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Friday, December 12, 2008

Predictions for SportsCenter's "Top 10 Games" of 2008

In case you haven't heard, this was a particularly exciting year in sports. When ESPN's "SportsCenter" does its annual "Top 10 Games" countdown, they could easily extend it to a Top 20. With so many great games, I've taken it upon myself to take my own stab at mimicking the ESPN list and what it might look like.

Between some college football playoff-related features and Da Blog's regular features, I think it's reasonable to schedule the College Football Rankings' release, as well as the bowl schedule, for Thursday.

#10: Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, men's basketball gold medal match, USA v. Spain. The "Redeem Team" lives up to their name in a game Bill Simmons called "one of the 10 most dramatic basketball games of my lifetime. And nobody gave a crap or even knew. The game started at 2:30 in the morning ET and vanished into thin air. Only West Coasters and super-diehards stayed up to see it."

#9: NHL Hockey, Winter Classic, Pittsburgh Penguins @ Buffalo Sabres. Could the NHL have asked for anything less than a shootout from the first (true) Winter Classic?

#8: College football, SEC Championship Game, Florida v. Alabama. If the regular season is a playoff, this was its semifinal - and it certainly played like one.

#7: MLB Baseball, ALCS Game 5, Tampa Bay Rays @ Boston Red Sox. For the moment, just forget about the fact the Sox couldn't come all the way back to win the series.

#6: Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, swimming, 4x100m freestyle relay OR 100m butterfly OR 4x100m medley relay. The first two were dramatic finishes on Michael Phelps' road to Mark Spitz's record. The last was the one that broke it and had an exciting finish of its own. And I only have it at #6.

#5: College football, Texas @ Texas Tech. The Red Raiders came out to an early lead, only to see Texas come storming back to take a lead of its own. In the end, Texas Tech had the play of the year, and as it turned out, the one that kept Texas out of the National Championship Game.

#4: Wimbledon, men's final, Roger Federer v. Rafael Nadal. This and the next two I could have put in any order. A five-set, record-length classic that ended with Nadal finally getting the best of Federer away from clay.

#3: Men's college basketball, NCAA Tournament Final, Kansas v. Memphis. Finally, a National Championship game that lives up to being the culmination of March Madness instead of being a complete anticlimax!

#2: US Open Golf, playoff, Tiger Woods v. Rocco Mediate. 19 holes of pure tension, as basically an unknown gives Tiger every inch of challenge he has, and brings out Tiger's best to put him on top. And Tiger was injured to the extent it's still the last event he's played!

#1: NFL Football, Super Bowl XLII, New England Patriots v. New York Giants. Perhaps the greatest iteration ever of the biggest sporting event of every year? How can it not be #1?

Honorable Mentions: IRL racing, Indy Japan 300 (Danica wins!); Euro 2008 quarterfinal, Croatia v. Turkey (or was it the semis, where Germany beat Turkey? Basically a sop to my soccer-crazed dad anyway); MLB Home Run Derby; ArenaBowl XXII, Soul v. SaberCats (about the only thing that could make it better is if it were the last one); some NBA game I'm forgetting; some obscure game I never heard of or just didn't watch (possibly from MMA, boxing, the LLWS, Fresno State's run, the WNBA, MLS, or the like)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 14

NBC's Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it "tentatively" schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that this was written with last season in mind):
  • Begins Sunday of Week 11
  • In effect during Weeks 11-17
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET. (Note: Last year, NBC listed a tentative game for Week 17; they are not doing so this year.)
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in "flex" weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night. (Note: Again, excluding Week 17.)
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks, and could not protect any games Week 17 last year. Unless I find out otherwise, I'm assuming that's still the case this year, especially with no tentative game listed Week 17, and that protections were scheduled after Week 4.
  • Three teams can appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC. A list of all teams' number of appearances is in my Week 4 post.
Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 11 (November 16):
  • Selected game: Dallas @ Washington.
Week 12 (November 23):
  • Selected game: Indianapolis @ San Diego.
Week 13 (November 30):
  • Selected game: Chicago @ Minnesota.
Week 14 (December 7):
  • Selected game: Washington @ Baltimore.
Week 15 (December 14):
  • Selected game: NY Giants @ Dallas.
Week 16 (December 21):
  • Selected game: Carolina @ NY Giants.
Week 17 (December 28 Playoff Positioning Watch):
  • Note that not only is there no longer an NBC tentative game, there's no NFL Network game. Apparently the league learned their lesson from last year's Patriots-Giants debacle.
  • AFC East: Jets-Patriots-Dolphins three-way tie, Bills two back. The Pats and Bills play each other, as do the Dolphins and Jets.
  • AFC North: The Steelers and Ravens are the only two teams still in it; Steelers have a one-game edge. The Steelers play the Browns while the Ravens play the Jags.
  • AFC South: The Titans are running away with it, with the Colts the only other team with a shot, and they lose the common games tiebreaker.
  • AFC West: Chargers hanging by the division tiebreaker, and play division leader Denver. Hmm. But again, the Chargers would need to win out and the Broncos lose out.
  • AFC Wild Card: The Ravens and Colts would get the nod if the season ended today. The AFC East losers are a game back. Dolphins-Jets and Titans-Colts are the main AFC contenders. Bills and Texans also waiting in the wings, Chargers need a tiebreaker.
  • NFC East: The Giants have a three-game lead over the Cowboys, with the Eagles out by half a game, and the Cowboys lose the common games tiebreaker. The Giants play the Vikings.
  • NFC North: Vikings lead, Bears a game back, Packers hanging on by a tiebreaker. The Bears play the Texans and the Packers play the Lions, but the Vikings play the Giants.
  • NFC South: Every team still in it, with the Panthers leading, the Bucs one back, the Falcons two, and the Saints hanging on by a tiebreaker. The Panthers play the Saints, but Tampa Bay plays the Raiders and the Falcons play the Rams.
  • NFC West: The Cardinals are running away with it and the 49ers lost both games to them so they're out. Cardinals play the Seahawks. Hardly must-see TV.
  • NFC Wild Card: The Bucs and either the Cowboys or Falcons would get the nod if the season ended today. Eagles a half-game back, Redskins, Bears, Saints a full game back. Packers and 49ers need a tiebreak. Giants-Vikings, Cowboys-Eagles, and Panthers-Saints are strong games, but that may be it in the NFC and the last one could be fading. Those could be competitive games for the NBC pick, though.

For some of the more overzealous forum members, re: 614: Celia may be ridiculously, stupidly naive, but that doesn't translate into being dead meat. Just ask Elan.

(From The Order of the Stick. Click for full-sized minty-fresh breath.)

So my time this week has been monopolized by various other things, such as the whole college-football-tournament thing, and the webcomic post has been pushed to Thursday as a result, and this is what happens when I don't have much time to write it: I fall back on OOTS and produce something fairly hastily thrown together. And still take much longer to write it than my schedule should by all rights allow.

So what the hell is going on with Belkar? I touched on this once before, but as just about every single thing Belkar does is being viewed in light of Shojo's challenge to him, I think it's important to establish a baseline for what that actually means.

So far, though more so in his first couple of strips back in action, not much seems to have actually changed in Belkar's behavior, which has only stoked the speculation on what he will do differently, and how that'll affect his much-prophesied death, and what it means for when that'll happen. The general consensus, so far as I have observed on the forums (and as over-interpreted by me), seems to be that Belkar is going to toe the line and, outwardly, do everything Haley and later Roy asks of him, effectively turning into the ultimate team player, more committed to the main quest than anyone, appearing to have seen the light and turned good, trying to play the Great Hero, while only occasionally "cheating" somehow, out of sight of anyone else. And in an addendum that's growing in popularity, actually becoming good in the process.

The most succinct interpretation of the matter I could find on short notice probably came from Robert A. Howard of Tangents:
One of the greatest flaws of Belkar’s character was that he has been a two-trick pony for the longest time. He was a violent comedic foil who had no social graces, no interest in blending in, and whose solution for everything was “stick a knife in it until it’s dead.” And it was getting old and boring. What’s worse, it was hurting the rest of the comic as well. The rest of the cast have undergone character growth and have had some truly intriguing stories behind them. Belkar? Outside of killing things, he was useless. The visitation of Lord Shojo (whether it was Shojo’s spirit, a manifestation of the curse Belkar was under, or even just a hallucination) ended up providing Belkar with a chance (and a reason) to grow, while staying fundamentally who and what he is.
Thus Belkar is going to pretend to have character growth. Yet I must wonder… in pretending, and while playing the same game everyone else is, some of that faked character growth may actually rub off. In the meanwhile, watching Belkar slaughter his way through a horde of low-level thieves, leaving the one girl alive after kissing her breathless, has actually become amusing again. What’s more, he may actually get to play the part of hero once again, and enjoy himself immensely while doing so. And while he is fated to die (according to the Oracle, whose death activated Belkar’s Mark of Justice to begin with), I can’t help but wonder if maybe he’ll gain a measure of redemption in the process… or at the very least enter into the Abyss ready to kick butt and chew bubblegum.
There is a bit of a problem with this interpretation, at least judging what it is by the first paragraph: it's not necessarily new to Belkar. But in large measure it's pretty much what I've seen presented elsewhere: Belkar making a show of being the hero, while still being his old self if he can get away with it, whatever that means.

Okay. What was Shojo actually saying when he made his challenge to Belkar?

For starters, he invites Belkar to play
The Game, the big one. The one that each of us plays every day when we get out of bed, put on our face, and go out into the world. Some of us play to get ahead, some of us just want to get through the day without breaking character. It's called "Civilization". No, wait, there's already a game called that... OK, it's called "Society". Your problem is that you don't want to play the game at all, you want to sit on the couch and eat Cheetos while everyone else is playing.
Belkar snaps back, "Well, why shouldn't I? What's the point of their Society, anyway? It never did anything for me." Shojo's response is that if he keeps mocking them and ignoring them, they'll kill him.

To this point, it seems that Shojo's point might be bigger than whether or not Belkar should be a "hero", but whether he should simply live a life bigger than just stabbing everyone at every opportunity. Consider Belkar's life immediately preceding being struck by the Mark of Justice: skipping out on the entire explanation of the Gates because he'd killed a guard and fled, leading Miko on a wild goose chase and slowly driving her more and more insane with fury, pretty much trying to get her to kill him out of blind fury for kicks. Belkar doesn't even care about staying alive as long as he believes he can be quickly resurrected. The only reason he doesn't simply kill the rest of the group is so he has people to back him up if he ever gets in deep, to be led to people to kill, because if he kills one the rest will turn on him, and as an audience to his deeds. (As I've said many times in the past, I have neither prequel book, but according to Wikipedia, the main reason he joined the Order in the first place is a variant of the first reason.) The purpose behind the quest doesn't matter so much as "Those people? Bad. Take care of them."

For further insight, look no further than strip #58, when Vaarsuvius gives Belkar Owl's Wisdom so he can give Elan a couple last-minute healing spells. Before V dismisses the Owl's Wisdom, Belkar briefly seems to undergo some actual character growth: "I've wasted my life on anger and needless rage, when I could have been healing. My eyes are finally open. From this day forward, I'm never hurting a living creature ever again." (That last sentence would prove oddly prophetic...) With this piece of evidence, we can place a name to Belkar's life through the Mark of Justice experience: "anger and needless rage". He's spent too much time consumed with both to realize his true potential, whether that involves " creature[s]" or not.

Interestingly, that Miko chase I mentioned? Might be a perfect metaphor for what Shojo was talking about. Belkar cared only about his own fun, and missed something far more interesting and important in the process. As many people have suggested, this whole episode may cast into a new light why Shojo afflicted Belkar with the Mark of Justice in the first place.

Belkar interprets "playing the game" as "show[ing] up and play[ing] by everyone else's stupid rules", and Shojo replies, "Of course not, my wooly friend [Belkar at this point has metaphorically turned into a sheep]. You can cheat."
Nudge die rolls, palm cards, "forget" penalties... but you have to sit down to play first. As long as the people at the table see a fellow player across from them, they'll tolerate you. A crooked player is a pain in the ass, but someone who refuses to play at all makes them start questioning their own lives - and people HATE to think. They'd rather lose to a cheater than dwell too long on why they're playing in the first place.
The apparent implication of this speech is that it doesn't even matter if the other players know Belkar is cheating, so long as he plays at all. It's entirely possible that Belkar could continue to be the same stabby, backstabbing jerk he's always been, so long as he gives a rat's ass about what everyone else is doing, and doesn't display a willful ignorance of the rules. But Belkar doesn't seem to interpret it this way: "So, you're saying that if I can trick all the other mindless drones into believing that I subscribe to their arbitrary moral framework, they'll just leave me alone?" Shojo doesn't correct him: "They all assumed I followed the Paladin's Code, didn't they?" That calls back to Shojo's addendum to the "you can cheat" comment: "Twelve Gods know that I always did."

Now, let's refresh your memory as to the nature of Shojo's deception. We first encountered him as a senile old fool who took advice from his cat. There was some evidence he wasn't what he appeared, but only a speechless Haley seemed to catch on. As Shojo explains to Roy, he puts on an act of senility in order to shirk any public responsibility for his edicts, which might result in certain upset parties putting an end to his life. Shojo also explains that he is "the commander of the paladins of the Sapphire Guard by virtue of my inheritance, not merit. In other words, I command the paladins. I have never claimed to be one. ... Technically, I'm a 14th level aristocrat. Heck, I'm not even Lawful!"

Shojo explains that he hides his true nature from the paladins to get away with acts he feels might be the right course of action but which technically violate the code the actual paladins swear to uphold - taking the Gates as an example. Shojo felt that with two gates down, there was a clear and present danger to the others, but none of the paladins would be willing or able to investigate or reinforce them without violating an oath of non-interference in the other gates, so he created a complex scheme to bring in the OOTS and have them do his dirty work instead, including misleading Miko as to the true purpose of the arrest and putting on a show trial with a largely predetermined outcome issued by Roy's own disguised father's ghost.

(Incidentially, this is why Roy is pretty much blameless for not leaving open the possibility that Xykon might strike against Azure City when consulting with the Oracle: that's not why he was hired. Re-read #290: Shojo did not even technically hire the Order to reinforce either of the other two gates, only to report on their status so Shojo would have an excuse to, presumably, send the Sapphire Guard to do the reinforcing.)

For two or three reasons, this isn't completely applicable to Belkar's situation. Belkar's evil, his only "responsibility" is to the OOTS, and he's far from in a position to make any decisions, or manipulate anyone. He barely even has any "true" motivations to work towards while technically still following the Order's "arbitrary moral framework". Even if viewed from the lens of his desire to kill as many bodies as possible, it's not necessarily in line with the Order's goals. The point is that Shojo wasn't pretending to have the good of Azure City, or even the universe, at heart. If anything, Shojo had the exact same goal as the paladins - but he still felt the need to be deceptive in the way he achieved that goal.
The Order of the Stick has a place for non-Good members. Haley has described herself as "Chaotic Good-ish", and even before going insane Vaarsuvius had a decidedly Neutral streak. For that matter, there's nothing preventing Belkar from achieving anything just from being Chaotic Evil at all - Xykon is Chaotic Evil, and he has his sights set on nothing less than world domination, yet oddly, the old Belkar probably would not get along well with him, as he wouldn't care so much about the mission as about the next target to kill.
Shojo's not saying Belkar needs to stop being evil, even outwardly. Really, nothing about the conversation says Belkar needs to stop acting outwardly evil; only the circumstances would determine that at any time. I think there are two more appropriate interpretations, and both feed into each other, and which is more correct depends more on where Belkar is than on what Shojo says.

The first of which is that Shojo wants Belkar to act more Lawful. Shojo was a Chaotic passing off as at least a reluctant Lawful, and it's a Chaotic alignment that Shojo and Belkar have in common - rather important when Shojo starts the conversation by saying "We're rather alike, you know."

The second interpretation is that Belkar needs to stop acting like he's above the alignment system entirely, and start acting Chaotic Evil.

There is a difference, although the TV Tropes description may be more helpful in illuminating it than anything in any "official" source (which may suggest it's a wild misinterpretation):
Chaotic Evil characters might intentionally help the heroes save the world by doing terribly evil things. ... Chaotic Evil characters are incredibly self-centered and evil, but can get along with good guys by being eerily charming at times. They are often crazy, but they don't have to be. Only Chaotic Stupid characters will trek 500 miles to slaughter a random village for no reason. Chaotic Evil's goals may well make no sense to anybody but himself, but he does have goals. He may "want to watch the world burn", or prove that he's the best, or the most feared, or get the most attention.
If Belkar were to strictly emulate Shojo's example, he'd attempt to hide anything he did that might be seen as flouting the normal rules of society, evil or not, but otherwise do anything he wished openly as long as that still consisted following the rules. That doesn't mean giving the impression of good - D&D 3rd edition does have the "Lawful Evil" alignment - just so long as he at least appears to fit in with his surroundings. But the second interpretation may be more interesting, and at least as backed-up by Shojo's words. Belkar, in this interpretation, is entirely within his rights to do exactly what he has been doing, but only as long as he at least makes an effort to get along with the rest of the Order of the Stick, and pay some effing attention to everything else that's going on.

Of course, Belkar's own interpretation practically matters at least as much or more as Shojo's outward intent. But early indications are that, while he is turning into more of a team player on the outside, he hasn't exactly abandoned his old ways entirely, and if anything, has only refined them. So what can we expect from Belkar in the future? A Belkar with a little more refined palate than Vaarsuvius' "hate/lust" distinction, one who knows who his friends are and who his enemies are, one who appears to be a little more controllable in his dealings with the rest of the OOTS, but who's still quick to slit the throat of any captured enemy and may even be more dangerous, in a certain sick, twisted way, than ever before.

(Hmm. Maybe I should take Shojo's advice and do something with my life rather than post OOTS exegeses every month.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

2008 Golden Bowl Tournament Selection Show Announcement

Welcome to the second annual Selection Show Announcement for the simulated Golden Bowl Tournament - your chance to see what a playoff would be like. If you want a playoff in college football, especially if it was handled by the NCAA, it'll probably take the form here. Here are the parameters of the tournament:
  • 11 teams are selected from the Conference Champions of all conferences
  • 5 more teams are selected from an at-large pool consisting of all other teams
  • First and second round games on campus sites; semifinals at any two of the Sugar Bowl, Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, and Capital One Bowl, determined by regional interest (in actuality, it would rotate between the Sugar, Rose, Orange, and either Cotton or Cap One); the National Championship to be held at the Orange Bowl
The conference champions with auto bids are Oklahoma, Florida, Utah, Penn State, Boise State, Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, USC, East Carolina, Buffalo, and Troy. Texas, Texas Tech, Ohio State, Georgia Tech, and Alabama have been selected as at-large teams.

Good luck to all our teams, especially our Number 1 seed, Oklahoma.

Octofinal matchups:

#16 Troy (Sun Belt champion) v. #1 Oklahoma (Big 12 champion)
I really found myself splitting hairs at several places in the seeding process. The first place I did so was: Who should be the No. 1 seed, Florida or Oklahoma? Florida had a worse loss, but because Georgia and Florida State found themselves in the top ten of the RPI, Florida ended up looking like it had the better wins and Oklahoma losing to Texas suddenly looked like they weren't getting the job done against a team in the field. This was arguably the least substantive point of stress, because if the two teams meet in the Golden Bowl it won't matter what order they're seeded in, and I stressed a little over the seeding of 15 and 16 as well. I went with Oklahoma to postpone any Big 12 or SEC rematch until the Golden Bowl. Keyed by Heisman hopeful Sam Bradford, Oklahoma's record-setting offense takes on a Troy team a year removed from being one win away from a fantastic, Sun Belt Championship-winning season, only to see Florida Atlantic snatch it away from them.

#15 Buffalo (MAC champion) v. #2 Florida (SEC champion)
Congratulations, Buffalo, on stopping Ball State's bid for an undefeated season! Your reward: A chance to try and stop last year's Heisman winner on offense while also getting past the stifling Gator defense.

#14 East Carolina (C-USA champion) v. #3 Texas (at-large)
East Carolina's early-season run almost had it bumping up to the 13 seed, but alas, the Pirates will have to settle for a first-round matchup with a Texas team still upset over not getting its chance to play in the Big 12 Title Game. There's now a way to rebound from that, but Texas will definitely get more of a challenge from East Carolina than it would have from Buffalo or Troy. If the Pirates are going to pull off one more upset, its defense will have to stop Heisman hopeful Colt McCoy.

#13 Virginia Tech (ACC champion) v. #4 Alabama (at-large)
V-Tech fans, blame your four losses and the fact that the best team you beat in a true road game was North Carolina, RPI #22. The Hokie defense will be in the spotlight in this one, though when you're in the SEC you're bound to have a great defense of your own.

#12 Boise State (WAC champion) v. #5 Penn State (Big Ten champion)
Penn State over USC or Texas Tech? USC I'll get to; Penn State played a better nonconference schedule than Texas Tech and beat some decent teams on the road. PSU over Texas Tech was a very difficult decision, but the Fighting JoePas might not like coming out on top, because their great defense is now being asked to stop a team hungry to prove they deserve to be undefeated, one with a very high-powered offense - and a defense that gives up fewer points per game than the Nittany Lions.

#11 Georgia Tech (at-large) v. #6 Cincinnati (Big East champion)
Georgia Tech just edged out Oklahoma State for the final at-large, and Pitt had a pretty good resume as well (and the BCS rankings would throw TCU in there for the hell of it), yet G-Tech could have easily passed Ohio State in the seeding. As for Cincy, they played a better nonconference schedule than Texas Tech, have better wins than anyone else that could compete with Texas Tech, and I want to hold off on a Big 12 rematch until the semifinals. The Bearcats have been rotating QBs like there's no tomorrow, but it'll be the defense that'll be tasked to stop the triple-option. A low scoring game probably favors Cincy and its great defense; a high scoring one could portend an upset.

#10 Ohio State (at-large) v. #7 Texas Tech (at-large)
Don't like this seeding, Red Raider fans? Don't like having to play a worldbeater in the first round, and potentially Florida in the second? Thank your lucky stars Texas doesn't get a chance at revenge in the quarters, and next time, keep in mind that in the playoffs, the regular season still matters. Of course, Ohio State is also groaning at trying to stop the amazing combo of Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree, but they have their own offensive force in Terrell Pryor.

#9 USC (Pac-10 champion) v. #8 Utah (Mountain West champion)
Utah, USC, and Ohio State were pretty much all a collective case of splitting hairs. I could have easily justified ranking Ohio State ahead of USC on the grounds that USC's win over the Buckeyes was in the Coliseum. USC's problem? Even though they had the best top-to-bottom nonconference schedule of anyone outside the bottom three, Virginia was the best team they beat on the road, and Oregon was the best team they beat not named Ohio State. Oregon also just so happens to be the best team Boise State beat, to put that in perspective. That makes the loss to Oregon State look very concerning. Don't get too excited by how much the Trojans ran up the score on some bad teams; it wasn't enough to build their resume. Still, if the Trojan defense can be the squad that allowed the fewest points and yards per game in I-A, they can knock off a potentially questionable Ute offense.

The half of the bracket containing the 1 seed will play in the Rose Bowl for the semifinal; the half of the bracket containing the 2 seed will play in the Sugar Bowl. First-round results from coming on Sunday.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Time set for Golden Bowl Selection Show, for real this time, plus Random Internet Discovery

And it's a doozy: 6 AM PT tomorrow morning. I was hoping I could get it in at 6 PM PT tonight, after one of my finals, but I got Distracted (tm) and had no chance of getting set up before 6 anyway. I pretty much know two of the first-round matchups at this point, so I only need to finalize the remaining six games, and could work late into the night to do so. (The first stage of the selection process worked pretty much as I expected, with four at-larges being fairly obvious and the fifth being a head-scratcher of relative mediocrity. Ohio State fans may be somewhat disappointed with their seed though.) All eight games will be revealed, at once, at 6 AM PT.

UPDATE: Okay, forget that, it's delayed again, an unexpected issue came up and I'm in no mood to write it anyway, no later than 2 PM PT.

Also, in place of having a webcomic post tonight, I'm giving you the Random Internet Discovery a day early, with more weird, wild, and wacky art than you can shake a stick at.

The timing of NBC's Panthers-Giants-to-Sunday-Night announcement is curious. Was NBC and the NFL going to go with some other game if the Bucs had won on Monday night?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Last-Minute Remarks on SNF Week 16 picks

Week 16 (December 21):
  • Tentative game: San Diego @ Tampa Bay
  • Prospects: 5-8 @ 9-3? Good lord is this game lopsided.
  • Likely protections: Panthers (9-3)-Giants (11-2) or Eagles (7-5-1)-Redskins (7-6) (FOX) and Steelers-Titans (CBS).
  • "That's my story and I'm sticking to it"'s protections: Eagles-Redskins (FOX) and Steelers-Titans (CBS)
  • Other possible games mentioned on Wednesday's Watch and their records: Cardinals (8-5)-Patriots (8-5), Bills (6-7)-Broncos (8-5), Falcons (8-5)-Vikings (8-5).
  • Impact of Monday Night Football: Affects both the tentative game and the most likely flex game.
  • Analysis: If Panthers-Giants isn't protected it's in. If it is, the Falcons did what the other games needed and lost, and things broke down just right for Cardinals-Patriots and Falcons-Vikings to pull even. I give the edge to Falcons-Vikings because they're more attractive and the Cardinals have locked up the NFC West, so Falcons-Vikings has the edge that both teams have playoff implications.
  • Final prediction: Carolina Panthers @ New York Giants, or if that game is protected, Atlanta Falcons @ Minnesota Vikings.
  • Current situation: No announcement yet to my knowledge, which is telling. Either NBC is waiting on tonight's game to tell them whether to go with the Falcons (for whatever reason), or NBC is willing to go someplace other than Panthers-Giants if the Panthers lose.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Who SHOULD be going to which bowls?

Based on my College Football Rankings, which I will put up... fairly soon. I hope. The Golden Bowl Selection Show is being delayed to 6 PM PT, maybe even until tomorrow, because my computer abruptly aborted, Excel wasn't autorecovering the file I was doing my planning on for some reason, and that means I need to go all the way home to transfer back the post-championship-weekend RPI. I've selected one at large, have some idea of at least two others, and pretty much know who my top two and bottom three teams will be, if not in what order.

Teams in parenthesis reflect the probability that Boise State won't be selected by the BCS; asterisks indicate at-large selections. Because of the "winning records before .500" rule, incidentally, Notre Dame will have to settle for one of the –AL spots, probably the Motor City if Boise State doesn't go to the BCS. All times Eastern.
EagleBank Bowl ACC #9 MarylandDec. 20, 11 a.m. 
Navy NavyESPN 
New Mexico Mountain West #4 Colorado StateDec. 20, 2:30 p.m. 
WAC #3 Nevada (Fresno State)ESPN 
St. Petersburg Big East (#6?) South FloridaDec. 20, 4:30 p.m. 
Conference USA #5 Southern MissESPN2 
Pioneer Las Vegas Mountain West #1TCUDec. 20, 8 p.m. 
Pac-10 #4(/5) California or Oregon StateESPN 
R+L Carriers New Orleans C-USA #4 (Southern Miss rates higher but is 6-6)RiceDec. 21, 8:15 p.m. 
Sun Belt #1 TroyESPN 
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Mountain West #2 BYUDec. 23, 8 p.m.
Pac-10 #7 (WAC #4 if none)Louisiana Tech (Nevada)ESPN 
Sheraton Hawaii WAC #2 (gen. Hawaii) HawaiiDec. 24, 8 p.m. 
Pac-10 #6 (C-USA #7 if none)Northern Illinois*ESPN 
Motor City MAC #1/2 Ball StateDec. 26, 8 p.m. 
Big Ten #7 Minnesota (Louisiana Tech*)ESPN 
Meineke Car Care ACC #5/6/7 (gen. 6) ClemsonDec. 27, 1 p.m. 
Big East #3 West VirginiaESPN
Champs Sports ACC #4 Georgia TechDec. 27, 4:30 p.m. 
Big Ten #(4/)5Northwestern (Wisconsin)ESPN
Emerald Pac-10 #(4/)5 Oregon State or CaliforniaDec. 27, 8 p.m. 
ACC #5/6/7 (gen. 7) Miami (FL)ESPN
Independence SEC #8 (or Sun Belt; Fla. Atlantic technically rates higher)Louisiana-LafayetteDec. 28, 8:15 p.m. 
Big 12 #7 Central Michigan*ESPN Big East (#5?) ConnecticutDec. 29, 3 p.m. 
SEC #9 (Sun Belt if none)Arkansas StateESPN
Valero Alamo Big Ten #4(/5)Mich. State (Northwestern)Dec. 29, 8 p.m. 
Big 12 #4/5NebraskaESPN
Roady's Humanitarian WAC #1 (gen. BSU) Fresno State (Boise State)Dec. 30, 4:30 p.m. 
ACC #8 Wake ForestESPN
Texas Big 12 #8 Bowling Green*Dec. 30, 8 p.m. 
Conference USA #6 MemphisNFL Network
Pacific Life Holiday Big 12 #3 MissouriDec. 30, 8 p.m. 
Pac-10 #2 OregonESPN 
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Conference USA #3? HoustonDec. 31, Noon 
Mountain West #3 Air ForceESPN 
Brut Sun Pac-10 #3 ArizonaDec. 31, 2 p.m. 
Big 12 #5/Big East #2PittsburghCBS 
Gaylord Hotels Music City SEC #6/7 (Team's Pref.) VanderbiltDec. 31, 3:30 p.m. 
ACC #5/6/7 (gen. 5; must pick Chmp. Gm. Loser if >8 wins)Boston CollegeESPN 
Insight Big 12 #6 KansasDec. 31, 5:30 p.m. 
Big Ten #6 Wisconsin (Minnesota)NFL Network 
Chick-fil-A SEC #5 LSUDec. 31, 7:30 p.m. 
ACC #2 North CarolinaESPN 
Outback SEC #3/4 (East) South CarolinaJan. 1, 2009, 11 a.m. 
Big Ten #3 Iowa (Michigan State)ESPN 
Capital One Big Ten #2 Ohio State (Iowa)Jan. 1, 2009, 1 p.m.
SEC #2 GeorgiaABC 
Konica Minolta Gator Big 12 #4/Big East #2 Oklahoma StateJan. 1, 2009, 1 p.m. 
ACC #3 Florida StateCBS 
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Citi BCS (Big Ten #1) Penn StateJan. 1, 2009, 4:30 p.m.
BCS (Pac-10 #1) USCABC 
FedEx Orange BCS CincinnatiJan. 1, 2009, 8:30 p.m. 
BCS (ACC #1) Virginia TechFOX 
AT&T Cotton Big 12 #2 Texas TechJan. 2, 2009, 2 p.m. 
SEC #3/4 (West) MississippiFOX 
AutoZone Liberty SEC #6/7 (Team's Pref.) KentuckyJan. 2, 2009, 5 p.m. 
Conference USA #1 East CarolinaESPN 
Allstate Sugar BCS Utah (Ohio State)Jan. 2, 2009, 8 p.m. 
BCS (SEC #1) Boise State (Alabama)FOX 
International Big East (#4?) RutgersJan. 3, 2009, Noon 
MAC #3 Western MichiganESPN2 
Tostitos FiestaBCS Alabama (Utah)Jan. 5, 2009, 8 p.m. 
BCS (Big 12 #1) TexasFOX 
GMAC Conference USA #2 TulsaJan. 6, 2009, 8 p.m. 
MAC #1/2 BuffaloESPN 
FedEx BCS National Championship Game BCS #1 FloridaJan. 8, 2009, 8 p.m. 
BCS #2 OklahomaFOX