Sunday, December 24, 2006

Bowl Preview Part II

Merry Christmas everyone! Wow, 2006 is almost over. Somewhat hard to believe, but I'm gonna take some time right now to review what was one of the most bizarre weeks of the NFL season, and maybe by some coincidence, the last week of the NFL until we peel another year off the calendar and start the 2007 portion of the season:

If you were betting underdogs, congrats, you killed this week. I, unfortunately, did not, and other than the good ol' Pats, got absolutely reamed this week. Next week, mark my word, I will have at least a 75/25 underdog/favorite ratio in my ATS picks. But let's talk about some happy things, and nothing, to me, was any more pleasant than watching the hometown team take down another AFC East crown. The Pats were dominant for most of the game, even though the scoreboard may not tell it like that. Other than a fluke TD run by Jones-Drew, the Pats held their ground on defense. It was a very clean game overall, with only one turnover commited by either team all game. Fortunately for the Pats, and all of Patriot Nation, it was a crucial fumble by Garrard in the closing minutes of the game. Tom was amazing, and surprisingly, it was not in any means related to any deep throws, rather, he used little six-seven yard patterns to pick apart the Jags. When Mike Peterson went down with a season ending injury a few weeks back, it created a void in the middle of the field that no one really took advantage of, until today that is. As Scott Zolak said in 5th Quarter, Brady "looked like a surgeon out there." By the way, I miss everything Patriot related that they throw on before and after the game. For instance, last night, I watched New England Tailgate with Ordway, Smerlis, and DeOssie. For those who don't know who these guys are, I suggest getting on to and checking out "The Big Show." (Also, check out the Whiner Line in the Audio Vault...some of the stuff may be a little inside, but most of the stuff is just hysterical.) Yeah, now you understand why I'm thinking that stage has to have its base reinforced for every taping. Anyway, it was good to see guys be completely biased towards the Pats on TV. Sure, I stream 'EEI through my computer, but I don't get that hometown feel, so that was nice while it lasted. Also, ya think we missed Maroney and Harrison? Wow, talk about instant impact. Maroney led the team in rushing, with 48 yards on only seven carries for a TD. He also contributed two catches for 10 yards. Harrison had a quiet day in the stat book, but you could just feel his presence out there when he was in coverage and especially when he was blitzing, putting a real good shot on Garrard on one play when he ran through untouched. Also, Rodney was able to recover Garrard's fumble that sealed the game. It was definitely a good thing to have both of those guys back. Let's go a step further in breaking down this game:

I think my parents started to get sick of me saying "hey look, it's the Wendy's guy!," but Dave Thomas was all over the place today in place of the injured Ben Watson, racking up 83 yards on five catches, including a pretty 22-yard TD reception in the 2nd quarter to give the Pats a 17-7 lead at the time. Thomas has shown a lot of potential throughout the year. After being a Pats fan since birth, you tend to realize all the trends that this team has. Bill's trend when he goes into the draft is that he is going to draft the smartest linebacker/TE on the board. Remember he surprisingly took Watson with the 32nd overall pick, then last year, taking Thomas in the 3rd round when there was a lot of value still out there (Thomas went #86, Ko Simpson went #105, Leon Washington get the idea).

And now, on less of an upbeat note, the rest of the games. Unbeliveable. Seriously, if you bet favorites today, you were screwed. Of all the favorites that have played up until Sunday night, only St. Louis and Kansas City have covered. That's 2-12 ATS for the favorites! Is it too late to change my Monday Night picks? I'm kidding, but on the other hand...yeah, there's a little truth to that. The most bizarre play of the day that screwed you over today was the end of the Denver-Cincy game. Cincy has just tied the game on a Who's-Your-Daddy TD with 40 seconds left. Ok, 24-23 w/ PAT pending, thinking OT right? Wrong. The Bungles muff the extra point, lose by 1, but beat the spread, meaning that if you had the presence of mind to know the Broncos would win, you still got screwed. Even if you had Denver, you would be rooting for Graham to make that extra point, tying the game up, and making it so you could at least get a GW FG in regulation or OT to push, and maybe even a TD to beat the -3 spread, but no, not today.

Indy's defense is that bad. If your offense is even somewhat potent, they are all done. My original prediction of them going down in the first round is all dependent on who they play in the first round. If it's Denver, I think the Colts could actually take them, but if it's the Jags or the Bengals, they're screwed. I have never heard of a team be this bad against the run and put together any kind of playoff run. Peyton did all that he could possibly do today, but when you let Ron Dayne run for 153 yards and two scores, you're F'd, and that's putting it lightly.

San Diego had a real problem with Seattle, which I accurately predicted would happen. Seattle is a Jekyll and Hyde team, but then again, outside of San Diego, what team isn't like that? Tomlinson was kept out of the end zone today to my delight, as, not surprisingly, I am up against him in both leagues! Can you remember anything like this guy in terms of fantasy value? If there was any debate this year as to who's #1, there won't be next year. Yahoo! has a stat called "keys to success," which outlines 50 players and ranks them by how many of the top 500 public league teams have him. LT is on 98.8% of all teams in the Top 500...98.8%! Hopefully I can buck the trend and jump on the back of Larry Johnson (hey anyone remember him? 1651 yards rushing, 16 total TDs, hello?) and take both my leagues down. Oh by the way, both played fairly well, which definitely helped my mood.

Well, as I mentioned, it is Christmas, which means something different for everyone. However, there's one holiday ritual that I'm convinced is one of the greatest ideas in television history: 24 hours of "A Christmas Story" on TBS, the greatest holiday movie ever made. I know, Christmas Vacation is definitely up there. By the way, have you ever noticed that in both movies, Raplhie and Clark say "fore-flushing?" What does that mean? Anybody? Anyway, the reason I bring this up is I thought I would submit my top 20 quotes, not in any order of significance, from the movie:

1.) "That son of a bitch would freeze in the middle of summer on the equator."

2.) Schwartz created a slight breach of etiquette, when he skipped over the triple dare, and going right for the throat."

3.) "Some people are baptists, others catholics, my father was an Oldsmobile man."

4.) "Three blocks away Schwartz was getting his. Every kid, at the back of his mind, vaguely but insistently, believes that he will be struck blind before his 21st birthday. And then they'll be sorry."

5.) I mean I have to put this in..."Fra-gee-lee...huh, it must be Italian."

6.) "Scut Farkus! What a rotten name. There he stood, between us and the alley. Scut Farkus staring out at us with his yellow eyes. He had yellow eyes! So, help me God, yellow eyes!"

7.) "He looks like a deranged Easter bunny...he does too, he looks like a pink nightmare."

8.) "They'll send the deed for cripsake. I didn't expect them to send a whole damn bowling alley."

9.) "Randy lay there like a was his only defense."

10.) "Aunt Clara had for years labored under the delusion that I was not only perpetually 4 years old, but also a girl."

11.) "Only I didn't say fudge, I said the word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the F-dash-dash-dash word."

12.) "Sons of bitches! Bumpuses!"

13.) "It was all over, I was dead. What would it be...the guillotine? Hanging? The chair? The rack? The Chinese water torture? Hmmph. Mere child's play compared to what surely awaited me."

14.) "I have since heard of people under extreme duress speaking in strange tongues. I became conscious that a steady torrent of obscenities and swearing of all kinds was pouring out of me as I screamed."

15.) "Now, I had heard that word at least ten times a day from my old man. He worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium, a master."

16.) "Oh, life is like that. Sometimes, at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at it's zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters decend upon us."

17.) "Oh you should see what it looks like from out here!"

18.) "In the heat of battle my father wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan."

19.) "Ovaltine? A crummy commercial? Son of a bitch!"

20.) "Holy cow, it was 6:45. Only one thing in the world could've dragged me away from the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window."

Motor City Bowl (12/26, 7:30, ESPN): Central Michigan (-8.5) over Middle Tennessee St. So far, this is one of the biggest disparities as far as spreads go. However, a look inside the stats tells the whole story. Middle Tennessee's offense is deplorable: 207th in total yards, 206th in passing yards, 110th in points scored. If that wasn't bad enough, their pass defense ain't too hot either: 168th against the pass, 119th in total points. It's going to be a real hassle containing the Chippewa passing attack, which ranks 29th in the country, leading to 29.6 points a game, gooe enough for 39th in the country. While their defense certainly isn't anything to write home about, the Blue Raiders simply have no offense, and the one thing they are above average in, defending the run, they won't even be using, due to the fact that the Chippewas hold the 142nd best run offense, meaning they will rely heavily on the passing game. I expect a blowout of about three TD's.

Central Michigan 35, Middle Tennesse St. 10

Emerald Bowl (12/27, 8:00, ESPN) Florida St. (+2) over UCLA. The Seminoles are reeling from one of their worst seasons in recent memory. Meanwhile, the Bruins are coming off of one of their biggest wins in school history, knocking crosstown rival USC out of the BCS title game. Will this be a let down game? That remains to be seen. Here's what we do know. Florida St., despite having stnadout tailback Lorenzo Booker, ranked 210th in the nation in running. To me, this was shocking considering how explosive I thought Booker was the few times I had seen him play, somewhat reminicent of another FSU runner who dawned the #28 (Dunn). UCLA is going to have a hard time stopping the pass. Despite having the 17th best run defense, their pass defense ranks 189th, while the Seminoles have the 60th best passing attack. This is going to cause problems for the Bruins. If Drew Watherford can get going, this guy is dangerous. In terms of the Bruin offense, they are not too hot, ranking in the hundreds in every category. Meanwhile, the 'Noles rank 12th against the pass and are 35th in total offense. Even though the Seminoles have been struggling all year long, I have to think that the Bruins will come back to Earth. As seen on numeorus occasions this year, giant wins usually equate to a letdown the next game.

Florida St. 31, UCLA 21

Independence Bowl (12/28. 4:30, ESPN): Alabama (+2.5) over Oklahoma St. This game comes down to one thing: Can the Tide stop the Cowboy offense? Alabama has been real good defensively, coming in at 52rd against the pass, 63rd against the pass, coupling in the 43rd best defense in the country. Their offense has a real good passing attack and can put points on the board, but will it be enough to counter that high-powered Okla St. offense? I'm taking 'Bama and here's why: When you look at all the intrical offensive and defensive stats, here's what you come up with: When comparing Okla St's offense vs. the Tide's defense, the average ranks are 32.5 and 47.9 respectively. The Tide's offense vs. the Cowboys' defense ranks 70.7 to 102. The Cowboys' defense is terrible. This is another team where all their defensive ranks are in the hundreds. I feel like Alabama will use this to its advantage and mount a steep passing attack on Okla St. which ranks 195th against the pass. The Sooners rank in the top 30 in points, rushing, and total yards, but Alabama has the defense to combat that, so I'm leaning toward the Crimson. Roll tide!

Alabama 17, Oklahoma St. 10

Holiday Bowl (12/28, 8:00, ESPN) Texas A&M (+4) over California. Cal has been a team that has been shaky at best this year. They had an eight-game winning streak in the middle of the season, including wins against bowl teams Oregon, Oregon St., Arizona St., and UCLA. Then, they go on the road, losing to USC (well that was kind of expected) and Arizona (now that was not) before beating the Cardinal in the final game of the year by only nine points when they were 20+ point favorites. Meanwhile, the Aggies went on the road and beat Texas in their final game. If you take a look at their last three games, they are 1-2, with the Longhorns win and losses to Nebraska and Oklahoma at one point! Does anyone realize that if this team gets one or two breaks in those games, they would have been playing for the Big 12 championship, probably landing them in Oklahoma's place in the Fiesta Bowl? This team is real dangerous, and I love the Aggie offense (25th) against Cal's defense (182nd). I love the line as well, getting four points is big. Even though the letdown theory is in full effect right here, I just think that, because they're underdogs, and the matchup is so lobsided, the Aggies will be able to pull out a win here.

Texas A&M 34, California 21

Texas Bowl (12/28, 8:00, NFL Network) Rutgers (-8) over Kansas St. NFL Network? Nice. I can't even begin to describe the idiocy of this. It's NFL Newtwork. What the hell does that have to do with college bowl games? The NFL Network, making new enemies every day. Catchy little slogan I think. Anyway, this game is a laugher on paper. I'm not going to bore you with the details. I'll keep it simple. Rutgers has a good run offense, K-State has a bad run defense. K-State has a horrible offense, Rutgers has a tremendous D. This game should be won by 30. I don't know, that's just me. I just can't see Rutgers, who almost beat West Virginia in Morgantown (in fact they lost in OT), ending this dream season on a loss.

Rutgers 41, Kansas St. 10

Music City Bowl (12/29, 1:00, ESPN) Clemson (-10) over Kentucky. I know, I know. How could I? Well, here's the thing: Clemson dominates Kentucky in literally every single category. The only chance the Wildcats have is having a huge game through the air. Kentucky ranks in the top-10 in passing offense. However, they have no defense, and as shown previously, no defense = no chance. Clemson's dynamic duo of tailbacks will prove to be too much for Big Blue. I had a first-hand account of Kentucky this year, and I can tell you that this defense could not stop anything. Clemson of course is still reeling from their last loss (you're welcome), but I still think they will be able to destroy Kentucky in this one.

Clemson 41, Kentucky 17

Sun Bowl (12/29, 2:00, CBS) Oregon St. (-3.5) over Missouri. From what I can gather, this is the most even matchup that I have previewed so far. If you look at the stats head-to-head (by the way, I get most of my info from; they have a feature where you can put two teams side-by-side and compare stats, very cool), you will notice that these teams are almost identical, except Missouri's pass attack seemingly has a gigantic advantage over the Beaver pass defense. Now, Oregon St. counters with one of the best run defenses in the country. So, you basically have to pick your poison, and I'm going with OSU on this fact alone: Those who can stop the run can also apply pressure on a quarterback. Because Mizzou has a weak running game, the Beavers will not have to rely on stopping the run, rather, they will force the Tigers to start running because of the overwhelming pressure that will be applied. Look for Oregon St. to jump out to a quick lead and be able to hold on for the rest of the game.

Oregon St. 38, Mizzouri 31

Liberty Bowl (12/29, 4:30, ESPN): South Carolina (-6) over Houston. Loyalty.

South Carolina 31, Houston 17

Champs Sports Bowl (12/29, 8:00, ESPN) Purdue (Pk) over Maryland. This will come down to who blinks first between the two defenses, because they are both downright awful. Purdue has an amazing pass offense and scores a ton of points. While the Boilermaker defense may suck at best, I still think their offense will give them just enough support to get by. Close game.

Purdue 27, Maryland 24

Insight Bowl (12/29, 8:00, NFL Network) Texas Tech (-7) over Minnesota. The NFL Network seemingly has no end to its rath. Oh well. The Red Raiders are going to get their points, there's no denying that. The matchup will come down to the Tech defense against the Gopher offense. If Texas Tech is able to maintain a even-kiel defense, they should be able to survive what looks like a potential shootout. Tech has the most explosive offense in the country, and while the Gophers have an adamant D, they simply do not have what it takes to stay in this game with Texas Tech.

Texas Tech 49, Minnesota 35

Well, that should give ya some reading material up until the 30th. Again, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Y'all come back real soon. Peace.


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