2016 – Bowl Week Picks
It's been a few weeks since we have been here. The regular season ended and then there have been a few weeks of "non-premier" bowl games. That doesn't mean we didn't watch them. There are just more intriguing games to talk about for the picks of the week. The last time we did picks we went a solid 8-2 straight up and 4-6 ATS. We pushed on the Upset of the Week, because we actually picked every single favorite for that week. Didn't even realize we did that. Of course it didn't work out. There were a couple upsets.
Now we get the impossible task of picking bowl games. You never have any idea how these will turn out. Teams have been off for weeks. They have gone through finals. Who knows what their mindset is at this point. You never know what teams' motivations are. Take Baylor for example. Their season was a complete tire fire down the stretch losing their last 6 games and basically giving up on their lame duck coach. So of course they are going to mail in the bowl game, right? Wrong. The put the beat down on Boise State.
So that's what we are up against. It's almost a fool's errand to try to pick these, but it feels good to talk about these games because darkness lurks a few weeks away. That darkness is the college football offseason which lasts F.O.R.E.V.E.R.
So onto the picks and the big bowl games including the playoff! I think the bigget upset might be if there is ever a playoff that doesn't involve Alabama or Ohio State. Ok, ok, these things are cyclical, but they sure seem like they are not going to be derailed in the near future.
Teams on bye: All the teams with a losing record, except those few 5-7 teams with a good APR.
#12 Oklahoma St.
#10 Colorado (-3)
The first of the big match ups of the bowl season. We've got #10 facing off against #12. This is a match up of conference runner ups. Oklahoma State finished 2nd in the Big XII after losing to Oklahoma on the last game of the season. And Colorado got crushed by Washington in the PAC 12 championship game. It's hard to say Colorado is disappointed to be in this game because they have been so terrible for so long, but I'm sure they were expecting at least the Rose Bowl with a PAC 12 runner up finish. The Alamo Bowl is usually an entertaining game. Think of TCU's historic comeback against Oregon last year. Colorado doesn't have the offense to make this a shootout, but they have a good defense despite Washington picking them apart. Teams that rely on defense seem to do better in bowl games, although that is only my bar stool opinion on the matter. I don't think there is evidence to back that up. But high flying offenses like Oklahoma State tend to lose their rhythm from the season with such a long layoff. Let's go with the Buffs to cap off a remarkable turnaround season. PICK: Colorado 27, Oklahoma State 21
#21 Tennessee (-4.5)
A match up of two historically solid programs. Both are coming off disappointing regular seasons. Nebraska's season isn't disappointing relative to preseason expectations, but it is disappointing in how their season ended. They made it all the way into the top 10 by virtue of their 7-0 start, but they struggled down the stretch losing 3 of their last 5. While 9 wins is a significant improvement over last season, they still are searching for that return to glory 20 years later. Tennessee might be the biggest disappointment in all of college football this year. They were the prohibitive favorite to win the SEC East in a down year in the East. They had a ton of talent and experience. This was going to finally be the year where all those top recruiting classes resulted in championships. Where have we heard this before? We should have known the opening week escape at home against Appalachian State was a sign of things to come. Not only did they not win the east, they lost to South Carolina and Vanderbilt in the process! Vanderbilt! Tennessee should never lose that game if they are as good as they think they are. So Butch Jones is going to be on the hottest of hot seats heading into next season. The team was imploding down the stretch. They really need a bowl win to get some momentum going for next year. But I don't think it happens. PICK: Nebraska 38, Tennessee 30
#11 Florida St. (+6.5)
This is a nice match up. Two traditional programs facing off in the Orange Bowl. Then of course you have the Harbaugh factor. Usually the Orange Bowl is a dud of a match up between an ACC also ran and a Big East team. Well the Big East is defunct and the new Playoff rotation got a top tier Big 10 team thrown in there. Michigan's defense is nasty. They get to the quarterback and they hold opponents to a crazy 20.86% conversion rate. Florida State has started off slow in many of their games this year. Michigan doesn't score a ton of points from their offense (somehow 11th in the nation in points per game but 46th in the nation in yards per game), but if they get a lead on you, they will put a stranglehold on the game. Florida State has a gamebreaker in Dalvin Cook. It doesn't matter who he is going against if he can break free. Michigan's defense is so darn good though. I think they will make FSU have another slow start and contain Cook. PICK: Michigan 28, Florida State 20
#13 Louisville (+3.5)
It's another high profile player skipping a bowl game. Leonard Fournette is skipping to prep for the draft. There was talk about him sitting out the entire year because he was going to be a top pick regardless. (That's just a bit insane.) LSU ended up making Ed Orgeron the permanent head coach after a successful stint as interim coach. He seems to be a great fit. Louisville has the Heisman trophy winner in Lamar Jackson running the show. He put up some ridiculous numbers this season. But Houston showed that you can contain him. They did it with a ferocious pass rush. But despite LSU's reputation for having a top notch defense, they have not gotten into the backfield with much frequency this year. They are 79th in the nation in tackles for loss. But they do limit the big plays. This will be an interesting one to watch. PICK: Louisville 22, LSU 19
#1 Alabama (-14.5)
The first of the playoff games. This game has the feeling of Bama vs MSU 2015 semi-final, so it could get bad for the Huskies. Alabama, as we've all witnessed, rolled right through their schedule with a little speed bump against Ole Miss. It's scary to think that their QB Hurts is only a freshman. His arm isn't anything to write home about, but his legs are what have crushed defenses, wearing the opposing defense out by extending play after play. Bama's strength is obviously their defense, only giving up 11.8 pts per game, 2.03 yds per rush. The same story most every year against this D is that you better beat them through the air or you'll be embarrassed. Luckily for Washington they have a QB that can sling it. Browning has thrown for 262 yds per game with 42 TDs and only 7 INTs. He'll need to be on point against the toughest D he'll ever see in CFB. The Huskies are pretty solid on the run game featuring Gaskin and Coleman that get about 6 yds per rush between the two. These guys are gonna struggle. If Fournette can get stuffed by Bama then Gaskin and Coleman will be silenced for sure. I'll be shocked if they run for more than 100 yds. Bama might be the best team we've seen in a long time. Washington is good but not on Bama's level. I just hope it's not over by halftime. Roll Tide all the way to the Championship......AGAIN. PICK: Alabama 40, Washington 13
#3 Ohio State
#2 Clemson (+3)
Somehow Ohio State finds a way to win football games. They are far from impressive and should have 3 losses on their resume. I still think that Michigan is a better team, but who am I? A self proclaimed expert, that's who - others will argue against that notion. Anywho, OSU was supposed to have a down year with all the young talent and then come back looking strong in 2017 - not so much. JT Barrett looks lost at times and has no ability to throw the ball downfield accurately. They'll play a dink and dunk offense with a strong run game against Clemson. They might try a few deep balls early to keep the safeties honest but they're not fooling anyone. I would reel off that deep ball stat but I couldn't find it and I'm tired of looking for it. Trust me, he's no real threat for a deep pass, so expect Clemson to bring the blitz over and over again to keep Barrett from getting comfortable at all. Clemson on the other side of the field has Mr. Deshaun Watson that can take a team on his back and drag them to the final. He almost single-handedly beat Bama in the championship game last year. Watson hasn't been as prolific this year with 15 INTs, but that talent is still there and they've kept him from running too much because Swinney knows that if he loses Watson from an injury then they can just mail it in. Clemson's D is pretty good, but not great by any means and tend to rely on the turnover a little too much. The Tigers D will either limit OSU to 10 pts or let up 38 pts and get into a shootout. I think we're looking at a bit of a shootout and a heck of game that will keep us glued to the TV until close to midnight. Clemson is going to have a rematch with Bama for the Championship. PICK: Clemson 44, Ohio State 40
#15 W. Michigan
#8 Wisconsin (-7.5)
Interesting matchup here. Western Michigan is going to come out pumped up and ready to play until they get punched in the mouth by the Badgers defense. The Broncos have had a fantastic season led by PJ Fleck. I don't think they're on the same level as the Badgers. Wisconsin had a ridiculously tough schedule this year and almost pulled off the impossible against Michigan, OSU, and Penn St. Each of their 3 losses came short by a TD, and 2 of those 3 they should have won. Not a whole lot of people saw this season coming from the Badgers. Western Michigan could pull of a win but they better be perfect on offense and defense. Wisconsin will run the ball down their throats and bury them on defense. Western Michigan barely ever coughs up the football which keeps them on the right side of the TO margin. The offense is solid and the defense is average. The defense for the Broncos is what's going to kill them here. Wisconsin will have zero issues running the ball and controlling the clock. Once the Badgers take the lead by 2 scores then expect Western Michigan to panic a little bit and take some chances that will get them in trouble. I would love to see Western Michigan pull off the 14-0 season, but I just don't think there's much of a chance here. I'll take Wisconsin by 10. PICK: Wisconsin 33, W. Michigan 23
#5 Penn State (+6.5)
USC is the hottest team in CFB, no doubt about that. I think that Penn State is running into a brick wall here. USC, after losing 3 of their first 4 games with panic setting in for the Trojan family, decided to live up to all the hype and run the table, including an impressive win at Washington. Once QB Darnold took over they never looked back. Penn State has been a bit of a surprise this year, winning the Big Ten East over Michigan and OSU. No one saw that coming. Trace McSorley has been an unconventionally successful QB for PSU as he takes chances where there's no chance and pulls off the impossible somehow. He's led a number of comebacks since PSU typically doesn't like to show up until the 3rd quarter. USC is just way too good plus it's a home game for them. Trojans win another Rose Bowl. PICK: USC 34, Penn State 24
#7 Oklahoma (-3)
Pretty good matchup with this game. OU showing off that high octane offense and Auburn bringing in a top notch pass rush with a solid run defense. OU can hit you anywhere and everywhere on offense with a top 5 QB, 2 ridiculously talented RBs, and the best WR in CFB. Unfortunately for Sooners fans the defense is hard to watch, to say the least. Almost anyone can/will score on the Sooners, and the offense is what keeps them alive and well. Once Dede Westbrook came back healthy the Sooners took off and ran the table. Auburn started slow, played well in the middle, and sputtered in the end to an 8-4 finish. Their defense keeps them in every game, and the offense is either on point or can't get a first down - nothing in the middle. While I think this game will be a close one and a heck of a lot of fun to watch, I think I'll take the Sooners but have the Tigers cover simply because OU has been on a roll, and Auburn seems to have lost their edge after barely beating Vandy, losing to Georgia, and losing to Bama in the Iron Bowl. Auburn will find a way to make it a weird score. PICK: Oklahoma 30, Auburn 29
N. Carolina (+3)
The big story line with this game isn't about the teams. It's about Christian McCaffrey skipping the game to prep for the NFL draft. That sure created a great topic for all the screaming heads on TV to debate. It would have been great to see him play one more game, but he is in the rare position where he even has to debate this. I don't think it will be an epidemic like some are crying. Very few even have a draft stock high enough to where this is a decision. Him not playing will definitely have a negative effect on Stanford's attack. He is what the offense revolved around. It will be hard to reinvent the offense on the fly for this game. North Carolina has a great offense themselves with QB Mitch Trubisky leading the way. UNC averages 33 points per game and just a shade under 300 yards passing per game. They have had 52 passing plays of 20 yards or more this year (Top 25 nationally). If they can break a few long plays, I don't think Stanford can score the points to keep up. We will make this the Upset of the Week! PICK: North Carolina 30, Stanford 17
Season Record - Straight Up: 88-52
Season Record - Versus Spread: 63-75-2
Upset of the Week: 5-8