All posts by mtartaglia11

Horse Racing – Tagline Numbers – Meadowlands 3/15/2019

Back on my old site, Horse Racing Station, I had released my own Speed Figures for Harness Racing… Thought it was about time that I carried them over to Tagline Sports.

Previously named Pure Speed Figures, Tagline Numbers are harness racing speed figures that capture how fast a horse paced/trotted in respect to both the track, quality of race, and balance of speed between beginning of the race and the last quarter. Based on years of collected data from every track, Tagline Numbers allow for comparison between tracks and go beyond just the time.

With that, download my Tagline Numbers speed figures below and enjoy the races from The Meadowlands on Friday, March 15th! And if you see me at the track – come say hi!

Alliance of American Football – A Game Changer?

Tonight, the Alliance of American Football has the chance to change the model of football, forever. Previously, college was the make-or-break for football players. One chance to make the NFL. Otherwise, your potential career is left up to chance.

With the Alliance of American Football, the brainchild of Charlie Ebersol, a developmental league, at the professional level, is alive. Attempted previously with the XFL (which will soon be back in 2020), developmental football was never an option – gimmicks, calendar placement, and television reach made a league financially impossible. Now, it has a chance. Filling the void left between the Super Bowl and the NFL Draft, the AAF aims to provide fans with an enjoyable 21st century style of game – faster paced, more data, more fun. It is also a return to normalcy – what happens on the field is what we care about; less penalties, less referees dictating games, and less arguments.

Continue reading Alliance of American Football – A Game Changer?

College Football Bowl Season – 12/31-1/1

Final two days of Bowl Season before the National Title Game next Monday night. Here are my selections for all the Bowl Games to end the season:

Military Bowl
Cincinnati over Virginia Tech | 12/31, 12:00pm ESPN

Sun Bowl
Pittsburgh over Stanford | 12/31, 2:00pm CBS

Redbox Bowl
Oregon over Michigan State | 12/31 3:00pm FOX

Liberty Bowl
(23) Missouri over Oklahoma State | 12/31, 3:45pm ESPN

Holiday Bowl
(22) Northwestern over (17) Utah | 12/31, 7:00pm FS1

Gator Bowl
(19) Texas A&M over North Carolina State | 12/31, 7:30pm ESPN

Outback Bowl
(18) Mississippi State over Iowa | 1/1, 12:00pm ESPN2

Citrus Bowl
(12) Penn State over (14) Kentucky | 1/1, 1:00pm ABC

Fiesta Bowl
(8) UCF over (11) LSU | 1/1, 1:00pm ESPN

Rose Bowl
(6) Ohio State over (9) Washington | 1/1, 5:00pm ESPN

Sugar Bowl
(5) Georgia over (15) Texas | 1/1, 8:45pm ESPN

College Football Bowl Season – 12/29

The New Year’s Six Starts TODAY! Our College Football Playoff Semifinal matchups take place tonight, with a battle of traditional powerhouses to start us off in the Peach Bowl. Here are my selections for the day:

Peach Bowl
(7) Michigan over (10) Florida | 12/29, 12:00pm ESPN

The New Years’ Six opens up with a clash of schools rooted in history.  The Wolverines and the Gators.  They have played each other only four times in history, all of which coming in this century, and will be playing for the second consecutive season (and third time in four seasons; previously 2016 Citrus Bowl and 2017 Advocare Classic).  When we last saw Michigan, they went down in stunning fashion at the horseshoe to Ohio State, dashing their Big Ten title and Playoff hopes; meanwhile, Florida has rebounded off of their back to back home losses to Georgia and Missouri, with three straight wins against South Carolina, Idaho, and a blowout win at Florida State.  While not the most impressive stretch of games, their season has been one of success, with wins at Mississippi State and against then #5 LSU.  Both teams are very similar in their dynamic, each carry a dynamic passing attack with a running game to back it up.  But, the biggest difference comes in their defenses, with the Wolverines winning on that side by a great margin.  While there is a dynamic nature to the Florida defense, which they’ve provided many times, can they get a stop once the Michigan offense starts rolling?  I think not.

Belk Bowl
Virginia over South Carolina | 12/29, 12:00pm ABC

Always a treat to watch, the Belk Bowl brings in two programs that are on the rebuild in their respective conferences.  The Gamecocks are only a few pieces away from being a mid-level contender in the SEC West while the Cavaliers showed their ability earlier this year, but faded into the background in the weak ACC.  The Belk Bowl gives us a glimpse into this matchup of 7-5 teams, both very evenly matched, and see where the future will lie between them.  Virginia has fallen after two back-to-back overtime losses on the road, and is still seeking just its second win away from home.  Meanwhile, South Carolina has shown a bit of their ability with QB Jake Bentley, but with the turnovers they’ve had this season, it’s easy to see why their record is what it is.  A few less turnovers and this season could have been very different.  This will be a battle of who can keep the ball, and I find Virginia to be a bit more reliable in that sense, and more reliable in forcing turnovers.

Arizona Bowl
Arkansas State over Nevada | 12/29, 1:15pm CBSSN

A very close game is expected in Tucson when the Wolfpack and the Red Wolves faceoff at Arizona Stadium.  Nevada won the inaugural edition of this game in 2015 and looks to take their second with a record of one better.  They looked enroute to five straight to end the season until they lost a close one in the Battle for the Fremont Cannon against rival UNLV.  As for Arkansas State, their season was defined by wins against all their easy opponents and four losses to Alabama, App State, Georgia Southern, and UL Lafayette.  This will be their toughest ask since that game against the Ragin’ Cajuns.  I liked this Nevada team earlier in the year – a team that could score easily and was in the game with anyone, but they haven’t shown me enough lately to warrant that type of pick here.

Cotton Bowl Classic – First Semifinal
(2) Clemson over (3) Notre Dame | 12/29, 4:00pm ESPN

Our first College Football Playoff Semifinal Game will take us to Jerry World for a matchup of two great defenses.  The Fighting Irish and the Tigers have met each other three times, with a home-and-home series in ’77 and ’79 starting it off and then most recently in 2015, with Clemson getting the edge in Death Valley 24-22.  This season has a different feel for both squads; Notre Dame has built themselves up playing a more modern offensive style with a quick defense (much different than that 2012 team) while Clemson has become a high-powered offense under freshman wonder Trevor Lawrence, while their defense hasn’t missed a step.  Both Brian Kelly and Dabo Swinney have their schools in positions to continue this success for years to come… but next year is meaningless in the scope of Saturday.  Clemson will be without Dexter Lawrence, who is suspended after a drug test came back with traces of a banned substance; I can’t see this being too much of an effect on the defensive line, with the amount of depth that this team has – Higgins and Wilkins have been stars for Clemson all season and have produced just as well if not better than Lawrence has.  It is a loss, but one that this team can easily overcome.  Meanwhile, Ian Book’s team has been phenomenal on offense since he has taken over – they’ve controlled the game and possession throughout the season and have made it difficult for teams to catch-up.  By far, this will be their toughest ask though.  This will be the most well put together team either side has faced this season.  It is hard to pick a winner here, with many unknowns.  Notre Dame has played better football throughout the season, but the running game of Clemson with Travis Etienne and one of the most ferocious defenses in the nation will be the undoing for the Irish.  Tigers march on for a matchup in the National Title Game.

Orange Bowl – Second Semifinal
(4) Oklahoma over (1) Alabama | 12/29, 8:00pm ESPN

Boomer Sooner.  Roll Tide.  Two storied programs – 24 National Championships, 9 Heisman winners, and 154 Consensus All-Americans between them, two premier coaches in Nick Saban and Lincoln Riley, and two fan bases that are louder than almost any other will set the stage in Miami for what may be the best Orange Bowl we have seen in many years.  One of the biggest keys to this game will lie with what Alabama’s offense can do.  While Tua believes that he will be healthy and at 100% for the game, his ability resides in the strength that he has in his legs, hips, knees, and ankles.  His throw is very much like hitting a home run in baseball, a lot of momentum change and hip movement from his back foot to his front foot.  Anything less than 100% and this offense will look much like it did for three quarters against Georgia.  Jalen Hurts would be better suited to run this offense, but I don’t think he has what it takes to win this game.  On the other side of the field, Heisman winner Kyler Murray looks to cap off his football career with a National Championship.  The Big 12-style offense that Lincoln Riley runs has been potent and much is due to Kyler’s ability with his legs, extending plays and finding ways to score when the passing option is out the window.  However, the key will be with running back Kennedy Brooks.  Getting a running game going against Alabama, and finding ways to get Brooks into the offense, is a major way to beat this Crimson Tide team.  Take a tip from FCS The Citadel, which ran the ball with much success over Alabama in the first half of their game – which was 10-10 at the half.  SEC teams have tried to pass against the Crimson Tide secondary, with little success, but if Brooks can get going, that should open up the deep ball of Kyler Murray, and put away Saban and Alabama.  This should be the changing of the guards style game in Miami.

College Football 2019 Bowl Season – 12/26-12/28

More Bowl Picks!! Another exciting week of college football leading up to the New Years’ Six —

First Responders Bowl
(25) Boise State over Boston College | 12/26, 1:30pm ESPN

One of my favorite bowl games kicks the day off when the Eagles and the Broncos face off at the Cotton Bowl.  It won’t be a classic game, like the previous Cotton Bowl game now at Jerry World, but you still have two teams that have done a lot right this season, but not so much lately.  Boise State comes in after giving up the conference title on the smurf turf to Fresno State while Boston College has lost three straight since hosting College Gameday for their matchup under the lights against Clemson.  Nonetheless, both found a success earlier in the year that put them in this position.  QB Brett Rypien and the stout run defense will be the keys to this game for the Broncos in facing now 100% AJ Dillon.

Quick Lane Bowl
Minnesota over Georgia Tech | 12/26, 5:15pm ESPN

Our first game of the bowl season featuring two Power Five opponents brings us to Detroit where the Golden Gophers face off against the Yellow Jackets in Paul Johnson’s last game.  Lots of emotions will be on the field for this Georgia Tech squad as they look to go up to the motor city and steal a win away from their opponent out of the Big Ten.  While the running game will be operating on all cylinders for GT, this Minnesota defense has stepped up greatly since Robb Smith was fired as Defensive Coordinator; running teams don’t generally fair too well in these post-Christmas bowls and nothing will be easy against the Golden Gophers’ defense allowing just about 16 points per game since Smith’s firing.  Big Ten power looks to stop Atlanta speed here.

Cheez-It Bowl
California ove TCU | 12/26, 9:00pm ESPN

Starting out as a pick-em game and now drifting to Cal favoritism by 1 point, this game has been the closest line throughout the bowl season.  Cal heads to a bowl game for the first time since 2015 while TCU looks for its 10th win in 13 bowl games, although struggled to be eligible this year, needing a final week win to get here.  Cal is a tackling machine on defense, holding teams to playing behind the sticks and putting the QB in tough situations throughout.  This will be no easy task for the Horned Frogs and will need a huge day to get past the Pac-12 foe.

Independence Bowl
Duke over Temple | 12/27, 1:30pm ESPN

Not too many teams are pumped to go to Shreveport, Louisiana for a bowl game, but Temple & Ed Foley sure are pumped and ready to go when they face off with the Duke Blue Devils at the Independence Bowl.  Duke looked like they could be a mid-level contender in the ACC after their 5-1 start but blow out losses to Clemson and Wake Forest to end the season proved to be their unravelling.  Not much can be said for why they collapsed, but nonetheless, QB Daniel Jones, who is perhaps one of the most NFL ready quarterbacks in college today and is sure to be playing on Sundays soon (possibly 2019 but seems to be leaning towards staying for his senior year and coming out in 2020).  He looks to bring back the Duke offense that they lost these last few games and put points up on Temple.  Three straight bowl wins for the first time in Duke history looks to be a reality.

Pinstripe Bowl
Miami over Wisconsin | 12/27, 5:15pm ESPN

The Bronx and Yankees Stadium play host to this Orange Bowl rematch.  A year removed from what was a Top 12 matchup, the Hurricanes and the Badgers have a very different look and feel to their program.  Both started the season in the Top Ten with heavy playoff aspirations; a year older for both, it seemed as if each would continue the success that they had these past few years… until they didn’t.  Miami was a pre-season favorite of mine to make the playoffs, with an easy schedule and a defense to go toe-to-toe with anyone; but that defense failed them and dropped them down the ACC later.  Meanwhile, Wisconsin lives and dies by the running game, which couldn’t find the success it needed in close games.  Big losses down the road and a much-maligned schedule cost them any shot at the Big Ten title.  I can’t say this game will be all that fun to watch, with the Miami defense losing DC Manny Diaz (to Temple) and Wisconsin playing without Alex Hornibrook, this could be a very low scoring and sloppy game.  Miami has a bit more to play for as they try and get revenge for their loss to the Badgers last year.

Texas Bowl
Baylor over Vanderbilt | 12/27, 9:00pm ESPN

Wrapping up the Thursday slate is a trip to Texas for the Commodores to play Matt Rhule’s Baylor Bears.  Amazing how far Baylor has come from just a few seasons ago when the team looked to be in complete shambles.  They got past Texas Tech in their last game to head to a bowl in a season that saw 4 solid wins in Big 12 company.  Meanwhile, Vanderbilt had a schedule chock full of Top 15 teams (fitting for the SEC) and needed to beat Ole Miss and Tennessee to end the season to get a spot here.  This won’t be the game to garner the heavy ratings on the day, but with no NFL football this evening, what else would you be watching.  Running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn has been pushing the offense for Vandy, averaging about 7 yards per game on each carry and getting over 1,000 yards from scrimmage, but will need to put up enough points to stop a high-scoring Big 12 offense.  The Bears look to cap off the comeback from 1-11 in 2017 with a win here.

Music City Bowl
Purdue over Auburn | 12/28, 1:30pm ESPN

Friday kicks off in Nashville as the Boilermakers and the Tigers face off.  Jeff Brohm has made huge strides with this Purdue team, that could easily have found themselves in the Big Ten title game had they won their week one thriller against Northwestern.  Starting 0-3, Purdue surged onward with a solid, though up-and-down season, capped off with a blowout win over Ohio State.  Meanwhile, Auburn has had a less than stellar season, starting as a Top Ten team and easily drifting into obscurity.  The Tigers saw somewhat expected losses to Alabama, Georgia, and LSU this season, but big losses to Mississippi State and Tennessee, where their offense struggled, ended their underperforming season.  Gus Malzahn will be coaching for what could be his job – one that he may lose after next season.  This is a tough game to pick, as both teams have high highs and low lows, but Purdue seems to have more to play for and an offense that includes one of the best freshman in the nation in Rondale Moore.

Camping World Bowl
(20) Syracuse over (16) West Virginia | 12/28, 5:15pm ESPN

An old rivalry will be renewed in Orlando when the West Virginia Mountaineers square off against the Syracuse Orange.  59 matchups between these teams before conference realignment ended their rivalry in 2011… not that the College Football Gods let that happen as they ended up matching up against each other in the Pinstripe Bowl in 2012.  They still haven’t scheduled a game going towards 2026, but once again the Gods want this rivalry to continue as they find themselves going at it again in another bowl game.  Sadly, the big key for the Mountaineers offense, Will Grier, won’t be playing, as he announced that he will be skipping the game for the Draft.  That is big blow to this West Virginia team that needs its offensive fire-power to win games.  That swings the tied in the Orangemen’s favor for me, looking like Syracuse win.

Alamo Bowl
(24) Iowa State over (13) Washington State | 12/28, 9:00pm ESPN

New Years’ Six Eve ends with a ranked matchup in San Antonio.  The Alamodome gets Big 12 Iowa State, who continues on their upward swing in conference and was in the mix for a title shot late in the season, and Pac-12 Washington State, who had one of their best seasons in a decade and just missed on their title shot with the loss against rival Washington in the snowy Apple Cup.  Iowa State has found ways to shut down the Big 12 style Air Raid offense all season, which of course is Mike Leach’s favorite style of play (one of the founders and advocates of this offense).  This Cyclones defense will be formidable and one of the toughest opponents that Washington State has faced.  Gardner Minshew looks to cap off his season with a win here after finishing 5th in Heisman voting and with a possible NFL contract up for grabs soon.  But Matt Campbell is one of the best game planners in college football and will have a strong strategy written up to go against the Cougars.  This is a game to watch!

Lamar Jackson: The Future?

In the past six games, the Baltimore Ravens are 5-1, with their lone loss coming to the Kansas City Chiefs in Overtime at Arrowhead. The ten 4-5 Ravens looked like their season was all but lost, as they had a slate of games that would put them finishing at 8-8, if they were lucky. In a game where Joe Flacco didn’t throw for one touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers, ultimately ending up with a hip injury (a type of injury that has plagued the Ravens franchise for years), it looked as if all was lost for the Baltimore football club.

And then Lamar Jackson showed up. The complexion of this team changed. The old-school run first mentality that the Ravens had back in the day with Jamal Lewis or Ray Rice popped back up to the top and the defense that had been topping the league for the first half of the season just got even better. As described by many, this is a team doing everything the other 31 teams aren’t – run first, pass second. With stars like Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Jared Goff lighting up the scoreboard through the air, the Ravens are ticking critical seconds off the clock by keeping it on the ground. An offense that was more than pass happy with Flacco had completely changed… and became one of the most dangerous threats to the heavy hitting teams in the NFL.

The offense in 2018, and truthfully since 2013, has been pass heavy under Joe Flacco. In 2016, he attempted an NFL record 672 passes that season, for 4,317 yards (the only time in his career he threw for over 4,000 yards), but in an offense built on screen passes and short throws. In comparison, his first six years with the Ravens, he averaged less than 33 throws per game in each season, averaging over a touchdown per game, and threw in a deep threat type of offense. For those years, he had receiving threats in Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, and Jacoby Jones; tough and targeted TEs in Todd Heap and Dennis Pitta; and a speedy and gritty running back in Ray Rice. These keys surrounded Flacco and let John Harbaugh run the offense that he wanted: old-school ground & pound football. The Ravens were a balanced team – an AFC North style team. But then in 2013 that all ended; injuries plagued the team just as much as off the field changes. The team lost many of its stars, lost its identity, and had to shift to a pass-first style in order to catch up with these other high-powered offenses that were bursting right through the aging Ravens defense. Rookies tried to fill the defensive holes, but none seemed ready to go at first asking, pushing their limits for years. The offense sputtered as Flacco was forced to throw far more than he should have, with few talented receivers around him and no TEs – he has been his best when he had a TE to throw to. It looked as if the Ravens were on a downward spiral.

Coming out of 2017, there didn’t look to be much hope for the Ravens, but crucial free agent pickups may have been the spark they needed. They added John Brown, Michael Crabtree, and Willie Snead to the receiving core – giving Flacco targets to throw to for the first time in a few years. They had health at the TE position and health in the defense. They had a wealth of defensive backs. Things looked up for the Ravens. They drafted Hayden Hurst with their first pick and then surprisingly went with a QB to end the first round.

2018 started with a perfect pre-season, going 5-0, and then a demolition of the Buffalo Bills to start the regular season. A loss to the Bengals in Cincinnati on Thursday night grounded the team, but they followed it up with wins against the Broncos and at the hated Pittsburgh Steelers. A loss to the newly revived Browns and then a shutout victory in Tennessee put the team at 4-2, and in a good spot to win the division at years end, or at the very least get a wildcard spot. Flacco was on pace for the most passing yards in a season for his career, averaging the lowest interceptions per game in years, and performing at a much higher rate than he did for the years after his Super Bowl title. But then three losses in a row heading into the bye week ended most of those hopes, as a shocking missed extra point by Justin Tucker ended their hopes against the Saints, the offense sputtered against the Panthers, and a late drive ended before it started against Pittsburgh.

The bye week came at the perfect time. Ravens fans spent the next two weeks looking back on what once was, all the success the Harbaugh-Flacco era had, and thinking who next year’s coach should be and is Lamar Jackson the future of the team. No one looked at the playoffs, let alone a division title; hope was all but lost. News broke of an injury to Joe Flacco that could very well put him out for the next game, the revenge game against the Bengals.

On November 18th, 2018 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland, the Lamar Jackson era began. If you told me two years ago that he would be a starting QB in the NFL, I wouldn’t have believed you – and I still wouldn’t; he was near the bottom of my QB rankings entering the draft and looked as if he should have entered as a RB, like Christian McCaffrey. Instead, the Ravens switched everything up, running the ball 53 times in that game (as opposed to just 16 times a game earlier) and threw the ball just 19 times. The trend continued game after game, run first, pass second, stay ahead of the sticks. And it worked. The offense was revived with a defense to match.

Yet, what would have happened had this run-first offense been in place with Flacco? While arguably there would be less success on the ground, since Flacco is far from the most mobile QB in the NFL, what would having a passing option have done for this team? Maybe that would have changed the result of the Chiefs game? Maybe blown out teams? Maybe nothing? And while we look at this season and see the Ravens just one game away from the playoffs and a team no one wants to face right now, especially those in the now slipping AFC, is this the future formula for the Ravens, or does there need to be a true downfield passing option that needs to be added into this offense. No matter what, they look to keep winning games, with a defense that stumps offenses and an offense that controls the pace of the game – and until that fails, run, run, run.

College Football 2019 Bowl Season – 12/22

Another Saturday of football and four bowls on tap for this second weekend of Bowl Games. Here are my picks:

Birmingham Bowl
Wake Forest over Memphis | 12/22, 12:00pm ESPN

We have a first to forty style game at historic Legion Field in Birmingham.  Memphis wasn’t able to keep scoring against UCF in the American Championship Game, though truthfully it was more of their defense letting up than their offense.  That won’t bode well against the Demon Deacons, who have been a run-up-the-score type in their wins this season.  I don’t see the break slowly them down and should be able to score up and down the field on the Tigers defense.  High scoring for sure, but Wake Forest should come out on top.

Armed Forces Bowl
Army over Houston | 12/22, 3:30pm ESPN

Coming out of a win against Navy, the Army Black Knights look for their first ever 11-win season against the Ed Oliver-less Houston.  The Cougars have lost three of their last four to end the year and have been bleeding on the defensive side of the ball.  Productivity is key for Army, who has the second best rushing attack in the nation and one of the best rushing defenses.  They are stout and tough to get past, as shown from their near miss against Oklahoma earlier in the year.

Dollar General Bowl
Buffalo over Troy | 12/22, 7:00pm ESPN

Troy won this game just two years ago and has grown well since then.  A perennial contender in the tough Sun Belt, the Trojans look for the semi-home field advantage to propel them over a Buffalo team that has been the best in the MAC but coming up just short in the Championship game.  This will probably be the most competitive game on the day, and one that could go either way.  Troy will be fighting, but I go with the Bulls, who have been on of the toughest teams all year and led by a very versatile quarterback in Tyree Jackson.

Hawaii Bowl
Louisiana Tech over Hawaii | 12/22, 10:30pm ESPN

While I will miss my Christmas Eve tradition of the Hawaii Bowl, this type of game will do.  A matchup of formal WAC teams, the Rainbow Warriors and the Bulldogs face-off in Hawaii in what could be a very high scoring affair.  Louisiana Tech always finds a way to go bowling and has won their last 4.   They have a high power offense, scoring at will almost every game and get a team in Hawaii that lets up over 35 points per game.  Give me the Bulldogs.

College Football 2019 Bowl season – 12/18-12/21

Week 2 of Bowl Season is Among Us! Here are my selections for the weekday games:

Boca Raton Bowl
UAB over Northern Illinois | 12/18, 7:00pm ESPN

A matchup between two conference champions goes down in Florida as the C-USA Champion UAB takes on the MAC Champion Northern Illinois.  After striking back at Mid Tennessee in the championship game after losing to them a week prior, UAB set up another bowl trip since coming back from having their football program shutdown.  This team has been led by a stout defense all season but will be facing a Northern Illinois team that is rolling off their three unanswered scores to shock Buffalo a few weeks ago.  The Huskies looked as if they in reverse the last few games of the season, losing back-to-back to Miami (OH) and Western Michigan as quarterback Marcus Childers couldn’t find his rhythm; but a four touchdown night in Detroit came at the right time.  QB play has not been the best for either of these teams down the stretch, but I’ll give the edge to a gritty UAB team.

Frisco Bowl
Ohio over San Diego State | 12/19, 8:00pm ESPN

The Aztecs had everything rolling early this season, with wins over Arizona State and Boise State, but dropping three straight now has led this team to a tough spot against an offensive powerhouse in Ohio.  The Bobcats, led by the trio of Rouke, Ouellette, and White (all of which could find themselves with a spot in the NFL someday), average over 470 yards of offense and more than 40 points per game.  This is an offense unlike those that San Diego State has faced thus far, and with their recent skid, this trip to Texas doesn’t bode well for the Aztecs.

Gasparilla Bowl
Marshall over USF | 12/20, 8:00pm ESPN

Moving out of the dome and to the pirate ship, USF gets to stay home for their bowl game.  USF won the first edition of this bowl game, then known as the magicJack Bowl, while Marshall has won two prior games, back in 2011 and 2015.  Both come in off of what-could-have-been seasons, with USF dropping their last 5 after starting 7-0 and Marshall failing to improve upon their eight win season last year in what looked to be a possible C-USA Championship year.  With the bulls offense sputtering and their defense giving up over 400 yards per game, I will look to the Thundering Herd to grab the advantage in Tampa Bay.

Bahamas Bowl
Toledo over FIU | 12/21, 12:30pm ESPN

Heading out of the country for this bowl, the Bahamas Bowl sees two great offenses facing off.  FIU and QB James Morgan have been lighting up the board as of late while Toledo has been doing a few touchdowns better with their offense.  Both teams can easily score 40 on each other.  Toledo should be able to control the tempo here and put on a show, ending their two year bowl game losing streak.

Idaho Potato Bowl
Western Michigan over BYU | 12/21, 4:00pm ESPN

We end up on the blue turf of Boise State for this bowl game out west.  Western Michigan was on a skid throughout much of the end of the season losing QB Jon Wassink for the season with a broken collarbone, but beat Northern Illinois in the season finale to move to 7-5; meanwhile BYU started the year strong at 3-1 with a win over then 6th ranked Wisconsin, but since then they have struggled, losing 7-6 to Northern Illinois, dropping the game right here against Boise State, and last out a crushing one score loss at Utah.  Freshman quarterback Kaleb Eleby will be the key for Western Michigan as they face a stingy rush defense in the Cougars.  If he can play smart and not turn the ball over, the Broncos will come out alive.

College football 2019 Bowl Season – 12/15

Bowl season kicks off with 5 bowls this Saturday, including a few conference champions.  Check out my picks below for the Week One Bowls!

Cure Bowl
Tulane over Louisiana | 12/15, 1:30pm CBSSN

The Green Wave heads back to a bowl game for the first time since 2013, facing the same team that beat them in the New Orleans Bowl (ironically was the last home game played at the Superdome before moving the new Yulman Stadium).  Willie Fritz has been building this program since coming from Georgia Southern, and more notably Sam Houston State, instating a tough and balance offense.  But it has been their defense that has let them slip to a 6-6 record, giving up in crucial spots and keeping games close.  They will need their best showing against a young and growing Ragin’ Cajuns team under first-year head coach Billy Napier.  They’ve gotten here after a 7-6 record, which included two losses at SEC foes.  While their offense is known to put up points, they have not been able to put points up away from Cajun Field, and that could very well be the key here in what is a very close on paper all-Louisiana game in Orlando.

New Mexico Bowl
North Texas over Utah State | 12/15, 2:00pm ESPN

This is a first to 40 style game – two high octane offenses squaring off in Dreamstyle Stadium.  In just ten years, Utah State, under Gary Anderson and Matt Wells, has risen from one of the worst teams in the FBS to one of the best teams in the Mountain West and one of the better Group of 5 teams overall.  Even better, this season was put together when the MW was at its strongest in years.  But now Matt Wells is off to Texas Tech and in place will be alumnus and assistant coach Frank Maile, until Gary Anderson returns to the program next year.  Meanwhile Seth Littrell has built this North Texas program from the ground up in three years, taking them to three consecutive bowl games.  Their spread offense, 3-3-5 defense, and use of unique schemes has left them in a good position to win their first bowl game under Littrell.  This team is rolling and should be ready to shock this Aggies team.

Las Vegas Bowl
Arizona State over (21) Fresno State | 12/15, 3:30pm ABC

When Herm Edwards was hired at Arizona State, no one expected a huge year right out of the gates, but the energy he brought with him has helped make it a year of success.  While struggling early in conference play, the Sun Devils have one four of their last five, and every loss this year has been by one possession.  They have been putting up yards through the air and on the ground, though their keys have been a stout defense when it matters.  But, they get a tough test against Mountain West Champion Fresno State. Led by senior Marcus McMaryion, the Bulldogs have given everyone they’ve faced a tough test.  While their last four games have been a bit of a cold spell, the last time they were in Las Vegas, they crushed UNLV.  Their last seven games will have been played at just three stadiums, 3 games at Bulldog Stadium, 2 at Albertsons Stadium, and now 2 at Sam Boyd Stadium.  However, the Sun Devils have been the hot team at the end of the year, and I think that momentum (and a bit of much needed rest) will help them jump to the top.

Camellia Bowl
Georgia Southern over Eastern Michigan | 12/15, 5:30pm ESPN

A matchup of run v pass will be on display in Montgomery.  Eastern Michigan comes in with one of the better defenses in the FBS in yards allowed but stopping the run hasn’t been their specialty.  Meanwhile Georgia Southern with one of the best running attacks in the nation, as expected, averaging over 260 yards per game on the ground.  In what looked to be a Sun Belt Championship season early, late slides against UL-Monroe and Troy kept them out of the title game, but Chad Lunsford’s squad has righted the ship after a two-win season in 2017.  No matter what happens, the Eagles will win… just which one is the question.

New Orleans Bowl
Appalachian State over Mid Tennessee | 12/15, 9:00pm ESPN

My favorite bowl game of the opening day pits the Sun Belt Champion against the C-USA Runner-Up.  Appalachian State has been one of the top small-school football programs for over a decade now, which included three straight National Championships at the FCS level between 2005 and 2007.  They moved up to the FBS level and didn’t skip a beat, now winning their third straight Sun Belt Championship (first outright) and heading to another bowl game (winning the last four, including a shut out of Toledo last year).  But, they lose head coach Scott Satterfield to Louisville; alumni and longtime assistant Mark Ivey will take over for the game.  I love this choice – he has led his defense for years, grooming some of the best linebackers in the Sun Belt.  This very good passing attack of Mid Tennessee will need to be even better than they’ve been to stop the Mountaineers.

Who’s In? CFP 2018 Projections

In the aftermath of all the conference championship games yesterday, the only thing up for grabs now is that final CFP spot.  Alabama is in.  Clemson is in.  Notre Dame should be in, but could be dropped out for Oklahoma and Ohio State.  Georgia is on the bubble, but has a huge case to be in.  And UCF is still praying that someone wants them.  We will see Who’s In and Who’s Out at noon today on ESPN.  Here are my projections for the CFP Top 12 and associated New Year’s Six Bowls:

CFP Top 12 Projections

  1. Alabama – They’ve been the best team all year; no reason to drop them.
  2. Clemson – Beaten who they needed to beat and have yet to face any adversity since Lawrence was full time QB.
  3. Notre Dame – Ran their schedule well and beat who they needed to beat; defense is one of the best in FBS and deserves a spot.  Could see dropped to 4th.
  4. Oklahoma – The best winner yesterday; slayed their demon in Texas avenging the loss really pushes them above.
  5. Georgia – Nearly beat Alabama, but injuring starting quarterbacks always seems to go against the Bulldogs; still an elite team and with a huge case to be made to be in.
  6. Ohio State – Can’t see them dropping here after winning, but their resume just doesn’t stack up.
  7. UCF – Jumps Michigan due to being a conference champion (as that does play some weight).
  8. Michigan – Drops down one below UCF but maintains based on strength of record.
  9. Washington – Jumps after winning Pac-12 but strength of win was far from what they’ve been used to.
  10. Florida – Maintains.
  11. LSU – Maintains.
  12. Penn State – Maintains.

New Year’s Six Bowl Projections

  • Capital One Orange Bowl (CFP Semifinal)
    • (1) Alabama v (4) Oklahoma
  • Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (CFP Semifinal)
    • (2) Clemson v (3) Notre Dame
  • Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
    • (8) Michigan v (10) Florida
  • PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
    • (7) UCF v (12) Penn State
  • Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual
    • (6) Ohio State v (9) Washington
  • Allstate Sugar Bowl
    • (5) Georgia v (15) Texas