Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cinq Pour Samedi

70 games over the course of 14 weeks were not enough to settle the friendly competition between Kevin and me, and each of us going 4-1 for Championship Weekend at the beginning of this month has the end of our NCAA season resembling the end of Rocky II. We decided our tiebreaking strategy would be to each take 5 games on New Year's weekend and then see where we stood. If we are still tied after that, then we'll take the remaining BCS games and hope it works itself out from there. For fun, and in light of the inordinate proportion of the Rockythons I caught on Versus last weekend, I'm going to draw a parallel between each game I pick and its closest Rocky equivalent. Obviously, all games are neutral sites so there are technically no home teams.

Notre Dame (+3) over Miami (Sun Bowl, Friday)
-Rocky counterpart: Rocky II
Rocky II was tagged "The Rematch of the Century," and this Notre Dame-Miami game is the first meeting between the two programs since both were perennial powers 20 years ago. Also in that movie, Rocky Balboa was forced to switch up and fight right-handed in order to avoid further damage to his right eye that he'd sustained fighting Apollo Creed lefty the first time around. In this game, Notre Dame would be well-served to switch up their offensive thinking, which for most of this year has consisted of living and dying by the over-the-top passing game. However, the Irish aren't potent enough to beat Miami's stellar pass defense but should be able to find running lanes against the Hurricanes, who gave up - this is not a misprint - 231 yards per game on the ground in their last three games of the regular season. The long layoff before bowl games has been known to be a momentum-stopper, but I can't ignore the disparity between how these two teams played toward the end of the season.

Michigan State (+10) over Alabama (Capital One Bowl, Saturday)
-Rocky counterpart: Rocky IV
You know if I'm comparing a game to Rocky IV, then I expect it to be entertaining. Alabama reminds me a bit of Ivan Drago in that has killed its overmatched opponents this year but seemingly has had everything else handed to them on reputation. Even though the Crimson Tide's running game can be powerful like Drago's 1,850-Psi punch, their offense can sometimes be one-dimensional. Michigan State represents the Big Ten in the arms race against the SEC (yes I did just compare the SEC to communist Russia but let's just go with it) and boasts an offense that can wear you down if you let them get too close, which is just what Alabama's defense had happen to it against Auburn and LSU. All Rocky set out to do was take everything Drago had and be left standing at the end, and all the Spartans have to do is be standing at the end of this one. There's no reason they can't keep it close. Now all we have to do is invent a drinking game to go with this.

Penn State (+7) over Florida (Outback Bowl, Saturday)
-Rocky counterpart: Rocky Balboa
This might have been the easiest bowl game to compare to a Rocky movie, just because seeing 84-year-old Joe Paterno on the sidelines conjures the same "isn't he way too old for this?" thought that seeing 60-year-old Rocky Balboa in the ring did. On the field, the only real edge that Florida has over Penn State is (you guessed it!) speed, and the Nittany Lions' best chance to win would be with good old fashioned blunt-force trauma, namely Evan Royster and his 4.9 yards per carry. The Gators didn't show nearly enough in their last few games to make you feel confident in laying anything more than 2-3 points.

TCU (-3) over Wisconsin (Rose Bowl, Saturday)
-Rocky counterpart: Rocky III
Try to tell me that Rocky's run of 10 title defenses in the beginning of Rocky III doesn't remind you of TCU running the table this year over its relatively mediocre competition. And try to tell me that Wisconsin, with their nuts-and-bolts, beat-the-hell-out-of-you-the-old-fashioned-way style and their status as a slight underdog from the Midwest doesn't make you think of Clubber Lang a little bit. The Horned Frogs are out to show that they are no paper champion and a BCS bowl victory before they bolt for the Big East would accomplish that. I must admit I'm not crazy about this pick, especially when the line is begging you to take Wisconsin, but my prevailing thought is to take the team with the better defense since the long pre-bowl layoffs can put rust on even the best offenses for a quarter or so. If TCU is up to the challenge presented by the Badgers' three-headed backfield monster (and more importantly, the five-headed offensive line monster), then I like their chances in the Granddaddy of Them All.

Oklahoma (-16.5) over Connecticut (Fiesta Bowl, Saturday)
-Rocky counterpart: Rocky
The long-established power Oklahoma goes up against a relative upstart (UConn is in just their 9th season as a Division I-A, I mean FCS, team) whose mere presence in the game is questioned by many (we don't need to delve any further into the matter of the Big East's automatic bid this year). Sound a little bit like Apollo Creed giving the unknown Rocky Balboa a shot at the title, for little reason beyond Rocky a.) living in Philly, and b.) having a cool nickname? Unfortunately for the Huskies, the similarities between the 2011 Fiesta Bowl and the original Rocky pretty much end there. UConn has zero passing game and will be in big trouble if they get behind by two scores or more. This Oklahoma team showed me enough in the late part of the season (especially against Oklahoma State and Nebraska) for me to ignore some of the deuces that Bob Stoops' teams have dropped in BCS games in recent years. I echo Kevin's sentiment - Sooners by 3 TD's or more.

Two things of note. One, I know I chose not to include Rocky V in my bowl game comparisons. That is because Rocky V represents about 75% of the bowl season altogether - barely watchable and unnecessary. Two, in the first time all year that Kevin and I have taken the same five games, we are different on the Sun Bowl and on the Rose Bowl, so provided there are no pushes, someone is winning this thing by two games or else we'll see you back here next week.

Last Week: 4-1-0
Season: 38-28-4

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