Wednesday, December 31

Simming the Sugar Bowl

Continuing our NCAA09 tour through the BCS, we've got Chris taking Alabama and Russell playing as Utah. All-American difficulty, 7-minute Quarters, Even Teams.

Utah takes the opening kickoff to the 40. First play is an option, Brian Johnson keeps it for a 12 yard gain. Eddie Wide takes over as a surprising starter at RB, and the option attack begins. Stalling out as the Utes approach the red zone, they hit a 44 yard FG.

Following two runs for 8 yards, JPW fires incomplete on 3rd. Terry Grant gives Bama just enough to convert the 4th, and the Tahhhde roll on. Bama rotates to Glen Coffee, who continues to pound the ball. Eventually they punt, old school.

Mack comes back in at RB and converts a key third down option. The Ute offense keeps cranking out first down on the ground, again stalling out nearing the red zone. Field goal and it's 6-0.

Alabama needs all of two plays to bust a 57 yard TD run by Terry Grant and it's 7-6.

A tired defense takes the field and it looks like trouble as the Utes gain 8 yards on their first play from scrimmage. End of the first quarter. Johnson picks up the first down then takes over the drive, scrambling for consecutive big plays. The drive ends with a 18 yard TD run by Darrell Mack.

Alabama takes the ball and this time they come out throwing. A quick first down pass to Grant, followed by a nice run by Grant. But it's for naught, drive ends in a punt.

Utah's offense finally stalls out from the get-go, ending with an incompletion to a tightly covered receiver.

This time around, Terry Grant comes out with a head full of steam, making defenders miss and picking up more big plays. Nikita Stover makes a key catch on 3rd down to keep the drive alive at midfield. Grant picks up a ten yard run on second down, but it's called back for offensive holding! "Fuck it, I'm going deep" John Parker thinks, clearly pissed off about the call. It's complete for 35 yards to Mike McCoy. Two plays later, Stover hauls it in in the end zone and the Tide have retaken the lead 14-13.

Utah takes over at their 34 with just 28 seconds remaining and two timeouts. (it's not "times out" assholes, timeout is one fucking word) Johnson's first pass is drilled deep into a cornerback's backside on first down. Second down, the play action isn't fooling anybody, but Charlie Higgenbothem drops a sure interception. It will haunt the Tide, as Johnson completes a 46 yard bomb to Jereme Brooks. With time running out, the Utes take a field goal and a 16-14 lead at the half.

Alabama comes out in the third quarter with their newly installed "Spread Fail" package, copyright Tony Franklin. JP runs an option for a one-yard loss then throws a horrible incompletion on 3rd. But it's Stover hauling in the 4th down completion to the Utah 40! But Wilson returns to form throwing a deep pick.

Following a first down and a penalty, however, Brian Johnson returns the favor. Rolando McClain returns an interception just past midfield. With some momentum on his team's side, JPW fires a bullet to McCoy before the Tide are back to pounding away with Grant. The defense holds, and after a FG we're sitting at 17-16.

For shits and giggles, Brian Johnson throws a 70 yard out that's incomplete only because the safety went to Mohammad Massaquoi's school of catching. Utah turns back to the option game. Facing a third and ten, Bama's defense has the quarterback contained against the sideline. But Johnson lofts a pass to his tight end, twenty yard gain and a first down! Mack runs the ball to the 8 yard line on the following play, first and goal! We finish the third quarter with a 2 yard loss on a QB keeper, second and goal.

This is a key drive as we're now in the fourth quarter. Mack gets nailed at the line before Johnson completes a pass to the one yard line on third down. Utah lines up in a goalline power formation on 4th and goal! But it's a bluff, they call timeout with 1 second left on the playclock then kick a FG. 19-17, Utes.

Bama now needs to score. JPW starts the drive off on the right note with a 19 yard pass that's miraculously caught by Nick Walker (not Welkah). Grant softens up the defense with a five yard gain, then it's a slant to Stover. The Tide offense is showing balance, but after a 2 yard loss and an incompletion, Bama faces 3rd and 12. With a truly Innovative playcall, the offense runs a HB power and Grant takes it to the house! 25 yard TD run and they follow it up with a successful 2-point try, 25-19.

Utah gets a nice kickoff return to the 42 yard line, and they need a touchdown with 4:35 remaining. Matt Asiata gets things started with a 5 yard iso, but the gain is negated by a delay of game penalty as Johnson attempts to audible each receiver's route. After Johnson gains three yards, Utah faces a 3rd and 7. Johnson again audibles at the line, and completes a fade to his wide receiver. Shedding the tackle, the gain goes to the Alabama 15! Darrell Mack takes it to the 2, where the battle is on! First and goal: 1 yard gain by Mack. Second and goal: Johnson's nailed at the line. Third and goal: Johnson takes it in, and the Utes have an improbable 4th quarter lead by just a point!

Alabama takes the field with 1:37 remaining, trailing 26-25. Thinking they can fool the defense, Terry Grant takes the handoff but is held to a 3 yard gain. But Wilson forces the following pass into triple coverage, incomplete. On 3rd and 7, Wilson scrambles to his left and throws a deep bomb to McCoy, complete! Bama's nearing field goal range, and the playcalling goes conservative. Grant gains six yards on two carries, but is held to a 2 yard loss on 3rd down. The Tide line up for a field goal with 23 seconds, and it's wide right!

Not satisfied to merely win, Utah looks to humiliate the SEC runner up. They complete a 11 yard pass for a first down just to let Saban know that they fucking could, then kneel down on the ensuing play. Utah wins 26-25 in a back and forth game! Folks, the real Sugar Bowl will be nowhere near this competitive.

Your Fake 2009 Rose Bowl

We open the day fucking cold, which is how you know this shit ain't real. It's USC-Penn State for all the marbles and the brains in Pasadena. James is USC, and Russ drew short straw and gets the zombies.

1st Half

We hit a minor snag early on as we realize that Stan Havili is actually academically ineligible and we remove him from the roster. (This is after he catches a 10-yard pass, of course. Ohio State fans are complaining vigorously.) Of course, after this Sanchez lofts a punt-like INT that's returned for about 30 yards. Penn State gets the ball on their own 46.

Royster busts a big 17-yard gain on PSU's 2nd play from scrimmage - 1st and 10 from the USC 39. PSU converts a 3rd and 4 to move the ball to the USC 21. A 5-yard gain is immediately negated by the zombies forgetting what a play clock is ....and hey look, there's the mercy makeup PI call on Kevin Ellison! 1st and 10 from the USC 13. Three plays later Darrel Evans drops it in for a TD. 7-0 Zombies.

In true Joe McKinght fashion, he fucks around behind the line and gets nailed on a 5-yard loss on the ensuing possession (kickoff was returned to the 35). However, Sanchez partially bails them out of it by baiting the CB up for an 8-yard completion ... but big fucking deal. Incompletion forces a punt.

Screen pass to nowhere for the zombies on 1st down and an incompletion on 2nd .... before throwing up another punt-type INT. Trojans get the ball again.

After a mildly successful McKnight run and a sack, Sanchez launches a 66-yard TD pass to McKinght! 7-7 USC.

PSU returns it out to their 34 - first pass to Mickey Shuler for a 12-yard gain. Two successive runs (Royster, Evans) net about 4 yards. 3rd and 6 results in another pass to Shuler for a 7-yard gain - the Zombies are on the move! Well, never mind - holding penalty, but mitigated by a 15-yard completion to Deon Butler. Next two plays - in true PSU fashion, runs up the middle... and they're going for it on 4th! That almost worked, but getting sacked on the enusing play doesn't mean a whole lot. Oops.

I swear, I can't even start writing about USC's possessions before they turn it over. I guess I forgot to mention that PSU came out in Stanford jerseys. Sanchez must be having flashbacks.

Penn State (BRAAAAINS) nails a nice completion to Deon Butler for a quick first down. After some random mayhem that I'm not paying attention to, Evans passes to Royster for another touchdown. 14-7 Brain Maniacs.

The USC offense at this point consists of Sanchez to McKnight. Seriously. Just rinse, lather, and repeat. Just imagine there's more of them here. Oh shit! Finally! Well, that was a completion to Stafon Johnson. Um...never mind. FG attempt misses. We're at halftime.

2nd Half

PSU has a nice opening kickoff return. 1st play from scrimmage - picked off! As usual with USC, we're just going to assume it's McKnight with the ball. One play .... two plays ... whoa! QB sneak with Sanchez! Okay, back to McKnight ... three plays ... wait, handoff to Stafon Johnson ... four plays ... five plays .... Sanchez sneaks it in! 14-14! I should note that the QB sneak was right by McKnight, so that gets half-credit.

Penn State is dangerously close to ripping wholesale from Tressel, but they're at least getting first downs - and by first downs, I mean first down. Two sacks prety much killed any chance that drive had of working.

McKinght watch is on! One play ... two plays ... three plays ... (seriously, this is as exciting to watch as it is to read about. This shit ain't my fault) ... four plays ... five plays .... wait, he isn't in this play! (incomplete, of course) ... dropsies in the end zone! Fourth down (hint: it's going to McKnight) - completed to McKnight (six plays) for a 15-yard completion ... rush by Stafon Johnson; apparently McKnight was tired, but he's back now ... seven plays ... holy shit! It's a pass play NOT to McKniight! Of course, that results in a 4th down and a 26-yard FG for the Trojans. 17-14.

Penn State rocks a 16-yard run from scrimmage before getting hung up on a 2nd Royster carry and a 3rd Royster carry. By the way, I'd like to take this time to remind readers that there are indeed more than two guys on either team. Don't tell them that, though. PSU actually goes for it on 4th down! However, the conversion is not to be, as Kevin Ellison picks off his 2nd pass of the game.

Did you know that Ellison and McKnight have the same number? I bring this up because it's the ONLY FUCKING THING THEY'RE RUNNING. Jesus. Here we go again. One play ... two plays ... three plays ... QB sneak for a first down only .... four plays ... five plays ... six plays. We can't count higher than that on this drive, since that was a USC TD. 23-14 Trojans - yes, it's not 24-14 because he fucked up the XP. HA! Should've had McKnight kick it.

Derrick Williams! Kick return for a TD! 23-21 Trojans, but the ensuing onside kick goes for naught.

Here we go again. One play ... Stafon Johnson runs for 13! And he runs again! Fuck, McKnight's back in ... two plays .... three plays (well, pass was knocked down at the line of scrimmage, but that shit counts) ... turnover on downs! Should've been to McKnight.

Now PSU has a minute to drive about 45 yards for a game-winning FG! First play to Williams for a first down - on the PSU 48. Turnover! Picked off by Kevin Eillison again.

We'll just assume the remaining plays go to McKnight. (That's a total of [x] plays this drive.) This is also the end of the game - Trojans win, 23-21.

That's a total of 18 carries and 14 receptions for McKnight - out of 45 plays, 32 were to McKnight. You thought I was kidding?

BSC Simulation LFB Style - Orange Bowl NCAA '09

Cincinnati vs Va Tech. I think I just crapped my pants on how lame this matchup is for the BCS. Both James and Chris are doing horrid Boston accent impressions.

"Let the Pulp fly!" Kickoff! Va Tech returns to their own 28.

Va Tech runs right for 2. Tyrod runs around like a mad chicken and throws long to Boone! Ghey! Option left for 6 yards. Option right for 7 yards and a first down. Taylor drops back to pass, scrambles, and throws for a 1 yard loss. Option right - Taylor pitches as he's getting tackled and Lewis runs 27 yards for the touchdown!

Kickoff returned by Cincinnati - to their 38 yard line by Marcus Barnett. Ramsy runs right for a yard. Tech is getting pressure up the middle, causing an interception on the next play! Intercepted by Victor Harris and returned to the Cincy 37 yard line.

Lewis runs a power left for 11 yards. Pressure from the corner and Taylor has to throw in a hurry! Caught by Lewis on the outlet behind the line of scrimmage and gains a yard. Option right and a FUMBLE!!! Recovered by the Hokies, and now both Chris and James are cursing like sailors. ACC! ACC! Incomplete pass, forcing a field goal... off the uprights and IN! Va Tech now up 10-0.

Kickoff returned by Cincy to their own 36. Iso up the middle for 4 yards. Gruza drops and throws to Barnett for 10 yards. Up the middle for 9 yards... then Jacob Ramsey runs 39 yards on a power left into the endzone!

Kickoff returned to their 33. Taylor scrambles right for 11 yards. Taylor scrambles left, finds Lewis for a long gain! Taylor scrambles - almost intercepted! Next play he scrambles right for a 13 yard run. Now in the red zone at the 14, and Lewis runs draw right for a 5 yard gain. An option give up the middle for 3 yards. Option right... is hit... and falls over the 4 yard line for the first down! Power left - touchdown!

Kickoff returned to the 29. Pass on first down - bullet to Barnett for 19 yards! Power right by Ramsey for 52 yards and a touchdown! There's still most of a quarter to go and it's just back and forth... like the defenses are standing around. Taylor scrambles left... gets a block, and goes down on the Cincy 43! Up the middle for a yard. SACK for 14 yards! Taylor scrambles, throws across the field... and gets the first down to the Cincy 32! Option right for a loss of 3. Incomplete pass down the right side. Scrambles left for 8... and Tech settles for a 42 yard field goal.

Kickoff returned by Cincy to the 38 yard line. Power left, breaks a tackle, and runs for 16 yards! Short pass under pressure for 6 yards. Off tackle right for 3 yards. Incomplete pass right! 4th and 2 with 52 seconds remaining... and drills a crossing pattern for the first down and calls a time out! Off tackle left for a loss of 2.... and then under pressure throws and interception!

Taylor throws a long bomb for the touchdown! HAIL MARY!

Kickoff returned just beyond the 20, and runs for the first down. TIMEOUT with one second left! Run right... end of half.

Cincy gets the ball back to start the second half. Big throw to #85 for a first down! Second throw - almost intercepted! "I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS!" Ball knocked down the next play. Incomplete pass again. Punt - and a hard hit! Va Tech is pinned on their 10 yard line.

Taylor option right - loss of 3 yards. Bomb down the middle - CAUGHT on the 42 yard line. Run up the middle for 1 yard. Taylor scrambles left for 16 yards. Run up the middle - loss of 3 yards. Va Tech methodically drives down - and Taylor gets benched for Glennon! The ball is almost intercepted - and Tech settles for a field goal.

Cincinnati brings it out. Option fake - pass complete! Short pass across the middle. Jump ball pass down the middle - incomplete! Crucial third down. A bullet to #85 for the crossing patter and a first down! Option give up the middle for 10 yards. Incomplete pass left! Next play - the RE knocks the ball down! Gruza throws to #83 for the crucial 3rd down and that's the end of the third quarter.

We start the 4th with the Bearcats driving at the Va Tech 25. First down, lob ball, caught on the 5 and falls forward for a yard! Off tackle left for 3 yards. Iso in I formation - touchdown!

A side note as they kick the extra point - WHICH IS BLOCKED! - Taylor is much more accurate than he is in real life. I mean... the passing yards...

Kickoff returned to the 35. Taylor scrambles on the first play from scrimmage - INTERCEPTED! The FS returns the ball to the Va Tech 25 yard line. First pass - caught to the Va Tech 5! Booth reviews - overturns - ball hit the ground. Third down - pass on a crossing for 9 yards bringing up 4th down! Va Tech calls timeout - coverage FAIL. Field goal made.

Pooch kick and the Tech returns to the 44. Va Tech has to call a timeout - they were lined up for an onside kick! Pass left to the HB for the first down! Scramble left for 6 yards. Pressure... throws for a long gain to the Cincy 14! Run up the middle - 3 yards. Run right - 4 yards. Option right, and Taylor gets the first down to the 4 yard line! Option right and loses 4 yards. Option give left - loss of a yard. Cincy calls a timeout with 1:21 left in the game. Taylor scrambles, and a missed tackle and he runs it in for the touchdown!

Kickoff - BIG RETURN to the Va Tech 48. Short pass - caught, and run to the 35. Short pass left - caught and down to the 25. Short pass left for five yards. Short pass right - caught and a first down! SACK for a 12 yard loss! With 12 seconds left... incomplete pass. They knock in a field goal??? Who the FACK is calling this game?

Game ends - final score 37-26.

Tuesday, December 30

BCS Bowl Game Simulationss (by LFB): Fiesta Bowl

So - a little bit of background. Aside from the Holiday Bowl, the bowls have either a) involved shitty teams, b) been uninteresting, or c) both. Left Field Bluffs decided to take matters into our own hands. In this first edition of LFB Bowl Simulations, we're playing the Fiesta Bowl - James as Texas and Russ as Ohio State. For the nerds: 6-minute quarters, injuries off (yes, I know), and All-American.

1st Quarter

Ohio State won the toss and elected to defer. Opening kickoff run back to the 31 for Texas. First play from scrimmage - out route to the sideline for a three-yard loss. (Woody Hayes does not approve.) Ogbonnaya then rips off a fucking huge gain (um, 70-yard pass?) to the Buckeye 5. After doing nothing in a hurry on 1st down, McCoy whips an interception to Lauranitis - in true Tressel fashion, he sits on it in the end zone.

Ohio State hangs Beanie Wells out to dry and Terrelle Pryor can't complete a pass to save his life (yeah, I know). However, 3rd down proves fruitful as he lofts a nice corner route completion - aided in part by a questionable roughing the passer call. Imagine that a few plays in a row are what you expect from a Tressel offense - not terribly exciting at all but somehow continuing to get first downs and positive yardage. There really isn't a lot to see here until a 3rd and 4 when Pryor does his best Rudy Carpenter imitation and gets nailed. However, in a bit of a change from typical Tressel-ball, the ensuing punt sails into the end zone. Texas ball on their 20.

Neither team should look at running the option - they can't do shit with it, at least not now. McCoy bails a nice pass to, one of Texas' FBs (we have no idea) before doing his best Drew Weatherford impression, throwing not one but two passes into triple coverage. The second pass is intercepted and returned for six. 7-0, Buckeyes.

Nice return for Texas to their own 36, followed by a rollout completion (crossing route) for a first down. After another first down, McCoy chucks another jump ball - underthrown and picked by Kurt Coleman. McCoy got the tackle on this one, at least. Buckeye ball....again.

2nd Quarter

We missed a few plays in there between then and the end of the quarter, but there wasn't a whole lot to see. On their first third down, Pryor drops a pass just a little too short - picked off. Apparently both guys think scoring is bullshit.

Texas - first play, big-ass gain to Cosby! First and goal; this time Texas finally learns to NOT FUCKING PASS IT THAT CLOSE - you hear that, Mack? Punched in from the 1 for a tie game at 7.

Ohio State on offense ...again, not too exciting. Really, I could be writing about 4 and 5-yard gains, but you don't want to read about that and I don't want to write about it. Heck, you probably don't want to read this anyway, but it's either this or go back to work - ha! 3rd and 2 is stuffed, resulting in another punt.

Texas ain't doing shit either. They had a nice punt return, but got sacked (next play resulted in a first down, and so did the one after that). Long story short: Ohio State's defense is getting tired - and there it goes! Vondrell McGee takes it in on a 16-yard run to the corner, and it's 14-7 Looooonghorns.

For whatever reason, that score took a bit out of OSU - they don't get shit on their next drive (actually get less than shit - -5 yards) and are forced to punt. Time update: Texas has 1:24 and three timeouts from the Buckeye 43.

Texas nails a huge, huge gain on a pass to Jordan Shipley that barely manages to stay inbounds! Unofficial booth replay confirms the call on the field, and shockingly the confirmed booth replay doesn't even happen (bullshit). However, that's going to be just about it. Field goal attempt before the half - off the upright! Ohio State's ensuing Hail Mary goes nowhere.

3rd Quarter

Well, Ohio State gets the ball first, for all the good it did them. First play from scrimmage, first pass of the second half - it's now 21-7 Texas. At least Ohio State gets another chance. This drive's more like the Buckeye way - except for the 4th down conversion (Tressel would've punted and you know it). I'm missing most of this, since I'm looking for "Don't Cry Out Loud" videos. Actually, I completely missed the drive, but it took half the quarter and resulted in a TD, so this is pretty much Ohio State football. 21-14 OSU.

Texas throws their fourth INT of the game (apparently Ohio State will come back in this game, no matter what the actual gameplay dictates). However, Buckeye goes nowhere fast and gets to punt again, even though the ball is on the Texas 46 - dumped into the end zone again.

Texas once again lucks out on one of those weird barely-got-a-foot-in completions that isn't reviewed. Again. This time it doesn't result in a TD - they have to punt! That's Texas's first punt of the game, although it's far from their only returned possession. Ohio State doesn't doa whole lot before the end of the quarter - I've been saying that a lot lately.

4th Quarter

Finally, a legitimate miscue - Texas' punt returner attempts to run without the ball after the inevitable OSU punt. However, it was recovered by the Longhorns, so no super-excitement there. Possession goes nowhere - punt time! Again.

HUGE return by the Buckeyes to the Longhorn 20! After a couple of runs that go nowhere, Pryor hits a TD pass to Ray Small and we're tied! It's 21-21 with just 3:40 to go in the game.

So that tie game? Never mind. First play from scrimmage is a 65-yard pass to Vondrell McGee .... 28-21.

Ohio State's next possession doesn't go anywhere on the first two plays, but the third down conversion goes for about 18 on a crossing route to Ray Small again. However, Pryor gets sacked on the next play (side note: we have yet to see Boeckman). Jump ball goes nowhere - take note, Jeffy. A huge 3rd and 20 ends up with a 13-yard completion ... and we see a 4th-down attempt! Shotgun snap, 3 WRs.... sacked!

All Texas has to do at this point is run out the clock .. but we're ending up with a 3rd down all the same. Huge option lateral ends up BARELY getting a first down! Ohio State's forced to start spending their timeouts here - actually, scratch that, it won't matter. A facemask penalty kills any shot Ohio State had at winning - and the asshole move of kicking a FG when time expired goes awry.

The Music City Bowl: Shitbox of the South

So apparently this is the 11th Motor City Bowl in history. Didn't expect that; I also didn't expect that the SEC is a robust 3-6 in this bowl - although that began with a wonderful 0-5 streak. Presumably they rotated the teams around so the mismatches weren't as flagrant after that. Don't quote me on it, though.


Vandy might be the team that backed into a bowl the hardest - which is pretty impressive, you have to admit. After opening the season 5-0, Vandy suddenly realized they're ...well, commies, and promptly gave back everything they had taken from their opponents to the tune of 1-6 over their last 7 games. Like true Commies, they ended the season exactly how they started, with nothing beyond what they entered with - .500. Sure, like a totalitarian regime they took as much as they could at first, but they were forced to give it back by the proletariat.

Let's just skip ahead a bit - Vandy's offense sucks balls. Like the Motherland against anyone who wasn't part of the USSR, the ground game was ineffective against its more stalwart opponents, and the Russian - er, Vanderbilt - air attack is not the stuff legends are made of. Matter of fact, it doesn't exist and you can find no evidence of it. Any evidence is merely a hoax perpetrated against the Great Mother Russia. The ground game, like any true Communist regime, is not a one-man show - it's a two-man show.

The defense is solid and impregnable. Any mention of Vandy allowing nearly 150 yards on the ground per game is merely propaganda designed to blaspheme the Gold Star attack. The stories about the passing defense, its 13/18 TD/INT ratio, and less than 175 yards allowed through the air are all true, though. Supreme Commander D.J. Moore leads the Aerial Assault Squad, and will repel all invaders of its airspace. Mother Nashville will not tolerate failure, and your footballs will be crushed like flabby grapes under the heel of this defensive juggernaut.

The Commies' plan of attack is to allow the pitiful invaders from Boston College to enter their homeland, burning all in their wake. Once the true winter hits, the Eagles will be unable to handle the Vanderbilt attack. Failure is merely a matter of time, not of choice.

Wait, the game's in Tennessee? Shit.

Boston College

And once again, we return to talking about the fucking ACC. This version of an ACC team at least played in the conference championship game, flailing and failing spectacularly in a 30-12 loss (yes, that includes a safety, the official scoring method of ACC games this season). When they weren't getting shut down by Virgina Tech in return games ...again.... they went 9-3. Before you ask, their inexplicable loss was to Clemson, although they get partial credit for losing to a Georgia Tech team that hadn't figured out what the triple option was yet.

Their offense somehow scored 330 points on the season (30 due to INTs, 6 from a fumble return, 12 from punt returns, so 282 on offense - that makes more sense), which was good enough for average in the conference. Their passing game can be nicely construed as "terrible", better in-conference than Sean Glennon and the "fuck the forward pass" game at GT. The running game is better by comparison, but that's also damning with praise so faint it's barely even there.

Like every other damn ACC team, Boston College plays defense and that's about it. Witness the 6(!) defensive touchdowns they've scored on the year, and tremble before their stout rushing defense that's currently 7th in the country. Bottom line, this team basically plays defense and punts.

What'll they have to do to win? Play defense and punt, and force the Commies to return to neutral on their take-aways (currently +6 on the season; no, they probably don't need to force that many turnovers, but it'd be fun if they did).

Sunday, December 28

Humanitarian Bowl: Because "Boise" + "December" = "Humane"

Seriously, what the fuck? The idea behind this bowl originally was like the ideas behind the Hawaii and New Mexico bowls - free 12th or 13th game for Boise State, and it's a home game to boot. Well, turns out that of the now 12 years that this bowl's been around, Boise's been in the bowl a whopping total of 4 times. Good job, guys. At least this bowl has been pretty consistent about its WAC-ACC ties in the last 5 years (before that, god only knows), so they've got that going for them. So far, the ACC is 3-2 ... this year, someone's gotta win.


This little inconsiderate shitbag of a team managed to give up more points than it scored - and still ended up at 7-5. You want road wins from these guys? Then it sucks to be you; only a relative de-pantsing of Clemson at high noon on a Saturday counted as a road win (Black Hole Theory: Clemson's talented on offense -> Maryland wins). They couldn't even beat MTSU on the road (final record: 5-7 - Black Hole Theory: they suck -> Maryland loses). Really, you could use the Black Hole Theory in most Maryland games this year; the only exceptions were Delaware (close win), Eastern Michigan (blowout), and NC State, although that NC State win was their last loss of the year, so ...maybe that doesn't count. That being said, somewhere around the last month of the year the Black Hole collapsed in on itself, evidenced by blowout losses to Florida State and Boston College (although BC has nothing on offense, so maybe Black Hole Theory still applied; the FSU game was an aberration).

Predictably, these fuckballs can't do anything right; even their second-in-the-ACC passing numbers of 207 yards per game was good enough for 65th(!) nationally. You want defense? Fuck you! How's it feel to be outrushed AND outpassed on an average basis? That being said, Da'Rel Scott is the only thing that passes for (functional) talent on offense (959 yards on the season); you'd think that for all the press Darius Heyward-Bey gets, he'd average more than 3.5 catches per game. Of course, that's also the Maryland offense in a nutshell. Chris Turner blows.

Defensibly, they're pretty much terrible. Don't stop the run, don't stop the pass, only 8 INT against 17 TDs allowed through the air, allow nearly 20 first downs per game, can't pressure the QB, and can't penetrate past the line of scrimmage. So of course they only allow 36% of third down conversions. When it comes to turnovers, they blow - we'll just tell you they're -8 on the season and leave it at that.

What do they have to do to win? We have no fucking clue.


Nevada's a 7-5 team who pretty much went 7-2 against anyone who wasn't Texas Tech, Missouri, or Boise State. Of course, beyond those three they didn't exactly play anybody of note; hhwhat-hever.

Nevada's mantra for the season has been to dominate the ground. They get outpassed 321-219 but make up for it with a 291-74 rushing edge, on average. Does it work? Like we said... roughly half of the time, sure. Nevada outrushed opponents in both wins and losses, but in wins the margin was +270 while in losses it was down to +130.

Colin Kaepernick owes his solid QB rating to a 19/5 ratio; the percentages (54.8%) and averages (7.4 ypa, 206.6 ypg) are pedestrian, but he's not going to burn the team with turnovers. In the option attack, he's chipping in 92.9 ypg rushing, to go with main back Vai Taua's 118.3; the two have combined to pound it in 30 times as well.

Nevada's passing game chips in about 220 ypg regardless of win or lose. It's the passing defense that matters here, giving up 385 ypg in losses to just 275 ypg in wins. TD/INT ratio is about 2:1 either way, but there's a 10% difference in completion percentage. Surprisingly, this team is practically even in turnovers in both wins and losses.

What's their strategy against Maryland? Simple - pound the ball, and don't get burned through the air. Maryland's a team who's already getting outrushed on the season, so the former shouldn't be too much of a concern. (put another way, if they can't even win the ground game against Maryland, they're just being outclassed) Chris Turner hasn't been great, and Maryland's success is actually inversely related to his passing numbers (go figure). The Terps are vastly better when they're rushing for 186 ypg in wins than they are when they're rushing for only 62 ypg in losses. So I'd actually go against Nevada's apparent defensive indicator of passing ypg and just focus on stopping the run. Win the ground game by 100-150 yards, and let Turner's mediocrity fall short of being able to turn the tide.

Saturday, December 27

The Alamo Bowl: A Historical Reenactment

Since the modern era began, the Alamo Bowl's been played 15 times. The biggest margin of victory was 66-17 (2000, Nebraska over Northwestern). Why's that matter here? Because Northwestern is something beyond horribly overrated and likely going to serve as cannon fodder for Missouri - especially if they remember how to play like they were when this season started.


The Wildcats opened up the season 6-0 before skidding their bandwagon around, throwing it in reverse, and finishing the season on a 3-3 skid. Of course, that skid was "helped" by a last-second TINT for a win over Minnesota. Minnesota, on the other hand, gets to play Kansas. Well played, Golden Gophers. If you're looking for a signature win here, that's probably it - either that or the 22-19 win over an also lucky-as-shit Iowa team (playing the fucking Gamecocks? Good show). Losing your only games against ranked opponents by a combined score of 85-30 does not make for a confidence pick, but apparently it puts you in a decent bowl game. What has this season come to?

Like so many teams this bowl season, Northwestern really doesn't do anything well; they can't really score (24.5 ppg, just behind the lofty Diabeetus'd attack of Purdue), they don't play spectacular D (19.3 ppg allowed seems decent, but that's buoyed in part by an opening four-game slate where Duke was the toughest team they played - and the Blue Devils rang up 20), they don't run or pass particularly well, they don't stop the pass, and they do a decent job stopping the run. Oh boy - who's excited?

It's always a good sign when your two leading QBs combine for a 16/17 TD/INT ratio. Backup QB Mike Kafka gets an A- for name quality but a D+ for performance - a 70% completion ratio isn't bad, but that should be the minimum when you're getting 7 yards per attempt in a small sample size. Fortunately, C.J. Bacher is back - he's a name you've possibly heard of, but it's not one to fear. RB Tyrell Sutton is the most talented guy on the team; he's averaging 5 yards a carry (but not getting the ball as much as he probably should) - the downside is that the running game consists of him and scrambles.

On defense, there's not much to see here. The pass rush does a good job - Corey Wootton leads the team with 9 sacks - but the pass defense is middling. (This probably explains why the rush is good - blitz central.) It's interesting that S Brendan Smith has returned both of his INTs for TDs, but that's a factor of small sample size and not of any type of inherent skill.

Northwestern is one of those teams that's really good at third down on both sides of the ball; however, that's about it for the margins. K Arnando Villareal is solid, but the punting game is abysmal, good for 95th nationally. That bodes well against a team with a defunct offense like Missouri, wait.

So what do they have to do? Well, they need to get lucky and hope they don't have to punt that much. They should ride Sutton as hard as they reasonably can and limit the amount of damage that Bacher / Kafka can do. On defense, the stats read like they already do a good job of getting pressure on the QB; they better hope like hell that continues, because if not they need to have a garden hose available on the sidelines. The kids are going to be torched otherwise.


The Missouri Tigers opened the season 5-0 and climbing to #3 in the country before consecutive losses to Oklahoma State and Texas expelled them from further national championship discussion. The Tigers appeared to right themselves with a blowout of Colorado, but not long after a closer-than-expected win over Baylor, they were upset by divisional rival Kansas. Not quite backing into the Big 12 title game, the blowout loss to Oklahoma was nonetheless completely expected.

Offensively, this is a team that strikes fear in the hearts of opposing defenses. Chase Daniel completes 74% of his passes for 318 ypg and a 37/15 ratio. His main targets are speedster Jeremy Maclin and big tight end Chase Coffman, hauling in about 180 ypg combined. Derrick Washington gives the team a more physical aspect, with 76.3 ypg on the ground to go with 17 touchdowns. The other side of the ground game comes in the form of trick plays to Maclin and draws by Daniel, contributing almost 20 ypg apiece.

Defensive toughness, however, never solidified this season, which is for the most part why the Tigers won only nine games. The Tiger defense ranks 75th in scoring at 27.5 ppg given up, and while this is in part attributable to playing in a conference full of strong offensive teams, we also remember that these guys gave up 42 points to Illinois – 14 more than the Illini's season average. Missouri is, however, 6th nationally in scoring offense and 4th in passing offense. You know what you're getting into here.

What's Missouri's gameplan? Just play smart. The Wildcats' offense is not going to keep pace with Daniel, Maclin, & Co. Missouri also has a devastating special teams edge with Wofford kicking and Maclin returning. Turnovers are about the only thing that can turn the game around, so if I'm Gary Pinkel, I make sure Chase Daniel knows there's no need to force things with his arm. (remember Okie State?) A patient, methodical attack will be enough to overwhelm Northwestern.

Friday, December 26

The Emerald Bowl: Guaranteed* to Rain

This is the only bowl around where there's at least a chance of someone doing a full-on muddy head-slide into a dugout; for some reason the Emerald Bowl folks decided to host this in whatever they're calling Pac Bell Park these days. Apparently some people really like nuts. Speaking of nuts, nobody can figure out if they want to stick around with a bowl affiliation here; I suppose it's been the ACC's domain since 2002 back when it was the San Francisco Bowl, but in '04 it picked up a sponsor along with Navy. Because that makes all the sense in the world. Either way, the ACC's 3-2 in this game - the last two years against the Pac-10 they've been 1-1.


The Baby Canes ended up 7-5 overall and - like so many other shit teams in the ACC - 4-4 in-conference. Shockingly, their losses were actually mostly understandable; a tougher-than-expected loss to Florida coupled with losses to the other Florida team, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina + bitter stepbrother. Wait, they lost to NC State? Fuck that shit. At least they beat Virginia Tech - and they won the return game against TAMU, so they've got that going for them too.

Like so many ACC teams, Miami really doesn't do anything well other than be young and get guys suspended. Sure, their scoring offense is 2nd in the ACC (good enough for mid-40s nationally), but they only outscored their opponents by an average of 3.7 ppg - and that's including their 52-7 blowout of Charleston Southern. Good job. They don't run, pass, or stop the run very well - but they do sport a pretty decent pass D. It's left as an exercise to the reader if this is due to a good secondary or shitty ACC quarterbacking; you know which one we're siding with.

Of course, the keyword here is Baby Canes; leading rusher Graig Cooper is only a sophomore, and both QB Robert Marve and QB Jacory Harris are freshmen. (Of course, Marve's suspended for the game, but he played earlier, so he counts here.) Leading WRs Aldarius Johnson and Thearon Collier? Freshmen. At least their leading tacklers (LB Glenn Cook and DC Anthony Reddick) are seniors. Of course, their leading backfield penetrators - Alan Bailey, Marcus Robinson, and Sean Spence - are all underclassmen. Great.

Predictably, a team this young is going to have problems with turnovers (19 INT allowed vs. 4 taken away; -9 total on the season) and third down conversions (33.5%). However, they excel in the red zone and have an excellent kicking game for once. That should help them out in playing a team that lost to fucking Maryland.

What'll Miami have to do in this game? Stick to what they've done in the past; win the battle of field position and get lucky enough to come out with a victory. This is a good-not-great Cal team they're facing off against; RB Jahvid Best is the best guy on the team, so it might be worth stacking up a bit and daring Kevin Riley or whatever Weeblie is under center to beat them over the top. Really, a win here would be nice but not necessary; the bowl season experience is going to be the key here.


The Cal Golden Bears being a tale of two teams should come as no surprise to anyone who remotely follows the Pac 10. In 2008, the Berkley Hippies put a new twist on things by going 7-0 at home and 1-4 on the road, although the fact that USC and Oregon State were road games may have biased that outcome. If there's one thing we've learned, it's that college teams don't travel long distances well (see: home win over Michigan State, road loss to Maryland) unless they are vastly superior to their opposition… or, I dunno, if they have Vince Young on their team. Always helps when the line can forget to block, the WRs don't run routes, and the QB just says "fuck it" and takes off for 50 yards.

Oh by the way – that one road win? Washington State. So yeah, moving on… Jahvid Best leads the Cal offense, rushing for 126.7 ypg and an astounding 8.0 ypc, chipping in 22.4 ypg in receptions as well. Shane Vereen throws in another 56 ypg to make this a run-first kind of
offense. That's fortunate, because Kevin Riley and Nate Longshore have both been mediocre quarterbacks. Combined they have a 23/10 ratio, so at least there's not an excessive amount of turnovers. However, neither completes more than 60% of their passes (Riley at just 50.7%) and both average only a shade over 6 yards an attempt. To put that in perspective, Sam Bradford averages 6 yards per incompletion. Jahvid Best has more receptions than any WR on the team, so we're not really going to talk about them. In fact, Best and Vereen have the same receptions total – 52 – as the top two WRs, Nyan Boateng and Cameron Morrah.

Defensively, the Bears counter their mediocre passing offense with a mediocre passing defense. By mediocre I don't mean "bad" – I mean just that. It's a wash; technically Cal outpasses opposition by a shade under 3 ypg – practically, a wash. It's the 183-122 edge in rushing
ypg that allowed this team to win more often than not. That or the fact that they played at home more often than not, which we've already shown to be the true indicator of this team's success.

So let's discuss that home field advantage which is clearly more important to Cal's success than things like overall talent, positional advantages, schemes, etc. It's a short drive from Berkley to San Francisco, certainly shorter than the trip the Canes are making. Will that be enough to win the game for Cal? Frankly, nobody cares.

*not actually guaranteed

Champs Sports Bowl: Because Beating Two 1-AA Teams Makes You a Winner!

The Champs Sports Bowl has a long and distinguished history, starting in 2001 and continuing up until, um, now. Oh boy. The ACC has made this bowl their stomping grounds, going 5-2 while the other team couldn't figure out what they wanted to do - first it was Big East, then it was Big 12, then the Big East again, and now we're to the Big 10. At least they're all Big. This time, Wisconsin steps in, hoping to turn the Big 10's 0-2 frown upside down. They'll face a Florida State team that we've been disparaging in these hallowed walls for months now. If you think we're stopping just because they made a bowl, we have a bridge to sell you.

Florida State

This little turdbomb of a team managed to slide into 8-4 by virtue of - yes - two wins over 1-AA competition. Really, we don't have too much of a problem with it if it wasn't for two things: 1) they scheduled both teams as the first two games of the season, which led to 2) people thinking they were a good team because they were 2-0 - then later 2-1, then later 6-1 before finishing the season on a 2-3 skid. It all stems back to those first two games, which: shame on them.

The funny thing is that for all the shit we give the 'Noles, they can at least score. They lead the ACC in points per game - and not in the shitty ACC way; they're actually 27th in the country. (By comparison, the 2nd-best scoring offense in the ACC is 46th in the country.) That's fueled by a 180-yards-a-game rushing attack led by RB Antoine Smith. However, backup RB Jermaine Thomas contributes, and FSU is lucky enough to have two semi-legit rushing QB threats in Christian Ponder and D'Vontrey Richardson. The passing game isn't much to phone home about; you don't tell your friends you're sporting a 12/13 TD/INT ratio (Ponder) or can't even complete 53% of your passes (Richardson and - yes - Drew Weatherford).

On defense, they're mired in the average ACC morass that is the 18-22 point range of points allowed, but the composites are decent; they're 5th in the ACC in yardage against but 1st in passing yardage against. The oddity of that passing number is they still allowed a 14/9 ratio, which would indicate that they weren't playing the ball enough (or they were facing some wildly inaccurate QBs; that's likely as well).

Predictably, FSU checked in at a -3 in turnover margin for the year, which doesn't mean a whole lot. What does mean something is they're +18% in third down conversions - 44% to their opponents' 26%. That opponents' conversion percentage is good for the best in the nation.

That's a good sign against a team like Wisconsin who can't do shit passing the ball. The key for F$U is going to be holding the Badgers to limited yardage on 1st and 2nd down, which would force them into obvious passing downs; anything 3rd and 4+ is a likely win for the 'Noles. On offense, Wisconsin has a difficult but manageable defense against both fronts, so the key here is going to be limiting possible mistakes and turnovers while keeping the chains moving. That's something Free Shoes U can do.


The Wisconsin Badgers started the 2008 season with three opening wins, including what looked at the time to be a big road victory over Fresno State. After dominating the first half of their fourth game against Michigan, the Badgers held just a three-score lead. Squandering the opportunity to have already put the game away, they allowed a Michigan comeback which started a 1-5 tumble into the depths of conference mediocrity. Though Wisconsin rebounded to win three straight – including an uncomfortably close 36-35 triumph over Cal-Poly – this is a team who has the feeling of backing into bowl season. Perhaps one reason for this feeling is the losses to Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa, and Michigan State – every quality team the Badgers have faced. This is not a team who is going to put fear, or even much concern, into a bowl opponent – even one of ACC quality.

Offensively, there's not much to Wisconsin. PJ Hill is the workhorse, pounding out 85.1 ypg and 13 rushing TDs on the season. John Clay has moved into a strong supporting role, contributing 70.4 ypg on the ground of his own (9 TDs). Both QBs have almost identical stats - Dustin Sherer (118.3 rating, 54.3%, 7.2 ypa, 5 TD, 5 INT) and Allan Evridge (119.1, 53.8, 7.2, 5, 5) are little more than occasional distraction from the steady stream of handoffs to Wisconsin's two featured runningbacks. No receiver averages even 50 ypg in receptions, and star tight end Travis "Catch it Like" Beckum has only played in six games.

Looking at the composites, Wisconsin throws the ball for 192.8 ypg while giving up 189.1 ypg through the air. They typically dominate the ground – 212.0 ypg for to 133.3 ypg allowed – but of course when opposing defenses have stopped this (Ohio State, Penn State) or opposing offenses have continued to pound away regardless (Michigan State's Javon Ringer) the Badgers have unraveled.

Against Florida State, Wisconsin faces a team with a reasonably strong running back – Antoine Smith. Under most circumstances I'd be worried about UW's secondary not being adequately tested by Big Ten offenses, except that their opponent's best QB may actually be Drew Weatherford, so this isn't likely to be an issue.

Look for the Champs Sports Bowl to come down to two teams stubbornly pounding away at each others' defenses, unable to accomplish much. Three HB iso's and out, followed by a toss sweep, QB draw, jump ball, and out. Ad nauseam. You've probably done something in a previous life to deserve this; shame on you.

Meineke Bowl: You Won't Pay a Lot for these Tickets!

Fast-forward to Dec 27. Yeah, we're skipping all of the pre-Christmas bowl crap, Poinsettia Bowl aside because it actually has good teams. You won't find that level quality here, but there's other reasons for choosing the games that we do.

West Virginia

The Mountaineers started out 1-2 with both being nearly inexplicable losses, and in fact didn't get their first road win until November. This team isn't the Rich Rodriguez juggernaut of seasons past; then again, Bill Stewart is no Rich Rodriguez.

West Virginia is averaging 3 more rushing attempts per game in Nov/Dec compared to what they were doing in Aug/Sept. This comes along with a decrease in of less than one pass attempt per game, but this isn't factoring in that a lot of "runs" at the beginning of the season were passing plays gone wrong. WVU has slowly reacquired their identity as a read-option team, and while they're not great by any means, they wouldn't lose a rematch to Colorado.

As expected, White and Devine are simply shredding teams on the ground (185 ypg rushing between the two), but White's passing has been mediocre at best. At 6 yards-a-pop, teams are frankly better off all but ignoring the receivers and stacking the line of scrimmage, which probably explains the 14 point drop in production from 2007. Darius Reynaud is greatly missed as defenses are no longer spread vertically against this offense; between his absence and the absence of Owen Schmidt to provide power and blocking, the rushing yards per attempt have fallen by almost a full yard, despite increased use of Devine (individually 8.6 ypa 2007, down to 6.4 ypa 2008).

This is actually a strong defensive bunch, finishing 9th in the nation in scoring. WVU gives up a pretty decent 3.6 ypa rushing, and beyond that they're not particularly good at stopping one thing; in fact, they are 35th in yardage allowed. You just don't score against them.

A turnover ratio of 26-14 helps matters greatly. For that matter, Pat McAfee outpunts their opposition by about 4 yards a boot. It does help that McAfee has made 84% of his FGs, while opponents have missed on 39% of theirs! Still, with such close statistics overall, it's no surprise that five games were decided by a TD or less (2-3 in those games).

Against North Carolina, WVU faces an opponent who still has less speed and less raw talent (TJ Yates notwithstanding), but let's be honest they are probably much better-coached with Butch Davis. In the face of such a matchup, the best and most obvious thing WVU can do is to put the ball into the hands of White & Devine, and ride the departing senior quarterback's legs to one more bowl victory. It shouldn't be too tough to get the team fired up for such an occasion, and with the inconsistency and chemistry issues that UNC's offense has shown in November, that'll probably be enough.

North Carolina

Well, this is our first foray into ACC country this bowl season, and I think I speak for all of us when I say: fuck this country. North Carolina had what passes for a dominant offense in the ACC, averaging just about 27.5 points a game. This was highlighted by 40+ point outbursts against Rutgers and Boston College ... and because this is the ACC we're talking about, lowlighted by a 10-point shitbomb against NC State. Of course. The defense? Not much to call home about, finishing just about average in the ACC at 20 ppg allowed. (Side note: the distribution between first and last in the ACC in ppg against is a total of 10 points. Four teams allow between 20 and 22 points.) And yes, this stellar team is 49th nationally in offense, 29th nationally in defense. Sure.

Of course, we know this team is talented. How do we know that? They lost to Maryland, which is a surefire sign they were trying to do something right. What that is we're not sure of yet; they're not particularly adept at running, passing, stopping the run, or stopping the pass. The passing we can chalk up to T.J. Yates' injury in part, but if we give them credit for that we lose the reason we're putting together this preview in the first place, the SexCannonTon. QB Cameron Sexton really didn't do a whole lot - averaging 7.5 yards per attempt really isn't manly in any sense of the word unless you're Chad Pennington, in which case it's downright hair-on-your-chest awesome - but they at least didn't turn the ball over a lot.

The mostly ineffective running game is led by Shaun Draughn, a converted safety, who's run for basically 800 yards - not bad. What's the problem, then? He's their whole damn rushing game; everyone else has run for about 900 yards total (including the immaculate Cooter Arnold and his 30 yards; yes, they have the SexCannonTon and Cooter - Tennessee fans can appreciate the Cooter). They've also been outrushed by an average of 15 yards per game, which isn't a big deal but bears mentioning.

They're at least passable on pass defense, turning in a 12/19 TD/INT ratio. S Tremane Goddard led the way with 7 picks, including 1 TINT. The other guy on defense you've heard of is LB Quan Sturdivant, who led the team with 111 tackles; his backer mate Mark Paschal chipped in with 103.

So how the hell is this team even here? Well, it's a pretty terrible bowl - but excepting that, they are rocking the 3rd down conversions, converting over 42% of their third downs. Of course, their opponents are converting 41%, so don't take that to the bank.

What do the Tar Heels have to do to win? For starters, they need to hypnotize Bill Stewart into going pass-crazy against them; keeping the ball off the ground is going to be the first step. They'll need to put Sturdivant and Paschal in position to make plays to stop the running game; they may be able to take White and Devine solo, but don't count on it - if either of them miss that tackle twice during the game, it's over. On offense, WVU will allow North Carolina to move the ball, but scoring is going to be difficult; figure out a way to subvert the red zone D and the Tar Heels win. As weird as this sounds, they probably don't want this to turn into a FG battle, since if that happens it's all over; they're not beating Pat McAfee.

Monday, December 22

Hawai'i Bowl Special Preview: An Interview with Jimmy Clausen

This is James Lawrence reporting here with a rare dream opportunity for any sports blogger. Joining me is legendary Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen, one of the most highly touted recruits in the country, coming out of prep school in California to take the helm of one of the great storied programs in the annals of college footballdom. Jimmy, welcome to the show.


After a 3-9 finish your freshman year, Notre Dame started out the 2008 season by winning four of your first five games. Tell us a little about what it was like to survive that scare against San Diego State.

Jimmy. JIMMAH, JimmyJimmah.

Hah. Yes, I can see why you'd say that. But then you lost a close game to North Carolina, rebounding with a win over lowly Washington. What happened in that game in Chapel Hill?

JIMMAYE, Jimjimmah, Jim-mah, Jimmah... Jimmeaughlimmah!

Well, they don't call him the Sexton Cannon for nothing, right! Now after another close loss against Pittsburgh, you guys got shut out by Boston College, survived a final drive by Navy, and lost to Syracuse.

Jim...mah. Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmayhe.

I didn't either, I really didn't think it would get any lower than that for you guys. But then you faced archrival USC. Tell us about getting held to just 91 yards of offense and not getting a single first down until your twelfth drive of the game, early in the fourth quarter.


Can't disagree with that...


It's okay, Jimmy, it's okay. Rey Mauluga is nowhere near this building, you're alright. Let's move on to another topic. You guys are making a bowl appearance this season after staying home in 2007. How's that feel?

Jimmah. Jimmy-jimmy-jimmoo.

Yes, even the most pedestrian of accomplishments have a reward in the bowl season.


Um, nothing. Sorry, on to the question. Notre Dame hasn't won a bowl game since the Cotton Bowl -- Jan 1, 1994. That's a nine-bowl losing streak, what are you going to do to change things?

(to the tune of the fight song) JIM JIM-JIM JIM-JIM... JIM-MAH! JIM-JIM JIM JIM-JIM...

Okay, okay. Well that's certainly some pride in your school, Jimmy, amazing that anyone there has any. That's all the time we have for now. Notre Dame vs Hawaii, folks, 8pm Eastern on Christmas Eve. Don't watch this, please.

Wednesday, December 17

Poinsettia Bowl: In Which the BCS Gets a Meaty Middle Finger

Okay, so we learned our lesson from last year and we're not attempting to write bowl previews for every bowl - but we are covering most of them. With that being said, we're starting with this unintentional gem of a bowl that's showing up before Christmas, of all things. I can't think it was the Poinsettia Bowl's hope that they'd end up with the two best non-BCS teams out there, but sometimes Festivus miracles occur. (Actually, it's also appropriate that the Festivus miracle in this case was the Fiesta Bowl only seeing dollar signs and not actual on-field skill; it's always a Festivus miracle when someone's being an idiot.)


Going 0-2 against BCS teams isn't a point of shame; lots of teams do it. However, most teams don't win every other game they play, which is what the Horned Frogs did. The win everyone knows about is the complete decimation of BYU on October 16th (it's always nice when you get the night to yourself, isn't it?), but everyone also missed the 44-10 domination of bowl-bound Air Force. For a team that's known for their defense, they only scored under two TDs three times - in their two losses and in a 13-7 win over Colorado State. Heck, if you throw out the lackluster 26-3 opening win over New Mexico they didn't score less than 30 points in a game all year.

How do they do it on offense? Well, they run what most people would term a balanced offense (rushing yards ~= passing yards), but this is a run-first offense. They average nearly 50 runs per game, to the tune of 215 yards per game on the ground. The key here is that everyone chips in; 5 guys have between 350 and 500 yards rushing this season, with nobody topping Joseph Turner's 494 yards. The guy you've heard of, though, is RB Aaron Brown, who was a bit hobbled this year - but still doesn't average over 50 yards per game. Through the air, they're not as openly Neanderthal as, say, an Air Force, but they're not far off; QB Andy Dalton is the only semi-legitimate passer on the roster. Backup QB Marcus Jackson is what the kids call a dual threat; that's flagrantly not true since he can't pass worth shit.

Their scoring D is 2nd in the nation, behind only USC (and right in front of Boise State). It works for them, since they basically dare teams to attack them through the air; when you average 1.74 yards per carry against a team you'll abandon the run pretty quickly. Take to the air and you luck out; now you're facing a defense that's only 9th in the country, with a pretty sweet 8/14 TD/INT ratio. Best of luck. CB Stephen Coleman has a TINT (so does DL Jerry Hughes, but we'll write that off as a fluke).

How TCU beats Boise State: It'll come down to turnovers - and it'll have to. That +13 margin will be tested here, and since Boise State outpunts TCU don't count on winning the field position game. On offense, there's some - but not much - hay to be made busting it up the middle; sure, the four leading tacklers for Boise are largely up the middle, but TCU's rushing game isn't dependent on outside runs for the most part. (Yes, it is dependent on mixing it up, but this is not a home-run rushing attack we're dealing with here.) TCU has to win the third-down battle; they had the most third-down conversions in the country so far, but Boise State has one of the best third-down conversion defenses in the country. Then again, so does TCU.

This game will be nasty; if TCU can keep it within a score, they're in good shape. Oklahoma was the only team to blow TCU out, and the Horned Frogs had Utah beat for 58 minutes. There's no reason they can't beat Boise for 60.

Boise State

With Ha'wai'i (or as it will soon be written, həˈwaɪ.i) getting pimp-slapped by the Georgia Arps in last season's Sugar Bowl, and with the second-best teams in the WAC winning just 7 games, there was no way Boise State was going to beat out Utah for a BCS slot. It's a shame because, in retrospect, BSU's win on the road over Oregon is a hell of a lot more impressive than Utah's over Michigan; probably more impressive than any of the Utes' wins to be honest. But don't blame Utah; they're unbeaten with a trio of quality home wins to back that up. Blame the BCS for taking the mighty _Buckeyes._ of Ohio State -- or really, for unapologetically being Jim Delany's bitch. Either way, Boise State should be playing in the Fiesta, but we'll take one tolerable pre-Christmas bowl as a consolation.

Boise State is an old-fashioned run offense meets tough defense kind of team - the complete opposite of what they were when they won the Fiesta Bowl after the 2006 season. Defensively, Boise is #3 in the nation in scoring. Only two of their first eight opponents managed to crack ten points against this defense, and don't read too much into the 32 they allowed against Oregon. In a road environment against a team who finished with 9 wins and second in the Pac 10, #7 offense in the country (or, as we like to think of it, #2 offense outside the Big 12), Boise was up 37-13 at the end of the 3rd quarter. Pretty much every game except their late trip to Nevada was an uninteresting blowout, because nobody could get anything going offensively against these guys.

Boise State averages about 36 rushes per game and 34 passes per game - balanced on the surface, but when you consider the number of times a team is forced to pass on 3rd and long, this means they're favoring the run whenever they have a choice. Ian Johnson, who scored the final points in that epic Fiesta Bowl win over yet another vastly overrated Oklahoma team, is still leading the charge on the ground but has been nearly equalled by Jeremy Avery, giving the Broncos a legitimate two-back system.

Freshman QB Kellen Moore throws the ball with 70% accuracy and enjoys a 25-9 ratio. He's not being asked to win any games, but he's damn sure not losing them. (right, unbeaten)

Now, a great defense and a reasonably good, consistent offense is tough to beat. And Boise State makes certain that the special teams and turnover games won't swing that back the other way. The Broncos have forced 31 TOs while giving up only 24, including a 20-10 edge in interceptions. Kyle Brotzman averages 45.5 yards per punt, and the team gets a +7 yards/punt return edge on their opponents. The Broncos do have some issues with the FG unit (14/22).

TCU mirrors Boise State in many ways - great defense, commitment to the running game, win the turnover battle, win the kicking game. They're a little better at FG kicks, but a little worse at punting and QB play. Calling the first two something that can't be changed and possibly a wash, Boise really wants to force the issue at the QB position. TCU likes to stack the box and take away the run even at the expense of giving up perimeter and deep pass coverage. This was particularly evident against Oklahoma, when the Sooners' final 21 points came on three passes of over 50 yards each to Manuel Johnson. Kellen Moore is no Sam "Fuck It I'm Going Deep" Bradford, but surely he can outplay Andy Dalton. The Broncos should use a similar defensive strategy as the Horned Frogs, overloading the box and forcing TCU to throw more than they'd like. Bonus that Boise's secondary has also been more active than TCU's in forcing turnovers.

Offensively, Boise should not only test TCU's at the perimeter and in deep coverage, but also with trick plays. The old playbook's still around there somewhere, and in the (admittedly few) Broncos games I watched this season, these plays made occasional appearances with a good amount of success.

Sunday, December 14

Should I Really Watch This Shit? (or, I Can't Believe This Shitty-Ass Team Got to Play in a Bowl) - Your Guide to the 2008-09 Bowl Season

It's that wonderful time of year when BCS apologists get to remind us of how the bowls preserve the meaningfulness of the regular season, which a playoff would undoubtedly ruin. Every game matters, unless you're two of the top three teams in the country playing head-to-head, in which case it's just an exhibition. Finish 2-5 in your last seven games, failing to crack 100 yards in your final outing against your archrival? That's totally cool. Go 4-4 in the Mountain West, but tack on two big 3-point wins over Sacramento State and Houston? Welcome to the party. Heck, we'll take you if you're 4-4 in the ACC but can add a 10-point blowout of William & Mary to that thick resume. (not WMU mind you; some kid named Will and his sister, Mary) Finish 2-5 in the Big East and own such stellar out-of-conference wins like UT-Martin, UCF, and FIU? Come on down! Skid into 7th place in the Big 10 after going 0-4 in your last four games? Shit, that's good enough for a New Year's Eve bowl.

Thirty-four bowl games presents a dilemma - how much pure awesome can you personally handle? If you're like me and answered "not quite that much" then never fear - we're here to help you decide when to glue your eyes to the screen versus when to... um... get going on those 2009 taxes! Yeah! 1040-EZ, here we come! (We'd be getting 1099s, but we're not paid for this; the effort here is obvious.)

Dec 20
EagleBank: Navy vs. Wake Forest

Better than: Bungee-jumping without a cord.

Not as good as: Breathing, which is slated to make a comeback sometime around mid-season 2010.

Comments: Unfortunately for the fans, I see this game being controlled mostly by Wake Forest. By that I mean - Navy's option ground game should have difficulties against the WF defense, but as long as Navy's defense is able to get properly lined up with the correct number of men on the field, Wake's also going to be going nowhere -- it's what they do. These teams met in late September for a game which featured seven scoring drives, ten punts, and eight turnovers.

NEW MEXICO: Fresno State at Colorado State

Better than: Drinking acetate from a freshly-heated Bunsen burner "because you had nothing better to do." We don't believe you, son, and there's an honor board meeting in your future; besides, meth is much easier, and it's the Fresno way.

Not as good as: Grocery shopping on Black Friday.

Comments: Fresno State is 3 FGs away from being a 10-2 team, which may say just as much about their inability to close out a close game as how close they were to looking like a decent team. Fortunately, Colorado State offers no such illusions as four of their six losses were by 21 points or more. Mind you, one of those four teams finished ranked, and three are bowl-eligible... so hey.


Better than: Being Isiah Thomas' PR rep.

Not as good as: The other St. Petersburg Bowl - the one in Russia, but that's related to soccer.

Comments: Seriously, nobody ever says they want to go to St. Petersburg. I'm floored this bowl even happened.


Better than: Tailgating for a pee-wee football game.

Not as good as: Tailgating for a high school football state championship game.

Comments: We can't be the only people amused that the two Mormon schools got sent to Las Vegas and New Orleans, right? Assuming at least some of BYU's secondary returns from injury, this should be a safe win. Then again, Arizona lost to New Mexico and Stanford, so it might not even matter.

Dec 21
R+L Carriers New Orleans: Southern Miss vs. Troy

Better than: Texting pictures of guns to your ex-girlfriends because the bitch ain't gonna pay up on her own, and she needs to know her place.

Not as good as: Having a team that beat LSU playing in New Orleans; I'm sure the locals would love that.

Comments: Once again, the bowl system's gift for my birthday is a giant "fuck you." I'll be returning this box unopened.

Dec 23
TCU vs. Boise State

Better than: Allowing two of those uppity non-BCS schools into the BCS.

Not as good as: The hilarity that would have ensued if Boise had been chosen over Ohio State.

Comments: So, how exactly does it work out that arguably the two best non-BCS teams end up facing each other? And why is this game before Christmas, of all things? I mean, leave it to a bowl with a payout of something like three used condoms to get it right, but still.

Dec 24
Notre Dame vs. Hawaii

Better than: Watching this exact same game, except played in Boise, Idaho.

Not as good as: Going to Hawaii for some reason other than watching Jimmy Claussen try to play quarterback.

Comments: The schadenfreude train that is Notre Dame gets to play in a theoretical bowl game that's more of a cross-country road trip to Hawaii. On one hand, this is almost the definition of a meaningless bowl game, and since it's held late on Christmas Eve, it's not like anyone but the most diehard of fans will watch it. But on the other hand, Notre Dame alumni now have a reason to travel to Hawaii - well, another reason. Here's hoping the Rainbow Warriors can ruin the trip - or, failing that, just start a giant melee, which has been the only reason to watch this bowl the last few years.

Dec 26
Florida Atlantic vs. Central Michigan

Better than: Flying to DC and asking for money because you're flat broke and about to go out of business.

Not as good as: Not having to fly back to Detroit after you're done having the Senate rip you a new asshole.

Comments: This is almost exactly like the Independence Bowl; two shitty teams nobody's heard of facing each other in a place you'd never want to go to, even if you got really, really drunk. The difference is that there's one guy here (Dan LeFevour) that's worth watching.

Dec 27
North Carolina vs. West Virginia

Better than: Having to pay a lot for a muffler.

Not as good as: Losing your All-Conference starting quarterback, and having him replaced by a guy nicknamed "Sex" or "the Sexton Cannon." (I'm going to assume that UNC players read this blog and pick up on our inside jokes.)

Comments: This is the first "hey, I wonder if this game might actually be worth watching" game of the bowl season (Poinsettia not included). Of course, unlike the Poinsettia both these teams have turned it on only in spurts this season, so realistically there's only about a 25% chance of a good game. That's the second best we've seen so far - if that doesn't scare the hell out of you, I don't know what will.

Florida State vs. Wisconsin

Better than: Seeing two semi-traditional powerhouse schools fight it out in a who-cares bowl that neither fan base is excited about. Wait...

Not as good as: Champs Sports. The last game I watched there, Oklahoma played in an Orange Bowl national championship they shouldn't have gone to and lost by 5 touchdowns. Good times.

Comments: If this game was Minnesota-North Carolina, would you care? No? Well, those teams had the same record this season that these two teams had, but Florida State and Wisconsin will get the credit since they're, well, Florida State and Wisconsin. It could be worse, though; at least FSU didn't get here on their two wins against 1-AA competition.

Miami vs. California

Better than: Beating a hyped Big Ten team in your season opener only to plummet from the rankings by losing to a mediocre ACC team (ie, an ACC team).

Not as good as: Sure we lost to Florida and FSU, but we beat UCF!

Comments: This is a gem of a matchup in a completely different way than the Holiday Bowl. Anyone who doesn't follow college football closely is going to think this should be an awesome game, based on team name and history. Both of these teams have the talent to be way better than they are. Both not only flagrantly underperform, but vary wildly in consistency. (beating Oregon but losing to Maryland?)

Dec 28
INDEPENDENCE: Northern Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech

Better than: Systematically plucking all the hair from your legs, one by one, with a pair of tweezers that haven't been used in 17 years.

Not as good as: Really, the possibilities are limitless here; these are two non-BCS teams playing before New Year's in Shreveport. You don't need us to figure out something here.

Comments: This is a shithole of a bowl. No getting around it, but you'll watch if you have nothing better to do. You'll then hate yourself for not having anything better to do, so you've been warned.

Dec 29
Rutgers vs. N.C. State

Better than: The bowl.

Not as good as: Papa John's pizza. IGOTTHEFUCKINMUNCHIES!

Comments: All the press on this game is about two teams getting hot at the right time; here at LFB, we prefer to focus on the fact that both teams sucked donkey nuts for the first half of the year. Why do people think they don't suck balls now? All they did was beat up on pretty bad conference competition.

Northwestern vs. Missouri

Better than: Losing half of your 5000-man army to scarcely two hundred random outdoorsmen holed up in a missionary.

Not as good as: Winning the battle.

Comments: Imagine that the Alamo defenders also had an equal number of people as the Mexican army. That's pretty much this game. Have fun, Northwestern.

Dec 30
HUMANITARIAN: Maryland vs. Nevada
Better than: Playing in a who-the-fuck-cares bowl game before Christmas.

Not as good as: Playing in a who-the-fuck-cares bowl game that's not in Boise in December.

Comments: The Maryland Black Hole Theory doesn't even apply here, because both teams are pretty much equally shitty. The humanitarian thing to do would be to cancel this game. In addition, Black Hole Theory doesn't apply because Nevada has nobody talented. Fear the turtle!

HOLIDAY: Oklahoma State vs. Oregon
Better than: Each of these teams is better than a hypothetical all-star team composed of the other teams playing Dec 30.

Not as good as: Having this bowl played in January, because really it should be.

Comments: This is a gem of a matchup between two high-powered offenses. In the past, teams like Texas, Cal, and Oregon have flopped in the Holiday Bowl partly due to the letdown of being screwed by the BCS selection process. These are two strong teams who should actually be happy to be here, so hopefully they give us a good one.

TEXAS: Rice vs. Western Michigan
Better than: The Oklahoma Bowl.

Not as good as: Playing defense every once in a while.

Comments: This game is on the NFL Network; take advantage of that by not even thinking about watching this.

Dec 31
Houston vs. Air Force

Better than: I keep on wanting to say "the Armless Forces Bowl", but that's a completely terrible joke and I apologize in advance. However, you try thinking of something better than this.

Not as good as: Blatantly phoning it in on a bowl preview for a bowl you had no idea even existed before you read this. Admit it.

Comments: At least Air Force playing in the Armed Forces Bowl is somehow appropriate, and Houston is crazy-militia nuts enough.

Pittsburgh vs. Oregon State

Better than: Starting off preseason top 25 and conference favorites, then immediately losing to Bowling Green.

Not as good as: Beating USC because their defense literally can't find your pint-sized RB.

Comments: Despite the overall quality of the teams involved, this game features an excellent pair of running backs. It's probably the 2nd-best game on New Year's Eve, which is damning with faint praise but it's all we have.

MUSIC CITY: Boston College vs. Vanderbilt
Better than: Allowing Vandy to actually travel somewhere for a bowl game - although since their choices were going to be Nashville or Memphis, I guess we can't fault them too much.

Not as good as: Holding this game in fackin Beantown. GO SAWX!

Comments: This will be a "defensive struggle" between two teams that combined have half a running back. Did someone say "short bus"? Because that sounds an awful like defensive struggle.

INSIGHT: Kansas vs. Minnesota

Better than: Losing your two best defensive players, facing a crazy schedule, and having the entire nation call out your previous season as a complete fluke.

Not as good as: Blowing the largest lead in bowl history on this very same field, in all fairness against a team that's a lot better than you to begin with, then firing your coach and going 1-11 the following season.

Comments: Minnesota backed into a bowl game so hard they left skid marks, but they should look at it this way - because Northwestern won their game on a TINT, they get to play Missouri. Minnesota gets at least a semi-winnable game - good job, guys.

Georgia Tech vs. LSU

Better than: Following your national championship season by going 7-5.

Not as good as: Chick-Fil-A chicken nuggets. Secret ingredient? CRACK.

Comments: Want a great New Years' Eve drinking game? Take a drink every time the announcers misread the triple option plays. You'll be dead by morning!

Jan 1
Iowa vs. South Carolina

Better than: Living in either of these states.

Not as good as: Phil Steele's predictions for South Carolina, who didn't figure tUSC finishing fourth in the conference behind freaking Vandy, of all things.

Comments: Remember the shit we were talking about Clemson? (And by "remember", I mean "read ahead to that first".) Yeah, same thing applies to both teams here, although Iowa's win over Penn State is the only win that either team has that even kind of acts like quality.

Clemson vs. Nebraska

Better than: Calling a fake field goal that your former team ran the previous season en route to a national title. Only this time, the other team scores a defensive touchdown.

Not as good as: Being a preseason favorite to win your conference, getting destroyed on national television your first week in the top 15, finishing with 7 wins, but still playing in a quality bowl game because your conference is that bad. Note that although this clearly describes Clemson, it's not specific to 2008 by any means.

Comments: Sure, you can be pissed that Clemson played on New Year's, but ...hey, you try picking an ACC team that actually deserves to play past, oh, December 27th. Yeah, that's what I thought.

Michigan State vs. Georgia

Better than: The day's first Big Ten-SEC matchup.

Not as good as: The entertainment factor of Jawja fans.


ROSE: USC vs. Penn State

Better than: USC vs Illinois. Seriously wtf? Yes the selection was made a year ago, and no I'm not letting it go. Stupid Rose Bowl.

Not as good as: USC-Ohio State rematch, in which OSU fans claim that Beanie Wells and Terrelle Pryor would have changed the outcome of their week 3 game. (projected result: 41-10)

Comments: We're looking forward to this game; in a worse year (read: 2007) these teams could've been playing for the title, so there's a couple quality teams here. With that being said, USC looks to be a small slice above Penn State on both offense and defense, but the question is if they have the braaaaaaaaains to survive.

Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati

Better than: The rest of the ACC, apparently. Although we still call bullshit on that.

Not as good as: The other eight teams in the BCS, plus Texas Tech, Oregon, Boise State, and Oklahoma State. Maybe Jawja.

Comments: On the plus side, at least the game's perfectly winnable for either team. Shame on the Orange Bowl selection committee for thinking Virginia Tech could handle Kansas last season!

Jan 2
Ole Miss vs. Texas Tech

Better than: Last year's Cotton Bowl? Or maybe not...

Not as good as: Being a pirate. (Mike Leach only)

Comments:Someone on the Cotton Bowl selection committee there really has it in for the SEC. Fun fact: these were the only teams to defeat the two teams who should be playing for the national championship.

LIBERTY: Kentucky vs. East Carolina

Better than: Not having two other bowl games to watch on Jan 2.

Not as good as: Starting out 2-0 against preseason top 25 teams and springboarding into the rankings before losing three of your next four against completely sub-par opposition. (ECU only) Or starting out 4-0 before winding up 6-6. (Kentucky only)

Comments: At this point, we should clarify that "Liberty or Death" has nothing to do with the bowl game -- lest thousands of people start committing seppuku with their frisbees upon reading this matchup.

SUGAR: Utah vs. Alabama

Better than: Going against the real sAviOr in a PvZ pre-2007.

Not as good as: Back in 2004, when Utah not only had a chance but really a guaranteed win in their BCS game.

Comments: Utah's going to get shafted in the press leading up to the game, but they have a shot here. Of course, I mean have a shot in the sense of there's two-for-one drink specials in the Superdome; they're gonna get wrecked.

Jan 3
Buffalo vs. Connecticut

Better than: Living in Canada.

Not as good as: Closing the border at halftime and never allowing these teams to return.

Comments: Our comments on this game got deposed at the border.

Jan 5
Ohio State vs. Texas
Better than: Allowing Boise State to get another BCS shot. Hell no, we can't allow that; isn't that right, Mr. Delany? Comparing each team's performance the last time they set foot on a field in Tempe, I'm sure the Buckeyes were the obvious choice.

Not as good as: Texas Longhorns, 2009 National Champions. Fucking BCS computers.

Comments: Don't Cryyyy Ooooouuuut Looooooouuuud.... Buckeye.

Jan 6
Tulsa vs. Ball State

Better than: Working for GMAC and realizing that there's a 1 in 3 chance that you'll be laid off at halftime. (also ran: The matchup this bowl would have gotten had both the MAC and CUSA conference championships not been upsets.)

Not as good as: Playing this bowl around Dec 19.

Comments: Any comments we'd have on this game we'd likely have to defend, and Tulsa thinks defense is bullshit. In deference to them, we're withholding comment.

Jan 8
BCS Title Game:
Florida vs. Oklahoma

Better than: Allowing Texas to have a title shot.

Not as good as: Allowing Texas to have a title shot.

Comments: Sam Bradford's sure to turn that Heisman into a title, just like Jason White did! (and Eric Crouch, and Troy Smith....)

Wednesday, December 3

Big 12: Championship Week, BCS Scenerios

The Big 12 Championship Game

The 2008 Big 12 Championship features two teams with equal or lesser records as the Texas Longhorns, an 0-2 record against Texas with average margin of defeat 17.5 points, and a lower ranking than Texas in both the AP and Harris polls. (OU led Texas by one point in the Coaches poll) I'm not going to pretend not to be bitter about this, and I'll feel no shame in flagrantly rooting against the conference representative in a potentially image-redefining BCS Championship should Oklahoma go. With that said, let's talk about the upcoming game in Kansas City.

Oklahoma enters this game red-hot, especially on the offensive side. Since being held to 35 points by Texas, Oklahoma has averaged 59.5 points per game. Their 53.3 ppg for the season is the highest by any team during the BCS era. It's no stretch to say that we are looking at one of the best college offenses in the last ten years, and their performance in the next two games could vault the unit into the all-time discussion. Sam Bradford has thrown for a ridiculous 340 ypg, 191.0 QB rating, and 46:6 ratio. Counting a few runs, he has scored 51 TDs. Demarco Murray has eclipsed 1000 rushing yards and Chris Brown is just 12 yards away from accomplishing the same feat.

Defensively, Oklahoma has issues. The unit ranks 61st in scoring defense, and you have to remember that 2007 LSU is the only team ever to win a BCS Championship Game with a defense ranked outside of the top 10 in scoring (as I noted, if we take away overtime points then they were something like 6th in scoring). That could be an issue in a month. This weekend, though, Oklahoma is more than capable of beating Missouri by simply outgunning the Tigers' offense.

Missouri's offense is no slouch either, coming in ranked 4th in scoring at 45 ppg. Chase Daniel has struggled with consistency issues, but at the end of the day still has a 168.5 rating and a 34:13 ratio. The Tigers are trying to run the ball better this year, averaging 165 ypg on the ground, but their identity is still in the passing game. Jeremy Maclin has developed into one of the nation's top receivers - despite a decline in his special teams produection - and Chase Coffman has stepped up to be a premiere tight end, averaging 87 ypg in receptions.

Missouri's defense has also been porous, 59th in scoring and barely holding opposing offenses under 400 ypg. This is their ranking despite not facing Oklahoma or Texas Tech during the regular season! We saw them give up 40 points last week to Kansas, a team which has struggled in 2008 after an outstanding 2007. There is really little chance that this unit will fare much better against the Sooners than their other recent opposition has.

All-in-all, Missouri will probably get 1-3 defensive stops in this game, at least up until the point where the game's outcome is no longer in doubt. The Missouri offense will have to perform nearly flawlessly for them to have a chance to win -- something that looked possible at the beginning of the season, but simply hasn't materialized on the field. Chase Daniel will need to cut down on the mistakes and play like the ~80% passer he was in September for the Tigers to even have a chance in this one.

BCS Scenerios

There are two BCS scenerios for the Big 12:

If Oklahoma defeats Missouri
* Oklahoma faces the SEC Champion in the BCS Championship
* Texas plays in the Fiesta Bowl

If Missouri defeats Oklahoma
* Texas faces the SEC Champion in the BCS Championship
* Missouri plays in the Fiesta Bowl

Couldn't a Florida upset of Alabama lead to a Texas vs Oklahoma BCS Rematch?

Some sportswriters are propagating this theory, which is just ludicrous. The idea is that if OU beats Missouri and Florida beats Alabama, Texas and Florida will finish neck-and-neck in the voter polls while Texas wins the bulk of the computer polls. This is wrong for two reasons:

It won't be close in the voter polls. Florida has been *annihilating* every team they've faced since mid October. Not only outscoring them (like Oklahoma) but doing that while also shutting down the opposing offense. It's been downright scary. The only knock on Florida is the lack of a truly marquee win - marquee on the level that Texas beating Oklahoma or Oklahoma beating Texas Tech was marquee. Giving Alabama their only loss in the conference championship would give the Gators that quality win, and rightly propel them into the top two of the voter polls.

Realize that Oklahoma just jumped ahead of Texas in the computer polls after defeating Oklahoma State, and despite having lost to Texas. (so any gain in OU's ratings boosted the Texas ratings) Florida would get a much larger boost from beating Alabama, and additionally that's not doing anything to help Texas' ratings. Realistically, Florida will be ahead of Texas in at least three of the computer polls if they defeat Alabama. I'd bet on them being ahead in four or five.

The SEC Champion is going to the BCS title game.

Couldn't a Missouri win lead to the Big 12 not getting into the BCS Championship?

Why? Because Texas isn't "conference champion" and the team that would be, Missouri, is clearly not one of the top two teams in the country?

The conference champion argument ultimately boils down to the idea that conference champion = best team. For example, if 2001 Colorado was the B12 Champion, then if they weren't good enough to play in the BCS championship, it must be true that teams who are worse than them (Nebraska) weren't good enough either. On some level, that argument works if you buy into Colorado's close rematch win over Texas making them the better team, or for that matter if you consider Colorado's win over Nebraska not an upset despite their records. I'm not going to discuss the 2001 Big 12 though; in the 2008 season, clearly, Missouri is not the best team (or even a top 3 team) in the Big 12. If they win it will truly be an upset, like Iowa beating Penn State or Oregon State beating USC. The only difference will be that Missouri's upset took place in a game that negates the regular season.

For Oklahoma, that's of little consolation. It would be the Sooners' second loss, which alone makes them less deserving than a team like USC. But for Texas, voters will rationalize that the Big 12 Conference simply dropped the ball and invited the wrong team to represent the South. After all, Texas easily defeated Missouri by 25 points in October in a surprisingly one-sided game. They defeated Oklahoma by 10. They lost one game on a last-second bomb to the end zone. The voters already felt that Texas was more deserving than Oklahoma, but their vote was so close that the computers were able to overturn it. A Missouri upset makes Texas the de-facto best team in the conference.

What about the numbers? Texas, Utah, Texas Tech, and Penn State are all idle. There is no reason for the voters to swap teams based on that, and obviously the computers will not swap any of those teams while they are not playing. USC? They're a solid 2-3 spots behind Texas in the voter polls, and 6 spots behind in the computer average! Playing a terrible UCLA team who just allowed ASU's defense to score four touchdowns is just not going to give them the massive boost they'd need to overtake Texas.

The closest possibility is a Florida-Alabama rematch if Florida wins. But the voters would probably be more opposed to this than to sending Texas to the BCS Championship, and on top of that Alabama already trails Texas in the computer polls; a loss would only inflate that margin.

If Oklahoma loses this Saturday, Texas is in.