CBB Picks: 1/18

GEORGIA TECH (+8.5) over Virginia

Georgia Tech is on a similar path that they were last year. Last season entering ACC play, the Jackets were 150th in KenPom. They opened by beating eventual national champion UNC at home and were up to 71st by the start of February. They went 7-2 at home in league play. They entered ACC play at 140 this year and have already moved up 37 spots and they’re 3-1 with home wins over Miami and Notre Dame. For as much attention as Virginia’s defense garners, it’s actually GT who enters this game as the most efficient defense in the ACC. A big reason for that is Pastner’s D has made big strides on defending perimeter shooters since the beginning of the season. That will be key in slowing down a Cav offense that has become increasingly reliant on jump shots. They’ve hit a high percentage lately, but I think that bubble bursts tonight.

NC STATE (-4.5) over Wake Forest

Speaking of teams reliant on perimeter shooting. Along with taking care of the ball, three-point makes are the only things that have kept the Demon Deacon offense afloat so far in league play. If there’s two things Kevin Keatts’ defenses do consistently well, it’s force turnovers and limit open looks from the outside. Not an ideal matchup for Wake tonight.

Saint Mary’s (+7.5) over GONZAGA

I’ll admit it: it’s scary going against the Zags in Spokane. But I also really wanted to take SMU last night and got scared away by them going into Wichita. Not today. The Gaels quietly haven’t lost since they lost a couple of tight ones in November at the Wooden Legacy. They’ve already gone into the Marriott Center and stole a victory from BYU. The Zags are a different animal, but they’re not quite the force they were a year ago. SMC should get quite a few good looks from the outside and there aren’t many better shooting teams in the country. The obvious concern for the Gaels is not getting totally abused on the interior.

SAN FRANCISCO (-10) over Santa Clara

There’s really only one thing Santa Clara does well and that’s typically winning the turnover battle. That’s not a given against the Dons and they’re going to give up a lot of opportunities for San Fran’s trigger-happy guards. Should be a nice bounce back game for the Dons after losing a battle with the Zags last weekend.

UNC GREENSBORO (-19) over The Citadel

It’s never really a bad venture to give the points when the Bulldogs are on the road. Dugger Baucom’s breakneck run-and-gun pace is going to leave them vulnerable in a lot of areas tonight. For one, UNCG might not even let them get into that pace. The Spartans really get aggressive defensively in the halfcourt and the best way to make them pay is by hitting a bunch of free throws. Citadel is currently shooting 60% from the line as a team in SoCon play. UNCG isn’t a great shooting team, but they love to chuck it and should be able to find a rhythm against this team. And if they don’t, they’ll still have a field day on the offensive glass anyway.

OMAHA (-3) over Denver

A great opportunity for Omaha to get it rolling offensively, which they often do at home and they get to go against the Summit’s worst defense that also happens to be in the middle of a four-game stretch on the road.

 

YTD: 19-17 (+0.3u)

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CBB Picks: 1/17

Tulsa (+7) over TEMPLE

Once again, I think it’s clear that the Owls peaked in November. They’ve lost 6 of 7. Since coming to Tulsa, Frank Haith is 4-1 against Temple with a pair of road wins in Philly and the only loss coming a couple of years ago in OT on the road.

UMass (+15) over RHODE ISLAND

UMass didn’t have a ton of experience together as a group heading into the season and I think you’re seeing them start to build some confidence over the last couple of weeks. The Rams will limit the three-point chances that UMass thrives on, but the Minutemen should be able to supplement some of that by getting to the line against an aggressive defense. Could be a bit of a let down spot for Rhody. They’re coming off a big win over the Bonnies this past weekend and they’ve got a road game with Dayton coming up.

CREIGHTON (-4.5) over Seton Hall

The Pirates won a close one in the first matchup. Looking at that game, it was a fairly even game outside of SHU getting 17 more free throw attempts. At one point the Bluejays were up 13 in the second half. I think revenge is on the mind for Creighton and they’re more likely to have the calls in their favor at home. I also find it highly unlikely that they’ll shoot as poorly (5-25) from three-point range again. After each of their three losses this season, Creighton has bounced back with a big win at home, outperforming the KenPom predicted margin by an average of 15.7 points.

SOUTH DAKOTA (-10) over Oral Roberts

ORU has been bad on the road in general and they’re on the third leg of a Dakota trip that’s lasted a week now. I’d imagine there’s some fatigue there after starting out 0-2 and having to spend a week in the Dakotas in the dead of winter.

YTD: 16-16-1 (-1.6u)

CBB Picks: 1/16

 

Georgia (+5.5) over LSU

The Georgia offense isn’t great and has been especially disappointing in SEC play. However, LSU is weak on the interior and I think the Dawgs will have a big advantage on the glass with Maten and Ogbeide, which should give them a sizable edge in second chance points. So far, UGA is #1 defensively in the SEC.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (-4) over Vanderbilt

MSU has played 13 of their 17 games at home and Starkville has treated them well. They just dropped their first game there this season to Auburn. Vandy is 0-6 away from Nashville. The Commodores at times over aggressive perimeter D plays into the hands of the Bulldogs. Should be a big day for Quinndary Weatherspoon.

Drake (+6.5) over NORTHERN IOWA

Drake has been on the move lately, winning 6 of 7 and making big strides in Niko Medved’s first year. UNI is going the opposite direction, peaking in mid-December and at one point losing seven straight until they knocked off Valpo at home over the weekend. They’ve been bad at both ends and might be opening themselves up to a parade of threes tonight if Drake gets hot.

NORTH DAKOTA STATE (-9) over North Dakota

Been kind of a rocky road for the Bison lately, but they should be ready to go for their instate rival. North Dakota is terrible defensively in almost every way if they can’t turn people over, they’re 0-7 in true road games, and they’re one of the few teams that can’t take advantage of NDSU’s lackluster rebounding.

YTD: 14-14-1 (-1.4u)

Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 4

 


Five Stars From the Past Week:

Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State – averaged 23.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks in two wins

Isaac Haas, Purdue – averaged 15.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks in two wins

Moritz Wagner, Michigan – 27 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks in win at Michigan State

Juwan Morgan, Indiana – 21 points, 11 rebounds in win over Penn State

Mike Watkins and Lamar Stevens, Penn State – 46 points, 22 rebounds in win over Nebraska

Five Games to Watch This Week:

Maryland at Michigan, Monday, 6:30 EST, FS1

Ohio State at Northwestern, Wednesday, 9:00 EST, BTN

Michigan at Nebraska, Thursday, 9:00 EST, BTN

Indiana at Michigan State, Friday, 7:00 EST, FS1

Purdue at Iowa, Saturday, Noon, ESPN


Power Rankings

Legitimately Good Teams

1. Purdue (KenPom: 2)

Pretty hard not to take the team on the 13-game win streak, although I’d say Ohio State’s probably winning a little more impressively lately.

It’s been said before, but Purdue really isn’t missing much as a team. That’s not to say they don’t have weaknesses. Rebounding can be an issue. They struggle with length. They’re very well coached defensively and are often in the right spot, but they don’t force a lot of turnovers.

But they can win in a lot of different ways. This week they hit a parade of threes. They swept their December week of Big Ten games behind 47 Isaac Haas points. They’ve won multiple games with suffocating defense.

The common question around them recently, “Are they national championship contenders?” I don’t see why not. I understand Purdue’s national reputation as a very good program that is often in the mix for a Big Ten title, but never really a threat to win the big one. And reputation is born from results, but I also know Villanova had a similar reputation until a couple of years ago.

You’d like to see them against a Duke or Villanova or somebody similar before crowning them as a contender, but for right now I haven’t seen anybody decidedly better than the Boilers.

This week: home for Wisconsin, at Iowa

2. Ohio State (KenPom: 16)

What a couple of weeks for the Buckeyes. You could make the case that they should be #1 right now, but I’ll defer to the team that had the better non-conference run.

In case you haven’t heard Dan Dakich speak for a 5-minute stretch about any topic under the sun recently, Keita Bates-Diop is currently the Big Ten POY. I made sure to throw “currently” in there because after all, he does have 12 games left to play. But his play this year has been unreal to this point. It’s hard to find a hole in his game. Through six games, he’s currently in the Top 10 of the Big Ten in the following categories:

You know what, I’m not even going to list them out because it’s basically everything but steals per game and he’s 0.1 away.

One week I’ll make some room for CJ Jackson Appreciation, but it’s hard not to fawn over the guy who has now been KenPom MVP of the last eleven (11) Ohio State basketball games.

If you want to root for something, root for both the Buckeyes and Purdue to be undefeated when they meet in Mackey Arena on February 7th. KP gives this about an 11% chance of happening. This league needs a big marquee game desperately.

This week: at Northwestern, Minnesota in NYC

3. Michigan (KenPom: 17)

What an eventful week for the Wolverines. The highest of highs and the lowest of lows. We’ll start with the lows.

There’s certainly no shame in losing to Purdue, even at home. Purdue played well, shot well, and did some things defensively that John Beilein wasn’t prepared for and caused a slow start for the Wolverine offense. Now obviously the ending was a pretty bitter way to lose and especially when two controversial calls didn’t go your way at the end.

But I think that game combined with the massive win at the Breslin Center showed one thing very clearly: Michigan will go as far as Mo Wagner takes them.

Wagner was largely held in check against Purdue, but then exploded for a highly efficient 27 against Michigan State. Michigan is 8-2 when Wagner scores 20+. And those 8 wins aren’t a bunch of buy games. Only two of them were, in fact. They include MSU and UCLA victories this year and wins over Louisville, Purdue, and Wisconsin last year.

Wagner has always been uniquely efficient for a 6-11 player that spends half his time away from the paint, but if Michigan is going to take it to another level this year, they need a more consistently aggressive Mo.

This week: home for Maryland and Rutgers, at Nebraska

4. Michigan State (KenPom: 6)

At their best, Michigan State is not the fourth best team in the league, obviously. But right now they’re pretty mediocre. It’s only three games, but the last three have resulted in two double-digit losses (one at home) and an overtime dogfight win at home over Rutgers. That’s something you’d expect out of Illinois.

I didn’t find anything particularly troubling about the Ohio State loss last weekend. Sure, they got blown out, but it’s just one game and I thought it had more to do with the Buckeyes, playing on the road, and generally just the random swings of a 40-minute basketball game.

The performance against Rutgers was troubling. Say what you want Big Ten Network studio analyst about “Rutgers having a formula for Michigan State”…it’s Rutgers at home. After a blowout loss. That’s a game you should roll.

Okay, well surely you can get it together for a marquee game at home against your in-state rival, right? Guess not.

With all that said, I don’t think it matters. Michigan State’s chances of winning an outright Big Ten title are on life-support, but that’s not really what the program hangs its hat on. As long as they play well in March, this mid-January swoon will quickly be forgotten.

This week: home for Indiana

Could Be Decent, Could Be Terrible. Who’s To Say?

5. Indiana (KenPom: 89)

Traditionally, this Indiana team wouldn’t sniff the fifth spot, but this is the league we’re dealing with this year. And for their part, the Hoosiers are starting to play pretty well.

The offense is still a bit of a mess, but they’ve turned it up a notch on the other end. It’s nice to see Robert Johnson appear to give a shit.

It’s tough to put IU in the NCAA Tournament conversation at the moment, but they’re at least playing at the level of a bubble team, which is good because they’re going to need to play their best basketball of the season over the next three weeks. For a bad league, it’s tough to have a super-challenging three-week stretch, but the Hoosiers have it. Some think it’s still too early to be talking tournament, but Indiana’s resume is going to be defined by the next six games.

This week: at Michigan State

6. Penn State (KenPom: 46)

Good news: this is still Pat Chambers best team he’s had at Penn State by a fairly wide margin. Bad news: all of these close losses might still keep them from an NCAA berth. They’ve lost six games now by an average of five points, no margin greater than 11. It keeps them at a tournament level in regards to analytics, but doesn’t do much for their traditional resume that depends upon arbitrary things like “winning”. They’re an elite group defensively when healthy and Josh Reaves is a big part of that. They need him back in a hurry.

This week: home for Minnesota, at Northwestern

7. Maryland (KenPom: 41)

Only one game this past week for the Terps and it was a blowout loss at Ohio State. Like everybody else, they struggled with Bates-Diop and they also ran into the rarely seen Andrew Dakich buzzsaw. It’s tough to feel great about Maryland’s chances for the postseason after the injuries and with how poorly they seem to play on the road, but they’re certainly still in the race.

This week: at Michigan, home for Minnesota

8. Nebraska (KenPom: 81)

The Huskers seem to be in a constant “Are they decent or not?” purgatory. I know they’re a pretty good defensive team until somebody misses a shot. If there’s one fatal flaw for this team, it’s that they can’t clean up possessions with rebounds. In all seven of their losses this year, they’ve given up at least 30% of defensive rebounds.

They have guys who can score, but none of them super-efficiently. Their two highest-usage guys are both south of 50% in effective field goal percentage and one of those guys – Glynn Watson – is very far south of 50. For comparison sake, all 12 of Purdue’s players are above 50%. Even the walk-ons.

They’re not a terrible shooting team from the perimeter, but they also only have one good shooter (Anton Gill). Evan Taylor’s shooting 50% for the season, but he’s only taken five in six Big Ten games and he’s made just one of those.

So basically, they’re every Nebraska team Tim Miles has had in his six years. He’s only had one team finish in the Top 100 of offensive efficiency. So once again the defense makes them not terrible, but not necessarily decent.

This week: home for Illinois and Michigan

9. Wisconsin (KenPom: 78)

Well, I think we finally found what’s going to kill “the streak” for the Badgers and it has taken losing four senior starters from the previous year and three scholarship guards due to injury. I’d still think it’d be conceivable they could finish in the Top 5 of the league, but they still have five games against the Top 4 teams.

This week: at Purdue, home for Illinois

10. Northwestern (KenPom: 76)

I don’t know that it was really an up-and-down week for the Wildcats. I think they just got to play the disaster that is currently Minnesota basketball and took advantage like most teams would.

The harsh reality is their offense stinks, their zone stinks, and this year has been a tremendous missed opportunity to build momentum for a program that has never really had any.

There’s still time to save it, but the Wildcats haven’t given any reason for me to believe they will. Beating Ohio State would, though.

This week: Ohio State and Penn State at home

Confirmed Bad

11. Rutgers (KenPom: 121)

One of these days Rutgers is going to bust loose and it is going to be glorious and all of you are going to have to pay for your Rutger jokes.

That day does not appear to be imminent.

This week: home for Iowa, at Michigan

12. Minnesota (KenPom: 69)

I try to remain objective for the most part, but I think the Pitino family has at least two sleaze balls and I’m greatly enjoying both of their basketball programs falling apart at the seams due to their sleaziness, so sue me.

This week: at Penn State and Maryland, Ohio State in NYC

13. Iowa (KenPom: 87)

Somebody had to win Iowa/Illinois and it was Iowa so they were rewarded with the 13th spot. I still think you’re gutless, Iowa. Except for Luka Garza. Luka can play for me any day.

This week: at Rutgers, home for Purdue

14. Illinois (KenPom: 95)

Yikes.

This week: at Nebraska and Wisconsin

 

CBB Picks: 1/13

DUKE (-16) over Wake Forest

Kansas State (+12) over KANSAS

OKLAHOMA (-5) over TCU

Dartmouth (+17) over BOSTON COLLEGE

GEORGIA (-5) over South Carolina

Creighton (+4) over XAVIER

Miami (OH) (+15.5) over BUFFALO

FLORIDA STATE (-6) over Syracuse

CLEMSON (-3.5) over Miami (FL)

LOYOLA (IL) (-6) over Bradley

WYOMING (-7) over Colorado State

Missouri (+5.5) over ARKANSAS

MTSU (-15.5) over Southern Miss

Oregon State (+12.5) over ARIZONA STATE

FRESNO STATE (-6.5) over New Mexico

Valpo (+4.5) over NORTHERN IOWA

Utah State (+13.5) over NEVADA

WASHINGTON (-4) over Stanford

UTEP (-4.5) over FIU

BOISE STATE (-3.5) over San Diego State

UCLA (-11.5) over Colorado

SOUTH DAKOTA STATE (-14.5) over Denver

NORTH DAKOTA STATE (-6) over Oral Roberts

SEMO (-4) over Eastern Kentucky

UT MARTIN (-4.5) over Morehead State

Big Ten Basketball Non-Conference Review, Power Rankings, and Week 2 Preview

It’s been two months since our last look at the Big Ten and that’s because of two reasons: 1) I didn’t have time and 2) the league pretty much stinks and it’s futile to try to rank 12 of the teams.

I was one of the league’s biggest defenders last year and it paid off with how the Big Ten performed in the NCAA Tournament. I don’t think I can do that this year.

It’s not that teams had a bunch of terrible losses through non-conference play. Conference-wide, there were only six losses to teams outside the KenPom Top 100 and four of those belong to Rutgers and Indiana. But a recurring theme in the recaps that follow is that a lot of teams didn’t beat anybody all that noteworthy.

After a year with a lot of young, talented teams, the expectation was that many in the Big Ten would raise their level of play and it would be a competitive year with a lot of NCAA Tournament teams. It’s now looking like it’ll certainly be competitive, but if the tournament field was selected today the Big Ten would have maybe five teams competing and two of them might be playing in Dayton the first couple days.

But hey, at least they’re not the Pac-12!


Nine Stars from the Past Week Two Months:

Miles Bridges and Nick Ward, Michigan State – averaging 32.4 points, 15.3 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game

Vincent and Carsen Edwards, Purdue – averaging 31.6 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game

Jordan Murphy, Minnesota – averaging 19.1 points, 12.6 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game

Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State – averaging 18.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game

Anthony Cowan, Maryland – averaging 15.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.5 steals per game

Charles Matthews and Moritz Wagner, Michigan – averaging 31.0 points and 12.6 rebounds per game

Six Games to Watch This Week:

Indiana at Wisconsin, Tuesday, 7:00 pm EST, ESPN

Penn State at Maryland, Tuesday, 7:00 pm EST, BTN

Nebraska at Northwestern, Tuesday, 9:00 pm EST, BTN

Maryland at Michigan State, Thursday, 8:00 pm EST, FS1

Northwestern at Penn State, Friday, 8:00 pm EST, FS1

Michigan State at Ohio State, Sunday, 4:30 pm EST, CBS


Power Rankings

1. Michigan State (KenPom: 2 / BracketMatrix: 1 seed)

Good Things That Have Happened: It was pretty much all good for the Spartans. That’s why they’re currently #1 in the country. They won their bracket at the PK80 tournament. It wasn’t the toughest road to the title with matchups against DePaul and UConn, but the trip was worth it playing North Carolina in the championship and rolling the Heels behind an incredible defensive performance.

They didn’t have the strongest non-conference schedule, but they did tack on a blowout win over Notre Dame at home and started out 2-0 in conference.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: They lost to Duke in the Champions Classic, but there’s no shame in that. The win at Rutgers certainly wasn’t the prettiest, but every Big Ten champion usually has a couple of those on the road in league play every year. The key is being able to grind them out for wins.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: The biggest takeaway from the first half of the season for the Spartans is how well they’ve shot the ball from the perimeter. It was a concern before the season and they’re currently shooting 41.1%, good for 17th in the country. It’s still far from being the focal point of the offense, but they’ve got four guys shooting above the national average.

They’re likely still in for a dogfight for the conference title, but regardless of how that turns out, they’re looking at probably a 3 seed at the worst. The sheer number of capable players that they can trot out gives Tom Izzo a lot of options. He’s got probably four guys he can feature in the offense with the improvement in Year 2 for Josh Langford and the immediate impact Jaren Jackson has provided.

This week: home for Maryland, at Ohio State

2. Purdue (KenPom: 3 / BracketMatrix: 3 seed)

Good Things That Have Happened: The Boilers were able to rack up quite a few quality wins in non-conference play, as many as anybody in the country. That will be important for a program that has seemingly been stuck in 4/5 seed purgatory for eternity. They’ve already picked up two road wins that will likely be “quality” at years end with victories over Marquette and Maryland.

The win that sticks out is the 25-point romp over Arizona in the Bahamas. Talk about playing a team at the right time. Both Purdue and the Cats were staring at rock bottom if they lost that game and Purdue just happened to be more equipped to bounce back sooner. Arizona’s a different team with Rawle Alkins – as we’ve seen since he came back – but his absence in that game is the sort of detail that kind of gets lost in the resume spreadsheets in March.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: Western Kentucky. It may not go down as a “bad loss”, but a team as experienced and talented as Purdue had no business losing to the Hilltoppers. WKU beat SMU the next day and will probably be an upper-tier C-USA team, but still not a good look.

Purdue also lost to Tennessee in the Bahamas, but the Vols are pretty good and exactly the type of team that has given the Boilers trouble for what seems like decades.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: Purdue appears to be the only team that’s likely to give Michigan State any competition for the league title. The teams only meet once, which is in East Lansing, but the Spartans probably have a tougher schedule otherwise.

Purdue’s pretty much been what I expected them to be, with one big (7’3″) exception: Matt Haarms. Back-up center was a concern heading into the year with the unknown health of Jacquil Taylor and the almost total unknown that was Haarms. But the Dutchman has changed things for Purdue defensively, giving them an elite shot-blocking presence and a more mobile big to defend PNRs when Isaac Haas need a breather.

This week: home for Rutgers and Nebraska

3. Michigan (KenPom: 33 / BracketMatrix: 10 seed)

Good Things That Have Happened: The road win at Texas was hopefully a big one. Texas will probably look good analytically all year, but the Big 12 is the best league in the country and, well, somebody’s gonna lose some games and Texas might be one of them.

Wins over UCLA, IU, and VCU are good, but definitely not game-changers.

I guess outside of that, it was important that it turns out that Charles Matthews is the type of lead-guy they need to have some success this year.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: The LSU loss was similar to Purdue losing to WKU. Not a killer, but it certainly wasn’t good.

There were no bad losses for the Wolverines, but I guess you could say the lack of opportunities to get important wins is a “not good thing”. Usually when you have a ticket to the Maui Invitational you’re looking at some quality competition, but due to the loss in the opening round to LSU, Michigan didn’t play anybody inside the Top 80 of KenPom.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: Safe money is probably on the Wolverines making the NCAA Tournament, but there’s work to do. This is one of the rare seasons where a John Beilein team is better defensively than offensively. In fact, at this rate, it would be the best defensive team Beilein’s had in the history of KenPom (since 2001-02 season).

Offensively, they still need to get more from guys not named Charles Matthews and Mo Wagner. They’re both shooting on 27% of their possessions with nobody else that plays consistent minutes above 20%. For reference, both MSU and Purdue have four guys above 20%. Obvious candidates for the Wolverines are MAAR and Duncan Robinson. Also, consistent production out of Xavier Simpson would be massive.

This week: at Iowa, home for Illinois

4. Minnesota (KenPom: 43 / BracketMatrix: 11 seed)

Good Things That Have Happened: They won whatever tournament they were in of the 10 CBB tournaments that happen at the Barclays Center every year. They also got a nice road win at Providence. They avoided a catastrophic loss.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: Well, they did lose to Nebraska. Although it doesn’t appear to be major, Nate Mason does have an ankle injury and I’m sure he’ll be able to play on it soon, but those things linger and will likely hinder a guy like Mason who relies on explosiveness for a while.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: All things considered, it was a pretty disappointing first two months for the Gophers. They’re about as experienced as anybody in the country, they were a 5 seed in the tournament last year, and they’ve maintained status quo so far. Analytically, they’ve regressed as a team. I was a Richard Pitino detractor until I had to eat crow last season, but, buddy, I’m ready to fire up the Little Richie criticism again if need be. There doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of individual improvement from a season ago. Jordan Murphy is playing pretty well, but he’s been putting up double-doubles from the jump and is now just getting more opportunities.

This week: home against Illinois and Indiana

5. Ohio State (KenPom: 48 / BracketMatrix: Next Four Out)

Good Things That Have Happened: They started out 2-0 in conference play with a big road win at Wisconsin and a home victory against rival Michigan. They didn’t have any bad losses, which has been a problem for Ohio State teams in the past couple years. Also, Keita Bates-Diop has become what everyone hoped he would become.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: It’s not a bad loss, but the way in which they lost to Butler was tough to swallow. Obviously that was an emotional game already for Chris Holtmann, but then they blow a big lead in a short amount of time and they leave Portland 1-2 instead of 2-1. Clemson is a good team, but you would’ve expected a much better effort at home in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, especially defensively.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: Still a lot of work left to do for the Bucks, but you’d expect them to keep getting better under Holtmann. The personnel for this team was never ideal for his system, so as the season goes on I think it’s fair to expect him to utilize the roster better. Obviously, they’re going to lean very heavily on Bates-Diop, who has been fantastic, being the KenPom MVP in all seven of the team’s games in December.

This week: at Iowa, home for Michigan State

6. Maryland (KenPom: 30 / BracketMatrix: 11 seed)

Good Things That Have Happened: They beat Butler handily at home, they also grinded one out at Illinois. Most importantly, Anthony Cowan has taken over the role as “the man” very nicely.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: In a vacuum, the loss to St. Bonaventure isn’t bad, but the fact it kept the Terps from having a shot at TCU is a bit costly. Instead they had to play New Mexico and that win doesn’t really help them at all.

But the obvious worst thing to happen was losing Justin Jackson for the season. That sucks.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: Jackson had been kind of underwhelming this year for his talent level, but he obviously still brought a lot to the table and his absence limits the ceiling of this team quite a bit. With that said, a positive spin would be this: at least it wasn’t Anthony Cowan…or Kevin Huerter. Both those guys have been phenomenal and the real reason Maryland has got off to a pretty good start. The success of the Terps will continue to rely upon their production. I think Maryland is still in a decent spot to push for an NCAA Tournament bid.

This week: home for Penn State and Iowa, at Michigan State

7. Northwestern (KenPom: 53 / BracketMatrix: Others Receiving Votes (1))

Good Things That Have Happened: They held off Illinois at home.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: They lost to Georgia Tech, who has lost to Grambling State, Wright State, and Wofford so far this year. They also struggled to beat Loyola (MD), Saint Peter’s, La Salle, and DePaul.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: Now that I’m looking things over, Northwestern probably doesn’t deserve to be this high. But really nobody does beneath them either because that’s how bad it’s been in the league so far. Things would’ve gotten really bad for the Cats if they lost McIntosh, but his injury in the Brown game doesn’t appear to be anything serious.

I expected less from Northwestern than what it appeared many thought, but not even I expected this. Their inability to roll over bad teams has been surprising. It’s largely been a defensive regression, but they suffer from the same issue as Minnesota in the lack of individual offensive development category.

This week: home for Nebraska, at Penn State

8. Penn State (KenPom: 41 / BracketMatrix: Others Receiving Votes (2))

Good Things That Have Happened: Won at Iowa, destroyed in-state rival Pitt, didn’t get embarrassed by Texas A&M.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: Lost to Rider and Wisconsin at home.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: I don’t know. It kind of feels like a typical Penn State team, but they’re not playing in a typical Big Ten. So maybe they have a good year in the league. They certainly have enough players to do so. It kind of feels like a make or break year for Pat Chambers. Not saying he gets fired if Penn State doesn’t have a good year in the league, but it’s hard to make many excuses this year. He has the players, the competition is down, and they probably need to do something.

This week: at Maryland, home for Northwestern

9. Nebraska (KenPom: 97 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

Good Things That Have Happened: They beat Minnesota at home and nearly beat Kansas. Would’ve been a lot more helpful if they actually beat Kansas, though.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: Like a lot of other teams in the league, they didn’t necessarily have any bad losses. They just didn’t beat anybody good outside of the league. The blowout loss at St. John’s was especially problematic.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: Nebraska is pretty much always a perpetual rollercoaster under Tim Miles, which always makes them scary as an opponent. Their depth is a concern once again. I have no idea what’s really happened with Jack McVeigh, but his dropoff in production this year is a problem. They’ve got a pretty good crop of players that makes you think “next year will be the year”, but that’s basically every year in Lincoln. I’m sure they’ll be on the bubble for a week or two and then they’ll lose to Rutgers or something.

This week: at Northwestern and Purdue

10. Wisconsin (KenPom: 70 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

Good Things That Have Happened: They won at Penn State.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: They lost seven games. None of them were necessarily bad, but going 2-7 against decent opponents isn’t ideal.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: If things weren’t going poorly enough, D’Mitrik Trice and Kobe King both have the dreaded “out indefinitely” with injuries. I don’t really know what to say about this team. Ethan Happ is basically exactly the same as before except now there’s no one around him that can just go score. And there aren’t many shooters. The only reasons their defense is halfway decent is because they rebound well and don’t foul. There’s a shot the Top 4 streak doesn’t end because the conference is so down, but it’s still pretty unlikely.

This week: Indiana at home, Rutgers on the road

11. Indiana (KenPom: 91 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

Good Things That Have Happened: They beat Notre Dame.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: Losing to Indiana State and Fort Wayne at home by a combined 41 points.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: I have no idea. I thought that they were turning a corner when they rolled Iowa at home, competed at Louisville, and then beat Notre Dame. They followed that up with the egg at home against Fort Wayne. Now, yes there is some “shooting luck” with the ISU and FW games, but the truth is that IU’s guards pretty much stink and the battle on the perimeter isn’t often going to favor them. They can improve the defensive part of it, but it’s really hard to become a better shooting team midseason.

The good news for IU is that there’s a lot of teams in this league they can beat this year and potentially get things kickstarted. The bad news is that they open 2018 with road games at the Kohl Center and the Barn.

This week: at Wisconsin and Minnesota

12. Illinois (KenPom: 87 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

Good Things That Have Happened: They won the Border Battle or whatever they call it against Mizzou.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: Mizzou was the only good-ish win that they had. They lost a game in Chicago against NMSU. They also struggled with UT-Martin, Austin Peay, and Grand Canyon at home.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: It’s gonna take a pretty sizable turnaround for them to even be on the bubble, but you can kind of see the path. They’re biggest issue is that scoring is a real problem. Brad Underwood’s strength has never been halfcourt offense, but it’d do wonders for this team if Mark Alstork and Michael Finke just started making shots that they’ve made earlier in their career. Alstork is more capable of getting his own shot, which makes his play a bigger key. I have a theory and that theory is that you can’t depend on Leron Black to carry your offense and at the same time be a good offense. Alstork needs to be better, as does Finke, as does Aaron Jordan, who’s disappeared over the last couple weeks.

This week: at Minnesota and Michigan

13. Iowa (KenPom: 78 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

Good Things That Have Happened: Well, they did win nine games. Unfortunately none of the teams they beat are in the Top 120 of KenPom.

Not Good Things That Have Happened: They lost two games in the Cayman Islands to mid-major schools. They started out 0-2 in league play. They lost to their in-state rival. They lost in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Now, I wouldn’t consider any of those teams bad, but it’s not a good look when you go 0-6 against the Top 100 and none of those six teams would be in the NCAA Tournament if they selected today.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: I predicted Iowa to finish sixth, so obviously I didn’t see this one coming. I still don’t really think they’re that bad, but at some point you actually have to beat somebody and we’re two months in for the Hawks. The offense is fine, but could definitely be better. You’d like to see more consistent production out of the backcourt. For me, the biggest problem once again is that they just play with no edge defensively. They don’t rebound well at that end and they don’t really make any plays. The NCAA Tournament isn’t impossible, but they need to get it going with a couple big wins this week.

This week: Michigan and Ohio State at home, Maryland on the road

14. Rutgers (KenPom: 121 / BracketMatrix: N/A)

Good Things That Have Happened: THEY BEAT SETON HALL…

Not Good Things That Have Happened: …which they followed up with by losing to Stony Brook and Hartford at home.

Outlook for the Remainder of the Year: I keep waiting for Rutgers to turn the corner, but it’s probably going to take at least another year. And I’m not talking about turning into a tournament team. I’m just talking about them getting out of the “conference doormat” phase. They’re still so much better than they were under Eddie Jordan, but that transition has really only happened defensively. The offense is still really bad.

This week: Purdue on the road, Wisconsin at home

 

CFB Bowl Spread Picks and Confidence Points on Every Game

Spread Picks

4 Units

Navy (+2.5) over Virginia

I made the pick before Army-Navy, which was obviously a bit of a gamble in terms of injuries. Luckily nothing major came in that department.

Despite losing that game, this one’s now a pick ’em. Maybe people realized Navy’s actually better than Virginia AND it’s a home game for the Midshipmen.

Both teams stumbled a bit to the finish with UVA going 1-5 and Navy going 1-6. However, Navy only had two of those games at home: their one win in that stretch over a solid SMU and a 10-point loss to undefeated UCF. All of their other five losses were to bowl teams, on a road or neutral site, and they were all one-score games, except for a 10-point loss at Houston.

UVA also played some good competition over the second half, but the margin of their losses doesn’t inspire confidence. Here’s their last six games:

  • 31-point home loss to BC
  • 17-point road loss to Pitt
  • 4-point win over GT at home
  • 17-point loss at Louisville
  • 16-point loss at Miami after leading by 14 in the 3Q
  • shutout loss at home to VT

The Cavs just don’t do much well offensively. They’re among the 10 worst teams in the country in yards per carry. This is probably why only five teams throw at a higher rate than them, but it’s a lot of dink-and-dunk. The biggest cause for concern as a Navy backer is limiting big plays from UVA’s one real homerun hitter, Andre Levrone.

UVA held up fairly well against GT when they faced their option (Yellow Jackets did score 36), but they’re not the best against the run. The pass defense is by far the best part of the Cav team, but they won’t have much opportunity to showcase it.

All-in-all, if you just look at the performances of each team over the year, Navy’s been a much more consistent team and you can find quite a few games where they played well for 60 minutes. I think you can only say that about three of UVA’s games and two of them were in the first third of the season.

3 Units

Purdue (+3.5) over Arizona

This makes me very uncomfortable, so I’m going to try and keep it brief. The obvious key for slowing down Arizona is slowing down Khalil Tate. The only teams that limited Lamar Jackson’s rushing attack this year (in non-Louisville blowouts) better than Purdue: Clemson and NC State. Tate’s ability to run is very comparable to Jackson, except he’s not nearly as good of a passer.

I’m not saying Purdue is going to shut him down, but they’ve been very good on that side of the ball, they’ve dealt with a better version of Tate before, and their strength is their front seven.

On the other side, I’d be lying if I said Purdue was a well-oiled machine. However, you’re giving Jeff Brohm a month to gameplan and draw up as many trick plays as his heart desires against a weak defense.

Michigan State (+3) over Washington State

Wazzu might have negative rushing yards in this game. As always, they’re going to rely heavily on Luke Falk and their short passing plays to generate offense against a very stingy Spartan defense. I just don’t see how that works at all. It’s going to be a low scoring game no matter how you slice it, but at least you can go in knowing that MSU will be able to move the ball on the ground.

Ohio State (-6.5) over USC

Two blue bloods of college football. Both were thought to be in contention for the fourth playoff spot. A lot of NFL talent on both sides.

With that said, OSU is in a different league from the Trojans. The Buckeyes don’t really have a weakness. They’re one of the best teams in the country by almost every statistical measure. USC is not. They’re “pretty good” offensively and decidedly “average” on defense.

Giving less than a touchdown is a gift.

Penn State (-2.5) over Washington

UW played one Top 25 team (analytically, that is) all year. They lost. They’re a very good team and they’ve got some really talented players, but as good as they’ve been the last couple years they haven’t once delivered in the primetime moments.

2 Units

Notre Dame (+3) over LSU

Some have suggested that some of the upperclassmen for LSU won’t be motivated because they’ve already mentally moved on to the NFL.

That’s not why I like Notre Dame. I have no idea what LSU’s motivation is and I think it’s a pretty naive/dumb idea to assume the mental state of a group of 18-22 year olds. That can get you in a lot of trouble.

The Irish have been a much more dependable team all year outside of one debacle in Miami. Bowl games tend to favor the more schematic coaches and that’s not exactly Ed Orgeron’s forte.

Oklahoma (+105 ML) over Georgia

It’s a clash of styles and I’m not totally sure that the Dawgs aren’t going to have a field day against the Sooner front seven, but it’s in essence a toss-up and at that point it often comes down to the most important position on the field.

https://cdn-s3.si.com/s3fs-public/styles/marquee_large_2x/public/2017/12/09/baker-mayfield-wins-heisman-trophy.jpg

I have no idea what the history of Heisman winners are in bowl games and I don’t care. Baker has been on a mission from the jump.

UCLA (+2.5) over Kansas State

Usually a coaching change is reason for a little doubt with a team, but Jim Mora is a perennial underachiever and UCLA will be fine.

Iowa State (+3) over Memphis

Sure it’s a road game for the Cyclones, but they’re 10-2 ATS and they won at Oklahoma, so I’m not concerned.

New Mexico State (+3.5) over Utah State

It’s what my numbers tell me.

Fresno State (+2.5) over Houston

Back to that whole “coaching is important in bowl games” point, both these teams have new coaches this year.

One team is DOWN roughly thirty (30) spots from a year ago, nationally.

The other is UP about sixty (60) S-I-X-T-Y spots.

One is 5-3 in bowl games, the other has a 7-5 career head coaching record.

Northwestern (-7) over Kentucky

Kentucky is below average offensively, defensively, overall from a national perspective. They went 4-4 in the mighty SEC. Northwestern is kind of shitty in both the run and pass game offensively and UK still doesn’t have an edge in this game.

At the end of the day, it’s still only a two unit bet because it’s tough to trust Northwestern too much. Pat Fitzgerald’s 2-5 bowl record doesn’t help.

Wisconsin (-6.5) over Miami (FL)

I like to be honest with everybody, so here’s some real honesty. I went through all the games looking for teams that were playing at home so that I could make the proper spread adjustments. I acknowledged Navy, Memphis, and FAU. I 100% missed Miami before I made this bet.

The Badgers are still better and more consistent on both sides of the ball, but………………….I really wish they weren’t playing at Miami.

San Diego State (-4.5) over Army

Two teams I’ve loved this year and really for a few years now. It kills me to bet against Army, especially in the Armed Forces Bowl, but they are not at all prepared to stop Rashaad Penny.

Leans On Every Other Game

I’m tired so this is all gut reaction, zero research or facts involved.

Troy (-7) over North Texas

I like what Littrell has done at NT, but Troy seems to have turned a corner lately.

Georgia State (+6.5) over Western Kentucky

I said I wasn’t gonna go do research, but just look up power rankings for WKU last year and this year and then look up rankings for Purdue last year and this year and then it’s very easy for me to tell you why I worship at the Church of Jeff Brohm. And why Mike Sanford stinks.

Oregon (-7) over Boise State

It SUCKS that Rolls Royce isn’t playing, but Herbert is the engine to the ship and always has been.

Marshall (+5.5) over Colorado State

Take the overachieving dog over the underachieving favorite every day of the week.

Arkansas State (-3.5) over MTSU

It’s hard to believe in a Richie James-less Blue Raider team.

Akron (+22.5) over FAU

Wouldn’t think about betting it for a second, but if you force me to make a pick on a game like this, I’m taking the 3+ touchdowns 100% of the time.

SMU (-5) over Louisiana Tech

Louisiana Tech stinks. To be honest, C-USA stinks.

Temple (-7) over FIU

Temple’s been a different team since the QB change.

Ohio (-7.5) over UAB

UAB is a nice story, but they really aren’t very good.

Central Michigan (pick) over Wyoming

Josh Allen probably won’t play which means the Cowboy offense is downgraded from “bad” to “diarrhea”

Texas Tech (+2.5) over South Florida

The ultimate toss-up game. If you bet it, you’re a psycho, no offense.

Toledo (-7) over App State

Take Woodside.

Utah (-6.5) over West Virginia

Kyle Whittingham is a bowl game winning machine and he deserves your respect. It also helps that WVU’s entire offense (Will Grier) is out.

Northern Illinois (+5.5) over Duke

Always take the MACtion team in Detroit. It’s a rule.

Southern Miss (+15.5) over Florida State

Grab the points. Don’t necessarily hate the money line.

Iowa (-3) over BC

IOWA TRAVELS, FOLKS!

Texas (+3) over Missouri

It’s in Texas?

Virginia Tech (+4.5) over Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State is just good enough at times to make you think they’re really good, but they’re not.

TCU (-2.5) over Stanford

One last chance to take the Frogs.

Wake Forest (-3) over Texas A&M

John. Wolford.

NC State (-6.5) over Arizona State

I wanted to like the Herm Edwards hire, but so far it’s looking terrible and I’ve got no choice but to believe this is going to quickly wreck the whole program.

Mississippi State (+6.5) over Louisville

Louisville is basically Lamar and sometimes that’s just not enough.

UCF (+9.5) over Auburn

I love the Knights, but don’t love the matchup.

Clemson (+2.5) over Alabama

Clemson being an underdog as the #1 team against a team they beat in the championship a year ago is basically giving Dabo a stacked deck. Also, 2017 Alabama hasn’t proven much of anything against top competition.

Confidence Rankings

41. Florida Atlantic (over Akron)

40. Ohio State (over USC)

39. Northwestern (over Kentucky)

38. Michigan (over South Carolina)

37. Florida State (over Southern Miss)

36. Ohio (over UAB)

35. Toledo (over Appalachian State)

34. San Diego State (over Army)

33. Temple (over FIU)

32. Penn State (over Washington)

31. Navy (over Virginia)

30. Wisconsin (over Miami FL)

29. NC State (over Arizona State)

28. Wake Forest (over Texas A&M)

27. SMU (over Louisiana Tech)

26. Auburn (over UCF)

25. Oklahoma State (over Virginia Tech)

24. TCU (over Stanford)

23. Arkansas State (over Middle Tennessee)

22. Central Michigan (over Wyoming)

21. Duke (over Northern Illinois)

20. Texas (over Missouri)

19. Western Kentucky (over Georgia State)

18. Oregon (over Boise State)

17. Colorado State (over Marshall)

16. Notre Dame (over LSU)

15. Troy (over North Texas)

14. Clemson (over Alabama)

13. Iowa (over Boston College)

12. Louisville (over Mississippi State)

11. Oklahoma (over Georgia)

10. Purdue (over Arizona)

9. UCLA (over Kansas State)

8. Utah (over West Virginia)

7. Iowa State (over Memphis)

6. New Mexico State (over Utah State)

5. Michigan State (over Washington State)

4. Fresno State (over Houston)

3. South Florida (over Texas Tech)

2. North Carolina A&T (over Grambling State)

1. Clemson/Alabama Winner (over Oklahoma/Georgia Winner)

2017-18 Bowl Rankings: Watchability

39. Western Kentucky – Georgia State
AutoNation Cure Bowl
Dec. 16, 2:30 p.m. | CBSSN
Camping World Stadium | Orlando, Florida

Here’s the rank of teams beaten by WKU and GSU this season, according to TeamRankings. Keep in mind that there are 130 FBS teams.

98
107
115
117
120
122
126
127 x2
128
130
FCS team

There would be “FCS team x2” except GSU lost to Tennessee State 17-10 at home.

In case you were wondering, WKU is rated 102nd and Georgia State is rated 116th.

38. Central Michigan – Wyoming
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Dec. 22, 4 p.m. | ESPN
Lyle Smith Field at Albertsons Stadium | Boise, Idaho

This game might end up seeming more fun than it really is because it’s on an early Friday evening heading into a three or four day, holiday weekend.

My favorite thing about this game will be Shane Morris outplaying Top 5 NFL Draft prospect Josh Allen, who has completed 56% of his passes en route to 13 passing touchdowns this season. I’m not sure that would’ve made you a Top 5 pick in 1974, BUT LOOK HOW FAR HE CAN THROW IT!!!

37. Duke – Northern Illinois
Quick Lane Bowl
Dec. 26, 5:15 p.m. | ESPN
Ford Field | Detroit

I feel for the Quick Lane Bowl marketing staff. Tough sell.

36. SMU – Louisiana Tech
DXL Frisco Bowl
Dec. 20, 8 p.m. | ESPN
Toyota Stadium | Frisco, Texas

There might be some points, but it’s another duo that just beat the worst teams on their schedule. It’s a glorified home game for SMU.

35. Utah State – NMSU
NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl
Dec. 29, 5:30 p.m. | CBSSN
Arizona Stadium | Tucson, Arizona

There’s really not a lot to get the juices flowing for this one, but it’ll be fun to watch NMSU play in their first bowl game in like a million years, I guess.

34. Temple – FIU
Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl
Dec. 21, 8 p.m. | ESPN
Tropicana Field | St. Petersburg, Florida

First year for the Gasparilla Bowl, formerly the St. Petersburg Bowl, which featured that Mississippi State 17, Miami (OH) 16 barn-burner last year.

Bad Boy Mowers getting deep into the sponsor game. They just did the Battle 4 Atlantis, where things got wild, so that’s something. Also, they make a sturdy mower. Little slow though.

33. Ohio – UAB
Bahamas Bowl
Dec. 22 12:30 p.m. | ESPN
Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium | Nassau, Bahamas

Much like the Hawaii Bowl, the Bahamas Bowl is better when there’s a ton of points. I don’t know why, maybe it just reminds me of the Colt Brennan/Timmy Chang/June Jones days of the Rainbow Warriors. Save the 24-20 battles for all those shitty bowls in Alabama.

The over/under here is 57, but Ohio is 15th in the country in scoring so we’ve got hope.

32. Utah – West Virginia
Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl
Dec. 26, 1:30 p.m. | ESPN
Cotton Bowl | Dallas

This would be a lot higher, but Will Grier most likely isn’t going to play and Tyler Huntley is questionable. Nothing like a duel between a pair of QB2’s on a Tuesday afternoon to get the juices flowing.

31. Iowa – BC
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Dec. 27, 5:15 p.m. | ESPN
Yankee Stadium | New York

I’m not totally against the idea of Iowa and BC grinding out a “3 yards and a cloud of snow” game in Yankee Stadium, but just knowing how much better it would be with Anthony Brown at QB for BC will be in the back of my mind the whole time.

30. Kansas State – UCLA
Cactus Bowl
Dec. 26, 9 p.m. | ESPN
Chase Field | Phoenix

All due respect to Bill Snyder, but the Cats just don’t put asses in the seats.

Look for a lot of people confirming their opinion on Josh Rosen’s NFL potential based on how well he plays in this very important Cactus Bowl.

29. Colorado State – Marshall
GILDAN New Mexico Bowl
Dec. 16, 4:30 p.m. | ESPN
Branch Field at Dreamstyle Stadium | Albuquerque, New Mexico

It’s a fairly even game? I don’t know. CSU’s pretty fun when their offense is rolling.

28. Northwestern – Kentucky
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Dec. 29, 4:30 p.m. | ESPN
Nissan Stadium | Nashville, Tennessee

Another one that’s helped out by the fact you’ll be coming home for another three-day weekend happy as can be, probably crack a cold one or your favorite holiday mixer, sit down on the couch, and turn this otherwise blah game on. That’s a special feeling.

27. Florida State – Southern Miss
Walk-On’s Independence Bowl
Dec. 27, 1:30 p.m. | ESPN
Independence Stadium | Shreveport, Louisiana

This excites me only because I know how embarrassed FSU fans have to be playing Southern Miss in the Walk-On’s Independence Bowl in Shreveport on a Wednesday afternoon.

26. Arkansas State – MTSU
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
Dec. 16, 8 p.m. | ESPN
Cramton Bowl | Montgomery, Alabama

It would be a lot more fun if Richie James was playing, but it should be another doozy of a Raycom Media Camellia Bowl. I’m not joking about that, either. This is the fourth edition. The first three have been amazingly consistent good games:

2014: Bowling Green 33, South Alabama 28
2015: App State 31, Ohio 29
2016: App State 31, Toledo 28

Those totals: 61, 60, 59.

If you put any action on the over/under of 62 this year, you’re a legitimate psycho.

25. Navy – Virginia
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman
Dec. 28, 1:30 p.m. | ESPN
Jack Stephens Field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium | Annapolis, Maryland

I don’t really know if this should be this high, but my biggest bet of the bowl season is Navy and I’m very self-involved.

24. FAU – Akron
Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl
Dec. 19, 7 p.m. | ESPN
Howard Schnellenberger Field at FAU Stadium | Boca Raton, Florida

It’d be more fun if FAU got a crack at a Power 5 school, but nobody moves the needle like Joey Fresh. At this point, it seems like the Lane Train is staying in Boca for another year. Might go undefeated next year after cleaning up on the transfer market.

23. Troy – North Texas
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Dec. 16, 1 p.m. | ESPN
Mercedes-Benz Superdome | New Orleans

First bowl game of the season and it’s a pretty good one. Quality quarterback play and two coaches who will probably be in bigger jobs in the next few years.

22. Houston – Fresno State
Hawaii Bowl
Dec. 24, 8:30 p.m. | ESPN
Hawaiian Tel Federal Credit Union Field at Aloha Stadium | Honolulu

Houston kind of sucks now and their offense was a shell of itself without Greg Ward, but Ed Oliver is as fun as defensive tackles can get. Fresno is a fun story and QB Marcus McMaryion is like a poor man’s Lamar Jackson.

At the end of the day, it’s the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve. If you have a bad time, you’re dead inside.

21. SDSU – Army
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Dec. 23, 3:30 p.m. | ESPN
Amon G. Carter Stadium | Fort Worth, Texas

Two of my favorite teams. Rashaad Penny vs. the troops. Every possible running play you could create. Should be fun.

20. Wake Forest – Texas A&M
Belk Bowl
Dec. 29, 1 p.m. | ESPN
Bank of America Stadium | Charlotte, North Carolina

Probably a little high, but if you haven’t watched much of John Wolford, it’s your last chance. It’s also your last chance to watch Texas A&M before Jimbo Fisher…keeps them exactly where they’re at.

19. Michigan – South Carolina
Outback Bowl
Jan. 1, Noon | ESPN2
Raymond James Stadium | Tampa, Florida

Not a great ranking for a New Year’s Day bowl, but you can watch Brandon Peters vs. Jake Bentley. Two young QBs who will never look as good as they actually are in their dated offensive systems. Catch the Outback Bowl fever!

18. Toledo – App State
Dollar General Bowl
Dec. 23, 7 p.m. | ESPN
Ladd-Peebles Stadium | Mobile, Alabama

Remember that 2016 Camellia Bowl score? Of course you do, how could you forget?

Well, it’s a rematch. Lotta people gonna “discover” Logan Woodside.

17. Arizona – Purdue
Foster Farms Bowl
Dec. 27, 8:30 p.m. | FOX
Levi’s Stadium | Santa Clara, California

This could be a biased take, but I think this is a fun game. Khalil Tate is appointment TV always. On the other side, although Purdue’s offense has been spotty, you’re giving Jeff Brohm a month to come up with as many variations of the flea-flicker as humanly possible. And he will exhaust those possibilities.

16. Louisville – Mississippi State
TaxSlayer Bowl
Dec. 30, Noon | ESPN
EverBank Field | Jacksonville, Florida

Potential through the roof if Nick Fitzgerald was playing, but still…it’s Lamar Jackson.

15. TCU – Stanford
Valero Alamo Bowl
Dec. 28, 9 p.m. | ESPN
Alamodome | San Antonio, Texas

Bryce Love. All of the TCU jitterbugs. The potential of Kenny Hill doing something colossally stupid. Gary Patterson wearing many outfits. Top 5 bowl venue, in my opinion. There are worse ways to spend a Thursday night.

14. Wisconsin – Miami
Capital One Orange Bowl
Dec. 30, 8 p.m. | ESPN
Hard Rock Stadium | Miami Gardens, Florida

A whole lot of defense and running the football. Some white linebackers. Your dad will love this game. And he’ll be cheering for Wisconsin.

13. NC State – Arizona State
Hyundai Sun Bowl
Dec. 29, 3 p.m. | CBS
Sun Bowl | El Paso, Texas

A bowl game that has stood the test of time. It’s also the biggest bowl game CBS has to offer, which seems like a poor job by them.

12. Washington State – Michigan State
San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl
Dec. 28, 9 p.m. | FOX
SDCCU Stadium | San Diego

It’s going to feature A TON of 4-7 yard plays, but I’m excited. For as big of a dump as Qualcomm SDCCU Stadium is, I’ve always enjoyed watching games there. I like the color clash here. I like the coaches. I like that I’ll be flipping back and forth between this and the Alamo Bowl, knowing I’m about to mail in a day of work the next day. Both games are likely to be close. Just good, clean, bowl season fun.

11. Memphis – Iowa State
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Dec. 30, 12:30 p.m. | ABC
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium | Memphis, Tennessee

It’s a home game for Memphis, but it just feels like Iowa State is up for the challenge. I mean, they’ve been terrible in recent years, so getting to the Liberty Bowl is a big deal. I don’t have a clue who’s playing QB for them, but they’re basically the same whether it’s QB1 or QB5.

10. Texas – Missouri
Academy Sports + Outdoors Bowl
Dec. 27, 9 p.m. | ESPN
NRG Stadium | Houston

I told myself to never bet a total again, but I feel like I need to come out of retirement to bet the over on 60.5 for this game.

9. Oregon – Boise
Las Vegas Bowl
Dec. 16, 3:30 p.m. | ABC
Sam Boyd Stadium | Las Vegas

Oregon is so much fun when Justin Herbert is playing quarterback. THEY’RE ALSO A LOT BETTER. I’M NOT BITTER AT ALL THAT HE GOT HURT AND IT TOTALLY SUBMARINED THE DUCKS WINNING AT LEAST 8 GAMES AND I BET A SUBSTANTIAL AMOUNT OF MONEY THAT THEY WOULD. IT’S FINE. I’M FINE!

also, boise and oregon in vegas on opening day is fun.

8. Oklahoma State – Virginia Tech
Camping World Bowl
Dec. 28, 5:15 p.m. | ESPN
Camping World Stadium | Orlando, Florida

The Camping World Bowl aka the Russell Athletic Bowl aka the Champs Sports Bowl feels like it’s always two teams that had the potential for greatness, but ended up being just “good”. It’s been dominated by the ACC over the years.

That sounds a bit negative, but this should be a great game. It stinks that it’s an early Thursday evening, but there’s two really good quarterbacks, two good head coaches, James Washington, and the Virginia Tech defense.

7. South Florida – Texas Tech
Birmingham Bowl
Dec. 23, Noon | ESPN
Legion Field | Birmingham, Alabama

Maybe won’t be as many points as one would think, but it’s got the potential. I don’t know anything about Nic Shimonek outside of football, but I know he has the ultimate villain hairdo and I find it very easy and enjoyable to root against him.

6. LSU – Notre Dame
Citrus Bowl Presented by Overton’s
Jan. 1, 1 p.m. | ABC
Camping World Stadium | Orlando, Florida

Two brand names playing on New Year’s Day. Hard not to like. Also, you’ve got one of the most lovable coaches (Coach O) against one of the biggest assholes (Brian Kelly).

5. Penn State – Washington
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
Dec. 30, 4 p.m. | ESPN
University of Phoenix Stadium | Glendale, Arizona

This game needs Dante Pettis to play to reach its full potential, but it’s still got a lot of firepower.

4. Auburn – UCF
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
Jan. 1, 12:30 p.m. | ESPN
Mercedes-Benz Stadium | Atlanta

Aside from Purdue, I will not be rooting harder for anyone than UCF. No offense to Auburn, you can just play the “we didn’t want to be there” card.

3. Ohio State – USC
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
Dec. 29, 8:30 p.m. | ESPN
AT&T Stadium | Arlington, Texas

Just a ridiculous amount of talent on the field. It’s a Friday night. Ohio State and USC both playing for “we should’ve been in the playoff” position. Microscope on Sam Darnold. A bowl game’s bowl game.

2. Georgia – Oklahoma
College Football Playoff
Jan. 1, 5 p.m. | ESPN
Rose Bowl | Pasadena, California

Obviously high stakes on the line, but more than that it’s going to be a really interesting contrast in styles.

1. Clemson – Alabama
College Football Playoff
Jan. 1, 8:45 p.m. | ESPN
Mercedes-Benz Superdome | New Orleans

BYOG.

2017-18 Big Ten Basketball Preview

 

Projected Order of Finish

Clear Cut Contenders Division

1. Michigan State (APR: 7)

Double Plays: MD, Rutgers, IU, Illinois, UW
Singles Home: Nebraska, Michigan, PSU, Purdue
Singles Away: OSU, Iowa, Minny, NW

Consensus Outlook: I haven’t seen one Big Ten preview that doesn’t have the Spartans on top. This is largely due to the fact that Bridges is also widely considered to be the best player in the league and there’s 10 other guys that could contribute in the rotation. Jaren Jackson is the most highly touted freshman, as well. The frontcourt depth issues from last year appear to be solved and Nick Ward might be the best big man in the league. They’ve got a ton of experience and young talent in spades. 3 or 4 of their 5 “double plays” are against teams that are likely to end up in the bottom half of the league. And they have Izzo.

What They’re Not Saying: This will be Tom Izzo’s 23rd year at Michigan State. He’s been to seven Final Fours, won five Big Ten Tournaments, and even won a national championship. But he’s only won two outright Big Ten regular season championships. Yes, they have a ton of talent in East Lansing, but I don’t think it’s nearly as open-and-shut as people are making it out to be. Having 11 capable players is great, but turning that into a rotation is going to be a process. A lot of the bigs on this team are still new to playing with the guards/wings and that will take some time itself. Turnover differential was a problem all of last year and it’s up to Cassius Winston and Tum Tum Nairn to solve that on the offensive end for the Spartans.

Projection: I don’t really expect the Spartans to run away and hide with the league title, but they’re probably the only team in the league where that’s possible. They certainly have the most long-term potential, but I need to see the fantastic parts function as a unit before I’m ready to pen them in to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

2. Purdue (APR: 13)

Double Plays: MD, Rutgers, Michigan, UW, Minnesota
Singles Home: NW, Nebraska, OSU, PSU
Singles Away: MSU, IU, Iowa, Illinois

Consensus Outlook: Purdue has a lot of experience returning, but how good are they without Caleb Swanigan? They’re well balanced and skilled, will probably still be a very good shooting team, but rebounding and perimeter defense are still a concern. Vince Edwards is a Top 8 player in the league and Carsen Edwards is a wildcard. They probably still lack enough dynamic playmakers on the perimeter to make a deep run in March.

What They’re Not Saying: I think the area you’ll notice Swanigan’s absence the most is rebounding, because how could you not? The guy was a monster on the glass. Less noticeable – but also important – will be the loss of Biggie’s passing out of both the high and low post. Isaac Haas just doesn’t compare in that area. With that said, I think Purdue has the potential to be better on both ends of the floor this year. Defense should be easy. Swanigan was the only consistent rotation player lost and he often sacrificed contesting shots around the rim to keep out of foul trouble. I think you’ll see the offense playing more freely this year and it may lead to a higher efficiency. Many times the offense would get bogged down when opponents were able to effectively defend Purdue’s post play, but the Boilers still seemed insistent on making sure Biggie got fed when a different course of action was necessary. That feeling doesn’t carry over to Haas, all due respect. Painter has shown he’s willing to go away from the big oak tree when things grind to a halt.

Projection: Purdue might actually have the highest floor of anybody in the league. You pretty much know what you’re going to get with all they have returning. The problem is, I’m not sure there’s that much difference between that floor and their ceiling. A lot depends on Carsen Edwards’ development as an offensive playmaker/decision maker. Matt Haarms suddenly looks like a significant contributor, which would be found money for a team that really could use a mobile big defensively. The Boilers are a definite tournament team, but it’s to be determined if they can break the Sweet 16 barrier for the first time in the Matt Painter era.

3. Minnesota (APR: 29)

Double Plays: Purdue, Nebraska, IU, NW, Iowa
Singles Home: MSU, Rutgers, Illinois, OSU (NYC)
Singles Away: PSU, MD, Michigan, UW

Consensus Outlook: They return what was probably their five best players from last year and that’s enough reason to expect big things out of the Gophers this year. They’re one of the most athletic teams in the league and likely to be the best defensively. Nate Mason is one of the best guards in the league. Reggie Lynch is a dominant rim protector. Amir Coffey is primed to make a big jump in his sophomore season. A lack of depth and poor perimeter shooting will hold them back.

What They’re Not Saying: It’s always a scary proposition to expect much from a freshman point guard, but the addition of Isaiah Washington alongside Nate Mason has the potential to be a devastating backcourt duo late in the season. It’s been two-and-a-half years since Davonte Fitzgerald has played a game, but his addition to the rotation only increases Minny’s athletic advantage over the rest of the league.

Projection: Minnesota absolutely has a chance to win the league. I don’t think the league did them any favors with only 8 home games and a rough road schedule, but they do only have to play MSU once and it’s in The Barn. They’re a lock for the tournament, but will likely need to find some hot perimeter shooting to make much of an impact once they get there.

4. Northwestern (APR: 26)

Double Plays: Minny, PSU, Michigan, UW, MD
Singles Home: MSU, Illinois, Nebraska, OSU
Singles Away: Purdue, IU, Rutgers, Iowa

Consensus Outlook: All the key pieces from their historic team last year are back. The pressure of never making the NCAA Tournament are gone. Nothing but good times in Evanston.

What They’re Not Saying: While the Wildcat program has reached new heights, it’s important to remember that this team has a ceiling that isn’t all that different from last year. I’m not sure they’re going to be that much more efficient offensively. Their shooting numbers were pretty poor everywhere on the floor. Defensively, they’ll be rock-solid again, but they were unable to make many plays on that end to lead to easy scores the other way. How does that change?

Projection: I put the Wildcats in the contenders category, but I’m not really convinced that’s the case yet. I could see them contending, but I think it’s just as likely that they’re battling the bubble in February and March again.

Respect for the Program Division

5. Wisconsin (APR: 29)

Double Plays: MSU, Purdue, NW, Nebraska, Illinois
Singles Home: Minny, OSU, IU, Michigan
Singles Away: PSU, Rutgers, Iowa, MD

Consensus Outlook: Ethan Happ is one of the best players in the league, but he’s the only returning starter from last year’s squad. There’s a lot of holes to fill personnel wise and it’s unclear what the rotation will be. Many have the Badgers in the 7-9 range.

What They’re Not Saying: Some mention the fact that the Badgers haven’t finished outside the Top 4 of the Big Ten for the last 16 years, but just kind of gloss over it. I recognize that I’ve got them one slot outside that number, but the program has built up way too much credibility for me to put them in the bottom half. Yes, the personnel is a question mark, but it’s not the first time in the past 17 years that Wisconsin doesn’t look good on paper heading into the season. There’s always a few things that come to my mind with the Badgers: the swing offense, versatile big men, and player development. The last one is the key. There’s a thousand examples of guys dramatically improving in the program. I don’t know who that’s going to be this year, but there’s plenty of talented players for Greg Gard to choose from. I will say there’s a legitimate question if Gard can continue that trend as the head coach. He’s been working with some experienced teams in his first year-and-a-half, guys that played in Final Fours. This year will be his first test of trying to build the majority of the rotation.

Projection: I’d expect the tournament streak to continue, although things might be a little bumpy in the non-conference this year. If they win a game when they get there, I’d be over the moon if I were a Badger fan.

Super Sophs and Michigan Division

6. Iowa (APR: 46)

Double Plays: Minny, PSU, IU, Michigan, OSU
Singles Home: MSU, Purdue, NW, UW
Singles Away: MD, Illinois, Rutgers, Nebraska

Consensus Outlook: The Hawkeyes will have to figure things out without Peter Jok. Jok was the biggest gunner in the league last year. Will the freshmen standouts from a year ago be able to take over lead roles? And of course everyone is curious to see if this year’s version of the Hawkeyes can guard a soul.

What They’re Not Saying: Many mention Tyler Cook, but I think he’s going to be a monster this year now that he’s healthy and has a full season under his belt. There’s less mention of freshman center Luke Garza, but he was dominant on their Europe trip and their two exhibition games. It’s always easier for big guys to pile up statistics against overmatched competition, but it’s still hard to ignore those numbers. I don’t know that they’ll be even an average team defensively. However, there’s not many teams that can match the overwhelming number of scoring options they have.

Projection: As far as conference standings go, I think Iowa has high-end potential with their depth and the schedule. All four of the teams they will only play at home are in my personal projected Top 5. Schedule strength with the unbalanced schedules now play a big factor. With a soft non-conference schedule, I can see this team going on a similar path that Maryland did last year. I’d expect the Hawkeyes to be back in the NCAA Tournament field.

7. Michigan (APR: 30)

Double Plays: Purdue, NW, Iowa, OSU, MD
Singles Home: Minny, IU, Illinois, Rutgers
Singles Away: MSU, UW, Nebraska, PSU

Consensus Outlook: The usual opinion on a John Beilein team. The offense will be good, not so sure about the defense. Everyone’s curious to see how well Jaaron Simmons and Xavier Simpson can replace Derrick Walton. Depth may be an issue again.

What They’re Not Saying: Charles Matthews might end up being one of the top scorers in the league this year. Matthews is known as a slasher, but he’s not an incapable shooter, either. That would obviously be a very positive thing. On the flip side, I’m not sure Moe Wagner is going to be the All-Big Ten player many are projecting him to be this year. He had flashes of brilliance last season and overall a very good year, but there were too many disappearing acts. Part of that was due to his experienced and talented teammates, but it’s a concern nonetheless. Wagner staying out of foul trouble will be a key as well for the Wolverines. He fouled at a high rate last year and Michigan just doesn’t have the frontcourt depth to deal well with it.

Projection: The offensive potential is high with the starting unit and that’s enough to get the Wolverines a bunch of wins, but they’re gonna have to be better defensively to experience the same type of success they did a year ago.

8. Penn State (APR: 61)

Double Plays: NW, Iowa, MD, OSU, Nebraska
Singles Home: Minny, UW, Michigan, Rutgers
Singles Away: MSU, Purdue, IU, Illinois

Consensus Outlook: The Nittany Lions return their talented freshmen trio, along with the other two starters. A poor offense from a year ago will likely improve, but is it enough to take them to the next level? They don’t have much depth. Will anyone actually show up to Bryce Jordan? Will they run an actual offense this year? The non-conference schedule is a who’s who of bad teams.

What They’re Not Saying: While the non-conference schedule is horrendous, I’m not sure it’s the worst thing for what’s still a fairly young team. They lost a lot of close games last year and seemed to be out of gas by the end of the season. If they can rack up a lot of wins early and build some confidence, it may propel them to win enough games to be on the bubble late in the year.

Projection: I like the core of the group, but I’m not sure who Pat Chambers turns to when they need a shot of life off the bench. Obviously the starters are more important, but good teams always have reserves that can make some big plays to win games in the heart of the season. That’s a big question mark for Penn State. I think they’ve got a semi-decent chance to make the tournament, but there’s a few major questions to answer first.

9. Maryland (APR: 40)

Double Plays: MSU, Purdue, NW, Michigan, PSU
Singles Home: Minny, UW, Iowa, Rutgers
Singles Away: IU, OSU, Illinois, Nebraska

Consensus Outlook: The sophomore class is outstanding, although life without Melo Trimble will be an adjustment. They need Cekovsky and Wiley to stay healthy. Rebounding is still a big question mark, but they should be a very good defensive team.

What They’re Not Saying: I’m not sure how much others look at the schedule when they make these rankings, but I do. It’s a lot of projecting, but the “double plays” for Maryland are pretty rugged. Among this 6-9 (yes, it is nice) group, that’s the reason I put them at the bottom. I love their sophomore class as much as the next person, but I can’t shake how much they relied on Trimble when things were tight last year. The youngsters made some plays, but they no longer have the Melo safety blanket.

Projection: I guess I wouldn’t really be surprised if the Terps made me look like a fool and finished in the Top 4 of the league. They certainly have the talent to do so. But I’m still expecting them to be firmly on the bubble when the calendar turns to March.

New Coaches Division

10. Indiana (APR: 53)

Double Plays: MSU, Minny, Iowa, OSU, Illinois
Singles Home: Purdue, NW, PSU, MD
Singles Away: UW, Michigan, Nebraska, Rutgers

Consensus Outlook: A new-look Hoosiers team in a lot of ways. Obviously Archie Miller is now the coach. Miller has a vastly different style from his predecessor. The personnel suggests that the constant green light in the backcourt will no longer exist outside of Rob Johnson. All eyes turn to De’Ron Davis and Juwan Morgan.

What They’re Not Saying: While IU may not have a great team on paper, there’s still enough talent to sneak their way in the top half of the league. The Miller hire provides them with an upgrade in coaching and a revitalized fanbase that should keep Assembly Hall (or whatever it’s called now) rocking all year. The defense should be vastly improved and if they find a little more perimeter shooting along the way, they should find themselves in this slot or higher.

Projection: Probably the NIT. High end potential is probably grabbing one of the last at-large bids in the NCAA Tournament.

11. Ohio State (APR: 70)

Double Plays: Iowa, Michigan, PSU, IU, Rutgers
Singles Home: MSU, MD, Illinois, Nebraska
Singles Away: Purdue, Minny (NYC), NW, UW

Consensus Outlook: They’ll rely heavily on Jae’Sean Tate, Kam Williams, and Keita Bates-Diop. There’s talent, but maybe not the type of talent that Chris Holtmann would prefer in terms of system fit.

What They’re Not Saying: This program needs a big-time culture change. The good news on that front is that perpetual pouty faces JaQuan Lyle and Marc Loving are now gone. I believe Thad Matta to be a great coach, but he didn’t seem to have the same juice the past couple years due to his poor health. Chris Holtmann should bring a youthful passion to that position that was probably necessary.

Projection: There’s still quite a bit of talent in Columbus, but clearly there’s been other issues in the program. I think Holtmann will do a great job there, but I’m not sure the results will appear as fast as Buckeye fans would hope.

12. Illinois (APR: 90)

Double Plays: MSU, UW, IU, Rutgers, Nebraska
Singles Home: Purdue, Iowa, PSU, MD
Singles Away: Minny, NW, Michigan, OSU

Consensus Outlook: Brad Underwood was a homerun hire for the Illini. There are some talented pieces coming in and a few left over from the John Groce era. It remains to be seen if Underwood can utilize his system with the current roster.

What They’re Not Saying: It appears some others are a little higher on the Illini this year. They do have some talent, but I think it’s going to take Underwood some time to sort out the jumbled mess that the program’s been the last few years. He was able to succeed right away at Oklahoma State, but that was more of a ready-made situation with Jawun Evans running the show. A lot’s expected of grad transfer Mark Alstork, but early returns are that he’s still finding his way, only scoring four points in a scrimmage loss to Eastern Illinois.

Projection: Underwood is great for the program (assuming he doesn’t get caught up in the FBI mess) and there are some decent players in Champaign. However, there’s not a player on the roster that’s been a part of a successful team at this level. I think the Illini will look more coherent this year, but I’d still say an NIT birth would be considered a win for this team.

Hopefully Better! Division

13. Nebraska (APR: 96)

Double Plays: Minny, UW, PSU, Rutgers, Illinois
Singles Home: Iowa, Michigan, MD, IU
Singles Away: MSU, Purdue, NW, OSU

Consensus Outlook: Quite a bit of roster turnover again for the Huskers. Old talent out, new talent coming in, mostly from the transfer market. The Huskers will be frisky, especially in Lincoln.

What They’re Not Saying: I think it’s going to be more of the same what you’ve seen the past couple of years from Nebraska. At times they’ll look like they should be in the NCAA Tournament and at times they’ll look like they belong in the CBI. The issue remains the same. They have too much roster turnover from one year to the next and they’ll rely on incoming talent to play big roles.

Projection: It’s hard to build a program when you’re constantly losing rotation players early and trying to patchwork the roster with transfer pieces, many of whom probably didn’t work out at their last Power 5 school for a reason. I’m penciling in the Huskers for 14-18 wins.

14. Rutgers (APR: 133)

Double Plays: MSU, Purdue, OSU, Illinois, Nebraska
Singles Home: NW, UW, Iowa, IU
Singles Away: Minny, Michigan, PSU, MD

Consensus Outlook: Steve Pikiell is great! The roster is not.

What They’re Not Saying: It’s easy to pencil Rutgers in at the bottom because they’ve been here for a few years now. Obviously I’m doing the same, but one of these years Pikiell is going to bounce out of it and win Coach of the Year. They’ve got a strong trio in Sanders, Williams, and Freeman. The problem is, it’s hard to find a single other guy that would crack the rotation at many other Big Ten schools. It appears as though Pikiell might be starting two freshmen who would likely redshirt at much of the competition.

Projection: I’m not sure how much the Big Ten record will really improve this year, but that doesn’t mean things aren’t getting better in Piscataway.

Player of the Year

Miles Bridges, Michigan State

Sometimes things are just really simple. Bridges was outstanding his freshman year when healthy. After somewhat stunningly returning for his sophomore season, he’s the overwhelming favorite to win this award as his team is poised to have a much better year.

Newcomer of the Year

Charles Matthews, Michigan

Saying that the Kentucky transfer is very talented would be redundant, but it’s true. Jaren Jackson is a popular pick for good reason. Jackson is a likely lottery pick next season, but I’ll go with Matthews due to opportunity. MSU has an embarrassment of riches and likely won’t need high productivity from Jackson every game. On the other hand, Matthews may be counted on to carry a big part of the scoring load for the Wolverines all year.

First Team

Miles Bridges, Michigan State

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin

Nate Mason, Minnesota

Vincent Edwards, Purdue

Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern

Second Team

Nick Ward, Michigan State

Justin Jackson, Maryland

Tony Carr, Penn State

Tyler Cook, Iowa

Carsen Edwards, Purdue

CFB Week 11 Picks, Rankings, Ramblings

 

Power Rankings?

The last few weeks I’ve been working on a system to use as a predictor for the outcome of games. It’s one of the few times in my life I’ve really wished I was a big computer nerd. Probably could’ve accomplished what I wanted to accomplish in like two hours, tops. More on that later.

But through the process, I realized I could make a power rankings and if you’ve been a loyal follower of this blog, you know nothing makes me wet quite like an opportunity to put together a meaningless set of rankings.

Are they really that different from most of the predictive rankings you see out there? Not really! They’re probably slightly worse due to two reasons: 1. they originated from my brain and 2. it’s probably riddled with clerical errors.

Anyway, here’s the Top 25:

MLP Rank Team CFP Rank
1 Ohio St 13
2 Oklahoma 5
3 Georgia 1
4 Alabama 2
5 Oklahoma St 15
6 Penn St 14
7 Auburn 10
8 Clemson 4
9 Notre Dame 3
10 UCF 18
11 Virginia Tech 17
12 Wisconsin 8
13 TCU 6
14 Washington 9
15 USC 11
16 Michigan St 12
17 Michigan NR
18 Wazzu 19
19 Texas NR
20 Miami (FL) 7
21 Miss State 16
22 Iowa 20
23 NC State 23
24 LSU 24
25 GA Tech NR

I’ll be the first to admit it: not a great look that Ohio State is first and Alabama is fourth. Not good! However, it’s pretty explainable. Strength of schedule is weighted pretty heavily and facts are facts: the Tide’s schedule so far has pretty much stunk. Their raw numbers otherwise are hurt by the fact that they pull the starters in the third quarter like 75% of the time.

Also, Ohio State is still second in S&P+, ESPN’s FPI, and TeamRankings.

Otherwise, I kinda like it.

Your Top 5 Group of 5 Rankings:

  1. UCF (10)
  2. USF (27)
  3. Toledo (31)
  4. Boise St. (37)
  5. San Diego St. (38)

Your Bottom 5 Power of 5 Rankings:

  1. Kansas (126)
  2. Oregon St. (107)
  3. Illinois (106)
  4. Rutgers (105)
  5. Tennessee (94)

Learn to Love Again

I’m talkin gamblin. The first nine weeks were nothing but unrelenting torture. But not last week! It was a huge week. 13-5 with half of 14 underdogs cashing the moneyline as well. It was beautiful.

Of course we’re nowhere near a profit for the season yet. Whatever.

Last week was the first week I felt like I started to understand how to evaluate the outputs the system was telling me and about 13 of those picks were purely based on those outputs. Expect a lot of underdog picks the rest of the way.

So we’re feeling good. I should also mention the season-long picks are doing quite well.

Right now we’re on the quest to get close to breaking even. Here’s this week’s picks.

Ramblings

I’ve just got some takes that I need to get out.

  • The above rankings support my general thoughts that UCF is criminally underrated when it comes to the CFP rankings so far. The Knights are at 18, which I can’t help but notice is 10 and 9 spots behind Wisconsin and Washington, respectively. Why are they important to UCF? Well, the biggest knock on UCF is what? That they’re in the AAC and that must mean that their schedule is so much easier than teams like the UWs. Except to this point, it’s not. If you look at TeamRankings’ SOS numbers, UCF is 63rd, Wisconsin is 58th, and Washington is 53rd. And Washington has a loss! UCF has beaten one team in the CFP Top 25 (Memphis by 27 at home), as has Wisconsin (NW by 9 at home), and meanwhile Washington doesn’t have a single one. And Washington has a loss! I’d love to hear a logical explanation of the rankings of those three teams. (SPOILER: It doesn’t exist)
  • As someone who holds a Saquon +1400 Heisman ticket, I have no idea why he’s been considered the Heisman favorite. I feel like during every recent Penn State game, one of the commentators has said something along the lines of “Barkley is a Heisman favorite, but this has not been one of his better games.” It’s so odd to me. He’s rushed for over 100 yards three times this year. THREE!
  • Speaking of Penn State, if James Franklin doesn’t scream “phony” to you, I think you’re a terrible judge of character. Sprinting after his players after last week’s loss to Michigan State so that they would shake hands was quite the show.
  • I grew up hating Notre Dame, but I find myself rooting for them and it’s weird. Maybe it’s because I have a season long bet on them (it’s definitely that), but that’s nearly over. Brian Kelly is the worst. My childhood was basically one long argument with reversible jacket ND football/IU basketball fans. But still, I’m legitimately pulling for them and I can’t figure out why.
  • San Jose State has to be one of the most incapable, incompetent football teams I’ve ever seen.
  • I forget Georgia Southern’s head coach’s name right now, but nobody has ever put a program in a tailspin faster than that guy.
  • James “Junkyard Jim” Washington is my favorite college receiver since Michael Crabtree.
  • I like the playoff and all and sure I love a good hypothetical, but it sucks that every national radio show just devolves into six weeks of hypothetical playoff situation talk and ignores like 115 out of the 130 programs during that stretch.
  • I just somehow found out about The Solid Verbal podcast early this year and it makes me mad at everyone I know for not telling me about it for the past, like. 8 years.
  • College football is the best. Well, until college basketball starts.