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