Don't Call It A Bromance

Three amigos, one blog.

Don’t Call It a 2014-15 NBA Season Preview

These two are good at basketball and should be good this year.

These two are good at basketball and should be good this year.

As much as we love our football-heavy coverage each fall, Matt and I decided to change it up and bring back the official DCIAB NBA preview. Just like every year in the bright lights league that is the modern NBA, the story lines don’t seem to end heading into tonight’s opening tip. Now that the annual Heat-in-the-Finals has been extinguished simply by the greatest player alive taking his talents back to Cleveland along with former MVP Derrick Rose making his second comeback, the reshuffled East should be a fantastic watch this year. Out West, the immortal Spurs try to hold off the surging Clippers and Durant-less (for a couple months) Thunder. A promising slate of rookies led by Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Nerlens Noel provides some excitement among the non-contenders.

In this preview, Matt and I will each lay out our playoff teams followed by awards predictions and, finally, our NBA playoff bracket.

Eastern Conference

Bob:

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

Unoriginal pick here, but these guys are going to be really fucking good. A roster that already teemed with young talent was joined by LeBron James and Kevin Love. I don’t expect there to be quite the same growing pains and microscopic media pressure that we saw in Miami, and even then Miami won the East every single year. The Cavs are undoubtedly the most talented team in the East, and the only x-factor is how new head coach David Blatt will adjust to NBA ball, though the early reports on him have been overwhelmingly positive.

2. Chicago Bulls

We Bulls fans have waited seemingly forever for our city’s most beloved athlete to finally reach full health. Unfortunately, we found ourselves saying the very same thing last year, so I have to enter this season with cautious optimism. I continue to say that people forget just how freaking good Derrick Rose was (and hopefully is). Although he had an up and down campaign with Team USA in August and September, Coach K and Thibs have repeatedly asserted their confidence in him. In preseason, Rose has shown that he still has his quickness and hops. Since Rose was last healthy, Luol Deng has essentially been replaced by Jimmy Butler (better defender, worse scorer), Carlos Boozer by Pau Gasol (ditto, but more importantly is much cheaper), rookie sharpshooter Doug McDermott, and lauded prospect Nikola Mirotic. And oh yeah, Joakim Noah, who finished fourth in MVP voting last season, is still in town.

3. Atlanta Hawks

It looks to me like the Cavaliers and Bulls will most definitely be the top two teams in the East, and the next four could all finish anywhere from 3rd to 8th. This team proved to be pretty threatening in last year’s playoffs even without Al Horford, who is arguably their top player. Horford teamed up with Paul Millsap should be pretty killer offensively, and I am a big Jeff Teague fan.

4. Washington Wizards

Most people think these guys will finish third, but Bradley Beal’s broken hand and the loss of Trevor Ariza could give this poorly coached team some early trouble. Obviously, finishing fourth is not really a problem for a still-improving team with an attainable goal of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals.

5. Toronto Raptors

Breakout seasons from DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and Drake propelled the Raptors to the three-spot in the East last season. This drop is less of a bet on regression than the rest of the East improving more than Toronto.

6. Charlotte Hornets

I’m a big fan of the newly rebranded Hornets and would not be surprised if they launch all the way up to the three spot. Although their playoff series against the Heat looked ugly results-wise, the games were surprisingly competitive for the most part. These guys are competitors. The additions of my boy Lance Stephenson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s alleged jump shot could do wonders for this rallying city.

7. Miami Heat

So much of the Heat’s success this year depends on what they get from the ailing and aging Dwyane Wade and Danny Granger. Unfortunately, I don’t think they will get too much. Chris Bosh’s experience will be much more like his Toronto years than his recent Miami ones, as he will have to carry a significant amount of the offensive load for Miami, which I believe he can do pretty well. It should be interesting to see how rookie Shabazz Napier fairs at the next level after his championship senior year at Connecticut.

8. Brooklyn Nets

This team has gotten boring, but they’re still pretty talented. Maybe they will get a healthy season from Brook Lopez, though I doubt it. If Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker can tear it up and Brandon Knight and Larry Sanders don’t play terribly, Milwaukee could be a fun team and fight for a playoff spot. Stan van Gundy could also propel a talented yet messy Detroit Pistons squad to the playoffs, but that will be difficult.

Matt:

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

This team has a shot, in the next 2-3 years, to have the best offense the NBA has ever seen. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were offensive powerhouses at their respective destinations before they had one of the three best playmakers in the league as their teammate (that’d be LeBron James). The only thing that could stop this team from rolling straight through the playoffs is their defense. David Blatt will need to do some work on that end to create a top-level unit.

2. Chicago Bulls

There’s no way around this team’s offensive struggles last year– Chicago was one of the worst three offenses in 2013-14. That said, a Tom Thibodeau defense could carry even that team to a nice seed in the playoffs. Now, they return Derrick Rose and add Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic, and Doug McDermott. If Thibs is willing to give ample minutes to those last two, there are enough parts here to cobble together a top-ten offense, which is basically a necessity to be a title contender. If that happens, the Bulls will have as good a shot as the Cavaliers to come out of the East.

3. Toronto Raptors

The Raps came out of nowhere and were possibly the best team in the East in the second half of the 2014 season. This year they’ve added another nice bench piece in Louis Williams, who moved to Canada after an injury-riddled tenure with the Hawks. Kyle Lowry might regress a bit after last year, but this team has other parts that should improve, like young center Jonas Valanciunas and guard/forward Terrence Ross. Even DeMar DeRozan could take another small leap up from last season. This team has both the offensive and defensive talent to be a contender in the East.

4. Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks were third in the East last year when Al Horford went down with his second random torn pectoral injury. If Horford sticks around this year, and he should, this team will get an interior defensive boost that was sorely needed last season. Pair that with a creative offensive coach like Mike Budenholzer and this team should be right in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

5. Washington Wizards

Last year, I awarded the five spot in my playoff race to the a team that I dreaded had a chance of falling out of the playoffs– the New York Knicks, who ended up doing just that. This year, I’ve already dropped the Wizards two spots down from my original projection for them (the three seed). Perhaps it’s merely over-analysis driven by my close following of the team, but I’m worried about this team. Trevor Ariza was the only elite perimeter defender on the squad last year and he’s gone– now defending wings could be a serious issue unless Brad Beal or Otto Porter step up their game. Paul Pierce will be a nice offensive addition, but he’s certainly not without his faults and is almost too slow at this point to guard the three. Combine those wing issues with injuries to Beal and inevitably Nene, and it’s tough for me to put the Wiz above the five-spot. Come playoff time though, I believe they can compete with almost any team from the East. If John Wall takes another leap, this team could rise as high as 2-3 in the standings.

6. Charlotte Hornets

There’s no real reason to think this team’s defense should regress from last year’s top-ten unit, but the offense could struggle a bit this season. The spacing and passing prowess brought on by Josh McRoberts is gone, replaced by Cody Zeller and Noah Vonleh which… yikes. Lance Stephenson is a big addition, but this team already has Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson to create their own shots in a pinch. Stephenson will be good, but what this team really needed was a couple more three-and-D guys. MKG is the x-factor for this team; an offensive improvement on his end could be enough to earn a South-East division title for the Bobcats Hornets.

7. Miami Heat

LeBron is gone, Luol is in. This team’s starting five is good enough to contend with almost anyone, but the bench is a massive potential problem. There’s next-to-no scoring firepower on this second unit and it’ll take some creative lineup staggering by Eric Spoelstra to sort out viable combinations. He’s capable of that and this team should be good enough to make the playoffs, but I fear for their ability to hang with the other improved East teams. The glory days of the Heat are over, plain and simple.

8. Detroit Pistons

This is a tough choice between the Nets and Knicks and Pistons, so I went with the best coach available. Stan Van Gundy has an excellent history of putting together an elite offense centered around an emerging young big. Oh hey, Andre Drummond. With their newly added three-point shooting, this team may have been my seventh seed if not for Jodie Meeks’ injury for the first few months of the season. Trusting Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith to play more unselfish basketball is a tough decision to make, but this is a meaningless prediction anyway so who cares what you think, man.

Western Conference

Bob:

1. San Antonio Spurs

I picked these guys to win the championship last year, and I’m not picking against them until Gregg Popovich retires or they prove otherwise.

2. Los Angeles Clippers

My evaluation on this team last year was pretty spot-on: “This current team will never make it to a Finals in my opinion. Too much going on with Lob City and all that, and Jordan and Griffin cannot be trusted to play consistently on either end and hit their foul shots. I like them as a great regular season team, especially with Rivers in town, but somebody will trip them up in the playoffs.” In the last year, Griffin has proven to be a top-five NBA player and a potentially strong playoff team. I think Chris Paul is fantastic, and if he enters the playoffs healthy, watch out for these guys.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

Last year, I said, “I can’t wait to see what Durant can do without Westbrook hijacking twenty shots a game.” Now, we face the opposite scenario, with Westbrook carrying the scoring load in Durant’s absence. After watching a ton of last year’s playoffs, I’m a converted Westbrook supporter. I also wrote a fifteen-page African Studies essay based loosely on Serge Ibaka’s upbringing in Congo, and he’s also ridiculously good. As obsessed as everyone is with the term “Big Three,” this trio could perhaps be the best in the league, but no one will call them the “Big Three” because they have been together for a few years and aren’t a shiny new object.

4. Golden State Warriors

So much of the discussion around Golden State this season will be predicated on Klay Thompson’s play after the team chose not to trade him in a package for Kevin Love. I like the idea of Steve Kerr as head coach, and Stephen Curry has blossomed into one of the NBA’s top stars. They could easily be a lower seed if Kerr and the team struggle, but a healthy Bogut could anchor a talented team and help it begin to fulfill its potential.

5. Memphis Grizzlies

These guys are back again. Marc Gasol has become one of the top NBA players who is not significant in popular culture, and Mike Conley is not too far behind.

6. Portland Trailblazers

After a surprising season from Portland’s lone major sports team brought them to the Western Conference Semifinals, Portland will be competitors again this season. A breakout season from LaMarcus Aldridge and a solid sophomore season from Damian Lillard should continue into this year and notch Portland a playoff spot in the crowded West.

7. Houston Rockets

Nasty splits with Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik coupled with growing distaste for the flop-loving, defense-hating James Harden as well as the detestable Dwight Howard, few fans really like these guys. Unfortunately, they remain pretty talented and should land a playoff spot.

8. Dallas Mavericks

Lots of people will pick the improving, exciting Suns to sneak into the West this year over the aging Dallas, but the addition of Chandler Parsons and a few pieces in the backcourt should keep Dallas in it. I got all eight West playoff teams correct last year, and I picked the same eight this year. Interesting.

Matt:

1. San Antonio Spurs

This team will probably regress just a little bit from last year’s unit as everybody gets a year older, but they’ll still be the ridiculous powerhouse they’ve been for like ten years now. Spurs uber alles.

2. Los Angeles Clippers

The Clips have the offensive chops to hang with anybody, but their defense will be the potential tipping point that turns them into the Western Conference favorite. Doc Rivers is still implementing the Thibodeau system that he used in Boston, so their D should improve from last year. The Clippers are overall a solid team that I don’t think I could ever pick to win the championship. Blake Griffin is also really, REALLY good.

3. Golden State Warriors

This is one of the few large leaps in my Western Conference predictions this year. I believe that Mark Jackson was heavily costing the Golden State offense with his insistence on an isolation-heavy system. Now, Steve Kerr is in command and will be all about ball movement (or at least, much more than Jackson). With talented passers like Steph Curry and Andre Igoudala and talented finishers (around the rim and otherwise) like Klay Thompson, Andrew Bogut, and Harrison Barnes, these guys are going to be excellent on the offensive end. Given their defensive prowess last year, this team is clearly among the most talented in the league and should play like it under a new, more innovative coach.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder

If they weren’t without Kevin Durant for a while, this team would be in my number two spot. Instead, they fall to four, though I could still see them finishing first. There are questions at shooting guard (the Thunder will play a mix of Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, and eventually Anthony Morrow), but they’re finally starting a non-Kendrick Perkins entity at center and that’ll give a little boost to this team’s offensive capabilities. Praise the lawd.

5. Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies will just grind everybody to death on defense. They should be in the top-five in defensive points-per-possession this season and I’m hopeful their offense will continue to improve. Quincy Pondexter is one of my favorite players in the league that nobody ever talks about, and he returns from injury this season to provide spacing and competent defense. Vince Carter makes his arrival from Dallas and he’ll also give this team a shooting punch that has been sorely lacking in previous seasons. With new options for Marc Gasol to pass to and old mainstays like Mike Conley, Tony Allen, and Zach Randolph to keep the defense rolling, it’s not hard to imagine Memphis making a small leap into contention this year.

6. Dallas Mavericks

I’m irrationally high on almost any Rick Carlisle-coached team, and this one falls under that category. Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons, and Dirk Nowitzki are a truly formidable offensive trio operating in a fantastic system. This team will struggle to find defensively gifted options to plug holes on the other end, but Jae Crowder will provide hustle and wing D that could fix some of those issues. Add a hopefully rejuvenated Tyson Chandler into the mix and there could be a great team in Dallas this season.

7. Houston Rockets

Losing Lin and Asik will be more troubling for this team than many realize. There are truly no interior defenders behind Dwight Howard now and Lin was a better facilitator than new starting point guard Patrick Beverley. Still, the added wing defense of Trevor Ariza will certainly help cover the loss of Parsons, especially if his improved three-point shooting percentages are the real deal (I think they are). Expect this team to maintain a significant amount of their offensive efficiency, but the other teams in the West made significant upgrades– enough to push Houston down to the seventh seed.

8. Portland Trailblazers

Of all the playoff teams last year, the Trailblazers are the one I’d deem most likely to undergo some natural regression. The team was almost too hot from three for much of last year and is due for a bit of regression in their midrange shooting as well. LaMarcus Aldridge is fantastically talented but won’t artificially inflate this team like he did in the playoffs last year over a larger sample size. Dame Lillard is good, but might be too old to significantly improve upon his game. This team will be solid again, but not like they were last year.

Most Valuable Player

Bob: LeBron James

He really should win this award every year, but, as I predicted last year, Kevin Durant won due to voter fatigue and a national obsession with offense. Blake Griffin could step up and snatch this award, but he will split votes with Chris Paul. Durant’s injury will make it tough for him to win MVP, and hell will freeze over before enough people like Westbrook enough for him to be voted the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.

Matt: LeBron James

I’m with Bob on this one. I thought LeBron would take it again last year, but Durant was literally a living incarnation of the fire emoji for the entire season and took it away from James. I like Griffin as a sneaky contender for this award as well but the narrative in Cleveland is too good for LeBron. He’ll take this one going away. Other perceived contenders: Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, John Wall, Dirk Nowitzki

Rookie of the Year

Bob: Jabari Parker

People say he has fit in perfectly to Jason Kidd’s Bucks team, and I expect the other competitors – Andrew Wiggins, Nerlens Noel, Dante Exum, Marcus Smart, Julius Randle – to take more time to adjust. My semi-sleeper pick here is Marcus Smart, which depends a lot on Rajon Rondo’s role with the Celtics going forward.

Matt: Jabari Parker

No other rookie is going to have the offensive responsibilities of Jabari Parker this year. I almost picked Smart for this award, but he’ll be sitting behind Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley while Jabari starts at many games as his body can manage in Milwaukee. RotY voters love points, and I expect Jabari to deliver those in a big way. I’m foreseeing a tough first year for Wiggins in Minnesota, but obviously he has the natural talent and physical abilities to steal this award. Randle is weirdly behind Carlos Boozer on the depth chart so I think he’ll have a hard time getting into the conversation. Other perceived contenders: Marcus Smart, Dante Exum, Nerlens Noel, Andrew Wiggins

Defensive Player of the Year

Bob: Joakim Noah

He won it last year, so people realize how much he adds to the Chicago Bulls defense. One year of winning should not affect voter fatigue, and a hopefully strong Bulls season could further add to Noah’s resume. As I mentioned last year, LeBron James could easily win this award every year, but one man can only receive so many honors.

Matt: Serge Ibaka

Actually, I almost entirely disagree with Bob on this. I think it’s highly unlikely that Noah wins it a second year in a row, though I could see it if the Bulls finish first in the East. For this award, I like to look at the narratives around each contender. For Noah, he won it last year but the whole story of that team now is the arrival of D Rose 3.0 and Pau Gasol. Marc Gasol is a nice candidate given his return from injury and the team’s possible resurgence. However, I can’t get my mind off Serge Ibaka in Oklahoma City. He and Westbrook will carry the team in Durant’s absence. I think an increase in his offensive workload will bring more of a spotlight to his defensive efforts. He was close to winning this award last year and I think the absence of Durant will give him the victory in 2014-15. Other perceived contenders: Dwight Howard, Joakim Noah, Marc Gasol

Coach of the Year

Bob: Gregg Popovich

Sort of a lifetime achievement award, but he also deserves it. David Blatt could also win this.

Matt: David Blatt

I have a good feeling about Blatt as a coach, mostly because everything I’ve read about him is highly encouraging. If the Cavs put together an elite defense and win the East by a few games, I think it’ll be hard to choose anybody else. Other perceived contenders: Doc Rivers, Tom Thibodeau, Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr, Dave Joerger

Most Improved Player

Bob: Giannis Antetokounmpo

This one is always pretty tough to predict. I like the chances of a member of USA’s FIBA World Cup roster to win this award, which could include DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond, or Kenneth Faried. Problems: The media hates Cousins, Davis is already too good, Drummond is still a couple years away, and much of Faried’s success in Spain can be attributed to the lack of athletic big men in the tournament. Anyway, Antetokounmpo has made great strides since his NBA debut and looks to be a star in the making. A scary thought: The sophomore is still only nineteen and has recently been joined by Jabari Parker, my Rookie of the Year pick.

Matt: Klay Thompson

One player Bob forgot to mention who looked fantastic all offseason: Klay Thompson. I was not a huge Klay fan in the past, and still wonder how the Warriors avoided trading him for Kevin Love, but perhaps they knew he would make a huge jump and look like a star this summer. Klay is a good candidate– he’s on a rising team and has several areas in which he can expand his game, most notably in shot creation and passing. Other perceived contenders: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Andre Drummond, Anthony Davis, Jeremy Lamb, Patrick Beverley, and a ton of others.

PLAYOFFS

East

West

Winner: San Antonio Spurs

Matt:

Eastern Conference Western Conference

Winner: Cleveland Cavaliers

DCIAPC 2.9: Don’t Call It a College Visit—University of Texas

Last weekend was Miami’s fall break and I was fortunate to travel to Austin and visit the University of Texas for the weekend. Like I did last year for my trip to Florida State, I’ve put together a categorized recap. Each category is ranked from one to five stars, with five being the best rating possible.

Location

There’s nothing else you can say about Austin—it’s simply the coolest city in the country. That’s not saying it’s necessarily the best city in America because that’s a very subjective thing to be. But Austin is incredible. The Tex Mex and barbecue are to die for and the bars on 6th Street where all of the UT students go out on Thursdays and weekends are some of the best college bars in the nation (with college-friendly pricing too). The weather is fantastic outside of some hot summer months and it doesn’t have the oppressive humidity that comes with warm weather like Miami does. Simply put, there is no better college city in the nation. While it’s not exactly your prototypical college town, you’d be hard pressed to find a better location for a university than Austin. 5 stars

Campus

The architecutre is very nice and the facilities are unbelivable. There’s certainly a lot of money in Texas and it’s plain to see from the plethora of glimmering academic buildings. One downside is that there are so many students at UT that the vast majority of freshmen live in dorms that aren’t actually on the campus. However, with classic collegiate architecture, top-line facilities and UT’s iconic clock tower, this campus certainly won’t leave anyone unsatisfied. 4 stars

Student Body

There’s something about these Southern schools and the people that attend them that is so incredibly charming. Maybe I’ve grown too accustomed to the Miami student body, but everyone was just so incredibly nice. Wherever you went on campus, you could expect friendly smiles and conversation. (While I heard plenty of “y’all”s, I was disappointed to learn that no one actually says, “Howdy.”) The one caveat to some of you—although certainly not for me—was that this student body does land pretty far to the right on the political spectrum. Fans of Obama (which is pretty much a swear word in Texas) need not apply, although Austin is considerably more liberal than the rest of the state. Overall, I had a fantastically pleasant experience with everyone I met and feel very thankful to have spent even a weekend with these folks. 5 stars

Football Experience

Darrell K Royal is huge and gorgeous, but it’s a down year for the Longhorns and they played Iowa State last weekend. As you might expect, this put a damper on things crowd-wise. There were a fair amount of empty seats and while the place did rock for big plays, the atmosphere was fairly pedestrian. It definitely gets extra points for the iconic burnt orange crowd and Top 5 fight song in college football, “Texas Fight”. I would say three stars, but I’ll bump it up to four considering the context of this game. In better years and against a more relevant opponent, DKR would definitely be a great place to take in a game. 4 stars

Overall

Good luck finding a better college experience than the University of Texas. From outstanding academics, to the awesome urban environment of Austin, to great sports and sports atmosphere (I didn’t even mention that the Longhorns are ranked in the preseason Top 10 for hoops this year), this place has it all. This school definitely garners the “When can I transfer” invocation.  stars


Getting back into the swing of things, in games we picked last week:

  • Kansas State (+8) went to Norman and won the game outright.
  • Alabama (-11.5) OH MY GOD ALL THE BLOOD MAKE IT STOP.
  • TCU (-9) OH MY GOD ALMOST AS MUCH BLOOD MAKE IT STOP.
  • Nebraska (-7) actually trailed Northwestern at the half but dominated late.
  • Notre Dame (+11.5) lost in one of the most hilarious ways I’ve ever seen. As much as I hate FSU, I had a good chuckle.

Here are this week’s standings. After a brutal week for me, the #wiretowire dream is dead. Bob’s comeback hopes, on the other hand, are very much alive.

Season Last Week
Harry 20-20 1-4
Matt 20-20 3-2
Bob 17-23 5-0 (!!)

And the splits:

We All Agree  9-11
Matt Alone  2-1
Bob Alone  3-5
Harry Alone  5-4

Here’s the peanut gallery. Like I mentioned last week, I cut those with fewer than 20 picks and ranked by winning percentage. Next week you’ll need 25 total picks to remain in the table.

Winning Percentage Season Record Last Week
Andrew Kelley .640 16-9 3-2
Andrew Hunt .560 14-11 4-1
Creed Tucker .550 22-18 4-1
Mike .480 12-13 3-2
Drew .367 11-19
Bobby .343 12-23
Arnim Whisler .250 5-15

This week, Northwestern has a bye and Miami plays tonight so we’re going to do four national games for the second straight week. Groundbreaking stuff. There were only two games between nationally ranked opponents, so I threw in a bonus Big Ten rivalry game and a bonus ACC Coastal game, because who doesn’t need a little more ACC Coastal batshit craziness in their lives? As usual, all lines come from Pinnacle and game times are eastern.

Minnesota (-6.5) at Illinois, Noon, ESPNU

More lame duck at this point: Tim Beckman or Obama?

Georgia Tech at Pittsburgh (-3), 3:30, ESPNU

For those of you who are uninitiated, welcome to ACC Coastal madness. Please consume in small quantities for your well-being. If you watch the ACC Coastal for a time period lasting longer than four hours, consult your doctor immediately.

Michigan at #8 Michigan State (-17), 3:30, ABC

More lame duck at this point: Brady Hoke or Obama?

#3 Ole Miss (-3.5) at #24 LSU, 7:15, ESPN

Not to spoil my pick, but I involuntarily audibly said, “Wait, what?!?!?!” to myself alone in the library and got a lot of looks for it when I saw that Ole Miss was just a 3.5-point favorite. Also, LSU is back in the Top 25? I’m having PTSD flashbacks to Fresno State being ranked for all of last season.

#20 USC at #19 Utah (PK), 10, FS1

Utah is ranked 19th?!?!? On to the picks.

Minnesota-Illinois:

Bob: I have a brutal academic week, so please excuse my abbreviated analysis. I’ll keep it short and sweet. Yeah, Minnesota barely beat Purdue last week, but Illinois lost handily to Purdue. Minnesota has been a solid team all year, and I am surprised to see this line so low against a struggling Fighting Illini squad that faces a tough quarterback situation. Minnesota -6.5

Matt: THE BLOOD (I think they can probably keep it within two touchdowns, but nah.) Minnesota -6.5

Harry: Aaron Bailey, with the charred, tattered remains of his burned redshirt flapping against his body in the stiff Champaign breeze, will lead the the down-but-not-out Fighting Illini to…a 10-point loss. Minnesota -6.5

Georgia Tech-Pittsburgh:

Bob: Georgia Tech somehow has the #1 rated F/+ offense but just the 98th-best defense. Advanced stats generally like these two teams about equally, and the ACC Coastal has been a mess this year. I’m just going to go with recent history and take the Yellow Jackets and their top offense. Georgia Tech +3

Matt: I have similar reasoning to Bob here. Both teams are pretty equally average. I’m thinking Pitt can run the ball all over Georgia Tech and pull out a win here. Pittsburgh -3

Harry: A competent defense combined with an offense that’s playing Georgia Tech and home field leads me to go with the Panthers, but it’s the ACC Coastal so who the hell knows. Honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if Virginia swooped in and won this game. Pittsburgh -3

Michigan-Michigan State:

Bob: I still really like Michigan State, and though I believe in Michigan’s talent more than most people do, this line is too low. I’m not really sure how Michigan plans on scoring. A remotely close game would be surprising. Michigan State -17

Matt: The most enticing part of this game is whether or not Michigan will be able to exceed ten points. Michigan State -17

Harry: Matt says the enticing part of the game is whether Michigan will exceed ten points. I wonder if they’re even going to be able to score more than one time off some fluke MSU turnover or something. Michigan State -17

Ole Miss-LSU:

Bob: Ole Miss has consistently been far better than LSU this season. Although it is tough to play in Death Valley, especially at night, I like the better team to win here and cover the low spread, just as the Rebels did in College Station a couple weeks ago. Ole Miss -3.5

Matt: Finally, I believe in Ole Miss. I’m sold. They’re going to win this game by three scores. Ole Miss -3.5

Harry: Again, this line is unbelievable. I’m completely terrified that Vegas knows something I don’t, but I’m going to go with logic. Ole Miss -3.5

USC-Utah:

Bob: Both these teams have actually been very good. If we look at results over the course of the year, I’ll comfortably take the hot Cody Kessler over the lauded Utah pass rush. USC

Matt: Utah because they’re at home! Utah

Harry: I have no idea, so I’m just going to pick USC so Arnim doesn’t eat me. USC

DCIAPC 2.8: #wiretowire

Hey, all. No column this week because I’m on my way to Austin, Texas for fall break. I’ll definitely have a Don’t Call It A College Visit post next week on my time at UT. I hope to acclimate to the community there by getting kicked off the football team by Charlie Strong, like 83% of Texas’s student body. Hook ‘em!

In games we picked last week:

  • Illinois (+25.5) put up a decent showing against—as Matt aptly labeled the Badgers—a sneaky bad Wisconsin team.
  • Minnesota (-4) TRAP TRAP TRAP TRAP TRAP’d Northwestern.
  • Miami (-14.5) rolled over an overmatched Cincinnati team.
  • Mississippi State (+2.5) crushed the defending SEC champs and picked up the #1 spot in the poll.
  • TCU (+8) lost a shootout to Baylor but covered the spread.

Here are the standings. After winning last week, #wiretowire is still in play for me.

Season Last Week
Harry 19-16 3-2
Matt 17-18 2-3
Bob 12-23 2-3

And the splits. If I were you, I would pick with me when I go against Matt and Bob together.

We All Agree  8-11
Matt Alone  2-1
Bob Alone  1-5
Harry Alone  5-2

Peanut gallery! Starting next week I’m cutting anyone with fewer than 20 picks and then ranking by winning percentage in fairness to those who missed a few weeks but read and pick loyally.

Season Last Week
Creed Tucker 18-17 3-2
Andrew Kelley 13-7 3-2
Bobby 12-23 1-4
Drew 11-19 2-3
Andrew Hunt 10-10 2-3
Mike 9-11 1-4
Ben Greene 5-5
Arnim Whisler 5-15

Here are the five games this week. Miami and Illinois are off this week, so we’ll be doing four (!!) national games. As usual, all lines come from Pinnacle and game times are eastern.

#14 Kansas State at #11 Oklahoma (-8), Noon, ESPN

Oklahoma is reeling—coming off a loss to TCU and a very poor performance and lucky win against a depleted Texas team, the Sooners will look to bounce back against some staunch opposition.

#21 Texas A&M at #7 Alabama (-11.5), 3:30, CBS

Anyone else just getting tired of these teams? I’m completely on the bandwagon with the Mississippi excitement, but talking about ‘Bama and A&M is getting pretty old.

#15 Oklahoma State at #12 TCU (-9), 4, FS1

POINTS POINTS POINTS

#19 Nebraska (-7) at Northwestern, 7:30, BTN

Nebraska’s players are looking forward to their home game in Evanston, Illinois this weekend.

#5 Notre Dame at #2 Florida State (-11.5), 8, ABC

A serious note: Jameis Winston will play Saturday and that’s pretty disgusting. Regardless of whether he committed rape or not, a player currently under investigation by the school for an act as heinous as rape should not be playing during that investigation. Period. I almost never say this, but let’s fucking go Notre Dame. Time for the picks.

Kansas State-Oklahoma

Harry: For a huge chunk of the season to this point, Oklahoma looked like a juggernaut that would have no trouble waltzing to the playoff. After the last two weeks, that illusion is shattered. That said, this is still a very good team even if the last two performances have made me rethink my expectations for the Sooners. I like the Sooners to bounce back and win this game by 10 points in front of its home crowd. Oklahoma -8

Bob: I’ve always been on #TeamOklahomaIsOverrated, but it looks like the Sooners’ ranking and this game’s spread seem to be joining me. Oklahoma has yet to have a convincing performance on its conference slate, and Katy Perry’s favorite quarterback has been pretty average. Kansas State’s stout defense gave it a real shot to upset a strong Auburn team a few weeks ago, and I think they have a great chance at pulling off the win in Norman this weekend. I’m ignoring my advanced statistics for this one and taking the points. Kansas State +8

Matt: I’m siding completely with Bob on #TeamOklahomaIsOverrated. Kansas State will have a great shot of keeping this within a touchdown. Sorry if my analysis is really short this week– it’s a busy time for me. Kansas State +8 (Oklahoma 27, Kansas State 21)

 Texas A&M-Alabama:

Harry: As I mentioned above, I’m pretty tired of these teams but we had four open national slots and four games between ranked opponents so it was logical to select it. I’m going to spend the majority of this pick griping about having to pick it instead of just doing it. Here’s my analysis: Texas A&M isn’t as good as we thought. Alabama isn’t as good as we thought. This leads me to select… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Texas A&M +11.5 

Bob: After consecutive losses to annoying teams from Mississippi, Texas A&M has fallen to 36th in F/+, just one spot ahead of the fearsome Colorado State Rams. Their defense is pretty mediocre, and Kenny Hill is talented yet mistake-prone. I don’t really agree with the belief that “Alabama isn’t as good as we thought.” They were a play away from beating Ole Miss on the road, and yes, the performance last week was a stinker, but that happens to just about everyone. Also, Arkansas has proven to be a tough opponent this season. This massive spread makes things complicated, but I foresee Hill getting eaten by Kirby’s defense like a character in Super Smash Brothers, and the Alabama offense should do much better against the Aggie defense than it did last week. Alabama -11.5

Matt: The spreads are huge this week. Texas A&M +11.5 (Alabama 34, Texas A&M 27)

Oklahoma State-TCU:

Harry: As the excellent Matt Hinton lays out in this piece (which was also a clear overture to join DCIAB based on the title as I noted on Twitter), TCU was quite fortunate to even have a chance to win against Baylor last week despite the fact that they lead by 21 in the second half. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have been quite solid this year and I’ll happily take them while getting more than a touchdown. Oklahoma State +9

Bob: After reports showed that star TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin would be out 4-6 weeks with a wrist injury, sources are now saying he is practicing and totally fine to play on Saturday and Gary Patterson has said there is “no truth” to those reports. Weird. Anyway, Oklahoma State has not played anyone since its respectable opening week performance against Florida State. Obviously, you can only beat whom you play, but the Cowboys have not really had a single impressive showing since the FSU game. Everyone loves to uncreatively point out that TCU blew a 21-point lead against Baylor, but, in the end, the Horned Frogs lost by just three in Waco. They are still a top team (its #5 F/+ ranking supports that), while Oklahoma State has yet to prove much (as indicated by its #30 F/+ ranking). TCU -9

Matt: I really, REALLY like TCU this year. If they’d played Baylor at home, that’s probably a win. That said, Oklahoma State has been solid this year which makes this spread absurdly high. TCU’s offense is really solid, but they shouldn’t be able to beat OKST by ten or more. Oklahoma State +9 (TCU 37, Oklahoma State 31)

Nebraska-Northwestern:

Harry: You’re telling me that I get a pro-Nebraska crowd, a complete personnel mismatch and I only have to lay a touchdown with the Huskers? Thank you and please drive through. Nebraska -7

Bob: My tradition of always getting the Northwestern game wrong continued last week, and I hope I’m wrong again this week. I still think Northwestern is a solid team and can definitely beat Nebraska, but this line is surprisingly low. Nebraska -7

Matt: Yeah, I agree with these other two doofuses. Nebraska -7

Notre Dame-Florida State:

Harry: As much as I hate Florida State and everything their toxic program stands for, I have to separate that emotion from my pick. Objectively, I like the ‘Noles behind a raucous crowd and a Notre Dame defense that was exposed by UNC last week. Excuse me while I go projectile vomit.  Florida State -11.5 

Bob: On Tuesday, Keith Olbermann released yet another incompetent, attention-seeking hot take that claimed Florida State created the Jameis Winston autograph story because the university wants a reason to remove Winston from the program (as if it didn’t have reason already) because his controversy outweighs his talent. So, a football-is-everything school that has repeatedly overlooked a sexual assault controversy wants its Heisman-winning, defending champion, household name quarterback off the team in the middle of an undefeated season and run at a second consecutive championship? What a joke. [ED Harry: I normally think Olbermann is really good; his NFL stuff was great. This is obviously really dumb though.] Anyway, both of these teams remain undefeated but have looked far from untouchable. Every Football Outsiders statistic ranks these two teams as approximately even, though neither has performed at a top-ten level. I don’t like the idea of taking a still-untrustworthy Everett Golson at night in Tallahassee, but the Seminoles have yet to really show us this year why we should give up this many points against an undefeated team. It’s very possible Notre Dame is good-but-not-great like it was when it inexplicably made the championship two seasons ago, but the Stanford win proves they can beat tough teams. I’m upset I’ll be missing this one, though I can’t complain about going to Northwestern’s big game this Saturday for free. Notre Dame +11.5

Matt: This line is re-fucking-diculous. Notre Dame +11.5 (Notre Dame 34, Florida State 31)

DCIAPC 2.7: Go Read Bob’s Column Now

First, an apology. As you know, we release these on Thursday and it was completely my fault that it didn’t happen this week. My apologies. Now, instead of me writing a column this week, I am going to direct all of you to Bob’s awesome piece on why college students should attend football games for the Daily Northwestern because it is better than anything I could write now or ever. SERIOUSLY CLICK HERE AND READ IT IF YOU DIDN’T CLICK THE LINK ABOVE. (We can see the stats on how many people view this post and how many people click that link. If the numbers aren’t even, you are doing yourself a disservice.)

Due to copyright laws we’re not allowed to just copy/paste the piece and stick it in here, but here’s a taste:

The tailgates and parties exist because of the games, yet our rare fall Saturdays are too much about the drinking and not enough about something which, even for non-football fans, offers a distinct sense of community, school pride and passion that another few hours of drinking can never touch. Those whom I am not-so-discreetly calling out will remember Saturday as another link in an endless chain of moderately enjoyable alcoholic experiences. I feel lucky to say that I will be a part of the small group that will remember Saturday with much more profundity and lasting value.

Seriously, read it.

READ IT.

[Ed Matt: Read it.]

In games we picked last week:

  • Purdue (+10.5) humanely euthanized Tim Beckman’s run at Illinois. It had to be done.
  • Ole Miss (+6) made me look very stupid after I declared Alabama covering to be “FREE MONEY”.
  • Northwestern (+9.5) took down Bucky and sits in first place in the Big Ten West (!!!!!).
  • Georgia Tech (+2) stuck another nail in Al Golden’s coffin as Miami’s head coach.
  • Nebraska (+8.5) rallied out of an enormous hole to almost take down Michigan State.

Here are the standings. Matt won last week and pulled within a game of me at the top, very much threatening my potential wire-to-wire victory this year. Bob is in a tough spot but only needs to make up six games with the majority of the season left.

Season Last Week
Harry 16-14 2-3
Matt 15-15 3-2
Bob 10-20 1-4

Creed started tracking our record when the three of us all agree last week and I found it interesting so I’ll keep an official count here, as well as some other splits:

We All Agree  7-10
Matt Alone  2-1
Bob Alone  1-5
Harry Alone  3-1

If you don’t care about the above table and would prefer I leave it out next week, you can kindly go eat a handful of poisonous frogs. What have we learned from the above chart? Bob has gone against the grain the most often (although as you’re about to read, I will pass him this week) and has lost a disproportionate amount of those games. Shockingly, it appears a good portion of bad luck has factored in to his record. That said, SCOREBOARD BOB IS DUMB. Here’s the peanut gallery:

Season Last Week
Creed Tucker 15-15 3-2
Bobby 11-19 2-3
Andrew Kelley 10-5 3-2
Drew 9-16 1-4
Andrew Hunt 8-7 1-4
Mike 8-7 3-2
Ben Greene 5-5
Arnim Whisler 5-15 1-4

Here are the five games this week. As usual, all lines come from Pinnacle and game times are eastern.

Illinois vs. Wisconsin (-25.5), Noon, ESPN2

Avert your eyes and #PrayForMatt.

Northwestern vs. Minnesota (-4), Noon, BTN

IT’S A TRAP! Northwestern is coming off two great wins and has a primetime showdown at home against Nebraska next week that could very well decide who wins the Big Ten West and get to lose to Michigan State or Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. TRAP TRAP TRAP.

Cincinnati vs. Miami (-14.5), Noon, ESPN3

Can’t wait until the empty stadium pictures circulate on Twitter for this one. Seriously, if you think those Illinois pictures are bad, flip this one on your television Saturday. Wait, it’s not even on TV? #goACC

#2 Auburn (-2.5) vs. #3 Mississippi State, 3:30, CBS

The 3:30 time slot this week is unfreakingbelievable. Two undefeated games with major playoff implications are coming. Here’s hoping you have access to two televisions. We’ll start with the showdown in Starkville, where College GameDay will post up and subsequently announce that it’s not leaving the state of Mississippi ever again and Katy Perry is replacing David Pollack as a regular.

#9 TCU vs. #5 Baylor (-8), 3:30, ABC/ESPN2

As an unabashed Baylor lover, at least I have something to root for the rest of this season aside from Al Golden getting fired and replaced by Greg Schiano. Let’s get to the picks.

Illinois-Wisconsin

Harry: I know Wisconsin’s not that good, but this is an unbelievably good rushing offense against Illinois’s defense and there’s no Wes Lunt for the Illini. You can’t make this line high enough for me. Wisconsin -25.5

Bob: Wisconsin should run the ball on just about every play. When they took the ball down by 6 at their own 20 with 30 seconds left and no timeouts against Northwestern last week, they probably had a better chance scoring if they had run the ball than thrown it. It’ll be hard to take them seriously until they can throw the ball at all. Wisconsin could very well have a “fuck you” game at home and just destroy Illinois, but that’s also a ton of points to be giving up. The statistics that point me to my decision here are pretty appalling: Illinois allowed 349 rushing yards and 551 total yards to Purdue at home last week. I think that equates to 983 yards for Melvin Gordon on Saturday. Wisconsin -25.5

Matt: The only way Illinois covers in this game is if Wisconsin beats themselves with throwing the ball too much and turning the ball over. Illinois would have to pull a Northwestern and win the turnover battle four-to-zero or better to have a shot in this one. I think Wisconsin keeps it on the ground and dominates this one. Wisconsin -25.5 (Wisconsin 52, Illinois 14)

Northwestern-Minnesota:

Harry: IT’S A TRAP. Minnesota -4

Bob: I picked Northwestern almost every game last year and the first two weeks this year. I’m not sure if I was ever rewarded. The last two weeks, I picked against Northwestern, and not only did they cover, they beat Penn State and Wisconsin. I think the Wildcats are a legitimately solid team, but I’m still so scared that this is a trap game, as Harry keeps saying. Interesting thing I noticed in my weekly scrutiny of advanced statistics: Minnesota is 28th in S&P+ but just 57th in FEI, while Northwestern ranks 56th in S&P+ and 29th in FEI. Weird. If you look at every game result, Minnesota has failed to impress so far, so I’m going to say the Wildcats return to Evanston with a win over an inferior team, but I’d be lying if I were to say I’m not scared. Northwestern +4

Matt: I think these teams are just going to beat each other into submission with run after run after run after run after run. In our betting segment over at the Champaign Room, I said that this would be the most boring game of the weekend. That’s probably true. Both teams have solid defenses and dysfunctional offenses at best. I don’t know why exactly, but I hate Jerry Kill with a passion and hope the ‘Cats demolish the Gophers. Realistically, I think this one comes down to the wire. Northwestern +4 (Northwestern 20, Minnesota 17)

Cincinnati-Miami:

Harry: Okay, so Miami’s clearly not ready from primetime like Bob and I at least tentatively asserted last week, but this Cincinnati team is really, really bad (They lost 41-14 AT HOME TO MEMPHIS! MEMPHIS!) and will likely be without stud QB Gunner Kiel. I’ll confidently go with the ‘Canes. Miami -14.5

Bob: What Harry said. Cincinnati has been horrendous this year, and Miami should have no problem. Miami -14.5

Matt: If Gunner Kiel were playing, I’d probably take Cincy in this one. I don’t know too much about the Bearcats this year, but I do know that Illinois was able to blow them out of the water last year. Read that again— Illinois blew them out of the water last year. The ‘Canes takes this one with a margin of victory just over the spread. Miami -14.5 (Miami 34, Cincinnati 17) 

Auburn-Mississippi State:

Harry: Auburn is a great team, but you simply cannot justify picking against the Bulldogs as home underdogs. (Matt and/or Bob will probably try to anyway.) It’s insane that I get points picking MSU, but I’ll happily take them. Mississippi State +2.5

Bob: Getting 2.5 points is almost completely meaningless. I thought only Bill Simmons fell victim to seeing “favorites” and “underdogs” as pure binaries. This line is essentially even. Dak Prescott and friends have been awesome so far, but it’s hard to me to pick against Auburn after all they have done over the last year and a half. It’ll be interesting to see the two no-longer-so-improbable Heisman candidates Prescott and Nick Marshall face off. Auburn -2.5

Matt: I am going to use the always accurate transitive property to pick this one. Auburn made LSU look like a high school team and Mississippi State barely scraped out a win against the Tigers, almost blowing a big lead. Mississippi State’s offense pulled off an amazing performance to beat Texas A&M last week, but I don’t think they can continue it against Auburn. I’ll take Guz Malzahn on the road in a tight one. Auburn -2.5 (Auburn 38, Mississippi State 34)

TCU-Baylor:

Harry: Baylor did not look outstanding against a putrid Texas team last week while TCU was busy knocking off Oklahoma, so I think this line is a few points too low due to recency bias. I’ll happily take Baylor while laying fewer than 10 points. Baylor -8

Bob: Baylor has not proven to be trustworthy in big games + a terrible TCU team only lost by 3 to Baylor last year + TCU has been outstanding every single game this year + 8 points is a lot + there’s no clear reason to take either side here = TCU +8

Matt: This is a lot of puntos for two teams that seem fairly even given our expectations for them and their performances thus far this year. #analysis TCU +8 (Baylor 30, TCU 28)

DCIAPC 2.6: Here’s a College Football Column Where We Don’t Talk About the Michigan Situation. You’re Welcome.

Shameless self-promotional note: This weekend I (Harry) will be going up to Atlanta to broadcast the Miami-Georgia Tech game for WVUM, Miami’s student radio station. The game is at 7:30 pm eastern and you can listen live here. If I have time, I’ll definitely put together a Don’t Call It A College Visit like the one I did for Florida State last year. On with what you came for.

Like I mentioned in the title, there will be no discussion of the large university in Ann Arbor and that situation with the injured quarterback and our desired job status for the head football coach and athletic director. While all three of us certainly have thoughts on that whole thing (cough*fireHokeandBrandon*cough, also oh look here’s an editorial on the topic from Bob!), that story has been beaten to smithereens with a tire iron at this point, so you won’t have to read about it here. You’re welcome.

Anyway, last week I promised a column after I posted a YouTube video of babies eating lemons instead of writing because I was “busy”. (While I certainly had plenty to do last week, I’ll admit that laziness had a large part in that debacle as well.) I am a man of my word sometimes—mostly when it’s convenient for me to be—and this happens to be one of those times. Just kidding, I was too lazy again! Instead, I called up my inside source at ESPN and got the advance script from this week’s edition of the reprehensibly bad “Final Verdict” segment on “College Football Final”, where the outstanding Rece Davis somehow manages to get through a few minutes of listening to Mark May and Lou Holtz both idiotically argue about some inane topic. Here is is!

Final Verdict Script, October 4

Rece Davis: Gentlemen, welcome to “The Final Verdict”. Tonight ESPN executives have brought the case to me that there is simply too much stupidity on the set and one of you must be shot with this tranquilizer gun and deposited in a facility for treatment. [Producer's note: I was going to go with an actual gun and euthanasia situation, but that seemed a bit too morbid even for these two.] Now, each of you will have the chance to make your case to the court about why you think you deserve to stay. Lou, let’s start with you.

Read more of this post

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 270 other followers