern Mississippi, on the other hand, started off the season 2-6 before finishing on a four-game win streak against suspect competition. Southern Miss did beat East Carolina so it is capable of beating a team like Troy. Common Opponent Alert: These teams combined to clobber Louisiana-Lafayette 99-24. Illinois fans just threw up in unison. Double Common Opponent Alert: Both also beat Arkansas St. Troy did it via blowout. This is the kind of game that gets the locals riled up. An Alabama school playing a Mississippi school in Louisiana will always go over well in the south. Like so many times before, the Alabama-school should roll over the Mississippi-school.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

TCU (10-2) vs. Boise St. (12-0)--San Diego, CA

December 23, ESPN, 8 p.m.

This should be a good game. TCU and Boise St. have met once before. They played a classic five years ago in the Fort Worth Bowl. Boise St. won 34-31 despite TCU's home-field advantage. Coming into their 2003 matchup, these teams had a combined record of 23-2. TCU was a defensive stalwart and Boise St. was an offensive juggernaut. This time around, they have a combined record of 22-2. TCU is still a defensive stalwart. Boise St. is still an offensive juggernaut. However, TCU has gotten better offensively while Boise State has improved defensively. These teams are slowly morphing into mirror images of each other. BSU was tested only once this season and it came away with an impressive victory at Oregon. No other opponent came closer than seven points. TCU was tested three times including a blowout loss to Oklahoma, a blowout win over BYU, and a razor-thin loss at Utah. Nothing would surprise me, here, but I'm going with TCU and the under.

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl

Notre Dame (6-6) vs. Hawaii (7-6)--Honolulu, Hawaii

December 24, ESPN, 8 p.m.

Before the final weekend of the regular season, various bowl projections had Notre Dame playing Rice. Sadly, I don't think The Clausenettes could've beaten Rice or Hawaii. I would be surprised if Notre Dame went to Hawaii and came away with a win. I'm not alone in that sentiment because Vegas has actually made Hawaii the favorite in this game. If you've seen Hawaii play this year, then you have a pretty good idea how bad Notre Dame is. The Rainbow Warriors lost by 26 to Utah St. However, Notre Dame's AD deserves serious kudos. In fact, Jack Swarbrick should be getting thank you cards from every college football fan-base in the Midwest. Buckeyes, Sparties, Wolverines, Boilermakers, and Nittany Lions owe a serious debt of gratitude to Mr. Swarbrick for having the courage to bring Charlie Weis back for another season. The worst thing that could've possibly happened for the rest of us would've been for Notre Dame to hire Brian Kelly. That would be like Iran possessing a nuclear weapon. It's not acceptable. The Midwest football powers should be doing everything it can to keep Notre Dame from acquiring Kelly. If that means that Michigan, Ohio St., and Michigan St. pool together to help Cincinnati offer a 10-year, $100 million contract, then so be it. Kelly must not be allowed to get into the hands of Ira..., I mean, Notre Dame.

Motor City Bowl

Florida Atlantic (6-6) vs. Central Michigan (8-4)---Detroit, MI

December 26, ESPN, 7:30 p.m.

So this is what Michigan missed out on by failing to get to 6-6? Tragic, isn't it? Florida Atlantic deserves some credit. The Owls bounced back from a 1-5 start to become bowl eligible but did it by beating up on some of the worst teams in college football. You might remember Howard Schnellenberger calling Texas's defense soft. That backfired to the tune of a 52-10 beatdown. The Owls followed up that beauty by scoring a combined three points against Michigan St. and Minnesota--two middle of the road Big Ten defenses. As for CMU, the folks in Mount Pleasant are probably pretty happy about being a heavy favorite in a bowl game but they'll also probably tell you that CMU was a bit of a disappointment this year. CMU let a victory over Ball St.--and a trip to the MAC Championship Game--slip away. The Chips also lost to a bad Eastern Michigan team for the second year in a row. I think Central will take out its frustrations on Florida Atlantic and win big. Oh by the way, next year is poised to be one of the best QB classes in NFL history. Most of the talk has been centered on Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, and Mark Sanchez. Don't sleep on Dan LeFevour. The Fever has a chance to be as unexpectedly good in the NFL as Ben Roethlisberger was. He should get a first-round look-see next year.

Champs Sports Bowl

Florida St. (8-4) vs. Wisconsin (7-5)--Orlando, FL

December 27, ESPN, 4:30 p.m.

This is what the bowl season should be about. Florida St. and Wisconsin have never played. They are both among the top 15 in winning percentage over the last 10 years. Even if neither team is exciting to watch--and they most certainly aren't--the fact that this is the first time these teams have met is enough to stir up some interest. BYU-Arizona and Wake Forest-Navy be damned. Florida St. is famous for its unprecedented streak of losing no more than two games for 14 consecutive seasons (1987-2000). The year that streak ended, Florida St. started a new streak that continues to today. The Noles haven't lost fewer than three games for eight consecutive seasons. The magic has left Tallahassee. Wisconsin, on the other hand, has seen its honeymoon with Brett Bielema end in a hurry. Wisconsin was ranked in the top 10 early in the season but saw that fade fast. Bielema went 17-1 through his first 18 games at Wisconsin but is only 11-9 since including a one-point overtime win at home against I-AA Cal Poly. That fresh coach smell can wear off mighty quickly. Kirk Ferentz can't leave Iowa soon enough for Bielema. As for the game, it takes place in Florida so I'll let you fill in the rest. Sadly, this game represents the Big Ten's second best chance at a victory.

Emerald Bowl

Miami (FL) (7-5) vs. California (8-4)--San Francisco, CA

December 27, ESPN, 8:30 p.m.

One of the worst aspects of the bowl system--and there are a lot of them--is that bowls are played in "good weather" climates. I would love to see how the Pac-10 would've fared in the Rose Bowl all these years if it had to travel to the Midwest in January under the guise of a neutral field contest. Football is played in all climates. There's no reason why bowl games should be specific to warm weather destinations. Obviously, it is the way it is because bowls need to make money and people don't travel as well to cold destinations in the winter. Therein lays the crux of college football's problems. Instead of a system designed in the best interest of college football, the system is designed in the best interest of fat wallets. That's why there isn't a playoff and that's why we have to watch "home" games during the bowl season. This game is about as intriguing as a game between two boring teams can be. They didn't play any common opponents but California got smoked on the road against an average ACC team (Maryland). Miami is an average ACC team. The difference this time is that Miami has to travel to California. On a neutral field, this game might be close. Instead, Cal should win big.

Meineke Car Care Bowl

North Carolina (8-4) vs. West Virginia (8-4)---Charlotte, NC

December 27, ESPN, 1 p.m.

This should end up being one of the better games of the bowl season. Interestingly, North Carolina and West Virginia appear to be two programs headed in opposite directions. As long as Butch Davis sticks around, North Carolina is looking at a return to its mid-90s form under Mack Brown. Two years from now, the ACC is going to be ruled by North Carolina and Georgia Tech. Those programs will fill in the massive voids left by the marginalization of Miami and Florida St. West Virginia, on the other hand, is living on borrowed time. Bill Stewart managed to salvage one winning season--and a fat contract--off of Rich Rodriguez's residuals. It'll take a miracle for him to salvage another one. Pat White ain't walking through that door next season. Common Opponent Alert: Both teams played and destroyed Connecticut by 26 and 25 points, respectively. Although, West Virginia gets bonus points for doing it on the road. Double Common Opponent Alert: Both teams played and beat Rutgers. North Carolina held Georgia Tech to seven points earlier in the season. Georgia Tech runs a version of the run-based spread. West Virginia also runs the run-based spread. West Virginia is going to have a difficult time scoring. North Carolina should have no such problems.

PapaJohn’s.com Bowl

Rutgers (7-5) vs. N.C. State (6-6)--Birmingham, AL

December 29, ESPN2, 3 p.m.

The winner of this game is going to feel really good about its season. Rutgers and N.C. State started off the season a combined 3-11. They followed that by finishing a combined 10-0 including six wins over bowl teams. Doubly Confusing Common Opponent Alert: Both teams played North Carolina and South Florida. What happened in those games is a case for the X-Files. N.C. State hammered North Carolina on the road. Rutgers got hammered by North Carolina at home. Rutgers hammered S. Florida on the road. N.C. State got hammered by S. Florida at home. Those outcomes aren't even remotely logical. I have no idea what's going to happen in this game. Vegas thinks it knows as it has Rutgers a surprising seven-point favorite. If I were picking ATS, I would surely go with N.C. State. Otherwise, I'll go with Rutgers and zero confidence points.

Independence Bowl

Louisiana Tech (7-5) vs. Northern Illinois (6-6)--Shreveport, LA

December 28, ESPN, 8 p.m.

Once upon a time, these teams were both in the Big West (apparently, Illinois used to be big and in the west). Northern Illinois dominated a six-game stretch against La. Tech during that time by winning five of the six meetings by an average of 24 points per game. There's a chance that La. Tech has been simmering and seething for the last 15 years waiting to exact revenge. There's also a chance that Charles Barkley will change his mind on Gene Chizik. This is how bad the bowl system has gotten: Northern Illinois finished fourth in the MAC's West Division and it's still a favorite to win the game. Here's why: Louisiana Tech scored a combined seven points against Kansas and Army--two of the worst defenses in college football. Northern Illinois, for its part, scored zero points against Navy's atrocious defense. However, Northern Illinois did lose to three bowl teams and Tennessee by four points or less. A team like Northern Illinois should be a heavy favorite over a team like La. Tech. When it's not--the line is only 1.5--it makes me wonder if the game is a functional home again. And by golly, it is! Louisiana Tech gets this game in Louisiana. The bowl system is so fair and rewarding, isn't it? Something that is fair and rewarding, however, is this blog. I'm hiding this Easter Egg in absolutely the most excruciatingly boring section of the bowl extravaganza. I wanted to find out if anyone actually makes it this far into the extravaganza. So, I'm going to reward the first person who did. The first person who emails me the first seven words of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song gets a free Motown Sports Revival shirt. I feel bad for the second dude (or dudette) who makes it this far because it's totally not worth it without the free shirt. =)

Alamo Bowl

Northwestern (9-3) vs. Missouri (9-4)--San Antonio, TX

December 29, ESPN, 8 p.m.

This game has the 2000 Alamo Bowl written all over it. Northwestern got paired up with a Nebraska team that only lost to the eventual National Champion (Oklahoma) and an 11-3 Kansas St.-team. Not surprisingly, Zak Kustok and the crew got blown out by seven touchdowns. This one probably won't be as bad but the end result will be the same: Northwestern opponent by a gazillion. Common Opponent Alert: The common opponent comparison actually puts Northwestern in a good light. Both teams played and beat Illinois. Missouri won by 10. Northwestern won by 17. Touché, Wildcats! Still, I think the line on this game is too small and a Missouri-play here represents about the best possible way someone could make money in an economy as troubled as ours. Disclaimer: I do not advocate gambling unless my advice is correct.

Texas Bowl

Western Michigan (9-3) vs. Rice (9-3)--Houston, TX

December 30, NFL Network, 8 p.m.

This game would have been a great match-up except for that pesky "home game" glitch in the bowl system. These teams are very similar in ability. Vegas generally awards a three point swing towards the home team. The spread for this game is three points. So, clearly these teams are equals. Great season, Western Michigan Broncos! You get to go lose your bowl game because you got invited to the Rice Texas Bowl to play against Rice. Not that it matters because nobody ever watches college football on the NFL Network but this game should be an offensive blowout. These teams combined to averaged 71 points per game. They also give up roughly 860 yards per game between them. A win over Rice is rarely impressive but it would certainly have to be classified as such if WMU went down to Texas and pulled off the win.

Pacific Life Holiday Bowl

Oklahoma St. (9-3) vs. Oregon (9-3)--San Diego, CA

December 30, ESPN, 8 p.m.

This is one of the gems of the bowl season. These teams are averaging close to 1,000 total yards combined per game. Oregon is one of the hottest teams in the country. QB issues derailed the Ducks early but now that Jeremiah Masoli has things rolling, the Ducks are threatening to break the scoreboard. They've gone 35, 55, and 65 in their last three games, respectively, including a drubbing of Oregon St. Oregon's defense isn't very good but it doesn't have to be. Sixty points usually gets the job done. Oklahoma St. saw a 7-0 start end with a 2-3 finish. That had more to do with the schedule than anything else. When OSU was forced to run the Oklahoma-Texas-Texas Tech gauntlet, the result was a community drubbing by a combined 60 points. OSU's resume does not stand up well under scrutiny. The Cowboys beat six teams with losing records with Missouri being the only victory of note. I'm convinced that OSU has a good offense. I'm just not convinced it can play with the big boys. Oregon has evolved into a big boy. Oregon wins via bullying.

Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl

Maryland (7-5) vs. Nevada (7-5)--Boise, Idaho

December 30, ESPN, 4:30 p.m.

Maryland needs to be diagnosed with--and seek treatment for--Manic-Depressive disorder. The Terps lost by 10 at Middle Tennessee. They followed that up by getting violated at Virginia, 31-0. In between those beauties, Maryland hammered California and won at Clemson. Maryland continued the "episodes" by crushing Wake Forest and beating North Carolina only to get tattooed by a Rhode's Scholar at home. That's just embarrassing. Seriously, though, Maryland hosted Florida St. in one of the biggest games in the history of Maryland football. It was favored and a win could've meant a trip to the ACC Championship game. True to form, the Terps got donkey-punched by Florida St, 37-3. Nevada's game-plan is simple: Snap the ball to Colin Kaepernick and let him try to do something. Kaepernick had 19 passing touchdowns to only five interceptions. Even more impressive was his 1,115 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns. Those numbers are Tebow-esque. I'm semi-torn. Neither of these teams play well on the road. I'm tempted to take Boise St. but they aren't even playing in this game. Nevada is a one-point favorite which sounds about right to me.

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl

Air Force (8-4) vs. Houston (7-5)--Fort Worth, TX

December 31, ESPN, 12 p.m.

YES! I was starting to get sad that we were only going to get one rematch this year. My spirits haven't been lifted this high since SpongeBob found the missing half of the Atlantean Amulet. This game features the double dose of a rematch and a "home" game. However, there is a bonus dose. Not only is this game a rematch and a virtual road game for Air Force, but the Houston-Air Force game from earlier in the season also took place in Texas. They call that "bells and whistles" where I'm from. Anyhow, I'm still trying to figure out the Houston-Tulsa game. Tulsa entered the game as the prohibitive favorite. Sixty minutes later, Houston had 70 and Tulsa only had 30. Houston QB Case Keenum threw for six touchdowns and ran for another. College football is weird like that. Houston crushed Tulsa. Tulsa crushed Rice. Rice crushed Houston. That sort of result could only happen in a world as illogical as college football. Rematch Alert: Air Force nudged by Houston in Texas earlier in the season. It's hard enough to win one game on the road. Winning two games on the road against the same team is too much to ask. To its credit, Air Force played one of the most difficult mid-major schedules in the country including games against BYU, TCU, Utah, Navy, and Houston. Vegas has Houston as a three point favorite and I concur.

Sun Bowl

Pittsburgh (9-3) vs. Oregon St. (8-4)--El Paso, TX

December 31, CBS, 2 p.m.

This is a marquee matchup if for only to watch two subpar QBs hand off to two amazing running backs with two sweet nicknames. Quizz and Shady are going to light up El Paso like it's Plaxico's sweatpants. These teams had fairly similar seasons. Both started off with clunkers against Stanford and Bowling Green, respectively. Both bounced back to finish second in their conferences. A win here by Pittsburgh would be a boon for the Big East. In fact, the Big East could actually come away with the Bowl Challenge Cup to the chagrin of schedule-hawks around the country. Oregon St. is a three-point favorite but it's unlikely to be that close. Pittsburgh is a horribly coached team. Anyone who watched the Pitt-Navy game last year has that notion permanently burned into their cerebral cortex.

Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl

Boston College (9-4) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6)---Nashville, TN

December 31, ESPN, 3:30 p.m.

This season was a success for Vandy if only for the fact the program hadn't won four conference games since 1982. Nonetheless, this is a non-compelling mismatch. My guess would be that if Vanderbilt had to play its season over again, 6-6 would be nowhere in site. Vandy started the season 5-0 with wins over S. Carolina, Mississippi, and Auburn. It was all downhill after that. Vandy failed to score more than 14 points in seven of its last eight games. That's just brutal. On average, the Fighting Lionel Ritchies were outgained by roughly sixty yards per game. BC is a 3.5 point favorite and it would've been double that if this weren't taking place in Nashville, TN--the home of the Vanderbilt Commodores. I don't have a common opponent alert for this one but Vandy did play and lose to Duke at home. Boston College would've destroyed Duke in any venue. The SEC faces a daunting bowl schedule and won't likely get any help from Vandy in this one.

Chick-fil-A Bowl

Georgia Tech (9-3) vs. LSU (7-5)--Atlanta, GA

December 31, ESPN, 7:30 p.m.

From my view, this is the gem of the pre-January 1 bowl season. If you haven't seen Georgia Tech play under Paul Johnson, you're doing yourself a disservice. When healthy, the Tech offense put up astronomical numbers including close to 900 rushing yards in its last two games against Miami and Georgia. Many college football fans scoffed at the notion that Paul Johnson's triple option could work in a major conference not the least of which was a significant portion of the Georgia Tech fan-base. Georgia Tech's first win over Georgia in eight years suggests otherwise. Georgia Tech leading the nation in plays of 20+ and 30+ yards also suggests otherwise. Johnson is the ACC's worst enemy. The rest of the conference cannot be happy that he's there. The triple option machine has been working on all cylinders over the last half of the season as Tech has run all over traditionally fast and athletic defenses in Georgia, Miami, and Florida St. LSU might present the stiffest defensive challenge yet but Tech's defense is better than LSU's offense. Ga. Tech boasts a strong defensive line led by Michael Johnson who is a sure-fire top ten pick in April's NFL Draft. Common Opponent Alert: Georgia Tech won at Georgia. LSU got stoned by Georgia at home. The atmosphere will be intense as two southern teams battle it out in the Georgia Dome. A healthy Josh Nesbitt should mean an unhappy Les Miles. P.S. If you haven't prepared yourself for Georgia Tech becoming an elite program, you might want to do so now.

Insight Bowl

Minnesota (7-5) vs. Kansas (7-5)--Tempe, AZ

December 31, NFL Network, 5:30 pm

It's amazing how big the gap between "slightly above average" and "average" can be in college football. Kansas--the slightly above average team--is going to lay 500 yards on Minnesota's sorry defense. Minnesota's defense is sadder than Manny Ramirez after being offered $22.5 million per year by the Dodgers. That offer was so egregious that it might force poor Manny into retirement. Kansas's defense is even worse! The major difference between these teams is that Kansas can score 35 points on anyone and Minnesota can't score seven points against Michigan. I would be shocked if Kansas doesn't easily cover the ten-point spread here. More important than the game is the news that Minnesota-alum Greg White has decided to pay tribute to one of the great movies in American cinematic history. White legally changed his name to Stylez G. White to pay homage to Rupert “Stiles” Stilinksi from, none other than, Teen Wolf. I don’t even care that he spelled the name wrong. That's just badass. Coincidentally, I was watching Teen Wolf the day I found out about this. Ah what the heck, a free Motown Sports Revival shirt to the first person who emails me what bowl team Stiles, Scott, Boof and the rest of the Teen Wolf gang would be rooting for if they weren’t fictitious characters in a movie.

Outback Bowl

Iowa (8-4) vs. S. Carolina (7-5)---Tampa, FL

January 1, ESPN, 11 a.m.

Is there an SEC team more nauseating to watch than S. Carolina? I can only stand to watch 5-10 minutes at a time without questioning my purpose in life. It's not just a one-year deal, either. This team has been excruciating to watch for years. Believe it or not, I actually liked watching SC more when Lou Holtz was the coach. I expected more out of the 1966 Heisman Trophy winner. I don't know if his system ran dry or if he just never got that big-time QB recruit. Whatever it is, he's had virtually no impact on the South Carolina football program. Nobody is more surprised by that than me. Iowa, on the other hand, is a whack-job disguised as a college football team. These guys are as uneven as Charlie Weis standing on one foot. Kirk Ferentz was the hot name in coaching circles just a few years ago. Heck, last year he nearly bagged the Michigan job. Ferentz led Iowa to 10+ wins in three consecutive seasons starting in 2002. He followed that up with three consecutive seasons of seven wins or fewer. This season looked like another six or seven win season until everything unexpectedly clicked. If it weren't for a three point loss at Illinois on November 1, Iowa would very likely be ranked in the top 15 right now. Like many of the bowl games this year, this game is evenly matched but borderline unwatchable. Iowa could go a long way in sparing the Big Ten total embarrassment by winning this game. I'm leaning towards the Hawkeyes. Otherwise, get ready for the headline, "Big 11 goes 0-7."

Konica Minolta Gator Bowl

Clemson (7-5) vs. Nebraska (8-4)--Jacksonville, FL

January 1, CBS, 1 p.m.

I damn near swallowed my dentures when I saw that Nebraska was playing a January 1st game. No, I don't really have dentures but if I did, I'm pretty sure I would've come close to swallowing them. This game should be renamed the Konica Minolta Pathetic Bowl with the loser actually being named the winner. Nebraska's five wins in the Big XII came against teams that were a combined 10-30 in the conference. It's hard for one conference to even have five teams combine for a 10-30 record. Clemson, on the other hand, is just a heaping pile of George Bush. If there was ever a school that needed Paul Johnson or Brian Kelly or Rich Rodriguez or some other dude that gets results, it would be Clemson. Clemson has been the same, slightly above average, football program since I was 12 years old. The only constant has been a mundane football coach. Clemson will continue being Clemson unless it makes a radical change in its hiring philosophy. If I was the Clemson AD, I'd be looking for a guy who makes something out of nothing. That's the only way that second-tier schools ever make the leap. Clemson should've beaten Mississippi St. to Dan Mullen but it's too late for that. Clemson should be talking to Gary Patterson and Mike Leach. Instead, they seem content on following West Virginia's lead by hiring the first guy who walks into the office the Monday after the coaching change. I would need to be paid more than $150 to watch this game.

Capital One Bowl

Michigan St. (9-3) vs. Georgia (9-3)--Orlando, FL

January 1, ABC, 1 p.m.

Normally, I make it a point to root for the Big Ten in its bowl games. This season, I'll be rooting for all of them but two. It is my plan to tune in to ABC on New Year's Day to see Georgia make like The Undertaker and tombstone Sparty. I have historically rooted for MSU in most non-Michigan contests. However, I'm putting a moratorium on that behavior until further notice. I will return to my even-keeled ways at some point. Right now, though, I cannot support the sort of idiotic fan behavior that followed MSU's closer-than-expected victory over a truly horrid Michigan team. Within hours of the game, shirts were made with a picture of the scoreboard. It would've been one thing if it was to poke fun at themselves for being so lame all of these years. But, it wasn't. Once upon a time, I actually liked Mark Dantonio as well. I thought he was a great hire. However, he has been every bit as moronic as some of the fans. First, he openly rooted for his team to not go to the Rose Bowl. If the coach of my team did that--and a National Championship Game invite was not an option--I would be calling for his head. Second, when asked if he was embarrassed by the merciless beating that his team was given at the hands of Penn St., Dantonio remarked that 3-9 would've been embarassing. Hmm. What's Michigan's record? Yep. When you're getting pancaked to death in what was essentially the Big Ten Championship Game, you shouldn't be thinking about Michigan. You should be thinking about getting that Penn St. tattoo off your forehead. Georgia will destroy Michigan St. I will enjoy it. That thud that you'll hear on New Year's Day will be the sound of Sparties in mass falling off the bandwagon. I'll let you guess the other Big Ten team I won't be rooting for.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl

East Carolina (9-4) vs. Kentucky (6-6)--Memphis, TN

January 2, ESPN, 5:00 p.m.

The rise through the ranks of the coaching profession is weird. After guiding East Carolina to victories over West Virginia and Virginia Tech, Skip Holtz became one of the "hot" names to fill big coaching voids. So naturally, he openly expressed interest in...the Syracuse job. What? It would be easy to dismiss this as a one-time deal but this stuff happens all the time. Brady Hoke just left Ball St. for...San Diego St. Two years ago, Brian Kelly used his massive success at Central Michigan to leverage a job with...Iowa St. The route to a big-time program should take no more than three jobs for a coach like Kelly. The path that Urban Meyer took should be the precedent for all young, talented coaches. He started at Bowling Green, moved to Utah, and finally ended up at Florida. Here is Meyer's blueprint: 1). Rebuild a struggling mid-major. 2). Take an average mid-major to the next level. 3). Destroy people at a powerouse. Brian Kelly--despite nearly blowing it by flirting with Iowa St.--is currently taking the exact path. The worst thing you can do is accomplish step #1 in the Meyer-blueprint and then agree to repeat step #1. Hoke made that mistake and, in doing so, made his progression in the coaching profession twice as difficult. Turner Gill should take note. As for the game, it's going to be close but borderline unwatchable which makes sense since that appears to be the theme for this bowl season. East Carolina's season has to be considered a success even though it fell off significantly after reaching #15 in the polls. The Pirates were the best team in a conference (C-USA) that produced six bowl teams. Kentucky, on the other hand, was decimated by injuries. The Wildcats seemed to be headed for their best season in 24 years until they lost their two best offensive players--WR Dicky Lyons and RB Derrick Locke--for the season in back-to-back October games. Even more devastating was the affect that the injuries had on Kentucky's potent return game. Locke led the SEC in kick return average (min. 10 returns) and Lyons was third in the SEC in punt return average (min. 20 returns). East Carolina carries the momentum in this game coming off of a big win over Tulsa in the C-USA Championship game. Kentucky comes in off of back-to-back disappointing losses to Vanderbilt and Tennessee. East Carolina should take this one.

AT&T Cotton Bowl

Texas Tech (11-1) vs. Mississippi (8-4)--Dallas, TX

January 2, FOX, 2 p.m.

This is one of the great matchups of the bowl season. Mississippi was third in the SEC in yards per game with 398.7. Not to be outdone, Texas Tech was second in the Big XII in yards per game with a whopping 536.2. As you might imagine, the Over/Under for this game is through the roof. Vegas has it at 70. If I had to bet, I would go with the under. Mississippi hasn't played in a game yet this year where the total hit 70 and that includes games against Florida and Alabama. Mississippi has a good defense. The Rebels are 14th nationally in points allowed per game. Texas Tech's high scoring offense struggled against its last SEC opponent--Alabama in the '06 Cotton Bowl--so it would not be surprising to see a similar result. Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree get a lot of attention and deservedly so. However, Jevon Snead is probably the most underappreciated player in the nation. I would be surprised if he is not a Heisman finalist once or twice before his career is over. He dissected SEC defenses with precision giving Florida it's only loss, hammering LSU in Baton Rouge, and nearly taking down Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Vegas has Texas Tech a 5.5-point favorite which is about right since this is a home-game for the Red Raiders. I would take Ole Miss straight-up if this were on a neutral field. The bowl system is great, isn't it?

International Bowl

Connecticut (7-5) vs. Buffalo (8-5)--Toronto, Canada

January 3, ESPN2, 12 p.m.

Do we really need to see these teams play again? How about mixin' things up a little bit? Buffalo moved to Division I-A in 1999. Connecticut moved to Division I-A in 2000. In only ten seasons since, this will be their 8th meeting. Ugh. Common Opponent Alert: Both teams played and beat Temple. In an indictment of the quality of this bowl, those two victories came by a combined five points. Double Common Opponent Alert: Both teams played and got destroyed by Wannstache; yet another indictment of the quality of this bowl. What this bowl does have going for it is that it's in Toronto. Anyone who has been to Toronto knows that it's the place to be. This should be a virtual home game for Buffalo considering its proximity to Toronto. Vegas has it four points in favor of Connecticut. I'm putting my faith in Donald Brown. On a side note: Buffalo's two major football teams are the Bills and the Bulls. Let's hope the city doesn't get another team because I don't think America could handle the Buffalo Balls.


Ball St. (12-1) vs. Tulsa (10-3)—Mobile, AL

Jan. 6, ESPN, 8 p.m.

Any questions as to Tulsa's status as a fraud were answered mid-season against Arkansas. Then they were answered again with a thesis against Houston. The Fighting Lettermans, on the other hand, proved themselves worthy by running through their regular-season schedule unbeaten with wins over Navy, Central Michigan, Western Michigan, and Northern Illinois. No team came within seven points of beating Ball St. until the MAC Championship Game. The rule of thumb for games involving Tulsa is that if the opponent puts up a fight, Tulsa's done-for. If the opponent doesn't, it's Tulsa by 40. Ball St. will put up a fight and win.

BCS Games

Rose Bowl

USC (11-1) vs. Penn St. (11-1)--Pasadena, CA

January, 1, ABC, 4:30 p.m.

I have become an honorary Oregon Ducks fan for the bowl season because of the generous gift they provided to college football fans of all affiliations. The Ducks spared everyone the horror of having to witness another Penn St.-Oregon St. snoozer. That's not to say that this one is going to be a great game. The Big Ten and USC mix like oil and water. In fact, history suggests that this one is going to get ugly. Since 2002, USC has played five Big Ten opponents. Those five opponents were a combined 51-8 against everyone else and 0-5 against USC. The Trojans won all five by a combined score of 182-69. None of the five scored more than 18 points. Conveniently for USC, all five games took place in Pasadena. As long as that trend continues, the beatdowns will continue. Aside from the game, I am shocked at how calm and understanding these two schools have been about getting shut out of the BCS Championship Game with 11-1 records. These guys are letting the BCS off way too easy. If you don't complain or rip the system, then people just assume you're fine with it. Common Opponent Alert: Both teams played Oregon St. USC lost at Oregon St. Penn St. beat Oregon St. in Happy Valley. USC had to travel to Corvallis. Penn St. got Oregon St. in Happy Valley. Anyone who has seen Oregon St. play knows that the Beavers play like the Incredible Hulk at home and David Banner on the road (or Bruce depending on your preference). Double Common Opponent Alert: Both teams played and beat Ohio St. USC did it by submission. Penn St. did it by decision. Once again, though, USC got the easier draw getting Ohio St. in Pasadena. Penn St. had to travel to Columbus. I expect Penn St. to keep it within 17 points but fail to cover against the 10-point spread.

Orange Bowl

Virginia Tech (9-4) vs. Cincinnati (11-2)—Miami, FL

January 1, FOX, 8:30 p.m.

Is this the worst BCS Bowl game of all-time? I think more people watched Lipstick Jungle than will watch this game. Everyone in the country should get a day off work if these teams score more than 30 combined points. I met a relative of a Cincinnati player over the weekend. Names will be withheld to protect the innocent. I asked if his/her son liked Brian Kelly. The response was in line with what I've read from other sources. He is a yeller. He also does some pretty distasteful things to his players while he's yelling. These are probably just a few of the reasons why Michigan didn't want to get involved. Kelly is a fantastic coach. His results cannot be questioned. For those that got all bent out of shape about Rich Rodriguez's potty-mouth, it certainly sounds like Kelly is RichRodx2. This one could go either way but I'm leaning towards Cincinnati for a variety of factors. Kelly gets the coaching edge over Beamerball. The Bearcats have won six in a row including games against S. Florida, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia. All three of those teams are similar to the caliber of Va. Tech. Cincy by three and me asleep by halftime is the most likely outcome.

Sugar Bowl

Utah (12-0) vs. Alabama (12-1)—New Orleans, LA

January 2, FOX, 8 p.m.

As far as I'm concerned, Rich Rodriguez ruined Utah's chances at a National Championship. Utah finished 12-0 with wins over five bowl teams including Michigan and Oregon St. In any other year, that would've been enough. Because Michigan sucked so badly this year, nobody cared. All kidding aside, the fact that nobody cares that Utah didn't make the Championship game is a joke. Likewise, Alabama has just as much right to the BCS Championship game as Florida. Where's the anger from the Tide? Where's the anger from anyone? Nick Saban, Pete Carroll, and Joe Paterno are blowing this for us. Mike Leach piped up a little bit but nobody's said a word since the Final BCS Standings came out. Complaining won't do anything for your team but maybe it'll help bring change down the road. Didn't these guys learn anything from Obama? Utah is going to find out what a real defensive line is like and the Utes aren't going to like it. Like most run-based spreads, Utah's offense thrives on softening up the middle of the line. Doing so inevitably opens up room for pretty much everything else. The Utes are going to try to open up the middle of the line against Alabama and they're going to find a 6'5, 365 lb "No Entry" sign. Utah is not a soft team like Hawaii was last year. I don't anticipate a beatdown quite like Georgia gave Colt Brennan. Still, Alabama should brutalize Utah by two touchdowns.

Fiesta Bowl

Ohio St. (10-2) vs. Texas (11-1)---Glendale, AZ

January 5, FOX, 8 p.m.

Three years ago, this game would've excited me. The third meeting in four years? Not so much. Texas has an outside chance--and by outside, I mean it's hovering around Andromeda--of winning a split of the National Championship. Texas finished only 10 points behind Oklahoma in the AP Poll. If the Longhorns destroy Ohio St, and Oklahoma wins an ugly game against Florida, then voters could bump Texas over Oklahoma. Some voters might make a switch on principal just to stick it to the BCS. Nothing makes a mockery of the BCS more than a split national championship. Others might decide to add more weight to Texas's head-to-head win. If Oklahoma loses, however, then this is all moot. As for the game, Ohio St. has lost its last two bowl games by 41. Clearly, Vegas thinks a repeat could be in order putting Texas as high as a 10-point favorite. Ohio St. is a much better team than the one we saw get worked against USC earlier in the season. Chris Wells is healthy. Terrelle Pryor is seasoned. I expect a close game. In fact, of all the games with a spread of a touchdown or more, this is the one that the underdog has the best chance of winning straight-up. What could be interesting, though, is the reaction of Ohio St. fans if the Buckeyes get blown out again. How many times can that happen before Tressel starts feeling some heat? I'll go with Texas in a squeaker.

BCS Title Game

Florida (12-1) vs. Oklahoma (12-1)---Miami, FL

January 8, FOX, 8 p.m.

I could be mistaken but I think this is the most statistically significant offensive matchup in college football history. These two teams average 1,127 yards and 99 points per game. My rooting interest in this game--as it always is--is for as much damage to the BCS as possible. Therefore, I am hoping Oklahoma wins 23-20 in a game plagued by turnovers. If Texas does its part, that could mean split national champions from two teams in the same conference! That would be awesome. Unfortunately, I think that's probably "pie in the sky" thinking. These two teams are just too explosive to be held down. This matchup features two great teams but it also features two coaches looking for a second national championship. Meyer and Stoops are currently two and three on the active winning percentage lists behind Pete Carroll. Those three are unquestionably the top three coaches in college football having produced six Heisman Trophy winners and soon to be five National Championships. What does all of this mean for the game? Flip a coin. If I have to choose, I’ll pick against the team that will be without DeMarco Murray.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Spin This

Exactly seven years ago, Rich Rodriguez sifted through the aftermath of his inaugural season at West Virginia. Nobody knew what the future held. Rodriguez tried to explain that things would get better and there were things to be encouraged about going into his second year. Still, his 3-8 record would define him for nine, long months. He went to work on his first full recruiting class. These were the guys his coaching career would live or die with. The West Virginia football program had fallen on hard times so the Mountaineer-brand didn’t go as far with recruits. Nonetheless, he had faith in his system and knew the type of athletes that complemented it. After months on the road seeking out every lead, he signed the 37th recruiting class in the country. That number was inflated by a massive tow of 33 recruits. On a per recruit basis, the class falls to 65th. The next season, Rodriguez would go 9-4 orchestrating the greatest one-year turnaround in Big East history. Those recruits would go 47-16 with five bowl appearances and a victory over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.

Fast-forward seven years. Following his inaugural season at Michigan, Rodriguez is sifting through the aftermath. He has tried to explain to anyone who would listen that things will get better and that there are things he is encouraged about going into next year. Still, his 3-9 record will define him for the next nine months. He is busy working on his first full recruiting class. His coaching career will live or die with those players. Sound familiar?

There are two reasons why people have railed against Rodriguez: either they’re too ignorant to know what’s coming or they simply like to hit a man when he’s down. Neither is acceptable. The former is unfortunate but the latter is reprehensible. Critics love to ignore the facts and hope that nobody remembers their reckless stupidity. Most of the time, it works. However, this time, I am going to hold these people responsible. I want all of the Rich Rodriguez critics to go down in infamy because two years from now, they’re going to be penning essays on Michigan’s rise to dominance like it was their idea in the first place. The easiest job in the world is for a pasty, old sportswriter with questionable social skills to sit back under the protection of the internet and ridicule someone going through a situation that would be difficult for anyone to handle. The Gregg Easterbrooks of the world are documented morons. Unfortunately, though, their stupidity influences people who don’t know any better. Next year or the year after or whenever Rodriguez starts beating Sparty by 35 points, nobody is going to remember how idiotic Gregg Easterbrook was. Nobody is going to remember that Michael Rosenberg lacked the patience of a two-year old. Nobody is going to remember Gary Danielson saying that Rodriguez is doomed to fail because the spread is a thing of the past in the same year that two spread teams—and two of the greatest offenses in the history of college football—are playing in the National Championship Game. I’ll be there to remind everyone that these phonies were the first to pile on when a man was down. In the meantime, I’ll quickly recap why Michigan’s pending dominance should be obvious to everyone with even a sliver of competence.

Critics love to argue that Michigan’s success is no guarantee because, “Rodriguez is at Michigan now, not West Virginia.” Exactly. West Virginia isn’t anything like Michigan. West Virginia doesn’t have the history, tradition, or resources. Most importantly, it doesn’t have the recruiting prowess. Tell me how Rodriguez is going to screw this up…

He currently has the 7th rated recruiting class in the country. He has 13 four-star recruits committed and that number will likely rise by at least two. Five-star defensive tackle William Campbell is expected to end up blue. Some folks might remember that Rodriguez hauled in 17 four-star recruits last season on his way to a top-ten recruiting class. What you might not know is that one of the more talented players of that group was a two-star offensive tackle from Ohio (Patrick Omameh). Rodriguez knows what to look for. His recruiting style is one that takes unfinished products and turns them into packaged beasts. He takes big safeties and turns them into linebackers. He takes big linebackers and turns them into defensive ends. He seeks out athletic linemen who have room to grow. It’s not just the four-star recruits—and there are a lot of them— that you have to worry about. They all have the potential to excel in Rodriguez’s system. This style represents a stark change from the way Michigan used to recruit. Gone are the days of wondering where all the talent went. People will now wonder where all the talent came from. Michigan has a purpose on the recruiting trail and that purpose is to turn Michigan into a juggernaut. When the weatherman points to the radar and shows you that a hurricane is coming, you don’t tell him he’s wrong. This is no different.

It should scare the amygdala out of ‘M’ opponents that Rodriguez is going into Florida and taking some of its best players. If you don't know what I'm talking about, "Google" Ricardo Miller and Marvin Robinson. Michigan currently has commitments from six Florida players and that number figures to rise next year. If all goes well, this class will finish in the top five nationally. ‘M’ currently has commitments from 10 of the Rivals250. That number could go as high as 12. ‘M’ has commitments from players in ten different states. No place is off-limits. That means Michigan is drawing from a pool much larger than any of its rivals. If a top five class signs up for a 3-8 program, what kind of class might sign up for a 10-2 program? If you really don’t think that Michigan is about to lay the smackdown on the college football world, then you haven’t been paying attention. If you really think that Rodriguez isn’t going to have more success with the #7 recruiting class in the country than he did with the #37 class, then you might want to check your alcohol intake. It’s easy to avoid reality when you can just sit back and look the other way. That’s what many of ‘M’s critics are doing right now. The problem with that is that one day, you’re going to look like a fool. Here is more reality…

2009 Recruiting Class (so far)


Michigan currently has a commitment from Tate Forcier. He is a four-star recruit and the 6th rated dual-threat QB in the country. Pat White came to West Virginia as a three-star wide receiver. White ended up as one of the great dual-threat QBs in college football history. Anyone ready to bet against Forcier? Oh yeah, Michigan is already among the favorites for two four-star QBs for the 2010 class (Devin Gardner and Christian Green).

Running Back

Next season, Michigan will have Brandon Minor, Carlos Brown, and Michael Shaw at running back making the incoming freshmen moot for the foreseeable future. However, it will be difficult to keep the burners in this class off the field. Vincent Smith and Teric Jones are in the Noel Devine-mold. They are the 33rd and 34th rated running backs in the country. Fitzgerald Toussaint destroyed the Ohio football landscape with 2,243 yards and 24 touchdowns. He is a four-star recruit and the #9 all-purpose back in the country.

Wide Receiver

Michigan has commitments from two four-star wide receivers. Jeremy Gallon is likely to end up at the slot position. He was one of the most electrifying players in the state of Florida. By most accounts, he’ll be a better version of Montavious Odoms. Cameron Gordon is the other four-star receiver. Gordon will likely end up at linebacker were his potential is much greater. Michigan also has a commitment from a three-star receiver from Texas. Dewayne Peace will start at WR but could see a position-switch to defensive back. By the way, ‘M’ already has commitments from two of the top receivers in the country for 2010.

Offensive Line

‘M’ just picked up a commitment from Taylor Lewan who is one of the more talented linemen in the country. He is already drawing comparisons to Jake Long in terms of build and athletic ability. Since Michigan redshirted six freshmen from last year’s class, Lewan will more than likely redshirt as well. The other commitment is Michael Schofield who is another four-star recruit. Lewan and Schofield are currently the 17th and 19th rated tackles in the country. ‘M’ is still in on a number of linemen including Quinton Washington, Chris Freeman, and Travis Bond.

Defensive Tackle

If ‘M’ gets a commitment from Will Campbell, then it will boast the most impressive defensive line class in the country. Campbell is a five-star defensive tackle who is rated as the 25th best player at any position in the country. DeQuinta Jones is a four-star tackle out of Louisiana and Pearlie Graves is a four-star tackle out of Oklahoma. They are the #5, 27, and 36 tackles in the ’09 class.

Defensive End

Not to be outdone are the ends. Michigan has commitments from two of the top defensive end prospects in the country. Anthony LaLota is the #6 strongside defensive end and Craig Roh is the #8 weakside defensive end.


Rodriguez clearly has an affinity for aggressive and fast linebackers. Isaiah Bell and Mike Jones are defensive back recruits who are expected to end up at LB. Both are three-star recruits as DBs but could have greater potential as backers. Brandin Hawthorne is a three-star project that could possibly grow into the defensive end position at some point. He is a play-maker at 185. Two years from now and a little time with Mike Barwis, he could be a big-time pass-rusher. The days of Michigan’s linebackers laboring all over the field are over. Rodriguez is loading up the roster with speed and the difference will be noticeable when these guys hit the field.


The best player in Michigan’s class thus far is Justin Turner. He is the #3 player out of Ohio. He may end up at safety but considering he is the only CB in the class, it would not surprise me to see him stick. Michigan is in on a number of CB targets as it closes in on a full class.


It’s not a given that both Jones and Bell will end up at linebacker. One could stick. A player who will most assuredly stick is Vladimir Emilien. He comes ready-made. Ohio St. tried to steal him away but he chose to be blue. Thomas Gordon is Michigan’s fourth safety commitment. Gordon played QB in high school but is expected to make the transition to safety.


Rodriguez’s West Virginia teams were very good at special teams. The return game was good and the kicking was solid as well. That was not on display in 2008 for Michigan. If there has been a worse special teams unit, I have not seen it. Fortunately, ‘M’ has a commitment from one of the top ten kickers in the country. Gallon, Jones, and Smith will also immediately improve the return game.

There are only two things that matter in college football: recruiting and coaching. They are equally important. You can build a decent program with either. Pittsburgh wins primarily with recruiting success. Texas Tech wins primarily with coaching success. Florida, Oklahoma, and USC own college football by excelling in both. Rich Rodriguez is universally considered one of the best coaches in college football. That would seem to satisfy the coaching portion of the equation. Michigan is killing it in recruiting. That would seem to satisfy the recruiting portion of the equation. How some people don’t arrive to “superior recruiting + superior coaching= superiority” is a mystery. The writing is on the wall. It would take a massive level of stupidity to miss all of the clues. My message cannot be clearer. Michigan is about to devastate the college football landscape. Critics can choose to have their head in the sand but when the day of reckoning comes, don’t say I didn’t warn you because I’ll remind you that I did.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Slaughterhouse III

Big Ten football takes a lot of grief. Some of it is deserved. The conference hasn’t had a winning record in its bowl games since 2002. The Big Ten is 14-22 since 2003 and could find itself 15-28 in just a few weeks. The average loss over that time has been by 10 points. Some high profile games have gone far worse. There is no question that the Big Ten was down this year. The conference was so poor that Northwestern and Minnesota finished fourth and fifth, respectively. That’s on the Big Ten.

What isn’t on the Big Ten is the slanted bowl schedule it faces every year. No conference has produced more BCS teams since its bastard infancy than the Big Ten. In eight of the eleven years since the BCS was formed, the Big Ten has had multiple teams. When the Big Ten sends two teams to the BCS, the rest of the teams in the conference have to move up a slot creating a format slanted heavily against the Big Ten. Since 2003, the Big Ten has had a losing record in every year but one (3-3 in ’04). Not coincidentally, that year was the only year since 2003 that the Big Ten did not have two BCS teams.

Clearly, Michigan having a down-year hurts big-time, too. The combined effect of Michigan being down and a BCS at-large selection has the equivalent effect of pushing all of the Big Ten teams up two slots. That’s why we’ve got Northwestern vs. Missouri, Michigan St. vs. Georgia, and Minnesota vs. Kansas. If Ohio St. didn’t get selected as a BCS at-large team, and Michigan was its normal, formidable self as it should be sooner rather than later, then those matchups would be Ohio St. vs. Georgia, Michigan vs. Missouri, and Michigan St. vs. Kansas.

The relative strength of the Big Ten is cyclical. The conference is heading in the right direction, however slowly that might be. Evidence supporting that claim might come from the fact that every team outside of Indiana and Purdue thinks its ascending to the top of the conference. If Michigan achieves the elite status that so many—including myself—think they’re going to reach under Rich Rodriguez, then the conference could very well be the strongest it has ever been in just a few short years. Or, it could quickly regress to the Big Two, Little Eight plus Penn State.

Until then, we’re forced to watch a heaping pile of manure hit the fan over the next four weeks. The Big Ten is very likely headed for its worst bowl showing ever. The conference hasn’t won fewer than two games in any bowl season since 1992. Its worst showing—a 1-5 record in 1984—is in jeopardy of falling. At least those five losses in ‘84 came by an average of only four points (The Big Ten actually outscored its bowl opponents that year by 16 points thanks to the whoopin’ that Iowa laid on Texas). This year, 1-6 looks like a real possibility and the average loss could be three or four times what it was in ’84. Of the 34 bowl games this year, only five feature double-digit spreads. The Big Ten is on the wrong end of four of them. Here’s a look at the carnage that the Big Ten is facing:

Champs Sports Bowl

Wisconsin vs. Florida St.

FSU is a 5-point favorite. Making matters considerably worse is the fact that this game will be played in Florida. Sadly, this “road game” actually represents one of the two winnable games for the Big Ten. Wisconsin has fared very well lately in bowls as the underdog. I’m not sure if that’s going to be enough to offset FSU’s home-field advantage. If Wisconsin loses this game, then all hopes for a successful bowl season are vanished like a fart in the wind.

Alamo Bowl

Northwestern vs. Missouri

This game represents the biggest spread of the bowl season (-13.5) and it should. Missouri got its bell rung against Texas and Oklahoma. However, Missouri laid the hammer down on a number of Northwestern-caliber teams like Illinois, Nevada, Nebraska, and Colorado. Plus, history suggests that when it looks like Northwestern is going to get blown out, it gets blown out. It has lost its last five bowl games by an average of 19 points per game. This is going to get ugly.

Insight Bowl

Minnesota vs. Kansas

In spite of its record, Minnesota was a really, really bad team this year. Need evidence? The Gophers lost to Michigan at home. Still not convinced(?)—although I’m sure that convinced everyone—Minnesota closed out the season at home by losing 55-0 to Iowa. Iowa might be as good as Kansas. This is going to get ugly very quickly. Kansas is a 10-point favorite but I would be surprised if the Jayhawks weren’t up by at least 20 at the half.

Outback Bowl

Iowa vs. S. Carolina

This game represents the second of two games in which the Big Ten stands a realistic shot of winning. Iowa is actually favored by 3.5 if you can believe it. I would call this game a PK leaning slightly towards South Carolina. If the Big Ten loses this game, then the Big Ten’s chances of success will have vanished like a fart in a hurricane.

Capital One Bowl

Michigan St. vs. Georgia

One of the odds-makers in Vegas must be sleeping with a Michigan State grad. That’s the only way I can figure the spread being within ten points on this one. MSU comes in as a surprising 7.5 point underdog. If I was inclined to gamble, I would put a heck of a lot of money on Missouri, Kansas, and Georgia covering. Georgia is exactly the sort of team that will give Michigan State problems on both sides of the ball. This one will get ugly Marla Hooch-style.

Rose Bowl

Penn St. vs. USC

Penn St. is about to find out what Michigan knows all too well: nobody from the Big Ten should ever be excited about playing USC in the Rose Bowl. Penn St. has enough offensive firepower to keep this game relatively close. Arizona and Cal both held USC to 17 points. Penn St. boasts a better defense than both of those teams. However, staying relatively close and winning are two totally different things as far as this game is concerned. USC has lost one non-conference game over the past six years with victories over Auburn, Michigan (2), Ohio St., Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, Nebraska (3), Notre Dame (6), Arkansas (2) and Illinois just to name a few. Penn St. should put in an early request for its font-preference so its name can look pretty on that list of victims.

Fiesta Bowl

Ohio St. vs. Texas

Ohio St. has a better chance in this game than most people think. That is to say that Ohio St. actually has a chance. Texas will probably win but Ohio St.—with an experienced Terrelle Pryor and a healthy Chris Wells—is much better than what we saw at the beginning of the season against USC. I expect Texas to win but I also expect Texas to score fewer points against Ohio St. than it did in any game this season. Side note: Envisioning sophomore-through-senior Pryor scares the hell out of me but Ohio State loses quite a bit this year. Next season might not be as successful as Buckeye-fans have become accustomed to. Or, at least that’s what I keep telling myself so I can get to sleep at night.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Say What?

The first season I remember watching Michigan basketball was 1988-89. Obviously, that was a pretty good year to get acclimated to the program. When Rumeal Robinson sank those free throws, I had no idea that just five years earlier Michigan basketball had been in a bad way for a number of years. After a successful run in the mid-70s that saw two Big Ten Conference Titles and a trip to the national championship game, the program went cold. From 1978-1984, Michigan did not make the NCAA Tournament. After three consecutive losing seasons in the Big Ten, legendary coach Johnny Orr left Michigan for more money at Iowa State (think Frieder took note?).

Bill Frieder took over the program from Orr for the 1981-82 season. Two years later, with the help of Tim McCormick, Roy Tarpley and Antoine Joubert, Michigan basketball made significant strides. For the first time since 1978, Michigan finished above .500 in the Big Ten and won the NIT. McCormick graduated that year but Tarpley and Joubert were poised to springboard Michigan basketball back into the elite. That was the last time Michigan turned the corner. I wasn’t there then to witness the rise of the program. I merely stole the exuberance of a NCAA Championship in my first year as a fan. I’m proud to say that I’m present and accounted for this time around. Michigan basketball is turning the corner so fast that, by March, the corner could be done turned.

It feels good to witness a tangible paradigm shift. In the last year-and-a-half, Michigan basketball has gone from a cornucopia of turnovers and ill-advised shots to an NCAA Tournament contender with shocking victories over UCLA and Duke. Michigan beat UCLA with a swarming defensive effort. Michigan outlasted Duke with superior fundamentals. Those two sentences read like crazy talk. Nobody is better than UCLA defensively. Nobody is better than Duke fundamentally. It’s difficult enough to try to beat those teams playing your style. Beating them playing their style is just freaky.

John Beilein is a better coach than Bill Frieder. Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims are better than Tarpley and Joubert. The supporting cast is also better this time around. That means that Michigan should be skipping the “winning the NIT” part of the rebuilding process and going right to the NCAA Tournament. It also means that recruits are taking notice.

In 1984, Glen Rice, Rumeal Robinson, Terry Mills, and Loy Vaught were in High School. If it weren’t for Tarpley and Joubert, those guys might have gone somewhere else and Michigan wouldn’t have won the national championship in 1989. It remains to be seen what Harris and Sims will be able to accomplish at Michigan but do not forget that there are high school players all over the country who are seeing Michigan in a new light because of them. Five years from now, Michigan will be significantly better than it is now. That should scare a lot of folks in the Big Ten. Five years from now, my son is going to be nine—the same age that I was in 1989—and he just might swoop in and steal the same thing I stole 20 years ago.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Tebow by TKO

For the vast majority of the 2008 college football season, the race for the Heisman Trophy seemed to be a three-way battle between three statistically ridiculous quarterbacks in the Big XII. Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, and Graham Harrell have all been the frontrunner at some point this year. Each led his respective team to an 11-1 finish while totaling more than 40 touchdowns and 4,000 yards. All three are deserving of the award and there is a chance that one of the three will win it. However, there might be an even better chance that none will win it. For the first time in recent memory, the Heisman race appears to be a toss-up between three players from the same conference. That is a disastrous scenario for Bradford, McCoy, and Harrell. Heisman winners absolutely must carry their region—and carry it strong—to have any chance at winning the award. The Big XII’s big three are so statistically similar that it would be nearly impossible for any of the three to carry the Southwest Region with any sort of authority. Then there’s the possibility that there will be ballots within the Southwest Region that completely omit one or more in favor of Chase Daniel, Michael Crabtree, Dez Bryant, or Kendall Hunter. All four have absolutely gaudy statistics. Those players won’t likely receive votes in other regions but could see some “love” from voters more familiar with their performances in the Southwest Region. Each time one of those names shows up on a ballot, the chances of the Heisman winner coming from the Big XII decreases significantly.

On the other side of the spectrum is Tim Tebow. He was pretty much and afterthought mid-season after Florida’s loss to Mississippi and the realization that his numbers were way down from last year. However, Tebow has something exponentially more important than gaudy statistics. He has total autonomy as the king of the SEC and the South Region. Knowshon Moreno is the only other player in the SEC worthy of Heisman consideration but Georgia’s big-game failures make it unlikely that he’ll steal many votes from Tebow. Additionally, national voters are less likely to vote for three players from the same conference and more likely to spread their votes around. As long as Tebow consistently finds his way onto ballots across regions, he will keep the Big XII quarterbacks at bay.

A situation like this happened in 2001 when Eric Crouch won the Heisman with the fewest total points since 1962. Voters from the South Region split their votes between the two top candidates from their region, Rex Grossman and Ken Dorsey. Crouch only carried one region—his own—but he placed in the top three in every region. Grossman and Dorsey also took a huge hit in the Far West Region where Joey Harrington and David Carr took home a number of first-place votes. Crouch was the lone player to carry his region while showing up in the top three in all six regions. If Grossman had a down season, Dorsey would’ve won the Heisman and vice versa. Instead, neither won it.

The 2001-outcome is more the rule than the exception when equally strong candidates emerge from the same region. When a region boasts multiple threats to win the Heisman, it essentially boasts zero threats. Look no further than to 2004 for another example. Matt Leinart won because the Southwest Region could not decide between two Sooners, Jason White and Adrian Peterson. White and Peterson combined for 325 first-place votes. Leinart only tallied 267 first-place votes. It only took two players from the same region to cancel each other out in 2001 and 2004. This year, the Big XII has three players and a few more who could find their way onto ballots. Interestingly, Reggie Bush—Leinart’s teammate—finished sixth in 2004 but since he received very few first-place votes, Leinart was not affected.

Bradford, McCoy and Harrell are facing the same fate that Rex Grossman and Ken Dorsey faced in 2001, and Jason White and Adrian Peterson faced in 2004. If the voters from the Southwest Region come to a consensus like the voters in the Far West Region did in 2004 (Leinart over Bush), then a Big XII QB will win the Heisman this year. If they split their vote like the Southwest Region did in 2004, then Tebow will come away with it again.

Big XII Stalemate

PlayerPass TDINTPass YardsRatingComp. %Rush YardsRush TDTotal TDsTotal YardsBowl Teams
G. Harrell4174,74716371.5-586474,6896
C. McCoy3273,445179.277.657610424,0217
T. Tebow2522,299175.56550714392,8069

Tebow may very well be the best player in college football this season but that argument would have to be largely based on “strength of schedule” and “importance to his team” since his statistics do not stack up with the Big XII’s triumvirate. It is clear that Bradford, McCoy, and Harrell are statistically superior. Strange as it sounds, I don’t believe that matters. Tebow has no competition in his own region while the rest of his competition resides in the same region. That is a dream scenario for a Heisman candidate and if the Southwest Region voters don’t get wise to trends, then that’ll be the reason Tebow becomes only the second player in college football history to win two Heisman Trophies. Tebow by TKO.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Vote for Utah (Seriously.)

Three weeks ago I outlined the steps necessary for total BCS chaos. Let’s quickly see how that worked out for us:

1). Alabama and Texas Tech need to lose once

2). Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, USC, and Penn St. need to win out

3). Utah, Boise State, and Ball St. need to finish undefeated.

If Florida, Oklahoma, USC and Ball St. win this week—all are double-digit favorites—then everything will have worked out perfectly. Regardless of what happens on Saturday, though, 2008 has already been the biggest BCS failure of all-time.

I’m going to assume that Florida and Oklahoma win on Saturday. Voters will then have to decide who they want to see in the BCS Championship game because their vote will decide it. With a win over Alabama, Florida would presumably vault to number one. Voters will then opt to choose between Oklahoma and Texas. That’s enough controversy as it is. Unfortunately, an equally deserving team in the same conference is erroneously being thrown out of the discussion. Texas Tech has every bit the claim on a spot in the BCS Championship game as Oklahoma and Texas. Most college football fans scoff at Texas Tech’s resume but they have nearly an identical resume to Texas. Texas Tech beat Texas. Texas beat Oklahoma. Oklahoma beat Texas Tech. That leaves us with the following Big XII style condundrum: Texas Tech>Texas>Oklahoma>TexasTech>Texas>Oklahoma and so on. The Red Raiders are well behind Texas and Oklahoma in public perception for two reasons: 1). Texas Tech was the most recent to lose bringing into play the flawed “losing late is worse than losing early” theory. The second, and most damaging in my opinion, is that voters, fans and analysts have already eliminated Texas Tech because of their own prejudices. Texas Tech is not a traditional power. In fact, they’ve never been in a position like this before. Most fans still think Texas Tech is a gimmick.

Since Texas Tech seems to be the odd team out for no good reason, I want to take a minute to explain why it makes little sense to attempt to differentiate between the three Big XII teams. First, all three teams play in the same division in the same conference and have the exact same record. All three are 1-1 against each other. Breaking things down beyond that point is a little ridiculous. Only an idiotic system like the BCS would even attempt to use human judgment to differentiate teams with identical resumes. It becomes a very dangerous slope when arguments start getting into “who beat who?” and “by how much?” What happens if Oklahoma loses to Missouri on Saturday? Texas Tech would kill Texas in a head-to-head comparison. The Red Raiders would have the head-to-head victory and more impressive wins over quality teams. Texas Tech beat Oklahoma State by 36. Texas beat Oklahoma State by 4. Texas Tech beat Kansas by 42 points. Texas beat Kansas by 28 points. Since Texas Tech beats Texas in a head-to-head comparison, Texas needs Oklahoma to beat Missouri on Saturday to keep the three-way tie intact because, without it, Texas has no chance. Or, at least it shouldn’t. So, how can Texas Tech beat Texas in a head-to-head comparison but have no chance when Oklahoma is added to the mix? That doesn’t make sense.

Secondly, people want to eliminate Texas Tech because it beat Texas at home. Didn’t Oklahoma beat Texas Tech at home? In fact, Oklahoma was the only one of the three that didn’t have to play on the road against the other two. The Sooners got Texas Tech at home and lost a neutral field game against Texas. If Texas Tech gets punished for beating Texas at home, then Oklahoma should get punished for not having to play a road game against the other two. I bet Texas Tech and Texas would’ve enjoyed that luxury.

All sorts of people are throwing out all sorts of rationalizations as to why one of the big three from the Big XII deserves it over the other two. None of them are compelling. The worst argument, by far, has been the “look test.” The “look test” has usurped “head-to-head” and “resume comparison” as the determining factor because it conveniently nudges Texas Tech out of the equation. Of course Oklahoma and Texas are going to beat Texas Tech in the “look test.” They’re loaded with four and five star talent. People expect teams with those players to be better. The “look test” simply reinforces prejudices. If the same situation occurred in the SEC and the three resumes involved were Florida, Alabama, and LSU, none of the three would be tossed aside like Texas Tech. I’m not suggesting that Texas Tech has a better resume than Texas and Oklahoma. These teams are inseparable. I’m just pointing out that the BCS has caused college football fans and analysts to invent differences. The idea that this sort of mess won’t be decided on the field in a playoff is maddening.

The vast majority of college football fans want a playoff. An increasing lot of college football coaches want a playoff. The President of the United States wants a playoff. The only reason we don’t have a playoff is because the OICs (Officers in Charge) don’t know how to count. They foolishly believe that the BCS brings in more money than a playoff would. It’s time for fans and voters who are disenchanted with the current state of college football to start a revolution. Our sport has been grossly mistreated. On top of everything else we’re about to be handed the worst slate of bowl games on record. There’s a decent chance that we’ll get another split national champion. All the while, BCS officials are laughing at us. They’ve laughed at Obama’s plea for a playoff. They’ve laugh at our outrage. It’s time we laugh at them.

Three weeks ago when I outlined the best possible scenario for BCS chaos, 26 specific outcomes needed to occur. Even if each of the 26 events had a 95% probability, the odds of all 26 outcomes going our way were 26%. For most of the games, the odds were much worse than 95% including Oklahoma-Texas Tech, Oklahoma-Oklahoma St., Utah-BYU, and Ball St.-WMU. Obviously, we still have four games this weekend before we get to 26 out of 26. However, if those games go as expected, we’ll have witnessed something (26 for 26) that had no better than a 5% chance of happening. Fate has done its job to derail the BCS. Now, it’s time for us to do ours.

If you’re a voter in the Harris Poll or the USA Today Poll and you’re tired of the BCS, then vote Utah #1 in your final ballot. If you vote them #2, then it probably won’t be enough. Utah has strong enough computer numbers that it would likely finish among the top two in the final BCS Standings if voters put them #1. I realize that most people don’t think that Utah is good enough and I also realize that voting to send a message makes people uneasy. Just hear me out. Utah is an undefeated team in the top six of the BCS standings. It would be different if we were talking about Ball St. who is stuck in the teens. Utah is a legitimate team. They are ranked in the top five in all but one of the computers. Putting them into the National Championship game would not be a stretch or an injustice. In fact, I think it would be equally unjust for Utah to be left out of the National Championship game.

Also, no matter who you choose of the Big XII troika, there will be two deserving teams left out. Even if you don’t vote in Utah, you’re already contributing to a colossal injustice because all three Big XII teams deserve a chance to play for the National Championship. Theoretically, USC, Penn St., Alabama, and Boise State also deserve to play for the National Championship. Even if you don’t vote in Utah, seven teams are getting screwed. If you do vote in Utah, seven teams are still getting screwed. If you’re a playoff supporter, the best way for your voice to be heard is to vote for Utah. Nobody cares when Utah or Boise State gets screwed by the BCS. Everyone cares when Oklahoma or USC gets screwed. A vote for Utah would send the only undefeated team in the top six to the National Championship and it would be a major disaster for the future of the BCS. For the love of college football, if you want a playoff, please vote for Utah #1.

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