Archive for November, 2008

Picks Trying Not to Suck: Week 14

November 27, 2008

A very happy Thanksgiving to from Blatant Homerism and The Skinny, No Lee Greenwood Special this week, but our armed forces shouldn’t take that as a slight. The only service academy game took place before this week’s deadline.

WEEK 13–The Skinny
(Last Week: 2-4; Overall: 43-34)

It was another “sucky” week for The Skin. I used my flight home from Oklahoma as time to meditate on my picks after another disappointing card. In a moment of pure zen, it came to me. What do elite basketball players do in a prolonged slump? They force it. I have been forcing it the past few weeks. This week Skin is going to play within the flow of the game and take the picks that are given to him.

Skinny has been to quite a few big-time college football games. The Oklahoma-Texas Tech game was the best atmosphere I have ever witnessed. Big-time matchup, juiced crowed, national implications, primetime game of the week… It was awesome. The fact that Oklahoma totally dismantled Tech didn’t hurt.  
I have heard experts and pundits display utter shock at the fact that OU is ranked ahead of Texas this week. Yes, Texas beat OU in a close contest on a neutral field, so you wont hear Skin complain if Texas leapfrogs OU next week. But could someone (other than Bob Stoops) please mention the fact that Tech beat Texas. If head-to-head matchups are your criteria, shouldn’t Tech be ranked ahead of Texas?
Advice of the Week: Consider holding off on celebrating Christmas until January. The sales should be unbelievable.

Auburn at Alabama (-14.5)  

Skin generally recommends avoiding big rivalry games, but this one seems too good to be true. As with most good young teams, Alabama seems to play best when they have a reason to “get up” for a game. You can bet the 12th man in the “fake T-Town” will be up for this game. 
It has been a terrible year for Auburn. A preseason top 10 team, Auburn is 5-6 plus a fired offensive coordinator. That move hasn’t seemed to help the Tigers’ spread attack much. The Tigers have scored 180 points on the season, one of the lowest totals in the country. Don’t over-think this game. Alabama is a far superior team playing at home. 
The Skinny Says: Lock up the Tide now!

Kansas at Missouri (-15.5)

*Kansas City 
Ok, so again I am going to go away from my general rule against picking rivalry games. As with Alabama, Missouri is clearly the better team in this game. Mizzou is not the top 5 team many projected early in the season, but the Tigers are still really good, especially on offense. Jeremy Maclin and Co.–notice I didn’t say Chase Daniel–will light up KU’s defense. The Jayhawks have given up 35 points or more in four out of their last five games. Granted, that stretch includes Texas, Tech, and OU. The I-70 rivalry is underrated nationally.
Skin Says: These two schools don’t like each other, and Missouri wont pull off the accelerator in the second half.

Notre Dame at USC (-31.5)

This game doesn’t fall under the rivalry game category. If a series has not been competitive in a decade, it ceases to be a rivalry, at least temporarily. The game analysis is easy. USC is really good, while ND is reeling. Plus, USC is at home and needs the style points for an outside shot at the BCS title game.
The report of students throwing snowballs at ND players and coaches really bothers Skin. Sure, I understand you are disappointed your program is down. But to throw things at your fellow students crosses the line. To the guilty party: I am sure your greatest contribution to the university will be hours of drinking games and all the jokes you played on the rector. The term “douchebag” comes to mind.
Skinny Says: USC.

Miss State at Ole Miss (-18)

Houston Nutt has made a believer out of Skin. It is hard to deny a 7-4 record with wins at Florida and LSU. Credit Ole Miss’ turnaround to Nutt and transfer Jevan Snead. The Rebels offense averages 30 points per game and six yards per play. Not bad for a team that struggled mightily on offense last year. Snead’s stats wont amaze you, but his play has been consistent, and he has a managed to come up with big plays at critical times. 
Unfortunately, Sly Croom’s tenure at Mississippi State has not been as successful. The Bulldogs are absolutely brutal on offense, averaging a meager 16 points per contest. The Bulldogs have zero weapons on offense, and they are even worse on the road. This game has all the makings of a blowout. 
The Skinny Says: Take the Rebels giving the points.

Kent at Buffalo (-9.5)

I know you have had this one on your radar for months now. In all seriousness, there are some interesting MAC games on the board this weekend. The MAC has treated Skin well this season; unfortunately, I didn’t play them enough. Buffalo is one of the better squads in the MAC, having won five straight. The Bulls also have played well against BCS opponents this year. Drew Willy is an outstanding QB, completing 64 percent of his passes with only 5 picks on the season. Kent State is 3-8 on the year, and the Golden Flashes are particularly vulnerable against the pass. 
Skin Says: “Free” Willy and Bulls are too much for Kent.

Kentucky (+3.5) at Tennessee

I hate to say I told you so about Phil Fulmer, but well… I told you so. Don’t expect the Vols to be up for a “win one for Coach” performance, as Tennessee just wants this nightmare season to end. The Vols defense has been respectable this year, but their offense is atrocious, averaging just 16 points per game. Kentucky’s results this year are pretty impressive outside of a lopsided lost to Florida. Kentucky has narrow loses to Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama. Kentucky will probably represent the SEC in the Music City Bowl, but a few lucky bounces, and they would have been looking at a New Year’s Day bowl. Kentucky has an underrated team, and the Vols will be out of this contest mentally. 
The Skin Says: I love Kentucky getting points.

WEEK 13–Blatant Homerism
(Last Week: 4-2; Overall: 49-28)

Even when you win with me, sometimes you lose. I ended up 4-2 last week, and you scored big if you went ahead and played Syracuse on the money line as suggested. However, I also told you to dial things back, so you would have missed out if you took that advice.

Anyway, do with these what you will.

Baylor (+22) at Texas Tech
Tech has to be reeling after suffering such a beatdown against OU. Now, the Red Raiders have to play the waiting game and hope that Oklahoma State can upset the Sooners. Otherwise, Tech is headed to the Cotton Bowl at best. The last thing on the Raiders’ minds will be putting it to Baylor this weekend.

While Tech was busy getting whipped, the Bears had a week off to prepare. Baylor will be looking to cap off its best year in a while with a good performance.

Homerism Says: Tech will be distracted this weekend, not angry. Baylor covers.

Nevada at Louisiana Tech (+4.5)
The Bulldogs have quietly put together a nice little season. Louisiana Tech has won four straight games and is 5-0 this year at home. The Bulldogs haven’t really beat anyone of consequence, but let’s ignore that, even though I can’t give you a good reason why you should.

Nevada dropped a tough one in Reno last week, as its upset bid against Boise State fell just short. With Nevada traveling to Ruston and coming off a tough loss, this looks like a good spot to take a home underdog.

Homerism Says: La. Tech straight up.

Florida at Florida State (+16.5)
These lines are just too tight. I have no real reason to like FSU in this game. I tend to favor home underdogs in rivalries. That’s the best I can do.

Homerism Says: Seminoles.

West Virginia at Pittsburgh (+3)
Obviously, no one knows what to make of Pitt this year. Wanny’s squad shouldn’t be too upset about losing to Cincinnati last week, though, as the Bearcats are the class of the Big East. The Mountaineers likely have revenge on their minds, but who cares? In the junior league chess match between Bill Stewart and the ‘Stache, I’m betting Wanny figures out a way to keep Pat White in check.

Homerism Says: Pitt straight up.

Syracuse at Cincinnati (-22.5)
I really hate laying the wood like this so late in the season, but this one is getting the best of me. Cincy just has to win here to snag a BCS berth, which would be a huge achievement for the Bearcats. Meanwhile, after a season-making upset of Notre Dame in South Bend last week, the ‘Cuse is simpy playing out the string here. I’d be surprised if the Orange even practiced this week. This looks like a huge letdown game, in other words.

Homerism Says: Take Cincy, then hate yourself in the morning.


North Carolina at Duke (+7.5)
What started with such promise for the Dukies has morphed into disappointment, having lost four straight. That means the Blue Devils won’t be going bowling for 47th year in a row or something.  At mid-season, Homerism was touting head coach David Cutcliffe for coach of the year honors. I take that back, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact his team made major strides this year.
Homerism suspects the Blue Devil seniors will want to go out on a high note in their home finale, a welcome homecoming after back-to-back roadies. Playing without hope for a conference title and linebacker Mike Paschal, expect a flat performance out of UNC. The extra motivation on the Duke sideline should be enough to cover, if not flat-out win.
Homerism Says: Duke.

Guest Column: Everybody Wang Chung Tonight

November 27, 2008

The season is winding down and the race for the national championship is really heating up. If only the race for the tasty boneless wings was half as exciting as what’s going on with the BCS, this column would be much more intriguing. As it is, the Wang seems to have this thing wrapped up. Despite not having an official tally of the scores, I am so confident that I have gone ahead and chosen the flavor of wing I will dine on once Homerism pays up.

The Wang will refrain from making any BCS comments or predictions until this week is over. Much can change depending on the outcome of the games this weekend, so any discussion at this point in time is moot. Now, if we do hit the three-way tie in the Big 12 South, the Wang will have plenty to say.

Instead, I will take this time to make a quick comment on each team, as I reflect on the 2008 season.

Oklahoma–Some may disagree, but the Wang thinks this year’s offense is better than the 2004 version. Sam Bradford is better than Jason White. It has been a while since I can recall an offense dominating a big game like OU did last week. Maybe since Nebraska in the 1995 Fiesta Bowl?
 
Texas–I can hear the cries from Austin already. If things go as planned, it won’t end well for Texas. An out-of-conference schedule of Florida Atlantic and UTEP doesn’t help. What the Wang really wants for Christmas is a rematch with the Horns in Miami. Not out of the question…

Oklahoma State–Hope this doesn’t come back to bite me… I think the phrase goes, “You can’t polish a turd.” I am happy Boone Pickens has given Poke fans something to be proud of with the stadium renovations, but OSU still seems to sit in the second tier of South division teams. Also, the decision to not sell single-game tickets for Bedlam is just stupid.

Baylor–A lot to look forward to in Waco. The record doesn’t quite show it, but this team is on the rise. The Wang was as pleasantly surprised with Robert Griffin as much as any player in the league this year.  
Texas Tech–A fraud? I wouldn’t go that far. Second in the country? Not quite. The Wang will admit OU was fortunate that game was in Norman. Do I think Tech wins at home? No, probably not. But OU doesn’t win by 44. At least the Red Raiders won’t have to travel far to Dallas for the Cotton bowl.

Texas A&M–Not exactly what Aggie fans were expecting when Mike Sherman signed on. Just two wins at Kyle Field hurts. Jerrod Johnson showed some potential through the season, though, so I expect this team to rebound next year.

Missouri–I know they are playing for the conference title. I know they can still reach a BCS bowl game. Yet, I have to think Tiger fans are a bit disappointed with the way this season went. A home loss to OSU followed by a blowout at the hands of Texas was a rough two-game stretch. Chase Daniel’s Heisman campaign feasted on inferior opponents, then sunk faster than the Titanic once a real team showed up in Columbia. 

Kansas State–Can anyone say Joe Gibbs? This Bill Snyder selection will not work. Mark Wang’s words.

Kansas–I hope the Kansas faithful and Mangina enjoyed last year’s Orange Bowl. The Jayhawks are staring at .500 overall and a losing conference record. Something tells me the bowl pre-game spread won’t be as bountiful as the one in Miami for the hefty coach, wherever they land this year.

Colorado–The season started so promising for Colorado with a 3-0 record and a win over West Virginia. A win over Nebraska can salvage a .500 season. The Wang says its time to pull the plug and bench Cody Hawkins in favor of Tyler Hansen.

Nebraska–The Wang has it from a good source that Turner Gill turned down the Nebraska job in favor of staying in Buffalo for family reasons. Time will tell if Bo Pelini was the right choice. This season, the Huskers feasted on the likes of Iowa State and New Mexico State on their way to a winning record. The Wang isn’t impressed.
Iowa State–The Cyclones ended the season on a 10-game losing streak. Time to dust off the resume for Gene Chizik. Maybe he and Greg Robinson should team up and look for a job together.

“If you can accept losing, you can’t win.”

Thank you, Vince Lombardi, the Wang will never accept losing. On to some picks…

Texas A&M at Texas (-36)
The Aggies have won the last two meetings in this rivalry, but now head to Austin on Thanksgiving decided underdogs. This game is big for Texas, which needs to win and look good doing it. The Aggies relied on Stephen McGee in the last two games to lead the upsets, but they will likely be without the quarterback again this week who continues to suffer from a sprained shoulder. Colt McCoy has struggled against A&M the last two seasons and knows he needs to step it up, as Texas gets a chance to make their statement on Thursday. Texas has much more to play for here than the opponent, and the Longhorns get the chance to play at home. I fully expect Texas to win this game and win it handily. But this is an awfully big number to hit in a rivalry game, even one as lopsided at this one.
 
The Pick: I will take the Aggies plus all these points.
Blatant Homerism: Texas.

Colorado at Nebraska (-18)
Colorado heads into Lincoln looking for its sixth win of the season and the chance to be invited to a bowl game. Whether they belong in a bowl is a different question. Colorado has won only two of its last eight games, and those two wins came against Kansas State and Iowa State by a combined five points. Good news for Buff fans, though, as kicker Aric Goodman snapped his streak of eight straight field goal misses with a 31 yarder last week! After losing three in a row, Nebraska has come back to win four of its last five games. Those four wins though have come against Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, and Baylor. Not exactly the 1927 Yankees.

Fortunately, the Huskers get another lightweight this week in Colorado. Colorado is 0-4 on the road this season and has been outscored by its opponents by a combined 100 points. 
The Pick: The Wang will take Nebraska just because I am forced to pick a winner.
BH: CU.

Oklahoma (-7) at Oklahoma State
As confident as the Wang was about last week’s game, he is equally uneasy about this one. The Sooners have taken the last five meetings in the Bedlam series, but it hasn’t been easy. Missed field goals and failed last-second passes have kept the streak alive for OU. The Pokes bring in a much more balanced offense than Tech offered, but probably don’t have the same caliber passing attack as Harrell and company. While the Pokes can’t improve their status in the Big 12 South, they can get to the 10-win plateau and secure a nice bowl bid. Spoiling OU’s national title hopes again isn’t bad motivation either. 

Oklahoma, in the other hand, offers its own balanced attack that will likely feature a 4,000 yard passer and two 1,000 yard rushers by season’s end. It was good to see Manny Johnson get back into the action with his long touchdown last year, and it seemed Jermaine Gresham was a popular target despite his propensity for dropped touchdown passes. The bottom line is that this is the best offense in the country. OSU might put some points on the board, but the Cowboys will have no answer for a Sooner team that has its sights set on Miami.

The Pick: I will cross my fingers and take the Sooners in this one, 45-35.

BH: OU.

Kansas at Missouri (-16)

*Kansas City
It wasn’t long ago that this game looked like it would be a battle to see who would get the chance to be the designated North division sacrificial lamb. A string of Tiger wins combined with some poor play from Kansas has rendered this nothing more than just another rivalry game. While Chase Daniel looks to eclipse his passing marks from last year, his recent propensity for interceptions has become troublesome. Daniel has now thrown a pick in six straight games, giving him 11 on the year. Chase Coffman returns for this game, giving Daniel his favorite target to go along with the dangerous Jeremy Maclin. Todd Reesing has also celebrated a season in which he has improved upon his passing stats from last year. Missouri’s defense ranks 111th nationally against the pass, which should mean some big plays for the Jayhawks. Unfortunately, Kanasa ranks 114th, and the Missouri pass game is far superior.

The Pick: I will take the Tigers and hope they don’t let me down again.

BH: KU.

Baylor at Texas Tech (-21.5)
Poor Texas Tech gets to return to the comforts of home this week and play a team not quite on par with Oklahoma. It was a rough week for the Red Raiders, who were looking to secure their first Big 12 South title. Tech can still make the title game with an Oklahoma loss. 

Baylor has now lost 10 road conference games in a row coming into this one. While they have improved from last year and seem to be heading in the right direction, this game is a mismatch. I think Tech will be looking to avenge its loss last week and try to prove it’s better than what people saw. The Raiders get back their home field advantage and still have something to play for. Baylor has nothing but pride, and I don’t think that is going to be worth much here.

The Pick: Tech wins big.
Homerism: Baylor.

It’s Not Just Who You Beat, It’s Where

November 24, 2008

Yesterday’s Oklahoma-Texas Tech game provided further evidence of the importance of home field in college football.

It’s hard to imagine OU playing a better game than what took place last night at Owen Field. And therein lies the rub.
Few teams have the same kind of home edge that OU and Tech both enjoy. Home field plays such a big role in any college game, and it’s even more important in places Like Norman and Lubbock. In Homerism’s book, where you get your wins and losses is a big deal. That’s why I think Florida’s body of work is inferior to that of USC, and it’s why I’m having such a hard time figuring what to do with OU and Texas.
First, let’s deal with Florida. The Gators have been a buzz saw since losing earlier this year to Ole Miss. Oh, but that loss is a killer. The Rebels are having a nice little year, currently sitting 7-4 and probably heading for another win against Mississippi State. Losing to a team like that at home is not national championship-worthy, though. If that’s not enough for you, the Gators’ best wins look pretty underwhelming right now: Auburn, LSU, Georgia. None have lived up to preseason expectations. Of course, Florida still has rumbles with Alabama and Florida State left to make a statement, but for now, losing to Ole Miss sticks out like a sore thumb.
OU-Texas is a completely different animal, although the home-away dynamic still factors in. Homerism doesn’t buy the argument that Texas should go in ahead of Oklahoma based on the Longhorns’ head-to-head win. You can’t just ignore a loss to a Tech team that the Sooners took to the woodshed. If all three teams tie for the Big 12 South crown, that kind of thinking turns in on itself. Obviously, however, the Red Raiders are out of the running after such a jaw-dropping loss to OU. Let’s look at both teams’ bodies of work against teams in the top 25 of the latest BCS standings. 
Texas:
  • Key Wins: Oklahoma (neutral), Oklahoma State (home), Missouri (home)
  • Loss: Texas Tech (road)

OU:

  • Key Wins: Cincinnati (home), TCU (home), Texas Tech (home)
  • Loss: Texas (neutral)
  • Remaining: Oklahoma State (road)
By virtue of stomping Texas Tech last night, the Sooners own the most impressive win of any team this entire season. By beating OU on a neutral field, however, Texas has the best win, if that makes sense. The fact that Texas lost to Tech in such a close game also bolsters the Longhorns’ case. I really want to put OU above Texas, but I just can’t. With next week’s trip to Stillwater still looming, though, the Sooners still have a chance to make the kind of statement that would put them over the top.
(Of course, I’d still put Utah above both.)

Blatant Homerism Power Poll Week Thirteen
1. Alabama
2. Utah
3. Texas
4. Oklahoma
5. USC
6. Florida
7. Boise State

8. Texas Tech
9. Penn State
10. Ball State

OU in Review: Texas Tech

November 23, 2008

Um, where has that defense been hiding?

The Sooners played about as close to perfect Saturday night against Texas Tech as possible, but the defense was really the story of the game. Giving up 21 points to Tech’s relentless offense is roughly the equivalent of allowing negative points against most average teams.
The OU front four hounded Tech triggerman Graham Harrell all night, and the Sooner secondary locked down the Red Raiders’ dangerous wide receivers. But the key to OU’s defensive turnaround is the play of middle linebacker Austin Box. Since Ryan Reynolds went down against Texas, Box has shown week-to-week improvement. Against Tech, the rangy converted safety held down the middle of the field in pass coverage and swarmed ball carriers all night, rendering the Red Raiders’ aerial “long handoffs” ineffective. Reynolds may have been the heart and soul of the Sooner D earlier this year, but it’s entirely possible that the entire unit is better with Box. Oh yeah, his counterpart Travis Lewis is pretty good, too.
OU’s offensive and defensive lines also reminded the country why they garnered so much acclaim in the preseason. The Sooners controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides. As good as Auston English has been as a Sooner, is it possible that he has been surpassed by Frank Alexander at defensive end. OU’s coaches raved about Alexander during the spring and preseason workouts, but his ill-timed stabbing injury earlier this season meant that he had yet to really show his stuff to inquisitive OU fans. All questions were answered this evening, as Alexander and Jeremy Beal put heat on Harrell throughout the game.
Offensively, Demarco Murray picked a great time to show us all that he’s all the way back from a knee injury that clearly had hobbled him this year. Saturday night, Murray had all the burst and shiftiness we saw last year. As good as Michael Crabtree is, Murray looked like he may have been the best player on the field.
A few other observations about OU’s big win:
*Has Jermaine Gresham had one game this year where he hasn’t dropped an easy touchdown pass?
*Chris Brown doesn’t really seem to do anything great, but he does everything well. He may not be a game breaker, but he’s a model of consistency. Brown’s steady contribution has been the saving grace of a run game that struggled at times this year.
*What got into Nic Harris tonight?
*Obviously, both teams played a chippy game on Saturday. But Texas Tech is out-and-out dirty. “The elf,” by the way, must not have caught the score of the game when he was doing all that yapping.
*I don’t remember the last time I saw Bob Stoops that fired up. He clearly wanted that one badly.
*I know Mike Leach loves to go for it on fourth down, but there was no doubt in my mind that he should have kicked on the Raiders’ first two attempts. Kicking the field goal early on would have stemmed OU’s momentum, which quickly turned into an avalanche. The next attempt–eschewing a punt–smacked of desperation. After Tech failed to convert there, the Red Raiders seemed to know they were finished.
*Besides playing a strong game defensively, Box also threw the best block of the evening on Lewis’ interception return near the end of the first half.

Mr. Untouchable

November 22, 2008

Dr. Saturday offers a great breakdown of the importance of OU’s ability to get to Graham Harrell in tonight’s game.

Picks Trying Not to Suck: Week 13

November 21, 2008

We’re in the home stretch, and The Skinny needs a big comeback if he wants to be sipping on a Yuletide chocolate martini this year.

WEEK 12–The Skinny
(Last Week: 3-3; Overall: 41-30)

What has Will Muschamp actually done to earn Texas’ “head-coach-in-waiting” title? Everyone seems to think he’s keyed some kind of defensive resurgence for the Longhorns. Texas ranked 52nd in total defense in 2007. The ‘Horns are 58th this year. I guess Texas is giving up fewer points this year compared to last. Either way, who cares? He’s never been a head coach anywhere. Is that the best they could do?

Advice of the Week: If you’re looking for some tunes to get you in the holiday spirit, check out Mannheim Steamroller’s Christmas Song album.

Washington (-6.5) at Wazzu
Finally, the Apple Cup, or “Toilet Bowl,” is upon us. No need to overanalyze this game. To borrow from Les Miles: “Two teams will be taking the field on Saturday. They say one is bad and the other is the worst team in the country. I guess we’re going to find out which is which.”

Washington will be without QB Jake Locker, but he has been dielined for over a month now. Washington St. has the advantage of being at home, but that’s the only good thing Skin can say for Wazzu.

The Skinny Says: Washington proves it is at least a touchdown better than State.

Ole Miss at LSU (-3.5)
LSU is down this year as last week’s performance against Troy proved. The Bayou Bengals needed a big second half comeback to slip past Troy. Last week’s game has the betting public scared for this game, which is keeping the line artificially low. Where one man sees fear, Skin sees opportunity.

Desipte four losses, LSU still has tremendous talent, and last week was a wakeup call. LaFell and Scott are great weapons on offense. But where has the Tiger defense gone? Well ,they can still stop the run, ranking 13th nationally. So Jevon Snead better be ready to light up the scoreboard at Tiger Stadium. I don’t know what it is about LSU under Miles, but they play great in close games.

Yes, Skin knows Ole Miss beat Florida in the Swamp, but that has nothing to do with this game. If anything it helps, because it keeps the line down.

The Skinny Says: Tigers pull away in the fourth quarter.

Florida State at Maryland (+1.5)
Can anyone figure out the ACC? I can’t put together any rhyme or reason as to who is actually good, or even better than the next team. No team has played the Jekyll-Hyde role better than the Terps. Maryland lost to Middle Tennessee State, yet they have beaten Cal, Clemson and North Carolina. Coach Fridge has said this is his best team at Maryland. The Terps are balanced on offense and only give up an average of 18 points per game. Bet you didn’t know Maryland is the only school in the country that has beaten four ranked teams.

Florida St. seems to be the same thing ever year lately under Bobby Bowden: 8-5 with a trip to the Chik-Fil-A Bowl.

Don’t expect a lot of points in this game, as FSU’s defense is one of the best in the country. Maryland is hot, and the Terps’ offense is slightly better equipped to put up points against a stout defense.

Skinny Says: Take Maryland at home.

Iowa (-5.5) at Minnesota
The Big 10 is much like the ACC–after Penn State, no one has really separated themselves. The whole conference is just bad. Only in the Big 10 could these two teams have winning records.

After a fast start the Gophers have digressed into the team we all expected. Offensively, Iowa is primarily a running team behind Shonn Greene, while the Gophers tend to the pass. Statistically, both schools have highly ranked defenses, which is primarily a function of playing in the Big 10. The difference in the game will be Iowa’s ability to run the football consistently against the Gophers. Minnesota is 88th in country in rushing defense.

Skinny Says: Iowa wins the pig by two toucdowns.

Lee Greenwood Special: Air Force at TCU (-20)
Damn, the LGS! This is the only service academy game this weekend, and, in Skin’s opinion, it’s one of the tougher plays on the board. Both teams play great defense, although TCU’s defense is on another level this season. The Horned Frogs will be ready for Air Force’s option attack. TCU has had two weeks to prepare. Air Force’s offense is not well suited to play the Horned Frogs, because their plays take time to develop, and TCU leads the nation in sacks and tackles for a loss.

The Skinny Says: TCU.

Tulane (+28.5) at Tulsa
Golden Hurricane nation should be embarrassed by TU’s past two flops. The ‘Cane kept Houston from breaking 80, so I guess there’s something to be said for that. Tulsa will win this game handily, but the thrill is gone.

Skin Says: Tulane covers.

WEEK 12–Blatant Homerism
(Last Week: 3-3; Overall: 45-26)

As usual for this late in the season, the lines look awfully tight. If you’re using these tips for anything other than your amusement, Homerism recommends holding tight this weekend. I’m obligated to give you my picks, though, so I will. At this point in the season, motivation becomes paramount. Some teams are packing it after disappointing years. Others may be disappointments who are relishing the opportunity to play spoiler to a hated rival. Then, you have the teams trying to gain bowl bids. You get the picture.

Colorado State (-2) at Wyoming
Here’s a perfect example of a team with something to play for. Colorado State is one win away from bowl eligibility after easily handling New Mexico last week. For first-year head coach Ford Fairlane, er, Steve Fairchild, taking the Rams bowling in his first year would be quite an accomplishment. CSU has played solid football this year, and Fairchild certainly would like to see his team rewarded for that. At least you’d think he would.

This isn’t a walk in the park, though, as this is a nastier rivalry than it’s given credit for nationally. You can bet the Cowboys will be fired up to send their seniors–and possibly coach Joe Glenn–out with a W. I just think CSU is the better team and won’t be caught off guard.

Homerism Says: CSU covers.

Illinois (-3) at Northwestern
There were plenty of naysayers out there when Homerism said before the season that Northwestern could win nine games this year. Ho ho ho, what’s this? The Cats currently sit at 8-3, with a home game against a foundering Illinois team left. Given his team’s success and the injury issues NU head coach Pat Fitzgerald has contended with this season, he definitely deserves consideration for coach of the year honors.

Unfortunately for these scrappy Cats, Homerism doesn’t think they’re going to get that ninth win this week. Illinois has a chance to salvage a down year with a bowl berth if it wins this game, an opportunity that master motivator Ron Zook won’t let slip by. The Illini possess a definite talent advantage, exacerbated by the laundry list of walking wounded on the NU sideline. Also, Northwestern won in Michigan last week for the first time in forever, so a letdown here looks pretty likely.

Homerism Says: Illinois by 10.

UTEP (+17) at Houston
Homerism wasn’t that surprised that Houston beat Tulsa last week. But anyone who tells you they saw a 70-30 final coming is outright lying. The Kevin Sumlin era got off to a rocky start with three straight losses early in the season, but the Cougars have gone 5-1 in their last six games.

Everything I know about UTEP I learned watching them get blown out by Texas earlier this year. (That body of knowledge includes whatever sweeping generalizations you want to make about the school’s female population based on this little scene from that broadcast.) The Miners are about as mediocre as it gets in Conference USA, unable to get anything “rolling” under head coach Mike Price this year. For Houston, this game is stuck in between last week’s throwdown with Tulsa and next week’s matchup with crosstown rival Rice. The Cougars will win this week, but it won’t be by 15 points.

Homerism Says: Feast on this UTEP sandwich.

LGS: Air Force at TCU (-20)
See if you can follow this logic. Air Force lost at home to BYU last week. TCU thumped BYU in Fort Worth a few weeks ago.

Homerism Says: TCU laying the wood.

Boise State at Nevada (+6.5)
Last year in Boise, these teams combined for more than 130 points, as the Broncos pulled out a 69-67 overtime thriller. Having played Boise so close last season should give Chris Ault’s team plenty of confidence heading into this game. I realize that BSU is bidding for an undefeated season and potential BCS bid, but that’s all the more reason for the Wolf Pack to want to play the role of spoiler. The WAC is tired of Boise’s act.

Homerism Says: Nevada seniors get one to remember in an outright win.

Syracuse (+19.5) at Notre Dame
Homerism rarely ever plays a Notre Dame game. At the risk of sullying my 2008 record, though, I’m going to pick this one for fun. Besides, I suspect Vegas inflated this line to entice ND fans.

College football lost one of its favorite whipping boys this week with the announcement that Syracuse coach Greg Robinson would not be retained after the season. The Orange search committee hit the ground running, interviewing Illinois’ offensive coordinator. ‘Cuse nation must be fired up by the idea of seeing a Ron Zook disciple roaming the Carrier Dome sidelines.

Homerism’s angle on this one: Apparently, Robinson is a pretty nice guy who couldn’t make things work in the college football equivalent of Siberia. His players supposedly like him, even though they played like a bunch of limp noodles under him. I’m betting they come out and play some inspired football against a fat-and-sassy ND team that gained bowl eligibility last week.

Question for ND boosters: How much is a coach who can get his team to play a good team close one time worth to you?

Homerism Says: ND by 1. Wager accordingly.

Guest Column: Dr. Evil Wang

November 21, 2008

The Wang would like to welcome all his readers to the penultimate edition of the Buffalo Wild Wang’s weekly Big 12 picks. I am going to keep this short because I have apparently been accused of plagiarizing a column in the Tulsa newspaper that I haven’t read in over a year. Second, it’s a relatively slow week in the Big 12, at least in terms of number of games being played. We do have one game this week which holds some sort of national significance.

Lastly, I want to take this opportunity to ask Homerism to officially tally up the scores to this point. After going 4-1 last week and increasing my ever expanding lead, I have a feeling that this lead is has now become insurmountable.

(Editor’s Note: Homerism declines.)

On to the games…

Texas Tech at Oklahoma (-7)
The Wang wants to go on the record as saying I am extremely confident in the Sooners this weekend. Maybe even a bit overconfident. Homerism has done a good job dissecting the game and trying to find some of the hidden numbers that could make a difference. The bottom line is that the Sooners are too good at home. A primetime Saturday night game for OU in Norman with a possible trip to the title game is a recipe for disaster for the Red Raiders. The interesting subplot obviously lies in the Harrell-Crabtree-Bradford Heisman race. The player who puts up the best numbers, and whose team wins, will be in the driver’s seat for the coveted award.

OU is averaging 47.3 points in the last three games, wait… I mean the last three FIRST HALVES. I know the Red Raider offense is on fire right now, but I don’t think they can match the points OU is going to put up. The Sooners are 6-1 all-time against Tech at home, and I have no reason to think that trend will change come Saturday night.

Let the games begin, this is going to be one for the ages…

The Pick: Sooners win and head to Stillwater on a roll, 51-35.

Blatant Homerism: OU.

Iowa State at Kansas State (-10)
“Bueller….Bueller…” Raise your hand if you care about this game.

There are some storylines here. This will be Ron Prince’s last game as head coach. Will his players try to send him out on a high note? The loser of this game will officially finish last in the North division. Josh Freeman needs a big game to help the sinking ship that is his draft stock. If he wants to have any sort of momentum heading into the off-season, he needs to show something to the scouts here this Saturday.

Oh, who am I kidding? This is nothing more than two bad teams playing each other in a meaningless game at the end of the season.

The Pick: The Wang will take the Wildcats here.

OU: Cyclones.

Profiles in Style: The Ting Brothers

November 19, 2008

by MoMo
Style and Culture Writer, Blatant Homerism

The brothers had garnered more attention than might be expected for players who served mostly as backups and on special teams last season. They were flamboyant in appearance – small but sharply muscular, with black hair spiked and bleached at the tips – and were given to strutting onto the field before games.

-Los Angeles Times, Aug 2006

From 2003 to 2006, Southern California was the site of a movement that may forever change the course of college football. One that had nothing to do with Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush.

Much like their groundbreaking forefathers Ernie “The Express” Davis and Remember the Titans, history may view twins Ryan and Brandon Ting one day as reluctant crusaders who struck a monumental blow for the inclusion of Asian-American culture in the college football landscape.

“The harsh reality is that there is an absence of Asians in sports. But it doesn’t matter what ethnicity you are. If football is your passion, and you give 100 percent to it, there is nothing that can stop you,” Brandon told Scout.com in a 2006 interview.

As the Ting brothers—both of whom garnered academic All-American honors during their time in Troy—rose to stardom in the USC secondary, they infused Pete Carroll’s defense with a yin-yang combination of brawn and brains. Known for their ferocity—both hold black belts in karate—Ryan and Brandon delivered Bolo Yeung-like blows to receivers who dared to come across the middle.

Off the field, the Tings fostered a dynamic cultural exchange. Numbers 38 and 39 reveled in a sense of SoCal cool. Their love of lettermen jackets and slick hair harkened back to a foregone era when USC established itself as a gridiron powerhouse. The Tings went both ways, however, helping to build a love for Trojan football and yesteryear’s All-American styles among California’s close-knit Asian-American community.

Unfortunately, most revolutionaries prove to be too far ahead of their time, and the Tings were no exception. Brandon and Ryan left the USC team a week before fall practice started in August 2006, announcing their intentions to following in the footsteps of their father, BALCO-connected surgeon Arthur Ting, and concentrate on preparing for medical school. A week later, the Los Angeles Times reported that Brandon had tested positive for steroids, a major no-no for the science-forsaking NCAA.

In the end, it seems that the Tings’ love for cutting-edge medicine may have closed the book on their groundbreaking gridiron careers, while also opening the next chapter of their story. A bright future in medicine lies ahead for the brothers, leaving them ample time to brew their own performance-enhancing herbal potions. Maybe 50 years from now, we’ll remember Ryan and Brandon Ting not as social radicals, but as trailblazers who boosted our ability to power lift.

Mack’s Successor Named: Muschamp

November 19, 2008

Today’s news about Texas’ plans to install Will Muschamp as head coach once Mack Brown departs definitely caught Homerism off-guard. (The person probably most surprised by the announcement? Longhorn folk hero Major Applewhite.)

Like just about every other informed college football fan out there, I had assumed Muschamp had come to Austin as a rent-a-coach before who would bolt for head job in the offseason–probably somewhere in the southeast. After all, Muschamp played his college ball at Georgia and cut his coaching teeth in the SEC. The stars all seemed to be aligning when Tommy Bowden and Phil Fulmer were let go at Clemson and Tennessee, respectively. Not surprisingly, Muschamp’s name surfaced quickly for both openings.
So, if Texas’ athletic department badly wanted to retain Muschamp, they had reason to be concerned. From that perspective, this all makes sense. The $500,000 raise probably helped keep Muschamp on board, but this had to be a no-brainer for the defensive guru. With its fertile recruiting base and virtually unlimited resources, Texas may be the marquee job in college football today.
What doesn’t make sense is the contention that Brown and Muschamp haven’t set a timetable for the transfer of power. Brown’s current contract runs through 2016, and he said today he is in no hurry to step down. Does that mean Muschamp agreed to this arrangement knowing he may not take over for eight years?
Assuming Muschamp is as hot of a commodity as he appears to be, it seems far-fetched that he’d turn down a big-money, long-term deal from a school like Tennessee for an eight-year apprenticeship. Homerism suspects 2009 will be Brown’s last year as head coach before heading upstairs to an administrative position in UT’s athletic department, as stipulated in his contract.
*One last note: This move is a bigger gamble for Texas than it seems. Texas probably could lure 95 percent of the top candidates around, including prospectives from the NFL, once Brown does call it quits. Instead of waiting for that day to come, though, the Longhorns are casting their lot with a 37-year-old defensive coordinator who has no head-coaching experience.
Brown’s charismatic CEO-like approach has provided a pretty good model for running Texas football. It’s tough to see Muschamp, known as a fiery workaholic, assuming that mantle when his time comes. You know what they say about fixing something that isn’t broken.

Leach’s Kryptonite

November 18, 2008


Mike Leach’s spread offense has aggravated defensive for nine years at Texas Teach, attracting a multitude of schemes designed to slow down the Red Raiders’ aerial attack. Zone blitzes, dime packages, three-man fronts, bump-and-run—by this point, Leach has no doubt seen it all.

When the Oklahoma Sooners take the field in Norman on Saturday night, the answer to shutting down Tech may not have anything to do with generating a consistent pass rush or double-covering star receiver Michael Crabtree. In fact, the key may be right below the Sooner defenders’ feet.

For all the hype surrounding Tech’s PlayStation-like production, the Red Raiders have a decidedly average offense when they’re not playing on artificial turf, according to an analysis of data provided by cfbstats.com.

Superman has Kryptonite. Mike Leach has grass.

Since 2004, Tech has played a total of 60 games, 45 on turf and 15 on grass. During that period, the Red Raiders have put averages of 43.1 points per game and 499.2 yards of total offense per game on artificial turf. In comparison, the national medians for all teams on all surfaces are averages of approximately 25 points and 360 yards.

What happens when the Raiders play on the real stuff? Tech’s averages drop considerably: 27 points per game and 430 yards. On a per-play basis, Leach’s teams have averaged 6.0 yards per play on grass versus 6.9 yards per play on turf. Each offensive play generates an average 0.37 points on grass against 0.59 points per play on turf.
The disparity even holds true when it comes to taking care of the ball. Since the 2006 season, the Red Raiders have averaged 1.2 turnovers per game on grass, while they have turned it over an average of just one time on turf.

Not surprisingly, the differences have appeared in the win column as well. Overall, Tech has won nearly 85 percent of its games on turf from 2004 until now, while the Raiders have won just 40 percent of their games played on grass.

In Tech’s only appearance on grass this year, the Red Raiders apparently coasted to an 18-point victory over Texas A&M at Kyle Field on Oct. 18. Tech struggled to move the ball in the first half, however, and turned the ball over three times in the game. In classic Leach fashion, the Red Raiders’ 43 points included a garbage touchdown with 20 seconds remaining in the game.

Of course, Tech plays its home games on Jones SBC Stadium’s artificial surface, and the Red Raiders’ peak performance in Lubbock has been well documented. Consequently, Tech’s gaudy numbers on turf could be more of a function of the Raiders’ dominance at home. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that Tech’s output on grass has been far less impressive. And Leach’s wide-open passing game seems tailor-made for a fast track.

If OU comes out on top on Saturday night, Bob Stoops may owe Mother Earth a game ball.