Monday, December 29, 2014

Playoff Primer

Hey, I can say that about BOTH leagues this year....That's kind of nice.

While the bowl season has been more or less ho-hum (thank you C. Michigan/W. Kentucky for giving us a good show), that cannot be said for the NFL. What a great last 2 weeks it's been. We'll get to that and this "final four" thing-a-majig debuting in the college game. But first, let's get to this...

Texas vs. Arkansas
What an intriguing, yet potentially disastrous games this could be. Good match up for both teams in that I don't think either coach will have a tough time getting their teams to play up to this game. Had you asked me 2 weeks ago what I thought, I was picking the Hogs by 10. Call it homer-ism, but I'm leaning more towards a much closer game. I truly think this could be a toss up barring Tyrone Swoopes going all Tyrone Swoopes on us....

Why Arkansas will win...In short, they run the ball very, very well, and they are very good at stopping the run. Typically, that spells success more times than not. They have a stout offensive line that I believe averages above 300 pounds. They can really open holes and the backs know how to take advantage of that. Defensively, their weakness is passing defense and to add insult to injury they are missing a starting safety and backup cornerback. That should give Sean Watson a little confidence to open it up a tad more than he normally may. He better have something - rushing yards will be at a premium.

Why Texas will win...In short, I believe in Charlie Strong more than I do Bilema. He's kind of a scum bag, but he is a heck of a coach. I like Texas in a bend, don't break defensive effort to keep the game manageable for the offense. Field goals baby...field goals. Given the aforementioned missing players on that Hogs defense, I think this will give Watson some give to get Swoopes some manageable, if not easier passes that should open things up. Keep the offensive plays beyond the front four of that Arkansas defense and the opportunities open up tremendously more than any "power run" attempts.

As I said above, hell of a match up for both teams. And a win would go a long way to continue building on recruiting efforts. As close as this is, I simply trust Strong's ability to get his team focused and ready to play a full 60 minutes. I'm going Horns here...

Texas - 24
Arkansas - 22

Quick Thoughts on the Upcoming "Playoff" (and a couple of other games)
  • I've gone back and forth on this  over the last couple of weeks: while I respect how Florida State has won these several games - in many instances coming from behind - I know Oregon is much better than those teams. I do think Winston and that offense will give Oregon's defense some fits, I just think pound-for-pound, Oregon is better. And Mariota is the best player in the game. Period. 
  • If Ohio State wasn't on their third-string quarterback with all of 1 game under his belt, I'd be very inclined to pick Meyer in an upset here. Saban with extra time to prepare for a freshman, third stringer? I don't think so. I'm taking Alabama here, but it's close for a while. 
  • Urban Meyer has proved it again, and again. He is one of the best coaches in the game. You forget about him because of his hiatus, but all he does is win. I'm sure he'll have the Buckeyes in the hunt more times than not. 
  • I'm not saying I like it or want it, but I got both Baylor and TCU losing their respective games. Wouldn't that just be poetic justice...
NFL Playoff Reactions and More
  • Who would have thought we'd have 3 teams coming out of the AFC North. That's something else. I think the NFC North has 2 and those are the only multi-team divisions. 
  • Call my crazy, but I think Dallas may be the most dangerous team in the playoffs this year. What a year for Garret and this team. Historically, they've stepped on their dicks better than anyone in the month of December. This year? 4-0 and they've outscored their opponents 165 to 79. And they weren't a bunch of bums, and three were on the road. This team looks good. With that said...
  • I think this could be a great game between Dallas and Detroit. Neither team has much recent experience in the playoffs and have been hampered by "what ifs" in the last few years. And ironically, Dallas has been better on the road than at home this season. Either way, I'm taking Dallas here, but I expect to see it closer than some think early on. 
  • Not only is Carolina (losing record) hosting a playoff game, I'm going on record saying they beat the Cardinals. 
  • Top four team with greatest chance of getting "upset"? Denver. 
  • My Super Bowl: Green Bay over New England. 
 That's what I got folks - have a happy New Year and enjoy the games! 

Friday, December 05, 2014

The Home Stretch

Greetings Sports Fans - it's been a little while since our last encounter and what better time than now to get back on the horse.

Allow me to open with something Colin Cowherd said way back last spring, and something I vehemently agreed with at the time and still believe today: moving to the four-team playoff would not lessen the debate and controversy in college football, it would intensify it. And here we are today...

It's tough because there are a lot of good teams. One of the things I've grown to really dislike about the game is the growing stigma of the need for perfection to be considered "good". Again, there are a lot of good teams in college football and singling out 2, 4 or even 8 is going to be tough. But this forces us to get into this habit of dissecting every tiny detail of who did you play, when did you play them, how did the game go, who did THEY play, etc, etc. We've lost sight of the forrest for all the damn trees in the way.

All of that being said, I still like the fact that there's a group of intelligent, knowledgeable folks who are making the final call, and who actually have to meet with one another to discuss each week. I'll hold final judgement until the final whistle blows Saturday night, and the decision is made Sunday morning. In the meantime, here's how I see the dominoes falling.....but first, a quick note on, uh-hum, the Longhorns.

Reflecting Back on Stronghorns Season 1
I don't think it needs mentioning that there is one priority that is above all else this off season for this Texas Longhorn team. Maybe we have that solution on campus, and maybe we don't. We just don't know. Here's the good news heading into the heart of recruiting season: Strong and company can honestly say to their top coveted recruits at QB, Receiver, O-line, and D-line - "you have an honest-to-God opportunity to come in and make an impact right away. Seriously."

I hate to come down on a guy who was thrust into this position where he's clearly over his head, but this kid is NOT a big-time college football player. I mean, who the hell else was going after this guy out a of 2A school where they won 1 game his senior year? I'm too lazy to look it up, but someone look it up and get back to me. I know Strong and company don't like playing freshman, or guys before they are ready, but there is zero chance in hell that this team is going into next season with Swoopes under center. Not happening. Herd may make a lot of young mistakes, and a lot of the ones Swoopes is making, but his running abilities will get you some plays we never we would have with Swoopes.

At the end of the day, we learned a hell of a lot about this coaching staff and I think I speak for damn-near every Longhorn fan when I say I like what we see. The most appalling thing I think we all learned is just how dysfunctional this team was in so many ways. There were some tough and very frustrating growing pains this year, but pains that needed to happen. I predicted that 2016 would be the season that Texas is in the final 4....that may be a tad aggressive, but I'm sticking with it.

Let me just close with this point on the Thanksgiving Night massacre. I know this is always silly, but in light of the fact that our QB accounted for SIX (fuck, really?) turnovers, I can make this outlandish "what ifs"....IF you take away Texas' 7 turnovers, and the points that were scored off of them, the final score would have been 17-10 TCU. I'm not saying it should have been, I'm saying, what if...moving on please.....

Weekend of Shittin' or Gettin' Off the Pot
One I thing I will say is there are a lot of great games to be played this weekend with a lot of ramifications. Let's go around the horn and explore the endless possibilities (they're not endless, there are only a few).

Missouri vs Alabama - The bigger story is this: why is NO ONE talking about the fact that Missouri, a team that snuck in the SEC door right before it closed, has now won their division in the first 2 years? Not the Aggies with their Johnny Football, and Swag Copter, but Mi-freaking-ssouri. I give them credit, I really do. They were an afterthought in this league and frankly, many believe that their academic record is the main reason the conference wanted them. And look at them now - in a position to play the ultimate spoiler. Unfortunately, and I can say this with a lot of confidence, they are not going to beat Alabama. Say what you will about the Tide not being the team they've been in recent years (and they're not), but they are a lot better than Missouri. A lot. Bama will punch their ticket this weekend. Now that's about the only certainty I do have... (Sidebar: does "SEC guy" now realize that the SEC is nothing more than 3-4 really good teams and then a whole hell of a lot of mediocrity disguised as good teams? The rest of us have known this for a long time.)

Arizona vs Oregon - Now here's an interesting one fans. For those of you not keeping score, Oregon's lone loss was to Arizona earlier this season, however Oregon was without a hell of a lot of players including some key O-lineman. Personally I think Oregon is the best, most balanced team in football right now and I think they're going to take it to Arizona. First, they're back to full health, and second, it's very, very tough to beat any team twice in one year. And here's the deal, if Arizona wins, the likelihood of them making the playoff is very, very low - so win or lose they are Rose Bowl bound. I would think it would be tough to motivate a team with that reality. (PS - why the hell is this game on a Friday?)

Kansas State vs Baylor - Now here's the humdinger of the weekend folks. I've always hated style points, but they exist and they will be alive and well on Saturday night in Waco, Texas of all places. I'll be very interested to see how Baylor comes out because there has been quite a bit of distraction around the playoff. And let's not forget that Kansas State is a damn-good football team who doesn't make mistakes. Baylor needs to come out and look sharp and polished because right now, everyone seems to think they don't. If they can come in and have that polished look and win by 10 or more, they'll have nothing to worry about. That's a big IF....

Ohio State vs Wisconsin - I mean, you have to  think with a third-string QB this could get ugly quick. But...it's still tough to doubt Urban Meyer. Ohio State is going to have to play the best run defense of their lives. I gotta take Wisconsin here - tough, physical team who'll be licking their chops to get this youngster under pressure. Give me the Badgers here by a touchdown.

Florida State vs Georgia Tech - Look, I've been saying, for like 3 weeks now, "oh, this is the week they lose, blah, blah, blah, blah." Except they keep winning. With that said, I totally get how some could see it differently. Georgia Tech may be one of the best team they've played all year, and a big key to beating this team is keeping the offense on the sideline. That triple option can do just that. If FSU can keep this team to field goals inside the red zone, they'll be fine. If they start giving up long, 5+ minute drives that end in TDs, that could be trouble.

Final Shake Out - With what we've seen this season, you just have to know things aren't just going to "fall in line" this weekend. Quickly, here's how I see it playing out...

Oregon handles Arizona with ease and Mariotta locks up the Heisman (it's not close).

Kansas State plays very tough, but Baylor hangs on for a sound, but hard-fought win at home.

Missouri may tease us with keeping it close for a while, but I don't think this game is ever in doubt.

Wisconsin over Ohio State by a touch down here.

And drum roll......why the hell not, give me Georgia Tech by 3 over the Seminoles ending a huge run at 28-straight games.

Final Four:
1. Oregon
2. Bama
3. Baylor
4. TCU

Goat Award of the Week
I just made that up, but I simply want to highlight the fact that all season long the Big 12 has been running ads highlighting the fact that everyone plays everyone and they have "one true champion". That's literally what the slogan in those ads has been. Now, we have a potential situation where TCU and Baylor will end up with the same record, but here's the rub: BAYLOR BEAT TCU HEAD TO HEAD. Say what you will about "how" they won/lost, but it happened.

NOOOOW the Big 12 has come out and said, "if both teams win out, we'll call them co-champions and let the committee decide". Are you f'ng kidding me? Really? One True Champion? In what other sport does something like this happen? It doesn't. I'm sorry, but if they both win out, Baylor is your champ. I don't like it anymore than any other non-Baylor fan, but that's how it works. And here's the thing: it's not difficult or confusing, or biased, or anything. It's common sense that every sports fan in the world would understand.

Freaking embarrassing. It really is. I mean, did no one tell the Commissioner, "hey, you know what, if you come out with this stance most people will literally think you have no balls."? I'm guessing not. Unreal.

On that note, enjoy the weekend folks. Be good to each other out there.