Archive for December, 2010

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While not every game this past week included ranked teams, all of them had intriguing finishes for one reason or another and most of them made me sound like I had no idea what I was talking about. The college football bowl season is more of a crapshoot than any other post season because of the long layoffs, coaching changes, and because the teams are a bunch of 18-24 year olds on a glorified vacation. If your team is more worried about soaking up the sun than soaking up the opposing teams blitz packages in the film room, they’re probably going to lose (just ask West Virginia.) If your team is going through a coaching change (like Maryland and West Virginia) they may rally around the exiting coach in his final game and win by a huge margin (Maryland) or fall flat on their faces and only score 7 points (West Virginia…again). This is by no means an excuse for my horrific predictions this past week, but it’s instead a warning for my predictions this week. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here are the previews for the remaining bowls this year and on into 2011.
Predictions:
Last Week’s Record: 3-6
Overall Record: 6-8
Armed Forces: SMU in a great clash of styles. SMU has a high-flying passing offense that throws an average of over 40 times per game. Navy uses an option-based attack that has thrown barely 10 times per game. Both will have a difficult time adjusting to the new offensive looks being thrown at them, but since they have so much time to prepare, the superior players at SMU will prevail in just their second bowl win in 25 years.
Swag: Gift Suite, watch, all terrain duffle bag, and commemorative football. I think the bowl organizers thought the all terrain duffle bag would be a good idea because both of these programs have been wandering in the college football wilderness for years.

Pinstripe: Kansas State because of Daniel Thomas. Thomas is a little known senior running back from Florida that is quietly having an All-American type season at K-State. Thomas has rushed for almost 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns while having almost zero help from the passing game. The Wildcats rank 97th in the nation in passing, yet Thomas still gets his yards against 8 and 9 man fronts. The Orange have a solid defensive front, but they haven’t faced anything like Thomas all year. I expect Thomas and the Wildcats to squeak out a defensive battle in the Bronx
Swag: The Pinstripe Bowl did not disclose what they would be giving the players, so I will be disclosing my caring for this game.
Music City: North Carolina in a disinterested game. Usually when an SEC team and ACC team of comparable records meets, it’s a decent game with high intensity. This time, both of the teams involved probably don’t want to be here. North Carolina started the year as a possible national championship contender before losing almost their entire starting defense, and best offensive weapons, to suspension. Tennessee has been in a rebuilding mode since Lane Kiffin bolted town and seem to be just playing out the season. North Carolina has played more competitively all year, thus I’m taking the Tar Heels.
Swag: Headphones, iPod shuffle, iTunes gift card, Fossil watch, fleece, long sleeve t-shirt, and backpack. Maybe the organizers watch Jersey Shore and thought Fossil watches were cool.
Holiday: Nebraska in the most idiotic bowl pairing of all time. Nebraska and Washington played this year already, why exactly are they in a bowl together? Nebraska won big on Washington’s home field and I expect them to do the same on a neutral sight.
Swag: Best Buy gift card, Fossil watch, hooded sweatshirt, and cap. The Washington players will want to use that gift card to get an HD TV so they can see their current teammate Jake Locker bust in the NFL in stunning picture quality.
Meineke Car Care: USF because they are the much hotter team. The Bulls have won 4 of their last 6, with their two loses coming by a total of 9 points. Clemson did almost beat Auburn in Alabama before the Cam Newton hype machine went into overdrive, but since then they have played very mediocre football and are lucky just to be in a bowl. The Tiger fans will get an early start on New Years Eve drinking after this horrific showing.
Swag: Meineke Car Care would not disclose their swag. Last year the swag for this bowl included a Richard Petty Driving Experience photo, which I assume wasn’t the most popular item with most of the players. Just a hunch.

Sun: Miami in a match up for old times sake. Notre Dame and Miami was the pre-eminent rivalry of the 1980’s, but sine both the ‘Canes and the Fighting Irish have pretty much gone in the tank since the start of the decade, no one cares anymore. Both teams have made recent coaching changes, but the firing of Randy Shannon, along with Jacory Harris’ last organized football game, will propel the bad boys of the 80’s to a victory.
Swag: Gift Suite, watch, fleece pullover, Top of the World cap, backpack, Helen of Troy hair dryer, and souvenir coin. A hair dryer? I think this joke pretty much writes itself.
Liberty: heartbreaker to rival Florida and to #1 Auburn. If Green had been available the entire season the Bulldogs may have been in the SEC championship game instead of South Carolina. This is unfortunate for UCF because they are very under the radar (did you even know they’re ranked?) and this could have been their coming out game. Instead they will be SportsCenter fodder for A.J. Green and company.
Swag: iPod Nano, Fossil watch, Nike training shoes, Nike sport sandals, Nike sunglasses, Nike backpack, commemorative football. I think the iPod and football were thrown in because they didn’t want the players to think that sponsors had too much power. Because that is totally untrue, right?
Chick-fil-A: Florida State in the most intriguing game before the New Year. This is the last college football game that will be played in 2010, and the match up is terrific. Marcus Lattimore will get to showcase his talents one last time as a freshman against a stingy Seminoles defense. After the Seminoles got stomped by Oklahoma in the second game of the season, they outscored their opponents by an average score of 30-18. South Carolina is fresh of a demolition at the hands of Cam Newton and may have lost some of their swagger. I’m counting on this in a highly contested, well-played game between two power conference teams.
Swag: Best Buy gift card, Fossil watch, Russell Athletic cap, Russell Athletic travel bag, commemorative football, Chick-fil-A gift card. I bet Ralph Friedgen wishes he was coaching in this game for the Chik-fil-A card. And because then he’d still have a job.

TicketCity: Texas Tech in a game almost no one will see. Those of you still hurting form the previous nights fun will probably miss this 9 AM Pacific kick off, and the ending will run up against 3 superior Big 10/SEC match ups. Northwestern started off the season strong by winning 7 of their first 10 including knocking off Iowa. Starting Quarterback Dan Persa went down with a season ending injury in that game and since then the Wildcats lost to Illinois by 3 scores and gave up 70 points to Wisconsin. In a sport that favors momentum so much, the Red Raiders have the obvious edge.
Swag: Gift Suite and watch. Not only do the players have to wake up early on New Years day to play in a terrible bowl that no one will watch, they get possibly the worst collection of swag this year.
Capitol One: Alabama in the most intriguing, and important, non-BCS game all year. Both Michigan State and Alabama have excellent running games that feature two complementary running backs. Both have veteran quarterbacks who are used to winning and middle linebackers who are instinctive and make plays all over the field. Both Mark Dantonio and Nick Saban are veteran coaches who aren’t afraid to pull out a few trick plays if need be. The Spartans were able to hand Wisconsin their only loss of the season early in the year, but the Crimson Tide should win based off of their experience. Alabama brings back a lot of the team that won last years national title and that should steady them enough to squeak out a victory. This is huge game that will help answer whether the SEC or Big 10 has conference supremacy this year. I can’t wait.
Swag: Shopping spree at Best Buy and watch. Alabama players will probably want to avoid the TV section otherwise they may see themselves getting flattened by Cam Newton over and over and over and…you get the idea.
Outback: Florida in a match up of disappointing teams. Both of these squads were in the preseason top 20 even after losing senior quarterbacks. Both teams have struggled to disappointing 7-5 records that include losing to Alabama by more than 20 points. This will be Urban Meyers last game coaching Florida (probably) and the Gators seem to have their offense in enough order to pull out a squeaker. Florida won’t be in turmoil because of a coaching change because they have already hired a candidate (Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp) that is well known and has a great resume. Instead they have a bright future and the players will want to send off Meyer with a W. 
Swag: Best Buy gift card, Fossil watch, Jostens ring, Outback Steakhouse gift card. I bet both of these times met at the beginning of the season and were fired up for a chance to fight for a ring. Well, they do get a ring no matter what for playing in the game, but I think they may have wanted a championship ring instead of one that includes the logo of a restaurant.
Gator: Mississippi State in an important sweep for the SEC. These three games pitting SEC and Big 10 teams are all in the same time slot on New Years day and if the SEC can pull of the trifecta, they will place themselves as the unquestioned “it” conference in college football. The bowl gods did Mississippi State a favor when they paired them with a Michigan team that they match up with. Way back in the second week of the season the Bulldogs met Cam Newton and played the Tigers close in a 17-14 loss. Michigan is a mirror image to Auburn in the sense that they play an option-based spread offense that leans heavily on their playmaking quarterback. Both Michigan and Auburn have defenses that don’t measure up to their offense, but Michigan is nowhere near the caliber of Auburn in any way, shape, or form. This should lead to a victory for the Bulldogs and the clear upper hand for the South Eastern Conference. 
Swag: Fossil watch, Oakley sunglasses, Leather duffle bag, Jostens ring, commemorative football. This is the most practical set of gifts given the entire season. Michigan can use the watch to help keep time at practice, RichRod can use the sunglasses to hide his fake tears at his firing press conference, he can carry his belongings out of Ann Arbor using the duffle bag, and the ring can be shown to other schools as proof that he can win something. The Michigan defense can use the football as part of a mobile over their beds since they seem to enjoy watching footballs fly over their heads.
GoDaddy.com: Miami (OH) because they won the MAC. Neither Middle Tennessee State nor Miami have had particularly impressive seasons, but winning the MAC is good enough to make the Redhawks the overwhelming favorite. I will probably watch this game because it’s the only game on January 6th.
Swag: Nikon touch screen camera package, watch, leather duffel bag, and commemorative football. Sorry Miami and Middle Tennessee, no Danica Patrick.
Cotton: Texas A&M because I still can’t bring myself to pick LSU. SportsIllustrated.com had an imaginary college football playoff that included all of he teams in the top 16 seeded in order. The fans voted on each match up and somehow the winner of the entire competition was…LSU? This just showed me that Sack Lunch readers are infinitely smarter than SI’s, but it also showed me that the reputation of the SEC has gotten a little ridiculous and Texas A&M will knock it down a notch. Ryan Tannehill stepped into the starting quarterback roll midseason and the Aggies ended up tying for the Big 12 South title. Texas A&M will put up points in this game and I don’t see Les Miles being able to pull another rabbit out of his hat.
Swag: The Cotton Bowl did not disclose their swag, but last years gifts included a TV and a watch. Do you ever see people wearing watches?  Seriously, do bowls think they’re still in the 90’s?


Compass: Pittsburgh in the last bad game of the year. The Panthers were a bit of a disappointment this year, but Dion Lewis and company have pulled it together to close the year on a 5-2 run. All-purpose threat Randall Cobb will help keep Kentucky close, but the dual threat Pitt backfield will reign supreme in Birmingham.
Swag: Oakley watch, Oakley Sunglasses, Oakley backpack, and souvenir football. I don’t care about this game and these players probably don’t care about these gifts.
Kraft Fight Hunger:  Nevada because they really might be the second best non-BCS team. Nevada lost a heartbreaker at Hawaii in October, but have been spotless in all other contests. That includes a squeaker over Fresno State and the comeback of the season over Boise State the day after Thanksgiving. Beating Louisiana Tech showed they will have no after-effects from that win and they should trounce Boston College in the last game before the BCS title game the next day.
Swag: Noise canceling headphones, Fossil watch, backpack, Levi’s gift certificate. These teams can use the noise canceling headphones so they don’t have to listen to everyone talk about how bad their conferences are.
That’s all for the bowl predictions. To see my, and many other, BCS predictions, check back in tomorrow for another TSL prediction bonanza. Have a great New Year.
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>By Will Robinson
JamaalCharles1

With only one week left in the season, the playoff picture is almost completely cleared up –all but three playoff spots have been clinched and plenty of drama still exists in the last week of the regular season. This season, as I have previously stated, has been one of the more bizarre in recent years for many reasons. One of the primary themes of this year has been teams’ running backs.
 
Many teams have shifted away from having a feature back and have relied only on the running back by committee method. Of the top five rushers in the league, only two (Maurice Jones-Drew and Michael Turner) are on pace to average 20 carries per game. Teams have shifted to this methodology for various reasons, including a team having two quality backs or trying to keep a primary back fresh throughout the year and the season.

 
Another theme that has arisen with running backs is the rise of lowly or even undrafted players. Arian Foster was undrafted last season and leads the league in rushing; Peyton Hillis was a seventh round pick in 2008; and the jumpin’, punchin’ LeGarrette Blount was undrafted in the most recent draft. The player that has broken in to elite back status despite the personal preference of his head coach is a 2008 third round pick: Jamaal Charles
 
The Kansas City Chiefs boast one of the league’s strongest rushing games this season, averaging a league best 167.5 yards per game, led by the electric Charles and veteran Thomas Jones. Jones had a very good season with the Jets last year, but has a lot of mileage on his legs being in his 11th season; yet somehow, head coach Todd Haley believes in utilizing Jones as much as possible. Jones has received 19 more carries than Charles (235-216) has but Charles has accumulated more touches (259-248). Despite the less work on the ground, Charles has tremendously outgained Jones 1380 to 879. Thus, Charles is averaging a historically great 6.39 yards per carry. The highest before Charles’ current number? Jim Brown averaged 6.4 yards per carry in 1963, but no one over 200 rushing attempts in a single season has averaged higher than that mark. Jones has scored two more touchdowns on the ground, six to four, but Charles has a higher amount of total touchdowns in the year with seven. Charles is averaging 7.08 yards per touch, which is better than any other running back in the league with 200 touches or greater.
jim-brown
Even when the Chiefs cut Larry Johnson last year, Charles had to share time with Kolby Smith under Haley’s watch until Charles proved himself. He was on pace to shatter Adrian Peterson’s record for rushing yards in a game until Haley pulled him in the middle of a rout against Denver. If Charles were to sustain his 6.39 yards per carry over a 300-carry season, he would accumulate 1917 yards, more than Adrian Peterson has gotten in one season and about 90 yards less than Chris Johnson had last year on 58 fewer touches. Charles easily passes the eye test, and is extremely fun to watch on a screen play or on a pitch where the blocking manages to get out front and secure the edge. Just like Johnson, anytime there is space, watching Charles accelerate through it is a thing of beauty in the game today.

 
 
It would be hard to call Charles the best running back in the league, but he is definitely in the conversation. A larger body of work needs to be observed in order to make a better-informed decision, but Charles has to be among the top five in the league: I would go as far as to call him the most underrated running back in the NFL. Last year he was called a poor man’s Chris Johnson in his brief season of starting; however, that tag now is unfair due to how well Charles has played this season. If the Chiefs want to have success next month, they need to use their best weapons more, and that definitely means more Jamaal Charles.

>By Evan Ream

The CONCACAF Gold Cup may not start for another six months, but it is never too early to discuss who will make the team. With a 2013 Confederations’ Cup berth on the line, USA will send their best 23 players to this tournament in hopes of qualifying for the same tournament that made them famous just two summers ago. Right now, USA’s first choice starting lineup seems pretty obvious. It seems like Bob Bradley will go with a 4-2-3-1 that looks like this:

Jozy Altidore
 
Landon Donovan Clint Dempsey Stuart Holden
 
Michael Bradley Jermaine Jones
 
Carlos Bocanegra Maurice Edu Oguchi Onyewu Steve Cherundolo
 
Tim Howard
 

Obviously this can change, but if it does it will only be due to injury; these are the best 11 players available at the time being and thus the ones that will get to play in a must win game. With this being established, and I don’t really think anyone can argue with this lineup, I am going to be looking at the 12 other players that should be on the squad, those that have a chance to win a starting spot. If Bob Bradley goes with three keepers, eight defenders, nine midfielders, and three forwards like I expect him to, the roster will have two keepers, five defenders, three midfielders (Maurice Edu would be classified as a midfielder), and two forwards in addition to the 11 players above. Here is who I expect to fill out those 12 additional spots.
 
Goalkeepers:
 
Brad Guzan (Aston Villa) still looks to be the backup here. This is another no-brainer pick that likely won’t change anytime soon.
 
Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire) could make this team as well. USA managers have typically gone with MLS players as their third keepers in the Gold Cup. The third keeper is generally allowed to play games with their club team and called upon only in case of emergency. Sean Johnson seems to be the most promising of the young MLS keepers and could use the experience of being called into camp without missing any club games.
 
On the outside looking in:
Bill Hamid, Matt Pickens, Nick Rimando, Troy Perkins
 
Defenders:
Jonathan Bornstein (Tigres) seems to be the backup left back, or the first choice left back if Bob Bradley decides to use Carlos Bocanegra in the center. Bornstein is a solid player, but still needs a lot of improvement to be considered first choice.
 
Clarence Goodson (Bronby IF) who is often the odd man out when it comes to starting lineups, is still the first choice backup. His move to a bigger club in Bronby could see him secure a starting job if Oguchi Onyewu can’t get playing time for his club or if the Maurice Edu experiment is scrapped.
 
Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls) is clearly a favorite of Bob Bradley due to the fact that Bradley actually spoke about a player in the media, and it was him. I think Bradley is very intrigued by Ream’s distribution skills and will look to give him a few starts at least in the group stage.
 
Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy) will likely be the last choice center back to make the team. Gonzalez may further developed than Tim Ream at the moment, but I think Bradley just likes the type of player that Ream is better. That being said, if Gonzalez works on his distribution more, he could push for a starting spot.
 
5021e944-ea7b-3d32-bc27ff0743805fbaEric Lichaj (Aston Villa) is the heir apparent to Steve Cherundolo at right back. Lichaj will push Cherundolo if he can come up with some strong performances for Villa, but for now Cherundolo is the starter.
 
On the outside looking in:
Heath Pearce, Ike Opara, Gale Agbossoumonde, Sean Franklin, Kevin Alston, Jay DeMerit, Jonathan Spector
 
Midfielders:
Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus) seems to be the midfield super sub. Feilhaber is always inserted when a calming presence or more possession is needed. Despite Feilhaber’s current 2nd division status for his club team, Bradley sees him as an integral part of the team. Who can leave Feilhaber off the roster after this?
 
Dax McCarty (DC United) is a player who I expect to have a big January camp and take the place of one Ricardo Clark as the backup defensive midfielder. McCarty is a smart player who makes up for his lack of size with intelligent yet scrappy play. McCarty is just the type of player that Bradley loves.
 
6a00e54ef2975b88330133ecb6772a970b-450wiAlejandro Bedoya (Orebro) is another Bradley favorite whose attacking prowess will likely make him the late game midfield substitute. Bedoya is the most capped player in the January Camp and one who Bradley seemingly would love to phase in to the first team.
 
On the outside looking in
Ricardo Clark, Jose Torres, Mikkel Diskerud, Brek Shea
 
Forwards:
Edson Buddle (LA Galaxy) is probably the player most similar to Jozy in the player pool. Bradley will like to have a direct replacement in case Jozy goes down. Buddle isn’t getting any younger, but his play in MLS is too good to overlook.
 
Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls) is the new kid everyone is excited about. I think Bradley trusts Agudelo enough to give him a spot on the team. Look for him to have a big year next year in MLS playing next to Thierry Henry. This spot could easily go to another player though if Agudelo struggles next year in MLS (which I doubt he will).
Juan-Agudelo
On the outside looking in:
Herculez Gomez, Robbie Findley, Teal Bunbury
 
Well there you have it. You may not agree with all of my decisions, but these are the players that I see Bradley calling in. Obviously, a lot can happen in six months, but I will be extremely surprised if we see something very different from this.

>By Dylan Davis

The week of bowls leading up to New Years day may not be as important as the games after January 1, but they often include some of the most entertaining and balanced match ups. The first week of bowl told us a few things: It told us that Boise State is one of the best teams in the country and should have gotten a shot at playing the big boys; it told us that Jake Heaps (QB for BYU) is going to be a star for the next three years; it also told us that there’s a reason some of these teams barely qualified for bowls (I’m looking at you, UTEP). But enough about last week, let’s take a look at the upcoming schedule for games from the 23–29.
 
Predictions:
Last Week’s Record: 3-2
Overall Record: 3-2


Poinsettia: Navy vs. San Diego State

Who will win: San Diego State, because it’s basically a home game. When East Coast teams travel west to play night games, or when west teams travel east to play in the morning, the results usually aren’t pretty. The players’ internal clocks are a little off and the awkward starting times don’t help. Navy is a better football team than the Aztecs but their yearlong inconsistency in the red zone will be a little too much for them to overcome in San Diego

Swag: Best Buy Gift Card, Fossil watch, hooded sweatshirt, and cap. Neither team are cut from the USC/Auburn cloth when it comes to recruiting, so that Best Buy gift card will actually mean something to these players.
 


Hawaii: Hawaii vs. Tulsa

Who will win: Hawaii, duh. Hawaii is almost unstoppable at home, and this is a home game, for a myriad of reasons. Even for a Midwestern team like Tulsa, going to Hawaii is a change of five hours on their internal clock, not mention the length of the flight there. Being in Hawaii all the time wears off the novelty of it, thus allowing the players to focus on football instead of vacationing and beautiful women. While the Warriors will be focused, Toledo will be sipping Pina Coladas and taking long walks in the rain. Or something. Also, Hawaii is used to the ugliness of floral shirts, while Tulsa will be exposed to them for the first time this season. If all of these factors weren’t enough, Hawaii is ranked in the top 25 and has played excellent football all year.

Swag: Earbuds, Oakley sunglasses, custom shorts, commemorative t-shirt, golf shirt, visor, Oakley backpack, beach towels, and calendar. This once again proves that quantity is not always better than quality.
 


Little Caesars: Florida International vs. Toledo

Who will win: Toledo, because an eight-win MAC team always beats a six-win Sun Belt team. This is one of those games that I don’t care about whatsoever, but Toledo has a better record, is from a better conference, and is nicknamed the Rockets, so there you go.

Swag: Gift Suite, watch, leather duffle bag, and commemorative football. If the players from these terrible teams weren’t so excited to just be in a bowl, they’d probably be complaining about how bad these gifts are.
 


Independence: Air Force vs. Georgia Tech

Who will win: Georgia Tech. Depending on how you look at the world, this match up could be either disappointing or hugely entertaining. Although pairing two option offenses together is like putting Boise vs. Utah (wait…that happened? Oops), it should be interesting to see which of these teams is able to rack up yardage and points against a defense that knows what they’re trying to do. Part of the reason why the option offense works is because of its novelty, but both of these teams see it every day in practice. Expect quality defense from both sides and one big play to tip the scales.

Swag: Gift Suite, watch, New Era hat, and souvenir hat. I don’t know if the people who put the bowl gifts together stopped and thought about today’s styles, because as far as I know, most people only wear one hat at a time.
 


Champs Sports: West Virginia vs. North Carolina State

Who will win: West Virginia because of its superior defense. The Mountaineers have long been known for having an explosive offense and a 2010 Michigan-like defense, but this year they have an experienced, tough defense to lean on. Russell Wilson has been an absolute beast for the Wolf pack, but their one-dimensional offense will be no match for West Virginia. If Noel Devine can return to his 2009 form, the Mountaineers could roll in this one.

Swag: $420 shopping spree to Best Buy and watch. Insert 420 joke here.
 


Insight: Missouri vs. Iowa

Who will win: Iowa, for pride. The Hawkeyes came into this season as a top-ten team and potential national title contender, but five close losses dropped them way out of the title race and into this mediocre bowl. Kirk Ferentz is a great coach who will have his troops ready for a lesser bowl just as Chris Peterson did with Boise Wednesday night. Although Missouri has had a great year, passing the ball, Adrian Clayborn and Iowa’s suffocating defense will slow the Tigers. I expect Adam Robinson (no relation to Will) to romp for 150 yards on the ground.

Swag: Sony gift suite, Tourneau watch, cap, Ogio Cooper backpack. I’m starting to think that these bowls have no creativity. The players from all the bowls will get together at the end of the year and start to boast about getting gift suites before realizing that… wait, everyone else got that too?
 


Military: East Carolina vs. Maryland

Who will win: East Carolina, because of the coaching turmoil at Maryland. Ralph Freidgen has been told that he is not welcome in College Park next season and that has thrown the Terrapin program into disarray. I expect the spread offense of the Pirates to shellac the unprepared Terps defense.

Swag: Sony dash, portable speakers, beanie, cap, duffel bag, tailgate blanket. They were going to give out commemorative t-shirts until they realized Ralph Friedgen would be involved with the game and they didn’t make 7XL shirts.
 


Texas: Illinois vs. Baylor

Who will win: Baylor, because of Robert Griffin III. Both of these teams have explosive offensive talents (Griffin for Baylor and Mikel Leshoure for Illinois) that can single-handedly win the game for their team. The only difference is that if Baylor falls behind, Griffin can rally his troops with his arm, or his legs, while Leshoure (who is a running back) can’t help as much in the passing game.

Swag: Fossil watch, iPod touch, t-shirt, backpack, and belt buckle. I have a feeling that the Texas-based Baylor team is going to have a lot more use for the belt buckle than the Illinois players. Whatever, they all get an iPod.
 


Alamo: Oklahoma State vs. Arizonalsoy297_justin_blackmon_iconsmi

Who will win: Oklahoma State, in the second best non-BCS game. This game features two future first round picks in Justin Blackmon and Nick Foles. Both of these players are expected to be future NFL stars because of their college production and a bevy of weapons backs both on each side of the ball. Oklahoma State will be disappointed to have missed an opportunity to play in the Big 12 championship game, and that will drive them to a slight victory over the Wildcats.

Swag: Xbox 360, $20 GameStop card, headphones, iPod shuffle. Easily one of the best hauls of the bowl season until you realize that $20 at GameStop is about a useful as the new Big 10 division names.
 
That’s all for this week, check back in next week for the week 3 bowl predictions and a TSL group (and special guest) prediction of the BCS games. Have a great Christmas and enjoy the bowls.

>By Nick Gallaudet

It was announced today that five Ohio State Buckeyes players have been suspended for the first five games of the 2011 football season. Among the suspended are starting QB Terrelle Pryor and starting RB Daniel Herron, but the major announcement is that all five Buckeyes will be eligible to play in the Sugar Bowl on January 4. The five players, all of whom are juniors, sold various memorabilia such as Big Ten championship rings, awards, and game used jerseys, received other improper benefits, and discounted services. The players have also been ordered to repay all the money they gained from the sales and services. There are several things wrong with this story, and both sides are at fault.
 
The real story here is not about the players, even though I personally don’t understand how they could sell their Big Ten championship rings and personal awards. The real issue is the punishment. By not suspending these players for the Sugar Bowl, the NCAA has made a costly mistake. The NCAA stated that the players were not suspended for the BCS bowl because they did not receive adequate education about the violations rules in 2008 and 2009. This excuse is pathetic; anyone who has followed college sports in the slightest knows that selling anything related to the sport you participate in is a violation. The fact that the NCAA hid behind this poor excuse is indefensible and makes you question the already muddled motivations of the NCAA. The penalties levied against these players could amount to less than a slap on the wrist, because of the fact that all of them are juniors.
 
Every single one of them is eligible for the 2011 NFL Draft, and every one of them has a real possibility of being drafted. These aren’t random scrubs. Four of the five are starters and the fifth is a solid defensive sub. Pryor has already stated that he will return for his senior season, but that is in jeopardy now. With the five game suspensions, Pryor, a Heisman hopeful each of the last two seasons, will not have a shot at the prestigious award, and short of a BCS National Championship, there is not much left for him to accomplish in 2011, and that seems less likely with five key pieces of their team sidelined. What this means is that all five of these players can enter the draft, and none of them will face any kind of punishment outside of paying back $1,000-$2,500, which will be nothing to them after they sign their first pro contract.
 
The NCAA is trying to play both sides of the fence on this issue. They want to penalize the players for clear rules violations, and they do that, but they do it the wrong way. There are two ways in which the NCAA could take this punishment: Either make an example of the players and suspend them for Sugar Bowl, in addition to multiple games next season, or truly accept the blame, and just make them pay back what they received. In an attempt to do both, the NCAA did neither. There was a message that the NCAA sent here, and that is that a player can claim ignorance (much like the Cam Newton saga) and get off scot-free. This raises sincere questions about the NCAA’s priorities; are they doing this to keep Ohio State relevant for the bowl season? Is this about money? In a time when the NCAA is under fire and rife with hypocrisy, now is the time when they prove they truly believe in their rules and regulations, and suspend these players for the Sugar Bowl. it’s time for the NCAA to stop waffling and exert some warranted authority.

>

 
Current Year’s Record
Dylan: 127-81
Evan: 124-84
Nick: 127-81
Will: 123-85
 
CAR at PIT
DAL at ARI NE at BUF NYJ at CHI BAL at CLE TEN at KC SF at STL DET at MIA
Dylan
PIT
DAL NE CHI BAL KC STL DET
Evan
PIT DAL NE NYJ BAL KC STL DET
Nick
PIT DAL BUF CHI BAL KC STL MIA
Will
PIT DAL NE NYJ BAL KC STL DET
WAS at JAC
IND at OAK HOU at DEN SD at CIN NYG at GB SEA at TB MIN at PHI NO at ATL
Dylan
WAS
OAK HOU SD GB TB PHI NO
Evan
JAC
IND HOU SD GB TB PHI ATL
Nick
JAC IND DEN SD GB TB PHI ATL
Will
JAC OAK HOU SD NYG TB PHI NO

>By Nick Gallaudet

The St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks, and San Francisco 49ers are all either 6-8 or worse, yet one of them has to make the playoffs. There is no denying that this fact is pretty ridiculous. There is a very real possibility that there will be a 7-9 team hosting a first round playoff game. While Packers and Buccaneers fans are rightfully outraged that they may miss the playoffs while one of these scrubs makes the postseason, all I can say to them is, “deal with it.” This is the playoff system that American sports have adopted (outside MLS, which isn’t really American anyway) and it has worked pretty well so far. Like any system, there will undoubtedly be some minor glitches, and with four team divisions, the possibility of that is greatly increased. The fact is, however, that with watered down and expanded postseasons, more and more mediocre teams are going to make the playoffs. It was only three years ago that a 9-7 Arizona Cardinals team made the playoffs to similar outcry. All they did was make, and nearly win the Super Bowl. That’s the thing with sports today. There is so much parity in these leagues, that any given day, any team can beat another team. Certainly, there are dynasties in sports, but gone are the days that players like Bill Russell and Yogi Berra retire with infinity championship rings.
 
I completely understand the frustration of watching a team with a 7-9 record take up a playoff spot that could go to a team with a better record, but unless it was your team that was left out because of that team, you shouldn’t be complaining, because the road to the championship for your team just got that much easier. While this is a historically bad division (there have been nine 8-8 playoff teams, never one with a losing record) it is most certainly not a trend. In 2008, the New England Patriots went 11-5 and did NOT make the playoffs. It’s just part of sports. With expanded playoffs, more teams get a taste of the postseason and a shot at a title, and generally, I believe fans regard this as a good thing (as long as it doesn’t get too expanded). There is something inspiring in watching a team sneak into the playoffs and go on a championship run nobody saw coming, like the 2003 Florida Marlins or the 2007 New York Giants. I think it’s safe to say that only New England Patriots fans weren’t rooting for the Giants in 2007, and it’s things like that that make me okay with having a 7-9 team in the playoffs.