Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dashing Through Ten Bowls...
Hard to believe we are almost through football season and into B1G hoops season.  Time flies when you're having fun.  It will be a busy holiday season for the greatest conference in college sports as ten, yes TEN teams are going bowling.

Dan Meyer is picking with me for the first time all season.  Which is great EXCEPT I deleted the email with his picks!  Sorry Dan.  Hope you still have 'em!

Without further ado, my picks (Dan's to follow) and warm holiday greetings for a fantastic Christmas and New Year!

Little Caesar's Bowl - Western Michigan v. Purdue, 12/27 @ 4:30PM on ESPN
Purdue is thrilled to be in bowl season, if not to be going to dank and damp Detroit.  A few player no-nos are depleting the roster a bit and you have to expect that the Broncos will be ready to raise the roof at Ford Field.  WMU should have beaten Illinois and was really some early big plays against away from a possible to the wire finish with Michigan.  I like Western's offense against this defense and sorry Boilers, the first black eye for the Big Ten this bowl season.  Western Michigan 34 - Purdue 27.

Insight Bowl - Oklahoma v. Iowa, 12/30 @ 10PM on ESPN
Well, a lot of folks were wondering if Iowa might bite a disinterested OU squad.  I was leaning that way until Marcus Coker got the hook for the game.  I think this is a chance for Oklahoma to finish strong and make a statement for next season.  Iowa just doesn't have the horses, especially with last year's Insight Bowl hero Coker left behind for the trip.  What is it with Iowa RBs at this time of year?  Closer than expected but an 0-2 hole for the B1G to start the bowl campaign.  Oklahoma 38 - Iowa 28.

Meineke Car Care Bowl - Texas A&M v. Northwestern, 12/31 @ 12PM on ESPN
Is this the year the Wildcats break free and get that elusive bowl win (first since 1949)?  The Aggies are in a coaching transition and while at time they looked like a Top 15 team this season, the swoons have been maddening.  Northwestern fought off a tough start to finish strong and has great motivation in this one.  I like Northwestern to get over the hump and beat future SEC member A&M in a barn burner.  Northwestern 41 - Texas A&M 38

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl - UCLA v. Illinois, 12/31 @ 3:30PM on ESPN
How about we call this the "Neither Team Deserves to Go" Bowl, or the "This is an example of why 35 bowls is too many" Bowl!  Seriously.  UCLA is 6-7 and between coaches.  Illinois is 6-6, on a six game losing binge and in between coaches.  I'm not impressed.  I like Illinois to get a win though to build momentum for 2012.  Illinois 23 - UCLA 14.

Ticket City Bowl - Houston v. Penn State, 1/2 @ 12PM on ESPNU
Houston went from BCS shoe in to bowl game afterthought.  Penn State got the hose from the bowls because of something beyond these players' control.  The Cougars are without their head coach.  The Nittany Lions are in a similar boat.  One team scores at will.  The other stops teams at will.  With the rust of the down time, defense is usually sharper in these games and I'm going to give the nod to Penn State... although the altercation between teammates that has Matt McGloin questionable is giving me pause.  Penn State 17 - Houston 14

Gator Bowl - Florida v. Ohio State, 1/2 @ 1PM on ESPN2Ahh the Urban Meyer Bowl.  Given the recent news that Ohio State will not bowl in 2012-13, it makes this that much more important to the Buckeyes.  I haven't been at all impressed with the Gators this season and think Boom, Braxton and Posey rule the day. Ohio State 30 - Florida 20.

Outback Bowl - Georgia v. Michigan State, 1/2 @ 1PM on ABC
Much like last year's Capital One Bowl, this is one of the best non BCS matchups of the bowl season.  The difference?  The teams are very evenly matched in this one.  Both lost in their Conference Championship Games, though Michigan State was more stung by their loss than UGA.  The motivation for MSU is the 0fer they are riding.  As in 0-4 under Coach Dantonio in bowls, and 0-5 in the last five.  Motivation is there too to wipe out the stigma of last year's debacle.  I think Michigan State turns it on in the second half and puts a nice beating on the SEC for the B1G.  Michigan State 31 - UGA 17

Capital One Bowl - South Carolina v. Nebraska, 1/2 @ 1PM on ESPN
This is an interesting one.  South Carolina would be the pick if Lattimore was still churning out yards.  But I like the way that Nebraska can ride the legs of T-Mart and Burkhead.  The Cornhusker D and special teams can also shine.  I like a low scoring but huge win for the B1G over the SEC.  Nebraska 18 - South Carolina 17

Rose Bowl - Oregon v. Wisconsin, 1/2 @ 5PM on ABC
The Granddaddy of them all.  A game I so wish my Spartans were in.  And frankly, a game that I think would have been better for the Big Ten matchups wise.  It will be interesting to see how the size and strength of UW fares against the speed of the Ducks.  UW will probably be without their O.C. but still has Wilson and Ball.  Both teams are hungry for a win here and I think it will be a close game for 3 quarters.  Problem is, the Badgers are a lot like Stanford in style and I don't think that cuts it in this game.  Oregon 45 - Wisconsin 33

Sugar Bowl - Virginia Tech v. Michigan, 1/3 @ 8:30PM on ESPN
This one should be called the "Neither Team Deserves the BCS" Bowl.  At least the Hokies got to their conference title game... but I digress.  I'm really not sure what to expect here.  I think both teams could explode on the other and bring electric QB play to the fold.  In what looks to be an even match on both sides of the ball, I'm going with Beamer Ball (Special Teams) to be the difference.  Va Tech 30 - Michigan 28.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Moving On...
It's been almost a week.  I am moving on.  Well, as much as I can.  Putting objectivity aside, that was one of the toughest MSU losses to take.  The game itself was fantastic.  A college football fan's dream, and proof that teams can re-match and play a meaningful, equally as memorable game.  But how it ended?  Some of the calls?  Bret Bielema's post game press conference?  I'm still struggling.  I run through about five particular plays over and over and over.  I'm ready for the bowl game so I can move on once and for all.

The good news for Spartans fans?  This is not a once in a quarter century thing.  Our program has arrived, made a statement and is here to stay.  That team in green?  Not your daddy or granddaddy's MSU.  There is talent, depth, speed and athleticism.  A team that I think would have matched up better with Oregon than Wisconsin.  But that's enough of my shaded viewpoint!

One last on the game, which was a boon for the league.  Bret Bielema is a bona fide jerk.  Smug, arrogant, cocky, rude.  All SEC from the astronomical scores against inferior foes to the way he speaks, acts, etc.  Sorry, the guy bugs me.  Always has, always will.  It was just magnified last Saturday.

The game itself?  Best of the day.  A classic.  One I can watch over and over and over except for the way it sits in my stomach.  The toe-tap catch by Keyshawn Martin?  Extraordinary and I still wonder how there was enough clear evidence to overturn it?  The running into the punter?  That guy trains with Bo Ryan.  Pretty sad to see a game end on a call like that... especially with as much as they were letting both sides play in the first 58 minutes.

I'm not going down the BCS road.  It is clearly time to go to a +1 and open the rest of the bowls up.  Michigan does not deserve the Sugar.  Nor does Va Tech.  But at least Va Tech won their division...

Get Gamm
Going into the bowl season, we have a deadlock at the top.  And a first too.  Dan gets to pick with the closest to on the margin in the title game.  You know the drill Dan!

Western Michigan v. Purdue - Little Caesar's Bowl (12/27)
Oklahoma v. Iowa, Insight Bowl (12/30)
Texas A&M v. Northwestern, Meineke Car Car Bowl (12/31)
UCLA v. Illinois, Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (12/31)
Houston v. Penn State, TicketCity Bowl (1/2)
Florida v. Ohio State, Urban Meyer, er Gator Bowl (1/2)
Georgia v. Michigan State, Outback Bowl (1/2)
South Carolina v. Nebraska, Capital One Bowl (1/2)
Oregon v. Wisconsin, Rose Bowl (1/2)
Virginia Tech v. Michigan, Sugar Bowl (1/3)

Season Review...
Over the next few weeks, I'll take a look back at what I picked versus what happened.  Meantime, Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 02, 2011

Game time!
We're in rarified air here. The B1G is entering new territory, joining the other big boys with a conference championship game. Some say it's about the money. Some say this game is meaningless because a national title berth is not on the line. Me? I say this is exciting. It's new and very meaningful. After all, the cherished Rose Bowl is at stake and the media can't tell these players this game doesn't matter... It sure as hell does!

As I'm on the road, I will have to keep this short and sweet. Michigan State v. Wisconsin is what the conference wanted, needed and got. These are clearly the two best teams, playing the best football, at the right time. Both have vaunted weapons. Both have ebbed and flowed and improved since that fateful October night. All of that means this will be an absolute classic.

The 9.5 spread is out of line, based on Vegas thinking MSU only won the first meeting on fluke play. Never mind that MSU went on a 31-3 run after going down 14 early. Or the big lead it squandered late. At least in their minds...

This game will be as billed. And it will have more mood swings - pardon the pun - than a teenage menstral cycle! Ball and Wilson, Cousins and Cunningham will all have moments but it will be a Trenton Robinson INT in the end zone with less than two minutes to play that will seal the Spartans first Rose Bowl bid in 23 years.

Michigan State 31 - Wisconsin 27

Phats says... Sorry Andy and Spartans fans, I truly believe the Badgers are the best team in the conference. Neutral field Badgers will right the wrongs that did them in in East Lansing and head back to the Rose Bowl to represent the Big Ten. Wisonsin 31 - Michigan State 17

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's Go Time!
T-minus five days until we all get the rematch we desired after one of the greatest games of the season.  Michigan State versus Wisconsin.  60 more minutes of heart-stopping, hair-pulling, hair-graying football madness.  I say, bring it on.  Everyone out there talks about how the Spartans have to face an angry Wisconsin team again.  I see it as both having a difficult task.  Both teams are hot.  Both teams want this championship - bad.  Both teams have to stare down the barrel at the opponents' strengths.  As an MSU guy, I can't wait.  As a B1G guy, I really can't wait... It's GO time!

The Good...
Michigan State.  The media were convinced that MSU had nothing to play for.  Obviously, they don't take Mark Dantonio for his word or values.  The Spartans won a tough game, on the road to clinch the first ever back to back 10-win seasons in program history.

Michigan.  Good for the Wolverines.  The seniors finally got a monkey off their back in a very exciting game.  It was a lot higher scoring than I expected but that win puts Michigan back on the map.

Wisconsin.  What a way to end the regular season.  A beat-down of Penn State in the decisive game.  Impressive!

Minnesota.  I've dogged the Gophers all season.  They sealed Coach Zook's fate.  Nicely done and notice served for 2012...

Nebraska.  Cornhusker fans are going to wonder where this was against NU and Michigan.  A solid win that means a lot for bowl positioning.

Purdue.  Bowl eligible after a dog fight with rival Indiana.  Purdue probably should have seven or eight wins but this is a god start for next year...

The Bad...
Northwestern.  Not really a bad performance all together and certainly a nice run to end the season.  But they have to go here after a loss...

Ohio State.  See Northwestern.  Impressive performance really and an overthrow away from perhaps another win in the series.  Look out for tOSU next year, especially with Urban at the helm.

Iowa.  An appropriate end to a topsy turvy season.  Iowa looked great and below average all at the same time this year...

Indiana.  Giving the Hoosiers a nod for effort here.  IU is young and will improve, but quick enough to keep Kevin Wilson around?

The Ugly...
Penn State.  Sorry Nits but you flat out sucked at UW.  Turnovers, dropped passes, untimely errors, phantom tackles.  But I do feel for what this team has gone through...

Illinois.  Way to get your coach fired.  From 6-0 to 6-6.  OUCH.  Could be home for the holidays despite being one of the first to clinch a bowl berth.

Bowl Predictions...
We'll know the Rose Bowl slot after Saturday.  I guess I am tipping my hand a bit with my pick, but tune in later this week for the deets anyway.  And Phats, you went 6-0 and get to pick the big game with me...

Rose Bowl - Michigan State
Sugar Bowl - Michigan
Capital One Bowl - Wisconsin
Outback Bowl - Nebraska
Insight Bowl - Penn State
Gator Bowl - Ohio State
Meineke Car Care Bowl - Iowa
TicketCity Bowl - Northwestern
Little Caesars Bowl - Purdue
At Large - Illinois

Friday, November 25, 2011

Season's end...
Well, at least the end of the regular season.  Still plenty of fun to be had on the gridiron.  Sorry for the lateness of the post... had this in draft and well, holiday got in the way!

Iowa at Nebraska, Noon EST (ABC)
Nebraska needs a bounce back and gets one at home.  Iowa isn't what they've been.  Nebraska 27 - Iowa 14.

Phats says ... Nebraska 28 Iowa 24- Tempted to take the Hawkeyes, but Nebraska won't lay an egg two straight weeks especially at home

Michigan State at Northwestern , Noon EST (BTN)
Believe it or not, MSU has plenty to play for.  Northwestern does as well, which will make this an interesting game.  Grab some turkey soup and keep an eye on this one.  Michigan State 31 - Northwestern 24.

Phats says ... Michigan State 35 Northwestern 21- Another solid season for the Spartans, this is a tune up for Indy

Ohio State at Michigan, Noon EST (ABC)
THE game has little luster this year.  The bigger question is, Urban yes or Urban no?  Most are predicting Michigan to walk on OSU and get some revenge for seven straight losses.  I'm thinking not so fast my friends.  At least it won't be as much a blow out as thought.  Michigan 23 - Ohio State 20.

Phats says ... Michigan 38 Ohio State 17- OSU one dimensional, UM defense so much better this year.  

Purdue at Indiana, 3:30 EST (BTN)
Battle for the Old Oaken Bucket won't be a battle for long.  Purdue 38 - Indiana 14.

Phats says ... Purdue 42 Indiana 17- Close thru the first half, and for a change the Boilers light up the third quarter, scoring for the first time since the PSU game.  Bringing the Bucket back where it belongs West Lafayette!!  Boiler Up! 

Illinois at Minnesota, 3:30 EST (BTN)
Boring.  Illinois 34 - Minnesota 20

Phats says ... Minnesota 17 Illinois 14- I really am not sure why I am picking this upset, but Illini have really struggled, Gophers have played so much better and it's at Minnesota. 

Penn State at Wisconsin, 3:30 EST (ESPN)
For weeks, I have been predicting an MSU - PSU title game.  But I think Wisconsin woke up in time last week and has just enough offense to put the Nits to bed and make Delany happy.  UW 24 - PSU 20.

Phats says ... Wisconsin 31 Penn State 17- I think the Badgers are still the best team in the Big Ten, if only special teams and a couple of hail mary's wouldn't have done them in they'd be playing for a chance a National title still.  At least they will set up a solid Big Ten title game with a win here.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Halfway There...
We are precisely halfway to knowing the participants in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game.  Michigan State tore through Indiana like a tornado through a trailer park, while Michigan handed it's rival the Legends crown by systematically dismantling everything that was good with the Nebraska Cornhuskers this year.  That leaves a 3:30 tussle between embattled Penn State and Wisconsin for the other half and a much clearer bowl picture.

The Good...
Michigan State. Have to start with the Spartans who battled slow starts and sluggish performances in recent Senior Day games only to come out and flat out own Indiana in all phases from the opening kick.  Congrats to Legends Division Champs MSU.

Michigan. Wow. It seems like more than ever the Wolverines have answered the lingering question - are they really back.  Yep.  But we'll know for sure after nemesis OSU comes to town...

Iowa.  Nice bounce back win for the Hawkeyes.  Most expected a dud, but Iowa played inspired and is making a push for a good bowl berth yet again.

Penn State.  Impressive.  Love what the offense is doing to shake things up and that D is outstanding.

Northwestern.  Ho hum.  Kinda boring but now bowl eligible and on a roll.  P-Fitz does a lot with a little every year.

Wisconsin.  The Badgers looked ripe for the picking early but persevered through the doldrums to walk away with the win and set up a shot at the title game.

The Bad...
Purdue.  The tough luck Boilers can't string it together this year.  They are still a win away from a bowl berth too... damn that blocked kick at Rice!

Ohio State.  The Buckeyes rose to the occasion at times on Saturday but I expected more after the Purdue loss.  Is there anything in the tank for Michigan?

Minnesota.  The Gophers are still way too up and down, but do have a glimmer of hope down the road.  IF Coach Kill can stay healthy.

The Ugly...
Indiana.  Atrocious.  Awful.  Ugh!

Nebraska.  What the? So much for playing for the BCS.  THAT was AWFUL.

Illinois.  All I can say is what the?  Seriously.  6-0 to 6-5 that fast?  Sorry, but that goes on the coach.  Any hot names out there for the Illinois job? 

Bowl Predictions...
No sense belaboring the divisions anymore since only two teams remain in the fight.  So, here are my picks for the bowls heading into our last week of the season.

Rose Bowl - Michigan State
BCS At Large - Michigan
Capital One - Wisconsin
Outback - Penn State
Insight - Nebraska
Gator - Iowa
Meineke Car Care - Ohio State
TicketCity - Northwestern
Little Caesars - Purdue
At Large - Illinois

Get Gamm...
If only Phats hadn't gone homer, he would be a perfect 6-0!  I retake the top spot overall but due to being closer on the tiebreaker, Phats get a week win and picks along with me.  Games start Friday Phats so get 'em to me ASAP.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Iowa at Nebraska (Friday)
Michigan State at Northwestern
Ohio State at Michigan
Purdue at Indiana
Illinois at Minnesota
Penn State at Wisconsin (Game of the Week)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Nitty Gritty
We're down to it.  Go time.  The nitty gritty.  Three teams control their destinies, a few more are hoping for some miracles.  The ESPN B1G bloggers break it all down quite well for us today.

Minnesota at Northwestern, Noon EST (BTN)
Don't just assume that the Gophers are playing out the string.  Minnesota is trying to build a foundation for a rebound in 2012 and this would be a good way to get there.  Meanwhile, Northwestern is seeking a sixth win and this week is easier than the finale (MSU).  This will be a high-scoring, entertaining affair, but in the end, the Wildcats have more to play for and get the W.  NU 34 - Minnesota 27.

Mayo says ... Minnesota is starting to figure out how to play some tough football and Northwestern is showing what it could have been all season. I really do like the fight that I’m seeing in both clubs, but right now Northwestern has shown me more and will pull out a nice win for Fitz. Minnesota 22 – Northwestern 31

Indiana at Michigan State, Noon EST (BTN)I'm bummed that my bad back has me missing Senior Day in EL.  This class has left a remarkable set of memories for fans, students and alumni alike and has set a stage of high expectations that I truly love and appreciate.  Indiana is building for the future but doesn't have the firepower or the defense to get in the way of a 14th straight home win for Sparty.  Michigan State rolls with two 100-yard plus rushers.  Michigan State 41 - Indiana 14.

Mayo says ... In the Spartans protected rivalry for the Brass Spittoon. Although Indiana has played much better lately, this Spartan defense is one of the best and most physical in the land. Defense wins this one big. Indiana 12 – Michigan State 31

Nebraska at Michigan, Noon EST (ESPN) - Game of the Week
Talk about a toss up.  Both teams sport spectacular running games and weak passing attacks.  Either defense can step up on any given Saturday.  That may leave it to special teams.  I think Nebraska has the definite upper hand in this area.  But, the Wolverines have a new found advantage at home since the suites keep the noise inside.  I like an OT thriller with Michigan sealing the deal for rival MSU.  Michigan 38 - Nebraska 37 in 3 OTs.

Mayo says ... A lot of writers in Detroit are saying these two teams are very similar. In some ways I see the point, but Michigan’s offense just seems to have peaked and although this team is much improved, the likes of Nebraska have not been seen this season. Although I’m sure the Michigan D will have a pretty decent second half, Nebraska’s Rex Burkhead is a menacing runner who I envision running wild enough in the first half to get a decent lead that will hold throughout the game. Nebraska 27 – Michigan 24.

Iowa at Purdue, Noon EST (BTN)
This one is very interesting.  Iowa is reeling after the smackdown at home last weekend.  Purdue is sky high after an improbable OT win over Ohio State.  Iowa has the six requisite wins, Purdue is one shy.  Iowa is playing for positioning and Purdue always has the Bucket game next week to get to six.  I think Iowa will be motivated to silence some of the demons and get a nice road win.  Sorry Phats, I'm not going with you this time!  Iowa 27 - Purdue 23

Mayo says ... Both teams need to win this one, Iowa has shown some flashes, and Purdue has as well. This game will show what Purdue has left after taking down Ohio State last weekend. Iowa is a head scratcher this year, dominating some opponents and then losing to Minnesota. I’m gonna go all Phats this week and predict a Boiler win. Iowa 23 – Purdue 29.

Wisconsin at Illinois, Noon EST (ESPN2)
Hmmmm, another very intriguing game.  Illinois has gone from 6-0 to Fire Zook in a heartbeat.  Wisconsin is rolling again and has an eye on a rematch in Indy.  The once touted Illini D is looking very soft right now while Wilson and Ball and Toon are white hot.  Wisconsin rolls to set up a win and in game with Penn State.  Wisconsin 33 - Illinois 13.

Mayo says ... I don’t remember a better hand-picked successor ever coming along than Bret Bielema. Usually those don’t work out very good, but he has put together one of the most solid programs to follow a legend that I have ever seen. Illinois has been slipping since starting 6-0 and that slope just turned into the edge of an abyss at this point. Queue up ‘On Wisconsin’ several times today and see if Montee Ball can break some more rushing records. Wisconsin 51 – Illinois 24.

Penn State at Ohio State, Noon EST (ABC)
Call this one the Shame Bowl. Had OSU simply made it's PAT last week, this would be even bigger in the Leaders race.  Still, OSU can make a dent in the title chase.  Penn State needs to win and see UW upset to clinch Indy.  But how focused is the team?  Maybe it will do them good to leave State College.  OSU is motivated to play and takes advantage of a shaky Penn State offense.  Ohio State 20 - Penn State 14.

Mayo says ... A spectacular matchup most years, this one is tainted with scandal on both sides of the field. Ohio State couldn’t wait to start the season this year to get the bad taste of the previous 9 months out, and now Penn State finally gets to get out of Happy Valley and all the media attention that has fallen on them. In what could be the only matchup between Luke Fickell and Tom Bradley, I’m going with Ohio State in a nail-biter. Penn State 13 – Ohio State 17.