September 17, 2012

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ACC Makes Right Move With Notre Dame Addition

By: Anson Whaley

When the ACC added Notre Dame to their conference for all sports except football last week, fans were immediately wondering if it was the right move. Ordinarily, adding a university of Notre Dame’s prestige would be a slam dunk. However, since the school refused to include its historic football program, many wondered if the invitation should have been extended.

Rest assured ACC fans, your conference made the right move.

Many ACC teams will be making the trip to South Bend in future seasons.

It’s relatively easy to create an argument about Notre Dame’s ability to remain an independent and still being able to compete in big time bowl games. But the fact is that the Irish still bring quite a bit to the table. One of the main goals of conferences is to bring in revenue for its members and this deal will surely do that.

For one thing, the partnership with Notre Dame includes five football games with ACC members each year. That’s practically half of a season and while the Irish aren’t officially a conference member for football, playing that many games with ACC teams will make it feel like that’s the case. More importantly, those games will mean a nice revenue boost for each team. Notre Dame travels incredibly well and they have fans in practically every pocket of the country. Ticket sales will increase for schools that don’t typically sell out their entire season in advance and programs will even be able to charge a bit more for tickets by having the Irish on the slate. And not only will concessions see a nice increase from having more fans in attendance, the communities will even benefit with additional revenue from fans staying in hotels and eating in restaurants.

Then there are the bowl tie-ins. While it’s true that Notre Dame will be able to take the place of ACC teams in some of the conference’s bowl games, simply by having the Irish as part of prospective deals will mean the conference should get better opportunities. Bowl games change conference allegiances fairly regularly and by tying in Notre Dame, many bowl games will jump at the chance to partner with the ACC. Along the same lines, the ACC will be able to negotiate better media deals in the future with Notre Dame on board. Having the Irish on board will mean bigger deals for broadcast rights for games and that means more money in the pockets of each university.

Further, adding Notre Dame’s other sports is a coup for the conference as well. Their men’s basketball program is a steady participant in the NCAA Tournament. The women’s basketball program is even better, regularly challenging for the National Championship. The fencing team and women’s soccer team have brought home recent NCAA titles and the hockey team and men’s soccer program have also been to Final Fours as well. Simply put, Notre Dame is more than just a football school when it comes to athletics.

Recruiting should also experience a slight bump as prospective collegiate athletes will jump at the chance to play against Notre Dame. Better recruiting means better teams and it’s not a stretch to think that programs won’t be able to benefit at least a little with recruits wanting to face the Irish.

And while Notre Dame will fight off joining a conference for football as long as they possibly can, chances are that someday the Irish will need to find a permanent home and leave the independent ranks. That’s particularly true if college football ever decides to install a mandate forcing independents to join a conference in order to be eligible for the new four-team playoff. While the ACC wouldn’t be guaranteed to secure the services of the Irish, they should have the leg up on most because of their past dealings with Notre Dame. This move is about positioning for the future just as it is for improving the present state.

Some fans are worried that by allowing Notre Dame to join the conference for other sports but remaining independent for football that they’re getting special treatment. That’s absolutely true. But the ACC will benefit tremendously from this deal and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

December 20, 2011

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College Football’s Bowl Games: Part IV

By: Anson Whaley

No matter what side of the aisle you’re on when it comes to the BCS, bowl games are one reason college football is such a great sport. The system matches two teams that may never play otherwise and with 35 games, chances are that your favorite team ended up in one.

Yesterday, we broke down games 19-26. (For yesterdays article, click here.) Here’s a quick look at the remaining 9.

TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl (Ohio State vs. Florida): Here’s yet another Big Ten-SEC game featuring two programs that are used to competing in BCS bowls. Neither team has been particularly impressive and each is only 6-6. But Florida has yet to record an impressive victory as their best win probably came against a 7-5 Vanderbilt team. Give me Ohio State in this game.

Rose Bowl (Wisconsin vs. Oregon): The first of the BCS games is a good one, pairing two very similar teams. Both are 11-2 and feature two of the top rushers in college football in LaMichael James and Montee Ball. The offenses are ranked No. 3 (Oregon) and No. 4 (Wisconsin) in the nation, but Wisconsin has had a much stronger defense. Still, I like Oregon, who’s played a tougher schedule against top teams.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (Stanford vs. Oklahoma State): The Fiesta Bowl features two more top five offenses. Instead of running backs, though, these teams are led by two premier quarterbacks – Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden. Oklahoma State could be playing in the national championship if not for a late-season slip up to unranked Iowa State in two overtimes. One thing I like about the Cowboys is how they’ve fared against other top quarterbacks. They forced Heisman winner Robert Griffin III into a bad two-interception game and did the same against Oklahoma’s Landry Jones. For that reason, I’ll take Oklahoma State who might be able to get Luck to make some mistakes.

AllState Sugar Bowl (Michigan vs. Virginia Tech): The Hokies could have had an undefeated season had they not faced Clemson who handed them both of their losses. I’m pretty high on Virginia Tech in this one and the difference could be running back David Wilson, who has more than 1,600 yards on the season. Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson is a huge talent, obviously, but he’s capable of some poor play as we’ve seen with his 14 interceptions on the season. The Hokies’ defense? No. 8 in the country. The Wolverines also have a top ten defense and even though they’ve scored more points this season, I’m taking Virginia Tech.

Going to their first BCS Bowl since 2007, Michigan fans would love a Sugar Bowl win to end a great season.

Discover Orange Bowl (West Virginia vs. Clemson): The Mountaineers have been a bit more lackluster than their record really indicates. They won nine games, but did so in a weak Big East and came out victorious in their final three games by a total of only seven points. Clemson struggled a bit after their 8-0 start, dropping three of their final five games, but I think they’re the better team. Look for the Tigers to win this one.

AT&T Cotton Bowl (Kansas State vs. Arkansas): The Razorbacks are the perfect example of what playing in a tough conference can mean. Their two losses were to LSU and Alabama – the two teams meeting in the National Championship. This is a strong Arkansas team led by quarterback Tyler Wilson who doesn’t make many mistakes as he’s had only six interceptions all season. The Razorbacks should win this one against the surprising Wildcats.

BBVA Compass Bowl (SMU vs. Pittsburgh): My alma mater, Pitt, has been extremely unimpressive this season. But they remain one of the best 6-6 teams out there, losing four games by only 13 points with some second-half collapses. The team has only been overmatched once this season, while SMU has suffered four blowout losses. The Panthers are also dealing with an unexpected coaching change but still have enough talent in this game to win.

GoDaddy.com Bowl (Arkansas State vs. Northern Illinois): The winner of the MAC vs. the winner of the Sun Belt? I got nothin’. Give me Northern Illinois.

AllState BCS Championship Game (Alabama vs. LSU): This is the game everyone’s waiting for … well, at least everyone in Alabama and Louisiana. You know what wins championships? Defense. This game features the FBS’ top two defenses and some pretty good offenses as well. Both teams have played killer schedules and the game against the two in the regular season was close. But I remain amazed at LSU’s dominance this year, destroying some pretty good Oregon, Arkansas, and Georgia teams along the way. There’s no way I can pick against them and that’s why I think they’ll win it all.

December 19, 2011

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College Football’s Bowl Games: Part III

By: Anson Whaley

College football’s bowl season will officially kick off this weekend. No matter what side of the aisle you’re on when it comes to the BCS, bowl games are one reason college football is such a great sport. The system matches two teams that may never play otherwise and with 35 games, chances are that your favorite team ended up in one.

Last week, we broke down the first 18 games. (For Part II, click here.) Here’s a quick look at the next 8 games.

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas (Texas A&M vs. Northwestern): After playing a brutal schedule that included six ranked teams, the Aggies should have a home-field advantage against Northwestern. They lost four of them by a total of only ten points, including a one-point nail-biter to Oklahoma State and a four-point loss to Arkansas – both top five teams a few weeks ago. Texas A&M is better than their record indicates and should win this game.

Hyundai Sun Bowl (Georgia Tech vs. Utah): New Pac-12 team Utah will have its hands full trying to contain Georgia Tech’s dynamic quarterback Tevin Washington. Washington does almost as much damage on the ground (rushing for 890 yards in 2011) as he does in the air. Utah has a top 20 defense but struggled in their last two games against Washington State and Colorado – two of the worst teams in the conference this season. I’ll take the Yellow Jackets.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Cincinnati vs. Vanderbilt): The Commodores are playing in their home state, but I’m not sure that will be enough. Cincinnati won nine games this season and averaged nearly 35 points a game. The Bearcats will be at a bit of a disadvantage, though, if they can’t get quarterback Zach Collaros on the field, who’s been out due to injury. He’s been at practice, but if he can’t go, Cincinnati will start Munchie Legaux. Either way, though, I think Cincy’s high-scoring offense gets the job done in a close one.

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (Illinois vs. UCLA): Illinois will make the cross-country trip to play on New Year’s Eve. To make matters worse, after starting out 6-0, they dropped their final six games. UCLA, though, hasn’t been all that great this year, being blown out at times. This is one of those coin toss kind of games, but I’ll take the Illini.

Chick-fil-A Bowl (Virginia vs. Auburn): Both of these offenses have had difficulty scoring points at times this season, but the Cavaliers’ defense has been strong. Auburn is a difficult team to get a good handle on, because of their average record and a rugged SEC schedule. They still managed to win seven games playing in the conference and are my pick.

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A year removed from a National Championship, Auburn fans would like to bring home the Chick-fil-A Bowl to end the season on a high note.

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TicketCity Bowl (Houston vs. Penn State): Houston appeared headed to the BCS until they were throttled in their final game against Southern Miss. Playing in the TicketCity Bowl has to be a bit of a disappointment, but they’ll be facing a tough test against Penn State. The Cougars had the highest scoring offense in the FBS this season averaging more than 50 points per game, but they haven’t seen a defense nearly as good as the Nittany Lions’. Penn State’s defensive squad gives up just over 15 points per game, ranking fifth in the country. Even with the game in Texas, I like Penn State in this game.

Outback Bowl (Michigan State vs. Georgia): Here’s another tough one to call. Both squads have good defenses and won ten games this season. Kirk Cousins is one of the best passers in the nation, throwing for 24 touchdowns and more than 3,000 yards. The Spartans get the nod here in a close contest.

Capital One Bowl (Nebraska vs. South Carolina): This is another Big Ten-SEC matchup. I typically favor the SEC in these types of games, but not this one. Nebraska’s dual-threat quarterback Taylor Martinez has really become a player and other than a three-point hiccup to Northwestern, the Cornhuskers were impressive most of the season. The Gamecocks, meanwhile, avoided many of the top guns in the SEC West and haven’t shown as much as I’d like. I’ll take Nebraska in another narrow Big Ten win.

For “College Football’s Bowl Games: Part IV”, click here.

December 13, 2011

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College Football Bowl Games: Part II

By: Anson Whaley

In part 2 of our picks for the College Football Bowl Games, we take a look at the games from Dec. 27th – 30th. (To look at  College Football Bowl Games: Part I , click here.)

 

Little Caesars Bowl (Western Michigan vs. Purdue): The Boilermakers will have a hard time trying to shut down one of the nation’s best receiving tandems in Jordan White and Chleb Ravenell. White had more than 1,600 yards receiving to lead the nation and is a handful to defend. Because of that (and a virtual home game in Detroit), I like Western Michigan.

Belk Bowl (Louisville vs. North Carolina State): The Wolfpack get home field advantage for this bowl (formerly the Car Care Bowl) and they beat pretty good Clemson and North Carolina teams this season. Louisville boasts an impressive defense, but I don’t know that they have enough in this one. My pick is North Carolina State.

Military Bowl (Toledo vs. Air Force): Two top 25 offenses take the field in this one and with seven wins in their final eight games, I’ll take Toledo in a shootout.

Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl (California vs. Texas): This is another tough one to pick as both teams have been mired in the middle of their respective conferences. The difference could be home field, which should go to Cal with the game in San Diego. But after playing a tough Big 12 schedule, I’m going with my gut and taking Texas in a close one.

Champs Sports Bowl (Florida State vs. Notre Dame): Florida State had four losses, but three of them came against then No. 1 Oklahoma (by five), Clemson (who won ten games), and 8-4 Virginia. The fact that the game is in Florida should also help the Seminoles and they’re my pick in this game.

Florida State fans won't have to travel far to watch the Seminoles take on Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl.

Valero Alamo Bowl (Washington vs. Baylor): The Bears have had an amazing year with wins over Oklahoma, TCU, Texas, and Missouri and have come out on top in five in a row. With Heisman winner Robert Griffin III, leading the way, I think they win this one pretty easily over a mediocre Huskies team.

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl (BYU vs. Tulsa): Tulsa has lots of weapons on offense, but has struggled mightily in every game this year when they’ve played anyone of consequence. BYU is a sound defensive program and gives up only about 20 points a game. Because of that, I’m taking them to win their tenth game of the season.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl (Rutgers vs. Iowa State): Tough game to call here. Rutgers gets home field with the game in New York and has an excellent defense, but probably has some inflated numbers from playing in the Big East. Iowa State struggled this year, but faced seven ranked teams and won a home thriller against No. 2 Oklahoma State near the end of the season. I literally just flipped a coin and it came up with Iowa State. Scratch that – I’m picking Rutgers.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (Mississippi State vs. Wake Forest): Another difficult one to pick, but I’ll go with Wake Forest here. They’ve played really well at times, beating Florida State and playing well in close losses to Clemson and Notre Dame. This one could come down to the play of quarterback Tanner Price. In Wake Forest’s six wins, he’s thrown 12 touchdowns to only two interceptions and never completed fewer than 60% of his passes. In their six losses, he’s had eight touchdowns and four picks, completing less than 60% of his attempts four times.

Insight Bowl (Iowa vs. Oklahoma): Hard not to like Oklahoma in this one. The Sooners have several impressive wins on the season and a few tight losses. They also bring in a top ten offense and a respectable defense. Iowa’s really been up and down all season and doesn’t have the firepower offensively to keep up against Oklahoma.

Check back next week for Part III of our look at College Football’s Bowl Games.

December 12, 2011

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Picking College Football’s Bowl Games: Part I

By: Anson Whaley

College football’s bowl season will officially kick off this weekend. No matter what side of the aisle you’re on when it comes to the BCS, bowl games are one reason college football is such a great sport. The system matches two teams that may never play otherwise and with 35 games, chances are that your favorite team ended up in one.

Let’s take a quick look at all of the games one at a time – here are the first 9 contests:

Gildan New Mexico Bowl (Temple Vs. Wyoming): This is a matchup of two 8-4 teams. Temple has one of the stingiest defenses in the nation giving up less than 14 points per game and I like them in this one.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Ohio vs. Utah State): Both teams finished in second place in their conference. Utah State has one of the country’s best kept secrets in dynamic rusher Robert Turbin (1,416 yards) and also played Auburn and BYU tight on the road in close losses. They’re my pick here.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (San Diego State vs. Louisiana-Lafayette): San Diego State’s Ronnie Hillman has been one of the best rushers in college football over the past two seasons, totaling more than 3,100 yards. He had 19 touchdowns this year and I think he’ll lead the Aztecs to victory.

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl (Florida International vs. Marshall): FIU had somewhat of a breakthrough year winning eight games and going on the road early in the season and beating Louisville. Marshall played a tougher schedule, but was overmatched much of the season. With what should be home field advantage, I’m going with FIU in a tight one.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (TCU vs. Louisiana Tech): TCU had a great season that went largely unnoticed because of an opening-season two-point loss to Baylor (who, by the way, ended up being pretty good). They went on to beat Boise State and won their conference without losing a game. The Horned Frogs should have little problem in this one.

While they aren't going back to a BCS bowl this season, TCU gave their fans a lot to cheer about by winning their conference and beating Boise St.

MAACO Bowl (Arizona State vs. Boise State): Arizona State’s been on a roll … of the wrong kind. They lost their final four games while Boise State was competing for a BCS bowl slot. The Sun Devils are also dealing with a coaching change and that’s certainly going to be a distraction. On paper, this looks like an utter mismatch, and that’s what I think it is. I’ll go with Boise in what I think is one of the easiest bowl games this season to predict.

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (Nevada vs. Southern Miss): If you can’t get into the BCS, this has to be one of the best places to end up. Seriously, who would be disappointed to play a bowl game in Honolulu? Led by quarterback Austin Davis, Southern Miss won ten games and has one of the top offenses in the nation. They also stunned then No. 6 Houston in the C-USA Championship game and are my pick here.

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl (Missouri vs. North Carolina): This is one of those tough games to pick. It’s the day after Christmas and you’ve got no idea how focused either team will be. The Tigers went 4-1 along with wins over Texas and Texas A&M to close out their season so I’ll take them in a close one.

For “Picking College Football’s Bowl Games: Part II”, click here.