Before getting into the current picks, I have a special word for my young cousin Dan Jr.
Sports Blog Nation (which is now branded as sbnation.com) was seriously ramping up their college football coverage this time last year, and had just signed a host of highly clueful college football bloggers, up to and including Spencer Hall as a editor, who gained a ton of notoriety both for doing independent writing and funny and intelligent writing for the Sporting News. He knew college football well, and he was surrounding himself with people who knew college football better.
As part of their effort to ramp up the content on their page, they picked by committee the results of all the 2009 college football bowl games.
Here were the results. Most notable: the results of the first seven picks, all missed, several spectacularly.
So, Dan: If people who get paid to write about college football can pick so poorly, anybody can. And if you keep this up and you work at it, you can spill literally thousands of words of knowledge about the football games you’re watching and finish with a 2-5 record. Like me.
Meanwhile, people both with long and distinguished histories of picking these games at seeming random (like your Uncle Matt) and people who just start playing the game on a lark (like my mother) can make us both look like fools.
And yet I keep investing hours in this game, studying and watching, so I can make the most clueful picks possible below. You will grow up and wonder why you love this game so much. And yet you will keep watching.
College football, our passion, our pain.
LITTLE CAESARS BOWL
FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL (6-6) v TOLEDO (8-4)
Let me go through my logic on this pick ahead of the bowl season, and then let me detail the conundrum I’m presently dealing with.
The first level of my prognostication was very straightforward: this year’s model of the Sun Belt Conference was the worst FBS conference overall in the BCS era. FIU beat Troy in November in a defense-free encounter and stumbled around against Sun Belt also-rans to back into the conference title. This same team couldn’t score against Rutgers and was throttled by Florida Atlantic; they couldn’t win the conference because Troy was equally inept when it mattered most. These are not good football teams; they couldn’t make the playoffs in I-AA. Toledo was not a great football team (their moment of shame was a 20-15 home loss to Wyoming) but they generally beat the teams they were supposed to beat, grabbed a good win or two on the road, and and generally played respectable football.
That said, Troy was not a demonstrably better team than Ohio, and yet Ohio looked like goats with muscular dystrophy ($1 to the estate of Lewis Grizzard) last week in a genuinely awful football game in New Orleans. Of course, New Orleans is an exciting city, as opposed to Detroit.
You know, in all candor, I don’t think I’ve convinced myself of anything besides the fact that this football game will be bad. TOLEDO 5, FIU 3.
AIR FORCE (8-4) v GEORGIA TECH (6-6)
I know a skill player on the Georgia Tech roster – one of my former students transferred to Tech a couple of years back, and he’s on the roster. However, I’m not real sure he’d want me to share his name, given that Josh Nesbitt won’t be there to get him the ball and Tech hasn’t been able to win without him. Both teams will be option-mad; only one team will be able to move the ball through the air. AIR FORCE 45, GEORGIA TECH 17.
CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL
WEST VIRGINIA (9-3) v NORTH CAROLINA STATE (8-4)
This is the first game I’ve seriously considered changing my pick on from my original. West Virginia had a genuinely disruptive coaching transition with Dana Holgorsen getting brought in as offensive coordinator and West Virginia’s Bill Stewart getting a de-facto demotion to “coach-in-awkwardness” ($1 to Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel). Doing the job preparing the offense will be genuinely difficult.
Fortunately, West Virginia can play defense, and they will need to. Russell Wilson has an energetic quarterback and he can score, but West Virginia can keep teams off the board. With the speed that the Mountaineers have on offense, I think they can find 24 points, and I think that will be enough – barely. WEST VIRGINIA 24, NC STATE 23.
MISSOURI (10-2) v IOWA (7-5)
These are old regional rivals, who last met in 1910. Your link of the day is a Columbia Daily Tribune story on the racial strife that killed the rivalry – a look into the dark past of college football. There aren’t likely to be old wounds opened in this game, but there will be a little bit of extra intensity.
Unfortunately, Iowa comes into this game is complete turmoil. Starting wideout Derell Johnson-Koulianos is accused of a staggering range of drugs charges, up to and including keeping a drug house, and will never play for Iowa again. Enough players left the team in the aftermath that Kirk Ferentz and AD Gary Barta had to address the Iowa media last week and say “the rumors that half the offense is going to get kicked off the team and/or arrested are false”; not everybody in Iowa believes them. Morale among the Iowa fan base is somewhat low.
It would be possible to imagine the team rallying and unifying if they were playing a garden-variety Big XII opponent. Against a motivated old regional rival who has had a exceptional season and was a solid second-place in the Big XII North? I can’t see how this isn’t a blowout. MISSOURI 49, IOWA 15.
This year’s bowl season has set up in a fashion where there isn’t so much a single Moving Day as a whole Moving Week: December 29, 30, 31 and January 1 build a crescendo of games, three then four then four more then SIX on New Year’s Day, and the family rivalry will be genuinely on that week. And I can catch ANYBODY in the fam over this week…
…except for Aunt Alice. Has anybody looked at how much our picks agree for the next week? It’s FRIGHTENING.
Hope you got everything you wanted in your stocking.