Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Scramble for the Ball: The Best Losers

Tom and Mike perform the ritual "complimenting of the Loser League team names," pile on Marty Mornhinweg, and actually find a scenario where starting Geno Smith is a good idea.

02 Jan 2012

SDA: Bowl Spectacular III

by Brian Fremeau and Robert Weintraub

It's a new year and it's time for the big bowls to take center stage. New Year's Day shifts to January 2 to accommodate the NFL, and features as strong a lineup as we've had in years, capped off with a Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl with four teams that would make fine hypothetical playoff candidates. The Monday undercard is solid as well with the always-intriguing Big Ten-SEC challenge in the Outback, Capital One, and Gator bowls, plus Case Keenum's last college game.

Brady Hoke at Michigan and Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia snagged BCS bowl games in their first years on the job. Clemson will play in its first BCS game ever under Dabo Swinney. Frank Beamer and Bill Snyder are the elderstatesmen in college coaching and can teach those young guys a thing or two about winning consistently for years.

We've got 11 more games before the BCS national championship game kicks off and the college football season wraps up. Enjoy.

Previews

Ticketcity Bowl: No. 24 Penn State (+5.5) vs No. 20 Houston (Monday, 12:00 PM ET, ESPNU)

OVERALL When Penn State
Has the Ball ...
When Houston
Has the Ball ...
Category Penn St.
(9-3)
Houston
(12-1)
Penn St.
Off
Houston
Def
Penn St.
Def
Houston
Off
2011 F/+ Rk 26 22 67 66 4 9
2011 FEI Rk 40 31 73 57 11 9
2011 S&P+ Rk 22 20 75 67 5 5
2011 FPA Rk 29 65
2011 Rushing S&P+ Rk 48 83 14 24
2011 Passing S&P+ Rk 82 83 3 8
2011 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 91 50 3 11
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
64.1% Run
(36th)
43.2% Run
(118th)
2011 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 33 88 14 7
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
38.4% Run
(29th)
24.2% Run
(104th)

The Nittany Lions were the story of the college football season for all of the wrong reasons, but the scandalous headlines overshadowed a pretty solid season on the field -– at least in terms of record. Penn State only beat one opponent by more than 10 points and struggled to dominate the weakest teams on its schedule. They did play dominant defense for most of the year, giving up only 1.3 points per drive, fifth-fewest in the nation. The one top-10 offense they did face (Wisconsin) rolled Penn State for 45 points and 450 yards in the season finale. Houston presents a similarly potent challenge, though the Cougars will attack through the air. Quarterback Case Keenum is the NCAA record holder for career passing yards and touchdowns, but two interceptions in the Conference USA championship game helped doom Houston from a BCS bowl game to a trip to Dallas. Houston may not need to put up too many points to win as Penn State’s Matt McGloin is out following a locker room altercation. Backup quarterback Rob Bolden (six career touchdowns, 11 interceptions) will start.

Outback Bowl: No. 12 Michigan State (+3.5) vs No. 18 Georgia (Monday, 1:00 PM ET, ABC)

OVERALL When Michigan State
Has the Ball ...
When Georgia
Has the Ball ...
Category MSU
(10-3)
Georgia
(10-3)
MSU
Off
Georgia
Def
MSU
Def
Georgia
Off
2011 F/+ Rk 10 14 20 15 13 17
2011 FEI Rk 9 19 40 14 8 32
2011 S&P+ Rk 11 8 47 4 7 25
2011 FPA Rk 12 60
2011 Rushing S&P+ Rk 79 12 8 83
2011 Passing S&P+ Rk 33 7 11 4
2011 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 63 6 4 15
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
60.9% Run
(53rd)
58.5% Run
(63rd)
2011 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 35 15 7 39
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
31.2% Run
(74th)
46.7% Run
(eighth)

The Bulldogs collapsed in the second half of the SEC title game against LSU, but otherwise have been among the nation's hottest teams since losing their first two games of the season. Sparty is still angry about the narrow loss to Wisconsin that cost MSU a Rose Bowl bid. Two stellar defenses collide in this one, both in the top-five in yards allowed nationally. Both units feature All-Americans, Jarel Worthy on the Sparty front line, and Jarvis Jones (13.5 sacks) rushing off the edge in UGA's 3-4. Each team also has a second top-flight defender in linebacker Denicos Allen (MSU) and safety Baccari Rambo (UGA). However, both teams have quarterbacks capable of gaining headway against those defenses. Kirk Cousins has the edge on Aaron Murray in terms of experience and yards per attempt, while Murray has thrown for more touchdowns and has more pure talent to throw to in wideout Malcom Mitchell and tight end Orson Charles. B.J. Cunningham, MSU's all-time receiving leader, is no slouch in green and white. Much will likely depend on the play of UGA's freshman running back/knucklehead Isaiah Crowell, who trails only Herschel Walker, Knowshon Moreno, and Rodney Hampton on the Bulldog freshman rushing yards list. A combination of immaturity and injury have limited Crowell's vast potential, and transfer rumors are loud after UGA landed top recruit Keith Marshall. Georgia's strong 10-3 record is undercut by the fact they were outplayed in the bookend games against the only top teams on the schedule, Boise State and LSU. Meanwhile, Sparty has lost five straight bowl games, four of them under Dantonio -- take from that what it's worth, which is very little.

Capital One Bowl: No. 21 Nebraska (+2) vs No. 10 South Carolina (Saturday, 1:00 PM ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Nebraska
Has the Ball ...
When S. Carolina
Has the Ball ...
Category Nebraska
(9-3)
S. Caro.
(10-2)
Nebraska
Off
S. Caro.
Def
Nebraska
Def
S. Caro.
Off
2011 F/+ Rk 17 27 28 12 25 37
2011 FEI Rk 17 14 30 6 43 47
2011 S&P+ Rk 25 21 48 13 17 45
2011 FPA Rk 21 74
2011 Rushing S&P+ Rk 39 53 26 26
2011 Passing S&P+ Rk 43 4 10 62
2011 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 39 12 33 36
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
74.7% Run
(10th)
68.2% Run
(21st)
2011 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 72 29 8 37
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
43.2% Run
(16th)
39.1% Run
(26th)

The second SEC-Big 10 clash of January 2 at 1 p.m. EST pits a pair of underachieving sides. South Carolina at least has the season-ending injury to star runner Marcus Lattimore and the infantile behavior of banished QB Stephen Garcia to blame for failing to win a diminished SEC East. The defense carried the team in 2011, led by playmakers Melvin Ingram and Antonio Allen, and joined by freshman terror Jadeveon Clowney. Huskers QB Taylor Martinez is fast, but hasn't faced the sort of defensive speed SC will bring to the Magic Kingdom, so Nebraska might be better served slamming away with Rex Burkhead behind a senior-laden offensive line and looking to win a defensive battle. That means Lavonte David and his fellow Blackshirts will have to step it up against Connor Shaw, who has settled down from a rocky start in replacing Garcia to play his best ball down the stretch, including a four-touchdown performance against Clemson in the season finale. Wideout Alshon Jeffery has had a strangely indifferent season (45-614-7) given his jaw-dropping talent, and is nursing a hand injury. Assuming he can go, a stellar performance would likely propel Jeffery into the NFL draft in April.

Progressive Gator Bowl: Ohio State (+2) vs Florida (Monday, 1:00 PM ET, ESPN2)

OVERALL When Ohio State
Has the Ball ...
When Florida
Has the Ball ...
Category Ohio State
(6-6)
Florida
(6-6)
Ohio State
Off
Florida
Def
Ohio State
Def
Florida
Off
2011 F/+ Rk 32 39 61 16 20 72
2011 FEI Rk 33 51 60 38 21 90
2011 S&P+ Rk 52 33 68 31 27 43
2011 FPA Rk 8 72
2011 Rushing S&P+ Rk 33 32 20 19
2011 Passing S&P+ Rk 107 39 23 26
2011 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 66 31 24 13
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
75.5% Run
(seventh)
66.1% Run
(28th)
2011 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 49 34 33 80
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
44.1% Run
(13th)
34.4% Run
(52nd)

While the Urban Meyer passion play dominates the lead up to the game, his old and new programs square off in Jacksonville as a far cry from the teams that played for the BCS title in 2007. Florida has been inept offensively for two seasons running, and Charlie Weis has taken his "decided schematic advantage" to Kansas. Given the talent on hand, the fact the Gators have the 101st best offense in the nation, and move the ball less efficiently than the likes of Tulane and North Texas is staggering. Quarterback John Brantley is the likely starter in his final game in blue and orange, assuming he's recovered from a concussion suffered against Florida State. Freshman backups Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett could both see time as well, as coach Will Muschamp treats the game as an early-spring scrimmage. UF was 0-5 and averaged 12 points against ranked opponents this season -- fortunately for them, the Buckeyes aren't ranked, and are almost as weak offensively. The difference is that OSU quarterback Braxton Miller has found some footing after taking over the starting gig in a season of turmoil in Columbus. Miller is averaging 90 yards per game on the ground in his last five outings.

Rose Bowl: No. 9 Wisconsin (+6) vs No. 6 Oregon (Monday, 5:00 PM ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Wisconsin
Has the Ball ...
When Oregon
Has the Ball ...
Category Wiscy
(11-2)
Oregon
(11-2)
Wiscy
Off
Oregon
Def
Wiscy
Def
Oregon
Off
2011 F/+ Rk 5 6 1 6 32 8
2011 FEI Rk 3 6 2 7 29 14
2011 S&P+ Rk 5 4 1 10 49 4
2011 FPA Rk 22 36
2011 Rushing S&P+ Rk 2 18 71 5
2011 Passing S&P+ Rk 1 6 56 12
2011 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 1 9 70 3
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
69.3% Run
(18th)
66.2% Run
(27th)
2011 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 1 11 19 50
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
42.7% Run
(17th)
48.8% Run
(sixth)

Making their second January trips to Pasadena, Chip Kelly and Bret Bielema both have unfinished Rose Bowl business to take care of. Wisconsin lost dramatically to TCU last year, and Oregon was out-muscled by Ohio State the year before. Kelly is also seeking his first win against an opponent that has more than two weeks to prepare for the Ducks up-tempo offense. That albatross will be difficult to shed against a Wisconsin team that scored 2.5 more points per drive than they gave up, best in the nation this year and the third-best margin posted in the last five seasons (behind 2008 Florida and 2010 Boise State). Badgers running back Montee Ball led the way for Wisconsin (32 rushing touchdowns, six receiving) and unless Bielema out-thinks himself in a Rose Bowl again, he’ll lead the way against Oregon. The Ducks have a special backfield themselves, amassing 800 more yards on the season than Wisconsin with an arsenal of playmakers. The best player on the field may be LaMichael James (1646 yards rushing, 7.4 yards per carry), and rush defense is the Badgers biggest weakness according to our data. And of course, comfort and consistency as the pace of play fluctuates will be a big factor. When they want to, Oregon plays faster than anyone offensively, and Wisconsin is used to games with few possessions. Our locks of the week go head-to-head in the granddaddy of them all.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: No. 3 Oklahoma State (-3.5) vs No. 4 Stanford (Monday, 8:30 PM ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Oklahoma State
Has the Ball ...
When Stanford
Has the Ball ...
Category Oklahoma State
(11-1)
Stanford
(11-1)
Oklahoma State
Off
Stanford
Def
Oklahoma State
Def
Stanford
Off
2011 F/+ Rk 3 7 5 27 3 4
2011 FEI Rk 2 5 20 10 1 11
2011 S&P+ Rk 6 9 2 22 15 11
2011 FPA Rk 4 61
2011 Rushing S&P+ Rk 1 33 37 17
2011 Passing S&P+ Rk 14 17 14 13
2011 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 6 19 27 9
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
43.5% Run
(117)
59.6% Run
(60)
2011 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 9 35 13 31
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
26.5% Run
(99)
35.1% Run
(46)

If a four-team playoff were in place this season, Oklahoma State and Stanford would have been in BCS poll position to accept the bids. The Fiesta Bowl isn’t a national semifinal, of course, but it has to be the most-anticipated bowl game outside of the championship. The Cowboys are making their BCS bowl debut and were a missed field goal in Ames from punching a ticket to the championship. At their best, they likely would have given LSU a great game, proven by their total demolitions of Oklahoma and Baylor this season. Oklahoma State joined Boise State as the only teams ranked in the top-10 in both offensive and defensive points per drive. Of course, the Cowboys hemorrhaged yards defensively this year, but they took advantage of 42 opponent turnovers. Oklahoma State converted the next possession following those opportunities into 31 percent of their points on the season. Stanford protects the ball well, though 10 of their season-long 15 turnovers did come in their last five games. The best Cardinal weapon in defending Oklahoma State may actually be Andrew Luck and the offense. Stanford ranked first in the nation in avoiding three-and-outs (18 percent) and ranked second in the country in points per methodical drive (5.8). Field position and special teams favor Oklahoma State in what should be a fantastic game for a tiny portion of the Tostitos.

Allstate Sugar Bowl: No. 13 Michigan (-2.5) vs No. 17 Virginia Tech (Tuesday, 8:30 PM ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Michigan
Has the Ball ...
When Virginia Tech
Has the Ball ...
Category Michigan
(10-2)
Va. Tech
(11-2)
Michigan
Off
Va. Tech
Def
Michigan
Def
Va. Tech
Off
2011 F/+ Rk 12 19 11 22 24 23
2011 FEI Rk 7 20 5 32 17 28
2011 S&P+ Rk 12 17 10 14 37 30
2011 FPA Rk 32 46
2011 Rushing S&P+ Rk 3 43 38 41
2011 Passing S&P+ Rk 15 8 37 37
2011 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 7 29 25 48
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
74.8% Run
(ninth)
64.9% Run
(32nd)
2011 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 8 4 44 60
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
40.8% Run
(22nd)
39.6% Run
(25th)

It appears that Michigan finally found their man as head coach Brady Hoke delivered a gem of debut season in Ann Arbor. Actually, it was Hoke’s hire of defensive coordinator Greg Mattison and the dramatic improvement on the defensive side of the ball that made the biggest impact in 2011. Michigan held seven opponents under 20 points (they achieved that feat eight times total in the previous three seasons) and leapt from the 119th F/+ defense in 2010 to the top 25 this year. The offense didn’t lose much of a step either, though the Wolverines were at their most potent when quarterback Denard Robinson improvised. Virginia Tech is playing in its fourth BCS bowl in the last five years and has double-digit victories for the eighth straight season, but man, their resume is thin this year. Tech doesn’t have a top-30 victory (Clemson cleaned their clocks twice), and all but one of the teams the Hokies did beat have lost in the bowl season. Running back David Wilson had a terrific season (10 games of 125 yards or more), but was bottled up in the ACC championship. He will be critical for Virginia Tech to keep Robinson off the field and move the offense methodically. Every scoring opportunity will be big as both defenses in this matchup are strong in protecting the red zone and kicking is not a strong suit for either team.

Discover Orange Bowl: No. 14 Clemson (-3.5) vs No. 23 West Virginia (Wednesday, 8:30 PM ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Clemson
Has the Ball ...
When West Virginia
Has the Ball ...
Category Clemson
(10-3)
WVU
(9-3)
Clemson
Off
WVU
Def
Clemson
Def
WVU
Off
2011 F/+ Rk 24 28 16 55 61 15
2011 FEI Rk 15 18 19 45 27 6
2011 S&P+ Rk 45 29 21 52 62 17
2011 FPA Rk 41 89
2011 Rushing S&P+ Rk 49 76 77 11
2011 Passing S&P+ Rk 9 62 51 18
2011 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 27 60 67 24
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
58.1% Run
(68th)
45.9% Run
(111th)
2011 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 16 67 39 2
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
26.5% Run
(100th)
26.8% Run
(98th)

Two of the nation's more wide-open attacks square off in South Florida, and many of the star offensive attractions hail from the Sunshine State, including Clemson star freshman Sammy Watkins and West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. Watkins led the nation in all purpose yards per game, and was among the nation's most electrifying players as Clemson raced to a 8-0 start. His injury coincided with the 1-3 stretch that brought the Tigers back to earth, but he was back in form in the ACC title game with 135 total yards as Clemson butchered Virginia Tech. Tahj Boyd couldn't keep up his Heisman pace, but still tossed 31 touchdown passes and racked up 2578 yards through the air. Smith was even more of a bombardier -- he'll pass the 4,000 yard mark in this game barring injury or flood. Neither defense is much to write home about, giving up an identical 26 points per game. Clemson's Andre Branch is the exception: he's a pass rushing terror with 10.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss on the season.

AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic: No. 11 Kansas State (+7.5) vs No. 7 Arkansas (Friday, 8:00 PM ET, Fox)

OVERALL When Kansas State
Has the Ball ...
When Arkansas
Has the Ball ...
Category KSU
(10-2)
Arkansas
(10-2)
KSU
Off
Arkansas
Def
KSU
Def
Arkansas
Off
2011 F/+ Rk 29 16 29 47 58 12
2011 FEI Rk 13 16 25 53 23 13
2011 S&P+ Rk 66 18 62 53 65 9
2011 FPA Rk 13 25
2011 Rushing S&P+ Rk 40 70 42 7
2011 Passing S&P+ Rk 74 41 58 7
2011 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 54 58 44 8
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
73.3% Run
(13th)
49.9% Run
(105th)
2011 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 62 23 70 5
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
43.9% Run
(14th)
29.9% Run
(84th)

A couple of BCS hopefuls left knocking on the window meet in Dallas. Arkansas lost only to LSU and Alabama on the season, albeit convincingly, while Kansas State continued its remarkable renaissance under Bill Snyder to sport a 10-2 record of its own. Tyler Wilson was the SEC's best quarterback despite the games against NFL-type defenses in Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge. With Joe Adams fully healthy and Jarius Wright superb all season, Arkansas is sure to move the ball in the air, especially since K-State's pass defense gave up 267 yards per game in the pass-happy Big 12. The 'Cats will counter with the punishing ground duo of John Hubert and quarterback Collin Klein. "Optimus Klein" put up 1,099 yards and a mind-boggling 26 touchdowns on the ground, to go with 1,745 and a dozen morescores through the air. If he played somewhere other than Manhattan, KS, Klein might have wound up in Manhattan, NY, as a Heisman finalist. Arkansas' 80th-ranked rush defense is quite gashable, and Klein will look to cap off his unlikely season by keeping the ball from Wilson. The Razorbacks have lost all three coordinators (counting special teams coach John L. Smith) to other gigs since Thanksgiving, so Bobby Petrino will have much on his plate, although his brother Paul, fresh from his offensive coordinator duties at Illinois, has joined Arkansas' staff to help out.

BBVA Compass Bowl: Pittsburgh (-3.5) vs SMU (Saturday, 1:00 PM ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Pittsburgh
Has the Ball ...
When SMU
Has the Ball ...
Category Pitt
(6-6)
SMU
(7-5)
Pitt
Off
SMU
Def
Pitt
Def
SMU
Off
2011 F/+ Rk 35 65 56 35 26 80
2011 FEI Rk 25 82 50 72 20 88
2011 S&P+ Rk 56 38 64 35 46 52
2011 FPA Rk 38 106
2011 Rushing S&P+ Rk 16 40 48 27
2011 Passing S&P+ Rk 88 26 44 75
2011 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 55 32 63 59
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
58.1% Run
(69th)
43.5% Run
(116th)
2011 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 54 28 26 75
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
27.5% Run
(95th)
28% Run
(92nd)

We’ll have to forgive the Panthers if instead of a player curfew during their bowl trip, the team is checking to make sure the coaching staff stays put. Todd Graham jetted off to Arizona State less than a year after taking the Pitt job, and the Panthers have changed the nameplate on the head coach’s office three times in the last 13 months. Pitt is the better team by a significant margin according to our metrics, and the Big East has had a solid bowl season so far. To keep that going, it will be up to quarterback Tino Sunseri to manage an error-free game. In Pitt’s three Big East wins, Sunseri threw five touchdowns and one interception. In four conference losses, it was exactly the opposite. The Mustangs only had five interceptions on the season, and ranked among the 10 worst in college football at generating turnovers. SMU’s offense struggled for consistency all year, but they do have two wide receivers that can eclipse the 1000-yard mark on the season in the bowl game: Cole Beasley and Darius Johnson. Running back Zach Line, who is out for the season with a toe injury, had 1256 of SMU's 1649 rushing yards on the season. Expect lots of throws.

GoDaddy.com Bowl: Northern Illinois (+1.5) vs Arkansas State (Sunday, 9:00 PM ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When N. Illinois
Has the Ball ...
When Arkansas St.
Has the Ball ...
Category NIU
(10-3)
ASU
(10-2)
NIU
Off
ASU
Def
NIU
Def
ASU
Off
2011 F/+ Rk 51 54 33 42 85 70
2011 FEI Rk 55 68 12 63 97 86
2011 S&P+ Rk 48 46 23 40 69 57
2011 FPA Rk 59 17
2011 Rushing S&P+ Rk 23 63 73 63
2011 Passing S&P+ Rk 57 57 66 61
2011 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 41 45 76 61
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
66.5% Run
(25th)
58.2% Run
(66th)
2011 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 52 74 73 55
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
41.3% Run
(20th)
30.5% Run
(81st)

The game before The Game promises to feature more points in the first quarter than LSU and Bama will muster all game. Quarterback Chandler Harnish leads a white-hot NIU attack that has won eight straight games in oft-defenseless, high MACtion fashion. Harnish was in on 37 touchdowns running and throwing this season, one more than Kansas State's Collin Klein, as the Huskies have topped 40 points nine times this year. The Sunday night kickoff may work against the Huskies, who have turned Tuesday night scoring rampages into an art form this season. As NIU was to the MAC, Arkansas State was to the Sun Belt this year, averaging 33.5 points per game and sweeping the conference. The difference is that Arkansas State had a decent defense as well, albeit against limited competition. Brandon Joiner was the Sun Belt defensive player of the year with 12 sacks and 15.5 TFL. The success worked against the Red Wolves, however, as coach Hugh Freeze continued his meteoric rise through the ranks, and will be in Oxford as Ole Miss' new coach instead of on the sidelines. New hire (in a stunner) Gus Malzahn promises to purify the octane in the already high-performing attack, but he won't be on the sideline in Mobile -- David Gunn will coach the team in front of (presumably clothes-free) Danica Patrick, Jillian Michaels, and the other GoDaddy Spokeswomen.

Picks

The Picks
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
Visitor Spread Home Rob F/+
Penn St. +5.5 Houston Houston Penn St.
Michigan St. +3.5 Georgia Georgia Mich. St.
Nebraska +2 S. Carolina S. Caro. Nebraska
Ohio St. +2 Florida Ohio St. Ohio St.
Wisconsin +6 Oregon Oregon* Wisconsin*
Oklahoma St. -3.5 Stanford Okla. St. Okla. St.
Michigan -2.5 Va. Tech Michigan Michigan
Clemson -3.5 W. Virginia Clemson W. Virginia
Kansas St. +7.5 Arkansas Kansas St. Kansas St.
Pitt -3.5 SMU SMU Pitt
N. Illinois +1.5 Arkansas St. NIU NIU
Season-long Results
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
Last Week
Season Total
F/+: 5-6 (1-0) 83-79-1 10-6
Rob: 4-7 (1-0) 84-78-1 8-7-1

Posted by: Brian Fremeau on 02 Jan 2012

52 comments, Last at 05 Jan 2012, 1:50pm by Aaron Brooks Good Twin

Comments

1
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 1:09pm

Picks: Houston, Georgia, Nebraska, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Stanford, Michigan, Clemson, Arkansas, Pitt, and NIU. Counter-consensus are Cardinal, Wolverines, and Razorbacks, and I'll take the Tree as my Edelstein lock.

2
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 1:11pm

I don't know how anyone can discuss Wisconsin and not mention the ridiculously poor special teams that either directly allowed multiple touchdowns or provided opponents short fields all too regularly.

That is the biggest gap between the two teams as Oregon appears to be competent while Wisky is anything but.

3
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 1:18pm

I used to be able to pay attention but I have seriously lost track of who is playing for the national championship.

4
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 2:10pm

Justin Brown almost had the single best punt return in the history of college football but stepped out of bounds by a whisker.

Wow. That was some effort

5
by TVPete (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 2:34pm

Incomplete = fumble turnover review was a terrible call in first quarter of Florida-Ohio State game. I can understand a borderline call being overturned and called a fumble. However, the whistle can clearly be heard BEFORE the ball is recovered in front of the face of Brantley on the ground.

This blown call encourages players to keep playing and chasing lose balls (and hitting) AFTER THE WHISTLE.

6
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 3:19pm

It's really hard to take Michigan State seriously given that they keep throwing up all over themselves in bowl games. (Written with 2 minutes left in the first half)

7
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 3:29pm

And then MSU gives up a 92 yard punt return for a TD.

This coaching staff needs to re-examine how it preps for bowl games. Whatever they are doing is not working.

9
by NYMike :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 4:09pm

I don't know if this is true, but I wonder if they sulk too much, instead of sucking it up and going out and playing football. MSU is a hell of a lot better than they showed in the first half.

34
by NYMike :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 10:38pm

... which they showed in the second half. Congrats to the Spartans.

35
by NYMike :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 10:39pm

... which they showed in the second half. Congrats to the Spartans.

EDIT: Apologize for the double post. The site is much slower than usual tonight.

8
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 4:09pm

Cousins is having a terrible game. Just awful. Even after halftime Cousins is just flat out wild. Yes, Georgia is a good team. But guys are getting open. Cousins is the exact opposite of the guy who played in the Big Ten Championship game.

10
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 4:33pm

And Cousins hits some passes and then the GA qb throws a poor pass returned for a TD and now it's a 2 point game.

11
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 4:40pm

Of course, when a MSU guy flies in to spill a GA player for a loss nobody in the booth mentions "Big Ten speed".

12
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 4:49pm

Yikes. Cousins wants that throw back.

13
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 4:53pm

Good stand by the MSU defense which has played pretty well, especially the second half.

If the MSU can get a TD I suspect the defense will help it hold up.

14
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 5:02pm

MSU takes the lead but lots of time left.

15
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 5:07pm

Wow. MSU goes to sleep, gives up a huge pass play and then a TD pass to a running back who is left wide open in the middle of the field.

16
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 5:38pm

Bad snap on the extra point but the MSU holder recovers and it's tied up with 25 seconds left.

17
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 5:51pm

Very Marty-esqe of GA as they line up for a 43 yard field goal to win in OT. Didn't try for a first down.

18
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 5:52pm

NO GOOD! Pushed it right.

Wow

19
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 6:19pm

Feel for the GA kicker. Ouch.

And look at Wisconsin all frisky out of the gate

20
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 6:33pm

Another WI qb takes another head shot and no flag. I am fine with letting guys play but that is dangerous stuff.

21
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 6:41pm

Wisconsin registers at least one defensive stop in the game. So there's that

22
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 6:46pm

Obvious holding on the defensive back not called.

But they call illegal procedure. hey, thanks

Total make up call a play later. Wow.

23
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 6:47pm

Oregon does not appear to be hold up at the point of attack. WI should stick to its roots and ditch any fancy stuff until the Ducks hold their ground.

24
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 6:50pm

I said stick to the roots but run on 3rd and five with OR crowding the LOS?

Ok, that's a bit much

25
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 6:52pm

Cannot play field position WI. not when the other guy can score like THAT.

Gotta put the ball into the end zone. Goodness

26
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 6:56pm

WI return team on kickoffs doing well

27
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 7:01pm

Finally a flag as Wilson gets driven into the ground out of bounds.

That was clearly intentional as Wilson was WAY out of bounds.

28
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 7:08pm

The Badger defense clearly not taking advantage of its time on the sideline.

Badgers playing ball control but it won't matter if the Badger defense just rolls over. That's two scores in about 15 seconds of possession.

29
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 7:20pm

Oregon defense makes a stand. That might be the difference in the game.

30
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 7:26pm

Stunned that the officials made the correct call on the Duck turnover

31
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 8:10pm

I understand that the Ducks offense is good. But c'mon. You can't keep everything in front of you and force them to work even a little? That was a staple of the Alvarez defenses.

32
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 8:12pm

Badgers now on the wrong side of the scoring pace meaning that Oregon was always trying to tie them. Now the Badgers defense has to come up with a stop or two.

33
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/02/2012 - 8:16pm

Boyett playing the role of that TCU linebacker who got lucky with some pass knockdowns. Boyett has twice stuck out a hand to trip a runner and get him by a whisker. Could have easily have missed and seen the WI guy go to the house.

36
by Solomon :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 12:36am

Another bad day for the Big Ten -- ugh. Where was the Ohio State offense that put up 34 points on the school up north? Good riddance to Bollman. Michigan State saved a little face for the conference. The non-OSU Big Ten programs need to start winning in their Rose Bowl appearances.

Would it be possible to publish these columns a day earlier instead of the day of the games? It makes it difficult sometimes to read them before the games take place.

38
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 10:13am

Where was the Ohio State offense that put up 34 points on the school up north?

I think he was in Oakland, as their #3 QB.

OSU knew they'd have no offense this year, after Prior and Herron were ineligible and Sanzenbacher graduated. U-M, as a historical oddity, has struggled mightily against power running teams (MSU, OSU, Wisconsin, Iowa) for years now.

I was more surprised that OSU gave up 24 to Florida, although I suppose their defense only allowed 10.

Wisconsin, of course, had a 3rd Hail Mary situation go against them. MSU, unsurprisingly, won a game which took a year off Dantonio's life. For whatever reason, for a team with a reputation (deserved) for choking, MSU is largely successful in winning late-and-close games.

37
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 7:40am

I don't think Wisconsin embarrassed themselves losing by a TD to a top five team.

39
by Kal :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 3:50pm

I don't think so either. I think watching the game that they were not the better team and that the outcome wouldn't have been that different had they played again; both teams lost a fumble, both teams had an interception, both teams had some consistency issues. At the same time, the Ducks looked significantly harder to stop consistently, significantly faster and always seemed like they were just going to score and it was going to be Wisconsin's job to get lucky.

Wisconsin played great and were one of the best teams Oregon faced, as we expected. Their offense was truly ridiculous. But the matchup of Oregon's running offense simply outmatched Wisconsin's defense this time.

40
by NYMike :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 7:42pm

The next time they play Wisconsin may not turn the ball over twice. They had very few turnovers during the season, and it was one of the many burns left from that game that it turned on Wilson's 4th INT of the year.

41
by Kal :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 8:02pm

Neither did Oregon. That's sort of the point here; both teams had about equal fumble luck and made about the same amount of turnovers. Darron Thomas had 6 ints all year, as an example. It's not that big of a difference, and while it's possible Oregon would turn it over more for some reason it's not that likely.

45
by NYMike :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 10:56am

During the season, Wisconsin fumbled nine times and lost five, including the RB. Oregon fumbled 24 times and lost 13. OU turns the ball over twice as often as UW, so, yes, it is reasonable to assume that in a replay, the turnovers would not be even. UW also forced more fumbles than OU, although they weren't that good at recovering them (though as we know here, that tends to be random). I can't find statistics for the number of INTs by the defenses, and since the season is over, I'm not willing to dig through the individual game boxes to find them.

42
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 11:06pm

So how many unlikely plays in a row can U-M convert, anyway?

U-M hit a wide-open DB on four consecutive passes and generated a TD and a converted fake FG out of it. (Although there should have been an ineligible downfield called on that play -- the covered frontside RT leaked downfield early)

43
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 1:20am

The answer was 7. U-M opened the 2nd half with a fluke INT, shaky DPI on an INT by Robinson, and scramble drill popup pass over VT's tallest DB. (Although a good catch by Hemingway)

Well that was frustrating. Although I called the end sequence (Overturned, missed FG, made FG). Every replay or questionable call went U-M's way, but having grown up in Big Ten country, I expected that. Still annoyed the refs missed the clear ineligible downfield on the fake FG at the end of the 2nd quarter, and their explanation of the Coale overturn was bollocks. Ball hit the ground I could understand (or even OOB), but the two overturns for failure to control were crap. Neither ball moved from grasp when the catchers hit the ground.

44
by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 10:09am

I don't know about the calls, but did you notice how the refs always seemed to move the ball back a yard or so on the spots? Seemed like, on half the plays I'd notice the runner would get stopped and the ball would be spotted behind where he came down. It was especially obvious when a runner would get only one or two, yet the ball ended up at the original line of scrimage. Strange.

48
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 1:07pm

On the other hand, I noticed a lot of ball spots that looked short of the chains from the air were given a 1st down without measurement. Maybe it cancels out.

49
by Eddo :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 1:11pm

I think that's an area in which NFL officials are much better than collegiate ones. I am generally amazed with how accurately the ball gets spotted in the NFL.

46
by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 11:04am

Frank Beamer really screwed this game up. I understand the value of being aggressive, but when you are in a tight game, and your defense is just plain stoning the other guy's offense, you don't allow the filed position to get flipped by running a cutesie fake punt on fourth and long. If you are dead set on going for it, put the ball in the hands of your talented quarterback, not the damned punter. Dumb. Really, really, dumb.

47
by NYMike :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 4:04pm

You could add going for it on fourth and one where a FG gives you a two-score lead in a game where it appeared that points would be at a premium (by the time the decision was made). I think the Wisconsin decision to go for it on 4th down in the RB was the right one, because FGs weren't going to win it.

51
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 1:16pm

Don't we talk all the time on this site how you should be more bold on 4th and short, especially when you have a 6'6", 260-lb QB? VT beat GT because Logan Thomas could carry two LBs on his back for 5 yards.

50
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 1:14pm

I thought going for it was fine, and faking the punt was fine (the punter is also their #2 receiver, so he's faster and more offensively aware than most punters). The problem with the timeout, which tipped U-M to the fake. Also, VT struggled with 3rd and 4th and short. What they really needed to do was take a delay of game and have Thomas convert the 4th-6.

That said, I didn't have a problem with the two failed 4th-1 plays. VT has historically been too conservative in play-calling, and this year has been refreshing to see them shake things up a little. Sometimes it just doesn't work. Even with the failure, they got the ball back with plenty of time, and had a 1st down at the 18 with 36 seconds remaining, and took a shot to the end zone. Considering how much fluky luck U-M had that game (U-M's one drive was an 11 play, 96 yard drive aided by roughing the kicker, and a wobbling duck after a scramble drill over the hands of one DB and through the hands of another for their TD), I wouldn't trust the football gods with U-M starting from their 7 with 7 minutes remaining. They would have somehow totally scored on that drive, with like 15 seconds remaining.

52
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 1:50pm

That was not quite what I expected from Clemson. Although maybe I should have. They basically had their Maryland game all over again, but against a much better opponent.

Still, I'm almost as surprised WVU was sufficiently with it to score 70. We haven't seen a full game of Good WVU for a long time.