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 Rankings Week 13 – Things Get Wacky

Baylor

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

Oregon-at-Stanford

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

Ridley’s Rankings Week 11 – Must-See TV

Bryce Petty

Bryce Petty leads the nation’s best offense against the Sooners in a primetime Thursday night match-up.

Usually in this space I like to recap what happened over the weekend and explain how it translates into the rankings. Due to this weekend having an absolute dearth of quality match-ups (even Florida State versus Miami was a letdown), I decided it’s better to leave the past where it is and look forward to the future.

This Thursday night, college football fans and sports bars across America will be given a special treat. We have the privilege of watching two Thursday night match-ups that feature four BCS top-10 teams facing off in games that could not only influence their conference titles but also change the national championship landscape.

In Palo Alto, we’re sure to see another epic slugfest between the Oregon Ducks and their newest nemesis, the Stanford Cardinal. Last year, the Cardinal dashed the Ducks’ hopes of reaching the BCS National Championship, upsetting Oregon in Eugene 17-10. This week, the Feathered Fury will seek redemption when they travel to Northern California. A win would almost guarantee a Pac-12 North title and also give them the resume boost they need to reclaim a top-two spot in the BCS rankings. Should Stanford come away with a victory, they’ll take a leg up in the Pac-12 North and make an argument that they should be considered for a national championship berth.

Down in Waco, Texas, the high-octane Bears of Baylor will play host to Big 12 rival, Oklahoma. We’ve talked about the Bears’ offensive exploits in this column before. They have put up 59 points or more in six of their seven contests and have an average winning margin of 48 points. However, they haven’t faced a defense as good as Oklahoma’s yet. The Sooners are allowing just 18.8 points a game, 14th best in the country. Even if they do manage to contain the Bears, Oklahoma may not have the offensive firepower to score enough on the nation’s sixth-best defense.

Unfortunately for the Bears, even a blowout against the Sooners won’t be enough to push them into the title conversation. They currently sit sixth in the BCS, .1780 points behind second-ranked Florida State. To reach the BCS Championship, they would need to somehow over come the winner of Oregon/Stanford, Ohio State and either Florida State or Alabama. While neither of those situations are likely, a Bears win will go a long way towards netting them their first BCS bowl game.

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

The Rankings

  1. Florida State (100.00) – The Seminoles gained a good chunk of ground with their easy win over a previously-unbeaten Hurricane team. That distance will be put to the test this week, with the Ducks facing the Cardinal, as well as Alabama playing host to 13th-ranked LSU. Even a lopsided win against 4-5 Wake Forest won’t do much to fend them off.
  2. Oregon (94.80) – The idle Ducks may have lost ground to the Seminoles, both in these rankings and the BCS, but they’ll easily make it up if they can take care of business against the Cardinal in Palo Alto.
  3. Alabama (94.68) – Should the Ducks win big and the Tide struggle (but still win) against LSU, we very well could see Oregon overtake both FSU and Bama for the number-one spot in the BCS rankings. Continue reading

Ridley’s Rankings Week 10 – Three’s Company

marcus-mariota-bcs

Marcus Mariota helped the Ducks close the gap with a big win over UCLA.

Last week, we saw Florida State take a decisive lead in the Rankings (yes, I’m pretentious enough to capitalize my own rankings) after routing rival Clemson in Death Valley. The win gave the Seminoles two straight victories over ranked opponents by a combined margin of 114-14. These accomplishments easily outweighed those of Alabama and Oregon, who, at the time, had faced two ranked teams total, winning those contests by a combined 28 points. Although formidable, the feats of these two were easily trumped by the Seminoles. Of course, the caveat was there is still a lot of football to be played, with the meat of both schedules coming up.

On Saturday, Oregon began a slate of what could be three ranked teams in four games (Arizona will undoubtedly be rank if they win their next three contests), beginning with the 12th-ranked UCLA Bruins at home. As I predicted in the Oregon Sports News version of this article, Oregon cruised to a victory with 28 unanswered points in the second half. Now the Ducks face their toughest game of the year, squaring off against the fifth-ranked Stanford Cardinal next Thursday night on ESPN. (For those of you wondering, the Redskins and Vikings will be on NFL Network that night, playing something that looks like a cross between football, tag and hide-and-seek.)

Alabama, in the meantime, will have to put up its fair share of style points. The Crimson Tide easily toppled the Volunteers on Saturday. Now the top-ranked BCS team has this weekend off as they prepare for a showdown against the Tigers of LSU. This match-up lost a lot of its luster after the Bayou Bengals were upset in Oxford, but outside of the Iron Bowl, this is the Crimson Tide’s only remaining challenge. With Florida State facing Miami (FL) this weekend, Alabama will have to put on a dominating performance if they expect to gain on the high-flying Seminoles. As Halloween approaches, we’ve got the closest three-team race in the tracking of these Rankings. Top-ranked Florida State barely held off Oregon by 0.02 points and leads third-place Alabama by a mere 0.61 points creating a true three-way race for the top spot. With just over a month left to play, we may be in for quite a treat.

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

The Rankings

  1. Florida State (100.00) – For the second straight week, the Seminoles are the pace-setters for the Rankings. The seventh-ranked Hurricanes come into Doak Campbell Stadium this week after narrowly escaping losses against inferior opponents North Carolina and Wake Forest. If history is any indication of how this will go, the Seminoles should win in a rout.
  2. Oregon (99.98) – The Ducks just fell behind the Seminoles after pulling away from the Bruins in the second half. They now have 11 days to prepare for their most difficult challenge of the year: defeating the Cardinal in Palo Alto.
  3. Alabama (99.39) – Like the Ducks, the Crimson Tide are also on a bye this weekend, meaning a win by Florida State will only add to the gap the other two have to make up. Luckily for Alabama, they have LSU and an overachieving Auburn team still left to play. Continue reading

Ridley’s Rankings, Week 8: Ducks Fly Together

Marcus Mariota has the Feathered Fury flying high.

Marcus Mariota has the Feathered Fury flying high.

If you listened to this week’s Simply Awesome Sports podcast, you heard Matthew question me on my ranking of the Oregon Ducks (fifth at the time). My explanation was that the Ducks schedule had been light so far, but their heavy lifting would begin against Washington. Should they beat the Huskies handily (which they did), they would certainly vault up the rankings and likely land in the number two spot (which they also did). Now, if only my prognostication of my own rankings would translate to my fantasy football teams, I’d really have something going.

The Ducks are this week’s big winner thanks to a 21-point trouncing of the Huskies in Washington and Stanford wetting the bed against an unranked Utah squad. They now find themselves within whispering distance of the Crimson Tide with four games remaining against teams who are either currently ranked (UCLA, Stanford) or are receiving votes in the AP ballot (Utah, Oregon State) with a likely Pac-12 Championship game to cap it off. The Ducks control their BCS destiny; now all they have to do is keep on winning.

The Rankings

  1. Alabama (100.00) – Nick Saban’s squad are our pacesetters once again. The Tide whipped up on a lowly Kentucky squad 48-7 on Saturday (talk of basketball gets louder and louder each day in Paducah). Arkansas comes into town on the heels of a four-game losing streak and a self-prophesying  tweet by the head coach’s wife. All evidence points to an easy win for Bama.
  2. Oregon (99.20) – The Ducks likely had the most impressive victory of the weekend (Mizzou fans, I’ll address you later), with a strong win against a stubborn Washington team. Continue reading