Sunday, December 31, 2006

MPC Computers Bowl Preview

MPC COMPUTERS BOWL - Dec. 31, 2006 - Bronco Stadium, Boise, ID
Miami (6-6) vs. Nevada (8-4)
Larry Coker's final game as Miami's coach ends in a climate that is - almost literally - the polar opposite of the balmy ocean breezes found near Coral Gables. The fact that his successor is on his coaching staff gives this contest a somewhat unique set-up and subplot heading into the matchup with the Nevada Wolf Pack.

And who is this "Nevada" of which I speak? A team that closed out the season on fire, that's who. A team that started off the season as badly as possible, with terribly ugly losses to an awful Fresno State club and a below average Arizona State squad. A team that then righted their ship in a big way, winning 8 of their next 10 (the closest win being a 31-21 victory over Northwestern). A team that was about average on both offense and defense, but excellent in turnover margin. A pretty dadgum good team, that's who the Nevada Wolf Pack are.

The Canes, on the other hand, were a bit of mess this year, but closed the season out nicely with that upset over Boston College. And, if there was ever a team that needed a break from the season, it was Miami. Considering that, along with the emotions that will sure to be flowing in light of Coker's coaching finale, look for the Hurricanes to play one of their best games of the year. And they'll need to.

Miami 27, Nevada 14

Saturday, December 30, 2006

No, I Am Not Deliberately Neglecting Boston College... case you're wondering.

The naming of Jeff Jagodzinski as head coach occurred during my two-week hiatus away from All Things Blog, and then I had this pesky work thing this morning that prevented me from posting a Meineke Bowl preview.

As far as that Meineke Bowl goes, what a great way to bridge two eras. Extending that bowl win streak is more important than many think, as it gives BC their first 10-win season in 22 years, and the last-minute nature of the win will produce a high that could be carried over into the spring.

Now, about Coach "Jags"....color me absolutely neutral regarding the hire. The guy certainly has a more infectious personality than "TOB" and that will likely be a strong asset on the recruiting trail. Still, this is Jags' first head coaching gig, and he's been out of the college game for 8 seasons. Let's just say that there's going to be a learning curve. That said, if he can produce 9-3 type seasons year in and year out, and with a bit more flair than Tom O'Brien displayed, then all will be well in Chestnut Hill.

Chick-Fil-A Bowl Preview

CHICK-FIL-A BOWL - Dec. 30, 2006 - Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
Virginia Tech (10-2) vs. Georgia (8-4)
Two of the best defenses in the nation square off in this annual ACC-SEC throwdown. The Hokies top-rated D squares off against the Dawgs' underwhelming offensive attack, while UGA's 9th-rated D looks to tee off against a 95th-ranked Tech offense. So, naturally, expect 90 total points, 1000 yards, and a few OTs.

Both programs look to be favorites in their respective league races next year, and a win tonight would certainly enhance recruiting efforts and the overall outlook heading into spring.

All that aside, the Bulldogs haven't come close to seeing a defense this year like the Hokies....the next highest rated defense UGA faced was Georgia Tech's 20th rated overall unit. Meanwhile, the Blacksburg boys are used to ganging up on the inept attacks of the ACC, and the '06 Dawgs are every bit as inept offensively as the Hokies' conference brethren.

The fact that this game is in Atlanta is a plus for Georgia, but there will still be plenty of Virginia Tech faithful in attendance. Score one for the ACC.

Virginia Tech 17, Georgia 13

Friday, December 29, 2006

Champs Sports Bowl Preview

CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL - Dec. 29, 2006 - Citrus Bowl, Orlando, FL
Maryland (8-4) vs. Purdue (8-5)
Two teams that sat out last bowl season with 5-6 records now quietly face off in the lesser of the two Orlando bowls for the right to be the Least Regarded Major Conference Team With Nine Wins.

Purdue has found themselves at 8-5 by precisely following the formula of beating every team they should beat, and losing to every team that they should lose to. Maryland, on the other hand, hasn't done anything particularly well (#96 nationally in total offense, #89 in total defense), except win the close ones. They were blown out in 3 of their 4 defeats, while 6 of their 8 wins were by a touchdown or less.

Purdue hasn't fared very well against anybody with a pulse, while Fridge's boys just get it done...for the most part. The 2006 Maryland Terrapins will be one of the least impressive 9-win major conference teams you'll see for a long while...

Maryland 27, Purdue 23

Music City Bowl Preview

MUSIC CITY BOWL - Dec. 29, 2006 - The Coliseum, Nashville, TN
Clemson (8-4) vs. Kentucky (7-5)
Ah yes, the always dangerous "One Team Happy To Be Here" vs. "One Team Kinda Mopey To Be Here" matchup. We've seen this type of scenario knock Oregon and Cal off their pouty perches the last two seasons. While this matchup doesn't have a juicy BCS-snub storyline, make no mistake - Kentucky is positively giddy to be in Nashville and the Tigers are certainly not.

Nonetheless, it is difficult to imagine the porous Wildcat defense doing much to stop Thunder Davis and Lightning Spiller. Stacking the box early and hoping QB Will Proctor gets rattled is about the only shot the Cats have of staying in the game, but they just don't have the horses to do it.

That said, look for very talented UK QB Andre Woodson to burn the Tigers a few times, giving the likely pro-Cat crowd a few reasons to cheer. Regardless, Clemson will salvage a bit of their fading season this afternoon.

Clemson 30, Kentucky 17

Thursday, December 28, 2006

'Noles Roll

So naturally since I picked UCLA to beat Florida State in a low-scoring defensive Emerald Bowl, the Seminoles and Bruins combined for 864 yards of offense and 71 points in FSU's 44-27 victory. Please, for the love of God, never never never never friggin never wager so much as a nickel beer on anything I write in this online testament to my idiocy.

That said, congrats to Bobby Bowden and the Seminoles for pulling this 2006 season out of it's near fatal nosedive and turning in a nice smooth landing on the shores of San Francisco Bay.

That's 30 straight dadgum winning seasons, if you're counting

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Emerald Bowl Preview

EMERALD BOWL - Dec. 27, 2006 - AT&T Park, San Francisco, CA
Florida State (6-6) vs. UCLA (7-5)
Outside of the Louisville-Wake Forest Orange Bowl matchup, this may be the most lopsided bowl as far as the "experts" go. I can't find anyone who's picking the Seminoles in this one. And, I can't blame them.

After watching UCLA's defense completely stifle the USC attack three weeks ago, it is quite hard to imagine how the FSU "offense", with lame duck Jeff Bowden calling the shots and mind-farked Drew Weatherford taking snaps, is going to accomplish much against the Bruins.

That said, look for the FSU defense to hold the Bruin attack in check as well. Lost in all the wailing about the Noles' offensive bumbling is that the Bruins rank 3 spots lower nationally than FSU in terms of total offense, and 17 spots lower in scoring offense.

The intangibles, however, favor FSU. Sure, UCLA is giddy about their upset of USC, but let's hold off on the coronation of the Coming Bruin Juggernaut for now. While their upset of the Trojans was certainly inspired, on that same day the Noles were giving everyone's-favorite-pick-now-to-win-the-national-title, Florida, all they could handle. And you cannot underestimate the determination that the Noles have to avoid that unheard-of losing season.

That said, look for the Noles to keep it close, only to ruin their chances of victory with the thing that has plagued them all season - turnovers.

UCLA 16, Florida State 13

6-7, coming right up

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

On Hiatus

I'll be travelling quite a bit over the next few weeks, so posting may be sporadic-to-non-existent for the time being. I'll try to update if any ACC news breaks, otherwise I shall return for the bowls.

Friday, December 8, 2006

'Tis Official: O'Brien to N.C. State

The anti-Amato takes over the Wolfpack program.

More to follow in the next few days on the repurcussions of this move for BC, and who they can look for to take charge in Chestnut Hill.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Randy Shannon's The Man at Miami

In a move sure to fuel speculation as to whom the Hurricanes couldn't get, The U nonetheless named current defensive coordinator Randy Shannon as their new head coach. Considering that he was part of the Larry Coker regime that was deemed unworthy by Shalala standards, I'm really looking forward to this spinnouncement from the university.

No word on the level the Miami Freak-O-Meter reached after their interview with Mike Leach, and whether that had anything to do with them passing him over.

The new boss....same as the old boss?

ACC Coaching Carousel Update

Well, it looks as if one open job has now been filled in ACC-ville......which unexpectedly has opened up another spot.

In a bit of a surprising move, all signs point to Boston College coach Tom O'Brien accepting the vacant head coaching position at Atlantic Division foe N.C. State, where he will get an annual chance to stick it to Eagle fans and show that 9-3 and mid-level bowls ain't all that bad.

Predictably, the two most prominent BC bloggers are in high spirits, albeit to varying degrees:

>>>Good Night Tom, and Good Luck
>>>F*** Off Tom!

Which now leads us to the newly available head coaching spot in Chestnut Hill. Since no official announcement has been made on O'Brien's departure, and with other head coaching spots open nationally, I'm not going to delve into the Eagles' opening just yet since many of the potential candidates could be snapped up by the time their official search gets underway. However, I will say that there is a great potential for disaster if BC doesn't hit a home run with this hire...unlike NC State, UNC and to a lesser extent Miami, whose programs are in relative shambles, the Eagles program is in it's best shape since the Doug Flutie days. The new Wolfpack, Tar Heel and Cane skippers could go 8-4 the next two years and would be lauded. That is certainly not the case for the next BC skipper. The Eagles are in a precarious spot; they have driven off - and make no mistake about it, O'Brien was driven out by the fan base - the winningest coach in school history, to a division rival no less. Going 8-4/9-3 every year, and winning 6 straight bowls wasn't good enough for BC, who clearly are at a disadvantage recruiting-wise and facility-wise from most of the other ACC programs. All of that is going to give every candidate for the job a bit of pause.

The Miami head coaching vacancy is apparently not generating the buzz Queen Shalala and Court Jester Dee were expecting. Steve Spurrier and Greg Schiano said no thanks in nearly record time. Texas Tech's Mike Leach, a curious possibility, interviewed in Coral Gables a few days ago. Hurricane DC Randy Shannon interviewed yesterday. Leach, while certainly a fall-back candidate, would not be an out-of-the ordinary hire for Miami (i.e. not "splashy" at the time). They plucked unheralded Jimmy Johnson from Oklahoma State in 1985, and no-name Dennis Erickson from Washington State in 1989. The Canes got a few rings out of those fellas. Still, Leach is a quirky dude, and perhaps a risky choice for Miami.

Last and probably least, the Florida State vacancy at offensive coordinator has been reliably linked at various times to the following: Norm Chow, Jimbo Fisher, Larry Fedora, Steve Logan (former ECU head coach and now an OC in NFL-Europe), Chris Hatcher (head coach at Div. II Valdosta State), George Henshaw (FSU OC from '79-'82, now with the New Orleans Saints), and Frank Cignetti (recently axed as UNC's OC, was much more successful as OC at Fresno State before). Insight from folks in the know say that Fisher is the guy if he can't land a head coaching gig somewhere, with Steve Logan climbing up the charts. Chow is considered an outside shot as he is clearly going after a fairly prominent head coaching job, while Hatcher and Cignetti are the fall-back guys if all of the other candidates decline.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Tenacious Blog Poll Ballot

1Ohio State--
2Michigan 1
3Florida 1
4Louisville 2
6Boise State 1
7Oklahoma 1
8LSU 1
9Southern Cal 7
10Notre Dame 1
11Virginia Tech 2
12West Virginia 2
13Wake Forest 3
14Texas 1
15Arkansas 5
16Rutgers 4
17Auburn 2
18Tennessee 2
19Nebraska 2
20Brigham Young 2
21Texas A&M 2
22California 4
23Boston College 2
24Penn State 2
25Georgia Tech 4

Dropped Out: Hawaii (#24)

Games Watched: Wake Forest-Georgia Tech, UCLA-USC, Florida-Arkansas (2nd half)

--Congrats to Florida for selling their souls to the devil, while apparently using the Jedi Mind Trick on Lucifer and convincing him that he already collected. The Gators benefitted from a shocking rematch 10 years ago (that no one outside of FSU seemed to oppose) when they won their only national title, and now they get to benefit from an anti-rematch sentiment. Let me say this again...the only program in recorded history to win a national title in a rematch now gets selected to play for a national title because a rematch is viewed as undesirable. Staggering how karma rules skip right past Gainesville.
--I'll say it again. This season was one big stinkeroo. When Boise State is the #6 team in America, that's a problem. The whole bottom half of my poll just makes me yawn.
--Still, the moRose Bowl between Michigan and USC should be pretty dadgum good.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Wake Forest: ACC Football Champions

Now there's a headline I never thought I'd see in my lifetime.

Congrats to the Demon Deacons, and especially to Jim Grobe. He committed himself totally to the Wake football program, and the university in turn committed to him. Wake found themselves a gem of a coach, and I wouldn't be surprised to see these Deacons back in another ACC Championship Game very soon.

Now go out and win the Orange Bowl.

In case you've just snapped out of a long coma--yes, this post and photo are genuine. Seriously. None of that photoshop nonsense here.

Friday, December 1, 2006

ACC Championship Game Preview

Alltel Stadium, Jacksonville, FL
Saturday, December 2, 2006 - 1:00pm EST

Super-Fun Stats: Opponents' Overall Record*- WAKE FOREST (58-73), GEORGIA TECH (67-64)
*both Wake and Tech played a 1-AA team this year, and those records were not included

Series Record: Georgia Tech leads 20-7; last meeting- Georgia Tech 30, Wake Forest 17 (2005)

In Summary: Plenty has been written about Wake's remarkable run to the Atlantic Division title. With a win over Georgia Tech on Saturday night, the Deacons would join Northwestern 1995 as the two greatest Cinderella stories in college football of the past generation. That said, the Yellow Jackets provide a formidable obstacle in Wake's run for the ages.

As noted above, the Deacons' schedule has not exactly been a brutal gauntlet. They've played just four teams with winning records (Clemson, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Maryland) and went 2-2 against them. Looking at overall team stats, Wake ranks just 8th in the ACC in both total offense and total defense. So, how has Wake managed to make it this far? In short, an easier schedule than most, excellent special teams play, few penalties and kicking ass in the turnover margin department.

Georgia Tech has turned in a relatively quiet and obscure 9-3 campaign. Why? Well, they played in just three nationally televised games and lost all 3 (Notre Dame, Clemson, Georgia). After the primetime beatdown at Clemson in late October, most observers discarded the Jackets as major players and focused on Virginia Tech and Miami in the Coastal. It hasn't helped that uber-stud Calvin Johnson has been deprived of that signature performance, through no fault of his own. The noxious mix of Reggie Ball and the Chan Gailey/Patrick Nix offense severely hampered the potential of Johnson and the Jacket attack, while Jon Tenuta's defense saved the day many times for Tech throughout the 2006 season.

In short, look for this game to be Tenuta's. This will be the second-best defense Riley Skinner and the upstart Deacon offense will have faced all year (the best D they played this season, Virginia Tech, completely stifled them). As for the Jacket offense, Ball will make a few of his patented brain-busting mistakes, Johnson won't get the ball enough, but Tashard Choice will provide just enough oomph to make the difference.

The Pick: Georgia Tech 21, Wake Forest 16