Dave's Sports Views

Analysis, humor and opinion on the sports world

Location: Dallas, Texas, United States

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Bowl Predictions, Part 2

As I type this, Utah has beaten Georgia Tech and Oregon is leading Oklahoma. Midseason form, I tell ya.

Here are predictions for the Dec. 31 through Jan. 3 games, with the exception of:

Meineke Car Care Bowl -- I refuse to serve any notice to a game with perhaps the worst corporate name in bowl history. Only the MicronPC.com Bowl is even in its league. The matchup is South Florida vs. NC State, and I'm sure they'll both tell you they're glad to be in bowl games at 6-5.

Liberty Bowl -- Fresno State vs. Tulsa -- Two outstanding offenses. Fresno has run theirs against slightly better competition, including the scare it put into USC. Pick: Fresno State.

Houston Bowl -- TCU vs. Iowa State -- TCU would be this year's Utah if not for a bad loss in only their second game of the season, to SMU. But the Frogs beat Oklahoma and won the Mountain West Conference. Iowa State gave away the Big 12 North in their final game of the season. Pick: TCU.

Outback Bowl -- Iowa vs. Florida -- The Hawkeyes, who pulled off the dramatic victory in their bowl last year, played their best football at the end of the regular season, but I think they'll meet their match here. Pick: Florida.

Cotton Bowl -- Texas Tech vs. Alabama -- The ultimate battle of a great offense against a great defense. I have to go with the great defense, despite Alabama's two losses at the end of the season, given that they've had a month to prepare for the game. Pick: Alabama.

Gator Bowl -- Louisville vs. Virginia Tech -- Another team that was in the Top 5 until two late losses is Virginia Tech. The Hokies face a team that scored at least 30 points in all but one game this year. Again, I'll go with the better defense. Pick: Virginia Tech.

Capital One Bowl -- Wisconsin vs. Auburn -- In Barry Alvarez's final game, the Badgers must try to change history. Alvarez is 0-3 against SEC teams in bowls, 7-0 against everyone else. Given the Tigers' great defense and Wisconsin's one-dimensional offense, I see the trend continuing. Pick: Auburn.

Fiesta Bowl -- Notre Dame vs. Ohio State -- A terrific matchup between two of the sport's most popular teams. Let's see how many teams the announcers talk about what a great job Charlie Weis is doing. See Charlie coach. See Charlie teach. See Charlie stop for a restroom break. Then see Charlie get beat by a coach who likes to stay out of the limelight but finds ways to win, Jim Tressel. Pick: Ohio State.

Sugar Bowl -- West Virginia vs. Georgia -- The nighttime matchup after a long day of football puts me to sleep just thinking about it. Go with the virtual home team as the game was moved to Atlanta. Pick: Georgia.

Orange Bowl -- Penn State vs. Florida State -- The battle of the deans of the sport. Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno are equals in their greatness, but their teams are not. A.J. Nicholson's suspension doesn't help the Seminoles. Pick: Penn State.

Coming up later, the pick for the Rose Bowl and the national champion.

Bowl Predictions, Part 1

Predictions for the Dec. 29-30 bowls:

Emerald Bowl, Georgia Tech vs. Utah -- It isn't the same Utah offense without Urban Meyer and Alex Smith. Pick: Georgia Tech.

Holiday Bowl, Oregon vs. Oklahoma -- Here's where Oregon has a chance to prove they belonged in the BCS. Cal was in the same situation last year and got drilled by Texas Tech in this game. Pick: Oklahoma.

Music City Bowl, Virginia vs. Minnesota -- This game will be renamed the Mason City Bowl and relocated to North Central Iowa after the Gophers ride Laurence Maroney to their third win in four years. Pick: Minnesota.

Sun Bowl, Northwestern vs. UCLA -- Might be the most fun bowl of all to watch, as long as you don't mind missing defense. Pick: Northwestern.

Independence Bowl, South Carolina vs. Missouri -- The Gamecocks have the better-known coach, but Mizzou has the better team. Pick: Missouri

Peach Bowl, Miami vs. LSU -- To think that these two teams were both in the top 5 in November, this is a great matchup for a pre-New Year's Day game. I can't get around the sight of Miami shutting down Virginia Tech in their biggest game of the season. Pick: Miami.

I'll return with Dec. 31 - Jan. 3 picks before saving the best for last. And by the way, I shed no tears when Michigan gets a bad break, but they have a reason to be upset with the referees last night. Some really shaky calls, or non-calls, if you will.


Monday, December 19, 2005

Texans strike a blow for common sense

It was nice to see the Houston Texans win yesterday, to end a lot of speculation that they were tanking games to stay ahead of the pack for the right to draft Reggie Bush. For that talk, I was offended on two counts: 1) As a sports purist, the thought of a team losing games on purpose is sickening to contemplate; 2) More practically speaking, a team can’t be certain a draft pick will live up to his potential. Pick #2, or #3, or #199 (aka Tom Brady) could turn out to be just as good, if not better.

Without a doubt, Bush looks like a rare talent. Without a doubt, he also plays the position with the shortest shelf-life in the NFL. Tigers eat their young. The NFL eats its runners.

Let’s look at the running backs drafted first overall since the league expanded to 28 teams in 1976:
-- Ricky Bell, 1977, Tampa Bay: God rest him. A solid back (1,263 yards, seven TDs) during Tampa Bay’s near-run to the Super Bowl in 1979, he had six otherwise uninspiring seasons in a career eroded by injuries. ***WARNING: TREND ALERT!!!***
-- Earl Campbell, 1978, Houston: Still the most devastating runner I’ve ever seen, his bruising style cut many defenders’ careers short – but ultimately did the same to his own. Still, an easy choice for the Hall of Fame and clearly the best on this list, with more than 9,000 yards rushing and 74 TDs.
-- Billy Sims, 1980, Detroit: Two great years to start his career, a devastating knee injury in Year 3. His career lasted five seasons.
-- George Rogers, 1981, New Orleans: After an outstanding rookie year (1,674 yards rushing, 13 TDs), he got hurt in his second year and was never the same player. However, he did recover in 1986 to help Washington win the Super Bowl, rushing for 18 TDs.
-- Bo Jackson, 1986, Tampa Bay: The type of physical specimen that came along once a generation in the pre-steroids era. He couldn’t miss, unless he blew off the then-hapless Buccaneers for a baseball career. Returning to the NFL with the Raiders, he averaged more than five yards a carry over four seasons until going down with a career-ending hip injury in the 1991 playoffs. Still, that Brian Bosworth moment was cool, wasn’t it?
-- Ki-Jana Carter, 1995, Cincinnati: Another guy labeled as a can’t-miss, he blew out his knee in the 1995 preseason and rushed for a grand total of 1,127 yards in his career.

For that matter, the No. 1 overall pick has included busts at several positions: Kenneth Sims, Aundray Bruce, Steve Emtman, Dan Wilkinson, Tim Couch and Courtney Brown, to note.

In other words, who’s to say Reggie Bush won’t tear up an ACL or an Achilles and join the list of No. 1 overall picks to miss out on their potential. Certainly a team like Houston would love the opportunity to draft him, but when you have as many problems as the Texans do, what good is it to hold their breath and wait for the season to end so they can take the first calculated gamble of the NFL draft.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Colts ... 16-0 breeds 19-0

Many people have mused about the Colts' chances of going 16-0, with their three games remaining against San Diego, Seattle (on the road) and Arizona. Most of the debate focuses on the merits of competing for a place in history and the need to keep players sharp, versus the risks of losing players to injury in games that will not affect the team's postseason standing.

To me, there's another key argument that's missing -- the need to enter the playoffs with the swagger a champion needs. That's particularly important for the Colts.

Certainly, coach Tony Dungy will want to keep his players sharp, especially now that he knows he'll have a week off before the Colts' first playoff game. And he won't want his players putting themselves in position to get hurt -- the Colts are far more than just Manning, James and Harrison.

But this is only marginally a different team from the one that has been beaten soundly by the Patriots in each of the past two seasons. What the Colts have lacked in past postseasons was not talent, but confidence. That's what they've shown this year, and they can cement it during these last three games. Making a statement by dominating a team of the caliber of the Chargers or the Seahawks will send a message to postseason opponents that the Colts can't be stopped.

In the past two years, the Colts haven't shown the toughness to get past New England. This year, Indianapolis has won impressively not just against New England but also against Pittsburgh, another team who has given the Colts trouble just by imposing their will upon them. But the playoffs can be a different animal -- a team's mental state is just as important as its physical condition. Over the final three weeks, Indy needs to show that they fear no one and expect to beat everyone. If New England comes into the RCA Dome, which could likely happen in the divisional playoffs, the Colts need to enter the game as if THEY are the team that has won the last two Super Bowls and expect to win again.

There's no better way to build that confidence than to finish the season strong. I'm confident that if Indy goes 16-0, they will eventually end up 19-0. But if they lose one of their remaining regular-season games, regardless of who's on the field for it, they'll send a message to playoff foes that they are beatable.


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