Ill-Advised BCS Championship Game Prediction

Getty Images/Doug Benc

Photo: Getty Images/Doug Benc

Not like this ever pans out or means anything. Please see everything under the “previews” category so you can observe my hit and miss ratio at this sort of thing, always.

So, consider the spectacle in Miami tomorrow, in which we only have the track records of the two 12-1 teams competing at Dolphins Stadium and their conferences to wage any sort of hacking through the guesstimation muck in order to consider what the end result of a BCS “championship” game might be (championship in quotes for damn good reason; Utah’s bid being the top one) between Oklahoma and Florida. We have the team with the fastest athletes playing the team that runs its offense the quickest.

Ultimately, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Florida will have all its playmakers, no matter how gimpy Percy Harvin may be — and OU is missing DeMarco Murray, which will hurt them in a sizable way, despite the capable back-ups available to take his place, Murray is a unique presence in that backfield.  Secondly, after watching two of the Big 12 South’s teams look rather pedestrian in bowl games, the equation is starting to skew a bit — and that’s before you consider that Bob Stoops has spit the bit in four consecutive BCS appearances, most recently, the Orange Bowl loss that was a wonderful rebound fuck of sorts for West Virginia after Rich Rod’s ignominous and acrimonious exit; as a result, WVU then decided to turn that ho Bill Stewart into a housewife (and has paid for it by wasting Pat White’s senior year in a bowl named after the dudes who fix your brakes.)

Meanwhile, the UF offense does not come unfocused much, and while the OU defense was stout enough to get by, there’s something that’s always unnerved me about a tema that’s compelled to put up half a hundred as often as possible — and sometimes they’ve actually kind of needed it (witness Kansas State, in which the Sooners actually allowed a 20+-point swing when up by gangbusters; it didn’t matter in the end, but you notice.) By default, it appears Florida’s defense will likely be the second best the OU offense faces, behind TCU — but the Horned Frogs don’t have anything close to an offense attack to respond in kind.

I will say Florida, 31-21, thanks to slow play from Tim Tebow and his corps of speed talent — an offense just as capable of slowing the pace down in order to keep the Sooners’ O and Sam Bradford off the field.

Ill-Advised Day After Bowl Game Predictions

The sack of weasels isn't even close to being as crazy as the man on the left at times.

The sack of weasels isn't even close to being as crazy as the man on the left at times.

Cotton Bowl – The reason a Texas Tech/Ole Miss match-up fascinates so many is not only because they are invited in a location somewhat available to both fan bases, but the personality and tendencies of both coaches. Mike Leach is the Pirate of the Skies, his luster diminshed just slightly after leaving his BCS title hopes in Norman; Houston Nutt is the boredline insane hick who will throw every manner of trick at you — he calls it as if he has nothing to lose, but is uneven enough to win a big game he’s not exepcted to and blow the next one on a bizarre coaching decision. On pure assembled talent alone, Tech should win this, but any time you think a Nutt team isn’t talented enough to pull it off, you get made to look like a fool. Tech by no more than a touchdown.  The line of -4 is just about right.

Sugar Bowl – Everyone’s hoping for a Boise State, but many are resigned to a Hawai’i. Utah is likely somewhere in the middle. This time they’re not lining up against a Big East patsy like Pitt a few years back; they get the SEC’s power-hitting pro-set team.  What the Utes need to do — MUST do if they want a realistic shot at the upset — is to make John Parker Wilson look like the incosntent thing he can be. I’m not sure Glenn Coffee and Mark Ingram will play poorly enough to force him to have to be that.  Meanwhile, the Utes will score some — but Terrance Cody and the rest of the Bama front seven are a rather revved-up TCU, hungry for redemption after falling before the Florida attack in the SEC championship game. Tide by two scores, in the range of 10-14 points.

Liberty Bowl – Fairly simple. Kentucky is atrocious on offense. If East Carolina can at be mediocre in its attack, this should be handled rather easily.

Ill-Advised New Year’s Day Bowl Predictions

marksanchezSo, so very fucking pissed at the programmers for this shit schedule of games. Jesus, the Rose Bowl’s the only game I want to watch, but lucky me, the Orange Bowl is the only one that starts after I leave work.

Outback Bowl: Iowa has a bulldozer in Shonn Greene and a workable defense that’s somehow managed to keep Kirk Ferentz employed (does he have pictures of the school’s president pulling a Catherine the Great or something? Jesus), and South Carolina is suffering from a severe case of ED on the offensive end (yes, wait for it and then yell at me.)  Defensively, they’ve seen backs as good as Greene before and not had much on them. Be taking the Hawkeyes here, even if keeps that asshole employed. 17-7, Iowa.

Gator Bowl: Two semi-useless rebuilding projects scrounged up good enough records to get invited here, and Bo Pelini’s Nebraska team doesn’t have the intensity on offensive he would like yet, while Clemson under Dabo Swinney appears to be finding its footing regarding what it would actually care to do on offense at times (memo: just keep running it behind C.J. Spiller and James Davis; the rest will work itself out.) The aggressive mediocrity of the Big XII North is probably a bit better than that of the ACC.  Nebraska by a touchdown.

Capital One Bowl: How the hell did this get to be a New Year’s Day game? Anyway, it runs up an SEC team (Georgia) and a Big 10 team (Michigan State), both equally flawed in various ways. Georgia’s flaws involve injuries to both lines, which derailed MNC aspirations. Michigan State’s are a bit more jarring: a rather mediocre QB in Brian Hoyer, resulting in a necessary leaning on Javon Ringer. Eight in the box for UGA all day as they push the Spartans into the pit, 34-10.

Rose Bowl: At least we’re getting somewhere now. I will reference my own defensive preview at Conquest Chronicles here, and re-assert that this will be a very close, defensively oriented game. However, Penn State has a weakness with pass defense and its safeties, while USC can be had with running game trickery and proper blocking. Southern Cal, 20-13, on two passing TDs by Mark Sanchez and a couple FGs.

Orange Bowl: Honestly, I know little about how Virginia Tech has managed to work its way to the top of the ACC again and even less about how Brian Kelly got Cincinnati to the top of the Big East heap despite having to go through six QBs to do it. Cincinnati, just for fun.

Ill-Advised NBA Western Conference Predictions

1. Los Angeles Lakers* – They should be able to dominate a pathetic Pacific Division for another 50+ win season and do well enough to grab the first seed in the conference. I continue to have an irrational dislike of Vladimir Radmanovic as a starter in this line-up, but Phil Jackson probably knows something I don’t. It was probably a higher priority to keep Sasha Vujacic off the bench than Ronny Turiaf, so that was a safe move.  Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol will be able to do their things, and the crucial bit to see is obviously whether Andrew Bynum can be the missing piece to a championship run.

2. New Orleans Hornets* – The team has figured out that to get anywhere in the playoffs, you’re gonna have to play physical, on the verge of cheap shot, defense.  Adding James Posey to that kind of defensive mix is the kind of thing that will have refs swallowing whistles and getting psychological edges.  Chris Paul will be better and have the season that makes the rest of us swoon.

3. Utah Jazz – One more year of Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer in the system of Jerry Sloan should make them a threat throughout the season, particularly at home.  I will still take Williams over Paul if you pushed me on it. Not that I think you could lose either way, but Williams’ size and deft work in such a structured system speak volumes. Imagine if the floor was wide open for him.

4. Houston Rockets – Not jumping on the bandwagon to top the conference, no way, not until Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming make it through a full season without injury. Adding Ron Artest could be really good, especially on the defensive end, but they’re not leaping that far ahead.

5. San Antonio Spurs – Has anyone else noticed this team is getting old? Not having Manu Ginobili until December is going to expose this a bit more, and the bench cast doesn’t do as much for me in the way of brutally efficient as it used to. Tim Duncan is still what he is, and so is Tony Parker, but the odd-numbered title years end here.

6. Portland Trail Blazers – Regardless of what happens to Greg Oden, I think they’re making the jump to a playoff spot. There’s too much talent between Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, and the other components of that squad to not make some noise.

7. Dallas Mavericks – Does Mark Cuban wish he had that Jason Kidd trade over again? Kidd is still good at what he does, but he’s not the point guard needed for this team right now. Rick Carlisle will be able to get them back to the playoffs, though.

8. Phoenix Suns – By the skin of their teeth. Too many players getting too old. Phoenix fans ought to be furious with ownership for being so luxury-tax conscious that it might have cost them a title shot, along with their lousy defense.

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Ill-Advised NBA Eastern Conference Predictions

Late, yes, but as long as I get these out in the open early on, it’s within the margin of prediction/preview error. Division champs have asterisks by them.

1. Boston Celtics* – Losing James Posey as the defensive intensity/bench guy is a tough thing, but this provides an opportunity for young guys like Leon Powe and maybe even Big Baby Davis to step up and fill that role in intensity (if not in actual position.)  They’ll still top the East because no one has that collection of talent on the team, and I don’t expect Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, or Ray Allen to slack off. Injuries might be a concern again.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers* – Mo Williams is a good add, they probably need to deal for one more scorer to combat the fact that neither of their power forwards (Ben Wallace and Anderson Varejao) do anything offensively, and they’re getting to at least the conference semis with LeBron James. Is this the year the Prince that wants to be King James leads his team back to the Finals, at least? I suspect this is their best shot if they can figure it out offensively. Mike Brown, being of the Gregg Popovich school, is good with getting players to click on the defensive end, but he might need to hire an offensive Tom Thibodeau first.

3. Detroit PIstons – More by default of not necessarily being thrilled about Orlando enough to put them third this year than anything. This team is always solid, but the core of it is getting a year older. The crucial devleopment to watch is how much more of the load Rodney Stuckey will take for Chauncey Billups and whether moving Amir Johnson to the starting line-up pays off — and whether new coach Michael Curry can keep a good bench rotation going.

4. Orlando Magic* – Rashard Lewis paid off for Orlando last year, expanding their O in a way that opened up further opportunities for Dwight Howard down low. After Jameer Nelson, they are very thin at point guard now, and his development (along with Howard’s) isn’t assured. However, it should be good enough to get them back to where they need to be, although they’ll go no further in the playoffs than conference semis.

5. Toronto Raptors – I don’t believe in Jermaine O’Neal’s resurgence — centers don’t get better magically after they are injured repeatedly during their careers, but you can essentially call it a trade of injury for injury by dealing T.J. Ford to Indiana, and it means Jose Calderon will be playing a lot of minutes and starting. I hope O’Neal gets through the season fine and proves me wrong. He deserves a chance to come back.

6. Washington Wizards – The Wizards will play well enough to get a six spot with Gilbert Arenas out until December, but will flake out in the first round, as usual. It’s a shame, because Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison are really, really good together and should be better with Agent Zero, but that isn’t the case because Gilbert has to get his shots. If DeShawn Stevenson can keep growing into an option with Arenas out, and maybe, just maybe, they can figure out how to rotate that ball when Arenas returns, they might be a threat.

7. Philadelphia 76ers – I’m sorry, Philly fans. I want to believe in Elton Brand again, but I’m not sure how you just come back off an Achilles injury, and that acquisition alone isn’t enough to make you an Eastern Conference power.

8. Milwaukee Bucks – I’m actually bullish on this team when probably no one else is.  Luke Ridnour is not really anyone’s idea of a great PG, but having Michael Redd, Richard Jefferson, and Charlie Villanueva there should add up to something that is more than the sum of its parts, although admittedly, more of this pick is about Scott Skiles getting these guys to play defense. If Joe Alexander becomes any sort of help off the bench in his rookie season (rumors are he’s already in Skiles’ doghouse), they could be good down the road. (I’m willing to admit to being completely wrong on this.)

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Ill-Advised World Series Prediction

What, you mean you still listen to me on matters of predicting sport, particularly baseball? I’ve been horrifically wrong since the playoffs got started. I think I picked one series right throughout this whole thing.

Given the advantage American League teams have over the representatives from the National League right now, I was always going to choose whatever AL team happened to make it out of the blocks.  The bottom third of Philadelphia’s order makes this easier — you’re looking at either Pedro Feliz or Greg Dobbs in the third-base platoon, then Carlos Ruiz, and the pitcher’s spot in Philly for games 3-5, and this is a team with some decent, but not great candidates, to DH (thinkiing either Dobbs or Matt Stairs).  Tampa has more flexibility and won’t lose as much when they have to go to the pitcher hitting.  Going through B.J. Upton, Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria, and Carl Crawford is no easy task.

As for those pitchers, would you rather take Cole Hamels and Brett Myers, or the combination of Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, Andy Sonnanstine, and James Shields?  While Philly has an advantage if they take a lead into the 8th and 9th innings with Brad Lidge, their third and fourth starters (Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton) are vulnerable. Hamels should be pitching three games in this series, and if he loses one of them, the Phillies are likely sunk.

Philly has the offensive advantage, but I’m going with the Rays in 6 when their starting pitching wins out.

Ill-Advised Championship Series Predictions

NL: Dodgers in 6 games – It hurts me even to type that.  However, I think the Dodgers are just running a lot hotter right now in the second half. The pitching 1-2s seem even in the starting rotation (Derek Lowe and Chad Billingsley vs. Cole Hamels and Brett Myers), and they’ve both got grumpy old men in Jamie Moyer and Greg Maddux. Philly’s line-up is a Murderer’s Row if hot, the Dodger offense flows more freely with Manny Ramirez in and Rafael Furcal leading off. Brad Lidge is better as a closer than both Jonathan Broxton or Takashi Saito — but I think the Dodgers are playing with house money right now; not a whole lot of us expected them to even be in the NLCS, and will find a way to get to the World Series.

AL: Red Sox in 6 Josh Beckett may be the only starting pitching issue for the Red Sox. Having Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jon Lester get possibly two games each of a 7-game series is a good start, and the Red Sox look just as capable of pulling out offense when it needs to. But the Rays have owned the Sox all year; while it’s always different in October, is there enough of a difference? Yes. It probably will come down to the bullpen, when Boston gets to Jonathan Papelbon while the Rays are adjusting and Troy Percival is still hurt. Papelbon is perfectly capable of a two-inning save on a semi-regular basis, or what many recognize as “the Mo Rivera thing” during the playoffs.

Ill-Advised MLB Divison Series Predictions

So, now that we’ve locked up that last AL playoff spot thanks to a Jim Thome home-run in the bottom of the 7th in what was a fucking epic pitching duel between John Danks and Nick Blackburn, it’s worth taking a quick look at the Division Series.

Red Sox vs. Angels – In previous years, I would have said that Boston is moving on in four or five games. NOt this time. My objection has less to do with any offensive factor missing since Manny Ramirez has been traded than it does with the questionable status of Josh Beckett — he’s set to start Game 3 right now, and is probably the one to go for Game 5 even though the preview says Daisuke Matsuzaka would start a Game 5. Nothing but impressed with Jon Lester, but until proven in the playoffs, he ain’t Beckett. In a battle where both offenses can be very productive, this is a bulllpen matter — and I like the guys the Angels use to get the ball to Francisco Rodriguez better than I like the guys that Boston uses to get to Jonathan Papelbon.  Halos in 4.

White Sox vs. Rays – Whether John Danks and Gavin Floyd can do it in the playoffs has yet to be seen; starting a series with Javier Vazquez does not inspire confidence against the general good work that Tampa’s starting staff has done.  Another concern: not sure how Chicago will hit outside the bandbox that is Not-Comiskey (or U.S. Cellular Field, whatever) in the playoffs. Tampa in 4.

Brewers vs. Phillies – Never count the bats of guys like Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder out, and it was enought o see the Brew Crew battle back to get into the Wild Card slot with plenty of help from a failing Mets team.  However, unless CC Sabathia could be run out to start every game, the rest of the Brewers’ staff will be run down by having to face Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Pat Burrell every game (although Burrell is suffering a slight injury.)  Phillies in 4 games.

Dodgers vs. Cubs – It’s not that I don’t think the Dodgers’ rotation has some good pitchers in it; it’s that outside of Derek Lowe and Greg Maddux, we’re not dealing with anyone particularly experienced in the playoffs. You could say the same about Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly, who were there only for a short time last year.  However, the Cubs are much better and more consistent offensively, and while this isn’t a sweep to me, Manny Ramirez alone can’t bring enough playoff swagger to beat a better team. Cubs in 4.

Ill-Advised NFL Previews: NFC South

Whew, last one. College football talk and the return of the Shakedown this weekend.

1) New Orleans Saints – The Saints have capable no-namers behind Reggie Bush if he continues his poor trend of not being able to rush between the tackles, but this offense has been all about Drew Brees slingin’ it around anyhow. Reliables like Marques Colston and David Patten are still around, and bringing in Jeremy Shockey from the Giants adds another threat, but the reason the Saints should win this division is that they’ve paid too much for defensive improvements not to. Bringing in Jonathan Vilma to lead their linebacking corps and re-stocking the secondary again in the free agent market has to pay off, and I see the Saints hosting a first-round playoff game.

2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers* – Too much Favre flirting, not enough improvement around Jeff Garcia. An aging Joey Galloway is still your best receiver, and while there are running backs in reserve if Carnell Williams continues to be injury-prone, this team will be riding defense again and trying to feast off the crappiness of the division. Trouble is, they stayed kind of stagnant, but the good thing is, this is enough to get a Wild Card spot in the NFC.

3) Carolina Panthers – I’ve been burned too many times on the Panthers to ever pick them to win a division again. No Steve Smith for two games because he decided to deck a CB, Jake Delhomme is returning from a devastating injury, and it just doesn’t look good on the offensive end. Defensively, if Julius Peppers is really healthy, they’re in better shape, but I don’t think they’re putting up enough points on the better defenses.

4) Atlanta Falcons – Building back up from rock bottom with a rookie starting QB (likely) in Matt Ryan is going to be really fucking rough, and hopefully the offensive line can hold up just enough to keep him alive. Next year will be a better time to gauge how the Falcons are going to pan out.

Ill-Advised NFL Previews: AFC South

1) Indianapolis Colts – The Colts defense wasn’t too damn shabby last year except for the part where they let Billy Volek and Michael Turner beat them. Now, I know Turner’s a stud, but you don’t let the back-up QB and RB come into your house and beat you after getting a bye week. If Tony Dungy has reconsidered his stance on not playing his starters in Week 17, this team is always primed to go somewhere. This year, he may have to play his starters in Week 17. The division should be tighter than ever this year, but expect Peyton Manning (as if he won’t be starting, come on) and his offensive weapons like Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, Joseph Addai, and even second-year wideout Anthony Gonzalez to bring it.

2) Jacksonville Jaguars* – Too much talent everywhere but the wide receiver position to not repeat as a Wild card team.  Signing Jerry Porter is not enough of a move to improve a receiving corps, because somehow Matt Jones is still a starting wideout.  (Maybe all the coke helps with that SEC speed.)  The defense is still pretty stout, even after letting Marcus Stroud go to Buffalo. David Garrard is efficient enough and smart with the ball; he doesn’t throw picks, and he’s got Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew in the backfield — MoJo’s presence gives me an excuse to post this again:

(That’ll get you a Will Muschamp-style “BOOM, MOTHERFUCKER!” every day of the week and twice on Sundays.)

3) Tennessee Titans – Vince Young needs more receivers. So they go and grab Alge Crumpler from the Falcons to play TE — good move, but they add damn nothing in the wideout corps and draft an RB in the first round (admittedly, in Chris Johnson’s defense, he looks really, really good.) The defense looks about as stout and run-stuffing as it was last year, so that will carry it to win games, but I don’t see three teams from this division going to the playoffs this year.

4) Houston Texans – There’s too much if/when/come attached to the Texans right now. It’s a lot of “Will Matt Schaub stay healthy?” and if there is actually a running game down there (Gary Kubiak needs to hope that Steve Slaton brings it big-time, Ahman Green has been a waste of money.) Defensively, there’s a lot to like about this team up front and in the linebacking corps with Mario Williams continuing to justify his #1 selection a few years back and DeMeco Ryans getting better, never mind Amobi Okoye’s upside. Shame they have to be in the best division in the conference, but if certain things click in the running game, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them leave the Titans in the cellar instead.