Don't Call It A Bromance

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DCIAPC 3.16: The Jam-Packed Finale

Nick Saban is excited for the #BOWLEXTRAVAGANZA. Are you? Did we pick his team? Nonsensical third question? Find out below!

Welcome back to Don’t Call It A Picks Competition, our weekly column where Matt, Bob and Harry pick five college football games against the spread and make appalling jokes at pretty much everyone’s expense. As always, you’re invited to pick with us in the comment section and we’ll post the standings each week.

This week is the season finale, and to celebrate we’ll be picking all eight New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day bowl games!

We’ve made it, gang. College football season is nearly in the books and the College Football Playoff is around the corner. In honor of the occasion, and for the second straight year, we are closing out DCIAPC with a massive BOWL EXTRAVAGANZA. This week, we’ll be firing out more bowls than a Color Me Mine and I couldn’t be more elated. Let’s get right into it.

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In games we picked last week:

  • Toledo (+2.5) romped Temple on their way to an impressive victory under an interim head coach.
  • Boise State (-8) out-gained Northern Illinois (which is not a bad team!) by over 600 total yards in the most lopsided defeat in recent college football history.
  • Washington (-8.5) was somehow slated against a Conference USA team and performed appropriately.
  • Washington State (-2.5) covered and won against Miami in Al Golden’s coaching staff’s magnum opus on their way out the door in Coral Gables. I would be angry if the debacle weren’t so damn funny.
  • Nebraska (+6.5) actually beat UCLA and pretty convincingly at that! I say this without a hint of sarcasm, for real: the Big Ten is the best conference in the country this year.

As we head to the final week, just look at these damn standings:

Season Last Week
Matt 40-35 1-4
Harry 39-36 2-3
Bob 39-36 3-2

The peanut gallery is also going down to the wire, but two combatants have separated themselves from the pack. In other news, after taking a verbal beating for nearly the entire season, Jacob has a real chance at finishing in third place ahead of everyone making fun of him like three weeks ago. I have no dog in this fight, but I do find that pretty hilarious.

Winning Percentage Season Record Last Week
Andrew Kelley .536 37-32 0-0
Drew .520 39-36 3-2
Bobby P .471 33-37 2-3
Jacob Altstadt .462 30-35 2-3
Julian .462 30-35 2-3
Creed .453 34-41 1-4
Mike .455 25-30 0-0

TO THE MATCH-UPS

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Like last week, we’ll omit the sponsors, but we’re going GOING BACK TO EASTERN TIME because I, Harry, am heading down to South Florida for the Clemson-Oklahoma game and I’m writing the column this week.

NEW YEAR’S EVE

Peach Bowl: #18 Houston vs. #9 Florida State (-7), Noon, ESPN

We’ll see how high Florida State’s GAF level is, playing a Group of Five team in front of a group of way more than five empty seats. 

Harry: As I mentioned above, it does worry me that FSU probably won’t have its heart fully in this one. That said, the talent discrepancy is so big, I have to take FSU here, especially laying no more than a touchdown. FSU -7

Matt: We saw what FSU could do against a great Group of Five team some years ago when they played Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl. While these are two completely different teams, one can still observe how FSU used their massive talent advantage in that game to dominate physically and I would prognosticate that the same is likely to happen here. Give me the ‘Noles. FSU -7

Bob: Houston remains pretty overrated despite some good results throughout the year. Much of the hype surrounds Tom Herman’s coaching program-building, which supersede the hype this team deserves. I wonder if Florida State will get up for this one, but team-quality-wise, the Seminoles are superior in all aspects. Florida State -7

Orange Bowl: #1 Clemson vs. #4 Oklahoma (-3.5), 4, ESPN

Clemson’s first trip to Sun Life Stadium this year was so successful, they couldn’t help but go back for more in by far the best game of the weekend.

Harry: It still astonishes me that Clemson is not only the underdog here, but they’re getting more than a field goal! The offenses are pretty much a wash and Clemson’s defense is MUCH better, particularly the defensive front. Clemson will win this game outright; I’m more than happy to grab 3.5 points as well. Clemson +3.5

Matt: This is admittedly largely a personal opinion, but I think Oklahoma’s offense is better than Clemson’s. Clemson relies so heavily on Deshaun Watson, whereas Oklahoma has significant offensive threats at every skill position. On a related note, I also think Oklahoma is going to win this game. However, there is no reason for Clemson to be an underdog in this game given what they’ve proven this season. I’ll take Clemson and the points because I feel I have to given this ridiculous betting line, but I still think Oklahoma will win. Clemson +3.5

Bob: Casual fans have overlooked Clemson all year because they are less of a traditional power than many of the other playoff-competitive teams this year and play in the ACC. Clemson should be the favorite here, and it’s quite ridiculous they are getting more than a field goal. This game is basically a toss-up, and I would pick Clemson straight up if I had to. Getting this many points makes it an easy call. Clemson +3.5

Cotton Bowl: #2 Alabama (-9.5) vs. #3 Michigan State, 8, ESPN

Oh goody! Arguably the two most annoying fan bases in college football (don’t think I forgot about you, FSU; that’s what the “arguably” was for) square off and one of them has to lose! On the other hand, one of them has to win as well.

Harry: Alabama is the best team in college football and they’ll win this game fairly easily, but it has the look of a low-scoring battle between two teams trying to do the exact same thing. Because of that, 9.5 is just too many points. RRRRRRROOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLL TAAAAAAYYYYY Michigan State +9.5

Matt: If you know me, you know that a spread has to be unfathomably ludicrous for me to pick against Alabama. I have done it before, and never have I felt good about it afterwards. As such, I must stay true to my #brand, though this spread is indeed dangerously close to unfathomability, a word I have just created.*ahem*… RRRRRRRRRAWWWWWWWWWLLLLLLLLLLL TTTTTTTTAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIDDDDDDDDEEEEEEEEE SABAN DADGUMMIT -9.5

Bob: If you’ve read the blog any time in the last three years, you know that I/we love picking Alabama and think Michigan State had a stunning run of lucky results. HOWEVA, this spread is DISRESPECTFUL to a pretty good team (S&P+ ranked 9), though S&P+ actually shows an 11-point margin between these two. If you were to ask me about this game in casual conversation, I would tell you I think Alabama will win easily, but I just see too many possibilities of Michigan State losing in a close one or even pulling out a win. I think this is the smart pick. Michigan State +9.5

NEW YEAR’S DAY

Outback Bowl: #13 Northwestern vs. #22 Tennessee (-8.5), Noon, ESPN2

Northwestern’s reward for an outstanding 10-2 season? A trip to Tampa, Florida! Congratulations! At least it’s not Orlando or Jacksonville. 

Harry: Dare I say that Tennessee is actually…pretty good? Their losses are all to pretty solid teams by razor-thin margins (including a double-OT loss to playoff-bound Oklahoma and a five-point loss to Alabama on the road). When Northwestern played good teams this year, it went…not well. [Bob: As you’ll see, I mostly agree with this argument, but you have to give Northwestern credit for the Stanford win, which is much better than any by Tennessee.] Tennessee -8.5

Matt: This is one of the tougher spreads of bowl season for me. I think Northwestern is pretty bad (relative to ranking/resume), but Tennessee certainly hasn’t proven enough to deserve this near-double digit spread. I’ll take Northwestern, but I have a little pit in my stomach doing so. Northwestern +8.5

Bob: This spread is actually reasonable despite the team’s rankings, records, and what my fellow students stubbornly think. Did you know Tennessee had a 17-0 lead over everyone’s favorite team, Oklahoma, before losing in double overtime, lost by 1 at Florida, by 5 at Alabama, and by 4 to Arkansas? I won’t repeat the nature of Northwestern’s losses. Still, while I think the spread is reasonable, I think the smart pick is Northwestern and its 8th-ranked defense getting more than a touchdown against a team that appears to only be slightly better and, despite its impressive losses, does not have a single impressive win. Northwestern +8.5

Citrus Bowl: #14 Michigan (-4) vs. #19 Florida, 1, ABC

Speaking of Orlando, a fat guy visiting the Magic Kingdom by himself in a poorly-thought-out attempt to pick up moms probably has a better chance of scoring than Florida in this game.

Harry: Michigan is going to score at least 14 points in this game and that should be enough to win by at least four. Michigan -4

Matt: Michigan’s defense was pretty fantastic this season until monster NT Ryan Glasgow went down with an injury. Afterwards, it was just okay, struggling quite a bit against spread offenses. Neither team finished the season well, but I think Michigan’s issues are more de-habilitating than Florida’s. It’s just difficult to give away points in a game in which Michigan 6, Florida 4 is perhaps the likeliest final outcome. Florida +4

Bob: Two top-seven defenses, two offenses somewhere between mediocre and awful. Both teams have a “looked bad down the stretch” narrative attached to them due to late-season losses, which grossly overlooks whom those losses were to. This is a matchup that begs me to take the points no matter who gets them, especially if they’re over a field goal. Florida +4

Fiesta Bowl: #8 Notre Dame vs. #7 Ohio State (-6.5), 1, ESPN

It’s a tasty matchup in the Fiesta Bowl this year that Notre Dame fans will undoubtedly label as “Catholics vs. [Insert A Thinly Veiled Racist Moniker Here]”. Nothing like some good old religious moral superiority served with a heaping side of child molestation. 

Harry: Ohio State hasn’t convincingly beaten anyone this year aside from bookend performances against Virginia Tech and Michigan on major national stages. The Fiesta Bowl isn’t exactly on the national back-burner, but it’s also not the same type of spotlight. Meanwhile, Notre Dame has hung incredibly tough with Clemson and Stanford on the road; they can cover this spread. Notre Dame +6.5

Matt: Don’t understand this spread at all. Notre Dame has hung with the big boys all year, regardless of injuries, and I don’t expect that to change now. Ohio State is a great team, but Notre Dame is too good not to take the points. Notre Dame +6.5

Bob: Another game where I think the spread is too big in a game that the underdog could easily win or barely lose. Bowl games can have weird results and makes the favorites less reliable picks. I have no idea if that is backed up by evidence and I can’t look it up because I’m on a plane without wifi, but that’s certainly the intuition. This game should be fun, and I still think Ohio State is a great team, but this spread is just a little too high. Notre Dame +6.5

Rose Bowl: #6 Stanford (-6.5) vs. #5 Iowa, 5, ESPN

Despite every single college football fan not living in the state of Iowa wanting to see Stanford-Ohio State and Ohio State clearly being the more deserving team for this slot, the Rose Bowl went with Iowa. Guh.  

Harry: Iowa was fairly impressive against Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game, but they needed a flukey 70-yard touchdown bomb and some unsustainable red zone defense to keep that one as close as it was. Stanford is a better team than Michigan State in my opinion, and they’ll definitely win by at least a touchdown. Stanford -6.5

Matt: GO IOWA AWESOM–*sniper shot* Stanford -6.5

Bob: I saw both of these teams come to Ryan Field this year. Northwestern held a pedestrian-looking Stanford to 6 points and lost to Iowa and its backup running backs 40-10. Additionally, Stanford has twice as many losses and ranks below Iowa. Yet, Stanford is decidedly the better team whether you want to look at statistics or the “eye test.” The big spread worries me, but barring any funny business, Stanford *should* win this easily. Stanford -6.5

Sugar Bowl: #16 Oklahoma State vs. #12 Ole Miss (-7), 8:30, ESPN

Does anyone care about this game?

Harry: I will not be watching this football game. Ole Miss -7

Matt: I’d like to tell you that I’ll be watching this game, and that Harry is a grinch for not enjoying every single morsel of available college football, because late winter is coming, and that means no college football is coming, and that means NFL-exclusive football season brought to you by Nationwide Insurance is coming, and now I’m hyperventilating and feeling a tingling sensation in the fourth metacarpal of my right hand. I really would like that. But I won’t be watching this game, because it is between two of my least favorite college football teams to discuss and/or observe this season. Both were annoyingly overrated and overdiscussed, and only made those issues worse by actually beating two of the best teams on their schedule (TCU/The Tahhhhd) in a couple of the flukiest games all year.  I would like to offer my usual minuscule amount of insight into this game, but I don’t care about it even a little bit. It bores me, and I’m sure the feeling is mutual. It’s time to embrace the NFL-exclusive season, folks. CTE and questions of what constitutes a god damn catch for all. Ole Miss -7, which I picked because I’ve seen what the other two picked and I have no interest in risking the loss of my standings lead by betting on a team coached by Mike freakin’ Gundy

Bob: This New Year’s Six bowl somehow has two teams that are worse and less interesting than a handful of other non-NY6 games. The Robert Nkemdiche suspension throws a wrench into this whole equation.Oklahoma State’s resume relies on a lucky win over a TCU team that outgained it by 200(!) yards and simply not losing to any of the bad Big 12 teams. I’ve been saying since the game happened that Ole Miss’s win over Alabama was flukey, but they have a number of strong performances aside from that. I don’t love either of these teams, but I prefer an Ole Miss team with a number of high-quality wins in the tougher conference. This one should be high-scoring so I don’t mind the somewhat steep spread. Ole Miss -7

DCIAPC 3.15: Is a Bowl a Sandwich?

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Welcome back to Don’t Call It A Picks Competition, our weekly column where Matt, Bob and Harry pick five college football games against the spread and make appalling jokes at pretty much everyone’s expense. As always, you’re invited to pick with us in the comment section and we’ll post the standings each week.

This week, we begin our bowl coverage. This week, we pick the five top games between Tuesday and Saturday. We plan on doing something next week, but we are also three 20-year-olds on vacation, so who knows?

Bowls are weird. This year, 82 of the 127 full FBS members will play in bowl games. I did not quite realize what having 41 bowls feels like until it took me the entire first week and a half of winter break to pick all the games on ESPN’s Bowl Mania, which of course is sponsored by Capital One. The absurd plethora of bowls leads us to the existential consideration of our time: What is a bowl? An exhibition game? The biggest game of the season? An excuse for an extra month of sanctioned practice? A business ploy? A sandwich?

[ED Harry: Before we move on, I hope you’ll allow me a brief aside. For a couple of years leading up to the 2015 season, DCIAPC was an outlet for me to—how should I put this—make a bunch of people incredibly angry and even create some tense moments at extended family gatherings. (Yes, this actually happened.) This year, I feel like I got away from that.  I wasn’t nearly as bombastic as I’ve been; come to think of it, I really wasn’t an asshole at all.

This bowl season, I promise to change. I promise my takes with be hotter than your mom, who I will resume having sex with on a regular basis. I promise to throw caution to the wind, like it is a student assistant filming football practice at Notre Dame University. I promise to treat political correctness like history treats the Jews. I’m back, folks. Buckle in.]

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Championship Saturday recap:

  • Houston (-6.5) held off a weird Temple team that outgained the Cougars, clinching the top ranking among Group of 5 teams and a Peach Bowl matchup with Florida State.
  • Florida (+17) eeked out a cover against a clearly superior Alabama squad.
  • Stanford (-4.5) relatively smoothly held off USC for the second time this season.
  • Iowa (+3.5) covered but could not come through with a win over Michigan State in the grittiest game you’ll ever see.
  • Clemson (-5.5) survived a threatening North Carolina team and clinched the only undefeated regular season in the FBS.

The standings will come down to the bowls. As friend of the blog Drew Price says, “should be good.”

Season Last Week
Matt 39-31 2-3
Harry 37-33 3-2
Bob 36-34 3-2

And the peanut gallery. Lots of similar picks this week. AK takes the top spot in a controversial fashion: He did not pick the Houston-Temple game. However, he would still have passed Drew. Bobby also takes over Creed despite not making picks. The legality of these moves is currently facing investigation.

Winning Percentage Season Record Last Week
Andrew Kelley .536 37-32 3-1
Drew .514 36-34 2-3
Bobby P .477 31-34 0-0
Creed .471 33-37 2-3
Jacob Altstadt .467 28-32 2-3
Julian .467 28-32 3-2
Mike .455 25-30 0-0

TO THE MATCHUPS

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A couple rules I’m implementing here: 1) Sponsors will be omitted because fuck that. 2) We’re using central time because fuck eastern time. [ED Harry: As a resident of the eastern time zone for the majority of the year, this blatant micro-aggression against my people only goes to prove that DCIAB is not a SAFE SPACE for my kind. It’s 2015, man. Check your privilege. #ConcernedDCIAB1950]

Boca Raton Bowl: #24 Temple (-2.5) vs. Toledo, Tuesday 6 CT, ESPN

A nice matchup between two of the top Group of 5 teams in Harry’s dad’s backyard.

Bob: One of these teams is in the S&P+ top 25, and it’s not Temple. Toledo’s results impress me a bit more, and their success (big advantage on standard downs, rushing-oriented) seems more sustainable. This should be a good game, and the spread is essentially a toss-up. I like Toledo just a tad more. Toledo +2.5

Harry: One of these teams is marginally better and the other team is Temple. That said, Temple actually has their head coach for this one, unlike our beloved #MACtion unit. I’ll take Temple, especially when you toss in that I don’t have to lay more than a field goal and that the Owls have home field advantage because they’re LITERALLY playing in a stadium built for Owls (the usage of “literally” there is correct if you follow my joke, and if you don’t then you need to brush up on your Conference USA knowledge). This is unrelated, but Bernie Sanders is a socialist and if you’re considering voting for him, you should move a country that probably can’t afford to take you in due to its disastrous economic policy. Temple -2.5

Matt: 

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I took this photo yesterday from the beautiful hotel I’m staying at on vacation. Do you think I feel like giving one single iota of a crap about a game between Temple and Toledo? Or any of these other games, for that matter? Temple -2.5 (That was by far the douchiest thing I’ve ever written on this blog or anywhere.)

Poinsettia Bowl: Boise State (-8) vs. Northern Illinois, Wednesday 3:30 CT, ESPN

Boise State, which failed to live up to heavy expectations this year, enters the ring for some solid weekday #MACtion.

Bob: By my quick look, Boise State is 0-3 against teams above .500 this year, with another rough loss to 6-6 Utah State in there. It’s one notable win was in week one and against a team that finished 6-6. Northern Illinois has a similar look, but has an impressive win over Toledo and a competitive game with Ohio State on its resume. There’s just not enough evidence to show Boise State is much better than Northern Illinois. Northern Illinois +8

Harry: Granted, this is my gut talking, and I just ate Thai food so Lord knows my gut is not an especially reliable source right now, but I feel like Boise State is definitely much better than Northern Illinois. Also, Jurassic Park is SIGNIFICANTLY cooler than Star Wars and arguably more revolutionary to the movie industry. Fight me. Boise State -8

Matt: Everything Harry said in that comment is completely incorrect. I bet he didn’t even eat Thai food just before writing it. FRAUDULENT. Jon and Kate +8

Heart of Dallas Bowl: Washington (-8.5) vs. Southern Mississippi, Saturday 1:20 CT (CUBS!), ESPN

Fresh off a tough loss to Western Kentucky in the C-USA Championship, Brett Favre’s alma mater takes on a Washington team that appears better than its 6-6 record.

Bob: Washington, despite its 6-6 record, ranks 20th in S&P+ and 27th in FEI. Southern Mississippi is much worse in each. Washington has actually been pretty good this year, with its record mostly the victim of a schedule full of tough teams. On the other hand, Southern Miss navigated a cupcake C-USA schedule, with a nice win over Louisiana Tech surrounded by losses to any not-awful team they played, including Nebraska. The huge spread and the defensively oriented Huskies put me on the fence, but Washington averaged 48.5 points in its last two games. I’ll take them to cover. Washington -8.5

Harry: Sorry Bob, but I’m not sure if Nebraska qualifies as a not-awful team, considering they literally made a bowl game because they got good grades under Bo Pelini. This is just the another classic example of the MORAL DECAY of America in 2015. First, we allow a Muslim born in Kenya to become our president. Then, we allow gay people to destroy the sanctity of an American institution that straight people have upheld for decades by failing to actually maintain it more than half of the time. BUT WORST OF ALL, WE ALLOW 5-7 TEAMS TO GO TO BOWL GAMES?! This shit has gone too far. It’s time to Make America Great Again by electing a bigoted Republican who received the most media coverage of any public figure in 2015. And you know exactly who I’m talking about: CAITLYN JENNER 2016!

While we’re on the topic of white people being persecuted in America in 2015, I’ll just come out and say what reasonable people are thinking but are afraid to say: There’s no such thing as white privilege. If you disagree with me, I’ll use my trust fund to get the best lawyer in town to sue you for everything you have. That said, I agree with the rest of Bob’s analysis. Washington -8.5

Matt: Bob is the smartest of all of us and you should listen to the things that he says. Washington has been pretty #HOT of late, so they’ll be taking a lot of #MOMENTUM into this one. I’ll take the far more talented team to ease to victory. Washington -8.5

Sun Bowl: Miami vs. Washington State (-2.5), Saturday 1 CT, CBS

Two enigmatic teams remind us of the annual tough questions: Why does CBS only hold one bowl game? Why is it this one?

Bob: Both teams had up-and-down 8-4 seasons, and it’s tough to discern a strong difference between the two. Washington State’s results, including road wins at Oregon and UCLA and close losses to Stanford and Cal, look better to me, and I generally have a better feeling about them performing in a bowl game. Washington State -2.5

Harry: Call me a homer and an idiot (you’d be correct about at least the latter), but this is a good matchup for Miami. Washington State relies almost exclusively on moving the ball through the air, and while the Canes feature a much-maligned rushing defense, the defensive backfield is actually a strong suit. Add on that Miami’s weakness on the other side of the ball—the offensive line—will be going against one of the softer fronts it has faced this season and you have what should be a Miami victory in a fairly high scoring game. I’m surprised UM is the underdog here, and I’ll happily take the points.

Okay, back to where I hijack this column to make cringe-worthy political takes. I’ve now lampooned libs and right-wing nut jobs. Where do my true allegiances stand? Who should actually feel pissed off and who should be laughing along? The clear answer: anyone even remotely offended by my jokes either way. If you seriously care, what some random jamoke on the internet who has no actual authority on anything has to say, that’s a you problem and it seems to be an epidemic in today’s culture. Sorry, what were we talking about? Miami +2.5

Matt: Harry has completely gone off the rails. Speaking of rails, I’m going to take the team whose most recent head coach spent the second half of every game going through apparent cocaine sweats (is that a thing?) because his team’s double-digit deficit left him scrambling for an eight-ball to snort. How’s that for a segue? Now that I too am off the rails, here is my pick: Miami +2.5

Foster Farms Bowl: UCLA (-6.5) vs. Nebraska, Saturday 8:15 CT, ESPN

Nebraska, at 5-7, the DCIAB Goat, the team that voluntarily downgraded its head coach, versus Harry’s favorite quarterback. [ED Harry: How dare you assume that I love Josh Rosen simply because he is a Jew excelling in football. This is almost as egregious as the time I was racially profiled at Chipotle when the server simply assumed I wanted chicken in my burrito bowl without even asking. [[ED Matt: Wait hold on, that happened to me too.]] That said, both you and that Chipotle employee were correct in your assumptions. Gotta support members of the tribe and enjoy lean protein in the form of delicious Chipotle grilled chicken. Also that Chipotle story didn’t even happen to me; it happened to Matt but I got to WordPress editor for this column before he did so I’m claiming it. [[ED Matt: Oh God damnit.]] Wow this turned into the War and Peace of EDs. Now back to your regularly scheduled, marginally over-.500 football picks.]

Bob: I suspect Nebraska’s numbers are hugely boosted by its win over Michigan State led by a one-armed Connor Cook, not to mention the botched call that game them the win. Ultimately, Nebraska is a 5-7 team facing a solid (we think?) UCLA squad. I’m fine giving up less than a touchdown here. UCLA -6.5

Harry: This line is a joke and I will happily treat it as such. Also, the Romans killed Jesus, so please stop blaming us for it. PARLAY BET: Israel over Palestine -210 AND UCLA -6.5

Matt: Yarmulke. UCLA -6.5

Remember to submit your picks in the comments below! Or submit them to us by snail mail at the following address:

42069 Go Fuck Yourself Lane

Cleveland, Ohio 06969

DCIAPC 3.14: Championship Week

Welcome back to Don’t Call It A Picks Competition, our weekly column where Matt, Bob and Harry pick five college football games against the spread and make appalling jokes at pretty much everyone’s expense. As always, you’re invited to pick with us in the comment section and we’ll post the standings each week.

No podcast today.

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In games we picked last week (Matt is writing this part as well):

  • Ohio State (-1) exposed just how much Michigan was fading down the stretch, abusing the Wolverines on the ground with Ezekiel Elliot and J.T. Barrett on way to a completely dominant victory.
  • Northwestern (-3.5) rudely took advantage of an Illini squad that was clearly emotionally compromised given the tragic news of Bill Cubit’s extension, revealed just hours beforehand by the extremely competent Fighting Illini Athletic Department.
  • Florida State (-2.5) beat the crap out of Florida. Florida scored just two points in the entire game, literally dropping a deuce on the field.
  • Notre Dame (+4) covered, but their near victory was completely overshadowed in my mind by the absolutely idiotic game management by Stanford Head Coach David Shaw, confirming the likelihood that he will someday coach in the NFL.
  • Oklahoma (-7) did exactly what I thought they would at Oklahoma State, crushing the Cowboys, who seems to be the Big 12’s version of Ole Miss this season, winning one big game they have no business winning over a really good team (TCU/Alabama) because of turnovers.

(Back to Harry) In the standings, a surging Matt has run off a 9-1 record over the past two weeks to gain some breathing room on the field. [[Ed Matt: YEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAHHHHHHH]]]  However, keep in mind that we still have three weeks of bowl picks coming, so this race is still tighter than Stephen Piscotty’s buttcheeks with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth, folks.

Season Last Week
Matt 37-28 4-1
Harry 34-31 2-3
Bob 33-32 3-2

Here’s a look at the splits:

We All Agree  18-13
Bob Alone  5-6
Harry Alone  6-5
Matt Alone 8-4

And the peanut gallery. Drew and Andrew are still tied at the top, so let’s turn our attention to a HARD CHARGING JACOB, now ahead of two participants and within the hundredths place of Bobby and Creed. He’s also 9-1 over the past two weeks.

Winning Percentage Season Record Last Week
Drew .523 34-31 2-3
Andrew Kelley .523 34-31 2-3
Creed Tucker .477 31-34 2-3
Bobby .477 31-34 3-2
Jacob Altstadt .473 26-29 4-1
Mike .455 25-30 2-3
Julian .455 25-30 3-2

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Here is this week’s slate. As always, game times are eastern and on Saturday. We’re picking the five most relevant conference championship games of the week and none of our teams are involved in any of them. Hooray for basketball season.

AAC Championship: Temple vs. Houston (-6.5), Noon, ABC

Bob: I love Tom Herman, but right now, the numbers HATE Houston and even put Temple as four-point favorites. Houston is coming off an impressive win over Navy, but Temple also just trounced the team that beat Houston and the team that lost by one to Houston in back-to-back weeks. It’s going to be an interesting matchup between Houston’s high-scoring offense and Temple’s tough defense. Too large of a spread for a toss-up game. Temple +6.5

Harry: I agree with Bob that there’s too much recency bias here. Sure, Houston is coming off a very impressive beatdown of Navy, but two weeks ago the Cougars lost to UConn. I would definitely not be surprised if Houston covered this spread, but it’s too many points to lay with a somewhat inconsistent team. Temple +6.5

Matt: Might have some short picks this week, as I’m pretty burned out on writing after a long week of doing it nonstop for class. I’ll take Temple as well, frankly because I don’t want to lose ground betting on Houston when I think this is pretty much a toss-up. Temple +6.5

SEC Championship: Florida vs. Alabama (-17), 4, CBS

Bob: I love Alabama and so does the betting public, but this spread remains far too large. The real tough bet here is whether Florida will score at all against the nation’s top defense. Florida +17

Harry: I get that Florida is a shell of itself at this point, but a three-possession spread in a conference championship game is far too much. BOLD-ISH PREDICTION: Florida will find a way to score at least 10 points. Do I see Alabama putting up more than 27 points? Nah. Florida +17

Matt: RRRRRRRRAWWWWWWWWWLLLLLLLLLLL TTAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYDDDDDDDDEEEEEEEEEE Alabama -17

Pac-12 Championship: Stanford (-4.5) vs. USC, 7:45, ESPN

Bob: USC has not been quite as impressive since Clay Helton’s takeover as people like to think, with a number of close wins against mediocre teams. With two top offenses, this will be a high-scoring result, and I like Stanford by the same spread that I unsuccessfully took last week. Stanford -4.5

Harry: I’m still shocked that USC decided to tab Clay Helton as the guy going forward when they definitely have the financial wherewithal to throw $4 million per year at Tom Herman. Helton has done an admirable job, but Stanford is superior to USC on both sides of the ball and already beat the Trojans once this year in Los Angeles. Stanford -4.5

Matt: These hooligans said it all, including the weirdness of keeping Clay Helton on staff. If he had not randomly ascended into the role because of unforeseen circumstances, there’s no way he would even be a candidate for the job given his prior experience. Remind you of any other situation in college football? Stanford -4.5

Big Ten Championship: Michigan State (-3.5) vs. Iowa, 8, FOX

Bob: What scares me is that despite Iowa’s ridiculous run of luck this season, it is one very winnable game (remember all those really shaky Michigan State wins and that loss to Nebraska) away from qualifying for the College Football Playoff. Matchup-wise, Iowa is designed to stop the run and force teams to pass, which doesn’t bode well when the opponent is Michigan State. I actually think this pick is not as simply “don’t pick Iowa” as one would initially think, especially with it being over a field goal. Still, I have to go with the clearly better team here. Michigan State -3.5

Harry: While it scares Bob, the idea of Iowa in the College Football Playoff is so gloriously hilarious that I’ve been rooting hard for it since the Hawkeyes hit about 9-0. I do think it would be foolish to completely dismiss the Hawkeyes here, but it’s going to be an uphill battle for them. While Iowa is legitimately pretty good and can only win the games on its schedule, it doesn’t bode well that the best team the Hawkeyes have played is…Wisconsin? Northwestern? Pittsburgh? And out of those three, they only won one convincingly. Michigan State -3.5

Matt: This is the toughest pick of the week for me. I think these teams are pretty equal this season, with Michigan State having the opportunity to play a few better teams and taking advantage. Iowa is far more consistent, but S&P+ says Michigan State should be favored by around five points in this one, so I’ll stick to my trust in numbers. Michigan State -3.5

ACC Championship: North Carolina vs. Clemson (-5.5), 8, ABC

Bob: Clemson good. North Carolina ain’t played nobody. Again, I don’t think this is as simple of a pick as it initially seems, but I still think Clemson is decisively the better team and am surprised to see the spread this tight. Clemson -5.5

Harry: North Carolina is similar to Iowa in that they haven’t played a great team. However, unlike Iowa, they’ve straight up dominated some pretty decent teams like Pittsburgh and Miami. In other words, we have no idea how good the Tar Heels are. Clemson looked vulnerable last week against South Carolina and that helped push this line below a touchdown. I’ll take the Tigers, but not all that confidently. Clemson -5.5

Matt: Clemson is so, so, so good. I feel like I’ve seen a lot of people pick this upset, but I don’t see it happening without some major turnover issues for Clemson or some huge plays. Naturally, it wouldn’t be wise to pick UNC when I can only see them covering with a good deal of luck. Having watched both teams play several times this season and looked pretty extensively at their advanced statistics, it feels like Clemson should be favored by at least seven in this game, if not more. Clemson -5.5

Remember to make your picks in the comments!

 

DCIAB 3.13: Happy Thanksgiving, Unless You Root For Ohio State

 

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 07:  (L-R) John "Big Nut" Peters and Larry Lokai, fans of the Ohio State Buckeyes pose for a photo outside the stadium prior to the AllState BCS National Championship against the Louisiana State University Tigers on January 7, 2008 at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

This guy’s nuts!

Welcome back to Don’t Call It A Picks Competition, our weekly column where Matt, Bob and Harry pick five college football games against the spread and make appalling jokes at pretty much everyone’s expense. As always, you’re invited to pick with us in the comment section and we’ll post the standings each week.

Hello to our thousands of readers (plus or minus thousands)! We’re coming to the conclusion of our third season doing this and we wanted to express our heartfelt gratitude to all of you who participate weekly and make this column the enjoyable weekly activity that it is.

Happy Thanksgiving, to you and your families. Except if you root for Ohio State, then I hope your Thanksgiving is sad.

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In games we picked last week:

  • Minnesota (-4.5) picked up a win over Illinois IN THE HEARTLAND. I’d recap it more than that, but I didn’t watch the game and I don’t think anyone else did either.
  • Miami (-2) blew out Georgia Tech in a monsoon that sent the 5,000 or so fans in attendance to the exits midway through the third quarter.
  • Northwestern (+10) beat* Wisconsin on the road! What a dream season for the 9-2* Wildcats! Wow*!
  • Michigan State (+13) went on the road and took down an Ohio State team with its best players definitely focused on the task at hand and not at all looking ahead to the NFL.
  • Baylor (Pk) went on the road and rolled Oklahoma State in a game that confirmed our suspicions that Baylor is actually pretty great and OSU is not as good as its record indicates.

After an undefeated week, Matt surges to the top of the standings. However, keep in mind that we still have three weeks of bowl picks coming, so this race is still tighter than Stephen Piscotty’s buttcheeks with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth, folks.

Season Last Week
Matt 33-27 5-0 (!!)
Harry 32-28 3-2
Bob 30-30 3-2

Here’s a look at the splits:

We All Agree  16-12
Bob Alone  5-6
Harry Alone  6-4
Matt Alone 7-4

And the peanut gallery. It’s turning into a two horse race at the top with Drew and Andrew all tied up. Creed is slipping following his second consecutive 1-4 week. But take a look at the bottom, where Jacob is making a serious push to get out of the cellar.

Winning Percentage Season Record Last Week
Drew .533 32-28 3-2
Andrew Kelley .533 32-28 4-1
Creed Tucker .467 28-32 1-4
Bobby .467 28-32 2-3
Mike .460 23-27 2-3
Julian .440 22-28 3-2
Jacob Altstadt .440 22-28 5-0 (!!)

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Here is this week’s slate. As always, game times are eastern and on Saturday. Since Miami plays on Friday and Illinois and Northwestern play each other, we’ll pick four national games.

#8 Ohio State (-1) at #10 Michigan, Noon, ABC

Harry: Did anyone watch Ohio State this week? I get that this is The Game and the Buckeyes should be fired up, but that looked like a team that has already packed it in to prepare for the NFL Draft. Combine that with the fact that the Buckeyes’ national title hopes are all but dead and that gives them even less motivation. Ohio State is obviously the better team, but they won’t win. Michigan +1

Matt: I’ve been a fan of the way Michigan has played all year, but the loss of unheralded star Graham Glasgow at nose tackle has crippled (relatively speaking) what was one of the best defenses in the country through the halfway point of the season. I don’t think that Ohio State is going to lack for motivation in one of the greatest rivalries in sports, so I’ll take the more talented team to pull through this season. Ohio State -1

Bob: I actually don’t at all agree with the NFL narrative Harry (and many others) have pushed. These guys gave up the chance to go undefeated and repeat to instead give a little less effort in a game that already requires lot of sacrificing effort and injury potential? It’s a cheap narrative. Anyway, these teams are about even by most metrics, but when you look at Barrett vs. Rudock, Elliott vs. Smith, Bosa vs, and Michigan’s defense trending down, I like Ohio State here. If we want to throw in the motivation/effort stuff, I don’t think that will at all be a problem for the Buckeyes. Ohio State -1

#16 Northwestern (-3.5) vs. Illinois, 3:30, ESPNU

Harry: I’m not picking against the horseshoe that’s stuck up Northwestern’s ass this season anymore. Northwestern -3.5

Matt: These two teams have very similar statistical profiles, with Illinois having a slightly higher ranked offense and Northwestern having a slightly higher ranked defense according to S&P. For the first time since the conference schedule started, the Illini dropped below the Wildcats in overall S&P rankings, which is indicative of just how poorly Bill Cubit’s team has been playing as of late. With two relatively even teams, the game is probably going to come down to similar things as Illinois-Minnesota did last week: finishing drives and the turnover margin. Northwestern is probably more likely to succeed on both those fronts. Northwestern -3.5

Bob: These teams are about even despite what the rankings say, but I feel comfortable laying just 3.5 here with a slightly stronger Northwestern team. I actually don’t have much to say about this, as Northwestern consistently wins despite poor performances, and really anything is in play here. Northwestern -3.5

#13 Florida State (-2.5) at #12 Florida, 7:30, ESPN

Harry: This is a game I would never bet in a million years with real money. Florida has looked dominant at times, but outscoring Vanderbilt and FAU by a combined two points in regulation over the last two weeks does not give me much confidence in the Gators. That said, they are at home in a rivalry game and FSU is hardly a juggernaut this year. At the end of the day, I just can’t pick the UF team I’ve watched over the last two weeks. Florida State -2.5

Matt: I don’t feel comfortable giving Florida any credit after their past two performances. Give me the Seminoles and you can have the points. Florida State -2.5

Bob: Florida somehow remains #10 in S&P+ despite the shitshow in recent weeks. S&P+ doesn’t know that Will Grier took some medicine, but that still is shockingly high. Florida State still has that brutal Georgia Tech loss on its resume, but that’s not quite as bad as what Florida has been doing and I’ll take it as more of an anomaly. Florida State -2.5

#6 Notre Dame at #9 Stanford (-4), 7:30, FOX

Harry: I really do think that Notre Dame was a really good team at some point this season, but the injuries have simply piled up too much at this point. Stanford will knock them out of the playoff picture. Stanford -4

Matt: I’m with Harry here. Notre Dame would absolutely be one of the top four teams in the country if not for brutal injuries to half their offense (Illini fans know that feel, in both football and basketball). Stanford has stumbled a bit after a red hot start to their conference schedule, but they’re still a very good team that is likely to beat ND by a touchdown or so. Stanford -4

Bob: What these guys said. Too many injuries for the Irish, and though they have performed valiantly despite the health issue all year, it’s tough to pick them in Palo Alto. Stanford -4

#3 Oklahoma (-7) at #11 Oklahoma State, 8, ABC

Harry: I’m as big of an Oklahoma State doubter as anyone, but giving up a full touchdown at home against an Oklahoma outfit that’s questionable in its own right? No thank you. Oklahoma State +7

Matt: In high-scoring affairs like those of the Big 12, taking a seven-point spread is basically a straight up pick for a win or loss (not really, but let me have this one). I like Oklahoma to score in the 40s or 50s in this game and pull out a solid double digit victory, sealing their playoff status. Usually I’m down on Oklahoma, so it feels weird to trust them, but I’ll take the Sooners. Oklahoma -7

Bob: Do people realize Oklahoma lost to Texas and just because it didn’t happen within the last two weeks, people think Oklahoma is the #3 team in the country? If you want a more recent example, they won by a failed two-point conversion attempt at home to TCU’s B squad last week. I’m not a big fan of Oklahoma State, but they are a solid football team who at the very least is far better than Texas and TCU’s B squad. What Matt said is true about Big 12 spreads being reasonably augmented, but this line (and Oklahoma’s ranking) is a little too high. Oklahoma State +7

Remember to make your picks in the comments!

The Stretch Four 1.4: Kevin McHale and the Coaching Carousel

Welcome to a brand new (hopefully) weekly post at DCIAB called The Stretch Four. Longtime friend of the blog Nik Valdiserri has joined me to offer our NBA expertise in a variety of fun fashions every Friday. There are four regular segments to the post, along with other optional segments we’ll integrate as they become relevant.

Regular features of the post will include a short column on a league trend or event, some of our power rankings, the best NBA video we watched this week, and the Friday Spotlight, a picks competition for Friday night games with a similar structure to DCIAPC. Enjoy!

The Rockets and Kevin McHale

It has become a recurring theme in the NBA. The trigger is pulled quickly on coaches, whether or not there was success in the past. It’s a players’ league. It’s not hard to understand that.

The margin for error in a coach’s job is non-existent. They get all the blame or all the glory. Over the last decade, we’ve seen countless of examples from teams across the league who shuffle through coaches as if they were picking a name from a hat. Every owner and general manager wants to find its Gregg Popovich.

But just like a coach’s job, greatness has no margin for error. Winning championships is hard enough, but relationships with the front office, the city and the players all come to a very rare selection of coaches. Out of the 318 coaches that have had a shot at coaching an NBA team, only 31 have tasted the champagne. That is a 9.7 percent success rate in the 68 years of the NBA.

Of course, not all coaches are fired because they didn’t win a championship, but it’s certainly not an afterthought. Just over the past five years we have seen some unexpected coaching casualties.

George Karl was fired from the Denver Nuggets after the 2012-13 season when he won coach of the year and continued to keep the Nuggets relevant. After weeks of discussing contracts and extensions, the Nuggets decided to relieve Karl of coaching duties and head in another direction. Additionally, the Nuggets had been frustrated with Karl for not playing JaVale McGee, who had signed a four-year, $44 million extension in the offseason. Wow.

Lionel Hollins was fired from the Memphis Grizzlies following the 2012-13 season as well, after his team made a franchise-best run in the playoffs. The Grizzlies took down a 60-win Oklahoma City team en-route to the Western Conference Finals where the team was eventually swept by the San Antonio Spurs. Hollins was fired for his inability to agree with the front office. While Memphis was extremely unprofessional, Hollins was too.

Michael Malone was fired early last year from the Sacramento Kings after a hot 5-1 start led to a 11-13 mark. The Kings wanted to play at a faster pace and the management didn’t see it happening with Malone.

Tom Thibodeau was fired from the Chicago Bulls for his well-documented altercations with Chicago’s front office and his strenuous player management style, despite the team being at the top of the Eastern Conference every year.

And now, Kevin McHale. The minute I heard of McHale’s dismissal, I was confused. Even more confused than from what I had seen from his team in its first 11 games. The Rockets made a mistake, showing what just three bad weeks can do to you in the NBA.

It’s no secret the Rockets are off to a poor start, but it had very little to do with McHale’s coaching. There was no effort, no fire and no sense of urgency from this team coming out of the gates. It’s not an NBA coach’s job to fully motivate his players. These players are adults; superstars even. Coaches are supposed to put them in right places at the right times, not pound their chest for them.

While watching the Rockets’ first 11 games, it was pretty evident what was lacking: James Harden. Not even a year ago, many people, including myself, had Harden as the MVP of the league over Steph Curry. The Rockets made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals where they could not hang with the eventual NBA Champions, Golden State Warriors. However, an extremely successful season left the organization and its fans with confidence: the Rockets were ready to take the next step.

Yet, nothing has worked. No one has played defense, James Harden looks like he barely picked up a basketball all summer, and now Ty Lawson may face jail time due to an earlier DUI occurrence after a terrible start to the season. Not exactly the start everyone was hoping for, and firing McHale was Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey’s answer. The wrong answer.

Kevin McHale will without a doubt get another opportunity to be a head coach if he wants to. He was one of the first coaches to dive into analytics and always had a good relationship with Houston’s front office. After McHale signed a three-year extension last year, the Rockets were looking to take the next step forward in pursuing their championship goals. However, it only took a 4-7 start to sink that ship. Too early and too many distractions. A change had to be made, but not as coward of a one that took place. It’s easy to understand that every team except the 76ers want to win now, but with Lawson’s ongoing trial, Harden’s poor play and all the injuries, you give it a shot at trying to coach this team.

Disagree? Let’s take a look at some statistics and some fun photos:

First off: Defense. None of it has been played. Not in the half-court, not in transition. Lackluster effort on defense is going get you beat on any given night, no matter how good your offense may be.

IMG_1975

I think these examples are pretty self-explanatory, and do a perfect job of transitioning to my frustration with James Harden. What in the world is happening? Luckily, we saw a monstrous 44 point, 11 assist performance two  nights ago from Harden, but it’s been well documented that his teammates were upset with his play thus far.

People may argue McHale should have put his foot down and taken full charge of the team, but I couldn’t disagree more. That is without question James Harden’s job. If you want to be a superstar in this league, you have to prove it night in and night out. What separates the good from the great is consistency.

Any player can go out and score thirty one night and give every thing he has, but the great ones do it every night. Sure, bad shooting nights and games filled with turnovers happen, but the effort is ALWAYS there. Just look back at the NBA Finals a year ago. Steph Curry didn’t play his best basketball; he turned the ball over and took bad shots at times, but his effort never lacked and he ended up making huge plays down the stretch of games where the Warriors won.

We know the talent is there for Harden, but we’ll really get to know who he is as a teammate and star of this league while the Rockets dig themselves out a large (and McHale-less) hole.

For the Rockets as a team, limiting turnovers, better three point shooting, and more effort on defense will give this team a chance to get back in the playoff race in a loaded Western Conference. But can the Rockets be dangerous again without McHale? Only time will tell.

– Nik

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