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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Picking the Winners: BCS Title Game Edition

Although we've come to the end of the road
Still I can't let you go
It's unnatural, you belong to me, I belong to you
-- Boyz II Men's "End of the Road"

Ah, picks column. You've been a special part of all of our lives these past few months. But now we've reached the final installment -- our selections for the BCS national championship game. And though our relationship has been rocky, I think we'll all remember the good times -- the pot-shots at Georgia Tech, the miracle covers by UConn, the random allusions to Chad Lowe and Danny Baldwin.

But alas, we must now say goodbye. So without further a do, the end of the road for Dave and Dan's 2009 college football picks…

BCS National Championship Game (Pasadena, Calif.): Alabama (13-0) vs. Texas (13-0)
Spread: Alabama (-5)

Dan: I am 17-16 for bowl season as we approach the last game. After starting out so poorly I am thrilled to be above .500. See, this is what separates me from the “ordinary” gamblers or “squares” as I refer to them. I adapt. I am 6-2 in my final 8 games. I noticed a trend that all dogs for the most part were covering bowl season and I adapted. And what happened? I went on a monster run. I am what they refer to as a closer.

Due to this run I will be enjoying a nice bottle of Jager at the expense of one Mr. David Hale… thanks Dave. Now on to the final write-up.

Dave: I can't say I was quite the performer that Dan was this year, but I closed with a 5-3 mark down the stretch, too. Which is actually a bad thing.

As Dan pointed out via text earlier this week, readers were no doubt skeptical of my early losing ways. Sure, I've sucked at picking games all year, but I was working at a truly horrific pace in the early going. No way that could keep up, right?

But with each new game, I brought you another loser (and I even ensured a Georgia win by picking A&M!). So just when those skeptical wagerers finally decided to fade my picks, what happens? I finish up 5-3 and cost them money. I'm a cooler no matter what I do.

Anyway, doing some quick math, if you were to have simply faded my picks all season (and figuring for 10 percent juice and $100 bets per game) you'd have earned $2,130 courtesy of your pal Dave since September. If you were just smart enough to pick opposite of me during bowl season, you'd be up nearly $1,200.

So regardless, I think I deserve a big hat tip from the readers. It takes some real foresight to provide picks that bad.

Of course, I also want to give a big hat tip to Dan for helping us out with this picks column all year. Sure, you readers kill some time at work each day by reading the blog. But Dan took it a step farther -- he actually blew off work to write these picks on a weekly basis. And ironically, he landed a new, better, higher-paying job last month to boot. I'd like to think that his focus on this picks column kept him from screwing up anything at his real job, which in turn allowed him to move up the latter. So congrats, Dan, and thanks for all the efforts.

I'm not sure whether we'll do this again next year, as it did prove to be a bit more time consuming than I'd originally hoped, but that's usually the way with everything I do. Despite what the shoddy picks might indicate, I tend to devote a lot more energy to things than I plan to, and these posts were no exception.

We also probably pushed the envelope a bit with the content on these posts during the season, too. I honestly kept waiting for one of my bosses to tell me I needed to tone it down a tad, but credit to them for allowing me to explore the studio space, so to speak. The blogger world is uncharted territory for most mainstream media, and I'm a firm believer that you need to push those boundaries to see where it goes. My hope is that, while it may not have been particularly educational, these posts have at least been entertaining. Again, thanks to Dan for his help on that end.

My picks weren't good, but they were bad enough to be significant. The subject matter wasn't routinely informative, but it was often stupid enough to get a laugh. And we didn't exactly break any new ground in terms of content, but we probably did provide a bit of a different style and tone in these posts than I usually do on the blog. So was it a success? I don't know. But I enjoyed doing it, and hopefully most of you enjoyed reading it, too. On to our last pick of the year...

Dan: The final game of the year, Alabama vs. Texas. I must say, after watching Nebraska dominate Arizona, I guess Texas has somewhat of an excuse as to why their offense did nothing in the Big 12 title game. Arizona who had no trouble scoring all year could not move the ball at all.

Unfortunately for Texas though Alabama’s defense is every bit as good as Nebraska’s. Also unfortunately for Texas, Alabama has the duo of Julio Jones and Mark Ingram on offense. I see Alabama doing to Texas what they did to Florida. Just manhandling them.

Speaking of manhandling, that reminds me of a funny story. Our last funny story of the year. Well from me at least. It is one of myself. What kind of person are you if you can’t poke fun at yourself?

About 11 years ago in the summer we celebrated my 20th birthday in the fine state of Delaware. As was customary for birthdays, we usually celebrated them at Dave’s place because many of us attended college out of town and Dave had everything you needed for a good party.

-- No parents
-- Lots of booze
-- Near a college campus allowing walkups.

So we decided to celebrate my 20th and Dave and our good friend Tim decided to head out to get a keg before the party started. They left me behind with a quarter of a handle of Captain Morgan’s. Before leaving they told me to make sure I don’t finish all the Captain Morgan’s. Thinking I was funny, I manhandled the entire bottle.

This led to me being very intoxicated and not being able to speaking coherently. Well a girl I interned with that summer happened to bring along a bunch of her friends that night. I thought it was a good idea to chat them up. Of course I made zero sense and was slurring left and right and was very incoherent. Later that night, one of girls approaches my coworker and says, “I think it is just great that your company hires people like him.”

Courtney (my coworker) looks at her and says, “What do you mean 'like him'?”

"Oh you know," the girl says, "People are who are physically or mentally handicapped . . . you know . . . slow!”

Yes sir . . . they thought I was slow.

Yup . . . that about sums it up people.

As for this game, the Tide ROLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLS… Alabama 41, Texas 17.

Dave: Before we get to my final (and likely awful) pick of the season, a few things to clear up...

-- First off, let's take a look at the conferences' bowl records so far:

Mountain West (4-1)
Big East (4-2)
SEC (5-4)
Big Ten (4-3)
Big 12 (4-3)
WAC (2-2)
Sun Belt (1-1)
ACC (3-4)
C-USA (2-4)
Pac-10 (2-5)
MAC (1-4)
Indep. (1-0)

So what does all this mean?

On one hand, it doesn't mean much. Bowl season, while being the one time of year when you're guaranteed intriguing inter-conference matchups, is hardly the best overall judge of a conference's (or team's) overall value. There's a month between games and may of the middling teams have simply packed in their season and are worried more about getting ready for spring ball than winning that final bowl game at some desolate location.

So perhaps the overall records don't matter much, but I'm guessing the Mountain West probably does deserve a hat tip for going 4-1, with their only loss being a close one by TCU in the Feista Bowl. Too bad for the MWC though that the one loss was also its marquee game.

I think, too, that the overall records tell us that the Pac-10 was highly overrated this year. And it wasn't just the 2-5 performance that was bad. It was how those teams lost. Oregon State and Arizona were embarrassed and Oregon was beaten pretty handily by the old stepchild of the BCS, Ohio State. Even the two wins -- USC by a nose over a mediocre-at-best Boston College team and UCLA by nine over Temple -- were far from impressive.

But I'll tip my cap, begrudgingly, to the Big Ten, which actually turned in some big performances in big games. No, I don't think most of the bowl games mean a lot. But the Rose Bowl does, and Ohio State proved worthy. The Orange Bowl means something, too, and Iowa was dominant at stopping the best the ACC had to offer.

As for the SEC -- well, it was some good and some bad, but mostly the latter. Ole Miss had to rely on a complete implosion by Okie State to secure a win. Arkansas was taken to the brink by East Carolina and failed to convert a single third down in the game. South Carolina was thumped by UConn, Georgia won easily against A&M, but still allowed more than 400 yards of offense and had to rely on some big special teams plays to win, LSU lost to Penn State, Auburn needed Northwestern to fake a field goal in overtime to secure a win… really Florida was the only dominant SEC team this year.

(And The Dawg Walk does a nice job of putting the Big 10-SEC thing into perspective, too.)

Of course, that doesn't mean that we can infer that Alabama is going to put on a lackluster performance simply because the rest of its conference did. Heck, the Big 12 wasn't any better, finishing 4-3. Missouri and Okie State had two of the most embarrassing losses of bowl season, to boot.

So let's take this game on its own merits rather than tying it up into some conference-oriented context.

First off, do you realize that, regardless of who wins, we're guaranteed our first undefeated national champion since 2005?

Secondly, if Alabama wins, do you realize the SEC will have won four straight and five of the last seven BCS titles?

Those two things add up to remind me a lot of that 2005 championship game between USC and Texas. Coming into the game, it was USC that was considered a big favorite. If I recall correctly, ESPN was doing a series comparing that USC team to the greatest college teams of all time, and nary a word was mentioned of the Horns.

Alabama's not getting quite that much love, but at the same time, they're getting about 80 percent of the straight-up picks from the public, and the SEC's recent success makes the Tide the obvious selection on paper.

But strange things happen in bowl games. That's what we learned in that '05 matchup. That's what this year's bowl season has reminded us.

Meanwhile, add in the following factors:

-- Mark Ingram has been making the rounds following his Heisman win, and the track record for Heisman winners in these games is not good.

-- Texas has gotten to play the "nobody believes in us" card for a month now.

-- As Dan pointed out, some of the big knocks on Texas have proven to be only minor smudges. Texas A&M's offense really is pretty potent, so it's not a huge surprise that the Aggies put up some points in their regular-season finale against the Horns. And Nebraska's defense is absurdly good, so that Big 12 title game really didn't look so bad in retrospect.

-- Terrence Cody has had a week in L.A. to find a really good buffet.

-- This year's bowl season has been the year of the underdog. Dogs are a whopping 22-10 against the spread through the first 33 games (Idaho was a pick-em) and have won 15 of those games outright.

So while every instinct I have from watching football this season tells me that Alabama should win this game, I think we know where my instincts have gotten me in making picks. Instead, I'm looking at the facts, and I'm going to call the upset… Texas 23, Alabama 20.

Bowl season: Dan 17-16, Dave 10-23.

Regular Season: Dan 59-70-3, Dave 57-72-3.

Final Overall Record:
76-86-3 (.470), Dave 67-95-3 (.415).


brannon said...

Dave... I really appreciated the picks column this season. Just like you both said, a great time waster at work, and I did get quite a few laughs out of it.

Anonymous said...

I like seeing you go out on a limb and pick Texas, but your approach reminds me of Inspector Clouseau, who only followed the facts, except of course when instinct told him not to.

If you guess right though, I think you deserve two points. Instinct tells me your guess is worth it.

Anonymous said...

This is a gift to Tide fans, just like your 31-30 pick for A&M was for all the Dawg fans...


Anonymous said...

Bowls are VERY similar to NFL exhibition games, you rarely have two teams approaching them with the same level of intensity. I don't draw conclusions with conference records since the matchups are one team only, for one game. Meaningless to me, it is a shame there aren't better games during the season. But for those who insist, you only have to look at the TEN teams the SEC is sending out. No one else is reaching that deep. Who is the number ten team in those conferences? And who cares? There is no debate among knowledgeable fans about which conference is best. Now second and third place would be an interesting discussion.

Not impossible for Texas to win, but Bama is much better and would win 8-9 out of ten games. If they both show up tonioght and play comparable games, the Tide will win by 14+.

Anonymous said...

Kirby to TTEch???

Chris said...

Wow, Dave... that Bowl Pick'em record isn't too good. Lol...

Anonymous said...

David, don't get too upset by your bowl picks. I was 15 for 34. Sad.

Anonymous said...

Any word on Montez Robinson?

David Hale said...

Anon -- nothing official on Montez, but I'm told by some reliable folks that Richt is leaning toward allowing him to stay but with some very, very strict rules. But I think that announcement will be delayed until some of the legal issues are sorted out.