Don't Call It A Bromance

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Talented, healthy, and confident, Arsenal look to win first title since Invincibles

Arsene-Wenger

After Arsenal dropped points throughout the opening months of the 2014-15 season, the combination of a new marauding defensive midfielder, a finally healthy squad, and heaps of talent inspired the London club to a robust second half, a second consecutive FA Cup title, and a flawless preseason run. Now, eleven seasons removed from its last English Premier League title, Arsenal enters the 2015-16 campaign keen to dispel the troubles that have plagued the club and prove its return to the top echelon of European giants.

In recent seasons, critics have pointed to the Gunners’ absence of both star power and depth, lack of a dependable spine, poor injury record, big-game failures shaking the squad’s confidence, and tactical inflexibility as key components of Arsenal’s disappointing stretch of seasons. Today, the pieces have finally come together in Arsene Wenger’s squad, making this team’s title hopes the brightest since the days Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira donned the Arsenal badge.

To truly grasp the injection of top-class talent into the squad, I have to undergo the unfortunate task of looking back at Arsenal’s infamous 3-1 loss to Aston Villa at the Emirates to open the 2013-14 season, which happens to be the only match I have ever seen Arsenal play. While many of the starting XI names remain the exact same as those in the current squad, the few changes highlight the key advancements the club has made in just two years.

Former Chelsea stalwart Petr Čech, winner of the 2012 UEFA Champions League as well as four EPL titles and four FA Cups, has replaced an inexperienced and erratic Wojciech Szczesny in goal. Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny have forged a suffocating relationship at the back and are now flanked by Héctor Bellerín — a 20-year-old Spaniard who has passed up Mathieu Debuchy, who, coincidentally, starts over 2013 Arsenal right-back Bacary Sagna in the French squad — and Nacho Monreal, who has followed a shaky start to his Arsenal career with the best two-way left-back play since at least Gaël Clichy. While these may seem minor improvements, the midfield has changed from a fragile mess into a selection mess with all the talent Wenger has to choose from, with the best five (Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla, Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey, and Alexis Sánchez) all out-performing any midfielder two years ago today. Finally, the striking situation of Oliver Giroud and… a Bambi-like Yaya Sanogo… is now a much-improved trifecta of Giroud, Theo Walcott, and Danny Welbeck, all of whom have turned in spectacular performances at the highest levels for both club and country.

In addition to the Özil/Sánchez/Čech transfer triumvirate and the improvements throughout the squad, the club’s depth is especially remarkable. Entering the season, Wenger will have the likes of Jack Wilshere, Welbeck, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Debuchy, Mikel Arteta, Kieran Gibbs, Gabriel Paulista, Calum Chambers, Tomáš Rosický and David Ospina — all of whom could comfortably start EPL matches — on the bench, not to mention the exciting players coming up the ranks in the youth squad.

While the squad advancement is little more than a task of name-dropping, the most vital aspect comes in the growth of the club’s so-called “spine” — the men playing up the middle of the pitch. Čech provides more stability in goal than Arsenal has seen in over a decade, while the aforementioned Mertesacker/Koscielny partnership also has proper backup in young reinforcements Gabriel and Chambers. We cannot forget how just last year, Wenger scrambled to partner an exhausted Mertesacker with a cast of backup fullbacks in the middle. At striker, Giroud looked one of the most potent scoring threats in England during the second half of the season and now enjoys the possibility of Walcott and Welbeck offering prolific alternatives. The people who constantly cry for the signing of a “world-class striker” are ignoring that Giroud has been outstanding in 2015, that the side has three quality options in the role, and that by the very definition of “world-class,” there are hardly any in the world and everyone wants them, making them nearly impossible to come by, especially right now. I am not arguing that signing Karim Benzema or someone else would be bad for the club, but Arsenal can definitely win the title with the current attacking force.

Connecting the spine, Wenger’s exasperating and elusive quest to find a defensive midfielder improbably ended with youth squad wash-out Francis Coquelin, who led the EPL in interceptions per game last season and also ranked in the top ten in tackles per game, securing the role and almost instantly transforming Arsenal into one of the league’s most formidable sides.

A final important note on the current squad: It is the healthiest it has been since Wilshere was too young to get hurt. I do not have precise data on this, but I have seen the data that back this obvious intuition: While Chelsea have ridden a wave of incredible injury luck to recent titles — not to take anything away from their success, but it still makes a massive difference — Arsenal have faced more projected win shares lost to injury than any club in the EPL. The Gunners enter the campaign with just Welbeck and Rosický — two ultimately replaceable players with everyone else fit — sidelined, and of course Wilshere has already potentially broken his fibula since I wrote this. Current injury record is no predictor of future injury record, but the two controllable factors right now — health entering the season and squad depth — put the Gunners in an unprecedented favorable position entering the campaign. Additonally, after the World Cup ruined much of Arsenal’s last preseason, only Sánchez missed this year’s preseason due to his allotted summer vacation. He is really the one player who does not need a full preseason, and it also provides Oxlade-Chamberlain with an outstanding opportunity to get a run in the team.

Finally, after years of facing demolition when traveling to the top clubs’ grounds, a huge 2-0 victory over Manchester City at the Etihad in January served as both a catharsis and a massive confidence boost. Perhaps most remarkable in that match was Wenger’s willingness to concede possession and win on the counter, a strategy for which critics have cried for years, which also helped deliver the club’s second consecutive Community Shield win this past weekend in its 1-0 defeat of Chelsea. Other big matches throughout the campaign began to swing in Arsenal’s favor, including a memorable FA Cup victory over Manchester United. It is also vital to remember that even through Arsenal’s struggles against top opponents in recent years, no club has had as strong a record against non-top-four teams. That may sound pointless, but every game counts for the same. And while a good recent performance run against top teams guarantees nothing this season, the “ARSENAL CAN’T WIN BIG GAMES” narrative has quieted and the squad’s confidence has tangibly escalated, culminating in two FA Cup titles, which count for something.

If a talented, healthy, confident Arsenal has finally solved all of its problems, then what can stop the club from taking the coveted league title? Well, the answer is ultimately in the question. Thankfully, there will almost surely be no talent exodus from this squad (R.I.P. Fabregas, Nasri, van Persie, Clichy, Song, etc.), but the other factors face more risk. An unlucky injury spell could obviously cripple the team’s chances, but while even the club’s stars are spelled by capable replacements, the aforementioned spine serves as the most irreplaceable portion of the team. A long-term injury to Mertesacker or Koscielny would devastate the partnership that has become the cornership of the squad’s defensive end, but it would certainly not be the end-all, be-all for the club.

In my mind, it is difficult to see Arsenal winning the league without a strong season from Coquelin, who ESPNFC’s Tom Adams called “a silent superstar,” which arguably makes him the most important player in the entire squad. As Gunnerblog wrote this week, “It’s now impossible to imagine an Arsenal XI without Coquelin anchoring the midfield. And that’s the worry. If the Frenchman were to succumb to injury or suspension, there is no obvious alternative that can replicate his rugged but disciplined game.” The rise of perhaps the league’s greatest ball-winner directly coincided with the club’s second-half renaissance, and it now looks like a major injury or drop in form for Coquelin stands as the biggest danger entering the campaign.

Ultimately, despite the near flawlessness with which Arsenal enters the season, it is entirely possible that Chelsea and Manchester City simply play better. Chelsea’s lack of depth and Manchester City’s defensive troubles and simple absence of team cohesion should worry their respective fans, but they also possess at least as much talent and experience as Arsenal. If you are shouting from your chair that Manchester United will win the title, you are foolishly believing another stream of signings will solve a laundry list of problems — like having a defense, having a striker not named Wayne Rooney, and knowing how to play together — that plagued a vastly overrated side last season. United could easily place higher than fourth this year, but topping all three seemingly superior clubs looks a tall task.

Now, with Arsenal’s season kicking off Sunday versus West Ham, we can finally stop reading the foolish season previews that omit Coquelin and Cazorla from their lineups and see if the club can truly mount a title contention.

Ramblings about the NBA Finals as the Cavaliers Take a 2-1 Lead

Greetings from nowheresville, Indiana. Don’t get me wrong; it’s actually nice here. I just spent my entire morning watching Game Three of the 2015 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers (Gotta say all the relevant keywords in the first few paragraphs for that clutch SEO Optimization. Speaking of which, Matthew Dellavedova. LeBron James. Steph Curry. David Lee. Blog life). Anyway, I have words about the balls which go in baskets. Read them, in this extremely casually written article which will discuss all the #narratives that you crave. Most of this is going to be eye-test stuff that I’ve observed from just watching all three games thus far. Frankly, there is a plethora of better people to read about this kind of stuff, including anybody at SBNation NBA or Zach Lowe at Grantland or anyone at CBS Sports NBA. With that astonishing endorsement of my own work in mind, please enjoy my sentences.

The match-up between Golden State’s league-leading defense of the regular season and Cleveland’s spacing-bereft, injury-riddled, Love-less (ha!) and Kyrie-less offensive amalgamation of spare parts and oh yeah, that King dude, has gone roughly according to plan. Cleveland has struggled to score in any efficient manner and Golden State’s key defensive guys have been good at the *defensive* part of playing defense. By which I mean, they’ve played well within the GSW defensive game-plan by rotating appropriately (Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Andre Igoudala), protecting the rim exceedingly well at times (Andrew Bogut), and playing great on-ball defense (non-LBJ-guarding Thompson and anyone-guarding Igoudala).

What’s killing the Warriors is not necessarily LeBron going off (that’s just going to happen), nor is it Dellavedova hitting crazy scoop shots late in games, nor is it J.R. Smith cashing step-back jumpers over Thompson. The Warriors, specifically Bogut and Green, are getting eaten alive on the boards by Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov.

Here’s an interesting statistic, because I suspect most readers would look upon the previous sentence in complete agreement that the Cavs are destroying GSW on the boards: in the series, the Warriors are actually out-rebounding the Cavaliers (26.2 OREB% to 24.8%). So why does it look like the Cavs are so much more physical inside? Why does it feel like the Cavs are dominating the boards?

Simply, the Cavaliers have turned the modern era of pace-and-space basketball entirely on its head. The most successful regular season teams in the league today rely predominantly on efficient shooting and a faster pace across the league than in the grind-it-out periods from 1980-2005. The Warriors are the prime example of this philosophy; they have shooting at the guard and wing positions and the ability to go small at any time and run people off the floor. The Cavaliers are limiting this by having LeBron pound the ball for a minimum of 10 seconds nearly every time up the floor. Cleveland is taking a ton of shots with under 10 seconds left on the shot clock, and when they get an offensive rebound? Well the Warriors are going to have to defend for at least another 18 seconds or so. It feels like Cleveland is getting an unreasonable amount of offensive rebounds because they always have the ball.

Cleveland has slowed the pace almost to a complete halt. The series’ 89.7 possessions per 48 minutes ranks lower than every regular season team’s average (last-place Utah had an average pace of 90.4). The slow pace is having myriad beneficial effects for the Cavaliers.

  1. Rest. It’s no secret that Golden State is the much deeper team in this year’s Finals. Cleveland is without Irving and Love, and so lacking in talent that M I K E M I L L E R and James Jones are valuable bench guys who must give a few minutes a game to give the starters rest. Again, Golden State brings Igoudala, Shaun Livingston, Festus Ezeli, Leandro Barbosa, and Marresse Speights off the bench. Former All-NBA guy David Lee couldn’t get off the bench until game three! Slowing the pace to a crawl is hugely beneficial to giving hustle players like Dellavedova and Tristan Thompson a breather as they watch LeBron dribble into an isolation post from the elbow for the 14th consecutive possession.
  2. Limiting Golden State’s offense. Something people probably don’t talk about enough is how a team’s style of offense or defense can affect the opposite end of the floor. In this series, Golden State hasn’t been able to get out on the fast break and acquire any of their customary alley-oop dunks or wide open transition threes. The Cavs are limiting that by preventing turnovers with a slow offense that passes minimally (and perhaps importantly, most of the passing is done by a top-five passer in the game). They’re also limiting fast breaks by sending one or two of their big men to the boards while everybody else gets back quickly. This way they can contend on the boards, because Mozgov and Thompson are excellent at what they do, while not over-extending themselves and allowing quick baskets the other way.
    The most effective offense Golden State has had all series has come late in each game, when they’ve made furious comebacks to close out the fourth quarter. I don’t think this is a coincidence– an increased level of urgency in the offense is a good thing for Golden State because it results in a jumbled Cavalier defense and a lot more open shots. Dellavedova is doing a decent job of irritating Steph when the Warriors yield to the Cavs’ ideal pace and run half court sets, but Steph should kill him in high-speed situations 95 times out of 100. You saw a little bit of that towards the end of game three, with Steph getting open off multiple screens for two consecutive threes. If Golden State starts to push the ball, even if it only results in four-on-four semi-transition opportunities, I suspect the team will fare better for the remainder of the series. The Warriors are more comfortable playing a fast-paced style and it’s something they should strive to achieve in the next few games, even as Cleveland continues to pound the ball.
  3. De-emphasizes the talent differential. This is somewhat similar to the first point. Golden State is either more talented or equally talented with Cleveland at every single position except for starting small forward (hi larbon jeans). Minimizing the number of possessions in a game allows for as much variation as possible. Slow-paced teams who shoot lots of high variance three-points are good upset picks in the NCAA Tournament because they grind the game down and force the outcome to hinge on a few lucky possessions here and there. This is not to diminish what the Cavs are doing, because nearly everyone on the team is playing the best basketball of his life. It is to say that the Cavs are benefiting from fewer possessions because strange things can happen in small sample sizes, like Steph Curry going 2-for-15 on threes in Game Two. This is a classic upset strategy and it’s working well thus far, keeping all three games close into the final minutes.

Outside of the pace, which is in my opinion the tipping point for how the rest of the series plays out, here are a couple of other bulleted thoughts that I didn’t want to take the time to extrapolate much further.

    • Harrison Barnes has been mostly nonexistent in this series and Draymond Green looks like he’s trying to fit a two-ton square peg into a nostril every time he pulls up for a three-pointer (I think Draymond’s back is hurt really, really badly just based on watching him. I doubt he would tell anyone, but it seems to be having a huge effect on his play). Andre Igoudala has been excellent, even though he brings some mild spacing issues. Kerr should either start Igoudala over Barnes at small forward or have a very short leash for Barnes in game four. Barnes is a good player, but LeBron is eating his lunch and then stealing his lunch money for the rest of the school year.
    • Bogut doesn’t seem mobile or athletic enough to keep up with Mozgov and Thompson on the boards. Ezeli has the athleticism but I’m not sure he has the ball skills necessary to run the offense against a good defense. I thought Kerr might want to try David Lee during Game Two, and it ended up working nicely in Game Three. Lee has the athleticism to rebound with Tristofey Thompgov and can finish contested shots around the rim better than Ezeli and Bogut. You also don’t have to worry too much about his defense since neither Mozgov nor Thompson is a threat to do anything other than hit layups (Mozgov can also make the occasional midrange shot). Lee is also a better passer than Green and Bogut have been out of the pick and roll in this series. Green especially has been awful in this area.
    • I’m not all that worried about Curry right now. He missed a bunch of open shots through the first two games and that was bound to regress a little bit. He should be fine the rest of the series, and frankly I don’t think Dellavedova is bothering him THAT much. Irritating on defense and doing a good job, sure, but he’s not going to continue shutting down Golden State or Curry in the manner it has appeared through 2.5 games. I’m hoping Curry has a big Game Four and roasts Delly so everybody shuts up about this.
    • It’s weird that the Cavs’ massive defensive improvement seems so shocking when they replaced two meh defenders in their starting line-up with two good defenders due to injuries.
    • Of course now the David Blatt hype train is back on the rails, but I’d hesitate to give him too much credit just yet. I think he’s an okay coach, but it’s not too difficult to find success when your strategy is to rely almost entirely upon the best player in the world.
    • I still think the Warriors will win this series. If they adjusted to the Grizzlies’ style of play, I think they’re likely to adjust to the Cavs. This is one of the greatest regular season teams ever, and they should start playing like it eventually.

DCIAPC NFL Wild Card Edition

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[Bob on the mic]

Thank you thank you thank you! We couldn’t have done it without you! What in the world am I talking about? Well, after we released a year-transcending picksapalooza earlier this week, we have another DCIAPC this week featuring the NFL Wild Card matchups… meaning WE SET THE GUINNESS WORLD RECORD FOR MOST DCIAPC GAMES PICKED IN ONE WEEK. I just got off the phone with Mr. Guinness World Records, and he said we will be featured in the 2018 Guinness Book of World Records, which comes out next month. It’s just humbling to be mentioned in the same book as the eye-popping woman and the guy with the really long dick. [ED Harry: You weren’t supposed to spoil my appearance in the book, Bob!] Perhaps most notable about this record-setting week? We did it all without Harry writing a column. COULD DCIAB BE EXPERIENCING THE EWING THEORY? [Ed Matt: This may be the best paragraph in DCIAB history.]

I know that it’s cruel of us to move on so quickly after a great couple days of the college game to an inferior product, but that’s how life is. College football is like a vacation: so many possibilities, you have no idea what to expect, and no one gets paid. Meanwhile, the NFL is regimented factory labor. So, just a day after the climax of vacation, it’s a return to the factory for everyone. That said, we still very much enjoy our job in the factory, particularly in the high-stakes, win-or-go-home-but-wait-both-teams-go-home-anyway NFL playoffs. Hopefully I can replicate my 7-3-1 form from last year’s playoffs, which gave me a three-game win over my co-writers. I’m going to deliver a hot take and say I don’t do as well this year, and if that comes true, I have psychic abilities.

Onto the games! Remember, you can pick as well, and we will have a brand new set of standings for the NFL edition. I don’t want to use up my jokes or hint at my analysis before I get to my picks, so here are the matchups this weekend (spreads via Pinnacle):

Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers (-5.5), 3:20 CT, ESPN

Bob: The NFL playoffs kick off with the annual matchup between teams that 90% of America assumes are bad, and this year, they just might be correct. You probably think I’m kidding or exaggerating, but it actually is pretty rough: Arizona is 22nd in DVOA, while Carolina is 25th. It feels odd that an 11-win NFC West team has to go on the road to a 7-win NFC South team, much less be a 5.5-point underdog, but that it makes sense is probably even weirder. Arizona has struggled in every game since… ‘nam, while Carolina has looked pretty strong the last four weeks. I have no faith in a Ryan Lindley-led offense, but I also can’t really pick a Carolina squad that hasn’t beaten a playoff team since Detroit in Week 2. I expect a low-scoring game, and I’ll take the points. Arizona +5.5

Matt: These teams suck and I have no idea who to pick. I guess I’ll give the points. Whatever. Panthers by a touchdown. Carolina -5.5

Harry: While it’s my own fault, I feel a little deprived because I didn’t write either column this week, so let’s see how many jokes I can bang out in the space for my picks. Here we go!

Boy, ESPN really got shafted. I know it’s the NFL so the ratings will still be higher than the number of people who Lindsey Lohan has $%#&ed in a questionably locked Denny’s bathroom, but the Worldwide Leader paid all of this money for a playoff game and instead essentially ended up getting “Final Destination 6” because almost everyone subjected to this game live at the stadium is going to kill themselves by the end of it. Nine incredibly attractive people will escape the stadium with their lives intact before being slowly hunted down by Maurice Clarett and Cam Newton’s erratic driving. (Too soon?) Congrats, ESPN! No one feels sorry for you. Arizona +5.5

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers (-3), 7:15 CT, NBC:

Bob: I am so sick of these generally boring teams playing each other on national television three times every year ever since I have closely followed the NFL. DVOA has loved Baltimore all season, as they were very close to having the highest DVOA ever of a non-playoff team. These two teams each won by 20 at home in the regular season matchups. Down the stretch, Baltimore has looked extremely shaky, while Pittsburgh has looked strong. This line is likely this low because as of now, Le’Veon Bell looks to be out or very limited, but I still like Pittsburgh to win at home. Pittsburgh -3

Matt: Pittsburgh is going to throw the ball all over the field against Baltimore’s questionable secondary. I struggle to see how the Ravens can hold the Steelers under 27 points in this one, and I don’t think Joe Flacco will be able to put up that many without an unbelievable performance. Pittsburgh -3

Harry: I think the real question in this game has to be, “Is Joe Flacco elite?” Now, I know that this topic has never been broached before, so you’ll have to laud me for my originality. I’m basically a pioneer, except I didn’t die of dysentery somewhere in the middle of the rocky mountains while attempting to traverse from Massachusetts to Washington in a fucking wooden cart with a sheet on the top of it pulled by two shitty horses that I was only able to purchase by selling my oldest daughter to John Quincy Adams’s eldest son, a noted perverted jackass. Here’s my to the original question: who gives a shit?!?! WHY DOES ANYONE TALK ABOUT WHO IS “ELITE” AND NOT “ELITE”? This is one of the 34,897,228 reasons that I don’t really watch or care about the NFL outside of Aaron Rodgers because seriously how could you not watch Aaron Rodgers? That man is a wizard. And not the overrated basketball team that won one fucking playoff series against a injured/tired/limited Bulls team and sent everyone over the fucking moon. Jesus. Anyway, I definitely like the Steelers as I see Big Ben [tasteless rape joke redacted] with the aforementioned Ravens’ secondary. Pittsburgh -3

[Ed Matt: Ahem.]
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[ED Harry: Counting wins in January is something a Wizards fan would do.]

Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts (-3.5), 12:05 CT, CBS:

Bob: Andy Dalton (0-3 in the playoffs) is going on the road against my man Andrew Luck? This is easy… not so fast. Both teams have strong cases for Bill Simmons’ Good Bad Team, used to describe a team that can beat all the bad teams but struggles against anyone good. I should also note that DVOA says these teams are even. In my head, I consider Cincinnati the better team, but then I remember that Indianapolis beat Cincinnati 27-0 earlier this year, limiting the Bengals to just 135 yards of total offense. I am not convinced that performance is repeatable. I think Cincinnati has a great shot at winning, and the spread’s being over a field goal is tough, but here is what makes me like Indianapolis: Cincinnati has spent the last four weeks playing important games against Denver, Pittsburgh twice, and at Cleveland, while Indianapolis has sat at home masturbating and playing video games the last two weeks. Indianapolis -3.5

Matt: I started to trust Cincinnati after their great game against the Broncos, but they promptly followed that up with a stinker against Pittsburgh in prime time. I’ll take the Bob’s favorite jacking off material Andrew Luck and the Colts here. Indianapolis -3.5

Harry: This feels like an even game that goes down to the wire, so I’ll happily take the extra half point that pushes the spread over a field goal. I’m a little too fired up right now, so I’m going to mail  in this pick and not attempt to be funny. Cincinnati +3.5
Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys (-7), 3:40 CT, FOX:

Bob: Dallas is good – I would be worried if the Packers were going there – and Detroit is bad. This is the easy pick of the week in my opinion. Dallas -7

Matt: I don’t think Detroit is bad but Dallas seems to be improving every week. It might finally be time to invest a small amount of faith in the Cowboys. Dallas -7 (Apologies for abbreviated picks this week, but I’m burned out from the college DCIAPC. I’ll be better next week.) [ED Harry: BURNED OUT? “Oh look at me, I’m Matt and I wrote one &%$#ing column the entire year for DCIAPC and I’m so burned out. In fairness to me, I was really busy neglecting my duties at The Champaign Room, where I have written two solo posts since November 21 (!!!!).” Go to hell Matt, which for you is probably standard life except you’re only allowed to spend a couple hours a day on Twitter instead of 13.]

[Ed Matt: Here are Harry’s recent contributions to Canes Warning.]

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Harry: A key indicator that a team is not very good but snuck into the playoffs anyway is if it has an absurdly good record in one-score games, the outcomes of which are largely based on luck. (If you would like a college example, see 2012 Notre Dame or this year’s Florida State outfit. Those two went a combined 25-0 in the regular season by repeated razor-thin margins and then lost by a combined score of 101-34 against Alabama and Oregon, respectively, in championship or playoff games.) The Lions played a bunch of one-scores games this year and finished 316-1 in them (all numbers approximate). That is what you call a “harbinger of vicissitude” if you’re pompous asshole or a “bad sign” if you’re a normal human being. Dallas -7

DCIAPC 2.17: Picksapalooza 2014-15

Bowls of all shapes and sizes should be unilaterally accepted by the college football community.

What’s happening, ladies and gentlemen? In for Harry this week, this is Matt posting what I believe is just the second time all year I’ve taken over the lead-in column for a DCIAPC. Frankly, I just haven’t had too many topics I’d like to discuss. Most of my college football thoughts are Illini-centric, and I know you guys don’t want to read 1,000 words about that god-awful program (which is currently improving! [a little!] {let me have this one!}). Even more important than that, I’m usually pretty lazy and writing 1.5 columns a week for TCR keeps me satiated in terms of #content creation.

Why is this intro so boring and uninteresting? Perhaps because it is well past midnight in my current time zone and I am well past tired. Or perhaps it is because I am a terrible writer. There are myriad possibilities.

Since I feel guilty completely blowing off this intro, let’s talk about bowl games. If you are “that guy” who complains about there being too many bowl games, you are wrong and stupid. In fact, there are too few bowl games. Every team should go to a bowl game.

Think about the advantages of a bowl-bound team. These teams get roughly 15 extra practices to scout and develop their potential future starters, who’ve been stuck on the scout team all year trying to play like opposing teams. Bowl teams have extra recruiting opportunities to bring prospects in and see how the team operates when preparing for a game.

If you hate on the quantity of bowl games, you’re simply hating on fun. The teams want to play them, the bowl sponsors and stadiums want to host them, and the fans of every team involved want to watch them. Believe it or not, you are not obligated to watch Nevada play Louisiana-Lafayette. Just ignore it and watch the best teams play in late December and January if games between lesser teams bother you so much. I’ll continue to enjoy watching the excellent selection of early season bowl games, with contests like Western Kentucky/Central Michigan and Bowling Green/South Alabama.

Similar to the fight against LGBTQ folks (late-night brain tells me we should definitely go there), the allegedly excessive bowl games are easily ignored if you don’t support it. It doesn’t have to be your job to personally condemn and bring down the horrible institution that is the Bitcoin Bowl.

Further, because somebody out there is making this argument as I type, it doesn’t devalue the perk of going to a bowl game if you allow any .500 team to go. There are clear distinctions between the prestige of each bowl game and it’s fairly obvious to anyone who understands college football. A season that ends in the Outback Bowl is better than a season that ends in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. And if you believe that allowing .500 teams to cling to the “We made a bowl game” narrative to argue their success is a major issue, then perhaps you should just take a more nuanced approach to breaking down a team’s successes and failures.

Let other people have their fun in peace, you dumb Scrooges. Nobody cares what you think. Hopefully these words make sense when I read them tomorrow.

Last week’s games:

  • Louisiana Tech (-6) took advantage of Illinois making 400 critical miscues and won by 17.
  • Duke (+7.5) impressively hung in there until the very end with Arizona State, but was unable to pull out a victory in the closing minutes.
  • South Carolina (+3.5) won outright against a Miami team that may have some serious internal issues.
  • Nebraska (+7) played an inspired game against USC, but came up short in the fourth quarter. Frankly, it was amazing they were able to put up 42 points.
  • Clemson (+3) kicked the Oklahoma Sooners off the Empire State Building, ejected spittle (traveling at its terminal velocity) onto their body from the top of the building, walked downstairs and punched them in the nuts, brought out a medieval trebuchet to launch flaming balls of gasoline-covered wax at their corpses, allowed them to decompose for 72-96 hours, collected their remains, put them aboard a North Korean cargo vessel, and then launched torpedoes into the bottom of the ship, sending the entire team to a Communist, watery grave in the East China Sea.

The standings, which I lead because I am the best:

Season Bowl Record
Matt 40-45 5-5
Harry 37-48 4-6
Bob 36-49 5-5

And the splits, which I may have catastrophically miscalculated:

We All Agree  18-28
Matt Alone  6-4
Bob Alone  6-8
Harry Alone  7-8

From Harry last week:

As a reminder, if you want to make sure you don’t miss a post in the future, you can subscribe by email on the top right of this page for just four installments of $89.99. However, if you act now, we’ll waive all four installments and allow to subscribe ABSOLUTELY FREE. Happy Holidays! 

Peanut gallery:

Winning Percentage Season Record Bowl Record
Creed Tucker .538 43-37 5-5
Andrew Hunt .533 24-21
Andrew Kelley .475 19-21
Mike .433 26-34 2-3
Bobby .413 31-44 5-5
Drew .400 22-33 1-4

Here are all six million (all numbers approximate) bowls we’ll be picking this week. Get excited, because I’m excited (even though picking extra games greatly the chances that I do not finish in first place). As usual, all lines come from Pinnacle and game times are eastern. Rankings are from the College Football Playoff Rankings.

Wednesday, December 31st:

Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, Atlanta, Georgia

#9 Ole Miss vs. #6 TCU (-3.5), 12:30 PM, ESPN

Ole Miss managed to put together a spirited win over Mississippi State in their final game. Can they stay that motivated against TCU? This one’s a real peach.

Vizio Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, Arizona

#20 Boise State vs. #10 Arizona (-3), 4:00 PM, ESPN

For some reason, I find myself giddily excited for this game. Boise State has as much to prove as they ever have, with the chance to stick it to a Power Five conference team once again in the Fiesta Bowl. Jinkies!

Capital One Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida

#12 Georgia Tech vs. #7 Mississippi State (-7), 8:00 PM, ESPN

I almost got stung by a bee today. This has been a game description.

Thursday, January 1:

Outback Bowl, Tampa, Florida

#19 Auburn (-6.5) vs. #18 Wisconsin, 12:00 PM, ESPN2

This game is taking place in Tampa, so be sure to check out one of the independent tattoo parlors located conveniently outside every entrance to Raymond James Stadium.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, Arlington, Texas

#8 Michigan State vs. #5 Baylor (-2.5), 12:30 PM, ESPN

Between Michigan State’s sneakily-good offense and Baylor’s sneakily-good defense, this game’s most interesting match-up may come on the exact opposite side of the ball than what most are expecting.

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Florida

#25 Minnesota vs. #16 Missouri (-4.5), 1:00 PM, ABC

Jerry Kill is literally a gopher.

BRIEF INTERLUDE — Friday, January 2:

Valero Alamo Bowl, San Antonio, Texas

#14 UCLA (-1.5) vs. #11 Kansas State, 6:45 PM, ESPN

I was a bit surprised to see UCLA favored in this game, but given the Big 12’s performance in bowl games thus far, this spread could be far too low.

CFB PLAYOFF GAMES — Thursday, January 1:

Rose Bowl Game presented by Napswestern Mutual, Pasadena, California

#3 Florida State vs. #2 Oregon (-9), 5:00 PM, ESPN

Jameis Winston and the Semenoles (sic) take on Marcus Mariota and the Ducks in a battle of the soon-to-be top two quarterbacks in the 2015 NFL Draft. Whose cuisine will reign supreme? Nobody gives a shit because Alabama is winning it all anyway and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. Go home and tell your kids you love them because Nick Saban is taking over the world and soon we’ll all be helpless pawns, tirelessly working every day to ensure that no black person enters a predominantly white fraternity and no gay people have the right to marry each other (twice in one column, that’s good for a lifetime ban from Chick-Fil-A). [ED Harry: I swear, I didn’t write those shots at the South. This time.]

Allstate Sugar Bowl, New Orleans, Louisiana

#4 Ohio State vs. #1 Alabama (-9), 8:30 PM, ESPN

I don’t know what to say. Do you like Josh Groban music?

Without further ado, here are the DCIAB crew’s picks for every single important, semi-important, and quasi-important game over the next couple days. Note that most of the pick explanations will be pretty short, due to the sheer number of picks we have to make.

Ole Miss-TCU:

Matt: Even taking into account their win over Mississippi State, I can’t help but think TCU is going to come out and put a number on the Rebels. The Horned Frogs should be quite salty after missing the fourth spot in the CFB Playoff and will come out firing. The only non-outlier way I could see Ole Miss pulling this out is if they get an early two-score lead and grind away the rest of the game. That won’t happen. Texas Christian Jewniversity -3.5

Bob: F/+ loves both of these teams, and I’ve loved TCU all year (the best of the TCU-Baylor-Ohio State triumvirate in my opinion), and I’ll happily take Gary Patterson (big-game experience and a great coach) and Trevone Boykin (awesome) over Hugh Freeze (probably a good coach but no real bowl game experience) and Bo Wallace (not good). TCU -3.5

Harry: I’ve held firm on Ole Miss’s bandwagon in big games all season after they legitimized themselves with a victory over Alabama that only looks more impressive now. This team is damn good and it’s deliciously appealing to me to pick the Rebels and receive more than a field goal at the same time. AND MATT AND BOB BOTH PICKED TCU?!?! Looks like that Jew-hater Santa didn’t skip my house after all. Better late than never Kringle, you antisemitic fuck. REBELS +3.5

Boise State-Arizona:

Matt: In picking this game throughout confidence pools and whatnot, I’ve come to realize that I’m now a complete Boise State homer for no reason at all. I have picked them to win outright at every opportunity and now, faced with the high pressure of DCIAPC, I find myself second-guessing my confidence in the Broncos. They did, after all, lose to Air Force this year (then again, the military schools steal a lot of sneaky wins because of their offensive styles). Still, I’m going to remain true to my word even though I have a bad feeling Arizona wins this game by 20-plus. Boyz II Men State +3

Bob: Boise State is the better team according to F/+, but who gives a fuck about advanced statistics? I find it hard to take a team that lost to Air Force and beat a bunch of scrubs over a team that delivered consistent results and won a stacked PAC-12 South. I can totally envision Rich Rodriguez with a deer-in-the-headlights look as the Broncos roll them, but I like Arizona here. Arizona -3

Harry: Yeah, this one’s pretty easy in my view. Arizona essentially has a home game and I think they’re the better team. I’m aware that Boise State is returning to where the magic first happened, but this is pretty cut-and-dried. It’s astounding to me that the line is this low. I swear I’m not just picking against Matt every game in a desperate attempt to win. Seriously. *Spoiler Alert* IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE ME CHECK MY NEXT PICK. Arizona -3

Georgia Tech-Mississippi State:

Matt: Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Georgia Tech Yellow Short-Skirt-And-A-Long-Jackets +7

Bob: This one is tough. I see the Bulldog defense just out-athleting the Yellow Jacket option attack (which hasn’t been particularly good or bad in bowl games, as narratives would be tempted to say), with its offense moving the ball comfortably enough to win the game. The spread is pretty large between two perceptively even teams, but I’m going SEC on this one and taking all three favorites on New Year’s Eve. Mississippi State -7

Harry: AN ENTIRE TOUCHDOWN? Why does no one respect Georgia Tech’s offense? Especially going against the sieve that is Mississippi State’s defense, one that managed to allow more than 200 rushing yards to an offense piloted by the aforementioned Bo Wallace, this is a great opportunity to grab the points. GT +7

Auburn-Wisconsin:

Matt: I’ve been working on this post for over 1.5 hours now, and I’m tired of it. Somebody get me off this train. Help. Help. Help. I’m in need of assistance. I’ve made a horrible mistake. Auburn -6.5

Bob: Auburn is as good a four-loss team as I recall ever seeing and should handle Melvin Gordon better than Big Ten teams did. I was shocked the line was this low even before I remembered that Gary Andersen is gone. Auburn -6.5

Harry: USC failed me against Nebraska but I refuse to step off the Betting Against Teams That Just Lost Their Head Coaches bandwagon after just one bad result. Man, I really need to start picking against Matt again to give myself a chance at the crown. Auburn -6.5

Michigan State-Baylor:

Matt: Right now, Art Briles’ right hand is completely rubbed raw from masturbating to film of the Spartans’ defensive performance against Ohio State. Few are talking about it because they were never a strong national title contender, but Michigan State’s defense has taken a significant step back from last year’s squad, particularly in the secondary. Expect Briles and a probably-almost-fully healthy Bryce Petty to take advantage of that and put up some big numbers. This is my most confident bet of the entire bowl season (it’s doomed to fail). Baylor -2.5

Bob: Michigan State’s best win was at home to Nebraska, while Baylor beat TCU. Michigan State struggled against Oregon’s and Ohio State’s high-speed offenses, and Baylor’s is just as lethal. That said, I have a gut feeling that this Michigan State team is strong, and I don’t really trust Baylor, who lost its bowl game last year to UCF and has really not been that overwhelmingly impressive aside from the dumb TCU game. I’m going with my gut here. Michigan State +2.5

Harry: Well shit, I strongly agree with Matt again. This game is another no-brainer. (Naturally, this means I’ll be horribly wrong and Michigan State will win 66-3.) Has anyone actually bothered to check if MSU is any good? They picked up a decent home win by the skin of their teeth against Nebraska and beat…no one else. They were embarrassed by the only two elite teams on their schedule, Oregon and Ohio State. Michigan State is not that good. Baylor -2.5

Minnesota-Missouri:

Matt: As hard as it is for me to say this… deal with it.

Yes, I only picked them so I could insert that video. Minnesota Golden Kills +4.5

Bob: We can’t condescendingly scream “SEC” regarding a Missouri team who played as weak an SEC schedule as possible, but I like its defense to make it tough for Minnesota. I am not too confident about this, but an upper-middle class SEC team only giving up 5 points to an upper-middle class Big Ten team sounds like a good take. Missouri -4.5

Harry: Okay, now I’m going to blindly pick against Matt in a desperate attempt for the crown. Mizzou -4.5

UCLA-Kansas State:

Matt: Kansas State has flown casually under the radar this year since losing to Auburn early on. UCLA has more wild swings from awful to outstanding than any team in the nation. In this one, I think I’ll pick against the team with an offensive line consisting of origami sculptures. Can-Sass State +1.5

Bob: Are you guys even reading anymore? Kansas State’s three losses come to Auburn, TCU, and Baylor, and virtually every result this year has been respectable, while arguably more than half of UCLA’s have been rough. Kansas State +1.5

Harry: UCLA is definitely superior than Kansas State at its best, but who knows if the best version of the Bruins will show up. I certainly hope they do because I’m going to continue to big against Matt here. *Gus Johnson voice*UCLA -1.5  Never mind, Kansas State is the safer pick here and I can actually take it. You can see my final pick for the logic. Fighting Bill Snyders +1.5

Florida State-Oregon:

Matt: I really, really like Oregon to win this game, but I can’t help but feel this is too many points. Florida State isn’t going to roll over and certainly has a better shot at victory than Ohio State. Florida State +9

Bob: We here at DCIAB (and everyone who understands that win-loss records show little) have called Florida State overrated all year, but now I think the public has caught on and over-compensated. I have a strong feeling that Florida State is a historically notable outlier in close games with a phenomenal(-ly underrated right now) quarterback leading a team that plays up and down to opponents at an alarming level. The defending champion on a 29-game winning streak with Jameis Winston at quarterback is getting 9 points against a team missing its best defensive player by far. I’m confident in this one. Florida State +9

Harry: This is simply too many points for me to not agree with Matt here. :/ Florida State +9

Ohio State-Alabama:

Matt: THEM BEE-ONE-GEE PRETENDEERS AIN’T GAWT NUTHIN ON MY CRIMZON TIDE TO GO PAWWWWWWWWLLLLLLLLLL. Alabama -9

Bob: These are the top two teams in F/+, which will probably surprise a lot of people with regard to Ohio State’s ranking. I think Ohio State is very good and can keep it pretty close, and I think too many people are getting caught up in the holy Alabama (whom I have been saying is the best team all year, but still) versus the LOL BIG TEN Ohio State. That said, visions of Alabama finishing off Notre Dame and Michigan in five minutes coupled with the thought of Cardale Jones going up against the Alabama defense frighten me. Stud safety Landon Collins said of Jones, “He’s going to have to do a lot of processing and a lot of thinking. We’re definitely going to confuse him as much as possible.” I’m scared for Jones right now. Alabama -9

Harry: *checks how many games I’ve picked against Matt so far*

*realizes that choosing four games against him as opposed to three actually makes me less likely to tie it up and thus win on the bowl record tiebreaker*

*for those confused, the logic there is simple: because I sit three games back, if I choose three games against him, I need to win all of them; if I choose four games against him, I still need to win all of them because even going 3-1 would only give me a two-game swing; I am less likely go 4-0 than 3-0; thus, I can choose a fifth game against him and hope to go at least 4-1 or change one of my previous picks and hope for 3-0*

*changes the UCLA pick because I would rather try to go 3-0 than bet against Nick Saban matching wits with a young quarterback in his second career start*

Bama -9

 

DCIAPC 2.16: Here’s One More Present for Your Stocking

Screen Shot 2014-12-24 at 5.22.08 PMWhile most publications take Christmas off to spend some quality time with family, DCIAB will do no such thing! You can say that we can do this because two-thirds of us either don’t really celebrate Christmas or actively celebrate not celebrating Christmas, but I say it’s because we are better than everyone else.

It’s the second installment of our three-week coverage of bowl season, and the games this time around are certainly much better than last week’s meager slate. While this is a friendly competition, as we go down to the wire in the last couple weeks, things could get a bit chippy. I’m studying the BYU-Memphis post-game tape just in case I need to pull some moves to protect myself. So again, in case you missed us last week, here’s how this works from here on out:

We’ll pick our standard five games this week and then we’ll do all six major bowl games next week, with the column going up Monday to give you a couple days before the Peach and Orange Bowls kick on New Year’s Eve. Each bowl pick counts the same as the regular season standings and we’ll crown a champ after the New Year’s Day games. If there is a tie, the tiebreaker will be bowl record.

In a hilarious set of games that we managed to pick with mostly straight faces last week:

  • Louisiana-Lafayette (+1) rolled a Nevada team that might as well have not stepped off the plane in New Orleans
  • Utah (-3) flattened a Colorado State team that would have been an underdog even if its coach hadn’t left for Florida weeks before the game
  • Air Force (-1.5) completed a miraculous turnaround with a 38-24 win over Western Michigan, polishing off a 10-win season after finishing 3-9 in 2013
  • Memphis (-1.5) pulled off a thrilling double-overtime victory over BYU in Miami that will be remembered for being a thrilling contest between two sneaky-good football teams and for no other reasons at all
  • Marshall (-10) stomped Northern Illinois and likely sealed its distinction as the best college football team outside of the Power 5 conferences this year (although Boise State may have something to say about that in the Fiesta Bowl)

After a very good collective week for the three of us, here are the standings:

Season Bowl Record
Matt 38-42 3-2
Harry 37-43 4-1
Bob 35-45 4-1

And the splits:

We All Agree  18-25
Matt Alone  5-4
Bob Alone  6-8
Harry Alone  7-7

It was a sparse week for the peanut gallery, as Bob and I dropped the ball in Facebook promotion. We’ll do a better job this week. As a reminder, if you want to make sure you don’t miss a post in the future, you can subscribe by email on the top right of this page for just four installments of $89.99. However, if you act now, we’ll waive all four installments and allow to subscribe ABSOLUTELY FREE. Happy Holidays! Anyway, here’s the peanut gallery:

Winning Percentage Season Record Bowl Record
Creed Tucker .533 40-35 2-3
Andrew Hunt .533 24-21
Andrew Kelley .475 19-21
Mike .436 24-31
Drew .420 21-29
Bobby .414 29-41 3-2

Here are this week’s games. As usual, all lines come from Pinnacle and game times are eastern. The rankings come from the College Football Playoff Rankings. Illinois and Miami are both in action this week, so you get to waste time thinking about Matt’s and my shitty football teams again! Congratulations! As a matter of principle, I refuse to call bowls by their corporate sponsor name, so the final game on this list may appear to have a confusing name, but it is the original name of the bowl before money ate it.

Friday, December 26:

Heart of Dallas Bowl; Dallas, Texas

Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech (-6), 1, ESPN

Congratulations on making a bowl game for the first time in a few years, Illinois! Your reward is…a no-win situation against a Conference USA team! If Illinois wins, everyone will say, “That’s exactly what they should have done, they were playing a Conference USA team.” If they lose, everyone will point and laugh. Enjoy your stay in Dallas, Illini!

Saturday, December 27:

Sun Bowl; El Paso, Texas

#15 Arizona State (-7.5) vs. Duke, 2, CBS

Pretty good matchup for the Sun Bowl—at least on paper—between two solid teams near the top of their respective conferences. How good is Duke really, though? We’ll find out.

Independence Bowl; Shreveport, Louisiana

Miami (-3.5) vs. South Carolina, 3:30, ABC

Can’t think of a better place to spend Christmas than Shreveport, Louisiana. I bet people are just snatching up tickets for this one.

Holiday Bowl; San Diego, California

Nebraska vs. #24 USC (-7), 8, ESPN

The storyline for this game will likely center around how Nebraska plays without Bo Pelini, but USC is a solid team poised to make some noise in 2015. We’ll see if that starts in San Diego.

Monday, December 29:

Tangerine Bowl; Orlando, Florida

Oklahoma (-3) vs. #17 Clemson, 5:45, ESPN

I’ll definitely be skipping this one to avoid triggering my PTSD from watching Miami’s evisceration at the hands of Louisville in last year’s edition of this game. Onto the picks.

Illinois-La. Tech:

Harry: Louisiana Tech is certainly a decent team, but I think this line is a bit high. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bulldogs covered this spread, but I definitely don’t trust them to do it. Can’t wait until I get to hate myself for picking Illinois for one last time this year. Illinois +6

Matt: Recently, I’m realizing that it’s somewhat unwise to pick against teams hailing from the better conference in bowl games, even if advanced statistics indicate the other team’s superiority. This is one such case that scares me, as the statistically formidable Bulldogs rank ahead of Illinois in every category. Add that to my nervous feeling that Illinois was extremely lucky to win more than three games this year, and we could have a recipe for disaster. Still, six is a lot of points and I’ll nervously take the Illini to at least cover. Illinois +6

Bob: I’m the guy who actually celebrates Christmas here, and I’m scribing this up post-church, pre-dinner, so I apologize if I’m a little light on the analysis this week. I agree with what these guys said. I generally like to pick the power conference teams (i.e. Utah over Colorado State), and I am not too impressed Louisiana Tech’s results. Illinois +6

ASU-Duke:

Harry: I’ve thought of Duke as incredibly fortunate to have such a cupcake schedule this season and extremely overrated all year long. The Blue Devils confirmed my doubts with bad home losses to Virginia Tech and North Carolina in the final three weeks of the season. In one of my most confident picks that I’ve made all season, I’ll happily take the Sun Devils in a line that’s at least three points too low. ASU -7.5

Matt: Arizona State finished the season with several consecutive excellent performances, while Duke did just about the exact opposite. Ride with the Devils. Arizona State -7.5

Bob: Although F/+ pegs these teams as approximately even, I concur with the above statements. Duke has successfully handled the bad teams while struggling with better opponents, and Arizona State is arguably their best opponent of the season. Arizona State -7.5

Miami-S. Carolina:

Harry: This is a tough one because it’s a game that Miami really should win easily, especially now that Carolina’s leading receiver Shaq Rolland left the team before the bowl game to declare for the NFL draft. That said, Miami dropped games to Virginia and Pittsburgh in embarrassing fashion at the end of the year because of what looked like apathy. Despite the happy faces they’ve put on for the media, I can’t imagine that the UM players are too happy to be spending Christmas in freaking Shreveport either. I’ll take Miami because this should be a fairly easy victory on paper, but if apathy sets in again, the ‘Canes could easily flop again. Miami -3.5

Matt: This one comes down to whether or not Miami tries in my opinion, which Harry mentioned above. If they bring a Florida State-like effort to this game, they’ll win. If they slack and try to play SC like UVA/PITT, they’ll lose. I’m betting they’ve given up on this season and the ‘Cocks are able to pull out with a victory. South Carolina +3.5

Bob: I completely agree with Matt. South Carolina legitimately sucked this season, which worries me a little bit, but it’s tough for me to drop more than a field goal with a Miami team that botched games against Virginia and Pittsburgh in its two most recent games. South Carolina +3.5

Nebraska-USC:

Harry: After the decisive thumping that Colorado State took without its head coach, I’m not about to step off the Betting Against Teams That Just Lost Their Head Coaches bandwagon, especially with an underrated USC team laying just a touchdown. USC -7

Matt: Betting Against Teams That Just Lost Their Head Coaches bandwagon. USC -7

Bob: I’m not on that bandwagon usually, but the Pelini loss looks especially brutal to the players (but you can argue THE PLAYERS ARE WINNING THIS FOR BO and that stuff, which makes the whole argument senseless). I also just think USC has been the better team this year. It’s a lot of points to give up, but I am okay with it. Southern California -7

Oklahoma-Clemson:

Harry: Unfortunately for Clemson, Deshaun Watson will not be available in this game. Did anyone watch Clemson without him this season? I don’t care how disappointing Oklahoma was; I can’t believe the line is this low. Oklahoma -3

Matt: As bad as Clemson’s offense was this year without Deshaun Watson, they sport one of the top ten defenses in the country. They’ll hang in there and manage to cover or even win in a boring, low-scoring affair. Clemson +3

Bob: When only getting three points, I think it’s foolish to expect to “manage a cover” without winning. I think it’s fair to pick them to win given how tough their defense has been fantastic this year (#1 in F/+). This is a tough pick, but I just can’t take a Cole Stoudt-led team against a quality opponent. Oklahoma -3

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