Our offseason Four Downs series ends with a look at the NFC West's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. The Rams and 49ers have to kick-start their passing games, Arizona's offense lacks a big dimension, and the Seahawks continue to rely on Russell Wilson's magic tricks.
19 Dec 2008
by Brian Fremeau and Russell Levine
Remember when there was an actual break between the end of the college football regular season and the bowls? Back when there was no such thing as conference championship games and bowls were all played in the actual vicinity of New Year's Day?
Now that break is down to a measly two weeks, which really short-changes one of my favorite times of the year: The "Silly Season" of coaching changes.
Thankfully, we have Auburn. And Charles Barkley. And a half-decent slate of bowl games for the first week, topped off by Boise State and TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl. All of which is more than enough to keep Brian Fremeau and I busy on this week's Podcast. I hope you'll listen in.
In addition to taking part in the podcast, in what is now the second-annual SDA-FEI Bowl Mash-Up, Brian was kind enough to provide all the game write-ups below.
Brian's picks, as always, are based on the Fremeau Efficiency Ratings. Check out his site for his full rundown of bowl picks.
The mash-up will continue over the next three weeks as we build up to the Oklahoma-Florida game on January 8.
Only three bowl games this season will feature an FEI top-10 offense versus an FEI top-10 defense -- the BCS Championship Game, the Rose Bowl, and this game. The Midshipmen triple-option doesn't light up the scoreboard quite like the Oklahoma Sooners, but it isn't designed for that. It is designed to control the ball, limit the number of game possessions, and force the opponent to remain extremely disciplined on each and every snap. Wake Forest has a stingy defense, giving up less than 20 points per game, but their ability to force long fields for Navy will be the real key. In their first match-up on September 24th, Wake Forest held Navy to less than 70 yards and zero points on six drives that started at or inside their own 25-yard line. The Demon Deacons lost that game by giving up 24 points to Navy on shorter fields.
THE PICKS -- FEI: Wake Forest | RUSSELL: Navy
Fresno State was ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 in each of the first five weeks of the season while posting a 2-1 record against Rutgers, UCLA and Wisconsin. Only the Bulldogs' 24-7 manhandling of Rutgers on September 1st remains as an FEI feather (feither?) in their cap, and that's only because Rutgers turned in a remarkably dominating stretch run in the second half of the season. Fresno State played six teams ranked 100th or worse by FEI and lost to two of them. Colorado State's best asset is its field goal unit (ranked sixth nationally in field goal accuracy), but they'll obviously need to get into position to have this be a factor. In their narrow losses to TCU (by six points) and BYU (by three points), Colorado State had zero field goal attempts.
THE PICKS -- FEI: Fresno State | RUSSELL: Fresno State
Memphis faces its third FEI top-40 team of the season against South Florida -- the first two games were losses to Mississippi and East Carolina by a combined score of 71-34. South Florida didn't fare dramatically better, going 2-4 against six top-40 opponents. The Bulls have the better defense in this matchup, which will be particularly important if they hold a field position advantage in the game like they have for much of the season. In each of its six losses, Memphis played at a Field Position Efficiency deficit.
THE PICKS -- FEI: South Florida | RUSSELL: South Florida
BYU held a lot of promise at the start of the year as a potential BCS buster, but they were ultimately undone by inconsistency on the defensive side of the ball. Five Cougars opponents were either shut out or held under a touchdown in non-garbage possessions, but their other six opponents ran up an average of more than 33 non-garbage points per game against BYU. Arizona was pretty productive on offense this year against generally stronger defenses. Wildcats fans are probably hoping the game doesn't come down to a BYU kick. Arizona opponents were among the most accurate nationally, making 18 of 21 kicks on the year against the Wildcats (two of the misses were from more than 50 yards out). Arizona lost on a last-second field goal to Oregon State, and gave up five field goals in a single-possession loss to New Mexico.
THE PICKS -- FEI: Arizona | RUSSELL: BYU
Seven of the eight members of the Sun Belt Conference are rated No. 94 or worse by FEI. Troy was 6-1 against that gauntlet, losing its only conference game by a single point. Admirably, the Trojans played Ohio State, Oklahoma State, and LSU out of conference and on the road, losing all three valiantly. Southern Missisissipi's best three opponents -- Boise State, East Carolina, and Auburn -- actually rate comparably to Troy's best, and the Golden Eagles won one of theirs, shutting down Conference USA champion East Carolina 21-3 late in the season. That's the only victory by either Troy or Southern Miss over an opponent rated among the best 75 teams in college football.
THE PICKS -- FEI: Southern Miss | RUSSELL: Troy
This game is the marquee match-up of the first set of bowl games, the first of only eight bowl games pitting FEI top-25 opponents. If the teams had swapped schedules this year, they quite likely would have swapped records -- TCU fell at the hands of No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 23 Utah, and Boise State's best opponent was No. 35 Oregon. The Broncos have the better offense, but not by much, and both defenses have been very strong. TCU allowed only Oklahoma to score more than two touchdowns against them, and held eight of its opponents to seven non-garbage points or fewer. Boise State gave up more than 16 points only twice, and held five opponents under a touchdown.
THE PICKS -- FEI: Boise State | RUSSELL: Boise State
There are very few objective measures that favor Hawaii in the game. The Fighting Irish performed better this season than the Warriors in Game Efficiency, Offensive Efficiency, Defensive Efficiency, Special Teams Scoring Efficiency, and Field Position Efficiency, and did so against a stronger overall schedule. Hawaii did play its best game of the season at home in a 29-24 loss to Cincinnati at the end of the year, but one of its worst efforts of the year came only one week earlier at home against Washington State -- Hawaii won the game, but was one of only two FBS teams all season to even allow the Cougars to keep the game close.
THE PICKS -- FEI: Notre Dame (Edelstein Lock) | RUSSELL: Notre Dame (Edelstein Lock)
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
|Visitor||Spread||Home||FEI Says||Russell Says|
|Wake Forest||-3||Navy||Wake Forest||Navy|
|Colorado State||+3||Fresno State||Fresno State||Fresno State|
|Memphis||+12.5||South Florida||South Florida||South Florida|
|Southern Miss||+4.5||Troy||Southern Miss||Troy|
|Boise State||+2.5||TCU||Boise State||Boise State|
|Hawaii||-1||Notre Dame||Notre Dame*||Notre Dame*|
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
|Last Week||Season Total|
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