Friday

1-2-09: Bowl Mania - Round 5 Post-Mortem & Round 6 Picks

Hello again everybody...

Welcome to Friday. If you're not amongst those that have had yesterday and today off, don't fret, the weekend is closing in!

Also closing in is the end of Bowl Mania. Only 7 games left before the long, dark winter really becomes a reality (pitchers and catchers report February 15th Dan... February 15th...).

But we're not going to focus on the end today. Instead, I'll break down all the picks from Round 5 - did I get back to .500? Is Hammer still in the lead? Did Dark star consume something illicit before making his picks? I'll discuss. Then it's time for Round 6. No worries, there are only 3 games to pick today, so you won't have to clear time in your schedule to read about them!

So let's do this...

"People might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get."
- Frederick Douglass (1817-1895), American abolitionist, women's suffragist, editor, orator, author, statesman and reformer.


Coming from a former slave, I'd say the man knows what he's talking about when speaking of working for what you get!

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First up, the Post-Mortem on Round 5!

(actually, one from Round 4 to start things off...)

Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl: Boston College -3.5 vs. Vanderbilt

ST Pick: Boston College -3.5
Hammer's Pick: Boston College -3.5
Dark Star's Pick: Boston College -3.5

Final Score: Vanderbilt 16, Boston College 14.

This, to me, highlights the difficulty in picking bowl games. It's clear that sometimes teams just don't show up for their bowls. Sometimes it's because they're disappointed they didn't make it to a "better" bowl. Sometimes it's due to arduous travel. Sometimes it's because they're in a gigantic megaplex hotel in Nashville and are focused on taking that all in, rather than playing the game.

The trick is trying to identify which teams are going to fall victim to that kind of malaise. I honestly didn't figure BC would be one of those teams. But they were. That's not to disrespect Vanderbilt who won their first bowl game in 495 years (that stat might not be technically correct), but if the Commodores and the Eagles played on a neutral field 10 times, BC wins 9 of them. That's my opinion at least.

Thanks for nothing BC!

Sports Take: 8-12
Hammer: 9-11
Dark Star: 6-14

Okay, now we're on to Round 5...

Insight Bowl: Kansas -8 vs. Minnesota

ST Pick: Kansas -8
Hammer's Pick: Kansas -8
Dark Star's Pick: Kansas -8

Final Score: Kansas 42, Minnesota 21

After the teams traded big-plays on each of their first possessions, Minnesota actually took a 14-7 lead in the 1st quarter. Unfortunately for Gopher fans, the Jayhawks scored the next 4 touchdowns and had the game salted away by the middle of the 3rd quarter.

In fairness, the Gophers played their game closer than the Badgers did. There, now I don't feel bad about ripping the Maroon and Gold for the next year!

Sports Take: 9-12
Hammer: 10-11
Dark Star: 7-14

Next...

Chick-fil-A Bowl: LSU vs. Georgia Tech -4

ST Pick: Georgia Tech -4
Hammer's Pick: LSU +4
Dark Star's Pick: Georgia Tech -4

Final Score: LSU 38, Georgia Tech 3

Oof. Missed that one by a bit!

Fortunately it took me exactly 3 minutes of game time to figure out that I was going to lose this one. LSU took the opening kickoff and marched right down the field, seemingly unopposed, for their first of 5 touchdowns.

The upshot? I could turn my attention elsewhere, since this one was over early.

Sports Take: 9-13
Hammer: 11-11
Dark Star: 7-15

Moving on...

Outback Bowl: South Carolina vs. Iowa -4

ST Pick: Iowa -4
Hammer's Pick: South Carolina +4
Dark Star's Pick: South Carolina +4

Final Score: Iowa 31, South Carolina 10

Finally I make up some ground on both the Hammer and the .500 mark. Not much to talk about here, Iowa ran out to a 31-0 lead before the "Ball Coach" was able to inspire his charges to score. Shame isn't it?

Ahem, yes, well...

Sports Take: 11-13
Hammer: 11-12
Dark Star: 7-16

Next up...

Capital One Bowl: Georgia -7.5 vs. Michigan State

ST Pick: Georgia -7.5
Hammer's Pick: Georgia -7.5
Dark Star's Pick: Michigan State +7.5

Final Score: Georgia 24, Michigan State 12

There were actually two ways I could win here. Yes, I picked Georgia to cover the 7.5. But had Michigan State won outright, that would've given the Big Ten two bowl victories, which would've won me a bet with a former colleague. It's nice to cover one's bases now and then.

As it was, Sparty gave Georgia a scare for about 2.5 quarters. But about midway through the 3rd, Georgia remembered the SEC routinely kicks the crap out of the Big Ten and pulled away for the double-digit victory.

Sports Take: 11-13
Hammer: 12-12
Dark Star: 7-17

One more loss and Dark clinches a losing record... not good!

Konica Minolta Gator Bowl: Nebraska vs. Clemson -2.5

ST Pick: Clemson -2.5
Hammer's Pick: Nebraska +2.5
Dark Star's Pick: Clemson -2.5

Final Score: Nebraska 26, Clemson 21

In case you didn't catch it after Wednesday's column, the patriarch of my favorite clan of Nebraska fans said I'd regret picking Clemson. I guess he was right!

Three thoughts on this game. One, this was a fun game to watch. If I wasn't so looking forward to the Championship game, I might declare it my favorite game of the year. Two, Clemson had a myriad of opportunities to cover in this game, but seemed determined to squander them. Three, if not for their own series of mistakes, Nebraska could've won this game by 14 easily.

Congratulations to the Husker fans. You're not back yet, but you're clearly pointed in the right direction!

Sports Take: 11-14
Hammer: 13-12
Dark Star: 7-18

Sorry Dark-man. Sub-.500 it is!

Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi: Penn State vs. USC -9

ST Pick: Penn State +9
Hammer's Pick: USC -9
Dark Star's Pick: USC -9

Final Score: USC 38, Penn State 24

Unfortunately for me, this one wasn't as close as the score indicated. And the score didn't indicate all that much to begin with!

The Lions hung in there early on, though there was a palpable feeling that they were going to have to work much harder at it than the Trojans were. And when Penn State RB Evan Royster came out of the game late in the first quarter with a knee injury, the writing was pretty clearly on the wall.

I knew I was stepping out on a limb with this one, unfortunately, the sumbitch snapped off a little earlier than I expected!

Sports Take: 11-15
Hammer: 14-12
Dark Star: 8-18

Penultimately (sort of...)

FedEx Orange Bowl: Cincinnati -2.5 vs. Virginia Tech

ST Pick: Virginia Tech +2.5
Hammer's Pick: Virginia Tech +2.5
Dark Star's Pick: Virginia Tech +2.5

Final Score: Virginia Tech 20, Cincinnati 7

I really wanted to pick Cincy in this game, because I thought they'd be the better story. I know that Utah is this year's official "BCS buster", but can we really consider the Big East a BCS conference anymore? Really?

Unfortunately, after opening the scoring with a spectacular touchdown catch, the Bearcats were shut down the rest of the way and Virginia Tech rolled to the win. How were the Hokies not favored here again?

Sports Take: 12-15
Hammer: 15-12
Dark Star: 9-18

Finally (sort of...)

AT&T Cotton Bowl: Mississippi vs. Texas Tech -4.5

ST Pick: Texas Tech -4.5
Hammer's Pick: Texas Tech -4.5
Dark Star's Pick: Texas Tech -4.5

Final Score: Game hasn't been played at the time of this writing.

So I'm still 3 games below .500 and 3 games behind the Hammer. With only 7 games to go it's going to be darned near impossible to catch Craig, so my primary goal has to continue to be to finish above the vaunted .500 mark.

In the interest of that goal, it's time to move on to Round 6!

AutoZone Liberty Bowl - Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, TN
Friday 1/2, 4pm CT (ESPN)

Kentucky vs. East Carolina -3


The Wildcats are 6-6 (2-6 in the SEC). The Pirates are 9-4 (7-2 in Conference USA).

Kentucky lost 4 of their last 5 with their only win coming against a Mississippi State squad who's already made a coaching change. East Carolina began the season as the Sports Take Darling Team, but hit a rough patch 4 games in to the season, going through a 3-game losing streak before rebounding to win 6 of their last 7.

There's no doubt that Kentucky faced better competition over the course of the season. What makes this pick difficult to make is that they got demolished by that competition. So were their opponents that good? Or were the Wildcats that bad? I'm going to go with the latter.

ST Pick: East Carolina -3
Hammer's Pick: Kentucky +3
Dark Star's Pick: Kentucky +3

(Given how Dark's been doing, I have to feel okay about that one, right?)

Next...

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Superdome, New Orleans, LA
Friday 1/2, 7pm CT (FOX)

Utah vs. Alabama -9.5


The Utes are 12-0 (8-0 in the Mountain West). The Crimson Tide are 12-1 (8-1 in the SEC).

The BCS bowl with the "BCS buster" in it is always a favorite upset pick. Generally it's against a team that until recently was a contender for the National Title, and this year's no different in that regard. So this should set up as a "let-down game" for a disappointed Alabama team, right?

Let's be honest - if you'll forgive the phrase - the Tide should roll here. (That was for you, Lon.) Even with their suspended offensive lineman, even with the disappointment of not playing for the National Title, 'Bama just has way too much talent for a Utah club to contend with.

The money's been coming in on Utah. The game opened: Alabama -11. So they've been reducing the spread trying to entice people to take the Tide. Consider me enticed.

ST Pick: Alabama -9.5
Hammer's Pick: Alabama -9.5
Dark Star's Pick: Alabama -9.5

Finally (What?! No "penultimately"?! Eh, there's only 3 picks, I figured I'd give it a rest.)

International Bowl - Rogers Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Saturday 1/3, 11am CT (ESPN2)

Buffalo vs. Connecticut -6


The Bulls are 8-5 (6-3 in the MAC). The Huskies are 7-5 (3-4 in the Big East).

Huh. -6 you say? And it opened: UConn -4. So apparently the bettors think the Huskies are going to roll here.

Let's see. Buffalo won 6 of their last 7, including defeating previously undefeated Ball State in the MAC Championship game. UConn lost 5 of their last 7, but one of those wins was a solid 40-16 thrashing of eventual Big East champ Cincinnati.

Then again, we just saw Cincy get shut down by Virginia Tech, so maybe that win wasn't so impressive.

Toronto's right across the border from Buffalo, but who knows how many Bulls fans have passports? So while there are likely to be more Buffalo fans at the game, I'm not sure it'll be a true home field advantage.

Aw, what the hell, I like Turner Gill. I'm picking Buffalo and taking the points.

ST Pick: Buffalo +6
Hammer's Pick: UConn -6
Dark Star's Pick: UConn -6

So Hammer and I disagree on 2 of the 3 Round 6 games. Maybe I've got a shot after all? Or maybe he'll bury me and clinch the Bowl Mania Title? You've got to watch the games (or come back here on Monday) to find out!

So that's it for this week. I hope your Holidays have been fun and fruitful. Until Monday, thanks for reading!

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