Ridley’s Bowl Primer Part 3 – The Main Course


Just like a beautiful steak, the remaining bowl games will leave us on the couch with our pants unbuttoned.

Due to me not properly planning out my writing schedule, this main course is going to be just meat and potatoes, no filler. I’ll be presenting the lines without commentary, which for some of you is probably preferred.

Before we get into the remaining picks, I wanted to give a quick update on where my projections have landed so far. My picks are currently 12-7 (not good, but not horrific) with some falling almost perfectly (CSU-WSU, ECU-Ohio, ND-Rutgers) and others landing out in left field (BSU-OSU, Fresno-USC, Buffalo-SDSU). So I guess what I’m saying is, you’re getting what you paid for.

Now onto the final picks!

AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Mississippi State (-1.5) Over Rice

Chick-fil-A Bowl

Texas A&M (-8) Over Duke

TAXSLAYER.com Gator Bowl

Georgia (-11) Over Nebraska

Heart of Dallas Bowl – Presented By PlainsCapital Bank

North Texas (-13.5) Over UNLV

Outback Bowl

LSU (-4) Over Iowa

Capital One Bowl

Wisconsin (-6) Over South Carolina

*(This goes against my general rule of never picking a Big Ten team over a quality SEC team)

Rose Bowl Game Presented By Vizio

Stanford (-6) Over Michigan State

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

Baylor (-19) Over UCF

Allstate Sugar Bowl

Alabama (-15) Over Oklahoma

AT&T Cotton Bowl

Oklahoma State (-.5) Over Missouri

Discover Orange Bowl

Ohio State (-2) Over Clemson

BBVA Compass Bowl

Houston (-12.5) Over Vanderbilt

GoDaddy Bowl

Ball State (-10.5) Over Arkansas State

Vizio BCS National Championship

Florida State (-21) Over Auburn

Ridley’s Bowl Primer Part 2 – The Side Dishes

potatoes au gratin

Nothing screams “side dish” like potatoes au gratin.

We continue this introduction to Bowl Season with 10 bowls that will take us (almost) through New Year’s Eve.

*Due to a time pinch and poor scheduling, we’re cutting this segment two games short so that four December 28th bowl games are released in time.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl – Rutgers vs. Notre Dame

The Golden Domers enter this game after being in and out of the rankings all year. Brian Kelly’s team played eight games with an AP or BCS ranking, winning only four of them. Of those four, only one came by more than a touchdown. Their lows included beating 1-11 Purdue by just seven points and losing to a 6-6 Pitt squad. However, this team had it’s fair share of quality wins, beating Michigan State, Arizona State and USC. They will face off against a Rutgers team that has lost three of its last four and five of its last seven. Three of their six wins came by a combined ten points against teams that finished the season with ten wins between them. The Fighting Irish should have no trouble dispatching the Scarlet Knights. Notre Dame wins by 14.

Belk Bowl – Cincinnati vs. North Carolina

Despite having three fewer wins, the Tarheels come into the Belk Bowl favored by oddsmakers due to their late season swing. After starting just 1-5 (including a 24-point loss to East Carolina), North Carolina finished the season on a 5-1 run, with its lone loss coming by two against ACC Coastal champion, Duke. Their average margin of victory during those five wins was over 25 points. They’ll be facing a Bearcats team that finished 9-3, thanks to having the softest opponent winning percentage outside of Old Dominion. Cincinnati’s FBS opponents averaged just four wins on the season. They also had bad losses to 2-10 South Florida and 4-8 Illinois (by 28!). This is why North Carolina is projected as 7.5-point winners.

Russell Athletic Bowl – Miami (FL) vs. (18) Louisville

Louisville started out the season with potential title hopes and BCS aspirations after laying some wood on Florida in the Allstate Sugar Bowl last season. Those hopes took a permanent detour when the Cardinals slipped up against Central Florida, but the reality is they weren’t among the nation’s elite to begin with. Charlie Strong’s team went 11-1 this season, but never faced an opponent who was ranked at the time of their match up (UCF was Louisville’s only opponent to be ranked at any time during the season). While Louisville is a very deep, talented team, they never played to the level of the nation’s top powers. Their opponent, the Hurricanes entered the season unranked, but was soon gaining national attention. After ascending to seventh in the polls on the strength of a 7-0 record, they plummeted back to earth while losing three straight. Miami’s flaws became exploited during the second half of the season and finished their last six games with a -31 point differential. Louisville was always the better team, but the recent play of the Hurricanes makes the Cardinals’ spread even larger; they will be seen as 10-point favorites.

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl – Michigan vs. Kansas State

The Wolverines and Wildcats will head to Tempe for a battle of 7-5 teams. Bill Snyder’s Wildcats lost their star quarterback, Colin Klein, to graduation over the offseason and saw their win total drop by four. Despite losing five games, Kansas State never lost by more than 10 points even though they played four ranked opponents. Michigan played opponents even closer, four of their five losses came by a combined 11 points, including a one-point heartbreaker to Ohio State after the Wolverines failed to convert a two-point conversion in the closing seconds. But the Wolverines’ inability to soundly beat inferior opponents (Akron, Connecticut) raises red flags. This gives a slight edge to Kansas State, who is favored by two.

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl – Middle Tennessee vs. Navy

Let’s face it, this bowl has very little appeal for any person who isn’t a Midshipmen or someone living within a 50 mile radius of Murfreesboro. The Academy’s season was highlighted by winning the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy and beating a decent Pittsburgh team. However, they were 0-4 against teams that finished the season with a winning record. The Blue Raiders resume is even less inspiring with only a two-point victory over Marshall worth mentioning. And when they lost, they did so in horrific fashion; of their four losses, three came by at least 20 points. They should manage to keep it closer this time, with Navy being favored by only 3.5 points.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl – Ole Miss vs. Georgia Tech

The Music City Bowl matches together two of the better five-loss teams in the country. The Yellow Jackets beat ACC Coastal champion Duke by 24 (albeit early in the season), took Georgia down to the wire and absolutely throttled a 6-6 Syracuse squad by 56 points. Ole Miss was a team of streaks, winning and losing three in a row, followed by four-game winning streak before ending the season on back-to-back losses. Even with five losses, the Runnin’ Rebs only had two below-average games by my calculation. They’ll head into Nashville as 1.5-point favorites.

Valero Alamo Bowl – (10) Oregon vs. Texas

This is a match-up that makes me wish I had a weighted component to my numbers. Ever since the Stanford loss, the Ducks have barely been above average. To put it into perspective without revealing the wizard behind the curtain, if the Oregon team from the first eight games were to play the Oregon team from the last four, the first Ducks squad would be favored by 27. That’s how big of a drop-off Mark Helfrich’s group has suffered in the closing weeks. Texas, on the other hand, has been playing great of late, with their 25-point loss to the Cowboys as their only stinker during their final six games. If we were doing with numbers from just the last four weeks, Texas would enter as 4.5-point favorites; since we’re bound by consistency, I reluctantly list the Ducks as 13.5-point favorites.

National University Holiday Bowl – (14) Arizona State vs. Texas Tech

This bowl game is brought to you by the second-largest private, nonprofit institution of higher education in California and the 12th largest in the United States. I thought you would like to know that, because I had to Google it. I just wonder how a nonprofit institution of higher education can afford a bowl sponsorship …

Anyways, about the game. Texas Tech is another team that is going to be worse than its actual prediction shows due to a poor performance over recent games. The Red Raiders started off the season 7-0 and ascended to 10th in the AP rankings before the Sooners put them in their place, starting a five-game free fall. 23- and 25-point losses to K-State and Texas, respectively, highlight their nose dive. They come in as heavy underdogs to Arizona State, which outside of facing Stanford has been spectacular. They had a +235 point differential against non-Cardinal opponents and closed the regular season with seven straight wins before falling to Stanford for the second time. I’ve got the Sun Devils winning by 16.

AdvoCare V100 Bowl – Arizona vs. Boston College

Boston College has been one of those sneaky-good teams this season, playing both Clemson and Florida State tough (they gave the Seminoles their closest game by far), but ultimately lack consistency. They also tend to play games a lot closer than they should. The Wildcats have appeared to be everywhere from Pac-12 contenders to mid-level scrubs. Their inconsistency is maddening. Are they the team that beat Oregon by 26 or the team that only beat Cal by five and lost to Arizona State by 37. There’s no doubt they are the better team when they’re clicking, but that doesn’t always happen. So I hesitantly say Cats by six.

Hyundai Sun Bowl – Virginia Tech vs. (17) UCLA

Another match-up between the ACC and the Pac-12. This time the Hokies will take on the Bruins of UCLA. In the Bruins favor, their three losses came against teams with a combined .816 winning percentage. However, only their loss to ASU was by less than two scores. The Beamers, meanwhile, were consistently inconsistent. After losing to Alabama by 25, VA Tech won their next six, five of which were bowl teams. Then they lost to Duke at home by three before falling to BC on the road.  They followed that up by beating the 11th-ranked Hurricanes by 18 before crapping the bed against Maryland. So what I’m saying is, I don’t know what to expect from them. The numbers say UCLA by 4.5.

Ridley’s Bowl Primer Part 1 – The Appetizers

buffalo chicken

Just like these tasty bites, the first 11 bowls are here to start off your bowl season feast.

In Part 1 of my Bowl Primer, I’ll be looking at the first 11 bowls of the season. You know, those bowls that are being played on ESPN 8, the Ocho, at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, right after World Series of Poker. OK, that’s not entirely the case; some games like the Las Vegas Bowl and the San Diego Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl offer decent match ups and even a few ranked teams, but for the most part, these games are there just to fill time and whet the appetite just like a Bloomin’ Onion when you take your in-laws out to dinner. But enough with my bad analogies, let’s get into the games.

(Note: At the end of each match up, I’ll be giving a prediction that is based off my new normalized margin of victory. If it works, feel free to revere me; if not, send all hate mail to IHave5Readers@unread.com.)

Gildan New Mexico Bowl – Washington St. vs. Colorado State

This is a match up of two teams gaining ground under second-year coaches. Mike Leach leads the Cougars, who went 4-5 in the Pac-12 during his second season in Pullman. Despite finishing 6-6 and having a 38-point victory over FCS Southern Utah, the Cougs still finished the season with a negative point differential after hefty losses to the Cardinal, Beavers, Ducks and Sun Devils. They’ll be facing a Colorado State team that’s biggest loss came to Alabama by just 25 points. But they did lose to Pac-12 doormat, Colorado by 14 points. The Rams have been playing better of late, though, and that makes them a 2.5-point favorite. Continue reading

Ridley’s Rankings Week 16 – Bowling Season

2014BCSBowlsWith the regular season finalized (save for the Army-Navy Classic), I’m going to switch things up a bit from the usual format. Instead of giving commentary on the top 25 teams, I’ll be presenting a grid of all the FBS teams. (If you want facts that are still mostly accurate, you can find my last two rankings here and here.) I’ll also do a quick rundown of the conference rankings as well as provide some (hopefully) interesting facts to help prepare you for Bowl Season.

Speaking of Bowl Season, my goal this year, time willing, is to provide a full primer for all the bowl games, including anticipated victory margin. This will be my first attempt at finding out whether my normalized victory margin is worth the time or just a bunch of useless math. With Bowl Season kicking off in 13 short days, I hope to have part one of the primer issued by Friday.

But before we get to the bowls, let’s take a moment to talk about the dominance of Florida State this season. In my tertiary research, I was unable to come across any team that even approached Florida State’s point differential of +550. To put that number in perspective, the 2001 Miami Hurricanes, who Bill Connelly calls the best team in the last 40 years, scored only 512 points the entire season. The Seminoles have reached their ridiculous level of preeminence by boasting the nation’s second-ranked scoring offense and the top-ranked scoring defense. Using my previously-mentioned scoring system, I have Jimbo Fisher’s team as 21-point victors come January 6th. Simply put, they are not to be trifled with.

Now, onto the conferences … Continue reading

Ridley’s Rankings Week 15 – Championship Week


Urban Meyer and Jimbo Fisher are one win away from a BCS title bid.

For the third time in four weeks, an unbeaten (and potential championship contender) has gone down, clearing up the national title picture. This week, Alabama fell from the ranks of the undefeated thanks to one of the greatest finishes in college football history. For those of you living under a rock for the last six days, the Crimson Tide decided to kick a 57-yard field goal with one second left when knotted at 28. Bama’s kick fell short, with Chris Davis catching it about nine yards deep in the end zone. After evading a few defenders and tiptoeing down the sideline, Davis easily trotted into the end zone, delivering an Iron Bowl win to Auburn and likely eliminating Alabama from the BCS National Championship.

Now we’re left with just two unbeaten teams from major conferences: Florida State and Ohio State. The Seminoles seem to all but have a spot in the national title game as their ACC Championship opponent is a surprising 10-2 Duke. The Blue Devils have won eight straight after dropping back-to-back games against Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh, but will likely offer little resistance against a complete FSU squad. With Jameis Winston now being cleared of sexual assault allegations, Florida State fans should all but purchase their tickets to Pasadena.

The Buckeyes face a much more difficult challenge in the form of Michigan State. The Spartans finished the regular season fourth in points allowed per game, thanks to five contests in which they didn’t allow a touchdown. However, their schedule was third easiest in the top 25, a big reason why they are several slots below their BCS mark in these rankings. Even with their defensive rankings being taken with a grain of salt, Sparty should give the Buckeyes one of their biggest challenges of the season. Will Urban Meyer’s team rebound from a narrow victory over Michigan in the Big Game, or did the Wolverines identify flaws their intra-state brethren can use to win the Big Ten?

If you missed last week’s rankings while Oregon Sports News enjoyed the holidays, you can find them on my blog. If you’re wondering where all these numbers come from, a general explanation can found here.

The Rankings

  1. Florida State (100.00) – With Alabama falling to Auburn and the Seminoles running over the Gators, FSU’s developed a substantial lead in the rankings. In fact, their lead is so large that even with a narrow loss, they would likely stay in the top two, if not retain the number one spot.
  2. Ohio State (89.20) – No debate here about putting a one-loss team above an undefeated Buckeyes squad. A win over Michigan State will let the BCS period ironically close without any controversy. Should they lose? Pandora’s Box will come crashing open. Continue reading

Ridley’s Rankings Week 14 – Getting Catfished

CatfishingIn the Internet Era, our lives have undoubtedly changed. Sports are now 24/7/365 businesses. News becomes stale in five minutes. A person can buy everything they could ever possibly want or need (and things that qualify as neither) all while sitting on their couch. Hell, even social interaction and dating has changed. With Facebook, you can keep in touch with friends without ever really saying a single word to them. Websites like Match and Cupid.com, or for those with more … um, adult preferences, Craigslist, you can search for single people in your area, strike up conversations, develop a connection and trust and practically fall in love with someone without ever meeting face to face.

Of course, as with most things on the Internet, you can’t take everything in online dating at face value. One of the biggest gifts (and curses) of the Internet is the anonymity that it provides. While most don’t go far enough to exploit this in a malevolent manner, there are a choice few who use the cloak of the web to exploit others, especially in the arena of online dating. Thanks to a couple of siblings in New York City, this practice has come to be known as catfishing. Catfishers purposely pose as someone their not — usually attractive males or females — to lure in unsuspecting victims into emotional and/or explicit online relationships to either find companionship or, frankly, get their jollies.

I bring this up because I’m beginning to feel that I was recently catfished. Not by some buxom blonde online (I’m happily married), but rather by the explosive Baylor Bears. I was led to believe the Bears were this once-in-a-lifetime catch, something I would tell my grand-kids about. In fact, last week I even went so far as to put Baylor as my second-ranked team, trailing only Florida State. How did Baylor handle my new-found trust? They laid an elephant-sized egg on national television to conference rival, Oklahoma State. Now I’m left feeling duped and exposed; used and disregarded. It turns out that my new Kate Upton was actually just a Sarah Jessica Parker.

For an explanation of  how these rankings work and what all these numbers mean, click here.

The Rankings

  1. Florida State (100.00) – Nothing changed for the Seminoles this week as they laid waste to the Idaho Vandals, 80-14. As someone who has seen the Vandals play more times than a sane person would admit to, I must say I’m completely surprised U of I scored during meaningful football (i.e. the first half). Next up is Florida, who is coming off a lost to FCS foe, Georgia Southern.  Continue reading

NFL Picks – Week 12

Sunday-Night-Football-Manning-vs.-Brady-SS-590x362OK, so it turned out that I don’t actually have the time to write weekly NFL picks, despite their relatively easy nature. You get caught up doing this or that, have a honey-do list that needs completed, go on a Sons of Anarchy bender, whatever if may be and before you know it, a weeks have passed. But just as full moon returns, I’m back after a three-week absence to impart on you some more “knowledge” regarding this week’s NFL match ups.

As always, home teams are in CAPS. Lines are provided by Bovada as of time of writing.

New Orleans (-9) Over Atlanta Falcons

As much as I wish I didn’t pick this (the line was too high for a big rivalry game), I have this image that says otherwise:


Do me a favor and ignore my percentile; I missed a week or two …

Pittsburgh (+1) Over CLEVELAND

Pittsburgh did a great job of attacking the Lions’ zone last week while also fending off the pass rush of their front four, giving them the biggest upset of Week 11. The Steelers will likely have to employ max protection again if they want to hold back a Cleveland pass rush that’s ranked 11th in Adjusted Sack Rate. Even if they do, they’ll have a hard time completing passes to top threat Antonio Brown, who will be blanketed by Joe Haden. Regardless, Pittsburgh has been playing better football of late and knows a loss to Cleveland kills any shot at the playoffs. Continue reading

Tigers Acknowledge Mistake, Move On

Last night, the Detroit Tigers made a public announcement to all of baseball by trading All-Star first basemen to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler. The message the trade sent was received loud and clear: We made a mistake and we’re ready to move forward.

Just two offseasons ago, the Tigers won the bidding war for the power-hitting first basemen, signing the second-generation big leaguer to an astounding 9-year, $214 million contract, making him the highest-paid player in Tigers history and fourth-highest in baseball history at the time (Joey Votto’s 10-year, $225 million deal signed in 2012 is now fourth). By signing the rotund Fielder, they were forced to move incumbent first basemen and future two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera over to third base, creating an admitted defensive void. However, the Tigers believed that with Fielder and Cabrera manning the middle of their lineup, they would be able to outhit any deficiencies their new cornerstones would create.

Two seasons, 181 regular season wins, 12 postseason wins and a trip to the World Series later, the Tigers began to feel buyer’s remorse. Fielder, while still producing respectable numbers in a vacuum (.292 BA, 55 HRs, .387 OBP), was becoming more and more of an overpriced luxury. In 2013, he accumulated just 1.7 WAR while making a whopping $23 million, making him one of the most expensive players in the league on a per WAR basis. With a lineup that also features stars such as Cabrera, Justin Verlander and Victor Martinez, the Tigers payroll had become one of the biggest in baseball. Despite owner Mike Ilitch’s desire to see a championship during his waning years, having a payroll in danger of triggering the luxury tax was not a pleasant option.

The trade of Fielder also clears up the logjam the Tigers lineup constantly faced. In perfect situations, Fielder, Cabrera and Martinez would all be slotted in as the designated hitter rather than take the field. To say they are defensive liabilities would be on par with saying that Chicago’s pizza is merely above average. However, if Jim Leyland wanted all three of their bats in the lineup, he was always stuck with putting at least two of them in the field. Now with Fielder gone, Cabrera can transition back to first, keeping Martinez, who doesn’t really excel at catcher or first, in the DH. The move also gives them a certified all-star at second in Kinsler. Kinsler may have had a down year, and does suffer from injuries, but at Jonah Keri stated, the worst Ian Kinsler offers is still better than the best Omar Infante could in 2013.

Detroit was undoubtedly overconfident when they signed Fielder. They believed that his added offense (which ended up being much lower than they expected) would outweigh the risks of relocating their best player and be enough to bring home a championship. While Cabrera continued to perform at a Ruth-ian type level, Fielder proved to he was not the missing piece. His declining numbers aside, the onerous contract and restrictions he created for the lineup likely did more harm than good. On Wednesday, Dave Dombroski realized this and moved on.

Ridley’s Rankings Week 13 – Things Get Wacky


Baylor’s frequent trips to the end zone have them boasting the number two ranking.

Before we announce this week’s rankings, let’s attempt to do a blind case study and see how much perception shapes reality, shall we?

  • Team A and Team B are both undefeated. Team B has played a tougher schedule but Team A has blown out more teams.
  • Team A: Beats a team that was previously ranked for several weeks by 25+ points.
  • Team B: Wins by less than 15 points over a team that must win out to become bowl eligible.

Which is the better team right now?

If you guessed that Team A was Baylor and Team B was Alabama, well, pat yourself on the back and buy yourself a Coke. If you caught on to our not-so-blind case study, you probably also caught on to why I brought it up.

This week, after several weeks of inching closer and closer, Baylor has finally usurped Alabama for the coveted second position in the Rankings. If you’ve been following the Rankings, you likely have noticed that Baylor keeps gaining and gaining on the Crimson Tide. Bama was able to produce a strong win over LSU last week, but Baylor countered with a dominating performance over the 10th-ranked Sooners. On Saturday, Baylor beat down a Red Raiders team that had been ranked for the previous seven weeks while Alabama came away with a 20-7 victory over 4-6 Mississippi State. It’s not illogical to say Baylor’s last two weeks deserve more credit.

It’s not only these rankings that think Baylor has been impressive over that time (or the season as a whole); the BCS has as well. Since the Week 11 BCS rankings were announced, Baylor has reduced its distance behind Alabama by half. Only Auburn has seen its BCS stock rise quicker than Baylor’s during that time. But with only two weeks left, it’s a moot point as Alabama WILL play for the BCS national championship, should they win out and Baylor will cross its fingers hoping it’s 2014 team is as strong as its current.

For an explanation of  how these rankings work and what all these numbers mean, click here.

The Rankings

  1. Florida State (100.00) – At this point, I’m almost out of superlatives to describe the Seminoles. They absolutely desecrated Syracuse on Saturday, notching their fifth victory o f 48 points or more.
  2. Baylor (94.29) – The Bears defense hasn’t been as solid since entering Big 12 play, but their offense is still outstanding, averaging 57.0 points in conference games. Continue reading

Ridley’s Rankings Week 12 – A Clearer Picture


Stanford’s victory over Oregon helped clear up the BCS title picture.

An anticipated Thursday came and went, leaving contenders and hopefuls in its wake. From the debris rose a clearer picture to the national championship. With the Ducks falling to Stanford for a second consecutive year, we now have two teams that control their own destiny; though there are teams with semi-legitimate gripes, should they be left out.

We are now left with just four undefeated AQ teams in college football, falling into two different categories: The Contenders (Alabama, Florida State) and The Hopefuls (Ohio State, Baylor). Alabama and Florida State both face a favorable regular season slate before they square off in their respective conference championship. Win out and they find themselves in Pasadena. Trip up and we’ll have a very interesting situation on our hands.

Should one stumble, there are two, or possibly three teams with legitimate claims at a title shot. Ohio State, which is running roughshod on the (I can’t believe I’m saying this) under-appreciated Big Ten; Baylor, who’s playing at a historic offensive pace (complimented with an almost equally impressive defense); and Stanford, who’s schedule has been one of the toughest in the nation and just beat the number-three team in the country. Should Michigan State fall,and lower the quality of the Big Ten Championship, and Stanford impressively beat a highly-ranked UCLA team in the Pac-12 Championship, the BCS formula may give the edge to the one-loss Cardinal.

As many college football fans know, with the BCS, anything is possible.

The Rankings

  1. Florida State (100.00) – The Noles sit on top again after a thorough thrashing of Wake Forest. All that stands between Jumbo Fisher’s team and an undefeated regular season are Syracuse, Idaho (well, they mostly lay down) and Florida.
  2. Alabama (96.63) – Nick Saban is back at the deuce, thanks to Stanford’s defensive effort against Oregon. The Tide also gained a decent chunk of ground this weekend with a decisive victory over the Bayou Bengals. Up next is a disappointing Mississippi State squad. Continue reading