Part Three was an unmitigated disaster for both Luke and I. With the Liberty Bowl still pending, we were both 1-5 against the spread, and that spells disaster. I could rail against the Boston College defender who thought trying to stop a Penn State receiver on third down by throwing his shoulder at the oncoming pair of thighs was proper tackling. Luke could spit nails over Arizona State coughing up a huge lead. We could both be angry that North Carolina State has finally learned how to play football. Yet here we are.
I am now dead even on the season at 77-77, and Luke has fallen into despair with a 75-79 record. But I'm still winning! BOOYAH!
(Look, I have to try to take some pleasure in something here, because going .500 is just horrible.)
As the games get more intense, can Luke and I recover and get back to the magical 54% mark that denotes "I would have made money, if this wasn't For Entertainment Purposes Only? It's grim for Luke, who's going to have to pick every game correctly from here on out to get there. I'm in better shape; I can afford to miss a couple.
In other words, no. We're completely screwed. Good thing this is just for fun. But if nothing else, remember that unlike the average media pundit who's out there gloating about picking the winners 70% of the time, they're just picking winners. Anyone can do that.
A reminder: we are, as a form of protest, eschewing all corporate sponsorship references.
|Monday, 4:30 p.m.
Citrus Bowl, Orlando FL
JM:This game opened as a pick 'em before stretching out to Oklahoma -4. Why? It's less because the injury status for Oklahoma's big three -- Trevor Knight, Samaje Perine, and Sterling Shepard -- has been upgraded to probable, and more that Clemson QB Deshaun Watson had knee surgery after the initial line was set rather than waiting until the offseason. So what we've got here is an Oklahoma offense with all its weapons facing a very strong Clemson defense, while Clemson's offense isn't set up to exploit the Sooners' questionable defenders, who are the main reason Oklahoma's season was such a disappointment. It makes for a tough call. In today's world, I'll take the solid offense over the solid defense. Sooners cover.
LT: That's some solid reasoning and I'd also add that the ACC is 2-4 this bowl season and pretty much terrible, even if Clemson did crush South Carolina in the season finale. The Tigers also got smoked by Georgia, who is the best team in the SEC East but still not all that good. Finally, remember what Trevor Knight did in last year's bowl game? That demolition of Alabama's defense was the primary reason Oklahoma got ranked No. 4 in the preseason AP poll. With any luck, that will happen again and once again Sooner fans will fall down, down into despair. Good times. Sooners cover.
|Monday, 8:00 p.m.
The New Astrodome, Houston TX
JM: This line's been steady from the jump. They'll be playing indoors, most likely, as there's a high chance of rain. Arkansas does have a problem here. They're a devastating team on the ground, but Texas has a solid defense which is better against the run; in the final five weeks of the season, Dreamius Smith of West Virginia was the only back to record a 100-yard game, and he hit 100 exactly. Even TCU only managed 135 on the ground while blasting the Longhorns into paste, and that effort wasn't on the Texas defense. (Six turnovers had a lot more to do with the Longhorn issues that day.)
But that Arkansas defense, man. They shut out LSU and Mississippi. They've only let the other team score four times in one game three times all year, and one of those instances required overtime. While the rest of the SEC West was doing its best to emulate the old WAC and create a mockery of the SEC defense meme, Arkansas was living the dream. And we expect Tyrone Swoopes to score points? Nope. Not happening. Razorbacks cover.
LT: First of all, Bret Bielema subtly putting the Horns down while shaking Charlie Strong's hand was the best pre-bowl drama we've seen this year. Just fantastic stuff there, even if it was innocent or faked, both of which seem fairly unlikely considering we're talking about Bielema here. Moving on, Jon makes some good points about the Texas defense and their strengths against the Arkansas run game, and he's giving the Razorbacks D too much credit. Let's not forget Maty Mauk and Mizzou put together two touchdown drives of 98 and 85 yards with the game on the line in the fourth quarter. If that's possible, then Tyrone Swoopes can score a few points. Texas covers.
|Tuesday, 2:00 p.m.
MUSIC CITY BOWL
The Coliseum, Nashville TN
JM: Notre Dame's defense is terrible; their offense is fine as long as Everett Golson isn't turning the ball over like playing cards in a game of Slapjack. LSU's offense isn't great, but they've got Leonard Fournette. LSU's defense isn't spectactular, but there is one thing they do pretty well: force turnovers. Oh, hai, Notre Dame. The only thing to be afraid of here is the length of the line, though. LSU is not a team that beats people soundly, and I think counting on them to beat the Irish by two scores may be optimistic. This has all the markings of a 28-21 type of game, so I'm going to bite the bullet and take the Irish to cover.
LT: I was with Jon right up until that last part. It's true the Tigers have struggled to put some teams away this year, but they did smoke Kentucky 41-3. I'm not convinced the Irish are much better than the blue Wildcats, and all those close games just mean LSU is due for a blowout. Tigers cover.
|Tuesday, 5:30 p.m.
QUEEN CITY BOWL
Carolina Stadium, Charlotte NC
JM: Yeesh. I could try to analyze this game for hours, but it really all goes out the window with one simple fact: Georgia is completely schizophrenic. Crush Clemson one week, lose to South Carolina the next. Blast Missouri and Arkansas, then get stomped by a mediocre Florida team whose main crime has been an inability to run an offense. Blast Auburn, lose to Georgia Tech. If we weren't picking every game, I'd avoid this one like the plague. So the only sane move is to hedge. There's three things that can happen here, and two of them involve Louisville covering. So, you know, go Cardinals.
LT: Oh, good, another horrible ACC team. But actually, I like Louisville more than most, and Georgia won't have Todd Gurley. Then again, that wasn't a problem when Missouri forgot to show up in Columbia. Jon's right that the Bulldogs have been schizophrenic, but there is one notable pattern, in my eyes. After losses to South Carolina and Florida, Georgia scored more than 60 against both Troy and Kentucky. Of course, the Cardinals' defense is considerably better than both of those teams, but they're still in trouble. Bulldogs cover.
|Tuesday, 9:00 p.m.
SAN FRANCISCO BOWL
Santa Clara Stadium, Santa Clara CA
JM: Maryland's actually not that bad, if you can believe it. Their first four losses were to West Virginia, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan State. You can't really blame them for that, since they're obviously not an elite team. Rutgers... well, it was a close game, anyway. Stanford, on the other hand, has covered a 14-point spread against a Power 5 opponent exactly four times this year -- and three of them were Washington State, Oregon State, and Cal.
Yes, this is basically a home game for Stanford. Then again, who goes to real Stanford home games anyway? Yes, this game is basically a post-midnight contest for Maryland. That's a problem, but it's better than an 8am contest for a West Coast team. Just ask UCLA. And yes, Maryland got their pants handed to them by every top-flight program they faced this season. Stanford is better than any team the Terrapins actually beat this year, but they're also not the Stanford of recent memory.
In other words, this line is stupid. Stanford almost certainly wins, but the Terps cover.
LT: Apparently Vegas was really impressed by the Cardinal's rout of UCLA in the season finale, huh? That's strange, and I actually was just about ready to agree with Jon. Then I noticed that Maryland gives up more than 200 yards per game on the ground and of Stanford's 7 wins, only a 20-13 squeaker at Washington was by less than 17 points. This team have any bad losses, and they're the kind of well-coached, well-disciplined group that should do well in a bowl game. Stanford covers.
|Wednesday, 11:30 a.m.
Georgia Dome, Atlanta GA
JM: And now the real fun begins. I think we're all perfectly aware that TCU is not going to hang 50 on the Rebels, but we're also aware that TCU's going to score some points. They have eviscerated the Big 12's best defenses, and while that may sound like a joke to your average SEC homer, anyone with sense recognizes that K-State and Texas, defensively, can play in the SEC.
The more important issue is whether Mississippi can put up points on TCU's defense, which was even better than K-State and Texas. We've got one of the best offenses in the country going up against one of the best defenses, so that's a wash, but on the other side we've got a decidedly mediocre offense going up against a top-20 defense. That's going to make all the difference in the world here. Frogs cover.
LT: Take it easy, Jon. Let's not give too much praise to a defense that lost a football game 61-58 and gave up 30 three other times in Big 12 play, including once at Lawrence. Particularly in that game, you could argue the issues were largely because of a lack of focus, but who's to say that won't happen again in a meaningless exhibition after the Horned Frogs got left out of the playoff?
Then again, you're right that the Ole Miss offense just isn't that good. In these games, it's best to go with the offense over the defense, particularly when you're talking about a talented, experienced quarterback like Trevone Boykin. I look for him to have a big day and TCU covers.
Next: We finally get to the big bowls and make our picks on two games that can't be called meaningless exhibitions.