Friday, January 02, 2009

NFL Picks, Wild Card Weekend

Last Week: 13-3
Regular Season Total: 165-90-1

32 NFL teams have narrowed themselves down to 12. Eight teams play this weekend in the first round of the NFL playoffs. This means there are only four games to pick. Two of the last three Super Bowl winners came out of this round, so it is not a given that this week’s survivors will be plastered next week. This is the NFL, so anything can happen. The better games are definitely in the AFC. The NFC games will be good for naps or chores.

Indianapolis at San Diego: The two hottest teams in the league meet in a rematch of last year’s divisional round game won by the Chargers. The Colts have won eight in a row to finish 12-4. The Chargers were once 4-8, but got hot in December to finish 8-8 and win the AFC West. The way both teams have been playing, it’s too bad someone has to lose this game. The Colts are way too good. Pick: Colts

Baltimore at Miami: Last year, both teams stunk. Miami really stunk, going 1-15, with their only win coming over the Ravens in overtime. Turn the clock to this year, where both teams have impressed many by making the playoffs. The Dolphins were especially impressive, going from 1-15 to 11-5. The Ravens have already won once in Miami this season. The Dolphins have had a great run, but it ends Sunday in Miami. Pick: Baltimore

Atlanta at Arizona: The Falcons went from zeroes to heroes this season by going 11-5 behind rookie QB Matt Ryan. The Cardinals are hosting their first playoff game since they were known as the Chicago Cardinals. They won the awful NFC West almost by default. The Falcons are a better team than the Cardinals, especially after the Cardinals cruised after clinching the division early. Pick: Atlanta

Philadelphia at Minnesota: The Eagles embarrassed the Dallas Cowboys last week, bringing great joy to Cowboy haters everywhere by knocking them out of the playoffs in grand style. The Vikings are a dangerous team at home. Can they make the home dome advantage work for them? Sure. Pick: Minnesota

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bowl Picks, Part 3

Bowls To Date: 12-10
Season: 231-93

The bowl season drags on and on. Next up is New Year’s Day. Once upon a time, New Year’s Day was a celebration of college football. You had the Cotton Bowl when it was a big game. You had the Rose Bowl, when it was an excuse to prepare for the really important game that night. Then, you had the Orange Bowl, which usually featured a Big 8 team and/or Miami playing for a national championship. Ok, not every year, but it sure seemed like it. Now, there is a glut of meaningless games on New Year’s Day and spreading to the days after. There is only one game that counts, and it is on January 8.

Outback Bowl, January 1, Tampa: Iowa vs. South Carolina: Slow Big Ten team plays underachieving SEC team. Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier was once quarterback for an NFL team in Tampa. They went 0-14. He’ll do better on New Year’s Day. Pick: SC

Konica Minolta Gator Bowl, January 1, Jacksonville: Nebraska vs. Clemson: Middle of the road Big 12 team meets middle of the road ACC team. It won’t be great TV, but they’ll sell plenty of tickets and fill plenty of hotel rooms. Pick: Clemson

Capital One Bowl, January 1, Orlando: Georgia vs. Michigan State: See Outback Bowl-slow Big Ten team plays underachieving SEC team. That’s right, the Bulldogs underachieved, having lost to both rivals in Florida and Georgia Tech. Still, they should be able to handle the Spartans. Pick: Jawja

Rose Bowl presented by Citi, January 1, Pasadena, California: USC vs. Penn State: Once again, USC is in the Rose Bowl, and once again, a Big Ten team loses the Rose Bowl. Penn State should be able to keep it close, but SC’s defense should keep Penn State’s offense out of the end zone for most of the game. Pick: USC

FedEx Orange Bowl, January 1, Miami: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech: This really is a BCS bowl game. None of the other BCS bowls wanted either of these teams, but the Orange Bowl gets the national championship game this year, so they’re stuck with this matchup. VT came out of a gaggle of evenly balanced teams in the ACC. Cincinnati dominated the Big East this year. Pick: Cincy

AT&T Cotton Bowl, January 2, Dallas: Ole Miss vs. Texas Tech: Ole Miss surprised the SEC and the world this season in their first year under Houston Nutt. Tech has won 11 games for the first time in the history of man. Make that 12. Pick: Tech

Liberty Bowl, January 2, Memphis: Kentucky vs. East Carolina: Zzzz. Did you know this is Kentucky’s third bowl in a row? So-so SEC team vs. champion of Conference USA. Give me the SEC. Pick: Kentucky

Sugar Bowl, January 2, New Orleans: Alabama vs. Utah: Bama has to be disappointed after running the table in the regular season before losing to Florida in the SEC championship game. The Utes had an awesome year, going undefeated to represent the non-BCS world in one of the $17 million BCS bowl. This won’t be as bad as Hawaii’s game last year against Georgia, but don’t look for the ’06 Boise State team to show up, either. Pick: Alabama

International Bowl, January 3, Toronto: Buffalo vs. Connecticut: Somebody has to go to Toronto in January for a bowl game. It may as well be two snowbound schools. At least the game is indoors. Buffalo won the MAC in Turner Gill’s third year as coach. UConn is becoming a bowl regular. The Bulls have had a great run, but UConn knows what they’re doing here. Pick: UConn

Fiesta Bowl, January 5, Glendale, Arizona: Texas vs. Ohio State: The Longhorns are really, really mad that they came out on the wrong end of the Big 12’s three-way tiebreaker for the South division championship. They really do have a case to be in the national championship game. On the other side of this matchup is Ohio State, winners of 10 games and a regular to this game in the desert. The Buckeyes had a nice season in the Big Ten, but they’re no match for Texas. Pick: Texas

GMAC Bowl, January 6, Mobile, Alabama: Tulsa vs. Ball State: Ball State had a great season, going 12-0 before being upset by Buffalo in the MAC championship game. Since then, head coach Brady Hoke has flown the coop for the warmer climes at San Diego State. Tulsa had a great year, as well, winning 10 games. Tulsa has faded a bit at the end of the season, losing three of their last five games. Pick: Ball State

BCS National Championship Game, January 8, Miami: Oklahoma vs. Florida: Get ready to stay up all night for this one, as there will be lots of offense here. Both teams have Heisman trophy winners. Both teams won premier conferences. Bob Stoops has national championship rings from both schools. As a Sooner fan, I cannot review this game objectively. Sooners win national championship number 8. Pick: OU

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bowl Picks, Part 2

Bowls to date: 6-6
Season: 219-83 Bowl at Birmingham, December 29: N.C. State vs. Rutgers. I think I’ll be doing other things Monday afternoon. Besides, I prefer Pizza Hut or Domino’s to Papa John’s. When we last saw Rutgers, they were hanging 63 on Louisville. Pick: Rutgers

Valero Alamo Bowl at San Antonio, December 29: Missouri vs. Northwestern. Tigers have to be disappointed with this season. They managed to win the Big 12 North, but that’s about like winning District 1-5A in Texas high school football. Missouri expected a lot more from this season. Northwestern rang up a lot of points in the Big Ten this year. Expect a lot of scoring in this one. Pick: Northwestern

Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl at Boise, Idaho, December 30: Maryland vs. Nevada. Somebody has to go to this bowl, played on Boise State’s blue turf. Pick: Maryland

Texas Bowl at Houston, December 30: Rice vs. Western Michigan. Another bowl slot that the Big 12 could not fill due to lack of teams. Neither of these teams have a sexy name, but both are actually pretty good. Plenty of good seats available. Pick: Rice

Pacific Life Holiday Bowl at San Diego, December 30: Oklahoma State vs. Oregon. This bowl is known for high-scoring shootouts, and this promises to live up to that reputation. OSU has three losses, all to teams ranked in the top 8 in the nation. Oregon has already beaten one orange-clad OSU: their archrival Oregon State. Pick: OSU

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl at Fort Worth, December 31: Houston vs. Air Force. Rematch of a game played earlier this season, won by Air Force and played in Dallas due to Hurricane Ike. Cougars hope to have a less stressful trip to the Town of the Cow. It’s hard to beat a team twice. Pick: Houston

Brut Sun Bowl at El Paso, December 31: Pittsburgh vs. Oregon State. I wonder if my wife would like it if I bought some Brut? Oregon State had a great run in the Pac-10, including an upset win over USC. Pitt is coming around. Pick: Oregon State

Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl at Nashville, December 31: Boston College vs. Vanderbilt. Vandy is in its first bowl game since the Reagan administration, and only has to travel across town to get to it. Boston College has made a living in minor bowl games, winning eight consecutive bowls while never making it to the BCS. Vandy better enjoy the trip to the Opryland hotel, because the game won’t be much fun for them. Pick: BC

Insight Bowl at Tempe, Arizona, December 31: Kansas vs. Minnesota. The Glen Mason Bowl. Mason formerly coached at both schools. This year, KU survived numerous injuries and a murderous Big 12 schedule to qualify for a bowl game. Minnesota won 7 of their first 8 games before collapsing down the stretch. Pick: KU

Chick-Fil-A Bowl at Atlanta, December 31: Georgia Tech vs. LSU: I like chicken. I like Chick-Fil-A. Tigers went 7-5 one year after winning a national championship. Yellow Jackets won 9 games in their first season under Paul Johnson, including a win over archrival Georgia. One team is headed up, the other is headed down. Pick: Ramblin’ Wreck