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College Football Bowl Preview Part 2: Sizing Up the Big 6 Bowls 3

Posted on December 30, 2015 by Jim Hurley
The health of Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook could be a big factor in their Cotton Bowl game against Alabama.

The health of Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook could be a big factor in their Cotton Bowl game against Alabama.

The biggest college football games of the season are here! The six major bowl games will run on December 31-January 1, with the two biggest—the Playoff semifinals situated within the New Year’s Eve schedule. Whether you wager or simply want to watch, our job is to have you ready.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled the “Tale of The Tape”, a concise snapshot of all six games. It’s not comprehensive—if you actually plan to bet, this is a starting point not a finishing point. But it will provide the framework for an enjoyable (and profitable, if you’re so inclined) run of watching games.

Our tale of the tape includes…

*The basics of W-L record and most importantly, strength of schedule. The latter has to be a significant factor in how you weigh every other piece of data. Some of us rely on complex computer models to do it, others just keep it in the back of their mind. Just make sure you keep it in mind.

*Each team’s national ranking on offense and defense, as measured by points allowed.

*The basic stats of each team’s quarterback—their completion percentage, yards-per-attempt and TD/INT ratio.

*A notable player on the team besides the quarterback—usually an elite running back or defensive playmaker, and occasionally a wide receiver.

Now let’s dive into the games, in sequential order…

December 31: Peach Bowl—Florida State (-7) Houston (Noon ET, ESPN)
Houston: 12-1 (Schedule ranks 99th)
Offense: 10th
Defense: 23rd
QB: Greg Ward Jr: 68% 8.5 YPA, 16/5 and also ran for over 1,000 yards)
Notable: Linebackers Elandon Roberts & Steven Taylor combined for 33 tackles for loss

Florida State: 10-2 (56th)
Offense: 41st
Defense: 5th
QB: Sean Maguire: 62%, 7.8 YPA, 11/3
Notable: Running back Dalvin Cook rushed for 1,658 yards (7.9 yards per carry)

Comment: It will be Maguire at quarterback for Florida State, with Everett Golson not making the trip to Atlanta. The balance of Houston both offensively and defensively gives them a shot at an upset, but the concern is that the offense is so heavily reliant on Ward that the excellent FSU defense may be position to dominate the football game.

December 31: Orange Bowl—Oklahoma (-3) Clemson (4 PM ET, ESPN)
Clemson: 13-0 (39th)
Offense: 15th
Defense: 19th
QB: DeShaun Watson: 70%, 8.5 YPA, 30/11
Notable: Defensive ends Shaq Lawson & Kevin Dodd have combined for 37 tackles for loss and 18 sacks

Oklahoma: 11-1 (27th)
Offense: 1st
Defense: 24th
QB: Baker Mayfield: 69%, 9.6 YPA, 35/5
Notable: Samaje Perine rushed for 1,291 yards at 6.1 per carry

Comment: Those talented Clemson defensive ends need to win their battles or it will be long day for the Tiger secondary given how hot Mayfield is. The bigger area of concern for betting Oklahoma is the question of how much those dazzling offensive numbers are a product of playing in the wide-open Big 12 and the tendency of high-stakes bowl games to be a bit more conservative.

December 31: Cotton Bowl–Alabama (-8.5) Michigan State (8 PM ET, ESPN)
Alabama: 12-1 (17th)
Offense: 31st
Defense: 3rd
QB: Jake Coker: 66%, 7.4 YPA, 17/8
Notable: Heisman Trophy winning RB Derrick Henry ran for 1,986 yards

Michigan State: 12-1 (5th)
Offense: 45th
Defense: 22nd
QB: Connor Cook: 57%, 7.9 YPA, 24/5
Notable: Wide receiver Aaron Burbridge caught 79 passes for over 1,200 yards

Comment: The health of Cook’s shoulder is the overriding factor in this game. When healthy, he is by far the superior quarterback. When banged up, as he has been at the end of this season, he’s statistically inferior to Coker. Note that if you wager this game make sure to shop prices. The line of 8.5 can also go as high as 10 depending on the sportsbook. Read the rest of this entry →

Zultan’s Fearless Football Forecast for Week 12: Alabama Down 0

Posted on November 14, 2012 by JA Allen

A seismic shift in the gridiron status quo occurred in Week 11. Alabama awoke from football nirvana, their dreams of repeat glory squelched by “Johnny Football” and the Texas A&M Aggies last Saturday.

In the meantime outside SEC Land, the cream of the crop in the Big East, Louisville crashed and burned at Syracuse.

Another undefeated went belly up.

Plus, in Iowa City, the hometown Hawkeyes had their wings clipped by the Purdue Boilermakers 27-24. Can the Hawks get any lower?  No, they are officially in the basement of the Big Ten sitting beside Illinois, waiting for this season to blow over.

Ultimately Zultan went 7-3, losing those three contests last Saturday. Some of you equaled—but none surpassed Zultan in Week 11.

With only two weeks left in the regular season, this week’s contests become exponentially crucial as teams pray for bowl bids. The final BCS standings await the next two rounds of upsets.

Here is your next to last chance to outshine the premiere Pigskin Prognosticator.

Make your picks for Week 12 to try to outguess Zultan and see your name up in lights—figuratively speaking, of course.

Read the rest of this entry →

College Football Classic Rewind: Blown Call Allows for Horns to Tie Sooners in Soggy Red River Rivalry 14

Posted on October 03, 2011 by A.J. Foss

The annual Texas-Oklahoma game is almost always one of the most anticipated games of the college football season, but the 1984 edition of the “Red River Rivalry” had even more hype as both teams entered the game in the top three of the AP Poll.

Texas was 3-0 and the #1 team in the country thanks to wins over then #11 Auburn and #4 Penn State.

Despite the fact they had lost 17 players to the NFL from the 1983 team that finished the season with a 11-1 record, the Longhorns were led by a number of seniors including quarterback Todd Dodge, wide receiver Billy Boy Bryant, defensive tackle Tony Degrate and all-American safety Jerry Gray, all under the direction of eighth-year head coach Fred Akers.

Oklahoma entered the game with a 4-0 record and a #3 ranking, but were hoping try to avoid their fourth straight four-loss season under head coach Barry Switzer, who had led the Sooners to at a least a share of the Big Eight championship in his first eight seasons and two national championships.

The Sooners’ rise to the top was due in large part to their defense, which had allowed only 38 points through the first four games, led by all-American defensive tackle Tony Casillas and freshman linebacker Brian Bosworth.

It would be a game dominated by the defenses as torrential rains had the Dallas area and caused players to slip and slide on the Cotton Bowl turf.

The wet conditions were a factor in the first turnover of the game as Oklahoma punter Mike Winchester dropped a perfect snap and could not get the punt off, giving the ball to Texas at the Sooners’ 26-yard-line. Read the rest of this entry →

Rating College Football’s Top 25 After the First Month of the 2011 Season 35

Posted on September 26, 2011 by Anderson Melvin

The LSU Tigers have had plenty to shout about during the first month of the 2011 college football season.

Isn’t it hard to believe that something that takes so long to get here, can already be going by this fast? If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that drinking beer and watching football passes the time like no other. The good news is it’s only the first third, and plenty of exciting football remains.

People often say that the polls don’t matter this early. But ascending your way through the rankings and ultimately being crowned #1 is what it’s all about. Seeing as how we are now one-third of the way through the regular season, it seemed like the perfect time to do a special breakdown of what we’ve seen so far from each team. Top 25

1. LSU Tigers (42) (4-0, 1-0 SEC)
So far LSU has been the most impressive team of the season, and are deserving of their new #1 ranking. Three of their four wins have come on the road and have come in dominant fashion. All three against ranked opponents, including last years runner-ups and #3 ranked Oregon. The Tigers may look like the best now, but the daunting SEC West may be too hard to make it out alive. If they keep up their winning ways, they will without a doubt be making a short trip to New Orleans in January.

2. Oklahoma Sooners (12) (3-0, 1-0 Big 12)
The Sooners were jumped by LSU this week despite being alloted top spot to begin the season. With an impressive road victory over the #5 Florida State Seminoles already, the Sooners sit at 3-0 with an easy Ball State opponent coming to Norman. Oklahoma’s next test comes in two weeks when they travel to Austin to face the Longhorns. Read the rest of this entry →

College Football Classic Rewind:OU Stymies ‘Noles to Win National Championship 36

Posted on September 14, 2011 by A.J. Foss

The 2001 Orange Bowl was the designated national championship game for the 2000 season and it featured a team that was expected to be in the game and another team that was not expected to be there.

Ever since Barry Switzer resigned as head coach following the 1988 season, the Sooners went 61-50-1 in the next 10 seasons and played in only three bowl games.

After the 1998 season, Oklahoma hired Florida defensive coordinator Bob Stoops, who had helped the Gators win the 1996 national championship, in hopes of restoring the Sooners to prominence.

Stoops went 7-5 in his first season as head coach but things took off in 2000 as the Sooners went undefeated thanks to a high-powered offense led by quarterback Josh Heupel, who finished second in the running for the Heisman Trophy and a defense that allowed under 16 points per game on average during the season.

Despite being 12-0 and #1 entering the title game, the Sooners were 10 ½ point underdogs to their opponent, the Florida State Seminoles.

Florida State was the defending national champion and were perhaps the most dominant team during the 2000 season.

The offense, led by Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke, averaged 42.4 points per game while the defense held opponents to an average of 10.3 points per game as the Seminoles won at least 10 games for the fourteenth consecutive season, all under the direction of head coach Bobby Bowden.

Despite their dominance, most experts believed that the Seminoles should not be in the title game because they lost one game, a 27-24 nail-biter to arch-rival Miami, who also finished the season with one loss and believed by most experts to play opposite Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.

However when the BCS final rankings were released, FSU was ranked ahead of Miami, and it was the ‘Noles who got a chance to win back-to-back national titles.

While they were heavily favored, the Seminoles faced two issues as they entered their title tilt with the Sooners.

Offensive coordinator Mark Richt had accepted the head coaching job at the University of Georgia, perhaps distracting him from constructing a good game plan against the Sooner defense, and wide receiver Snoop Minnis, Weinke’s best target, had been ruled academically ineligible and had to sit out the game.

These two issues looked to cause problems for the Florida State offense, but It certainly did not look like that the Seminoles offense would have such trouble as Weinke connected with Atrews Bell for a 35-yard gain on the first play of the game. Read the rest of this entry →

Lee Roy Selmon Towered Over Tampa Bay Football 14

Posted on September 05, 2011 by Dean Hybl

The towering Selmon often overpowered defenseless quarterbacks.

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers joined the NFL in 1976 with their creamsicle colored uniforms and comical play on the field, they needed someone with credibility to signal to the rest of the league that while they might dress funny and make a lot of bad plays, they were a football team and they were out there trying to create a winner. That someone was the first player ever drafted by the Buccaneers, defensive lineman Lee Roy Selmon.

His death over the weekend following a stroke begs the recollection of the beginning of professional football in Tampa when the Buccaneers went from being a laughing stock to forging a level of respectability by winning two division titles and reaching the playoffs three times in a four year stretch.

For anyone (like me) who grew up on NFL Films, the early years of the Buccaneers can be summed up with two images from the vaults of video past. The first is of whimsical head coach John McKay expressing that he was in favor of his teams’ execution and the second of the 6-foot-3, 256 pound Selmon looking significantly larger than his listed size as he smothers an opposing quarterback.

The best of the three Selmon brothers (Lucious and Dewey were the others), Selmon excelled on and off the field as the University of Oklahoma won consecutive national titles in 1974 and 1975. He won the Outland and Lombardi Trophies and was also an Academic All-American.

After playing for one of the most successful programs in college football, he joined an NFL team that was destined to set a record for futility.

As the first draft pick in the 1976 NFL Draft, Selmon became the first draft pick of the Buccaneers. His brother, Dewey, was selected in the second round and would spend five years in Tampa. Read the rest of this entry →

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      February 4, 2018 | 8:31 am
      Bob Cousy

      Bob Cousy

      The Boston Celtics traded prior to the 2017-2018 season for All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, but the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was the first in a long line of superstars to play for the Boston Celtics.

      Before there was Bill Russell and Larry Bird, the Boston Celtics were powered by a 6-foot-1 inch guard from Holy Cross. Bob Cousy was the on-the-court leader for the Celtics in the era during which they emerged as a basketball juggernaut.

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