The holiday season has taken the Beach hostage, so there's no time for a detailed preview. Most of the experts are going with Hawaii because they've shown they are a much better team at home. They have the third ranked passing offense in the nation and they're going against the 105th NCAA ranked pass defense.
But the Rainbow Warriors are only 3 point favorites because the UAB Blazers can do some things on offense too. Their quarterback, Darrell Hackney is a big, 235 pound junior who threw for 24 touchdowns and only 7 INT's this season. The over/under in this game is huge (76) so I'm staying away from that, but with Timmy Chang playing his last game for Hawaii in front of the home crowd, it's hard to go with anything else.
College Football News Preview
Yahoo (AP) Preview
It'll be nice to get back to picking games where you can name at least half the players on the field.
I'll defer the in-depth review to HuggyBear, but with so much at stake, the over looks like a sure thing on Friday. Both teams have averaged 50 points per game (scored and allowed) so far this season and the line is at 56. It's a dome game, and both defenses have injuries at key positions. But most of all, I remember what Philly was able to do to Green Bay with their deep passing game and going long is exactly what this Minnesota offense is designed to do. I like Minnesota -3 and I like the over 56, but my Beach pick is a 7 point tease with the Vikings +4 and over 49 (which equals just 7 touchdowns).
Yahoo - ESPN
Current Beach ATS record: 26-19 in college (3-4 in Bowls), 40-29 in pro, and 66-48 overall.
By almost all accounts, UCLA has the talent and Wyoming has the intangibles in this matchup of 6-5 teams.
The only chance us east coast folk got to see UCLA this season was in their 24-29 loss to USC. The Bruins gave us probably their best game there and if they are able to bring that same intensity Thursday night against Wyoming, UCLA should roll. There is, however, some cause for concern.
First off, this game is in Vegas, so who knows what the players have been up to in their free time. UCLA fans also have to be concerned about their team's abililty to bounce back after their battle against USC. The Bruins may be without receiver Tab Perry, who injured his ankle in Tuesday's practice. He's a game time decision. They will definitely be without middle linebacker Spencer Havner's 125 tackles do to a knee injury and also Havner's replacement, Ben Lorier, who was suspended after he showed up intoxicated for a team meeting. The Bruins defense gave up an average of 222.3 yards per game on the ground (111th NCAA overall) this season so losing your first and second string middle linebackers isn't going to help that, but really, how many more rushing yards is it possible to surrender in a 60 minute game?
What will help UCLA's defense is the very mediocre Wyoming running attack. Their leading rusher, Ivan Harrison, only averaged 3.7 yards per carry this season in the Mountain West Conference. The Cowboys do have more experience playing in Vegas (even though UCLA was in the Vegas Bowl back in 2002). They are in their first bowl game since 1993 and at least they're not showing up drunk for meetings. Still, there's not much going for Wyoming in this game.
UCLA could use a healthy RB Maurice Drew against this Cowboy defensive front, but even if his ankle isn't completely healthy, the Bruins have a much larger offensive line and playmakers all over the place in their skill positions.
UCLA offensive lineman Steven Vieira:
I hate to say it, but I think a lot of guys checked out early last year. This year is different. We finished strong. Tight game against 'SC, great game against Oregon. We finished the season strong. This is a different team. This is my last game. I want to win.UCLA -12
No one player is bigger than a game, but in this case, it may just be that Bearcat QB Gino Guidugli's health will be the determining factor in who wins the Forth Worth Bowl on Thursday night.
Down the season's stretch, there weren't many teams playing better than Cincinnati. They held Memphis to just 10 points in a 49-10 victory at home, beat TCU 21-10, routed Southern Miss 52-24 on the road, and then racked up a 45-23 victory against South Florida. But then Guidugli broke his hand and was forced to sit out the Louisville game on November 27th. The Bearcats were undaunted, however, and they walked into Kentucky as a very confident team. Before kickoff, they danced on the Cardinals midfield logo and taunted Louisville. Then, on the first play from scrimmage, Cardinals RB Eric Shelton broke an 80 yard touchdown and soon thereafter the Bearcats ended up on the wrong side of a 70-7 beating.
So now Cincinnati comes into the Forth Worth Bowl hoping that Guidugli can pick up where he left off. The hand he broke after he slipped on some stairs a few days before the Louisville game was his throwing hand and there has to be some concern as to whether or not he's fully recovered. Even when healthy, Gino is basically the midwest's version of Chris Rix, so there's really isn't anything (good or bad) that he can't do.
Marshall probably wouldn't have been invited to this one had Clemson and South Carolina not gotten in a fight so soon after the Pacers/Pistons riot. But here they are, mostly on name recognition and star power. WR Josh Davis is a true NFL prospect on offense, but other than that there isn't much on the that side of the football for the Thundering Herd. Marshall is strong on defense, with playmakers at all three levels. If they can get an early lead, they will be able to put a ton of pressure on Guidugli.
Cincinnati is the more talented team, and If Vegas knew for sure Guidugli was healthy, the Bearcats would be a big favorite. I'm also interested in the under (55.5) here. Both sides have unheralded defenses and balanced offenses. I doubt either team will be able to put up more than 30 points.
College Football News Preview
Of all the early week bowls, this one is getting the most amount of coverage and for good reason. The GMAC Bowl has a reputation for hosting high scoring games in its brief history and this one should be no different.
Bowling Green comes into this contest averaging over 500 yards a game on offense. They operate mostly out of spread formations and will get the ball to all four receivers. Their quarterback, Omar Jacobs, threw for 36 touchdowns this season and ran for 4 more. He was intercepted just 3 times and was sacked only 8 all season long. Bowling Green's schedule wasn't exactly the most difficult in the MAC, but their GMAC opponent, Memphis, ranks near the bottom of the NCAA in terms of pass defense.
The Falcons running game averages over four yards a carry mostly because teams are lining up against them looking to defend primarily the pass. Memphis comes in playing a 3-3-5 defense that they use to blitz from all different positions. The Tigers have to know their secondary can't match up against Bowling Green so they are going to have to run a lot of max coverages or max blitzes. Either way, Jacobs is going to have plenty of opportunities to put points on the board.
The only real defense Memphis has to offer against Bowling Green is the work of their offensive line and running back. The Tigers have averaged 213.5 yards per game on the ground this season and have probably the most well rounded back in the country with DeAngelo Williams. BGU's defense is small and is most vulnerable when they face bigger opponents who are dedicated to running the ball. QB Danny Wimprine is quite capable too, but the Tigers will try to keep Jacobs and the Falcons off the field as much as possible by controling the clock.
In all three of Bowling Green's losses this season, their opponents ran the ball at least 39 times (Oklahoma- 52, Norhern Illinois- 54, Toledo- 39) so the recipe is there for Memphis to win. The Tigers have an unusual defense that will be most effective if their offense is able to limit the number of looks Jacobs has to get used to it. Memphis needs to make BGU earn every yard by not letting anyone get deep. If the Tigers can force Jacobs to sustain drives, they should be able to hold Bowling Green down just enough to win.
The victors of the first two Bowl games of 2004 (Southern Miss and Georgia Tech) won because they each were able to dominate the line of scrimmage. Along that same line, it looks like Tigers' running attack will have their way with the Falcons defense. Memphis is a city on the rise, and so is it's university. They just gave Head Coach Tommy West a $800,000 a year extension through 2009; which is a ton of money for a program that was almost terminated a few years ago. This looks like a breakout game for the Tigers.
College Football News Preview
Thanks to Yahoo Sports for picking up two nice pieces about the NHL that were written in local papers.
Tim Panaccio, with the Philadelphia Inquirer, details the reasons why the Flyers privately don't support Bettman's salary cap mandate. The article is also an excellent look into the collective minds of the wealthy seven teams: Detroit, Boston, Philly, New York Rangers, Toronto, Dallas, and Colorado.
Of this group, Boston takes in the least annual revenue at $85 million. And that's twice as much as Phoenix.
The rich clubs question why they should bankroll poorer clubs that can't sell their product or their merchandise very well, either locally or nationally.
It's a good read. And it gives words to the complexity of this entire issue.
If what Panaccio is saying about the Flyers and the other six teams is true, a compromise seems possible. The small markets will continue to embrance their underdog mentality no matter what happens. They will draft well and evaluate well or their performance will suffer. Small markets who field a competitive team usually do well financially (Calgary, Tampa). The big clubs will continue to use their money to keep them competitive when their prospects don't work out. So how do you keep salaries down in this environment? Figure out a complex system of free agency that will allow teams to hang on to players they've brought up through the draft. Like a salary cap for players under 30 years old.. Would the NHLPA go for it? I'm just making this up as I type but I can't be the first to think of it.
Here's the second article. David Pollack from the San Jose Mercury News discusses and comments on the NHL's position in the CBA talks versus concerns over rising ticket prices.
Fantasy Football is basically in its last week (for some, it's last two weeks), so individual player news is becoming less important. With hockey a no show thus far, the only thing there is to do at the Beach these days is pick football games. So that's what we're gonna spend most of our time doing after today.
Obviously not speaking for Drew, my opinion, if it were me and from talking with him, I don’t believe he would want to come back unless he was starting. I think he has this team in the palm of his hand right now. He’s playing well; he’s one of the biggest leaders out there. He leads a lot by action, not by words, but when he goes out and does what he does, he still has a lot of football left in him if he wants to play, if he wants to continue. But I would never see Drew Bledsoe as a backup, and the day you’d see him as a backup is the day you’d see him retired in his cabin in Montana somewhere.
He is one of the only guys I’ve ever seen who can come into (Ralph Wilson) Stadium, other than Jim Kelly, and throw the ball with accuracy and effectiveness. It’s a tough, tough place to play. He throws a big, tight spiral that doesn’t break up in the wind and has zip on it. Weather never bothers him.
For the first time since Draft Day, when the Giants traded a 2004 third-round pick and first- and fifth-rounders next year to get Eli, Giants fans saw reason to believe they hadn't been swindled.And on and on and on...
Perhaps more than anyone, RB William Green symbolizes the Browns’ offensive problems of late. Cleveland wants to establish a ground-oriented attack, but Green is having a difficult time finding any room to run behind a patchwork offensive line. Green sputtered for a grand total of 20 rushing yards in the first two games of December, fumbling once in each game. Interim head coach Terry Robiskie suggested the fumbles may have affected Green’s play, also saying the back may have been pressing somewhat. There are other factors that can’t be overlooked in analyzing Green’s struggles. According to a source close to the team, Green has never been comfortable competing with Lee Suggs for the starting job. Nor has he warmed to the idea of running behind a fullback.
Not sure how much time there will be tomorrow, so here's a quick rundown:
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