NFC Playoff preview: First Round

#6 Philadelphia Eagles
Things looked gloomy for the Eagles after a 13-13 tie with the Cincinnati Bengals in week 11. In the end, that tie (and Tampa Bay’s collapse) helped the Eagles leapfrog the three 9-7 teams in the NFC to land the final playoff spot. The funny thing is the Eagles are a good team, and maybe even the best team in the NFL. The Eagles are top five in Yards per Game allowed, Rushing and Passing Yards allowed and Points Allowed per Game. We saw how effective the Eagle defense last week as it slammed the door on the Cowboys with two fumble recovery returns for touchdowns.

OFFENSE:The Eagles rank 9th in yards per game and 6th in Passing Yards per Game and Points Scored per Game. However, the Eagles are only 22nd in the league running the ball. 22nd!? With Brian Westbrook? The problem is the Eagles line is not a power running line. The Eagles only converted 55% of their 3rd or 4th and short opportunities this season, next to last in the league. The passing game success is a testament to the ability of the Eagles coaching staff to create specific mismatches and Donovan McNabb’s execution after the snap. I was listening to KNBR the other day and it was brought up that McNabb was running more than in the past and that has contributed to the overall success of the team. The However, McNabb had his second lowest rushing total of his career, 147 yards, in 2008. His lowest was in 2005, 55 yards, when he only played in nine games due to injury. McNabb’s mobility is not being wasted it’s just being used to avoid sacks and pick up passing yards in the air instead of QB rushing yards on the ground. McNabb is only getting sacked on 4.3% of drop backs which is the sixth best in the league.

The Eagles rode Jim Johnson’s defense the last month of the season. They only allowed three touchdowns over the last month of the season. With Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown able to play man coverage effectively, Brian Dawkins and Quintin Mikell are free to ball hawk and support the run when needed. Recovering fumbles is luck, but forcing fumbles is a skill and Dawkins was second in the league this season with six. The strength of the secondary is balanced on the defensive line with Trent Cole and Juqua Parker creating concern for opposing offensive lines. In the middle, Broderick Bunkley and Mike Patterson do a good job of clogging up the running lanes. Jim Johnson is known for his blitzing and Philadelphia is sacking opposing QBs on 8.4% of drop backs, fourth best in the league.

#3 Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings season didn’t start as planned. The team lost three of its first four games including blowing a 15-0 lead at home to the Colts in week two. Minnesota went on to win nine of twelve and locked up the NFC North title with a nice win over the New York Giants last week. It’s no secret that the two weapons the Vikings rely on are its defensive line and its running back.

On offense, it’s all about Adrian Peterson, your 2008 NFL rushing title holder with 1760 yards. Adrian Peterson has helped the offense get beyond the limitations of its quarterback, Tarvaris Jackson or Gus Frerotte. Peterson’s one blemish was his league leading nine fumbles and you can bet the Eagles are very aware of this stat. At wide receiver, Bernard Berrian has created a downfield threat to keep opposing defenses honest, but has yet to find a groove with Tavaris Jackson. In five games with Jackson as a starter Berrian has 10 receptions for 178 yards and two touchdowns while he has 38 receptions for 786 yards and five touchdowns with Frerotte under center. The hidden playmaker on offense is break out tight end Visanthe Shiancoe(Vi-SAN-tee SHANK-oh) – learn how to pronounce it because you’ll be hearing it a lot over the next few years. The Vikings will run pass plays to isolate Shiancoe in formations designed to trick the defense into guessing run.

The Vikings are first in rush defense this year because of the Williams Wall. Pat Williams and Kevin Williams clog up multiple offensive linemen, making it tough to run on them and the attention they require frees up Jared Allen to attack the QB. The Vikings are 4th in the league with 45 sacks and Jared Allen has almost a third of them with 14.5. Opposing offenses are forced to pick a poison. Shifting a blocker to account for Allen often leads to Kevin Williams or Chad Greenway finding a way into the backfield. The Vikings were second in league in stopping power runs (3rd and 4thdown short yardage runs) and sixth in the league in stuffs (basically, runs that don’t help you pick up first downs.) The passing defense ranks in the bottom third in the league, but part of that has to do with the Vikings ability to stop the run and teams giving up running the ball and trying to attack them through the air. Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin are both solid cover men with Madieu Williams and Darren Sharper providing adequate pass and rush support. Don’t let the passing stats fool you because the Viking defense is sacking opposing QBs on 9% of drop backs, second best in the league. If you want to attack the Viking through the air, you better protect your quarterback.

Philadelphia-Minnesota Matchup

Vikings on offense: You better believe Jim Johnson is going to blitz Tarvaris Jackson like crazy, from every direction, pretty much the whole game. Brad Childress knows this and will do his best to run misdirections, play actions and screen passes to try and beat the aggressive Eagle rush. Childress will run off tackle a lot to get AP into the open field and to try and slow the Eagle defensive ends. Tarvaris Jackson will need to keep his cool under pressure and take care of the ball while using his legs to improvise when needed. Besides Berrian, the Vikings don’t have a deep threat, so expect a lot of man coverage from Samuel and Brown with Brian Dawkins or Quintin Mikell shadowing Peterson and ripping at the ball on each tackle.

Eagles on offense:
The Eagles don’t have a power running game, so don’t expect them to attack the Williams Wall on the ground. I expect draw plays, shovel passes, swings and screens to Westbrook and Buckhalter to confuse and tire out the Viking front seven out. McNabb likes to spread the ball around in the air. During the season the Eagles had only one game with less than seven players catching a pass. I anticipate Andy Reid using a three tiered attack to exploit matchups. Since the Vikings don’t defend the TE well, Brent Celek and LJ Smith will be targeted often as the defense plays Westbrook and Buckhalter short and DeSean Jackson and Hank Baskett deep.

Prediction: The Eagles have a lot of positive buzz right now and look to be a tough foe, even on the road. Both defenses are upper echelon type defenses, especially at sacking the QB, but the balanced attack of the Eagle offense and better player at the QB position will be enough for the Eagles to punch their ticket to the Meadowlands next week.
Philadelphia 23 – Minnesota 17

# 5 Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons made all the right moves in the off season and went from 4-12 and scarred by the Michael Vick and Bobby Petrino messes to 11-5 with the Offensive Rookie of the Year at quarterback, the NFL’s second leading rusher, the a receiver in the top four in yards and possible coach of the year candidate.

OFFENSE: The Falcons like to pass down the field then run in the red zone. Michael Turner got 15 of his 17 TDs inside the red zone while Matt Ryan threw about half of his TDs from outside the red zone. Speaking of the Offensive ROY, he should be buying Roddy White a Rolex or a Hummer or something else nice really soon. White accounted for one third of Ryan’s completions, 40% of his passing yards and almost half of his touchdown passes. Michael Turner ended up as the leading ball carrier this season with 376 carries, but he maintained a solid 4.5 yard per carry average. Jerious Norwood is effective when he’s in the back field and can break big plays rushing or catching the ball. Don’t expect to see much TE work unless they are used to keep defenses honest in coverage.

DEFENSE: The Falcon defense played “bend but don’t break” most of the season. Atlanta finished in the bottom half in both passing and rushing yards allowed, but they were 11th in points allowed. The defense gets pressure on the QB, John Abraham finished third in the league with 16.5 sacks. Abraham’s sack total was a double edge sword. Opposing offenses had significantly greater success running right at Abraham than at any other Falcon defensive lineman. The Atlanta corners are young and often exposed. None of the top four corners on the roster has been in the league for more than 3 seasons. Starting safety Lawyer Milloy hurt his back and missed last week’s game, but plans to play this week. The Falcons linebackers have not played well despite their apparent talent. The two safeties each have more solo tackles than any linebacker. The Falcons defense gives up too many 10+ yard carries, but luckily they play Arizona this round.

#4 Arizona Cardinals
The season started with The Resurrection of Kurt Warner Tour. Warner had seven 300+ yard passing games this season including a stretch of five games in a row. The Cardinals can score points, but the defense also gives up a lot of points. In 11 of 16 games, the Cardinals gave up at least 20 points. The Cardinals finished 4th in Yards per Game, 2nd in passing yardage and 3rd in points per game. The outrageous passing attack camouflaged the last ranked rushing attack and porous pass defense. The Cardinals also played much better at home than they did on the road. Arizona scores 30 ppg at home which makes up for their pedestrian scoring defense at The University of Phoenix stadium which allowing 21 ppg. The numbers are basically reversed on the road (giving up 30 ppg and scoring only 21 ppg).

OFFENSE: Kurt Warner’s rebirth as potential MVP is due to the receiving weapons at his disposal. Three Cardinal wide receivers had more than 75 receptions and 1000 yards. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin both had more than 10 touchdowns a piece which accounted for 2/3 of Warner’s total. Warner was able to stay upright at a top ten rate this season and only fumbled twice. The flip side to the impressive air attack was the lack of any sort of rushing attack. The offensive line preformed well below average at creating space in the running game and they weren’t helped by their running backs who lacked break away speed. You won’t see much from the TE in this offense, it’s a three- or four-wide shotgun set most of the time. The over/under in this game is 51.5, for reason.

DEFENSE: The Arizona defense didn’t have a player with more than 5 sacks and the lack of QB pressure exposed the weakness in the secondary. The Cardinals were middle of the pack defending opponents #2 receivers, but in the bottom of the league at defending all other receivers including 28th against #1 receivers. Teams have been attacking rookie corner Dominique Rodger-Cromartie and it’s tough to say if his stats are representative of his talent or the result of a high volume of passes in his direction. Bertrand Berry and Darnell Dockett are the big dogs on the defensive line, but they are struggling stopping the run this year and as a result Adrian Wilson and Antrel Rolle are forced to make more tackles that should be made by linebackers or linemen.

Atlanta-Arizona Matchup

Falcons on offense: The Falcons love to run up the middle with Michael Turner. They ran 44% of the time up the middle, not reaching over 17% in any other direction. The Cardinals struggle to defend the run up the middle so I expect the Falcons to pound the ball up the middle and follow those runs with throws by Matt Ryan to Roddy White whenever possible. The Falcons will want to get on the board early and then control the clock with Turner after that.

Cardinals on offense: The Cardinals will spread the field and manufacture mismatches on whichever corner they feel like attacking, probably Chevis Jackson or Brent Grimes. The Cardinals like to move Boldin around and get him the ball on crossing patterns close to the line of scrimmage and let him run after the catch. When defenses start cheating up on Boldin, Warner will throw deep passes down the seam to Breaston. They will try an neutralize John Abraham’s pass rush by running off tackle at him and they will also utilize screen and swing passes to his side, probably to JJ Arrington who works well out of the backfield. Larry Fitzgerald is a beast and Atlanta will be spread thin trying to decide who to double and who to leave open.

Prediction: This matchup has all the looks of a shoot out. Both teams have efficient passing attacks, but flawed defenses, especially in the secondary. Arizona plays well at home and will be hosting its first playoff game since…ever. They will need to play from ahead to succeed because they’ll have trouble coming from behind once Atlanta starts playing ball control. Arizona has a shot because its best weapons, the receivers, match up with Atlanta’s greatest weakness, the inexperienced secondary. Each team will want to win the toss and receive to set the tone of the game. It could be a slug fest where the team who throws the last punch wins. In the end, Atlanta’s running game will be too strong for Arizona’s defense and the Falcons will be able to control the clock once they get the lead.
Atlanta 34 – Arizona 30

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I Need Some Action Recap

I went 2-2 over the weekend, but the two losses were close.

Cal -8 v. Miami. Loss. Cal misses covering by one in a game that Jahvid Best was dominating while Nate Longshore was choking. Longshore started off 0-4 and after Best rushed for 18 yards on two plays Vereen fumbles the ball away. Longshore played better in the second half, but Cal may have been better off running the Wildcat with Best at QB.

Drew Brees over 401.5 yards passsing. Loss. Drew Brees looked bad in the first half against the Panthers and only had about 100 some odd yards passing. The Saints rallied in the second half and Brees fell only 16 yards short of Marino's record. The last play of the game was a long pass that fell incomplete that was easily 20+ yards.

New England -6.5 agaisnt the Bills. Win. When I made this pick, I had checked the weather, but didn't see the 60mph wind gusts on the report on Wednesday. That made me sweat a little as it was 3-0 at halftime. I also forfot what the spread was during the game and thought it was 12 for some reason. Got myself all worked up for nothing.

Baltimore -12.5 against the Jaguars. Win. Baltimore was trailing 7-3 after one quarter and I was a little disheartened until the Ravens scored 21 points in the second and that was that. Piece of cake.

INSA total: 2-2

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The Mondays: Pop the Champagne

49ers: Nice win for the team and Singletary as Singletary was officially named head coach after the game. It was a good win because it seems that the decision to hire Singletary had been made earlier in the week and the rumors of such provided a good deal of distraction from a meaningless week 17 game. We’ll have plenty of time to discuss the future direction of this team, so I’ll stick with what I saw yesterday. The offensive line was playing hard and opening holes. DeShaun Foster doesn’t seem to run very hard for a big back (Carolina fans nod in agreement) even though he had a decent game. Shaun Hill was off in the first half after the initial drive, although that drive was mostly running plays. The defense held Portis to minimal gains after his first score, but had trouble containing Santana Moss. The Redskins were picking on Walt Harris and he should probably move to nickel back next season. Mark Roman continues to disappoint. Two full seasons without creating a turnover is unacceptable for a free safety. Bryant Johnson has played well the last couple games since he’s been healthy, but not better than either Jason Hill or Josh Morgan. Justin Smith did everything, pressured Jason Campbell, played the run well and tipped a pass or two. The 49ers have defended TEs well all year, but Chris Cooley had a pretty good game. You have to love the 1:30 drill Hill ran at the end of the game to set up the winning FG. The 49ers are the only team to score more than 25 points against the Redskins all season.

Raiders: Huge win for the Raiders and for the Eagles. Tampa’s defense has fallen off of late, coinciding with D-Coor Monte Kiffin announcing he was leaving after the season to join his son’s staff at Tennessee. Michael Bush made the case that he is a running back and not a full back. Johnnie Lee Higgins might be something. I don’t think he’s a top tier guy, at all, but he’s got speed and moves and that’s always dangerous. I don’t know if Cable is the guy for the head coaching job. Al Davis complicates things because he runs his franchise like no other owner, but Oakland showed yesterday that they are closer to competing than we were led to believe at the beginning of the season.
Sharks: The Sharks have problems with the Blues. I’m not sure why, it’s probably just one of those things like why Luther Head only goes buck wild against the Warriors. Nabby had a great game against the Blues, but I think they ran out of gas in the OT. The Sharks were very active at the end of the third, but looked a little slow in overtime. When the game went to a shootout, the Sharks didn’t look comfortable. The game was on the road and the Sharks still earned a point, so it’s not all bad. Tonight they play another team they’ve struggled against in the past, the Dallas Stars. It’s a tough stretch for the Sharks as they go to Minnesota after Dallas, come home for a game versus the Islanders then back to the road versus Calgary and Edmonton.

Warriors: They beat the World Champion Boston Celtics!! It’s all turning around!! It’s going to be okay!!! Nope. The Warriors caught the Celts after a back to back at the end of a road trip. It was still a good win, no doubt, but it’s going to be just a flash in the pan. Toronto visits tonight before the Warriors hit the road again and will have played 7 of 9 on the road. Just read Kawakami’s blog saying StackJack talked to Baron and Baron wants to come back. Too late. The Warriors are already screwed and it’ll probably cost Bellinelli, Randolph or Wright to get rid one of their other bad contracts. Worst of all, it won’t help in the win column at all.

Giants: They singed Randy Johnson to a one year deal. Good move. I hope he’s a good mentor to Cain and Lincecum. He’s only five wins shy of 300, so that’ll be a nice milestone to celebrate. Any excuse to party, right?

A's: Nothing to report. I would write about something if there was something, you have to believe me.

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I Need Some Action

Last second picks for the degenerate gamblers out there.

 Well, folks, when you're right 52% of the time, you're wrong 48% of the time
New England -6.5 @ Buffalo

New England has to win to make the playoffs, have scored 40+ points the last two weeks and Buffalo has a bottom ten pass defense.

Jacksonville @ Baltimore -12.5
Baltimore controls their playoff destiny. A win and they're in. Jacksonville's season has been over for a while and they face the number one defense on the road.

Drew Brees passes for more than 401.5 yards, breaking Marino's record. The Saints have flown the white flag. They put Reggie Bush on the IR when they still had an outside shot at the playoffs. Getting Brees the passing record would be a great motivator for the other players, not just the offense, but the defense too. 402 yards passing is a ton of yards against a good defense, but Brees at home is definitely capable.

Bay Area pick:
Cal -8 v. Miami in Emerald Bowl
A de facto home game for the Bears at AT&T park. Miami is traveling across the country and has suspended 5 players for this game including the starting quarterback. Cal is averaging 183 yards rushing per game (29th) while Miami is allowing 146 yards rushing.

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Notes on Singletary's Press Conference

Coach Singletary had his weekly press conference yesterday and reading over the transcript you can see why players respond to him. From Dan Brown's Hot Read blog:

Q: What did you think was going on? Did you have an idea of what was going on in your mind?

“Sometimes when you get in a situation, you’re just not playing well, you just aren’t playing in sync and as a coach, you can be on the sideline but you can’t feel it and I think you have to be in that huddle to see it and feel it and once you are on that sideline, no one can convey it better than the quarterback, no one can. So I said what I had to say and got the heck out of the way and let him[Hill] take it and let him direct them, the only way the quarterback can do it and let it take place.”

I think this quote outlines what a former player can bring to the head coach position. Singletary knows what it's like on the field and he knows as a coach he doesn't have the same feel for the game anymore. He knows who the leader on the field is, the quarterback. I can't say if Nolan feels the same, but I know that the Nolan-Smith rift was very damaging to the overall success of the team. Singletary hasn't treated his QBs with kid gloves, either. He benched JTO after less than a half and came close to benching Shaun Hill last game. Singletary's feel for the game is much better than Nolan's was and his instincts are paying dividends.

Q: Do you respect him more because he said, ‘Keep me in here,’ than if he had just listened to you and said, ‘Okay, I had a bad day…’

“Body language tells you a lot and I don’t really, it’s not so much, it really doesn’t matter what a guy says, I mean, everything is in a guy’s eyes. Everything is in his posture when he comes off the sidelines and when you look at a player, whether it’s a corner that just got beat for a touchdown, he comes off and he’s grabbing his ham[string], well is his ham[string] hurt or is his heart hurt? Is his confidence hurt? So when I looked at him and he said what he said, everything was there that said, ‘I really can get this done. You can trust me to go back out there and get this done.’ And that is what the body language said and I said, ‘You know what, okay, fine, you got it,’ and I told Coach Martz he’s going back in and let’s go with it.”

Singletary assessed his QBs body language and made the decision to stick with him the same way he made decisions when he was playing linebacker for the Bears. Singletary is read and react coaching and it's working. The last sentence from the quote above says a lot, too.
"...I told Coach Martz he’s going back in and let’s go with it."
There is no mistaking who is calling the shots on this team. Mike Singletary has a Hall of Fame background in defense, but he's not ignorant of the offense. He knows this is his team and he's going to run it as such. Martz may be his offensive coordinator, but Singletary will make the final call. Players respond to him. Fans respond to him. Even reporters respond to him. If Singletary wins on Sunday, he'll be the first 49ers head coach with a winning record since Mariucci in 2002. I mentioned it yesterday, but it would also move Singletqary to 3-1 after December 1st. Even Nolan, who had a reputation of winning some meaningless games late in the season, never won more than 2 games after December 1st.

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A Case of the Mondays: Christmas Edition

49ers:Christmas came early for the 49ers. For three quarters, Shaun Hill was feeling the Christmas Spirit and giving the ball away. Hill was almost rewarded for his generosity with a benching, but he promised the coach he still had more to give. He rallied the team and found his stride. He turned a forgetful homecoming for Isaac Bruce into a magnificent multiple milestone memory. Hill connected with Isaac Bruce for a touchdown to bring the 49ers within six points of the Rams with 4:06 left in the game. It was Bruce's 1000th career catch, the fifth player in NFL history to reach the 1000 catch mark. The defense seemed energized, even though they had been on the field almost twice as long as their counterparts. After two Steven Jackson runs, the Rams faced a 3rd and five. Bulger tried to find Holt on a quick out, but Nate Clements made a great play to knock the ball down. The 49ers needed to go 67 yards in 2:27 to pull out the victory. On first down, Hill is sacked by Pisa Tinoisamoa, two minute warning. The 49ers need 76 yards to win. After a Ram neutral zone infraction penalty, Hill hits Bruce for eight yards moving Bruce into second all time in receiving yards. Yes, second all time. Although he's 8,000 yards behind Jerry Rice. Hill finds Bryant Johnson for a first down and then The Play. Shaun Hill heaved the pass from the St. Louis 48 yard line and I didn't know what to expect. His earlier deep passes were ugly and poorly thrown and often intercepted. This pass was as ugly as any Shaun Hill deep ball, but well placed and Josh Morgan made a great leaping catch in front of teammate Jason Hill. Touchdown, Niners??? Wow.

You can say what you want about December victories for teams not going anywhere. After all, Nolan had a habit of performing well(for him) when the games didn't matter anymore. This game meant a whole lot. For one thing, this was a game that the 49ers were expected to win, on the road. Walt Harris summed it up:

If we would have lost, it would have been a big step back.
An ugly win? Yes. Did Mike Nolan have similar December wins? Yes. Is there a difference? Yes. Nolan was 2-3 in each December as head coach and his best December was, ironically, in 2005, his first season when the team gave up only 21.5 points a game. Singletary's teams is giving up only 14.5 points a game in December and under 10 points if you go back one game into November. On the season, the 2008 Singletarys are giving up 10 points a game less than the 2008 Nolans. That's not counting the Seattle game against either coach the week Nolan was out and Singletary was in. Maybe it's as simple as how Singletary speaks that makes me feel this is different. When Singletary speaks, his words make sense and what he says is beliveable. The fact is, if the Niners beat a Washington team at home who has nothing to play for, Singletary will be 3-1 in December and Nolan never did that.

Sharks: Sure, the 6-0 drubbing from the Champion Red Wings last week wasn't pretty. You don't want to lose like that to a team you may have to meet in the playoffs. You don't want to lose any mental edges and a 6-0 thrashing is unnerving. However, it was on the road, the second night if a back to back after losing the night before in overtime. The Sharks have some injuries and they weren't going to keep up "Best Start In History" pace the whole season, so a blip or two is to be expected. They came home and beat the Atlantic leading New York Rangers on Saturday and get a restful Christmas week at home.

Warriors: I can't watch this team right now. It's too depressing. Great, they beat the Bobcats. Jamal Crawford scored 50 points. Yay. Crawford and Turiaf tied with a team high 5 assists a piece. The Warriors only had 18 assists as a team, with Crawford and Turiaf accounting for 10 of them. That's abysmal. The Warriors need a distributor and have a bunch of bad contracts so they will have to overpay someone to get a "real" point guard and give up Wright or Randolph or both on top of it. It's funny how life works, especially for Warriors fans.

Raiders: Wish I could write about how the Raiders looked, but the game was blacked out.

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RT's BCS Breakdown

Virginia Tech v. Cincinnati (-2)

Most people hate the BCS because it does not give us, the fans, a fair way of determining who should play for the National Championship. I hate it because it gives us “big” bowl games with Virginia Tech facing Cincinnati. Who is going to watch this game outside of Blacksburg, VA and Cincinnati, OH!? To make matters worse, the line is 2 so it isn’t even worth betting on. I will breakdown the game for you in one sentence:

Betting against Frank Beamer rarely makes sense.

Pick: Virginia Tech +2

(That was painful)

Penn St. v. USC (-10)

How in the world is this line just 10 points!?! USC has proven year after year after year that they always show up for the big game and they usually run up the score when they feel they have been cheated by the BCS “system”. Furthermore, Pete Carroll knows that the Rose Bowl is one of the biggest recruiting events for him. All the recruits from cold weather states either watch the game on TV or go to Pasadena to watch USC kill their inferior Big Ten appointment. What 18 year old recruit would choose a cold weather school over 4 years in LA playing for a team that is always in the top 10? The only thing that could change their mind is a USC loss to Penn St. Pete Carroll is not about to let that happen and you can bet (get it) that he will not take his foot off the accelerator when the Trojans are up 21.

Pick: USC -25 (I mean … -10)

This is the lock of the bowl season.

Utah v. Alabama (-10.5)

The pick to win this game is easy … Alabama. However, the line makes this game interesting. Alabama should push Utah around with relative ease and their speed should be overwhelming but is it enough to beat an undefeated team by 11? Asking John Parker Wilson to beat a team by essentially two touchdowns makes me really nervous. When you couple that with Utah’s motivation to prove they can beat an SEC team, I have to go with the underdog.

Pick: Utah +10.5

Ohio St. v. Texas (-10)

Boise St. has killed almost every team they have played this year and NOBODY wants to play them on the big stage. This year is no different. Texas misses out on the National Championship game and now they have to try and get up for a game where they have nothing to gain. You have to love Boise St. in this …

Wait a second, Texas is playing Ohio St.!! Last time I checked, Terrell Pryor cannot complete a pass against a good, not great, Penn St. team and Texas is full of talented players on defense that are lead by one of the best coordinators in the game. Did I forget to mention that Texas is really bitter about how the Big 12 screwed them out of the National Championship and McCoy got shafted in the Heisman voting?

This game is a blowout!

Pick: Texas -10

(The only reason that this game is not the lock of the bowl season is the remote chance McCoy gets hurt and Texas wins 7-0. I would argue that Boise St. deserves to be in this game more than Texas deserves to be in the National Championship game and that is saying something)

Oklahoma v. Florida (-3)

The National Championship game is going to require a little more detail because it is (A) the game most of us care about and (B) it allows me to prove how much I know about both teams.

Oklahoma: If there has been one constant for OU all year it has been the stellar play of the offense. They can seemingly score at will and Bradford has been nothing short of amazing. While I believe McCoy was more deserving, Bradford has had a special year and is very much worthy of the Heisman. Similar to Texas and Vince Young in the 2006 National Championship game, OU’s chance to win this game rides almost solely on Bradford’s ability to dominate the game the way Young did three years ago.

Bradford must shoulder most of the responsibility because Oklahoma does not have a good defense and Bob Stoops is far from a big game coach. Texas and Oklahoma State scored at will on the Sooners and their offenses are very much inferior to Floridas. There is no reason to believe OU will be able to stop Tim Tebow and the Florida offense. Furthermore, Bob Stoops is not a big game coach. I know you have heard this from countless other people but you need to hear it again. Pete Carroll always has USC ready to play in the big games and Bob Stoops is the exact opposite. There are too many examples to name so you need not look any farther than last year’s Fiesta bowl where the Sooners looked disinterested at best. The defense and Stoops are HUGE question marks for the Sooners.

Florida: The strengths of the Gators are speed and Tim Tebow. The Gators are stacked with 5 star recruits that are faster and quicker than any other team in the NCAA. Besides their brain fart against Ole Miss, the Gators have won every game by just being faster to the ball than their opponents. It is hard to believe that the story will be any different on Jan. 8th. Of course, speed is not enough to win a National Championship. You need a leader and the Gators have one of the best leaders in college football history in Tim Tebow. His unselfish play is the reason the Gators are in this game. He could have put up the numbers he did last year but he knew that would not lead to more wins. He changed his game and the results speak for themselves.

The only weakness that can be seen in the Gators game is that they can be pushed around. Alabama was poised for the upset until the real John Parker Wilson emerged and the Crimson Tide offense slowed to one yard in the fourth quarter. Florida will not have that same luxury on Jan. 8th because the Sooners do have an above average offensive line and a supremely talented quarterback. Florida will have to mix-up their defensive play calls in-order to keep the Sooners from turning this game into a shootout which does not benefit the Gators.

Conclusion: Florida has too much speed on both sides of the ball for the Sooners. Bradford has not faced a team with the talent and quickness of the Gators and the lack of a true big play receiver is going to hurt them in the end. Furthermore, Tebow and Percy Harvin will run all over the OU defense just like Texas and Oklahoma State did. After the Georgia-Florida game I said I would take Florida minus 5 over any team in the country and I have no reason to think any differently.

Pick: Florida -3

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Mascot Throwdown: BCS Bowls

Orange Bowl Jan. 1 @ 5:00pm
Cincinnati Bearcats
Virginia Tech Hokies +2

Cincinnati had a fullback named Baehr and some fan yelled something about the team being Baehr-cats. That’s where it came from. I’m not sure how to react, on one hand it’s better than wildcats, but on the other hand it’s a pretty dumb way to get a nickname. Also, the mascot doesn’t have a name, he/she/it is just, The Bearcat. As far as the mascot throwdown is concerned a half bear half cat could do some damage. It’s no Manbearpig, but nothing really is.

Virginia Tech Hokies. Another “what the hell is that?” mascot. A Hokie is taken from the Old Hokie Spirit Yell. The Hokies are also known as the Fighting Gobblers, which stems from back in the day when it was a military college and the cadets ate so fast they were called gobblers. The actual mascot is Hokie Bird, who is just a giant turkey. You can win all the mascot championships you want, but a turkey versus a half bear half cat? No contest.

The Pick: Cincinnati Bearcats -2

Rose Bowl Jan. 1 @ 5:00pm

Penn State Nittany Lions
USC Trojans -10

Penn State Nittany Lions. The mascot is a combination of nearby Mount Nittany and local Mountain Lions that once roamed where the campus is located. The legend goes that a student made up the Nittany Lion on the spot after being ashamed that Penn State had no mascot when he visited Princeton in the early 20th century. The reasoning behind the mascot was that lions are dignified, courageous, magnificent and allegorically (ooh, big college word) represented the College Spirit of Penn State. Noble reasoning, to be sure. The mascot looks old school, with scarf, but not much else. The mascot's name isn't even creative, just The Nittany Lion? I’m less than impressed.

USC Trojans. USC’s nickname is the Trojans, the mascot is Traveler, a horse. That’s a little confusing because a guy who looks like a Trojan rides Traveler. Florida State lists both its horse and rider as mascot, while USC does not. It’s a shame because an armed warrior would really help USC’s case in the mascot throwdown. Although, I’ve never seen a mountain lion take down a horse, it could be possible. I have been bitten by a horse before and it hurts. I don’t think it’s a horse’s number one method for attack, but it’s still useful and quite surprising when you’re ten years old.

The Pick: USC Trojans -10

Sugar Bowl Jan. 2 @ 8:15pm
Alabama Crimson Tide
Utah Utes +10

Alabama Crimson Tide. The Crimson Tide may be the nickname, but the mascot is Big Al the elephant. A writer in the 30’s described the Alabama football team coming out from halftime as sounding like elephants and that stuck. Big Al didn’t make his debut until 1979, when having a cartoony mascot became en vogue. He’s big, is name’s not totally dumb and he’s an elephant. I don’t know too many things that stop an elephant.

Utah Utes. The Utes are named after the indigenous Native American people. Born in 1996, Swoop is the Red-tailed Hawk mascot of Utah which represents the soaring spirit of the state and school. I like the red-tailed hawk as a mascot. It’s different, it’s a bird of prey, the school had good reasoning behind the name, but hawk v. elephant is a no brainer.

The Pick: Alabama -10

Fiesta Bowl Jan. 5 @ 8:15pm
State Buckeyes
Texas Longhorns -9.5

Ohio State Buckeyes. The Buckeye is the state tree of Ohio and its fruits are poisonous to cattle and humans. Let me emphasize that, its fruits are poisonous to CATTLE. Of all the matchups the Ohio State could draw for the matchup throwdown, this may be the best one. Brutus the Buckeye is the mascot with a nicely alliterative name. He’s unarmed and is just a big nut head with human body, but it doesn’t matter, he’s, cue BBD, POISON!

Texas Longhorns. Texas has two mascots, Bevo and Hook ‘Em. Bevo is a Texas longhorn steer, the fourteenth in a long line of previous Bevos. A proud lineage that includes charging a SMU cheerleader (male), scattering the Baylor band, running loose on campus for a couple days and throwing down with a parked car. Hook ‘Em on the other end of the scale is pretty tame and probably only created because Bevo can only be “safely” deployed at football games. Bevo has a lot to offer and I would almost have to take him, but Buckeyes are his kryptonite. Although, he would have to eat the buckeye first, thereby destroying the buckeye. I have to believe Bevo would just stop the Buckeye and if he ate it afterwards, oh well.

The Pick: Texas Longhorns -9.5

BCS Championship Game Jan. 8 @ 8:15pm

Oklahoma Sooners
Florida Gators -3

Oklahoma Sooners. A Sooner, if you didn’t know, was a person who entered the Oklahoma territory before the land was opened for non-native settlement. It’s nice that it’s historically relevant tot the university, but also kind of weird- they have nicknamed themselves after cheaters, or line cutters, essentially. The Sooners mascot is the Sooner Schooner which is an old timey wagon pulled by two white ponies. This is a hard one to gauge for a mascot throwdown. A wagon? Pulled by two ponies? How does that quantify in a mascot throwdown? I guess it’s pretty formidable. If you can’t have an elephant you might as well have a big ass wagon pulled by horses. I’d jump out of the way.

Florida Gators. Florida and gators go hand in hand. Albert E. and Alberta Gator are the human costumed mascots. Apparently, they attend all FU sporting events together and are rarely seen apart, poor guy. Seriously, give the guy a second alone! The gator is a good mascot and also good for a mascot throwdown. On a neutral site though, I’ve got to go with the wagon. It’s close because the gator could spook the ponies causing havoc, but if they didn’t see the gator he’d get flattened.

The Pick: Oklahoma Sooners +3

If you missed the other bowl breakdown, here it is.

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Reading Between the Lines: Singletary

Mike Singletary isn’t one to mince words. He speaks his mind and, because of that, we can read between the lines when he talks about his employment in the near future. Mike Nolan had the opposite approach, spewing numerous empty statements consisting of political vagaries. Because Singletary is a straight shooter, we can take what he says and read between the lines with more assurance. The NFL has the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for their head coaching position. This rule also forbids teams from promoting interim head coaches during the season, even if the interim coach is a minority. After the season, the 49ers will have a window of possibly two weeks to exclusively negotiate with Singletary. I think Singletary will be the head coach of the 49ers for the next few years barring a couple highly unlikely scenarios.
First, let’s look at what Singletary said this week. The media had all but assumed that Singletary would have locked up the head coaching position with a win last week in Miami. Although the team didn’t come away with a win, the team played well without Frank Gore, and the most talked about subject at Singletary’s press conference was the interim coach’s future. After 3+ years of Nolan-ese, the media was skeptical of Singletary because he was thought to be too much like his predecessor. Instead, Singletary offers a refreshing honesty compared to the robotic calculations provided by Nolan.

"OK, I’m going to say this one more time. And I’m sure I’ll say it again. I am not trying to impress the Yorks. When I’m coaching, I’m not thinking about the Yorks. I’m not thinking that the Yorks are looking at me and hoping, ‘Well, I hope they saw that!’ I don’t really care about that."

This speaks to Singletary’s confidence. He knows the players are behind him. He knows there will be an opportunity next year for him, and if the 49ers don’t step up, someone else will. When asked if he would go through an interview process among multiple candidates after the season with San Francisco Singletary was hesitant to answer the question but he eventually accepted the reality that an interview process may be required to obtain the job.

“Q: If there is an interview process—with multiple candidates—would you participate?
SINGLETARY: Uh, I don’t know. I don’t know. That’s a very good question. I don’t know. I can’t give you an answer to that question right now.
Q: Why wouldn’t you go through an interview process?
SINGLETARY: Umm, OK. Yes. I will go through an interview process.
Q: You’re a competitive guy…
SINGLETARY: I am a competitive guy, OK? The competition, when you talk about competitive, I’m competitive in anything I do. But I’ll just say this: If there’s an interview, I’d probably go through the interview process.”

Singletary is posturing now. His stock is high and he’s doing what he can to increase his value come contract time. I listened to him on KNBR Tuesday morning and Singletary again answered questions about his future. When speaking about the spirit of the team, Singletary said the players are “excited to be part of something special, and they feel it on the horizon.” Singletary goes on to say he “doesn’t get involved with thinking about that” when talking about permanent job status. He says he has an agent and he lets him take care of it.

“I told my agent…I hired you to do your job, and you go ahead and do what you need to do. He has had some conversations…[and] at the appropriate time he can buzz me in on everything that’s happening when I need to know.”

That tells me, Singletary has gone over his requirements with his agent and his agent has talked to ownership about Singletary’s necessities and a deal will be done within that two week window.

There are a couple of outs that could change this direction, but both would require big investments from ownership. One is to check on the price and availability of Bill Cowher. It’s delicate because you don’t want to spurn Singletary or his agent by putting feelers out just to see about Cowher. The team could wind up with neither. The other out would be to bring in Scott Pioli from New England as team president. That would be a major shake up. He’d be expensive and want control over a lot of particulars including GM and head coach. The best option for the 49ers seems to be Singletary because he’ll be relatively cheap as a first time head coach, the players and coaches respond to him and the fans like him. Singletary has positioned himself to be the next 49ers head coach the old fashioned way, on the field, with results. I haven’t seen, read or heard anything from 49ers brass to indicate that Mike Singletary won’t be patrolling the sidelines at Candlestick next season as head coach.

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A Case of the Mondays - 12/15/08

49ers - The Niners looked good, except for Mark Roman. He didn't locate the ball and let David Martin, TE David Martin, get deep on him and score a long TD. On the Dolphins second TD, a missed coverage, by Roman, lead to a rookie third TE to get his first NFL TD.

Vernon Davis played pretty well, even though he dropped a wide open third down conversion. Also, Davis was right to want to be in on the final play. Barry Sims(alone) v. Joey Porter? Seriously? The team ran a lot more of the offense through Davis this game, which I liked. He had a screen pass that picked up a first down. He had a carry, which was cool, becuase the Niners ran it out of a formation they use all the time, where Davis motions to fullback. I didn't see any deep plays to Davis, though.

Isaac Bruce looks better every week, surprisingly. He's 59 yards from being second all time in receiving yards. Tim Brown has 14, 934 Bruce has 14,875 and #1 Jerry Rice has....22,895!!!! Insane.

I really think a healthy Frank Gore makes a huge difference in this game, despite Foster's better than expected showing.

Warriors - Too many chefs in the kitchen for the Warriors. It started with Baron opting out and it's been a series of unfortunate events ever since. Can we trade Jamal Crawford and Corey Maggette to the Clippers for Baron back? The team is just not the same and I don't know how it can be fixed right now without Isaiah Thomas in the league. God bless Andris Biedrins, the only guy on the Warriors earning his money these days. Check out Kawakami's latest blog piece about the possible trade scenarios available beginning today.

Sharks - I'm trying to get into the Sharks more. I've been tracking them more and more over the last couple years. I'm making even more of an effort this year because they are just plain good. They're like the Pariots of 2007 in a way. If you weren't into the NFL, you'd want to watch that team play to get an idea of what makes a good team. The Sharks are that way in the NHL this year. After they were down 3-1 to the Blues Saturday night in the 2nd period, they knew they could comeback, the fans at The Tank knew they could come back, I even knew they could come back, and they did comeback. Plus, West Coast hockey's biggest rivalry, of course it's Norcal v. Socal, Anaheim v. San Jose. The Sharks 2-0 shut out last week tells you who's in control right now.

Raiders - JaMarcus Russell must feel like he signed a deal with the Devil. Maybe he did. I hope, fo his sake, that Al brings in someone to mold him to his potential. He looked bad yesterday. The Raiders didn't even make it into Pats territory midway through the second quater. Sammy Morris averaged 8.7 seven yards a carry and LaMont Jordan averaged 8.1 yards and Kevin Faluk averaged 7.5!!

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NCAA Tournament Light: RT's Common Sense Bowl Picks

Bowl season is upon on us and it is time to join your office pool. The only problem is you don’t watch college football (up until last week I would have said lots of you do … just on Sundays). Never fear, I helped my friend Harrell make $60 in the NCAA tournament pool in 8th grade and I can help you win your pool this year. Unfortunately for you, I will only be giving you my non-BCS bowl picks today so you will have to check in next Thursday for the BCS picks.

(However, all smart gamblers know that the money is made in the smaller obscure games that are not as scrutinized by Vegas)

Navy v. Wake Forest (-3) – December 20

Whenever the line is 3 or lower, Vegas has no idea who is going to win so they just make the more popular team with the public - the favorite. In this case, that team is Wake Forest because most people think the armed forces teams are still terrible. As a result, this game is easy to pick …

Pick: Navy +3

Colorado St. v. Fresno St. (-3) – December 20

This Fresno St. team is not your older brothers Fresno St. team. What does that mean? They are not nearly as good as they have been in the past. Teams (I mean schools) have lowered their academic standards so all the great athletes Fresno St. used to have that could not spell smrt (smart) are able to play at more national schools. More accurately, Dennis Erickson is back at a warm weather school so all the junior college drop outs are going to Arizona St. instead of Fresno St.

Pick: Colorado St. +3

Memphis v. South Florida (-12.5) – December 20

Whenever a team is 400x more athletic than their opponent and they are dedicating a game to a player that died on their team this year, you always take that team no matter how many points they are giving up.

Pick: South Florida -12.5

BYU v. Arizona (-3)

Again, Vegas has no idea what to do with this game so they make Arizona a 3 point favorite because mormons don’t gamble. Furthermore, there is one rule you should always remember – never bet on a team in a bowl game coached by a Stoops. (Hint: you will hear this statement again next week)

Pick: BYU +3

Southern Mississippi v. Troy (-4)

When most people think of Troy, they think of a city in a history book that had a smokin’ hot lady named Helen and a wooden horse. When college football fans think of Troy, they think of them running up the score on teams that have no idea how to stop the spread offense.

Pick: Troy -4

Boise St. v. TCU (-2.5)

I would pick Boise St. to beat every team in the country expect for USC, Florida, Texas, OU and Alabama. So when they are getting 2.5 points against TCU, I say it's the lock of the non-BCS bowls.

Pick: Boise St. +2.5

Notre Dame v. Hawaii (-1.5)

Hawaii doesn’t lose in Hawaii and this game is basically a pick’em.

Pick: Hawaii -1.5

Florida Atlantic v. Central Michigan (-7)

Close your eyes. Seriously, close your eyes. If I told you a team from Florida was playing a cold weather team in a dome and the team from Florida is 7 points underdogs, what would you say? Me, too.

Pick: Florida Atlantic +7

West Virginia v. UNC (Pick)

This game is the hardest to pick out of all the non-BCS bowls. On the one hand, you have a West Virginia team that has basically underachieved for the entire season but they are coming off a decent win against South Florida. On the other hand, you have one of the most inconsistent teams in the country that smoked Rutgers and lost to NC State at home. Unlike OU, West Virginia always seems to play well in bowl games.

Pick: West Virginia

Wisconsin v. Florida St. (-5)

Wisconsin should have lost to Cal Poly at home! Again, Wisconsin should have lost to Cal Poly at home!

Pick: Florida St. -5

Miami v. Cal (-7)

Bad News: Cal never beats good teams from other conferences away from home. Good News: they are playing a bad Miami team 10 minutes from campus.

Pick: Cal -7

N. Illinois v. Louisiana Tech (-2)

If in doubt, take the team from the south (and it rhythms)

Pick: Louisiana Tech -2

NC State v. Rutgers (-7)

Beating Louisville by 700 points doesn’t mean you are good. It just means you are mad that they cost you a chance to embarrass yourselves on in a BCS bowl last year. Also, NC State beat UNC at UNC while Rutgers lost by 32 to UNC at home. This pick is easy.

Pick: NC State +7

Northwestern v. Mizzou (-13)

It has to be tough to be a Mizzou fan right about now. Can you imagine having to travel to Kansas City for two straight weekends to watch your team get beat? I would be angry even if my team had won! Northwestern rarely plays well away from home and they are catching a very motivated Mizzou team.

Pick: Mizzou +13

Maryland v. Nevada (-1)

Nevada? Favored? No.

Pick: Maryland +1

W. Michigan v. Rice (-3)

Rice has the greatest scoring duo in the history of college football and the over/under is 72 points which means neither team plays much defense. I will take the top scoring duo in a shootout.

Pick: Rice -3

Oregon v. Oklahoma St. (-3.5)

Oregon played one good game all season and it was two weeks ago. They have been out classed in almost every other tough game. Oklahoma St. lost to Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Texas. They only lose to good teams and they blow everybody else out. Oregon is not a good team.

Pick: Oklahoma St. -3.5

Air Force v. Houston (-2.5)

Do you have the guts to bet against Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl? Either do I.

Pick: Air Force +2.5

Pittsburgh v. Oregon St. (-3)

I have felt like Oregon St. has been skating on thin ice all year and the ice finally broke in the Civil War game. I don’t think they recover against a very good Pittsburgh team that is still trying to recover from their opening weekend loss to Bowling Green

Pick: Pittsburgh +3

Vanderbilt v. Boston College (-4)

Vanderbilt in a bowl game!? See Indiana v. Oklahoma St. for an indication of what happens to teams when their goal is just to make the post season.

Pick: Boston College -4

Minnesota v. Kansas (-10.5)

Vanderbilt = Minnesota = Indiana in 2007

Pick: Kansas -10.5

LSU v. Georgia Tech (-4)

Georgia Tech is well coached and they are playing this game at home. Not even Les Miles can convince his team that this is a big game.

Pick: Georgia Tech -4

South Carolina v. Iowa (-3.5)

Never, ever take a Big Ten school that is favored over an SEC school. It just doesn’t make sense.

Pick: South Carolina +3.5

Nebraska v. Clemson (-3)

Very similar to the Niners, the Clemson Tigers just needed to fire their terrible head coach to start playing well. Nebraska is still a work in progress but they are making progress. Normally, I would take Nebraska in this game but I think Clemson is just too athletic.

Pick: Clemson -3

Michigan State v. Georgia (-7.5)

The Citrus bowl is always worth watching because the SEC does not dominate the game as much as people think. (See Michigan against Florida last year). I think Michigan St. shocks Georgia.

Pick: Michigan St. +7.5

Ole Miss v. Texas Tech (-5.5)

Are Michael Crabtree and Graham Harrell sitting this one out!? How can a former number one team who only lost to Oklahoma be favored by only 5.5!? Lock number 2 of the non-BCS bowls.

Pick: Texas Tech -5.5

Buffalo v. UCONN (-4)

Buffalo avenges the loss by the basketball team and beats UCONN.

Pick: Buffalo +4

Tulsa v. Ball St. (-2.5)

How do you spell overrated? B-A-L-L-S-T-A-T-E

Pick: Tulsa

There are your picks for the non-BCS bowl games. Remember, my commission is 10%

Thanks, RT

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Bowl by Bowl Mascot Throwdown: Non-BCS games

I love the NFL. I watch it every Sunday. I don’t watch so much college football. Its part of the peace treaty I have with my wife where I get NFL football, but not college football. So, when Bowl Season arrives, formerly known as Holiday Season, I’m not very familiar with any of the teams. I want to win some money in a bowl pool and I don’t have the patience to weigh a ton of statistics for each team to help me decide who to pick. So, I’ve gone a different route. Mascot Throwdown! For each bowl I have a brief paragraph about the involved mascots and base my pick on who would win a mascot battle. Note: My reasoning is completely arbitrary and sometimes inconstant. Also, I got 99% of my information from Wikipedia and I don’t have a fact checker. All game times eastern.

Eagle Bank Bowl Dec. 20 @ 11 a.m.
Navy Midshipmen +3
Wake Forest Demon Deacons

The Navy Midshipmen. Contrary to what Navy would have you believe, a midshipman is in fact, not a goat. A goat, however, is probably more intimidating than an actual midshipman. So, Navy loses a point for having a mascot not related to their actual team name. I am partial to goats and think they are hilarious, so they make up the point.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons. The Demon Deacons were originally the Tigers way back in the 19th century. So, they get a point for changing from an all too common mascot to an obscure one. Wake Forest gets another point for being a religiously affiliated school (Baptist) that uses a heretical themed mascot. Another plus for the Deacons is because, as the legend goes, the school paper’s editor called the football team Demon Deacons because of their devilish play and fighting spirit against the school that became Duke.

The Pick: Demon Deacons -3

New Mexico Bowl Dec. 20 @ 2:30 pm
Fresno State Bulldogs
Colorado State Rams -3

The Fresno State Bulldogs. Fresno State’s Bulldog mascot is named “Timeout.” That doesn’t seem like that would inspire confidence in athletics. Timeouts are usually used to regroup and stall the opposition’s momentum. The mascot looks tough with bared teeth and a spiked collar, but the bulldog is also a very common.

The Colorado State Rams. Colorado State used to be Colorado A&M and used Aggies as a mascot. Lame. For the last sixty years CAM the ram has been the CSU mascot. A ram is not a goat, but its close and that’s a plus in my book. A ram may not strike fear in many people, but it does have some cool horns.

The Pick: Colorado State -3

magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl Dec. 20 @ 4:30 pm
Memphis Tigers
South Florida Bulls -13

The Memphis Tigers. There are a million tiger mascots, and his name, TOM, is an uncool acronym for Tigers Of Memphis. On a positive, TOM is a real, live Bengal tiger with some pretty sweet digs. According to he has “two swimming pools, a dedicated water well, a climate controlled den box, a veterinary facility, and multiple redundant security features.” All that will only set you back $600,000. Memphis does have a good cause to fight for this year. TOM II recently lost his bout with cancer and passed away in October. I don’t care what the spread is, when a mascot dies of cancer, you take the points.

The South Florida Bulls. A mascot choosing contest was held in 1962. The favorite was Buccaneers(no NFL Bucs, yet), but someone thought a Florida JC was already the Bucs and the second most popular suggestion was selected. The Golden Brahman. A Brahman is a breed of cattle originally from India. It’s like a Longhorn, but foreign and weird. It was soon discovered the Florida JC was the Pirates and a recount (In Florida!?!?) ensued. In the ‘80s, the mascot was changed to Bulls for marketing reasons. Also negatives for the Bulls, no real live Bull mascot and the bull’s name is Rocky D. Bull. I hate those kinds of names. Lou Seal, I’m looking at you.

The Pick: Memphis +13 (Do it for TOM II!)

Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl Dec. 20 @ 8:00pm
BYU Cougars
Arizona Wildcats -3

The Brigham Young Cougars. After a few failed attempts at humanely housing live cougars between the 1920’s and 40’s (they tried, which is worth something) the university settled on a costumed student. The cougar was named “Cosmo”, because BYU had just been named a Cosmopolitan school. Since I have no idea what a Cosmopolitan school is, it gets minus points. Cosmo Kramer and Cosmo Cougar are almost close enough to earn some points, almost. I should espouse on an actual cougar, which is pretty fierce and could mess you up. You definitely don’t want to mess with a cougar, that’s just common sense.

The Arizona Wildcats. The university had a real live wild cat (bobcat to the rest of us) as a mascot from 1915 to 1950 and he even had a cool name, Rufus Arizona. Alas, a costumed critter was created and named Wilbur. Making Wilbur even less cool than Rufus Arizona is the fact that he had a girlfriend wildcat named Wilma that he married in 1986. So, what started out as a cool, untamed mascot with a cool name became a "happily" married, dorky named mascot. Not to mention a cougar would totally mess a wild cat up.

The Pick: BYU +3

R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Dec. 21 @ 8:15 pm
Troy Trojans
Southern Miss Golden Eagles +4

The Troy Trojans. At one point, Troy University, which is in Alabama, was known as the “Red Wave,” but by the ‘70s people thought it was too close to Crimson Tide and so Troy became the Trojans. These days Trojans are known for being courageous and skillful warriors. Although, they did fall for the Trojan Horse thing, so that’s not good. Troy’s mascot is named “T-Roy”, which is borderline lame. It should be TeRoy, like LeRoy, only cooler. Trojans are equipped with a cool helmet, armor and a sword in case there’s a throw down, so that could tilt it.

The Southern Miss Golden Eagles. They’ve gone from Tigers to Yellow Jackets to Confederates to Southerners and finally Golden Eagles. Eagles are pretty sweet, swooping on prey and such. I mean, when your classified as a “bird of prey” people are going to know you mean business. How do you turn a cool bird of prey into Foghorn Leghorn? Name him Seymour D’Campus. I won’t even get into what I think his surname should be, but I’ll give you a hint. Southern Miss does not hold classes on Mardi Gras and this is the New Orleans Bowl. Nuff said.

The Pick: TeRoy! -4

San Diego Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl Dec. 23 @ 8pm
Boise State Broncos
TCU Horned Frogs – 2.5

The Boise State Broncos. The Boise State crowd is apparently too sensible for me to make fun of their mascot. They picked the mascot in 1932 because riding horses was, and probably still is, popular around the university. His name is Buster Bronco, which is cute, but not blatantly retarded. Unfortunately, the Western Michigan mascot is also known as Buster Bronco. I can see having the same type of mascot, but the same name? That should not stand. How would they decide it, Rodeo-style? Could they have a buck-off? Seriously, a bucking bronco is dangerous and if you ride said bucking broncos, you are a man. No doubt.

Texas Christian Horned Frogs. This just in! A Horned Frog is not, in fact, a frog. It’s not even an amphibian! It’s a lizard. That’s minus points for misleading us. I’ll give the points back because I love hearing Yosemite Sam say “Great horny toads!” Also, in addition to the “horns”, as a defensive measure, these creatures can squirt an aimed stream of blood from the corners of its eyes up to five feet. This defensive tactic isn’t very effective against human encroachment and the animal is endangered. That’s a bit of a downer. The mascot’s name is Superfrog, which I like, but I don’t know it’d hold up versus a Bronco.

The Pick: Boise State +2.5

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl Dec. 24 @ 8 pm
Hawaii Warriors
Notre Dame Fighting Irish +2

The Hawaii Warriors. Formerly known as the Rainbow Warriors until 2000 when the football team, probably tired of rainbow related insults, asked for it to be changed. While the men’s athletics department shortened the mascot to the Warriors, the Rainbow Wahine (or Rainbow Women for us mainlanders) shortened theirs to the Rainbows or just Bows. To make up for the emasculating taunts over the years, the new rainbow-less warrior wasn’t going to take any crap from opponents. In fact, their was a bit of a dust up when, amongst other things, he dropped a Jimmy “Super Fly” Snuka elbow on the University of Alabama mascot. Well, what did you expect? He was going to pass around rally leis all game?

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Maybe the most politically incorrect mascot name that no one cares about. Technically, the nickname is Fighting Irish and the mascot is a leprechaun. So, leprechauns are magical and, ironically for this bowl, chill at the end of rainbows. The leprechaun is a type of male faerie, who likes himself some gold. You have to catch him and interrogate him to get it, so brush up on your water boarding before you hit the shamrock fields.

The Pick: Hawaii Warriors -2

Motor City Bowl Dec. 26 @ 8 pm
Florida Atlantic
Central Michigan -6.5

The Florida Atlantic Owls. Not a big , scary owl, a burrowing owl. They are quite popular in the area, so popular they decided to dig up the owl habitat to plant a university on it. In fact, the Audubon Society declared FAU’s land an owl sanctuary so the university couldn’t expand its campus in 1971. On a positive side, the mascot’s name is easy to remember, Owsley the Owl.

The Central Michigan Chippewas. Central Michigan does not have an actual mascot, just the Chippewa nickname. They also have the backing of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, political correctors take notice. You’d think it’d be easy to top a burrowing owl, but Central Michigan is not giving us much. The Chippewa do have a traditional Sasquatch-like figure named the Wendigo, who was a cannibalistic family devourer. Something to think about, CMU.

The Pick: Florida Atlantic Owls +6.5

Meineke Car Care Bowl Dec. 27 @ 1 pm
West Virginia Mountaineers
North Carolina Tar Heels (Pick)

The West Virginia Mountaineers. A mountaineer is a buckskin clad dude with a coonskin cap who runs around cheering and shooting his rifle in the air. Davey Crockett reincarnated, basically. It’s a little plain, but you get a rifle and can grow a beard and get to hang out with cheerleaders, so it’s not all bad. While in costume, he may not be under the influence of alcohol at any time, which kind of limits the authenticity. What’s a mountaineer without moonshine?

The North Carolina Tar Heels. What’s a Tar Heel? Someone from North Carolina. Yup, that’s it. North Carolina used to be the top tar producing state and people from the state eventually were called Tar Heels. Bo-ring. The UNC mascot, Ramses, is way more exciting. He’s got a cool pharaoh name and painted blue horns. There’s also a costumed human mascot of the same name. If a mountaineer can skin a buck and a raccoon, he probably sheared a sheep while in his squirrel skin diapers.

The Pick: West Virginia

Champs Sports Bowl Dec. 27 @ 4:30 pm
Wisconsin Badgers
Florida State Seminoles-4.5

The Wisconsin Badgers. Wisconsin was known as the Badger State because prospectors in the state had to live like badgers in the harsh conditions. The mascot’s name is Buckingham U. Badger, or Bucky Badger for short. The university tried a real live badger at first, but it proved to be too fierce (good sign) and was retired to the zoo. The live badger was replaced by a costumed human and a real live raccoon named Regdab, which is badger spelled backwards. That’s a little confusing. Stick with one animal. Still, I don’t know anyone who wants to go throw down with any Badgers.

The Florida State Seminoles. The Florida State mascot is Chief Osceola, who was a famous Seminole warrior, who often rides Renegade, named for the unconquered renegade spirit of the Seminole people. That’s pretty bad ass. He’s got authentic garb, designed by Seminole women and a big ass spear. I think I’ve seen the spear on fire, which might not be historical, but it does add to the badassedness. It’s tough to beat this mascot. It’s got a live animal, no stupid name and a weapon that sometimes is lit on fire and thrown.

The Pick: Florida State Seminoles -4.5

Emerald Bowl Dec. 27 @ 8pm
Miami Hurricanes
California Golden Bears-7

The Miami Hurricanes. Here we have another school with a different mascot than the nickname. Miami’s mascot is Sebastian the Ibis. Why the Ibis? Apparently, the ibis is the last to leave a marsh before a hurricane and the first to return. That makes it leaderly or something. His name, Sebastian, comes from the San Sebastian building that was a dorm and is now apartments. Whatever. I don’t see many Ibis(Ibises? Ibis’? Ibii?) in my neighborhood, but they don’t seem that tough. Another unsettling fact, Sebastian looks more like Howard the duck than an Ibis.

The California Golden Bears. The bear is a pretty good mascot for a mascot throwdown. Cal had live bears as mascots until WWII, so that’s a plus. The Golden Bear mascot since then is Oski the Bear. Oski comes from the “Oski Wow-Wow” yell, which is the Cal spirit yell. Unfortunately, Oski looks the same as he did in 1941. He’s like 1920’s Mickey Mouse or Tracey Ullman Show Simpsons. He’d still maul an Ibis that’s for sure.

The Pick: California Golden Bears -7

Independence Bowl Dec. 28 @ 8:15 pm
Northern Illinois Huskies
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs +1.5

The Northern Illinois Huskies. First, they were the Profs, then Cardinals, then the Evansmen before becoming the Huskies. Now, a Husky is a dog, so that’s a plus. However, the husky is also a very popular mascot choice and NIU’s is named Victor E. Huskie and that is lame. Huskies are very wolf-like in appearance and the Iditarod is no joke. Hmm?

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. This is a dog eat dog matchup. Oops. I told RT I wouldn’t use any bad puns in my articles. Damn. LTU has two mascots and two nicknames. Champ is the costumed human bulldog and Tech XX is the real live bulldog. XX is Roman numerals, not like Dos Equis, sadly. As for a huskie-bulldog throwdown? Bulldogs were used in bullbaiting and bearbaiting back in the good ol days of the 17th century and were bred specifically for that purpose. Hard-core.

The Pick: Louisiana Tech Bulldogs +1.5 Bowl Dec. 29 @ 3pm
NC State Wolfpack
Rutgers Scarlet Knights-6.5

The North Carolina State Wolfpack. Why settle for one animal when you could use a whole pack? You see, that’s smart. When a disgruntled, snobby (probably) fan calls your behavior at a football game, “like a wolf pack”, you take that “negative” and you turn it into a positive. I don’t know what exactly constitutes a pack, but for the sake of a mascot throwdown I’ll say six. Six wolves would be a formidable opponent for many, many a foe. Yet, NC State uses only one mascot to represent the pack, Mr. Wuf. Did you know Mr. Wuf is married to Ms. Wuf and has his own myspace page? Now you do.

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights. In the early days they were the Queensmen. Yeah, I know. Rutgers used to be Queen’s College, like that makes it any better. After that it was Chanticleer, a rooster from the Canterbury Tales. Finally, the Scarlet Knights was chosen in the ‘50s because people in New Jersey know only people from Delaware want a chicken for a mascot. As for the Scarlet Knight himself, he’s horseless and sword less, but he is fully armored. Now, I’ve seen pictures of a more realistic looking Scarlet Knight on a horse with a sword and probably a shield, but the goofy one in the picture below is the one I’m going with. He’d definitely have no shot versus an entire wolf pack, but Mr. Wuf? Not without a sword. Well, maybe he does have a sword?

The Pick: NC State Wolfpack +6.5

Valero Alamo Bowl Dec. 29 @ 8pm
Missouri Tigers
Northwestern Wildcats+13.5

Missouri Tigers. The tigers were a bunch of armed guards who protected Columbia, MO from Union soldiers and Confederate Guerrillas during the Civil War. Historical anecdotes are always important to good mascots. The university felt so good about historical anecdotes they named their mascot Truman the Tiger after President Harry Truman, Missouri native. Again, the tiger is a popular mascot and they didn’t name the tiger Truman until 1986. 30 years after he left office and almost fifteen after he died. Better late than never, I guess.

The Northwestern Wildcats. Yet another non-exciting mascot matchup. Blah, blah, blah, some guy in the ‘20s said the team looked like wildcats on the field and the women swooned with joy. Frankly, it’d be cooler if they were still the Fighting Methodists. Northwestern also chose the all too safe Willie the Wildcat as its mascot’s name. I thought this school was where all the good journalists went? The Wildcats and Willie the Wildcat? That’s all you’ve got. Kansas State also has a Willie the Wildcat and both schools have purple as a main color. C’mon people! I can’t decide, so I’m taking the points.

The Pick: Northwestern Wildcats +13.5

Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl Dec. 30 @ 4:30pm
Maryland Terrapins
Nevada Wolf Pack -1

The Maryland Terrapins. The diamondback terrapin is the state reptile of Maryland. UM’s mascot is named Testudo. That’s a little confusing because testudo is a genus of tortoise, yet a terrapin is a turtle, not a tortoise. Another downer is that we (I) think of Testudo as being a big snapping turtle you don’t want to f with. But upon further review, the diamondback terrapin doesn’t usually grow larger than 7 inches long at maturity. They almost went extinct because they are so tasty.

Nevada Wolfpack. No, I’m sorry. Nevada Wolf Pack. First, there was Wolfie. Wolfie bequeathed the cheering duties to his nephew, Aphie in 1999. In 2007, Alphie was joined on the sidelines by his brother, Wolfie, Jr. I have no idea which one this is, but he could eat a tasty turtle for sure.

The Pick: Nevada Wolf Pack -1

Texas Bowl Dec. 30 @ 8pm
Rice Owls
Western Michigan Broncos +3

The Rice Owls. There’s an interesting back story on the naming of the mascot, Sammy the Owl. His canvas form was abducted by Texas A&M hooligans. Rice students hired a P.I. who sent back a coded telegram that he had located “Sammy.” Sammy the Owl went from canvas interpretation to real live owl to costumed student. Sammy the Owl prefers Facebook to myspace. His facial expression doesn’t bode well for the mascot throwdown.

Western Michigan Broncos. They’ve been the Broncos since 1939, but Buster Bronco has only been around since 1988. So, we’ve got no mascot history and the mascot has the same name as another university? And, Western Michigan changed to the Broncos because they used to be the Hilltoppers and Western Kentucky was already the Hilltoppers? That makes no sense.

The Pick: Rice Owls -3

Pacific Life Holiday Bowl Dec. 30 @ 8pm
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Oregon Ducks +3.5

Oklahoma State Cowboys. I got all excited when I saw that OSU’s mascot’s name was Pistol Pete. Yeah! That was my nickname in college. He’s got a cool hat, some chaps, a bad mustache and most importantly a pistol. Just like I did in college! I love me some mascots with weapons.

Oregon Ducks. The Duck doesn’t really have a name and you may have noticed illustrations of The Duck that look surprisingly like Donald Duck. An AD at Oregon knew Walt Disney and got his okay to use the depiction for its athletics. So, Oregon’s got Nike AND Disney? Dang! Unfortunately, I seem to remember Donald Duck coming up short in most of his fracases and he doesn’t like wearing pants.

The Pick: Oklahoma State Cowboys -3.5

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl Dec. 31 @ Noon
Houston Cougars
Air Force Fighting Falcons+2.5

Houston Cougars. Shasta is the name of the Cougar mascot. It’s a name that’s been passed down since 1947 and has crossed over from real live cougar to the costumed student. Shasta is also Title IX compliant being one of the only female mascots around. I guess if you’re going to have a cougar as a mascot it should be a female. Right, fellas? Rowr. Although, judging by the photo below, Shasta may be going through an identity crisis. It’s still hot.

Air Force Fighting Falcons. The Air Force and a bird of prey mascot go together like PB&J. The mascot was chosen by the first graduating class from the academy in 1959. The Air Force has a real live falcon named Yeti and a costumed cadet known as “The Bird.” I hate ultra cheesy names, but you have to at least try, right? As for the matchup, cats eat birds. I saw it on Looney Tunes.

The Pick: Houston Cougars -2.5

Brut Sun Bowl Dec. 31 @ 2 pm
Oregon State Beavers
Pittsburgh Panthers +3

Oregon State Beavers. According to his myspace page, Mr. Beaver's interests include supporting Beaver Nation and hanging out with his fellow Beavs. He listens to Justin Timberlake, AC/DC, Jay-Z and Johnny Cash. He’s a Libra and has a Ph.D. in Mascot Skills, so that’s Dr. Beaver to you. And ladies, he’s single!!!!

Pitt Panthers. The University of Pittsburgh is very logical. When they decided on the Panther as mascot the following reason were given:
1)The panther was the most powerful animal that roamed western PA
2) It’s a noble animal
3)At the time(1909), no other school used the panther as a mascot
4) It had similar colors to gold and blue
5) Alliteration
That is exactly the type of dedication all universities should show when selecting a mascot. Strength, Nobility, Unique, Colors, Alliteration or SNUCA. Remember it next time you need to think of a mascot. You can tell they were thinking about being in a mascot matchup throwdown 100 years down the road.

The Pick: Pitt Panthers +3

Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl Dec. 31 @ 3:30pm
Boston College Golden Eaglese
Vanderbilt Commodores +4

Boston College Eagles. Outraged at the university being depicted as a cat in a local newspaper, a reverend wrote the paper suggesting a nobler mascot was needed to represent Boston College. The obvious choice to the reverend was the eagle because it was “symbolic of majesty, power and freedom.” BC tried live eagles at first, but one escaped and the other broke it’s beak trying to escape. Baldwin was born in 1966 and his name is the lame combination of Bald, for Bald Eagle, and win, for win. It’s also a little confusing using a Bald Eagle as a mascot when your nickname is the Golden Eagles.

Vanderbilt Commodores. Cornelius Vanderbilt made his fortune in shipping. What’s a Commodore? Don’t say Lionel Ritchie. It’s a naval rank higher than captain, lower than rear admiral. I’d rather be a Commodore than a rear admiral, that’s for sure. Mr. C’s got a cutlass, a cool hat and some serious mutton chops. There haven’t been too many naval battles in Nashville lately, so he’s probably hard up for some swashbuckling. As much as I like birds of prey, a crazy 19th century dude with a cutlass gets the edge.

The Pick: Vanderbilt Commodores +4

Insight Bowl Dec. 31 @ 5:30pm
Kansas Jayhawks
Minnesota Golden Gophers +10.5

Kansas Jay Hawks. A Jay Hawk is a “mythical” cross between the noisy Blue Jay and quiet Sparrow Hawk. A Kansas militant abolitionist group adopted the name Jayhawkers before the Civil War. When Kansas was admitted to the union as a free state the term became synonymous with Kansans. Wow, I never knew. That’s pretty noble. Why doesn’t Kansas promote that more? I don’t know what kind of powers a Jayhawk would have, besides militant abolishing, and that’s going to hurt in the mascot throwdown.

Minnesota Golden Gophers. I thought Minnesota was just the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Wrong. It’s also the North Star State, The Bread and Butter State, The Wheat State, New England of the West and The Gopher State. There’s not a whole lot to say about Goldy the Gopher, mascot of UM. Goldy was judged to look the LEAST like a gopher amongst other similar rodents, including the chipmunk and beaver. He’s a gopher impostor, he’s unarmed, but at least he’s got an alliterative name. Hawks eat gophers for breakfast in real life and in this matchup.

The Pick: Kansas Jayhawks -10.5

Chick-fil-A Bowl Dec. 31 @ 7:30pm
LSU Fightin' Tigers
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets -3.5

LSU Fightin’Tigers. The Fightin’ Tigers comes from two Louisiana Confederate brigades known for fighting fiercely during the Civil War. Mike the Tiger exists in real live tiger form and as a costumed student. Mike VI is the real live tiger who chills in his $3mm habitat. I wish I was a mascot, sometimes. Mike VI currently weighs in at over 300 lbs. and could reach upwards of 700 lbs., making him the largest Mike the Tiger, ever. Also, in Mike VI's first year as mascot, LSU won the BCS national championship game.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. The mascot Buzz may be a wee yellow jacket, but he gets stuff done. His trademark move is the Buzz Flip. He crowd surfs, parachutes and leads the band in the Budweiser song, a beer jingle. Buzz isn’t afraid of capitalism and is available for weddings and birthday parties. No word on his longest keg stand or the most beer bongs he’s done in a night, but he sounds like the life of a party. Unfortunately, Mike the Tiger is a tiger.

The Pick: LSU Fightin’ Tigers -3.5

Outback Bowl Jan. 1 @ 11 am
South Carolina Gamecocks
Iowa Hawkeyes -3

South Carolina Gamecocks. South Carolina has two mascots, a real live cock (can I say that?) named Big Spur and a costumed student named Cocky. Cocky, the human one, has multiple mascot national championships and was on the Capitol One All-America Mascot Team 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008. He’s got pristine mascot credentials, sure, but what are his throwdown credentials? He was bred to fight. He’s probably got some razor blades on him somewhere. I bet he likes the taste of blood. He’s arrogant and his name has phallic undertones providing easy comedy.

Iowa Hawkeyes. The term Hawkeye comes from The Last of the Mohicans and was used to describe the people of Iowa at some point supposedly to honor Chief Black Hawk. Herky the Hawk was named after Hercules. In 1997, Herky got into a brawl with a Minnesota band member and in the ensuing rumble, broke his fiberglass head piece that has since been replaced with Kevlar. Yup, Herky is bulletproof. Tough call in this avian matchup, but I’ll give the edge to the bird of prey versus the cock.

The Pick: Iowa Hawkeys -3

Capital One Bowl Jan 1 @ 1pm
Georgia Bulldogs
Michigan State Spartans +7.5

Georgia Bulldogs. Chosen for its dignity and ferocity, the bulldog has been the mascot at Georgia since the early 1900’s. Georgia has two mascots, UGA, the real live bulldog and Hairy Dawg, the costumed student. UGA has a literally iced out doghouse to keep him cool on the sidelines during games and tried to bite an opposing player after a touchdown once. Hairy Dawg was created in response to Florida’s new mascot, much like the arms race between Cold War powers.

Michigan State Spartans. MSU used to be an agricultural college and the mascot was the Aggies like every other agricultural school. Is that a requirement or something? They changed their mascot when trying to expand beyond just an agricultural school and originally chose the Michigan Staters before a sports editor picked the better Spartan nickname. Sparty the Spartan has held Best Mascot and Buffest Mascot titles in previous years, including winning Best Mascot in three out of four years. He’s buff and armored, but he’s unarmed, which hurts in a mascot throwdown.

The Pick: Georgia Bulldogs -7.5

Konica Minolta Gator Bowl Jan. 1 @1pm
Clemson Tigers
Nebraska Cornhuskers +3

Clemson Tigers. In 1896 some coach came to Clemson from Auburn and because he admired the Princeton Tigers he gave that nickname to Clemson. I hate that. Princeton was the Tigers and he came from Auburn which is also the Tigers and he names Clemson the Tigers? In 1896? There were plenty of other options back then. There was no need to recycle. The Tiger and Tiger Cub are the names of the Clemson mascots. Are there no creative people in the Clemson Athletic Department?

Nebraska Cornhuskers. On the other end of the creative spectrum, the University of Nebraska had a litany of colorful nicknames around the same time the Clemson Tigers were being mascot lazy. The names included: Antelopes, Old Gold Knights, Bugeaters and Mankilling Mastadons. Brilliant, all of them. Herbie the Husker is sort of buff and has a nice cowboy hat, but not much to help him versus a tiger.

The Pick: Clemson Tigers -3

AT&T Cotton Bowl Jan. 2@ 2pm
Ole Miss Rebels
Texas Tech Red Raiders-5.5

Ole Miss Rebels. Colonel Reb was the long time mascot who looked like a 19th century plantation owner and has been locked away since 2003 when the university removed the mascot for being blatantly politically incorrect. He looks like you could find him at Colonel Sanders’ cocktail parties sipping mint juleps. Due to lack of interest, a new mascot was never selected. I smell a DQ.

Texas Tech Red Raiders. Originally called the Matadors, the Red Raiders have two mascots. The Masked Rider is a masked rider who is sort of a Lone Ranger/Zorro combination. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a sword or a gun, but he does ride real horse. Red Raider, who looks suspiciously like Yosemite Sam, has two holsters on his belt, but they are empty. I’ll just say, the Red Raiders are lucky to be matched up against a school with no mascot.

The Pick: Texas Tech Red Raiders -5.5

AutoZone Liberty Bowl Jan 2 @ 5pm
Kentucky Wildcats
East Carolina Pirates -2

Kentucky Wildcats. The mascot’s name is Scratch. In protest of the Wildcat mascot, I present this excerpt from a Simpsons episode:

Ned: Who are we?
Kids: The Wildcats!
Ned: Who are we gonna beat?
Kids: The Wildcats!

East Carolina Pirates. Here’s a fun fact. Blackbeard (the pirate) resided along the North Carolina coast. A pirate is always good in a matchup throwdown. He’s got a cutlass, cool hat, eye-patch, often bearded and sometimes they get to fire cannons. Pee Dee the Priate is named for the Pee Dee River that housed many pirate encampments.

The Pick: East Carolina Pirates -2

International Bowl Jan. 3 @ Noon
Buffalo Bulls
Connecticut Huskies -4

The Buffalo Bulls. Not a typo. The University changed its mascot from the Bison to the Bulls in order to separate itself from professional sports teams of the area in the 1930’s. Victor E. Bull and his sister, Victoria E. Bull, walk the sidelines at “The Bullpen” football stadium. He’s big, blue and has horns. Not much else to say.

Connecticut Huskies. There are two Jonathan the Huskies representing UCONN. The original was a real live Husky and was later teamed with a costumed student, also named Jonathan the Husky. Jonathan was the winning name in a 1934 name the husky contest. Seriously? That was the winner? I’m running on fumes and these bowls keep feeding me unoriginal, stale mascots! Must. Fight. Through. Uninspired mascots.

The Pick: Buffalo Bulls +4

GMAC Bowl Jan 6 @ 8 pm
Tulsa Golden Hurricane
Ball State Cardinals-2.5

Tulsa Golden Hurricane. That’s more like it! Not just a hurricane, a Golden Hurricane. And on top of that, the mascot’s name is Captain Cane! Yes! You want to know what the name of the mascot was before 1994? Huffy!

Ball State Cardinals. Originally known as the Hooserions, somebody finally figured out it was a ridiculous name and chose the cardinals because it looked good on the St. Louis Cardinals(MLB) jersey. The mascot’s name is Charlie Cardinal and that is way too bland when you’re facing CAP-TAIN CANE!!!!

The Pick: Tulsa Golden Hurricane +2.5

Comeback next week for the BCS breakdown.

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