Saturday, August 11, 2007

NCAA Projections: ACC

Yesterday, we barely dipped our toes into the BCS water by projecting Notre Dame and its independent cousins Army and Navy. Today is the first of my projections for BCS conferences. We begin in the ACC.

The ACC has begun its expansion era with a thud. The conference originally expanded to 12 teams with the idea of matching Florida State and Miami in a championship game most years, if not every year. Instead, Virginia Tech won the league in 2004, an 8-4 Florida State team won the first championship game over favored VT in 2005, and Wake Forest beat Georgia Tech last year in a 9-6 snoozer at a half-full Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville. Needless to say, the ACC didn't expand for Wake Forest to win championships in front of an empty stadium. It expanded in an attempt to become a mid-Atlantic version of the football revenue-generating SEC. Instead, it has diluted its product. Whereas before it was Florida State and the Eight Dwarfs, now it is just a bunch of good but not great teams, with a horrible Duke team thrown in for good measure.

In the Atlantic Division, Florida State looks to rebound after an uncharacteristic 7-6 season. Bobby Bowden brought in four new assistants to provide new blood. The Seminoles always recruit well, and will bounce back to win this division. Wake Forest won't go away quietly. They'll represent themselves well, and may be a bit better than last year's conference champion. Maryland will have a good season, Clemson and Boston College look to be middle-of-the road, while N.C. State looks to rebuild after stealing coach Tom O'Brien from conference rival Boston College.

Florida State 10-2 7-1
Maryland 8-4 6-2
Wake Forest 9-3 5-3
Clemson 7-5 4-4
Boston College 6-6 3-5
N.C. State 3-9 1-7

In the Coastal Division, Virginia Tech is top dog (no Mike Vick pun intended). They'd have a great chance to go undefeated, but they have this thing called a date at LSU in Week 2. Good luck with all that. Still, they'll earn a date with Florida State in Jacksonville on December 1. Georgia Tech will earn their normal 7 wins. Miami will bounce back in the future, but not this year. They'll also win 7 games. North Carolina and Virginia look to be below average, while I expect Duke to go winless for the second year in a row. That doesn't really matter, as Duke is a basketball school.

Virginia Tech 11-1 8-0
Georgia Tech 7-5 5-3
Miami 7-5 4-4
North Carolina 5-7 4-4
Virginia 5-7 1-7
Duke 0-12 0-8

Editor's Note: I will be blogging more sporadically for the next four days. I leave Sunday evening for a work-related trip to the City of Brotherly Love, a/k/a Philadelphia. I will have my computer with me, but cannot guarantee any posts after Sunday. More BCS conference projections are coming, as are NFL projections.

Friday, August 10, 2007

NCAA Projections: Independents

There are only three independents playing major college football: Notre Dame, Army, and Navy. All find it beneficial to not be part of a conference at this time. All of these schools wear varying shades of solid gold helmets. All of these schools are also historical powers that have seen better days. That includes Notre Dame, their national TV contract notwithstanding.

Notre Dame looks to be good, but not great in the 3rd year of the Charlie Weis era. They can't make up their mind on being part of the Big Ten or the Pac-10. They play four Big Ten schools in a row, and also play three Pac-10 schools. The Irish will lose to Penn State, Michigan, UCLA, and USC. They play eight other teams they should be able to beat. This will put them in one of the Big East bowl games, most likely the Gator Bowl.

Navy is in line to win their 5th consecutive Commander-In-Chief Trophy. They should be able to knock off both Air Force and Army to do so. The Midshipmen will lose to Notre Dame for the 44th time in a row. Navy has not defeated Notre Dame in my lifetime. They also have several winnable games, and will go to a bowl, most likely the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego.

Army is improving, but may not show it in the results on the field this year. The Black Knights of the Hudson will lose to archrival Navy, and will suffer yet another losing season.

Independents Projections:

Notre Dame 8-4
Navy 8-4
Army 3-9

Thursday, August 09, 2007

From the Penthouse to the Outhouse and Back

This is a pretty incredible story.

A few years back, Rick Ankiel was the next big thing as a young pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. All of a sudden, he flamed out. It was as much mental as it was physical. He made a couple of attempts to make it back to the big leagues as a pitcher before he quit pitching in 2005. He went back to the minor leagues, and developed into a power-hitting outfielder.

Fast-forward to 2007. Ankiel has been leading the Pacific Coast League in home runs, hitting 32 dingers for the Memphis Redbirds. He got called up to the big club this week. Tonight, he hit a three-run shot as the Cardinals beat San Diego, 5-0.

This is awesome stuff. It was a wild thing to watch his pitching career crash and burn almost overnight. It is even more incredible to watch him go back to the minor leagues, pick up another position, and get back to the bigs as a position player.

My hat is off to Rick Ankiel. Hopefully, he'll stay in the big leagues.

NCAA Projections: Mountain West

Today, I will project results for the Mountain West Conference. This is traditionally the best of the non-BCS conferences, though Boise State and the WAC would have an argument with that.

This conference was helped by the addition of TCU. The Horned Frogs won the league two seasons ago in their debut, and finished second last year. The Frogs have been to six bowl games in the last seven years. Only BYU and Utah have beaten the Frogs in conference play.

TCU will be good again this year. However, I expect for them to stumble twice. The first loss will be to Texas in Austin. It will be a very good game, but I don't expect the Frogs to catch Texas by surprise. The Longhorns know what happened in Norman when TCU last visited there. TCU will give the Horns all they want, and will probably even outplay Texas. But, I look for the Horns to luck out and take advantage of some home cooking. I would love to be wrong on that.

The second TCU loss will allow BYU to win the conference. TCU visits Provo on a Thursday night in November. I look for the Y to take advantage of home field and handle TCU, thus winning the conference.

Utah will be pretty decent, but is playing a killer non-conference schedule, including Oregon State, UCLA, and Louisville. Still, they should be much better than the bottom two-thirds of the conference.

The rest of this conference is pretty forgettable. But, a bottom-dweller here isn't as bad as one in the other non-BCS conferences.

Projected Standings:

BYU 10-2 8-0
TCU 10-2 7-1
Utah 7-5 6-2
Air Force 5-7 3-5
New Mexico 5-7 3-5
Colorado State 4-8 3-5
San Diego State 3-9 2-6
UNLV 3-9 2-6
Wyoming 3-9 2-6

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

NCAA Projections: Conference USA

Today's conference is Conference USA. This is the projection that I probably least enjoy doing. I find this conference rather boring and nondescript. But, it is a Football Bowl Subdivision conference, so I will project it. This is a far-flung group of schools scattered from North Carolina to almost New Mexico. Most of the schools in this conference have seen better days. They play pretty decent football at the top of the league. All of these schools struggle for exposure, competing with power conferences such as the Big 12 and SEC. Personally, if I have to choose between paying to watch Houston or Rice, and staying home to watch Big 12 games on TV, I'll choose the Big 12.

Southern Miss looks to repeat as champions of the East division. They are the best team in the division. Memphis will bounce back and finish right behind them. The rest of the division is full of mediocrity.

The West will be won by a team from the West Texas town of El Paso. UTEP and Tulsa will tie for the division lead, but UTEP will gain the tiebreaker with a head-to-head win. Houston will be solid, as well. SMU, Rice, and Tulane should consider dropping football. I'm only half-joking on that. Rice actually made it to a bowl game last year, but I expect it to be a one-year aberration after their coach left upon agreeing to a new contract.

Projected Standings:

East Division
Southern Miss 9-3 7-1
Memphis 8-4 6-2
UCF 6-6 5-3
East Carolina 6-6 4-4
Marshall 3-9 2-6
UAB 2-10 1-7

West Division
UTEP 10-2 7-1
Tulsa 10-2 7-1
Houston 8-4 6-2
SMU 5-7 3-5
Rice 2-10 1-7
Tulane 1-11 0-8

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

It Is Done

And so, it is done. Barry Lamar Bonds is now the all-time home run king of Major League Baseball. He jacked a pitch out to deep right centerfield in the bottom of the 5th inning off of the Washington Nationals' Mike Bacsik.

I can't say a lot that hasn't already been said, or will be said in the hours ahead. Bonds has shown himself to be a first-class jerk throughout his career. He has also been implicated in investigations regarding performance-enhancing drugs.

The sad thing is, he was a great player before he allegedly started using the juice. He was on a collision course with the Hall of Fame. He outperformed his father Bobby Bonds, who was a fine player in his own right. It is so hard to know how much of this record is bloated by performance-enhancing drugs. However, his statistics have advanced during a point in his career when they should have declined.

This is Barry Bonds' night. Tainted or not, he is the all-time home run king, for at least the next several years. Alex Rodriguez just hit his 500th home run, and he's only 32 years old. In a few years, we'll be watching A-Rod go for the record. Hopefully, A-Rod has been clean, and will restore credibility to the baseball record book.

NCAA Projections: WAC

The Western Athletic Conference lives up to its reputation as a high-scoring, high-flying league. The members are different from a previous incarnation, but the play is the same. This league gave us Boise State, who we last saw in the end zone celebrating a BCS bowl win over Oklahoma. It is also the home of giant-killers such as Fresno State and Hawaii. This league doesn't have the TV drawing power of the Pac-10, but plays some pretty good football at the top of its ranks.

Last year was the year of the Bronco, as Boise State capped an undefeated season with an entertaining 43-42 win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. This year's Broncos will be pretty good, but will be hard pressed to repeat with an undefeated season. For one, they have to go to Hawaii, where the Warriors are loaded and prepared for a possible undefeated season of their own.

Hawaii is the toughest road trip in all of college football. Not only is it a long trip for one football game, but there are many distractions for visitors to the islands. Worst of all, for opponents, the Hawaii Warriors are a very good football team. With QB Colt Brennan in charge, this could be the best Hawaii team ever. I'm on the bandwagon, as I expect Hawaii to go undefeated, and to be in the mix for a BCS bowl bid. This team is so good, big-time schools no longer wish to go to the islands, as they run the strong risk of coming back with a big L. Hence, the appearance of Northern Colorado and Charleston Southern on the schedule. Kudos to Washington for keeping their date with Hawaii in the islands.

Fresno State stands to be pretty good, as well. Once again, they'll play anyone, any time, anywhere, and have trips scheduled to Texas A&M and Oregon. I have them losing those games, but they won't be blowouts at all. Their only conference loss will be to Hawaii.

This conference is weak at the bottom. Idaho, Utah State, and Louisiana Tech should be competitive against each other, and not many other teams.

The middle of this conference is improving. Nevada looks to slip back to the middle of the pack, but has been pretty good in recent years. San Jose State is coming off a win in the New Mexico Bowl. New Mexico State is improving under coach Hal Mumme.

Projected WAC Standings:

Hawaii 12-0 8-0
Fresno State 9-3 7-1
Boise State 10-2 6-2
San Jose State 6-6 5-3
New Mexico State 6-7 4-4
Nevada 5-7 3-5
Idaho 2-10 2-6
Utah State 1-11 1-7
Louisiana Tech 1-11 0-8

Monday, August 06, 2007

A Tale Of Two Eras

As I type, I am watching an otherwise forgettable game in the dog days of August between two last place teams: the Washington Nationals and the San Francisco Giants. Like the rest of America, I want to see history made, but I also want to see this charade end. I'm talking about Barry Bonds and his chase for the all-time home run record.

I'll never forget where I was when Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run to break Babe Ruth's record. I was 7 years old, watching on my parents' TV. I already loved baseball. I already had hundreds of baseball cards, and knew who every player was. I already knew statistics such as batting average and earned run average. Hank Aaron was a hero of mine. I had no idea of the social implications of the moment. I just knew I was watching a great player set an important record.

My oldest son is 7 years old. He likes to go to baseball games, but I wouldn't consider him a baseball fan. He doesn't know who any of the players are. He'll probably never appreciate the Great Game as his father does. More importantly, I'm not going to get him out of bed to see Barry Bonds break the all-time home run record. Bonds is neither a hero nor a role model. He is not someone that I would want my son to idolize.

It's inevitable that Bonds will break the record. It will probably happen during this series with the Nationals. I'm ready for him to go ahead and break it.

I'll comment more on Bonds after he hits #756.

It will be a big deal after Bonds breaks the record. However, the records and statistics of baseball have become so warped that most achievements are now cheapened. In 1974, it was a HUGE deal for the all-time home run record to be broken. Baseball was the hottest thing going. In 2007, baseball is still a big deal (in spite of itself), but pales in comparison to the NFL.

It's 10:30 CDT, Monday, August 6, and Hank Aaron is still tied as the all-time home run king. We'll see how long this lasts.

NCAA Projections: MAC

Deep in the heart of the Midwest lies the Mid-American Conference. What many do not know is that the MAC is the third-largest Division 1-A conference in terms of total enrollment, and the fourth largest conference in terms of undergraduate population. The MAC is made up of 13 large public universities, 9 of which are in Ohio and Michigan.

I like the MAC. The MAC plays good football, albeit under the radar of more exposed conferences such as the Big Ten. The better teams here can hold their own with anyone, but the entire conference suffers from a lack of depth and a relative lack of resources. Don't be surprised if this conference pulls a couple of upsets over big-name schools this year. They have 18 games against Big Ten schools this season, in addition to other non-conference matchups.

The 13 teams are split into two divisions, with the division winners meeting in the MAC Championship Game, to be held in Detroit in December. This season, only games within the division will count in the conference standings.

In the East, the Fighting Frank Soliches, a/k/a the Ohio Bobcats, are my pick to win the division. Kent State will be pretty good as well, but they must travel to the banks of the Hocking River to take on Ohio in Athens. The teams in this division benefit from the presence of Temple and Buffalo. Both of these programs are the ultimate bottomfeeders in college football.

MAC East:
Ohio 9-3 5-1
Kent State 7-5 5-1
Bowling Green 6-6 4-2
Miami, Ohio 6-6 3-3
Akron 4-8 2-4
Temple 1-11 1-5
Buffalo 0-12 0-6

In the West, look for the Toledo Rockets to blast off once again. Northern Illinois should be pretty good again, and many pundits are picking Western Michigan to win this side of the MAC. Eastern Michigan looks to bring up the rear in this division. If only they were lucky enough to play Temple or Buffalo this year.

MAC West:
Toledo 10-2 5-0
Northern Illinois 8-4 4-1
Western Michigan 6-6 3-2
Ball State 4-8 2-3
Central Michigan 2-10 1-4
Eastern Michigan 1-11 0-5

One Year On The Web

Today is the first anniversary of this blog.

When I began this blog, I hoped to provide relevant, irrelevant, and sometimes irreverent commentary on certain items in the world of sports. I wanted to produce something that others would want to read. Since I put the latest version of SiteMeter up in November of last year, this blog has received 13,377 visits. That is not a lot compared with big-time blogs such as EDSBS. However, that is a lot more than I had reason to expect. I'm just a guy in Texas with a job, a family, and a computer. I don't pretend to be a professional journalist, columnist, or talk show host.

Traffic-driving topics of the past year include:

* The vicious email sent by a friend of the Arkansas program to quarterback Mitch Mustain, influencing him to transfer to USC.

* The takeover by Kentucky fans of a dormant TCU message board.

* Talk of Big Ten expansion, driven by the new Big Ten Network.

* Various styles of ugly uniforms.

Look for more of the same in the future!

This blog has been linked to and referenced from several message boards, and from blogs for publications such as the Arkansas Times and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

This has been a labor of love for the past year. I look forward to what the future brings.

Thank you to all who have stopped by and made this blog successful.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

NCAA Projections: Sun Belt Conference

The beginning of college football season is less than a month away. Beginning today, I will project and predict results for each of the 11 Football Bowl Subdivision conferences, plus independents.

Today, we begin with the Sun Belt Conference. The Sun Belt is traditionally the weakest of the FBS conferences. The conference chooses to play with the big boys, offering up to 85 scholarships, and playing multiple money games on the road at schools such as Florida and Georgia in order to pay for them. The schools would all rather play for a trip to the New Orleans Bowl in mid-December than for the Football Championship Series (1-AA) national championship. Occasionally, these teams are competitive with major programs in their scheduled mismatches.

The Sun Belt is the domain of the Men of Troy, Alabama. Troy looks to dominate the conference this year. The Trojans are defending conference champions, and are coming off an impressive win over Rice in last year's New Orleans Bowl. I project Troy as the only team in this conference to finish with an overall winning record. I also predict for the Trojans to execute a Friday night ambush of Oklahoma State in September, as the Cowboys visit Troy, Alabama.

The only other team in this conference from which I expect noise is Florida Atlantic. The Owls, coached by former Miami, Louisville and Oklahoma coach Howard Schnellenberger, play a murderer's row of a non-conference schedule, with trips to Florida, Oklahoma State, and Kentucky, and home games against Minnesota and South Florida. They won't get creamed in all of those games, and will bounce back to handle their Sun Belt foes, with the exception of Troy.

The rest of the conference will be way behind the frontrunners.

Predictions for the Sun Belt Conference:

Troy 9-3 7-0
Florida Atlantic 6-6 6-1
Louisiana-Monroe 5-7 4-3
Arkansas State 4-8 3-4
Middle Tennessee 4-8 3-4
North Texas 4-8 3-4
Louisiana-Lafayette 2-10 1-6
Florida International 1-11 1-6