Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Bowl Previews: This Week's Bowls*

We're finally in the home stretch of Bowl Season. The last week before the national championship, when we curse the BCS, the bowls, and the Big Ten for preventing us from enjoying a playoff system, then "punish" the bowls by watching them, allowing them to generate ridiculous revenue from TV ratings.

Tonight - 8:30 PM - ESPN
Allstate Sugar Bowl - New Orleans, LA
#13 Michigan Wolverines (-3) vs. #11 Virginia Tech Hokies
This game sums up why the BCS is a lousy, rigged, slimy system. Teams like Kansas State and Boise State were ranked higher in the BCS. But Michigan and Va-Tech are established powerhouses with big fanbases that will fill hotel rooms, buy tickets and merchandise, and also watch in huge numbers on TV.

Both these teams have excellent defenses. Then again, neither has faced overly impressive opposition. It might just be wishful thinking, because I hate Michigan, but I think Tech wins this game.

VT +3

Wednesday - 8:30 PM - ESPN
Discover Orange Bowl - Miami, FL
#23 West Virginia Mountaineers vs. #15 Clemson Tigers (-3)
WVU is the best the Big East could muster. More BCS BS as the Big East gets an automatic BCS bid (and an automatic check) no matter how much their conference stinks.

Uncharacteristically, WVU struggled to run the ball, and had a bad defense. Clemson was a pleasant surprise for the ACC. They have some head-shaking losses on their schedule, but also have some impressive wins. They beat Virginia Tech twice. I really can't pick against them. I doubted this Tigers team all year long but they've made me a believer.

Clemson -3

Friday - 8:00 PM - Fox
AT&T Cotton Bowl - Dallas, TX
#8 Kansas State Wildcats vs. #6 Arkansas Razorbacks (-8.5)
And yet another example of BCS shenanigans. The Cotton Bowl is one of the most historic and was once one of the most important bowl games in college football. But somehow a much younger bowl game in Arizona was included in the BCS. The Cotton Bowl gets a small measure of revenge as it's now played in Jerry Jones' mega-stadium, and this year they have one of the most attractive matchups.

K-State lost to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Their biggest win was over Baylor. Arkansas lost to Bama and LSU. Their biggest win was over South Carolina. I think Arkansas is slightly overhyped, and K-State can win this one in Big XII territory. Or at least keep it close.

Wildcats +8.5

Big L in Big D for B's

The Stars came into this game with a mission. They'd been struggling, they wanted to make a statement, and they wanted to do it by being aggressive with their counter-attack and trying to get underneath the Bruins' skin. They accomplished all this.

The Bruins have been making mistakes and playing sloppy periods even when they've been winning games. Saturday night's loss saw more mistakes than usual, a bad bounce, and an opponent that did a good job of taking advantage of those mistakes.

Dallas went up 3-1 in the first. Their second goal came when Milan Lucic drifted too low in the offensive zone, instead of remaining up high while both his linemates were battling for the puck down low. The Stars scored when the puck bounced on Thomas' backside, but they had the opportunity for such good fortune because Lucic made a mistake and a breakaway ensued.

Dallas' third goal came when Chara was sitting in the box after a foolish retaliatory penalty. He did get lightly cross-checked, but there's no way the refs will miss the 6' 9" guy turning around and compressing an opponent in front of the net.

Thomas was also rusty. He hadn't played since the 19th, due mostly to the Bruins playing a very light schedule the last 3 weeks. Thomas' biggest (and perhaps only) limitation is that he's not the type of goalie that can play 75 games in net then be good to go for the playoffs. It's a tough balancing act to keep from getting worn out and also keep him from getting rusty.

One thing I loved about this game, which reminded me why I love this team, is how angrily they played at the end of the 2nd and into the 3rd period. Lucic unleashed two huge hits in the final minutes of the 2nd. Then scored at the start of the 3rd. The Bruins played a strong game in the 3rd, they just dug themselves too big a hole in the 1st and 2nd.

I think they'll be motivated to start their next game off the right way. That game will be Wednesday night in New Jersey.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Buffalo Wild Win

The Patriots have plenty of problems, but one thing you can't accuse them of being is boring. An explosive offense and an easily trampled defense led to a regular season of very exciting games.

When the Bills beat the Patriots, the Pats started with a 21-0 lead then eventually blew it. On Sunday afternoon, the Bills took a 21-0 lead, then blew it. It was a remarkable symmetry, reminiscent of 2003 when the Bills beat the Patriots 31-0 in Week 1, then the Pats beat the Bills 31-0 in Week 17.

I like how well the Patriots offense has adjusted in the middle of games, but I haven't liked how poorly they've started. The Pats can get away with slow offensive starts against the likes of Buffalo and Denver, but against top tier teams like Baltimore or Green Bay, a slow start could lead to a quick end.

The Bills played their part in the Patriots' comeback. There were so many room service interceptions. And good playoff teams will not be turning the ball over so easily.

On the bright side, the Patriots have a week off. They will not have to play a road game in the playoffs. They have a tremendously potent offense with a diverse arsenal of weapons. And all other teams in the playoffs have their own weaknesses. In my opinion, the Patriots have as good a chance as any team, so long as the offense executes.

Patriots host either the Bengals, Steelers, or Broncos on the 14th. Saturday night in Foxborough.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo