Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Get Gamm Big Ten BBall...
Hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas. In case I don't get in a blog before hand, here are the games to pick as Big Ten basketball starts off. I hope to get to some thoughts before that, but just in case, here are the games and my picks...

1/2 - Wisconsin at Michigan - The Badgers are flying high after the great win at Texas. Michigan is struggling, big time. Wisconsin 71 - Michigan 60.

1/2 - Indiana at Iowa - A nice road test for Indiana to open, but the Hoosiers are the other team to beat (MSU is the first) this Big Ten season. Indiana 76 - Iowa 59.

1/2 - Penn State at Northwestern - These are important games for these bottom feeders. Penn State is playing well right now and makes it three for three to open on the road - a rarity indeed. PSU 64 - NU 62.

1/3 - Ohio State at Illinois - The early road domination ends. Illinois 68 - OSU 63.

1/5 - Iowa at Wisconsin - Back to back openers against two of the top teams. Ouch. Wisconsin 80 - Iowa 61.

1/5 - Michigan at Purdue - Purdue is young and unpredictable, but a lot better than Michigan. Purdue 78 - Michigan 65.

1/5 - Minnesota at Michigan State - Minnesota is playing well but is untested. State has been tested plenty. Michigan State 81 - Minnesota 64.

1/6 - Northwestern at Ohio State - Ohio State bounces back in the home opener. OSU 72 - NU 58.

1/6 - Penn State at Illinois - Illinois gets off to a strong start. Penn State has the horses to compete but this one slips away. Illinois 67 - Penn State 61.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Get Gamm - Bowl Style...
Well, we've finally arrived to the top of the mountain. The extra session of college football is nearly upon us. Eight Big Ten teams are a-bowlin', two are in the BCS and one is playing for the top prize. We've got some picking to do (andrewj1313 and I) but before I get to that, a few words on hoops and the Michigan hire.

I see the invite to catch those who missed the ACC-B10 Challenge fell on deaf ears a while back. So, for those who didn't get in on chance two, here is your last chance to be in the running for the BBall version of Get Gamm. Yep, that's you St. Louis Jeff, andrewj1313, mayo170 and BruceS.

Here are your games:
Florida at Ohio State (12/22)*
Texas vs. Michigan State (12/22)*
UCLA at Michigan (12/22)
Illinois vs. Missouri (12/22)*
Purdue vs. Iowa State (12/22)
Wisconsin at Texas (12/29)*
Minnesota at UNLV (12/30)

* = worth two wins or losses.

Michigan gets its man...
Well, I'm not so sure you can call your third option "your man" but nonetheless, the Wolverines certainly stepped outside of the box and got a nice young coach. Rich Rodriguez will bring the same style that Illinois runs to the Big Ten. Hey, as they say, if you can't beat 'em (spread offenses with fast QBs) join 'em. My ony question for the ogling M fans - how is he any different than John L. Smith? Good luck coach and welcome to the Big Ten.

Let's go bowling...
All right, the time has come. The last showdown of Get Gamm football 2007. andrewj1313 is picking with me. Winner after this last session gets to shop the TFS Fan Shop on me ($25). Bowls appear in reverse order of how they were picked (bottom to top).

I'll let andrewj1313 preface things... "It’s put up or shut up time. In a perfect world the Big Ten would win all their bowl games, but with the Rose Bowl pulling Illinois into the BCS, the Big Ten is facing a very tough situation. The quality of our team vs. their team edges towards our opponents. Playing several bowls in the opponents back yard won’t help either. Bowl season will either improve the Big Ten’s image, or solidify everyone’s perception of it."

Motor City Bowl - Wednesday, December 26 at 7:30pm (ESPN)
Central Michigan vs.
Nothing like a little bowl season rematch in the warm and cozy confines of Ford Field. Purdue is in a bowl again, but this is not what they were playing for or expecting halfway into the season. After a hot start, the swoon set in, and frankly, had Illinois not gotten into the BCS mix, the Boilermakers might be home for the holidays (or, in a better locale). Central Michigan, on the other hand, strived for this bowl from day one. This is where the MAC sends its best. The Chippewas are playing well right now and want to be here. That could be the difference in what should otherwise really be no contest. Purdue killed Central in September and should own them this time. But will they? I predict that the Boilermakers will start slow but end strong and eke out a win because frankly what would be more embarrassing? Going to the Motor City Bowl or going to the bowl AND losing?! Purdue 38 - Central Michigan 33.

andrewj1313 says ... Yawn, with a capital “Y!” This is almost as bad as playing Ball State! I know Joe Tiller has done an okay job at Purdue, but I think the fans are settling for mediocrity. No other team in the Big Ten has failed to live up to expectations more than Purdue over the past few years (maybe Iowa) and if the fans and school are okay with 8-4 or 7-5 every year, then Tiller is your man. Illinois has now gone to two BCS bowls compared to Tiller's one. Purdue 48 - Central Michigan 20.

Insight Bowl - Monday, December 31 at 5:30pm (NFL Network)
Oklahoma State vs. Indiana
What a boon for the Hoosiers. After blowing a late season game in Evanston, IU had to beat rival Purdue to secure its first bowl since 1993. If any team deserved it this year, it was Indiana. In actuality, this team was really close to so much more - at least 8-4, maybe 9-3. But this is a great first step and a nice reward. Indiana is the feel good story of the bowl season, hands down. Now, to the game. This one will be fun, if you can see it (NFL Network). OSU scored over 35 points in each of its six wins. The kicker? They give up a ton too. Indiana is explosive and should be able to exploit the Cowboys. I like the dream to continue for the cream and crimson. Indiana 45 - Oklahoma State 38.

andrewj1313 says ... Congratulations to the Hoosiers for playing 13. Five losses and four of them weren’t necessarily to bad teams. I think Indiana matches up well with Ok. St. Just be prepared for the coach (the coach of players) on the other sideline, because Mike Gundy’s “a man!” Don’t do anything that will make him want to puke. The key for Indiana will be focusing; don’t let playing 13 be good enough, stay focused and try to win the 13th for Hoeppner. Indiana 28 - Oklahoma State 24.

Champs Sports Bowl - Friday, December 28 at 5pm (ESPN)
Boston College vs. Michigan State
My first bowl experience will take place in Orlando next week and I'm excited. I love the reward for what was a better than even I expected season for my alma mater and the challenge of facing a team that was once very much in the BCS title mix. It will be interesting to see how the Eagles approach this game. B.C. has the longest current bowl winning streak (7) and their A.D. has guaranteed a win. However, this bid is to the Eagles what a Motor City Bowl bid would have been to the Spartans - a crappy consolation prize. It is a good bowl, but B.C. was a few plays from the Orange Bowl. Matt Ryan or not, I like Michigan State's focus right now. There will be some early rust, but look for State to challenge the very good Eagles run defense and for Devin Thomas to have the game that sends him to the NFL draft. Michigan State 31 - Boston College 27.

andrewj1313 says ... The only thing these teams have in common is they both lost three of their last five games. This is a prime example of the mismatches the Big Ten will be faced with as a result of Illinois in the Rose Bowl. Michigan St. might be able to keep it close for a quarter or two, but Boston College is much more talented on offense then MSU is on defense. This was the #2 team at one point this year and was playing for a BCS bowl only to be rewarded with a non New Years Day celebration against a 7-5 team. If MSU plays smart, BC could be this years “We didn’t play well because we didn’t want to be there” team. Boston College 34 - Michigan State 24.

Alamo Bowl - Saturday, December 29 at 8pm (ESPN)
Texas A&M vs. Penn State
This is a classic, old school match-up between two tried and true programs. And don't let the non New Year's Day status fool you - the Alamo is annually one of the best bowls of them all. The Aggies will have the home crowd but Penn State travels well. Gary Darnell is a one game leader for A&M, Paterno is in his 500th game. This is a rematch of the 1999 game, which Penn State owned (24-0). This is a disappointing place for the Nittany Lions to wind up, but is a chance to send the seniors out with a nice 9 win season while building for 2008 - a season that might be JoePa's last. Penn State has more talent on both sides of the ball and Paterno knows how to coach a post season winner. Penn State 30 - Texas A&M 17.

andrewj1313 says ... A pretty good match up as for quality of teams go, but the advantage will go to A&M as this will be a home game atmosphere. A&M had to have the toughest four game stretch to close out the season going 1-3 during that time. Penn St. can handle playing in a hostile environment, but can they play good enough to win? I think PSU can do enough on the ground and in the air to keep A&M off balance and take home a good victory for the Big Ten. Penn State 30 - Texas A&M 20.

Outback Bowl - Tuesday, January 1 at 11am (ESPN)
Tennessee vs. Wisconsin
This should prove to be a very good match-up. Both teams are young and with talent. Both teams had hiccups this season, though the Volunteers had bigger issues at times than the Badgers. Both teams are led by gutty quarterbacks. Both teams rely on a young defense. Wisconsin is one of the more underrated, solid bowl performers year in and year out. Don't let the SEC Title Game appearance fool you - UGA was better than Tennessee over the course of the season. This will be a close one that comes down to a special teams play. Wisconsin 24 - Tennessee 23.

andrewj1313 says ... Great match up. Wisconsin has won two in a row over the SEC in bowl games and can make it a third this year. Wisconsin needs to establish Hill on the ground and protect Donovan. Tennessee is a typical SEC speed team, but like all Big Ten teams should do against the SEC, play smash mouth football. The SEC relies on speed more then finesse and if Wisconsin can wear them down, it will be a long day for the ugliest coach in college football (Charlie Weis is a close second). Wisconsin 24 - Tennessee 21.

Capital One Bowl - Tuesday, January 1 at 1pm (ABC)
Florida vs. Michigan
Say what you want about the purported Rose Bowl mis-match, I think this is the one that could sting the Big Ten the hardest. Will Michigan be fired up to send Lloyd out a winner? You bet. Can the Wolverines stop the best dual threat quarterback the game has seen in (maybe) decades? I'm not so sure. Tim Tebow is the key. If he didn't put on the banquet circuit weight that Troy Smith did last year, this will be no contest. Henne-Hart-Manningham don't have enough to balance the speed of the Gators. Florida is young, hungry to make an early statement for the 2008 season and not afraid to change things up. Michigan will battle, but Florida is a match-up nightmare for the Wolverines defense. Florida 30 - Michigan 20.

andrewj1313 says ... A terrible match up for the Big Ten as Illinois should have been here. While Florida doesn’t have a true quality win under it’s belt, neither does Michigan, plus this will be a home game for Florida which will be celebrating the first Sophomore Heisman Trophy winner in history. Michigan’s defense will have fits all day with Tebow. If Lloyd couldn’t figure out in three years how to stop Troy Smith, then he won’t be able to do anything about Tebow. I would love for Michigan to prove me wrong and win this one as they did in 2002, but I think Lloyd ends his career at Michigan with another bowl loss. Florida 34 - Michigan 20.

Rose Bowl - Tuesday, January 1 at 4:30pm (ABC)
USC vs. Illinois
I don't care what the media says, I applaud the fact that the Rose Bowl wanted (and got) a traditional Big Ten v. Pac Ten match-up. Shame on the media for pooh-pooh-ing the tradition of the Rose Bowl. To Big Ten fans and Pac Ten fans, it is still the bowl to be in (if you can't play for the national title). I also wonder what the media is thinking when it automatically installs Illinois as a no-chance opponent to the Trojans. Yes, USC is good and playing perhaps its best ball of the season. But, this is the same Illini team that hung the one and only "L" of the season on the No. 1 Buckeyes. Illinois is hungry to be here and will hang with Pete's Trojans. This will be the statement game for the Big Ten, even if it is a loss. USC 33 - Illinois 30.

andrewj1313 says ... I think Illinois has the determination to play with USC, but I don’t think they can handle it, especially in USC’s back yard and future playing field. What will go a long way for Illinois’ confidence is that they already beat the #1 team in the country OSU, on the road. If Illinois plays like that, they very well could make this interesting. I would love to see Illinois do the impossible and beat USC, but conventional wisdom tells me to pick USC…but, I won’t be surprised if Illinois makes a game of it and even upsets USC. Illinois is better than the “experts” are giving them credit for. USC 38 - Illinois 17.

BCS National Championship Game - Monday, January 7 at 8pm (Fox)
LSU vs. Ohio State
You know what, for all the upsets and jockeying that went on all season long, I am pretty damn convinced that we wound up with the two best teams in New Orleans anyway. Yes, OSU needed help after a late season loss. So did LSU. Both teams are a few plays TOTAL away from being the undisputed No. 1 and 2 teams in the land. To the game... I know people are going to pick LSU based on the OSU performance in last year's title game. BIG mistake. This Ohio State team is more focused. No postseason banquet circuits to get in the way this time. The Buckeyes are rock solid. LSU is a great team, but they don't strike me as being as fast as Florida last year. This will be a hard-hitting affair and this time, the Bucknuts break through. Ohio State 26 - LSU 23.

andrewj1313 says ... OSU is 11-1, LSU is 11-2, yet somehow OSU is the team that “backed in” to the championship game and LSU “deserves” to be there?! We all know the SEC is the greatest conference in the history of the universe, and that all others are crap – there needs to be a new division in college football; D-1 Super A consisting of just the SEC and then D-1A with everybody else. I think I just made Mike Gundy puke. Had OSU had to face any other team besides an SEC school, I don’t think they would have gone into this game with the same focus or attitude. OSU wants the SEC so they can shut everyone up. Arkansas showed just how vulnerable LSU is to the ground game and OSU should do what they should have done last year; pound the ball down their throats from start to finish. OSU has come close to a shut out several times this year, it would be freakin’ awesome if it happened in this game. OSU 28 - LSU 20.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A ton to talk about...
Wow, a guy takes his time off for Thanksgiving, goes on an eight-day business trip to the warmth of southern Florida, comes back to un-bury and a ton of stuff happens around him! Time flies when you're busier than one of Santa's elves in mid-December...

Where to start? The bowl berths (which, incidentally, I had almost nailed)? The ACC-Big Ten "not so much of a" Challenge? Michigan's coaching search? A look back at my football predictions and final grade on my work?

Well, I'll get to all of it in the next few days but the first three are the most urgent topics right now. One last thing before I get to it ... those who missed the first round of basketball Get Gamm, you need to make up 11 games before conference play starts up. If you want to be eligible for the prize, you need to pick these games (several being held on 12/8) those of us who picked the challenge, we get to sit back and watch:

Arizona at Illinois (12/8)
Iowa at Iowa State (12/8)
Michigan at Duke (12/8)
Michigan State vs. BYU (12/8)
Purdue at Missouri (12/8)
Kentucky at Indiana (12/8)
Marquette at Wisconsin (12/8)
Seton Hall at Penn State (12/8)
Louisville at Purdue (12/15)
Florida at Ohio State (12/22)
Texas vs. Michigan State (12/22)

The Bowl Berths...
A record ten Big Ten teams were bowl eligible this year. Eight get to make trips somewhere other than home for the holiday's. The big coup was Illinois sliding up to the Rose Bowl, as predicted here. It's funny to listen to the national media blast the Rose Bowl officials for being "way to tied to tradition." That's laughable. Isn't the whole reasoning behind the bowls the tradition? You can't have it both ways.

At any rate, some solid match-ups for the Big Ten this bowl season. There will be cases where we get no love and others where we are sure to surprise. The first game for the Big Ten is 12/26 at the Motor City Bowl. That means picks for the last hurrah of Get Gamm 2007 are due by noon that day. Here are the games, with of course the national title game getting the nod as the tiebreaker.

Purdue vs. Central Michigan, Motor City Bowl - 12/26
Indiana vs. Oklahoma State, Insight Bowl - 12/31
Michigan State vs. Boston College, Champs Bowl - 12/28
Penn State vs. Texas A&M, Alamo Bowl - 12/29
Wisconsin vs. Tennessee, Outback Bowl - 1/1
Michigan vs. Florida, Capital One Bowl - 1/1
Illinois vs. USC, Rose Bowl - 1/1
Ohio State vs. LSU, BCS Title Game - 1/7 (Tiebreaker)

The ACC - Big Ten Challenge...
This is a great thing for college basketball. Something I look forward to every year. The trouble is, Michigan State is the only Big Ten team that has a winning record. No surprise then that the Big Ten has never won the challenge. This year, we took a severe beating. I hope it continues and that the league starts to show up for a change. It's tough when we always have to play the Rodney Dangerfield card. Kudos to Michigan State, Indiana and Penn State for taking care of business. But the rest of 'em? Ugh!

Michigan's next coach...
I love how many "rock solid" sources folks have these days. When even ESPN is screwing the pooch on announcements, you know that there are far more blow-hards than credible people in the business. As a State fan I find it interesting to watch the Michigan situation unfold. All the he said - she said and locks to be the next coach are entertaining to say the least.

Coming soon...
My bowl picks, my season in review and more.