Fab 4 picks
Well, we finished as close to .500 as almost humanly possible, but like the property Al Czervik bought behind the Great Wall, we finished on the good side. Hi, Matt.
Well, now comes the bowl games. They are everywhere.
And while gambling is never easy and should never be considered a 'sure thing' by any measure, the bowl games bring an extra layer of difficulty. To continue our glorious tribute to the glorious characters of the glorious talents of Mr. Rodney Dangerfield, if college football betting is competitive diving, betting on bowl games is like the Triple Lindy Thornton Melon pulled off with the extra springboard in "Back to School."
Availability is forever a valuable capability, but for bowl games, that's not about health or injuries. That's about whether guys are suiting up or not.
Sure, most of the players who decided to opt out and focus on their professional development are known. But suspensions and other issues may not be.
Moreover, a team's motivation is every bit as important as talent. Whether it's fired staff/new staff, defections or disappointment, the mood of a brood can make any pick look shrewd or lewd rather quickly. (Side note: For that reason, I'm looking at a lot of in-game betting after seeing which teams show up ready to play and which ones collected swag bags and enjoyed the sunny weather.)
In-game picks aside, we offer our views and keep up with the results. That's sports, right? So, let's get to this first wave of bowl games, which will fill the airwaves starting tomorrow.
Oh yeah, there is still time to get your picks in for the annual "Bowling for Bowls of Bowl Game Success, Bowler Optional" contest. The games, rules and spreads are here. And since we pick every game, the deadline is tomorrow at noon with the kickoff of the Bahamas Bowl. So get on it.
Like an engaged couple filling up the registry, let's pick some bowls. (Side note: These are the actual live VegasInsider.com lines as of this morning. Not the lines from the contest. Just want to be clear. And the contest entry will use the lines from the link above.
MTSU plus-10.5 over Toledo. For most of the year, I lean toward the favorites in college football. Better teams have better players. But I put a premium on points in the postseason. Especially if we can get north of 10.
Coastal Carolina minus-10 over Northern Illinois. And yeah, about the above, well, CCU was nationally ranked when quarterback Grayson McCall was healthy. He's healthy again.
Western Kentucky plus-3 over App State. I'll take the WKU offense, which scores. A lot.
Fresno State minus-11 over UTEP. Huge disparity in skill sets between these two. And yes, that's two double-digit favorites. Side note: The motivation angles are not as critical in the early bowl games, in my opinion, because it's not like Fresno or UTEP were holding out hope to go to the Sugar and are disappointed about playing in the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday.
UAB plus-7 over BYU. The Blazers have been as good as anyone in America against the number, going 9-3 in Vegas' eyes.
Liberty minus-9 over Eastern Michigan. Liberty lost three straight to end the season, a hangover that I believe was started with the loss at Ole Miss in a game that Hugh Freeze wanted desperately. I think said hangover is done and I think LU QB Malik Willis is going to do everything in his power to put first-round film out there heading into the draft process.
Utah State plus-7 over Oregon State. Go State, beat State.
Marshall plus-5 over Louisiana. This one feels like let-down city. Louisiana lost their coach. Its top running back has opted out, as has a starting DT. Come on, everyone, "We Are Marshall" right? Also, "We Are Marshall" is wicked > "Rudy" and wicked, Wicked, WICKED >>> "Remember the Titans." I'll fight on this hill, people.
Last week: 0-1 against the spread (a Blutarsky-esque 0.0%)
This year: 47-46 against the spread (50.5%, which is worth $100, right Matt?)
Bowl season: 0-0
Shocking, said no one
So Urban Meyer is done in Jacksonville.
Out before Christmas in his first year of a very failed NFL experiment which makes you wonder if he'll ever coach again.
Personally, I think a well-heeled college program will come calling the mercenary that is Coach Liar and will mortgage its soul for a chance to win it all.
Thinking of you Texas, because let's be blunt: If Steve Sarkisian has another run of mediocrity and missed opportunity, his time in Austin will be up. In fact, Coach Liar cooling his jets and waiting in the wings will make hot seats at major programs be like (cue Dr. Evil ) liquid hot Mag-MA.
It also brings to the conversation of why so many great college coaches become great failures in the league.
The reasoning is twofold. First, college players have to fall in line to 'rah-rah' rhetoric and the State U sentiment. College players have NFL dreams and they can't get there from the sidelines. And they can't get off the sidelines if they are in Coach's doghouse.
So there is a blind loyalty and allegiance built into the equation at the college level. The NFL? Yeah, no. It's a business in which the dudes making the plays are way, Way, WAY more important and valuable than the dudes calling the plays.
So the college theories and philosophies built on the dictatorial coach-player dynamic is fractured from the start. In fact, the two guys who transitioned best from college to the league and traded Saturday success to Super Bowl status ran programs that were littered with outlaws and proven to be running afoul of almost every NCAA rule.
Pete Carroll and Barry Switzer were running NFL franchises at USC and Oklahoma respectively, so the transition to Sundays was not as dramatic or as dichotic as the vast majority.
Second, most great college coaches are also great recruiters, which gives them a Jimmy and Joe edge more times than not. The NFL is about signing deals not signing day.
And if the league is designed to pull everyone back to the middle - and it is - then the best thing a coach can bring to the table is a bona fide schematic edge. Meyer never possessed that.
Speaking of signing day, maybe there was a touch of irony of Meyer - the ubër recruiter - getting canned on the day that colleges across the country reloaded their rosters.
It was a merry signing day if you ask everyone. Well almost anyone.
Two of the spots that will be asking themselves serious Urban Liar questions in the next 12 months had wretched signing days.
First, there was Nebraska. And while Scott Frost continues to be granted time and patience that is Sasquatchian in today's modern college football realm, this seems like another paragraph to add to the writing on the wall.
Nebraska finished 14th - out of 14 - among Big Ten schools in recruiting. Yes, DFL. Somewhere Tom Osborne just screamed "Shucks!" and forgot to put his napkin in his lap at breakfast.
Oh, the humanity.
Nebraska behind Indiana, Rutgers or Illinois? Should not happen considering the resources the Huskers - "HICKORY!" - allocate to football.
Second, FSU, what the bleep?
Travis Hunter was the name we all heard on Wednesday's signing day, as the nation's No. 1 overall prospect eschewed the Seminoles at the 11th hour to sign with (wait for it) - Deion Sanders and Jackson State, the HBCU FCS program.
You can make the case that a) Hunter is a CB and who better to learn how to play CB (and market yourself) than Coach Prime, and b) if Hunter so desires, he likely could get as many offensive snaps as he wants.
But the ripples on this early signing next day come from the emerging details of the NIL deals that reportedly are headed Hunter's way. Barstool and Deion are as thick as thieves, and Hunter likely will have a seven-figure NIL deal in place before he sets sail for Mississippi.
In fact, in this day and age, when content is king and programming is almost priceless, you have to believe that with the buzz and the star power of Deion and Hunter together, Barstool is already planning some hybrid version of "Hard Knocks" meets "Last Chance U" right?
And it's a fool's errand to view this in the old-school prism of fairness. It's never been about fairness. In fact, if I'm a muckety-muck at Notre Dame this morning, I've already called NBC and wondered aloud why we are not planning something similar on the Peacock+ streaming services.
And here's one more for you: We have already reached a place where several teams such as Miami and others have across-the-board NIL deals from companies owned by well-heeled boosters in which every scholarship player gets a monthly taste.
What happens when YellaWood decides to go across the conference. Or worse yet, what happens when the SEC Network - knowing the reciprocal value of having the best players in the college football in the league it covers - starts investing in NIL deals on signing day.
In years past, those schools pitched the exposure NBC gave the Golden Domers or that the SEC got from its broadcast partners. Exposure is everywhere these days; so those partners will need to come up with something else. If it truly means more, then the networks will truly have to pay more - and add more folks to the payroll.
Sure, this will be the signing day that we'll remember because Deion pulled the nation's top player to an FCS program.
It also will be the signing day that opened the marketplace to the masses.
This and that
- One more signing day tidbit. Let's go to Oxford, Miss., where Lane Kiffin dropped some modern-day logic on the matter. The Rebels signed a high class by most major program standards, and Kiffin said it was by design. And it's hard to argue with his point. "For the most part this was all high school knowing that the other aspect of this is older guys with transfers," Kiffin told the AP. "That'll be ongoing. For a while, all the way through when we start school in January because they don't sign NLIs again. We're going to anticipate a lot of movement there and signees there, which is why by design this is a small class compared to the amount of scholarships we have available. We were very picky. We had high standards. Didn't reach." In recent years, we have added an early signing day. With the free agency that the portal represents, almost every day could be signing day moving forward.
- As for rankings, well, of course Alabama and Georgia crushed. As did the SEC. Heck, according to the 247sports.com folks, Georgia, Alabama and Texas A&M signed 12 of the 26 five-star players in this class. Egad. I even saw one stat that had Vandy ranked 13th in the league and 31st nationally among the signing classes.
- Here's Paschall's recap on the Vols and the newest members of the UT signing class. UT was ranked 14th nationally by 247sports.com after Wednesday. Of course that was only good for seventh in the SEC, behind A&M (1), Alabama (2), Georgia (3), Missouri (11), Kentucky (12) and Auburn (13).
- Speaking of NIL deals, another JSU player - Deion's son Shedeur Sanders - was one of nine college athletes to sign deals with Tom Brady to advance his new brand.
- I was disappointed in UTC hoops last night. It was a monster opportunity, and if we are being frank, it was not as close or as contested as an eight-point Belmont victory would lead you to believe. It was not a blowout, but it was not all that close either. It was at least a two-possession game from the 12:23 mark of the first. This would have been an upset that would have had the college basketball work talking. Yes, there are positives in that the more often a team gets to play in meaningful, pressure-packed situations is how teams develop resolve and grit. That's good, for sure. But it's hard not to be disappointed by this, to be honest.
OK, we're on the fourth day of sports fans Christmas people. Any ideas?
Remember the mailbag and the Bowls contest. It's that time of year kids.
As for today, Dec. 16 - man we're getting close to Jesus' birthday - let's review.
The Boston Tea Party happened on this day in 1773. That's cool.
Colonel Sanders died on this day in 1980. Rest easy, Colonel.
Rushmore of Colonels in TV and movies. Go.