The bowl season has been, in a word, strange.
Cancellations. Pushing two dozen players sitting out to get ready for the draft. Coaches on the move — up and out. Turned cliches like "Offenses win championships." Bad beats and no contests.
Pick an option and it has happened and we're not even close to halfway done or even approaching the big-boy games.
With that, it should not be a surprise that our Fab 4 bowl record fell to 4-4-1 with last night's dreadful overtime loss as California and TCU set offensive football back two decades. In a word the 10-7 Frogs' victory was gross. Nine interceptions were thrown, including two by TCU QB Grayson Muehlstein on illegal forward passes.
Speaking of Muehlstein his final line — 7-of-20 for 27 yards and four picks — hardly screams bowl success.
It also was sad to watch Paul Johnson's awesome career — dude was a three-time ACC coach of the year and found success as the HC at three schools — fade into black with that disaster against Minnesota. Add that to the all-but-certain cover that Boston College looked to be before that game was lightninged-out and, well, Wednesday was a bowled over day rather than a day bowling.
You know what they say. Sometimes your the ball. Sometimes your the pins. (And sometimes I end up in the gutter.) Alas.
But the constant here is that pickers gotta pick. Players gotta play. And entertainment hunters can not — and will not — give up that hunt for entertainment. With that, let's roll.
Since there are so many between now and next Thursday, we will have multiple installments over the next few days. Deal? Deal. We will roll with the picks between now and New Year's Eve with the exception of the playoff games. (Those may have a couple mailbag queries attached.)
Wisconsin plus-3 over Miami. Here's a vote that the Hurricanes are going to go New York City, feel those highs in the 30s or low 40s today and decide that trying to tackle the downhill running game of the Badgers is not all it's cracked up to be. Call it a hunch, but here's betting the 'Canes' enthusiasms are less than overwhelming. Side question: How great is the 'enthusiasms' scene in "The Untouchables" gang? Seriously. Enjoy.
Vandy minus-4 over Baylor. Is Commodores running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn the best player in college football no one knows about? Potentially. Dude was aces down the stretch. Add Kyle Shurmur to Vaughn and the Vandy offense is better than most realize. Research alert: Vaughn averaged 91 rushing yards per game; Baylor allowed more than 5 yards per rush this season. Research alert part II: Did you know that Vandy was a spotless 5-0 against the number this year as a favorite? Hmmmmmmmm.
Syracuse minus-2 over West Virginia over 66. If there's much question about Will Grier's value, know that the line has moved 9 points since Grier announced that he was sitting this one out. Add to that the knowledge that Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey will be as healthy as he's been all season, well, there you go. Heck, the point spread has moved more than the total has fallen with Grier's announcement. We still think the Mountaineers will put points
Iowa State plus-3.5 over Washington State and over 56. We love Mike Leach. Like we really love Mike Leach. Like Brick loves lamp people. But as much as we love the ol' Pirate, he may only be the second-best coach in this bowl match-up. ISU's Matt Campbell has done work at what has traditionally been one of the worst programs in the country. Now, the Cyclones are salty. And opportunistic. And how this over/under is not in the 60s is anyone's guess.
Purdue plus-3.5 over Auburn. I've tried 12 ways from Tuesday to figure out a way to pick Auburn. Can't do it. Now add in the fact that superfan Tyler Trent, who has days to live, is going to be an honorary captain for the Boilermakers, and Purdue's biggest edge — motivation — keeps getting bigger.
Fab 4 bowl picks: 4-4-1 against the spread (50 percent).
Regular season picks: 53-38-2 (58.2 percent).
We said pickers gotta pick, right?
Well, let's get back in the middle of it. And man, if you think bowl week is about motivation, look at some of these meaningless games on the Sunday after the penultimate Sunday of the regular season.
Atlanta plus-2 over Tampa Bay. Motivation? well, the Falcons coaching staff is staring at potential overhaul. That's a motivator for sure. And we called it last week: Falcons win out and try to tell everyone which is the clean end of this turd of a season at 7-9.
Houston minus-6 over Jacksonville. The Texans play early — and at home — knowing this simple truth: Win and win the division. Lose and face going on the road as a wildcard playoff team. The Texans also have a chance to get the 2 seed with a Patriots loss, but still the motivator of a 'W' (copyright Jameis Winston and his finger-licking antics) is there. The Jags play this one knowing this simple truth: They are turning the QB1 tag back to Blake Bortles. Hey, the truth is not always pretty.
Indianapolis minus-3 over Tennessee. Buy the half, and this is kind of a hunch play. We'll start with what we know: Winner advances; losers goes home. It's Thunderdome — two teams enter, one team leaves — in prime time. We believe this: Marcus Mariota will not play. Sorry, if he was telling the truth that he felt his entire right side tingle when he got injured last week — and he's on the report with "shoulder and foot" — that's no bueno. And that leads us to one more thing we know: If it's truly Blaine Gabbert v Andrew Luck, well, we'll back the latter every day and twice on Sunday night.
Philadelphia minus-6 over Washington. Yes, a road dog giving up almost a full TD. But a) Philly has something to play for; b) Nick Bleepin' Foles; c) Washington inexplicably cut a defensive leader for telling the truth; d) Nick Bleepin' Foles; e) Washington's QB may be Billy Kilmer and f) Nick Bleepin' Foles.
Last week: 3-1 against the spread (75 percent).
NFL picks this season: 8-4 against the spread (66.7 percent).
Too much of a good thing?
That seems to be a fair question after reports that "The Match" between Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods will be repeated in 2019.
And potentially again in 2020, according to this story from Golf Digest.
The story details that Phil and Tiger would play as a team against another tandem.
DJ and Brooks maybe? Justin and Jordan? Rory and Jon Rahm in a Ryder Cup-type deal?
But man, please let them learn from the missteps of this first spin.
Have the players put up their own money, even if it's just for appearances. Have the announcers not talk over the players chatter. Have the players chatter more.
We get taking a mulligan because, for all its faults and shortcomings, the interest and intrigue was there for "The Match."
Simply put, the charisma of Phil and Tiger generated interest.
And it will again, especially if the organizers are willing to match the interest with a little effort.
This and that
— This makes me happy. After Matt Patricia acted like a pompous ass and told a reporter to sit up and show some respect in a news conference, here's the story that Patricia is routinely late to meetings. Dude seems to be a complete jerk.
— Not sure if you have The Athletic, but if you do, Dave O'Brien's feature on the oral history of Ronald Acuna's rookie season is outstanding stuff. Enjoy.
— Justin Herbert is coming back to Oregon and skipping a chance to be a first-round pick next spring. Hey, to each their own, but man that seems like a risky play.
Who would be the best match-up to go against Tiger and Phil?
There's a lot of talk about this being the end for Eli Manning's time in NYC. Will Eli play for the Giants in 2019, and if no, will he play anywhere?
Two years ago today, Carrie Fisher died.
John Amos is 79 today. Yes, 79. Dude looks great for 79. (He was the dad in Good Times and Mr. McDowell in "Coming to America.")
On this day in 1947, the first Howdy Doody Show was broadcast on NBC.
Rushmore of TV puppets. Go.