Through 15 bowl games, the two of us have combined to pick winners at a whopping 27 percent clip. In truth, I'm mad at Kentucky for blowing a cover against Clemson and at North Carolina for covering by a point, thus killing my dream of a winless bowl season.
But no matter, more embarrassment awaits... On to the New Year's Eve and New Year's Day picks...
Armed Forces Bowl (Fort Worth, Texas): Air Force (7-5) vs. Houston
Spread: Houston (-4.5)
Dan: One of my favorite Web sites for gambling is a site called www.covers.com. It is great. Not only can you talk sports and who you want to bet, but you can also talk stocks and investments, etc. Well what commonly happens on the college football page is that some crazy ending will occur and instantly a thread will pop up stating, “The fix is in, Team B was on the take!” Never was this more evident than the Air Force vs. San Diego State game earlier this year where I believe Air Force was giving 15.5. Air Force was up 26-2 when San Diego State scored with three minutes to go, then completed a 30-yard Hail Mary as time expired to earn the cover losing only 26-14. Of course everyone on Covers was on Air Force and quickly a thread popped up stating, “Air Force was on the take!” I politely entered the thread and stated, “This is unbelievable . . . do you not realize what you are saying! You are stating that the fine people who are protecting our country were on the take for the local bookies! Lol!” But they wanted none of it. It was decided by all that our Air Force is on the take and was on the take for that game. Gotta love people's reasoning. As for this game, take the Cougars as I am sure our Air Force will be on the take again… Houston 37, Air Force 28.
Dave: So these are our New Year's Eve and New Year's Day picks, which means we need to bring a theme of partying to the post today. And that can only mean quoting one movie… the best comedy of 2009… "The Hangover."
Alan: Gambling? Who said anything about gambling? It's not gambling when you know you're gonna win. Counting cards is a foolproof system.
Stu: It's also illegal.
Alan: It's not illegal, it's frowned upon, like masturbating on an airplane.
Phil: I'm pretty sure that's illegal too.
Alan: Yeah, maybe after 9/11, where everybody got so sensitive. Thanks a lot, Bin Laden.
Gambling? Who said anything about gambling? It's not gambling when you know my picks are gonna lose? After an 0-6 start in our Pre-Christmas post and a rather robust 2-7 mark in our Dec. 26-Dec. 30 games, I'm no gamble. I'm a sure thing. I pick 'em, you bet the opposite, they play 'em, you collect money. It's a simple process, destined for success. I promise losers and I deliver the goods, friends.
So, let's get started with our first sure-to-lose pick of the day… Houston 44, Air Force 20.
Sun Bowl (El Paso, Texas): Stanford (8-4) vs. Oklahoma (7-5)
Spread: Oklahoma -9
Dan: When I first saw this line I immediately wanted to jump all over Stanford. But then I saw Stanford’s star QB is out and I began to wonder how good the Pac-10 really is. Now I am left questioning what to do. So I will reluctantly lay the 9. The Pac-10 hasn’t impressed much so far this bowl season. I feel that Oklahoma will put 11 men in the box to stop Toby. Oregon State got spanked. Cal got spanked. USC beat a very bad BC team. So I think the hit list continues in El Paso… Oklahoma 38, Stanford 24.
Dave: "It's got, ah, Ted Danson and Magnum P.I. and that Jewish actor…"
This is, hands down, the funniest line in the movie because it's so perfectly subtle that if you aren't paying attention, you miss it.
Alan, Phil and Stu are walking outside the motel with the baby strapped to Alan's belly, and he's explaining the plot of "Three Men and a Baby" to the two other guys. The scene doesn't allude to the movie in any other way and just starts with them in mid-conversation and cuts off immediately after that. But if you were paying attention and you got the reference, it was easily the funniest part of the film. That's really the stuff that makes a good movie great, the little tidbits that make it funny each time you watch it, noticing new things along the way. (BTW, "The Big Lebowski" is the ultimate rewatchable movie. I've seen it maybe 10,000 times and I still pick up new jokes. "You ever hear of the Seattle Seven? That was me… and six other guys.")
Anyway, that's kind of how I feel about this game. On paper, it's a middling Pac-10 team vs. an underperforming Big 12 team that lost five games. But there are a ton of intriguing dynamics to this one. Landry Jones really made progress this year and has a chance to be a stud next season with the specter of Sam Bradford hanging over him. Stanford's QB is hurt, but may pull a Willis Reed. Both coaches have been mentioned for numerous job openings (or potential job openings in Florida's case) since their last game. Toby Gerhart got snubbed for the Heisman, and history says that's a much better sign for your bowl performance than winning the award is. Neither team has played much defense this season, so it could be a shootout. I love everything about this game, and the more I think about it, the more I find to like… Oklahoma 41, Stanford 38.
Texas Bowl (Houston, Texas): Missouri (8-4) vs. Navy (8-4)
Spread: Missouri (-9)
Dan: I do not know what Missouri is going to do with themselves when they see the Navy triple threat option. When you have not seen anything like this it is quite frustrating to stop. I think they’ll win . . . but barely.
On another note, why is Navy always good in football and Army stinks? When you get down to it, they each have the same recruiting philosophies, right? Air Force is usually good as well. I will never understand why this is the case. But Army continually stinks. Is it because if you go to the Army you may be more in harm's way than the Navy and Air Force? So Army gets the second-tier football player? This is one of my great mysteries that I will never understand… Missouri 31, Navy 28.
Dave: "I'm a steel trap. Whatever happens tonight, I won't ever ever speak a word of it. Seriously. I don't care what happens. I don't care if we kill someone."
Here's my problem with New Year's Eve… it never lives up to the hype. Everyone thinks you have to go out and do something absurd, then be a steel trap about it afterward because it was so friggin' huge. It's this day that, because it marks the arbitrary end of one unit of measurement before start another, you put all this pressure on yourself to go do something memorable, only you end up at a bar that charges an exorbitant rate for booze, then drinks so much that you can't remember the memorable thing you did, which in truth, is probably just that you vomited in the lap of a girl you'd met eight minutes earlier. As a holiday, it's a giant sham. I prefer the low-key holidays like Cinco de Mayo, the day before Thanksgiving and Arbor Day, where you do all those same things but don't feel the pressure to do them. It just happens organically. But maybe that's just me. I've never been one to enjoy living up to lofty expectations. Set the bar low, then stumble over it while downing a Crown-and-Coke, that's what I always say. (Well, in truth, I've never said that, but reading it now, it sounds humorous, so let's stick with it.)
Anyway, I have two things to note about this game: 1.) Teams theoretically should do better against the Triple Option when they have time to prepare for it, so bonus to Missouri. 2.) Navy kills clock and doesn't turn the ball over often, which means nine points is an awful lot to lay for this one. So… since those two balance themselves out, I'll go with the big-conference team… Missouri 30, Navy 20.
Insight Bowl (Tempe, Ariz.): Minnesota (6-6) vs. Iowa State (6-6)
Spread: Minnesota (2.5)
Dan: In 2006, Minnesota visited the Insight Bowl and was up four TDs at halftime. And I was furious. I had the Texas Tech money line in a parlay with a slew of other teams. So I turned the game off, cursed the TV and vowed to fight another day. And then a funny thing happened. Texas Tech rallied. In fact their rally was the biggest come-from-behind win in bowl history. And I cashed my ticket! Unfortunately for Minnesota, however, this cost Glenn Mason his job and they have not been the same program since. Mason had a knack for losing the big game. But you know what he was good at? He was good at winning a few games each year he shouldn’t and beating up on the lesser opponents. Minnesota does not have that anymore. This would be a typical beatdown if Mason was still coach. But he isn’t… Iowa State 27, Minnesota 23.
Dave: "Would you please put some pants on? I feel weird having to ask you twice."
That quote sort of sums up how I feel about this bowl game. I mean, yeah, it's two BCS-conference teams with at least some semblance of a football program. And sure, it's funny that after Gene Chizik left, Iowa State made a bowl game. But, seriously, I just don't like the idea of watching a game this crappy, and I'm not sure why other people are comfortable with it.
And since we're on the subject… here's a great Dan-related story to go with this quote.
A few year's back, a big group of us headed off to Baltimore for the annual Preakness horse races. This is always a good time, and always a drunken affair (at least until Pimlico stupidly banned kegs on the infield). I made the mistake of forgetting my cell phone that day, however, but I wanted to catch up with a friend of mine who was also going to be at the race. So I borrowed Dan's cell to try to make a few calls. Before doing so, Dan warned me: "Don't use it too long. I don't want the battery to die in case I get lost later." Of course, I spent about an hour on the phone that afternoon.
Anyway, after the race we made the mistake of going out for more drinks in Fell's point, and Dan ends up hitting on the friend of a girl I was out with. When the friend decides it's time to head home, Dan weasels his way into an invitation back to her place. So Dan, the girl and her roommate all hop into her roommate's car and head off into the night.
The next day, I wake up to a call on my cell (which I had recovered from a friend's house) from a strange number. I answered, and it was Dan, calling me from a cabbie's phone. He immediately starts berating me for killing his battery, but the story gets better. Apparently the girls had gotten back to their apartment complex the night before, but by this time, Rosa was virtually incapacitated. Now, we're not sure exactly what happened next, but in the morning, Dan woke up on a couch with just his boxer's on and a random guy standing over him with a quizzical look on his face.
"Who the hell are you?" the guy asked.
"I'm Dan," Dan said. "I'm here with… umm…"
He couldn't clearly remember the name of the girl he'd left the bar with, so he made a best guess.
"I don't know any Lauren."
"Nope," said the guy. "You know, I think you'd better put your pants on."
So that's what Dan did, then rushed out of the house and into the street. What he quickly realized, however, is that he was no longer in Baltimore. He recognized nothing. He wasn't downtown. He couldn't even see the city skyline.
He started walking and came across some tennis courts where a couple of older gentlemen were off to a sporting Sunday morning.
"Um, excuse me," Dan interrupted, looking disheveled. "Where am I?"
The men, of course, immediately burst out laughing. Turns out, Dan was in Towson, which is a solid 15 minute drive from Baltimore, maybe farther. Luckily after walking for about a mile, he happened upon a cab and luckily the cabbie happened to have a cell phone. But sadly, many of the other details will forever remain unknown.
See… "The Hangover" really isn't that much of a work of fiction.
Oh, and my game prediction… Minnesota 24, Iowa State 17.
Chick-fil-A Bowl (Atlanta): Virginia Tech (9-3) vs. Tennessee (7-5)
Spread: Virginia Tech (-4)
Dan: Virginia Tech returns to Atlanta for a third time this year to face the Lane Train. Virginia Tech is currently 0-2 in Atlanta and this matchup will not be any easier. Tennessee is one of those teams that has gotten better as the year has gone on. Throw out the losses to UCLA, Florida and Auburn early. They went 6-2 down the stretch with one loss coming to Bama and the other a thumping at Ole Miss. This is a team that is getting better each week. On the flip side, you have my Hokies, who have basically beaten everyone they should have and lost to the teams they should have. Ho hum. I think Tennessee is a team they shouldn’t beat unfortunately.
In other news, I just got done informing my wife that the Hokies play on New Years Eve this year. She was less than thrilled about this news. She was asking what we would do for new years and my quick reply was Virginia Tech plays! Excited? Her answer … not so much. Ha. I think the last time she was this annoyed was when I was up at Penn State and she kept getting woken up by text messages from my friends talking about stuff they’d like to do to donkeys. Sigh. I need to grow up… Tennessee 24, Virginia Tech 20.
Dave: "I'm on your side! I hate Godzilla! I hate him too! I hate him! He destroys cities! Please! This isn't your fault. I'll get you some pants."
I see how it is, Dan. You spend all season bashing Lane Kiffin, and now all of a sudden you're throwing out complements left and right because you're worried about what the Vols will do to Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. "I'm on your side! I hate Urban Meyer, too! Hey, any coach can recruit two convicted rapists and then have three players knock off a convenience store! I'll get you some pants!"
Man up, dude. It's just Lane Kiffin. There's nothing to be afraid of. And better yet, this is his last chance to have Eric Berry on his side, too. So it only gets better from here… Virginia Tech 23, Tennessee 17.
Outback Bowl (Tampa, Fla.): Northwestern (8-4) vs. Auburn (7-5)
Spread: Auburn (-7.5)
Dan: Is Auburn really 7.5 points better than anyone? I do not think so. But Northwestern also lost to Syracuse. So what does that make them? I just don’t know. So when this happens you always take the points… Auburn 24, Northwestern 20.
Dave: "What do tigers dream of when they take their little tiger snooze? Do they dream of mauling zebras, or Halle Berry in her Catwoman suit? Don't you worry your pretty striped head, we're gonna get you back to Tyson and your cozy tiger bed. And then we're gonna find our best friend Doug, and then we're gonna give him a best friend hug. Doug, Doug, oh, Doug, Dougie, Dougie, Doug, Doug! But if he's been murdered by crystal meth tweakers…. well then we're sh*t out of luck."
Tigers… Auburn… Anyone? Anyone? Buehler?
Eh, by the time this game comes on -- at 11 friggin' a.m. on New Year's Day! -- you'll be too groggy and hungover to appreciate good humor anyway.
OK, so I did some complaining about New Year's Eve, but New Year's Day is also always a disaster. And since I've already damaged Dan's reputation with a good story, allow me to give you my worst New Year's Day moment...
I went out in Philly for one of those open-bar NYE specials with a bunch of people from work one year. One of the work people so happened to be a girl I'd dated for a while. We had broken up, but it ended poorly, she was a bit of a loose cannon, and of course, we had to work together. All this went down in early October, and I was happy to have extricated her from my life for the most part. Until New Year's Eve.
Now those of you who read the blog regularly know that when it comes to free press box food, I can be a bit of a glutton. So you can probably imagine how I am at an open bar. When it's free, I need to make sure I'm getting my money's worth.
Anyway, bad decisions were made and to my dismay, I ended up un-doing all the good work I had accomplished with this girl during the past three months. She ended up crashing at a hotel room a couple of friends and I had rented for the night, too, so the problem was clear as day by New Year's morning.
So we get up the next day, and she assumes things are essentially back to the way they were pre-break-up. I am both literally and figuratively banging my head against the wall. Anyway, she needs a ride back to her car, and to make matters perfectly awful, she can't quite remember where she left it.
Now, another aside: If you've ever lived in Philly, you know of the traditional New Year's Day Mummers Parade. I hate the Mummers. First off, the people in the parade -- "The Mummers" -- are always an entitle, pompous bunch of buffoons who wake up waaaaaay too early on New Year's Day. Secondly, the parade makes everything problematic. It shuts down half the city, and even if you don't go out, you're subjected to watching highlights of the festivities on virtually every local TV station. (And as a kid who loved TV but grew up without cable until I was 17, this was truly life-altering.)
So, we spent the next three hours driving around Philly looking for her car, only 80 percent of the streets we needed to go down were blocked off because of the friggin' Mummers. At one point my buddy chimed in with, "What kind of car is it again?" Her reply: "Um, I think it's a Toyota… Or a Pontiac." Ugh.
We finally found it, parked just two blocks from where we had been that night, but of course the drama went on for weeks beyond that. It was a perfect start to a year that, as I recall, did not go particularly well.
Maybe I'm wrong, but there's a part of me that feels this game will be a reasonable comparison to that New Year's... Auburn 27, Northwestern 13.
Capital One Bowl (Orlando, Fla.): Penn State (10-2) vs. LSU (9-3)
Spread: Penn State (-3)
Dan: I recently took a trip up to Penn State to watch the Lions vs. VT basketball game. Tech won. It was great. Although I loathe Penn State and everything they stand for, I had a blast at the different drinking establishments we visited. Quite possibly my favorite place we went to had $7 Captain and Coke pitchers and half-priced ($6) Monkey Boys. If you have never had a Monkey Boy watch out. It is just a bunch of liquor in a pitcher. The following hit list occurred to people who had Monkey Boys: One friend could not speak or stand and was sending out nasty text messages from his phone. Another woke up with bruises up and down his arms. Two more couldn’t find their way back to hotel and a warm bed so instead opted for an apartment sofa. Yup… Monkey Boys. Monkey Boys, 1, my friends and I, 0.
As for this game I’ll take Penn State as they can’t possibly lose (insert reverse jinx here)… Penn State 24, LSU 18.
Dave: "Tigers love pepper. They hate cinnamon."
That's a special shout out to the LSU Tigers, who love pepper, but not nearly as much as they love corn dogs.
As for what Nittany Lions love? I have no idea. I don't even know what makes a Nittany Lion different from a regular lion, other than that they hang out at Philly-area bars and annoy the hell out of me.
I also want to take a moment here to discuss how much better it was to cover a bowl game in Shreveport this year than the Cap One Bowl a year ago. No, Shreveport wasn't perfect by any stretch, but the Cap One Bowl was downright abysmal later year. First off, I'm not a fan of Orlando. Yes, it's a bit more upscale than Shreveport, but everything's more expensive and it's much harder to navigate, all because of the rampant tourists. And while last year's game afforded us media folks a chance to tail the players through the amusement parks under the guise of doing stories, those trips were zero fun and requited more time and effort than they were worth. In Shreveport, they put a hospitality suite with free booze in a hotel with a casino. That's all I needed. The bowl reps were hospitable and helpful and all the events were at the stadium instead of making us drive six different places each day. All in all, it was a great time. And better yet, I'll be home for New Year's instead of trying to nurse a hangover with some gelatinous Salisbury steak in the press box in the gawd-awful Citrus Bowl. So, to sum up one of my favorite mid-way break in PTI commercials… Boo crappy Orlando bowl game… Hooray beer! (And Shreveport.)
Oh, and since Penn State is a.) from the overrated Big Ten and b.) has beaten no one, I think the pick here is obvious… LSU 21, Penn State 20.
And when it's over, John Chavis can announce he's coming to Georgia.
Gator Bowl (Jacksonville, Fla.): West Virginia (9-3) vs. Florida State (6-6)
Spread: West Virginia (-3)
Dan: Finally Bobby Bowden has agreed to step down. It is a much needed move. Funny thing about Florida State is that they continue to still get the same athletes that they’ve always gotten. If you look at their Rivals rankings you will see that they continue to pull in top 5 and top 10 classes. So that means one thing and one thing only… the coaching has gone downhill. So probably best for Bowden to move along. Of course ,what does that say about Jimbo Fisher? He has been there the last few years and they haven’t won, yet he will be the head coach? Who knows. As for this one I think that Florida State wins one for Bobby… Florida State 28, West Virginia 24.
Dave: "You guys might not know this, but I consider myself a bit of a loner. I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack. But when my sister brought Doug home, I knew he was one of my own. And my wolf pack... it grew by one. So there... there were two of us in the wolf pack... I was alone first in the pack, and then Doug joined in later. And six months ago, when Doug introduced me to you guys, I thought, "Wait a second, could it be?" And now I know for sure, I just added two more guys to my wolf pack. Four of us wolves, running around the desert together, in Las Vegas, looking for strippers and cocaine. So tonight, I make a toast!"
A toast to you, Bobby Bowden! Sure, you haven't added a coherent thought to your football team since Monica Lewinski jokes still seemed funny, but that's OK. We salute you for being our lone wolf, a guy who goes out on his own terms. OK, well, no you really didn't do that either. But at least you went out a winner! Well, OK, 6-6 isn't exactly a winner, I suppose. And those NCAA sanctions cost you first place on the all-time win list. So that's kind of a bummer. But at least you were able to dictate your way into a decent and totally undeserved bowl game on New Year's Day, and no one else can say that! Well, OK, I guess Auburn can. But screw it, let's go find some strippers and coke!… Florida State 24, West Virginia 23.
Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Calif.): Oregon (10-2) vs. Ohio State (10-2)
Spread: Oregon (-3.5)
Dan: The nice thing about this column being several parts is you can re-think things. The bad thing is you can re-think things. If you asked me just two days ago who would win this game, I would say there is no way Oregon is losing. But then I saw Oregon State get WAXED by BYU in a game they were never in. Perhaps they were not motivated and perhaps BYU had more fans there. But it is still making me rethink things just a tad. I will reluctantly still take the Ducks in this one as I do not think Ohio State will be able to stop the spread offense… Oregon 31, Ohio State 20.
Dave: A special tribute to Ohio State...
Doug: "Tracy did mention we shouldn't let him gamble. Or drink too much."
Phil: "Jesus, he's like a gremlin. Comes with instructions and sh*t."
We've all had friends like Alan. At heart, he's a good guy. And he's sweet, so you feel obligated to be nice to him. And maybe part of you even secretly enjoys hanging out with him because, well who the heck knows what might happen? But in truth, he's like a gremlin. There are just certain things you can't do with him.
If you were to attribute those same characteristics to a college football team, it would have to be Ohio State, right? I mean, yes, the Buckeyes get to party with the cool kids, but does anyone really think they belong? Of course not! They're clearly going to show up and make a mess of things and then you're going to spend the rest of your bowl season apologizing for having invited Ohio State in the first place. And yet, at the same time, you almost take a sick sense of pleasure in watching the disaster that is Ohio State in a BCS game unfold. It's cathartic. In fact, it almost makes you feel a little better about yourself to see someone else so utterly inept. Like, hey, at least I'm not *that* bad.
To wit, Ohio State's recent bowl "success"…
2006: Florida 41, Ohio State 14
2007: LSU 38, Ohio State 24
2008: Texas 24, Ohio State 21 (perhaps the most embarrassing of all because afterward, everyone used the same phrase: "Hey, at least Ohio State didn't embarrass itself again.")
But take heart, Buckeyes fans. It could be worse. You could be Notre Dame… Oregon 34, Ohio State 21.
Sugar Bowl (New Orleans): Cincinnati (12-0) vs. Florida (12-1)
Spread: Florida (10.5)
Dan: (Editor's note: this was written before the Meyer announcement.) I am going to attempt to draw some comparisons to Florida with what is going on with USC. First, all of your offensive coordinators and defensive coordinators leave (USC lost Kiffin, the coach at Washington, Norm Chow). Then your decorated QB leaves (Leinert, Sanchez, etc). And then you start losing. So what is going on at Florida? They first lose the offensive coordinator to Mississippi State. They then lose the defensive coordinator to Louisville. Then they lose Tebow. Could a few down years be around the corner? I sure hope so! As for this game I will be taking the points… Florida 31, Cincinnati 21.
Dave: "Oh, you know what? Next week's no good for me... The Jonas Brothers are in town. But any week after that, it's totally fine."
A special quote for Urban Meyer who, you know, is busy with the family and the Jonas Brothers concert this week, but after that he should be totally fine to come back and coach.
Seriously, on the list of pissed-off wives, where does Urban's rank right now?
"Yeah honey, I know I told you and the kids I was quitting because I might die from coaching football and all, but, well, I talked to Timmy and he really thinks I should stay, so that's what I'm gonna do. … What?… Uh-huh. … Well, sure honey, but I already held the press conference, so, um, yeah, it'd kind of a done deal…. Yeah, that's right. … No, this is his last game. … No, I don't think he wants a roommate in the NFL. Why do you ask?"
I mean, she's not Elin Woods mad, but she's gotta at least be Cheryl David after Larry ignores her call from the airplane mad, right?
Anyway, I love how everyone thinks that Florida is going to win one for Old Urban (who, you know, isn't actually going anywhere) but is completely overlooking the fact that Cincinnati got snubbed by not one but TWO coaches in the past three weeks. And if that Georgia game taught me anything this week, it's that when players take ownership of their own success, it's a very good thing. That's exactly what Cincy is doing. They aren't trying to win for their coach. They're trying to win for themselves… Cincinnati 31, Florida 27.
Early Bowls: Dan 6-9, Dave 2-13.
Regular Season: Dan 59-70-3, Dave 57-72-3.
Overall: Dan 65-79-3 (.452), Dave 59-85-3 (.412).