Did You Guys Know Notre Dame Football Went 4-8 Last Year?

Because in case you didn’t, the amateur comedians at SB Nation are only too happy to remind you, in any possible way — even if it’s completely irrelevant to the sports topic du jour.
Yes, I’m wading into this territory yet again. I already wrote an article like this last year, targeting mostly the same people. I think it’s safe to say I have something of a vendetta against SB Nation and their acolytes.

Anyway, we all saw Notre Dame football go 4-8 last year. It was a complete disaster that resulted, at least publicly, in a complete reshuffling of how things had been getting done in the program. We shall see what, if anything, changes on the field. Personally, I’m skeptical, but then, I’ve been on-and-off wanting Brian Kelly to be replaced since late October of his first season, so my opinion probably isn’t valid.

But this latest hot take isn’t about my opinion of the Notre Dame football program. It’s little more than a rebuke of the SB Nation portion of sports Twitter and their repetitive and unfunny jokes about ND’s 4-8 record. There was a quick resurgence of them this weekend, given St. Patrick’s Day and especially the Irish basketball team’s loss to West Virginia in the NCAA tournament.

You don’t need to take my word for it. Just do a Twitter search for “Notre Dame went 4-8”, with quote marks. You’ll get results all over the place going back months — some of them might even have been sparked by an actual occurrence related to the subject. Amusingly enough, just about everyone you’ll see in the results column, if you click their timeline, has an SB Nation retweet pretty close to the top. Some of the Tweets even @ SBN writers themselves, as if they are clinging to hope that THIS 4-8 joke will be so good that they too will be able to score highly-paying jobs as professional trolls.

Look, I’m not completely humorless. Making fun of ND for having a bad season is…whatever. If you want to do it, that’s your prerogative. I’m on record thinking you’re a giant stinking hypocrite if you constantly insult ND for not being good at football while also (as so many of these people do) calling its fans delusional if they want to throw out the coach that’s putting out the product you’re using as so much fodder for jokes. But hypocrisy has never been much of an issue for this particular group of sports fans.

In any case, either way, I get why ND’s poor season would be an easy punchline for a month or so following its conclusion. I’m on the thin-skinned side (this article wouldn’t exist if I wasn’t), but I at least understood a brief period of getting poked on social media.

Beyond that time frame, it became very obvious very quickly that the constant 4-8 jokes — many of which, again, have been devoid of any connection to Notre Dame or even college football — were symptomatic of the fact that these people despise the program. Very few of these trolls (except Spencer Hall, who I guess should get points for honesty while being a hate-spewing asshole) actually own up to the fact that this is the case, continuing to cling to their self-appointed position as the irreverent class clown of college football Twitter.

Of course, I have many, many problems with SBN even beyond their ridiculous treatment of ND football. I worked for their ND sub-site, One Foot Down, for 18 months or so, which is to say I crapped out a couple dozen articles for them. That’s really all they want out of anything — posts, regardless of their quality. After all, while you pay your writers $3 per post, you have to pressure the hell out of them to have content rolling in 24/7. That way, you can churn out those clicks and afford to pay Spencer Hall and his cohort of jokesters to embarrass themselves with pathetic attempts at ‘journalism’. Heavily, heavily ironic, too, that this business model of theirs — labor force doing a spectacular amount of the heavy lifting for peanuts while the guys at the top rake in all the money — sounds an awful lot like…hmm…what does it sound like? Oh, that’s right! The very organization that runs college sports, whom you hate and trash at every opportunity!

They now have a low-rent moron making a fool of himself in an attempt to run that ND sub-site, which is serendipitous for them because I’m sure they enjoy having such a person representing ND fans, whom they unanimously hate. (It would be a wonder they even allow ND fans a place to congregate on their holy site given their opinion of them, but that would require having some semblance of conviction rather than churning every cent they can out of people.) I doubt it was intentional that it worked out that way, but certainly a nice side effect.

As I said in my previous article on the subject, too, I don’t have a problem with people disliking ND football per se. Even aside from their rivals, there are reasons to hate them if you want, some better than others. I just have a huge problem with the people who despise the people that prevent college athletes from being rich turning around and lambasting a school that actually puts forth an effort to provide a meaningful version of the compensation the rules currently permit — an education.

Meanwhile, guys like Hall slurp their SEC schools that win a lot and don’t bother to muse on why that league provides so many of the worst graduation rates in the country, thereby performing a far larger disservice to their athletes (my opinion, anyway) than not paying the tiny fraction of them that have major market value beyond their scholarships. The major football powers yank scholarships from people whenever they want, leaving them forced to make decisions they’re ill-equipped to make, but as long as they win, no one — even Hall, champion of the marginalized — gives a rip.

While SB Nation lobs grenades at ND for everything from playing “three true road games” (if I had a nickel for every time I saw/heard that phrase in 2014 and ’16) to, yes, going 4-8 in football, they’re posting Graduation Success Rates of 98/100 in the category of black student-athletes. (I know you’re all sick of the talk of ND ‘doing it the right way’, and I wouldn’t bring it up if the people lambasting the school weren’t also attacking the NCAA constantly for not, in their view, ‘doing it the right way’.)

You’d think the champion of paying players and the kings of arguing for the marginalized would care about something small like equipping young minority student-athletes for success in life, but nah. Notre Dame went 4-8 in football and it’s funny (despite the fact that we consider them an irrelevant program for whom going 4-8 shouldn’t be unexpected) so let’s make jokes about it for the next 8 months! And by all means, no one say a word about the schools that actually do chew up and spit out their black athletes without preparing them in any way for the real world! I guess SB Nation’s desire to carry the flag for the most vulnerable in our society doesn’t extend far enough to intrude on their desire to hate, and make silly non sequitur cracks about, an institution basically because it exists.

Well, congratulations, SB Nation. You got the rise out of me and sparked me to write this probably incoherent response to your trolling. I’m probably not the only one. I’m sure somewhere in your little pamphlet on “How to Be a Complete Joke of a Sports Site but Who Gives a Shit, We’ll Get Paid”, there’s some small subsection on openly being dicks to entire fan bases for no reason other than to score social media points. This article is proof you’ve hit that section right on the nose.

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Did You Guys Know Notre Dame Football Went 4-8 Last Year?

The Junkies Break The Bracket Down! 

Midwest:

In my opinion this is the most boring of the four regions and headlined by the most fraudulent one seed. The Kansas Jayhawks have a talented roster, don’t get me wrong, but it seemed more often than not I was getting the “Close Game” alert on my cell phone when they played. Kansas also proved without Josh Jackson they are suspect, losing to the TCU Horned Frogs in the Big 12 Tournament. We are big fans of TCU basketball around here –  if only they would have stayed in the Big East, imagine the powerhouse they’d have become. I digress from my point and to help further it, a potential second round  matchup with Michigan State does Kansas no favors. I know MSU is down but you never sleep on a Tom Izzo-coached team in the Big Dance. The Midwest region is probably the most up in the air, especially if Kansas can’t make its way out of it. Louisville doesn’t really scare anyone and Oregon is banged up. Caleb Swanigan is a monster but is he good enough to help Purdue make a Final Four run? Lots  of intrigue in the Midwest.
Best Round One Matchup:

No.4 Purdue vs No. 13 Vermont
I got to be honest here, I was picking going pick  the 8/9 game but that’s a chump move. So I’ll take the game with the All-American Caleb Swanigan. The sophomore forward is in my opinion the best player in the region. So can the best player take down the best 13 seed in the tournament? According to ESPN Vermont has the best chance of advancing to the round of 32 for seeds 13-16. It’s not like Vermont is a stranger to pulling off major upsets. The Catamounts haven’t played many close games this season, pretty much destroying everyone in the America East Conference. It’s about time they get a challenge. I’m not saying they will pull off the upset, but damnit they sure will try.

Double Digit Seed With The Best Chance to make a run:

11 Rhode Island

The Fighting Lamar Odoms are hot right now – winners of their last eight games, including an A10 Championship. They matchup with Creighton, the Fighting Kyle Korvers, in round 1. The 3rd place finishers in the Big East regular season will be a tough out. That said, if the Fighting Odoms make it to the round of 32, a matchup with a banged up Oregon Ducks team is possible, and who knows how well the Ducks will play without Chris Boucher. Going on that magical Sweet 16 run isn’t that far fetched. Full disclosure, I have no clue how good Rhode Island is. I just wanted to mention Lamar Odom because #NeverForget. Plus, if I call this run I’ll look like a genius.

Potential Matchup I want to see:

1 Kansas Vs 9 Michigan State
MSU had a very un-MSU type season, but that’s what happens when you schedule as tough as Tom Izzo does –  which in part is to get his team’s ready for March. It’s nice to see out of a “Power 5”. Playing big schools anytime anywhere can hurt you if you don’t win those games, and the 9th seed is proof – they almost missed the dance. Injuries to their frontcourt have also been a big factor, especially to Eron Harris. On a positive note, Kansas lacks size, and Izzo can match up better with Kansas’ small lineup, which would make for a great game. Plus, l I’ll say it again – KANSAS IS A FRAUD! Honestly, Arizona had a better case than the Jayhawks for a #1 seed. Call me LaVar Ball but I’m standing by that.

West Region:

It was inevitable that whatever region housed Gonzaga as the 1 seed would roundly be considered the weak spot in the NCAA Tournament, and sure enough, here we are. It also doubles as the home for the Northwestern Wildcats in their very first tournament ever, which is a really cool story no matter how sick you are of hearing Mike Wilbon and his cohorts talk about it. Intrigue abounds in this West, because it has all the makings of a busted-up bracket once we reach the second weekend.
Best round one matchup:

3 Florida State vs 14 Florida Gulf Coast
THE RETURN OF DUNK CITY! You can’t not be excited to see Florida Gulf Coast back in the bracket. They were here last year too, of course, but this team actually has the looks of one that can do some damage. I watched some of the Atlantic Sun final and these guys are long and athletic, much like the Eagles that captured our hearts four years ago in wins over Georgetown and San Diego State. FSU will be the heavy favorite, of course, but the Seminoles have not done very well outside their own building and FGCU will be the sentimental favorite if they get going (it doesn’t hurt that they’re actually a few minutes closer to Orlando, where the game will be played, than FSU is).

Double digit seed with the best chance to make a run:

11 Xavier

I don’t really like any of the double-digit seeds in this bracket, but if the Musketeers can recapture their form from early in the season, the bracket lines up pretty well. I don’t think anyone is scared of Maryland in a 6/11 game, and Florida State (if they survive DUNK CITY) isn’t all that frightening either. The problem for Xavier is that they basically haven’t beaten anyone besides DePaul in like a month and a half. However, no program has accomplished more under the radar than Xavier in recent years, so maybe they have the ability to sneak up on us all once again.
Potential matchup I want to see:

Even setting aside my Notre Dame fandom for a moment — if I were to answer this question honestly it would be ND vs North Dakota in the Elite 8 — that potential second-round battle between ND and West Virginia does look pretty tasty, doesn’t it? The Irish and Mountaineers had some real battles in the few years Bob Huggins and Mike Brey were in the Big East together. Their styles align for an intriguing matchup, as WVU is all about trying to take the ball away and the Irish do a better job of taking care of it than just about anyone. And between the Mountaineers’ physical style and the attitude Bonzie Colson has been playing with of late, this game might just be the most likely of any to result in players getting in each other’s faces and chirping a little bit. As an ND fan I don’t want to see this game happen because it would be tough, but the hoops fan in me is kind of excited for it.

Final Four Pick: 

A-Rob: Arizona, over Notre Dame. But let the record show that I thought very hard about taking the Irish to the Final Four, which I’ve never done. ND got underseeded at a 5, but couldn’t have asked for a much more navigable path on paper. I’m excited to see where it goes

Bizzle: Arizona (He’s so long winded^)

South Region:

Even in a region with One and Done U and Paper Class Institute at the top of the South Region, they pale in comparison to the hurricane that has become the Ball family dynamic. In my opinion there is not bigger story than what the hell LaVar Ball will say next. With each passing round I hope the claims get crazier and crazier. The only story that would be bigger than Lonzo Ball being able to make.good on his dad’s claims would be if Texas Southern can pull off the first 16-over-1 upset in March Madness history. Speaking of Texas Southern, they are by record the best 16 seed in the field, so Roy Williams better not sleep on the Tigers the way his players sleep through classes.

Best Round One Matchup:

10 Wichita State vs  7 Dayton
This game has been decided by everyone who gets paid to make decisions. They all have picked Wichita State and I get it. The Shockers won 30 games, and I don’t care what league you play in, that’s mighty impressive. They beat Illinois State in the Missouri Valley finals, knocking them off the bubble. Got to love a team with a chip on their shoulder in the most unpredictable tournament in sports. This team is no slouch, as they beat 5 teams in this tournament.
Double Digit Seed With best Chance to Make a Run:

12 Middle Tennessee State
Holy crap did the bracket set up nicely for the Blue Raiders. Sure Minnesota had a great year in the B1G, but they arent the cream of the crop. When Minnesota loses, it isn’t pretty, but when they win, they win convincingly. I know, that’s a cheap take on Minnesota, but it’s Minnesota. Only people in Minnesota think they are Final Four bound, so if Joe Mauer wants to come at me that’s fine. After the Gophers, MTSU gets either Butler or Winthrop, both mid-major schools themselves. Sorry Butler, but Gordon Hayward and Brad Stevens ain’t walking through that door. A date with North Carolina in the Sweet 16 is very possible, and who doesn’t want to root for a kid named Giddy Potts? That name alone is worth a Sweet Sixteen berth.

Potential Matchup I want to see:

Easily, it’s Kentucky vs UCLA potentially meeting in the Sweet 16, and if I can be corny, what a sweet matchup that would be, with two of the most storied programs in college basketball history. This matchup would feature 5 of the projected top 16 picks in the upcoming NBA draft according to NBADraftNet.com, with Ball leading the way as the #2 prospect in college. I would pay good money to hear LaVar Ball and John Calipari have a conversation. I’m sure LaVar thinks he’s a better coach that Cal. I mean, this is the same guy who thinks he would have killed MJ one on one back in the day. If you call yourself a hoops fan and don’t get even the least bit pumped for a Malik Monk vs Lonzo Ball Sweet 16 matchup, you need to check your pulse, because it’s going to be a classic….If it happens.
Final Four Pick:

 A-Rob: North Carolina Bizzle: UCLA

East Region:

Every region can claim to be the toughest in this year’s NCAA bracket (well, ok, probably not the West), but only one boasts the defending national champion Villanova Wildcats: The East Region.
The East has teams that were arguably overseeded (hi, South Carolina!) and underseeded (tough break, Wisconsin), but it appears to be one of the easiest on paper to predict because everyone is going to have Villanova vs Duke in the Elite 8. Which means this is the odds-on favorite to be the bracket that jacks everyone up like the Midwest regional did last year. (I still haven’t forgiven Michigan State for losing to Middle Tennessee and setting off a chain reaction that resulted in freaking Syracuse, who had no business in the tournament, making the Final Four.)
Best round one matchup:

5 Virginia vs 12 UNC Wilmington
Damn right I’m picking a 5/12 as the best matchup of this bracket. Wilmington has the pedigree – they went 15-3 in the Colonial (29-5 overall) and last year they hung right with Duke in a 3/14 matchup. Four starters are back from that team. And this year, they have an offense ranked in the top 20 for adjusted efficiency by kenpom.com (I’m bringing analytics to the party, baby). UVA, meanwhile, is one of the most dramatically underseeded teams in this tournament by kenpom, which has the Cavaliers ranked 7th, and we all know how tough it is to score against that defense. However, UVA has been floundering a bit lately. They struggled down the stretch in the ACC, they barely escaped last-place Pitt in the ACC tourney, and then Notre Dame, which they’d owned for years, handled them. I don’t like the way the Cavs are trending, and this matchup looks like it could be very exciting. I picked the Seahawks to pull the upset.

Double-digit seed with the best chance to make a run:

12 UNC Wilmington
This is no surprise given what I just said about UNCW. I’m generally not sold on SEC schools that aren’t Kentucky, so if the Seahawks beat Virginia, I like their chances against Florida too. Keep an eye, though, on 11th-seed USC. The Trojans have talent, but haven’t gotten many chances to prove it in a top-heavy but not deep Pac-12. SC draws a good but beatable SMU team in round one, and in the second round they would likely get a Baylor team that dropped a deuce in their most recent game and has become accustomed to flaming out in March.
Potential matchup I want to see:

It almost feels like cheating to pick Villanova vs Duke in the Elite 8 for this answer, but no other potential showdown intrigues me even close to as much as this one does. The last two national champs taking the hardwood in Madison Square Garden, defending champs versus the team most believe to be the most talented in the field. Coach K and Jay Wright are two of the most respected leaders in the game. It’s too good to be true, right? Which is again why I say someone will probably screw it up.
Final Four Pick: 

A-Rob: Villanova Bizzle: Duke (Damnit)

The Junkies Break The Bracket Down! 

The Junkies’ Massive Bowl Preview With a Vengeance

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The Junkies’ annual bowl game pick tradition is back! Sadly, this year our beloved Fighting Irish were a joke and will not be participating in a bowl. You’ll just have to settle for our snarky attitude being applied to games we know less about than we would if ND were any good. I’m sure you are all very heartbroken. But the tradition lives on!

Gildan New Mexico Bowl
12/17, 2 pm, ESPN
New Mexico (8-4) vs UTSA (6-6)

Alright folks, let’s get this thing started with the first bowl game of the season, which I was really excited to get to preview because A-Rob usually goes first, but then I realized it was New Mexico vs Texas-San Antonio. Let me thank A-Rob for going second this year, he’s so selfless. He gets the opportunity to talk about the Houston Cougars and how they were highly ranked but then fell flat on their faces, then lost Tom Herman to Texas. What a juicy preview that could be. Thanks again A-Rob you are a class act.

Honestly, I don’t know what I can tell you about New Mexico versus San Antonio other than good for UTSA that they’re in a bowl, which is more than I can say for much bigger and better programs that should be in one but like throwing 40 times in hurricanes. So Lobo and Roadrunner fans, you should be doing cartwheels because who outside of yourselves thought you’d be here? Definitely not myself. The Roadrunners are enjoying their first bowl game in school history. Can they handle the bright lights of a Saturday afternoon bowl game in front of like 600 people? We shall see. For the Lobos it’s all about finishing strong after giving away games against in-state rival New Mexico State and Rutgers, who constantly gets embarrassed week in and week out. Personally I won’t be tuning in. Go ahead and hate but I have a nice little Saturday planned, Home Depot and maybe Bed Bath and Beyond…I don’t know, I don’t know if I’ll have enough time. Be honest, how many snaps did you watch this season of these two juggernauts?

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: UTSA A-Rob: New Mexico


Las Vegas Bowl
12/17, 3:30 pm, ABC
Houston (9-3) vs San Diego State (10-3)

It’s our first bowl game involving a team without a coach! Houston will be minus Tom Herman for this one after Herman leveraged an outstanding season into a Texas job offer. Wait. I’ve just been told that Herman got crushed by SMU and also lost to Navy and Memphis this year. Well, either way, he’s gone and Houston is in Vegas this year. The Aztecs quietly had a very good season this year, falling short in the Montain West title game. I like the cut of SDSU’s jib, plenty enough to return to my default strategy of picking against coachless teams in bowls.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: San Diego State A-Rob: San Diego State


Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
12/17, 5:30 pm, ESPN
Appalachian State (9-3) vs Toledo (9-3)

Appalachian State will always have a warm fuzzy place in my heart. Let’s set the scene: it’s 2007 and the Division I-AA (at the time) Mountaineers got paid a whole boatload of cash to to travel up north to Ann Arbor, Mich. to get destroyed by  the number 5 team in all the land, the Michigan Wolverines. Well, led by the heroic play of quarterback Armanti Edwards they knocked off them Wolverines and forever gave us Irish that one bullet in our arsenal when it comes to debating who has the better program. WE DO PLAY, LET ALONE LOSE TO I-AA SCHOOLS….EVER! So sorry about your luck, Logan Woodside, but you have no shot in this bowl game whatsoever! That may be a stretch but why not go for it! Lock of the bowl season strictly because of a game that was played in 2007, why the hell not? It’s just what I do!

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Appalachian State A-Rob: Appalachian State


AutoNation Cure Bowl
12/17, 5:30 pm, CBS Sports Network
UCF (6-6) vs Arkansas State (7-5)

I’m going to level with you. I didn’t see one single play from either one of these teams this season. Maybe their lack of name recognition is why they’re stuck in the bowl game that airs on the network nobody has. UCF has had a remarkable turnaround season, though, going from 0-12 to a bowl game in their first season under new coach Scott Frost. ASU, meanwhile, is best known as the school that had three coaches in three years, with Bryan Harsin and Gus Malzahn bouncing to Boise State and Auburn respectively after their one year in Jonesboro. I’m going with the Red Wolves in this one.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: UCF A-Rob: Arkansas State


R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
12/17, 9 pm, ESPN
Southern Miss (6-6) vs UL Lafayette (6-6)

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This game has more sideline intrigue for me than on the field. Have you looked at UL Lafayette head coach Mark Hudspeth? He looks like a mean SOB, which he may not be, but all I’m saying is based on in-game photos he looks like he could have a Bobby Kmight moment at any time. In all seriousness, well done getting to a bowl game for UL-Lafayette, just squeaking into this spot. I strictly said that because I’d hate coach Hudspeth to kick my ass. If you are Southern Miss you have to win this game right? I mean, you were considered by many (myself included) to be a much better team with bigger bowl aspirations. Well, here you are with the clearly better team, so finish strong, expect a big day from 1,300 yard rusher Ito Smith. Seriously it’s tough to be biased knowing Hudspeth could kill me any second. So I guess you already know where this pick is leaning.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Southern Miss A-Rob: Southern Miss


Miami Beach Bowl
12/19, 2:30 pm, ESPN
Central Michigan (6-6) vs Tulsa (9-3)

I have a feeling that if Bizzle had drawn this bowl game to preview, his snippet would be all about how it was BS that Central Michigan beat Oklahoma State on that insane Hail Mary that should not have counted due to the ‘untimed down’ fiasco. I’m going to take the other tack. That was all Oklahoma State’s fault. There were four seconds left in the game when they intentionally threw the ball out of bounds on fourth down. Four! Just snap it to your quarterback and have him run around. Or send out the punter, deep snap it to him and have him run backwards. They’re not going to catch him. Don’t take the risk of someone misapplying a rule. Just run out the clock. Anyway, I thought that was an awesome moment for CMU and one of my favorites of this season. Just for it, I’m going to pick the Chippewas in this game.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Central Michigan A-Rob: Central Michigan


Boca Raton Bowl
12/20, 7 pm, ESPN
Memphis (8-4) vs Western Kentucky (10-3)

 

What’s not to love about a bowl game being played in what some people call the Beverly Hills of Florida? Memphis had a pretty decent season, staying in the division race longer than anyone had anticipated. Their culture continues to be on the uptick in terms of a winning culture. It would be huge to put a bowl win on the school’s resume and continue to prove that Memphis isn’t just a basketball school. Western Kentucky is back-to-back Conference USA champs and has become the no doubt standard of the conference. That does come with the pressures of not losing a low-level bowl game such as this one, so expect the Hilltoppers to be ready to put up A LOT of points as they normally do. The question will just be, can the Tigers keep pace? Probably not!

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Western Kentucky A-Rob: Memphis


San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
12/21, 9 pm, ESPN
BYU (8-4) vs Wyoming (8-5)

Random thought: When the Chargers move to LA, how much longer will Qualcomm Stadium last? I mean, it’s a dump as it is. I guess San Diego State uses it as its home field, but that can’t be worth the huge amount of money it probably costs to keep that thing going, right? And if it does go, does SDSU build an on-campus stadium? So many questions. Anyway, this was quite a year for Wyoming, divisional champions. Craig Bohl is a name to watch in coaching. BYU had a pretty nice year too. It’s always fun to see non-power programs on the upswing.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: BYU A-Rob: Wyoming


Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
12/22, 7 pm, ESPN
Idaho (8-4) vs Colorado State (7-5)

 

Idaho made the decision to leave Division I-A football and enter the Big Sky conference in 2018. A rarely seen move by a D-I program. I’m sure the fan base is saddened by the decision but there is no need to cry in your Stinkin’ Good Chili Sauce, as the Vandals are bowling for only the third time in school history. This is easy for the Vandals – win the game because you won’t have many opportunities to win a FBS bowl again. It’s still surprising you are even here.

 

Colorado State got to 7-5 with an absolute beatdown of what many considered the best team in the Mountain West, San Diego State. So the Famous Potato Bowl has future implications for the Rams as this team is young and looks to be hitting its stride. Extra practice time and a win here could set the table for 2017 and help the Rams enter the top of the standings in the Mountain West.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Colorado State A-Rob: Idaho


Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl
12/23, 1 pm, ESPN
Eastern Michigan (7-5) vs Old Dominion (9-3)

It’s everyone’s favorite bowl game back again. It’s amazing that this game has survived so long because so few people can afford to go to the Bahamas on short notice. Not that you wouldn’t want to. How can you beat the Bahamas during the holiday season? And this year, EMU and Old Dominion are the lucky programs that get to go. I don’t know squat about either of these teams. And why do you need to? It’s a football game in the Bahamas! Just relax, enjoy and be envious of those privileged to be there. By the way, EMU is in its first bowl game in forever – 1987, I think – so, this is an especially great time for them.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Old Dominion A-Rob: Old Dominion


Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
12/23, 4:30 pm, ESPN
Louisiana Tech (8-5) vs (25) Navy (9-4)

There I was last Saturday afternoon prematurely writing this bowl preview, because as far as I was concerned Navy should have had no issues with Army. Sure Army was a bowl team, so the Midshipmen shouldn’t have been sleeping on them but when you own someone for 15 years it tends to happen. I was all excited for previewing the first ranked team of the bowl, season as Navy was 25th, but that is all but gone at this point. Damn it, A-Rob wins again. I guess if you are Navy you can blame Donald Trump for his “this isn’t necessarily the best football” comments for losingthe game. But that would be dumb because, love Trump or hate him, Trump is right, the only reason you tune into that game is because it’s all that’s on. If Army-Navy was up against OSU-Michigan or Bama-LSU you the college football fan would go with those matchups 10 times out of 10. End rant.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Louisiana Tech A-Rob: Louisiana Tech


Dollar General Bowl
12/23, 8 pm, ESPN
Ohio (8-5) vs Troy (9-3)

These are always my favorites. The bowl that has switched sponsor names and now the average fan probably has no freaking idea what game this is. (In case you too are lost, it’s the former GoDaddy/GMAC Bowl that’s played in Mobile, Alabama.) It doesn’t get much more low-rent than Dollar General sponsoring your bowl game. I kind of want there to be a Family Dollar Bowl created in response with the two companies battling to have the slightly less crappy matchup. In the meantime we get this game, which features two teams that played well against New Year’s 6 foes. Ohio lost by 6 to Western Michigan in the MAC title game, and Troy fell by the same margin at Clemson back in September. Based solely on that, I’m going with the Trojans.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Ohio A-Rob: Troy


Hawaii Bowl
12/24, 8 pm, ESPN
Hawaii (6-7) vs Middle Tennessee (8-4)

So you finished under .500 but still received a bowl bid, so you should be pumped, right? Well, you shouldn’t be because you don’t get to travel anywhere cool because you already live in one of the coolest places on earth (or so I’ve been told) Hawaii, which you probably are sick of because you are there all the time. Seriously, do people in Hawaii complain about it being beautiful all the time? Anyway, the only interesting stat I want to talk about is Hawaii traveling roughly 47,000 miles this season,

YIKES! So the Rainbow Warriors will probably be too relaxed for this game, which isn’t a good thing when you have a Middle Tennessee State team that is looking for their 9th win of the season and puts up about 40 points a game. The only shot Hawaii has is if I’Travius Mathers enjoys the sandy beaches and warm weather too much, not to mention Colt Brennan and June Jones ain’t walking through that door.
THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Middle Tennessee A-Rob: Middle Tennessee


St. Petersburg Bowl
12/26, 11 am, ESPN
Miami (OH) (6-6) vs Mississippi State (5-7)

It’s a 5-7 team! Yee-haw! Mississippi State’s reward for its high APR score is being first in line for a 5-7 bowl bid and getting to play at 11 am the day after Christmas. My guess is more people around the country will sleep through the hours during which this game will happen. after a long day of family gatherings, than will actually watch it. I’d love to be proven wrong. Miami is the first team in college football history to go from 0-6 to a bowl game, so that’s worth celebrating. But Mississippi State has been battle-tested all year, so Miami’s dream run is probably over now.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Miami (OH) A-Rob: Mississippi State


Quick Lane Bowl
12/26, 2:30 pm, ESPN
Maryland (6-6) vs Boston College (6-6)

 

Need more proof that the B1G conference is the best in the country? Well, Maryland made a bowl game!! Now the cool and unique jerseys make sense. When you are 3-9 and not bowl eligible, the uniforms just seem sad and look awful, but when you are bowling they are now cool and hip. Slight exaggeration, yeah, but can you blame me? They made this huge reveal and talked about a new direction for Maryland football to only fall flat on their faces in these snazzy new uniforms. That being said, Maryland looks to be making strides to make the next step in the conference. 6-6 with nice wins over Michigan State and a dismantling of Purdue (sorry Baldness), and a 7th win for D.J. Durkin’s team would be huge. This shouldn’t be much of a game considering four of Boston’s Colleges wins are against Buffalo, Wagner, UMass and UConn (which I’m pretty sure UConn’s women’s basketball team could beat). The Eagles had to squeak out a -point victory over Wake Forest just to get here. For BC it’s a nice little step to make it to Ford Field but Maryland is a little further along in their field, plus they have the better resume to suggest it’s their game to lose.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Maryland A-Rob: Boston College


Camping World Independence Bowl
12/26, 5 pm, ESPN2
NC State (6-6) vs Vanderbilt (6-6)

Vanderbilt! In a bowl! That’s awesome. So awesome that I’m going to pick them in the face of all the evidence that says I shouldn’t. And it’s only partially because I’m bitter at the stupid way ND lost to NC State this year in that ridiculous weather. Seriously, only partially. Derek Mason seems like a fine gentleman and he’s done a great job to go from the brink of being fired to getting the Commodores into a bowl.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Vanderbilt A-Rob: Vanderbilt


Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl
12/27, 12 pm, ESPN
Army (7-5) vs North Texas (5-7)

 

Well, well, well. The streak is dead as Army finally took down Navy after 15 years of losing to their military brothers. Arguably the biggest win in that timespan for the Black Knights. So even if this is only the 2nd time that Army has been bowling, expect a letdown as they are still riding high from the upset over Navy. So this bowl couldn’t be more perfect for the Mean Green of North Texas, considering that they beat this Army team once already and the Knights have already played the biggest game of their season. North Texas, how does it feel to know that winning this game doesn’t even get you to .500 on the season? Seriously you are the reason there are too many bowl games.  Would anyone be offended if I said this wasn’t the necessarily best football we will be watching this bowl season? Feel free to comment below if you are.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: North Texas A-Rob: Army


Military Bowl
12/27, 3:30 pm, ESPN
(24) Temple (10-3) vs Wake Forest (6-6)

Poor Temple probably deserved better than to be shunted off to Annapolis after winning the American Conference. Under the old BCS system, Temple would be in a BCS game and would have been the sacrificial lamb to someone like Michigan. Instead they draw the Demon Deacons, who quietly had an impressive season. And they have the advantage of Temple losing their coach, as Matt Rhule was brought to Baylor. Aside: He was a guy I really liked as a potential Notre Dame hire – so much for that.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Temple A-Rob: Wake Forest


National Funding Holiday Bowl
12/27, 7 pm, ESPN
Minnesota (8-4) vs Washington State (8-4)

Low key love this matchup. Two programs on the uptick in their respective conferences. Minnesota held relatively steady going 8-4 but showed signs of being improved and headed in the right direction after Jerry Kill left. You’d have to believe that securing that 9th win would get the ball rolling heading into 2017. I had high expectations for the Cougars in 2016 and let’s be completely honest, they were pathetic the first two weeks of the season, headlined but a loss to in-state FCS foe Eastern Washington. Who knows, but maybe if you take care of that gimme game you may not be here playing a hungry Gophers team. I mean your rival Huskies didn’t lose to their FCS opponent and they get a national title shot. I guess I can give you credit for pulling off 8 straight wins after that and blowing out Stanford and Oregon by a score of 93-49, which is impressive no matter how those programs are doing. The Cougars are very capable of putting up some serious points and getting that 9th win they should already have.

**Update***

 

10 players have been suspended for their part in an alleged sexual assault. Until this morning, the Minnesota players had decided to boycott all football related activities until the suspensions are lifted. I’m not here to say who’s right or wrong but the Gopher players are making a very bold statement in defending their teammates. I’m 100℅ for team solidarity and win as a team and lose as a team. I just hope these players are standing up for the right reasons. If these players are found to have committed the acts they are accused of, and I really hope that isn’t the case, then they deserve everything coming to them. On the other hand, that Kansas basketball player was suspended for an altercation with his girlfriend, only after a full police investigation, to find he acted in self-defense. I’m not saying what these players allegedly did is ok by any stretch. That said I do think we need to be careful on how quick jump to conclusions, we need to let the due process work itself out. There are people’s lives and reputations at stake on both ends. Ladies I don’t even want you to feel like you can’t come forward if an assault has occurred but it’s not right if you make up a story and destroy a person’s life. I don’t have all the facts of this particular case, I am clearly speaking in generalities on the subject as a whole. I know we here like to make jokes and have some fun but situations like this one are happening all across the country and they are no laughing matter.

 

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Washington State A-Rob: Washington State


Motel 6 Cactus Bowl
12/27, 10:15 pm, ESPN
Boise State (10-2) vs Baylor (6-6)

 

Does anyone just want the season to be done more than Baylor? They pulled a reverse-Miami (OH), going from 6-0 to 6-6. The season got undone before it ever started after it was revealed that the football team was basically a giant raping factory. As a result they gave Rhule a 7-year contract because they know they’re in some trouble in the short term. That short term includes this bowl game. Even though Boise State had a disappointing year by its standards, they’re plenty good enough to beat a coachless program that has been done with 2016 for weeks.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Boise State A-Rob: Boise State


New Era Pinstripe Bowl
12/28, 2 pm, ESPN
(23) Pittsburgh (8-4) vs Northwestern (6-6)

 

With all due respect for the Northwestern Wildcats and their fans, this preview isn’t about you at all. It’s about James Conner and his heroic return to the field after a battle with cancer. Conner did not only return after missing all but one game in 2015, but he had a major role. Over 1,000 yards and 16 touches per game is no easy feat after a battle with cancer. We all know someone who has been affected by cancer and the daily struggle it is to overcome it. Some days just getting out of bed is the hardest thing and Conner came back to play power conference football. Conner had 117 yards and a score against Penn State, and he put up 132 and a score against Clemson, both wins for his team over power conference champions. Impressive to say the least. I’m glad to see he’s entering the NFL draft and I hope someone drafts him. Talk about having a character guy in your locker room, and you know the work ethic is off the charts. I have a high interest level in this game to watch James Conner play for the Pitt Panthers one last time.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Pittsburgh A-Rob: Pittsburgh


Russell Athletic Bowl
12/28, 5:30 pm, ESPN
(16) West Virginia (10-2) vs Miami (8-4)

This might just be my favorite non-major bowl, for no other reason than for the first time I can recall, it has actual, hard stakes. Don’t ask me why, but a WR recruit named Michael Harley, who apparently was down to these two schools in his recruitment, has decided he will be attending the school that comes away with the win in this game. That’s just terrific. I love it. I would love to see this become a common thing. WVU had a really nice year, although their nascent playoff hopes were obliterated by Oklahoma late in the season. Miami saw improvements under Mark Richt, but they lost to Notre Dame, so I can’t take them seriously. Congrats on your new recruit, Dana Holgorsen.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Miami A-Rob: West Virginia


Foster Farms Bowl
12/28, 8:30 pm, FOX
Indiana (6-6) vs (19) Utah (8-4)

 

What happened to the Indiana Hoosiers? Last season they looked like a program on the rise, going 6-6 last season and being a missed or made field goal away from their first bowl win since 1991. Fast forward to today, and the Hoosiers are still 6-6 but now without their head coach Kevin Wilson. Wilson was surprisingly fired due to some off the field issues that had to do with player mistreatment. In this day and age there is zero tolerance for mistreatment of players. I wonder if they would have fired him if IU was a top 10 team. They will get the chance to end their streak against a Utah Utes team that had by their standards a down year. 8 wins at most schools is a great season, Indiana would kill for that. Well, this season was filled with ups and downs. Wins over USC and UCLA were huge but then losses to Cal, who was replacing #1 overall pick Jared Goff, and Oregon, who was a delusional hot mess this season and fired their head coach after a 4-8 campaign. They also lost to both Pac-12 title participants. This is not a must-win for Utah but it definitely is a game they shouldn’t lose. So sorry Hoosier fans, especially my boy Johnny D, but that winless streak should continue.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Utah A-Rob: Utah


AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl
12/28, 9 pm, ESPN
Texas A&M (8-4) vs Kansas State (8-4)

We don’t know how much longer Bill Snyder will be coaching at Kansas State, so I just have to give him all kinds of props. Other than Art Briles at Baylor (and we saw how that ended), I can’t remember an instance of one single coach, by himself, turning the entire culture of a program around. Most of us, myself included, are too young to remember, but Kansas State used to be an absolute disaster. Snyder somehow made them relevant. Hell, he damn near won a national title in 1998, and was in the running for one as recently as 2012 (wish it would’ve happened). A&M, meanwhile, continues to underachieve under Kevin Sumlin. I know which way I’m going.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Texas A&M A-Rob: Kansas State


Birmingham Bowl
12/29, 2 pm, ESPN
South Florida (10-2) vs South Carolina (6-6)

 

10 wins with a shot at 11 and your head coach is off to Oregon. Definitely not an ideal situation, but expected when you are a successful non-Power 5 school like the USF Bulls . I wish Taggart all the best in rebuilding a delusional Oregon Ducks program. The world is going green more and more every single day and college football has done its best to jump on the trend by recycling head coaches. Their latest recycle is former Texas HC Charlie Strong. All I can say is, what exactly has Strong done to deserve this job? He was piss poor at one of the top schools in the country. Isn’t that what makes America great though? You can just be complete garbage and still get another shot to make millions of dollars to only in all likelihood be awful at that job and make millions off a buyout. I call that the Charlie Weis plan. Sorry Gamecock fans, but as far as I’m concerned you haven’t been relevant since Spurrier left. That said, you should have a great shot to win this latest installment of the Birmingham Bowl. This is the perfect chance for Muschamp to get all those underclassmen more practice and game reps for 2017 in hope to regain some relevance in a tough SEC.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: South Florida A-Rob: South Carolina


Belk Bowl
12/29, 5:30 pm, ESPN
Arkansas (7-5) vs (22) Virginia Tech (9-4)

One of my favorite snippets of last year’s mega-bowl preview was when Bizzle took shots at Bret Bielema when discussing Arkansas’ game. No need for that this year as his Razorbacks had a pretty solid season, although the entire SEC was low-key kind of garbage outside of Alabama. That said, Bielema’s team gave Bama a pretty decent fight in their game and went 8-3 otherwise. Nothing to sneeze at. Va Tech had a good year under Justin Fuente, too, but the Hokies didn’t play any of the good teams in the ACC until the league title game, so we don’t really know yet how good they are. I’m going to take a leap of Fuente faith here and pick the Hokies.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Virginia Tech A-Rob: Virginia Tech


Valero Alamo Bowl
12/29, 9 pm, ESPN
(12) Oklahoma State (9-3) vs (10) Colorado (10-3)

 

Should the officials have allowed Central Michigan that final play in week 2 that resulted in a loss? Absolutely not, but Mike Gundy, should you have allowed CMU to even be in that game in the first place? Absolutely not! It was at home, you are supposed to be the one of the top teams in the Big 12/10 (whatever), and they are a 6-6 school from the MAC whose best known player is Chris Kaman. You thought I’d say Antonio Brown? Well, I don’t appreciate the way he twerks on the field. It’s highly offensive. So bitch, moan and grow all the mullets you want, Gundy, but there’s a reason you aren’t in a New Year’s 6 bowl and your big brothers are, that and an 18-point whooping they put on you.

 

Colorado, let me be honest for a second, I had zero faith in you coming into this season. But it seems you proved me and everyone in the country wrong as you made it to your first Pac-12 title game. While your season was a great one by Buffaloes standards, it left much to be desired as Colorado couldn’t quite get that big win when given the chance, of which they had plenty. Michigan, USC, Washington, if you win any one of those games, and maybe two, this season becomes a whole different animal for Colorado. Well, you get one more chance against the Cowboys. I sure hope you can pull this one out because a pissed off Mike Gundy is awesome and it’s ten times better while he rocks a mullet!

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Colorado A-Rob: Oklahoma State


AutoZone Liberty Bowl
12/30, 12 pm, ESPN
Georgia (7-5) vs TCU (6-6)

It’s safe to say these two teams hoped for better from this season. Georgia ran off Mark Richt for only being a really good coach and not being Nick Saban or Urban Meyer, then proceeded to hire a guy whose only real qualification was working on the same side of the ball Saban was already really good at, without any head coaching experience. Bold move. TCU, meanwhile, was a trendy playoff pick prior to the season but never really got off the ground in that respect. So I guess it comes down to which disappointment you like more here.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: TCU A-Rob: TCU


Hyundai Sun Bowl
12/30, 2 pm, CBS
(18) Stanford (9-3) vs North Carolina (8-4)

 

The only thing more fraudulent than North Carolina’s 8-4 is the African-American Studies program. They had some bad losses such as Duke and NC State. The Tar Heels also snuck out some close wins over FSU and Pitt. Ok, enough of that. Can anyone explain to me how UNC still hasn’t gotten any type of real punishment for that fraud? Anyway, I could go on for hours about college athletics and the fraud that goes on. Why is Mitch Trubisky being projected 4th overall in mock NFL drafts? Chicago, if you do that you deserve the darkness of the cellar you will occupy for the next 6-8 years. Why are we at a point where having a “top” QB in the draft is so important? Does anyone think Jared Goff is the next Montana (who was picked in the 3rd round) or Carson Wentz is headed towards Tom Brady’s career (Brady was a 6th-round choice). He’d be lucky just to have a wife as hot as Brady’s. Sure, it’s really early to tell on those two, but when you just watch them play, I don’t see superstar greatness. Why not take a guy like Christian McCaffrey early (not 4th overall) and build around guys with a chip on their shoulder who could be a game-changer in multiple phases? If the Heisman Trophy wasn’t so QB-biased, McCaffrey may have won it in 2015. I know David Shaw is probably sad to see him leave but happy for him to continue to play the game he loves. So not a lot of bowl analysis there but I’m sure by now you have caught on that’s not our style.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Stanford A-Rob: Stanford


Franklin American Mortgage Company Music City Bowl
12/30, 3:30 pm, ESPN
Nebraska (9-3) vs (21) Tennessee (8-4)

Another one of these games where both teams had higher hopes. Tennessee in particular was supposed to be special this year, but they were just another disappointment. Butch Jones is on his way to being the next coach fired for not being Saban in the SEC. Nebraska looked pretty good for a while, but Ohio State’s utter destruction of them later in the season seems to have sent them into a bit of a tailspin. Butch has to win this game to get his usual preseason top-10 ranking that he will immediately prove to be ridiculous, so I’ll go with him here.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Tennessee A-Rob: Tennessee


Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl
12/30, 5:30 pm, Check Local Listings
South Alabama (6-6) vs Air Force (9-3)

 

This has to be the worst-placed bowl in the worst-placed time slot on the worst day of all the bowl season in the history of bowl games. It’s literally sandwiched between Nebraska vs Tennessee and Michigan vs Florida State. Not to mention Stanford-North Carolina and TCU-Georgia play that day too. What purpose would you have to watch this game? Even Dallas Davis’ mom would have to already be free this day to watch the game. I can’t imagine she’s breaking plans for the Arizona Bowl. I guess the only plus for South Alabama is that they won in the final week to get to 6-6 and keep the total number of 5-7 teams down to two, Mississippi State and North Texas. I’ll probably out of irony wear the South Alabama Jaguars shirt I found at my local Goodwill. So let’s go Jaguars, get that first bowl win in school history and continue to be the best Jaguars team in college or the NFL.

 

**Celebrity insight**

 

@PDESPN tweeted us, “I got Air Force by 17 their offense rolls”. I know he’s kind of a big deal in South Bend, be jelly!!

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: South Alabama A-Rob: South Alabama


Capital One Orange Bowl
12/30, 8 pm, ESPN
(6) Michigan (10-2) vs (11) Florida State (9-3)

I’m so happy/relieved that Michigan was not in the playoff this year. This football season went badly enough for us Notre Dame fans – the thought of their hated foe up north getting a playoff spot was enough to make us go crazy, or even root for Alabama. The Wolverines still, though, earned a spot in the New Year’s 6, and they draw Florida State for the contest. I’m not sure what to do with the Seminoles, who had a pretty good year but lack any signature wins. The Ole Miss victory on Labor Day was supposed to be a big deal, but ultimately wasn’t. I’m going to default to my ‘pick what you don’t want to happen’ rule here.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Florida State A-Rob: Michigan


Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
12/31, 11 am, ABC
(20) LSU (7-4) vs (13) Louisville (9-3)

 

Who’s in charge of scheduling the bowl games? What is the Heisman Trophy winner and a surefire Top 10 pick doing playing each other at 11 am on New Year’s Eve? I know that the playoff is at 3 that day but you couldn’t have this game on another night? It’s going to be a great day of college football but if you are a busy person like I am, which game are you most likely to skip? It’s this one, but if you do you will miss a chance to see the electric Lamar Jackson. If you haven’t seen him yet, I suggest you do. Ed Orgeron finally landed a head coaching job after interim-ing a few times. He had LSU playing their best ball of the season and went 5-2 to end the season. Louisville, on the other hand, shot out of the gate with a big win over Florida St and averaged 63.5 points per game in their first 4 games, and then it all started to slip. A close lose to Clemson who’s in the CFP, a struggle against Duke, and losses to Houston and in-state rival Kentucky leaves you scratching your head. Louisville either is really good and blows you out or struggles. They don’t really have a middle ground, and if Lamar is struggling they are struggling. He is practically the entire team. So it will be interesting to see which Cardinals team shows up at 11 am on New Year’s Eve. Let’s just hope Jackson isn’t out with Johnny Manziel the night before.

 

**Update** Leonard Fournette will be sitting out the Citrus Bowl, in an effort to protect his ability to provide for his family. I for one respect that, there is literally nothing he could do in this game to improve his draft stock. If anyone is upset with this decision please go and ask Jaylon Smith. If he could do it all over again, would he? He was a projected top 10 pick last season only to have his knee absolutely destroyed in the bowl game. I know that freak injuries happen all the time in football but if you don’t need to put yourself in the situation, why do it? Like I said above, it’s a practically meaningless bowl game being played at 11 am. Not one GM in the NFL is refusing to draft Leonard for sitting out the game, I can guarantee that.

 

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Louisville A-Rob: LSU


TaxSlayer Bowl
12/31, 11 am, ESPN
Georgia Tech (8-4) vs Kentucky (7-5)

This game might set some kind of record for low viewership for a game on the same day as the major bowls. It’s opposite a much better game in the Citrus Bowl, and matches two nonentities without big fan bases. I can’t imagine there’s much interest anywhere in this game, even though Kentucky reaching a bowl game is sort of cool. Georgia Tech is back bowling as well after a train wreck season last year. I’m going to go with the upstart Wildcats against the triple option, though.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Kentucky A-Rob: Kentucky


Outback Bowl
1/2, 1 pm, ABC
(17) Florida (8-4) vs Iowa (8-4)

Might this game end up like 5-3 or something like that? Neither of these squads has done much of anything on offense most of the year, although both have had their moments defensively, with Florida’s goal line stand at LSU and Iowa knocking off Michigan. I expect this game to be utterly ugly to watch, and I have absolutely no idea who wins. Let’s throw a dart and see where I land.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Iowa A-Rob: Iowa


Goodyear Cotton Bowl
1/2, 1 pm, ESPN
(15) Western Michigan (13-0) vs (8) Wisconsin (10-3)

 

If you hook up at a certain school once upon a time, can you claim to be a die-hard fan? Does the bandwagon term get thrown out the window, because of the relations you had? I’d like to think that is the case. You know what, that is the case! New rule in the Junkies’ world – if you ever sleep with anyone on any campus you can claim to be a lifelong fan. I will not judge you or question your fandom, if you say you once upon a time made animal noises with the lady of your dreams who lived in the dorm across from you, guess what – you’re a fan. If that gentleman you have flirted with all semester finally gives you the go ahead, guess what – you are a fan. If you take the walk of shame wearing a shirt with that school’s name, you guessed it – you are a fan of that school! Now that I just made groundbreaking history in sports fandom, let’s go to the preview.

 

All I do know is because of that lucky lady I am rooting for the Western Michigan Broncos as if they are my own. They had the best season in school history and are undefeated heading into this New Year’s 6 bowl game against Wisconsin. The only person hotter than coach P.J. Fleck is our former goddess Kate Upton, but ever since she admitted publicly that she sleeps with her fiance Justin Verlander (I know, right?) we have soured on her a bit. But we still managed to mention her, per usual. Wisconsin, sure, you may on paper have the better team but I didn’t make sweet sweet love to a lady on your campus so it doesn’t matter to me that you made it to the Big Ten Title game or that you played Michigan and Ohio State tough – you lost all of them. The Badgers had a great year but it wasn’t as great as my time at Western Michigan University, so go Broncos beat Badgers!!

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Western Michigan A-Rob: Wisconsin


Rose Bowl
1/2, 5 pm, ESPN
(9) USC (9-3) vs (5) Penn State (11-2)

 

Penn State, so you think you belong in the CFP, well just ask the committee made clear YOU DON’T. Name one team ahead of you that got blown out by 39 points? You can’t: OSU, Clemson, Washington and Bama’s 3 losses were by a combined 17 points total! Don’t get me wrong, you guys have had one hell of a season, but not top 4 worthy even with a Big Ten Title under your belt. Here’s  another chance to prove the committee wrong, playing a USC team that was firing on all cylinders after a 1-3 start. They rattled off 8 straight wins to close out the regular season with wins over both teams who played in the Pac-12 title game, so it should be a competitive game with both teams having a lot to prove. It’s nice to see James Franklin has Penn State back to national relevance for something other than, you know, that whole scandal thing. USC should prove to be too much for State as they try and prove they are still the best in the Pac-12, and yes I mean the entire Pac-12. If they blowout Penn State and Washington gets absolutely slaughtered just wait till some quack like Mark May says USC would have fared better against Bama, even with a 52-6 loss against them week one. I know, college football is funny sometimes.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: USC A-Rob: USC


Allstate Sugar Bowl
1/2, 8:30 pm, ESPN
(14) Auburn (8-4) vs (7) Oklahoma (10-2)

Auburn in a major bowl. For God’s sake. You’ve got to love when conference tie-ins result in undeserving teams reaching a major bowl game. Back in the day it was the Big East providing those teams, but who’d have ever thought it would be the SEC? Every team in the SEC but Alabama had four losses or more, which has to be unprecedented. I guess Auburn was the best of the crap bunch to play in this game. But Oklahoma is red-hot right now, and the Tigers don’t have nearly the offense to keep up. I think this one might be ugly.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Auburn A-Rob: Oklahoma


And now…the Junkies’ playoff picks!

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
12/31, 3 pm, ESPN
(4) Washington (12-1) vs (1) Alabama (13-0)

 

Remember back in the day, let’s say 2008, when the Pac-12 was the Pac-10. A player by the name of Jared Zabransky graced the cover of NCAA Football 08 (seriously, bring that series back). If you’re like me you took the worst program in all of the conferences because you knew you could control 12 teams back then and try to make them national powers. Well I always took Washington, a Tyrone Wilingham (yeah Irish fans remember that guy)-coached Huskies team that went 0-12 that season. Fast forward to 2016 and the Huskies are 12-1, being coached by Zabransky’s former head coach Chris Petersen and are two wins away from a national title. The EA cover athlete doesn’t exist. (Seriously that sucks – I  hate that a Michigan player donned the cover of the final game). Well, unlike video games Washington won’t have enough cheat codes or EA Pennants to beat an Alabama that is just nasty good. Nick Saban’s squad is undefeated coming off an ass-whooping of Florida. They beat Florida so bad you know the NCAA 11 cover athlete (Tim Tebow) was probably cussing up a storm at his television in between his fielding ground ball sessions.

 

Seriously, what Nick Saban has done in his time at Alabama is nothing short of remarkable. He could lose all 22 starters and still challenge for a national title every single year! Nick Saban’s coaching career makes Bear Bryant’s coaching career look like Nick Saban’s NFL Coaching career. I’ve fought it long enough: Nick Saban is the greatest college football coach of my life time or my kids’ lifetime; hell, probably their kids’ lifetime. So when I’m a crotchety old man talking to my grandkids and the ask me who the greatest coach I ever say I’ll say Nick Saban and Joe Maddon!! By the way, the Cubs won the World Series in case you forgot. Look Washington, I’m rooting for you to make this a game because New Year’s Eve won’t be so awesome if you get blown out by 43 points (in my best Jimmy Kimmel singing voice), but you are just another rung in the ladder that is Alabama and its historic run. It will never get the Alabama 30 for 30 treatment because their reign will never ever end. There are only 3 certainties in life: death, taxes and Nick Saban’s perfect hair. how does he do it? He looks better at almost 70 than I do at 30. This is the easiest bowl to predict in case you scrolled past all my nonsense. Washington, if you keep this close you should get at least a share of the National Title.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Alabama A-Rob: Alabama


PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
12/31, 7 pm, ESPN
(3) Ohio State (11-1) vs (2) Clemson (12-1)

While we’re here, let’s pour one out for the actual New Year’s Six — the tripleheaders on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day concept. Personally, I loved it. Two days of wall-to-wall football featuring some of the best teams in the country plus whatever crap squad got shoehorned in due to a conference tie-in. Unfortunately, many people didn’t and got pissed that semifinal games took place during a work day. This was understandable, but I really wish the concept would have taken off because I thought it was really cool. Instead, this year, we have the weird Dec. 30 Orange Bowl followed by New Year’s Eve semifinals and Jan. 2 bowl games thanks to the NFL taking over New Year’s Day.

But down to business. I have little clue of what to make of this game. If the Ohio State that played Nebraska or the Clemson that played South Carolina shows up to this game, it’ll be a bloodbath. But unless that happens we’re probably looking at a close one. These teams have both been enigmas most of the season, with no one ever really knowing if they’re showing up to play any given week. JT Barrett vs. Deshaun Watson, Curtis Samuel vs. Wayne Gallman, the teams’ stud defensive lines each trying to take down the quarterback — this game is chock full of fun matchups. I expect it to come right down to the end and ultimately the Tigers will ring in the new year with a win.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Ohio State A-Rob: Clemson


National Championship Pick
1/9, 8:30 pm, ESPN

 

Bizzle:

 

In true Junkies fashion, I’m going to disagree with A-Rob, just like the time he told me don’t mess with our window A/C unit it was fine right where it was. I went against him them and I will do so now, both instances with a few beers in me. You know what, A-Rob, even though I may have almost destroyed a perfectly fine A/C unit I didn’t destroy my reputation by taking Clemson to lose to Alabama in this game. I’m taking Ohio State to lose to Alabama in this title game. That’s right Buckeye fans, Bizzle is putting you up against the greatest college football program of all time. You have no chance, so save me the speech about “that’s what they said a couple years ago”. Stop living in the past Buckeye fans, we don’t ever talk about the past (ok maybe a couple times throughout this preview, but who’s counting). I could go through and list all the reasons you’ll eventually lose this game but I pretty much did that in the Washington/Bama preview, so I will save you the hassle of reading that twice, given the fact that if you have made it this far into the preview, you are probably wishing you were that A/C unit I knocked out our window. If you have made it this far you are amazing and a champ. I’m sure our wives just clicked on this to make us happy and we appreciate that. If they had read this then they would know that we are taking them on a cruise to the Bahamas but since they won’t see this I guess it’s cold zero degree weather and snow for the A-Rob and Bizzle households. Sorry for rambling, but this is the one year that this is a sure thing so much so that I’d put our kids on it. Again, if our wives read this they’d be pissed but since they won’t, screw it – I put my first and second born on Alabama winning the whole thing! Don’t believe the hype ESPN is trying to create by saying this is the strongest field in College Football Playoff history. It’s over, done, finished. The Crimson Tide are your 2016 National Champions and Bizzle has lost his damn mind. So if someone puts that they will bet their children on so and so winning a game and they don’t, is that a binding contract? Asking for a friend….

 

A-Rob:

 

Bizzle said it all. There’s no stopping the runaway Bama freight train. I’ve said repeatedly on the Junkies Twitter account, which you should check out, that there’s really no point in trying to win a title as long as Nick Saban or Urban Meyer is in coaching. Seriously, since the 2006 season began, the only titles that have been won without Saban or Meyer’s fingerprints all over them were 2010 and 2013. To review, in 2010 Auburn had a guy who was almost certainly ineligible, and in 2013, Alabama’s only regular season loss was on that insane Kick Six. They would have gotten in a four-team playoff if there had been one, and who wants to bet they’d have won it? Bama is going to beat Clemson, probably pretty easily. I’m obviously rooting for Deshaun Watson and the Tigers in the title game rematch, but this Bama team is better than last year’s, and I don’t think Clemson is as good as they were a year ago. This one could get ugly.

The Junkies’ Massive Bowl Preview With a Vengeance

Tip Off Marathon Picks!!

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It’s the most wonderful time of the college basketball season!! Ok, that may have been a bit strong. It’s like the 4th or 5th best thing about the college basketball season, after March Madness, conference tournaments, Nathan Giese’s hot takes and Jay Bilas’ anti-NCAA rants. I’m talking about every college basketball junkie’s dream: 24+ hours of non-stop hoops action.

Tonight at 6 pm, starting with some ladies hoops action, going all the way until the final buzzer of Duke/Kansas on Tuesday night, that’s a whole lot of good basketball, and seeing as how, in the 9th year of this beautiful marathon, I am an adult with real world responsibilities, I most likely won’t make it all the way through. Sorry haters, but my boss won’t be understanding if I oversleep for work because I just had to see the Longwood/Stephen F. Austin slugfest.

That said, I got nothing but respect for anyone that can stay up for the entire marathon, and if you can and do I expect Tweets with updates on the action. So in true Bizzle fashion I will pick this entire marathon game by game even though I have no clue about the teams. I have no clue who is on Hawaii’s roster but I’m picking their game regardless. That’s the beauty of America – I can blindly pick college basketball games that start at 4:15 am! Keep in mind while reading these picks, I picked the game like two weeks ago and am only writing the open today. The ranked teams may not be ranked in the same spots anymore, and given that Kansas and Michigan State both lost on Friday it could take some shine off the Champions Classic. But it doesn’t take away from the excitement of wall to wall basketball to begin the college basketball season. As always feel free to pick against me and send in your thoughts on the Tip Off Marathon!!

 November 14th

6pm

No. 4 UConn over No. 15 Florida St. (Women)

8pm

No. 10 Standford over No. 6 Texas (Women)

10pm

BYU over Princeton

Tuesday November 15th

12am

Gonzaga over San Diego State

2am

Green Bay over Pacific

4:15am

Hawaii over Florida Atlantic

6:30am

Niagara over Hartford

8:45am

Winthrop over Manhattan

11am

Stephen F. Austin over Longwood

1:15pm

Dayton over Alabama

3:30pm

No.10 Oregon over Baylor

7pm

No. 3 Kentucky over No. 13 Michigan State

9:30pm

No. 1 Duke over No. 4 Kansas

Tip Off Marathon Picks!!

The Junkies’ Massive Bowl Preview Is Back!

Last year, the Junkies previewed and picked every single bowl matchup. It was awesome. This year, the college football powers that be decided to challenge us to up the ante by adding more games! This year there are a whopping 41 bowls if you count the national title game. Three 5-7 teams even got in on the fun this year, which is an absolute joke, but whatever, it means more football, and I guess we’re all ok with that.

Bizzle and I again switch back and forth between games for this annual tradition, with me going first. Here we go again, boys and girls!

Gildan New Mexico Bowl
12/19, 2 pm, ESPN
Arizona (6-6) vs New Mexico (7-5)

The bowl season gets underway with this titanic clash of “DickRod U” vs. Bob Davie. Believe it or not, that bag of crap Davie actually had a pretty solid year with the Lobos and his team was in the running for a Mountain West championship until the final week of the season. He even went into Boise State and won on the blue turf, a feat once unthinkable. His reward is playing host to Arizona in a bowl game. Unfortunately for Coach Davie, I think “DickRod U” will be playing fired up after their coach rejected the advances of South Carolina. I smell a rout in this one.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Arizona A-Rob: Arizona


Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
12/19, 3:30 pm, ABC
BYU (9-3) vs Utah (9-3)

Ladies and gentlemen, the Holy War is back, at least for one game. The Utah Utes take on the BYU Cougars. The former conference rivals at one point had played each other every year since ‘46. For Utah, they looked the part earlier on in the season as a serious playoff contender. They fell off in the second half of the season, and the loss of leading rusher Devontae Booker didn’t help the Utes as they finished 3-3 to end the season.

BYU started out the 2015 season with some magical performances. The Hail Mary week one agianst Nebraska with a backup quarterback, Tanner Mangum. Then a couple of last-minute scores shocked then No. 20 Boise St. BYU lost 3 of their 4 games against Power 5 schools, though (UCLA, Michigan, Mizzou), and factor that in with the surprise departure of head coach Bronco Mendenhall to Virginia. It looks like its the Utes who will be taking this latest installment of the Holy War.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Utah A-Rob: Utah


Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
12/19, 5:30 pm, ESPN
Ohio (8-4) vs Appalachian State (10-2)

Look, guys, it’s our first non-Power 5 bowl! These are always a guilty pleasure of ours because you never really know what to expect. The non-Power 5 leagues don’t play each other a lot, or at least you don’t know if they do because let’s be honest, you don’t pay attention. So nothing that happens in these matchups can surprise you. That being said, an Ohio win in this matchup would surprise me. App State has had a great year this year to reach the 10-win mark, and 1 of their 2 losses came to top-ranked Clemson. The MAC generally doesn’t show up for bowl season, but I’d love to see my boys prove me wrong.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Ohio A-Rob: Appalachian State



AutoNation Cure Bowl

12/19, 7 pm, CBSSN
San Jose State (5-7) vs Georgia State (6-6)

Full disclosure, when I saw this was a bowl game I had to double take. Which led to a lot of questions like: Exactly why is this a bowl game? What is the Cure Bowl? Did the band The Cure sponsor this? Isn’t Georgia St. a D2 school? How is San Jose St. a D1 school? What teams passed playing in a bowl that these schools where called? What exactly are the bowl tie-ins for this game? (I’m not looking them up so feel free.) So, needless to say, I haven’t seen one split second of either one of these teams play and I flat out refuse to try and break down a matchup of a 6-6 Georgia St. team vs a 5-7 San Jose St. game. Why exactly do we need this game? To fill TV time during the holidays? If that’s the case, just slap on a marathon of 2 Broke Girls, something I’ve also never seen but I bet it’s night and day better than this game. Before I end this rant, I challenge anyone reading to explain to me how this bowl game is good for college football.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: San Jose State, I guess A-Rob: Georgia State


R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
12/19, 9 pm, ESPN
Arkansas State (9-3) vs Louisiana Tech (8-4)

The New Orleans Bowl was our first bowl last year and it took place at 11 am. Fortunately for fans of the teams in this game, ESPN saw sense for this year’s edition and has put it at 9 pm. Awwww yeah, it’s time to get drunk! Expect a rowdier crowd for this game. This is also what feels like the first time in about a decade that Louisiana-Lafayette isn’t in this bowl game, so we’ll have a new flavor for the contest this year. I’m sticking with the home-state team for the pick, though.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Louisiana Tech A-Rob: Louisiana Tech


Miami Beach Bowl
12/21, 2:30 pm, ESPN
Western Kentucky (11-2) vs South Florida (8-4)

Well, for the Hilltoppers and Bulls, it is going to take quite a game to top last year’s inaugural Miami Beach Bowl. Not only was the game a shootout, as Memphis prevailed 55-48 in a double overtime affair, but almost immediately after the game ended, the teams engaged in an all-out brawl.

Expect another shootout in the Beach Bowl as Western Kentucky can put up points with the best of them. After a slow start, the Bulls finished strong winning their last four games. This game could be one of those classic “Which team has the ball last” type of games. Sure, WKU has the flashy record and their first conference title under their belt, but who do they play? Watch for the Bulls to pull off the upset here as the Hilltoppers will have sand and beaches on the mind.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: South Florida A-Rob: Western Kentucky


Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
12/22, 3:30 pm, ESPN
Akron (7-5) vs Utah State (6-6)

This bowl always cracks me up because we never, ever see a team from ANYWHERE NEAR Boise playing in it. I also love to imagine the teams’ reactions when they find out they’re going to spend a week in freaking Idaho in late December. What a great way to end the season, right? Anyway, this matchup features Terry Bowden, who no one under 30 even knows anymore, and the team that once employed Chuckie Keeton as its quarterback…what’s that? Keeton is still there? Seriously? Well, that’s it, obviously he’s going to lead his team to victory.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Akron A-Rob: Utah State


Marmot Boca Raton Bowl
12/22, 7 pm, ESPN
Temple (10-3) vs Toledo (9-2)

All I heard when Temple played Notre Dame this season was things like, “They are only ranked to help Notre Dame” along with a lot of “it’s going to be so funny to see ND lose to Temple”. Well, haters, neither of those statements were accurate — close but not accurate at all. Temple is good, just ask Christian Hackenberg. They did almost knock off the Irish but came up just short. So don’t sleep on this Owls team. Speaking of sleeping, hopefully Bret Bielema still has nightmares over the Rockets upsetting his then-No. 18 ranked Razorbacks earlier this season. Toledo made sure to make sure Bielema paid for his comments about how other schools schedule. That’s enough for me to take the Rockets in this one.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Toledo A-Rob: Temple


San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
12/23, 4:30 pm, ESPN
Boise State (8-4) vs Northern Illinois (8-5)

The two best non-Power 5 programs of the decade finally take the field together, ironically, when they’re each having mediocre seasons by their standards. Boise State in particular hasn’t been this far from good in a long time. They lost twice at home, which is completely unheard of. NIU also had their struggles, although they also played a tough game against Ohio State. I expect a fun game here despite the two teams’ somewhat disappointing seasons.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Boise State A-Rob: Northern Illinois


GoDaddy Bowl
12/23, 8 pm, ESPN
Georgia Southern (8-4) vs Bowling Green (10-3)

Would it be wrong of me to start off this preview by saying I’m strictly interested in this game because the GoDaddy.com commerial are some of the most artistic achievements on television? Raise your hand if you knew Georgia Southern existed before they took Georgia to the limit. Be honest, you didn’t, and neither did I. Outside of coming up short of pulling out the biggest win in school history, I had no clue they made the jump to D1. (side note: I refuse to use FCS. You are either D1 or not.) Bowling Green comes in as the number one team in D1 football in terms of passing yards, which always makes for an interesting clash going up against an option school. So I don’t know about you but primetime Wednesday I’ll vow to watch more than five minutes of this game.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Bowling Green A-Rob: Georgia Southern


Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl
12/24, 12 pm, ESPN
Middle Tennessee (7-5) vs Western Michigan (7-5)

The best bowl on the menu for my money. A year later and I still can’t believe they put a bowl in the damn Bahamas. And naturally it provided one of the most memorable plays of last bowl season when Central Michigan’s lateral-palooza resulted in a last-second touchdown. Other schools in the MAC and Sun Belt just have to be pissed when they find out they’re not the lucky ones to draw a trip to the Bahamas this year. I, A-Rob, even joke to my wife each year that Ball State in the Bahamas Bowl would mean we’d have to go, and even though money means we won’t, she doesn’t dismiss it out of hand. That’s how freaking awesome this bowl is.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Middle Tennessee A-Rob: Western Michigan


Hawaii Bowl
12/24, 8 pm, ESPN
San Diego State (10-3) vs Cincinnati (7-5)

There isn’t more proof that mediocrity can pay than earning a trip to Hawaii for Christmas after going 7-5. Well, Cincinnati did just that, (Lucky bastards.) While a good portion of the country will be freezing their asses off on Christmas Eve, the Bearcats well be in Hawaii. A bit of air has been deflated from this game as Gunner Kiel will not be making the trip due to personal reasons. Hey Irish fans, remember that guy? Yeah, me either. For the Aztecs, who are the class of the Mountain West Conference, a win in this game feels important as the MWC seems to want to be taken more seriously. So a big time showing in the Hawaii Bowl would be a step in the right direction.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: San Diego State A-Rob: San Diego State


St. Petersburg Bowl
12/26, 11 am, ESPN
UConn (6-6) vs Marshall (9-3)

The Fighting Bob Diacos head to Tropicana Field! Diaco did a low-key nice job this year. He was left an absolute tire fire by Paul Pasqualoni and has swiftly built UConn back up to, at least, mediocrity. Heck, they’re the only team this year to beat Houston. Look for Diaco to get some major Power 5 love next off-season if the Huskies take another step forward. In the meantime I expect them to win this bowl game because Marshall’s been to this bowl recently and won’t give a rat’s ass about the game.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Marshall A-Rob: UConn


Hyundai Sun Bowl
12/26, 2 pm, CBS
Miami (8-4) vs Washington State (8-4)

So you have two 30 for 30’s, a laundry list of NFL draft picks and one of the most recognized names in college football and the best you can do is the Sun Bowl? Sorry Miami Hurricanes fans, but this isn’t your dad’s or even your slightly older brothers’ Hurricanes after an embarrassing run under Al Golden which culminated with a 58-0 dismantling at the hands of Clemson. Then, sneaking out a win over Duke in absolute garbage fashion. Here you are, the Sun Bowl. New coach Mark Richt, formerly of Georgia, has his work cut out for him. Washington St. will be ready to go and looking for a big win. Miami has its head in the clouds after landing Mark Richt and all the talk will be 2016. WSU rolls here.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Washington State A-Rob: Washington State


Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl
12/26, 2:20 pm, ESPN
Washington (6-6) vs Southern Miss (9-4)

I know nothing about either of these teams. Chris Petersen is getting some plaudits for taking this Washington team to 6-6, but even if Steve Sarkisian couldn’t lay off the sauce, did he really leave Petersen such a black hole? It remains to be seen how Petersen is going to do in Washington, but what’ss definitely not in debate is how crazy this Southern Miss thing is. The Golden Eagles were 0-12 just a couple of years ago and are now back in a bowl game. Good job, Todd Monken.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Washington A-Rob: Southern Miss


New Era Pinstripe Bowl
12/26, 3:30 pm, ESPN
Indiana (6-6) vs Duke (7-5)

This is the game we have all been looking forward to. Brandon Ingram vs Yogi Ferrell, two storied powerhouse teams going at it. (Oh wait — ARob just informed me this is a football game. Damn it.) Let’s hope it goes better then when these teams met on the hardwood a few weeks ago. For Duke, they have become a consistent participant in the bowl season the past few years.

For Indiana, they look like a team that could become Duke, they just need to continue to build off of this season. The Hooisers were actually watchable this season, putting up big time performances agianst OSU, Iowa and Michigan. Making a bowl game is big in Bloomington, but winning one would be massive, so for my boy Johnny D. (the only Hoosier football fan I know), I hope Nate Sudfeld gives you a Pinstripe Bowl win for Christmas.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Indiana A-Rob: Indiana


Camping World Independence Bowl
12/26, 5:45 pm, ESPN
Tulsa (6-6) vs Virginia Tech (6-6)

Frank Beamer’s final game, and the Independence people have to be happy with that because there’s really no other reason to watch this game. Tulsa is a nonentity and Virginia Tech sort of sucks. I’m going to suspend my usual ‘pick against the school with the departing coach’ rule because of the nature of Beamer’s departure. In the meantime, Hokies fans can look forward to the Justin Fuente era.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Virginia Tech A-Rob: Virginia Tech


Foster Farms Bowl
12/26, 9:15 pm, ESPN
UCLA (8-4) vs Nebraska (5-7)

Nebraska, I hope you are proud of yourself. not only is your god-awful 5-7 record a joke, but the fact is you shouldn’t even be 5-7, due to a botched call that gifted you the Michigan State game. Now I understand that with 836,352 bowl games, some crap teams will get a shot at low-tier glory. So setting aside any type of “traditional preview” I hope UCLA and the “Rosen one” stomp you into the ground. Sure, UCLA was a sexy pick for the college football playoffs but they should take this season as a plus. Rosen showed flashes of being a Heisman candidate. So keep that ball rolling and stomp on this pathetic excuse for a bowl team. Sorry not sorry.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: UCLA A-Rob: UCLA


Military Bowl
12/28, 2:30 pm, ESPN
Pittsburgh (8-4) vs Navy (10-2)

One of my favorite bowls just because selfishly it’s cool to see two teams Notre Dame defeated playing each other. Actually, these are two of the best three teams ND defeated, at least by record (Temple the other), which is weird considering Texas, Georgia Tech and USC were also on the schedule. This is also a home game for Navy, which would strike me as unfair if this game meant anything. It’s a nice little perk for Keenan Reynolds as he finishes his career at home, but as usual I’m going against the triple option in a bowl since Pitt has an eternity to prepare for it.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Navy A-Rob: Pittsburgh


Quick Lane Bowl
12/28, 5 pm, ESPN2
Central Michigan (7-5) vs Minnesota (5-7)

Another 5-7 bowl team. I’m all for more football but I do hope they get rid of this idea for next year. Just kick out one of these bowls, preferably the stupid Arizona Bowl a couple of spots down, and make sure this doesn’t happen again. Central Michigan, which obviously doesn’t give a shit, sold out its allotment for this bowl game, so good for them. However, I’m going to pick against them anyway and make them my only 5-7 bowl team I predict to win their game.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Central Michigan A-Rob: Minnesota


Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
12/29, 2 pm, ESPN
California (7-5) vs Air Force (8-5)

This is it for Jared Goff as he gets ready to become the next Aaron Rodgers (he hopes). I didn’t see Goff play hardly at all this year, so I have no concept of what to expect from him in the pros. However, he’ll be facing a scrappy Air Force team in this game and I don’t like his chances very much.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Air Force A-Rob: Air Force


Russell Athletic Bowl
12/29, 5:30 pm, ESPN
North Carolina (11-2) vs Baylor (9-3)

Well, well, well, Baylor, we meet again. If anyone is reading this and remembers last season’s bowl preview (shocking if so) but I wasn’t too nice to Art Briles and his Baylor Bears. Well, this season I’m changing my tune — but only slightly. I still think if you want respect, schedule harder non-conference games. I will give you a pass this season as injuries at the quarterback position really derailed a shot at the Final 4.

For North Carolina, just imagine where you would be had you beaten that awful South Carolina team week one  of the season. I’ll wait Tar Heels fans. After that loss, it seemed no one was giving you any type of respect. Even if you had beaten Clemson in the ACC title game you more than likely had no shot at the playoffs. Expecting a good game in this one. Corey Coleman should be the difference maker for me, lets just hope he wears a shirt to the post game interview.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Baylor A-Rob: Baylor


Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl
12/29, 7:30 pm, check local listings
Nevada (6-6) vs Colorado State (7-5)

It’s come to this, folks. Not only is there a bowl that matches up two teams from the same conference (the Mountain West people called it ‘a travesty’ and said the bowl system is broken, which considering three 5-7 teams are playing in bowls is hard to argue), but it’s not even airing on TV in most markets. Several nothing channels are broadcasting the game regionally, but your best bet is to watch it on CampusInsiders.com. If it’s free, which I don’t even know. And if you’re a complete loser, because why else would you watch this game over the two ESPN games that will be going on during it? This game is stupid and I don’t like it. Put your game on TV!

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Colorado State A-Rob: Colorado State


AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl
12/29, 9 pm, ESPN
LSU (8-3) vs Texas Tech (7-5)

Having high expectations is a wonderful thing in theory, but having those expectations without also being realistic about who you are and what you have can create problems. Ladies and gentlemen, that is where LSU is at currently. They expect to compete for a national title every year, but haven’t had consistent quarterback play, can’t seem to win the biggest games on their schedule or they are too young. This season’s LSU team was a year away in my opinion from being a legit threat for a playoff spot. That still didn’t stop LSU from flirting with the idea to fire Les Miles. Seriously who were you going to get that is better? Expect Les Miles to pull no punches in the game and make a statement that he is the man for the job.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: LSU A-Rob: LSU


Birmingham Bowl
12/30, 12 pm, ESPN
Auburn (6-6) vs Memphis (9-3)

Gotta love the SEC West, where you can go from last place to the national title game and back again without really blinking an eye. We should really have expected this from Auburn, though, after they were lucky to escape with a win over Jacksonville State in the season opener. The Jeremy Johnson era turned out to be a sore one for Tiger fans. Now they have to draw a fired-up Memphis team that just had one of its best seasons of all time although it didn’t end in a conference title. Memphis got up to the top 15 in the rankings this year, which we’ll look back on in 6 years and wonder how the hell it happened.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Memphis A-Rob: Memphis


Belk Bowl
12/30, 3:30 pm, ESPN
NC State (7-5) vs Mississippi State (8-4)

This game for me is all about getting to watch Dak Prescott one last time in a college uniform. Prescott has a tendency to get overlooked on the college football scene. Partially that has to do with where he plays. Mississippi St. isn’t exactly a national powerhouse and that’s okay. It also may have to do with the fact that the Bulldogs play in the same division as Alabama, LSU and Auburn. It’s easy to get overlooked. So do yourself a favor, and check out one of the best dual threat QBs in the country, if you haven’t already. Sorry NC State fans its going to be a long afternoon.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Mississippi State A-Rob: NC State


Franklin American Mortgage Company Music City Bowl
12/30, 7 pm, ESPN
Texas A&M (8-4) vs Louisville (7-5)

I switched my pick in this game. Texas A&M is an outright disaster at the moment. First we hear that Kyle Allen is transferring. Fine, that happens. Make room for Kyler Murray. Oh, you say HE is transferring? The Aggies are going down the toilet at warp speed and I’m not sure Kevin Sumlin even knows what hit him. He’s probably angling to get back to Houston when Tom Herman inevitably leaves at this point. Louisville is garbage, but they have some concept of who’s playing QB for them, which gives them the edge.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Louisville A-Rob: Louisville


Holiday Bowl
12/30, 10:30 pm, ESPN
USC (8-5) vs Wisconsin (9-3)

USC was my hot pick to make the college football final 4. Well, that didn’t happen. Cody Kessler was supposed to make a trip to New York for the Heisman trophy ceremony, and that didn’t happen. USC was supposed to finally start to regain its spot as one of the top programs in the county but that didn’t happen as Steve Sarkisian was fired midseason due to a drinking problem. I bet if you asked anyone in the USC locker room, they are just happy this circus of a season is over. For Wisconsin, after making the Big Ten (14) title game a year ago, they took a step back this season and finished 9-3 finishing 3rd in the Big Ten West. Look for them to pull out a win against the Trojans to add another 10-win season to their resume.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Wisconsin A-Rob: USC


Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
12/31, 12 pm, ESPN
Houston (12-1) vs Florida State (10-2)

Our first New Year’s Six bowl! I don’t know about you guys, but I always made a point to watch all the major bowl games, back when they were the BCS and now that they’re the New Year’s Six. It’s just fun to catch some of the best teams in the game go at it and let it all hang out. Some of them turn into the best games of all, like when MSU and Baylor played their barn burner of a Cotton Bowl last season. I think something similar will happen here. Houston and FSU are both very good, not great teams, and I have a feeling we will see a very fun game. At the end of the day I’ll take the Cougars to upset the Dalvin Cooks and make it 2-for-2 for the small-conference teams in bowl games.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Houston A-Rob: Houston


Outback Bowl
1/1, 12 pm, ESPN2
Northwestern (10-2) vs Tennessee (8-4)

It was one hell of a season for Northwestern as they finished the regular season with a 10-2 mark, matching their win total from the previous two seasons combined. Northwestern is currently ranked 13th in the country, with wins over Stanford and Wisconsin this season that were proof that this team is for real. The Wildcats will be going for their 11th win of the season which would set the mark for tops in school history. If they want to make history they will have to take down #23 Tennessee and dynamic quarterback Joshua Dobbs who leads the SEC in rushing yards per game by a quarterback. Northwestern fans have waited 125 years for an 11 win team and they are going to have one.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Northwestern A-Rob: Northwestern


Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
1/1, 1 pm, ABC
Michigan (9-3) vs Florida (10-3)

So torn in this game. It’s a matchup between my all-time hated college program and the single most overrated team in the country in my opinion. Florida has no business in the top 25. They have one pretty good win, over Ole Miss. That came with a QB who’s no longer there because he got popped for PEDs, which is a real feat in college football. Since then the Gators have been horrible. I watched chunks of their humiliating ‘win’ over Vanderbilt, their even more humiliating ‘win’ over Florida Atlantic and of course most depressingly, their pathetic performance against Bama. This is a team that if they’d been in any other Power 5 division besides the rancid SEC East probably loses 3 league games or more. They are awful. I think Michigan smears them here, but Bizzle disagrees.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Florida A-Rob: Michigan


BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl
1/1, 1 pm, ESPN
Notre Dame (10-2) vs Ohio State (11-1)

The ND game! Bizzle gave me this one because, he says, he enjoys my take on ND. Appreciate it, sir, but this ND season required few takes. It was an impressive campaign that but for some red-zone stupidity could easily have been a 12-0 season. The Irish’s win over Virginia was their only close game in which they didn’t repeatedly leave points on the field through inability to get things done in the red zone on offense. It’s something I really hope Brian Kelly can fix because in almost every other respect, this year was a championship-level offense at ND. Need to fix that defense, though.

As for this game, Ohio State’s best two defensive tackles will be out because one is injured and the other looks up hookers on the Internet. The Irish have two terrific running backs in C.J. Prosise and Josh Adams. I think you know where we’re going with this.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Notre Dame A-Rob: Notre Dame


Rose Bowl
1/1, 5 pm, ESPN
Stanford (11-2) vs Iowa (12-1)

How do you get hyped up for a game that neither team wanted to be in? I don’t have the answer, so lets hope that Iowa and Stanford do. Heading into the Big 10 title game against Michigan State, an overachieving (and some would say undeserving) Iowa Hawkeye team was the three seed in the College Football Playoff and undefeated. Sure, they avoided OSU, Michigan and Michigan St. until the title game but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have their hearts broken. For Stanford, they were widely considered the pick for the playoff even after suffering what at the time looked like a horrendous loss to Northwestern. All that was left to do was win out and they would have been a lock for the playoffs. They were rolling until they slipped up against an awful Oregon team late in the season. Even with wins over USC twice and a top-10 Irish team, the Cardinal were never able to climb back up the ladder.

So after great but heartbreaking seasons, who shows up to play? Iowa will be out to prove that its season wasn’t a fluke and it’s not their fault the schedule fell how it fell. Stanford, led by Kevin Hogan and Heisman finalist Christian McCaffrey, will look to go out on top in their final bowl game together. A lot of intrigue and interest in this game should make it a fun one to watch.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Stanford A-Rob: Stanford


Allstate Sugar Bowl
1/1, 8:30 pm, ESPN
Oklahoma State (10-2) vs Ole Miss (9-3)

Thank you Oklahoma State, for making things a lot more interesting down the stretch by overachieving and staying undefeated for as long as you did. Watching Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Baylor and to some extent TCU battle week in and week out in a de facto playoff was a lot of fun to watch. Who says a title game is the best way to determine a league champion? Not this guy, as that was seriously some great theatre down the stretch. I would also like to thank Ole Miss for being the only school willing to not let Alabama just run all over them. Thank you Rebels for taking down the Evil Empire that has become Nick Saban (probably too harsh, but anyone his age with hair that good can’t be trusted). Seriously though the rest of the league wet the bed when it was their turn to take on the Crimson Tide, so sincerely, thank you for making people question how good Bama is, at least for a week. So for both schools since you did something wonderful for my fandom, I hope the swag bags are sick, the game ends in a tie and no one gets hurt. Hell of a season gentlemen.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Oklahoma State A-Rob: Ole Miss


TaxSlayer Bowl
1/2, 12 pm, ESPN
Penn State (7-5) vs Georgia (9-3)

Penn State sucks. I mean they really, really suck. But they still have a coach. Georgia doesn’t, and their current coach is working for another college team for another month. Is that really a good idea, Georgia? Quit kissing Saban’s ass and make Smart start now if he wants the job. It does you no good if he helps the Tide win another national title, no matter how many S-E-C chants it might inspire in the Glendale, Ariz. night on Jan. 11. Anyway, I’m defaulting to my ‘don’t pick a team without a coach’ rule.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Penn State A-Rob: Penn State


AutoZone Liberty Bowl
1/2, 3:20 pm, ESPN
Kansas State (6-6) vs Arkansas (7-5)

So you are worried about who the Big Ten schedules, Mr. Bielema? How did that work out for you? I take it not so well as you let Toledo beat you at your place and then proceeded to fall apart after that, sputtering to a 7-5 record. What did you learn here Mr. Bielema? Probably to mind your own business and worry about your own schedule. Not sure why he was worried about anyone else, if they win out or even lost just one, being the SEC they would have been a lock for the playoffs. That SEC bias is real folks.

For Kansas State, they limp into this game with injuries and a quarterback dilemma having two capable QBs, which usually means you have none. As the Bill Snyder era comes to a close I hope that the Wildcats give the legendary head coach a bowl victory. Also lets hope K-State does their job and sticks it to Bret Bielema for me.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Kansas State A-Rob: Arkansas


Valero Alamo Bowl
1/2, 6:45 pm, ESPN
Oregon (9-3) vs TCU (10-2)

I really like The Solid Verbal, a great college football podcast. I bring this up because one of the co-hosts is an Oregon fan. However, he’s grown just a little too uppity these days regarding his disdain for Notre Dame, so he’s started to get under my skin a bit. A combination of working for SB Nation, which strikes me more every day as an insular echo chamber where everyone thinks they are funnier than they are, and Oregon’s success the last few years, has seemingly combined to make him bordering on insufferable.

I say all this because I’ve grown accustomed to things I don’t want to happen happening in college football, so I’m going to assume Oregon will win this game in large part because I don’t want them to. The Ducks have been great the last 2 months, and I expect they will continue to be.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Oregon A-Rob: Oregon


Motel 6 Cactus Bowl
1/2, 10:15 pm, ESPN
West Virginia (7-5) vs Arizona State (6-6)

So at the point that the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl will be played, everyone and their mothers will know who’s in the national title game. All the wonderful New Year’s 6 games will have been played. So this game is like going hard drinking on a long holiday weekend and, come Sunday night, just not wanting to even think about alcohol. We could sit and talk about the seasons both schools had, both up and down (mostly down – the best win between the two schools came when ASU knocked off then No.7  UCLA). So unfortunately, like the day after a long night of drinking, the thought of watching the Cactus Bowl makes my stomach turn.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: West Virginia A-Rob: Arizona State


And now…the playoff picks! (Hello? Are you still here? You are! Great!)
Capital One Orange Bowl
12/31, 4 pm, ESPN
#4 Oklahoma (11-1) vs #1 Clemson (13-0)

Everyone in the known universe thinks Clemson is going to lose this game. Well, I don’t. Clemson is not the dominant force Bama was in 2011 and 2012, or the team Florida State was in 2013. But they’re damn good. Quarterback Deshaun Watson’s biggest strength is throwing deep balls. Oklahoma’s defense has been less than impressive at times. I look for a few big plays out of the Tigers and for Clemson to pull out a close, exciting game. Sorry, Baker Mayfield, better luck next year.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Oklahoma A-Rob: Clemson


Goodyear Cotton Bowl
12/31, 8 pm, ESPN
#3 Michigan State (12-1) vs #2 Alabama (12-1)

Fun fact: Alabama has never been left out of the College Football Playoff. I bet that stings, rest of the nation. Another fun fact: no one outside of Alabama likes that they are there. Just one more fact before we get down to business: they deserve to be there. (That’s hard to say.) if not them then who? Ohio State, who lost to the team Alabama’s playing? Nah. Iowa, who people thought was a fraud? Please. Don’t even say Stanford, two losses is a given. Nick Saban has his team playing well on all sides of the ball and has arguably been playing its best football since its loss at Ole Miss.

So what can Michigan St. do to stop the Tide from rolling all over them? Its going to have to start on the defensive side of the ball, containing Heisman winner Derrick Henry (good luck) should be Head Coach Mark Dantonio’s main focus. (ARob interjects: Bizzle called the coach Mike D’Antoni originally. You’ve been drinkin’ again, Bizzle!) If MSU does that and forces Jake Coker to have to throw the ball, Sparty has a legit shot at pulling off the small upset. Connor Cook has the experience in big game situations to pull off the win. Whether he can do it or not is another story.  Expect a low scoring physical affair from both schools.

THE PICKS:
Bizzle: Michigan State A-Rob: Alabama


National Championship Pick
1/11, 8:30 pm, ESPN

Bizzle:

In typical Junkies fashion I will be picking against my P.I.C. He took Alabama vs Clemson in the title game, I will be going with Oklahoma vs Michigan St. because it is so much fun to be right to spite ARob. I’m taking this approach. Oklahoma is going to be extra motivated to prove they are still the top dogs in the Big 12(Ten). This preseason everyone was talking about Baylor and TCU, widely considered OU’s little brothers in most Big 12(Ten) circles. Plus have you ever looked into Baker Mayfield’s eyes? I have, its like the first time I heard the Beatles. (Name the movie!) Sure, Clemson is the only time I picked correctly in our preseason College Football Playoff. They are undefeated and absolutely deserving of the top seed. I just can’t get past the fact that they are Clemson and have the tendency to let you down in a big spot like the one they will be in on New Years Eve….will be so awesome (Sorry, had to do it. Damn you Jimmy Kimmel.)

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I just want to see Alabama lose. I thoroughly enjoy that look on Nick Saban’s face as he is losing a game. It’s priceless. That being said the Michigan St. team is on one magical ride this season. If you don’t believe me, just ask the boys from Ann Arbor. Had Michigan remembered how to punt, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Still not enough proof? Just ask Urban Meyer and Ezekiel Elliott how their relationship has been since a quarterback whose name I’m sure they forgot handed the Buckeyes their first loss and knocked them out of the playoff. Even a fluky loss to that god-awful Nebraska team because of a terrible no-call couldn’t keep the Spartans out of the Playoff. So if for no other reason than this team is good as well as lucky, I’m just going to roll with them over Alabama who has all the pressure on them to win. For all the reasons I just explained I will be riding the magic carpet harder than Aladdin and taking MSU to win the whole thing.

ARob:

Clemson vs. Alabama is the matchup we would have gotten if this were the BCS. Unlike last year I am predicting the hypothetical BCS matchup and the playoff title game will be the same. This game will be awesome. Deshaun Watson’s strength, as mentioned before, is throwing the deep ball. Alabama’s biggest weakness on defense is defending the deep ball. I think the Tigers again strike with big plays and hurt the Tide with chunks. Alabama’s got a great running back in Heisman winner Derrick Henry. But I think that’s about all they’ve got. So I’m taking Clemson to be your 2015 national champion.

The Junkies’ Massive Bowl Preview Is Back!

Why ND-Kentucky Was Special

Notre Dame-Kentucky was special. Even in the annals of special games, I felt like it was truly special.

After all, it was the most-watched cable TV broadcast of college basketball of all time, no small feat given last year’s national semifinals both aired on cable.

But merely talking about how many watched it does that game a disservice. And yes, I’m biased. I’m a Notre Dame fan. That Kentucky game was as close as ND basketball has come in my lifetime to really, honestly being a power program. It still stings that the Irish lost.

That game had so many layers to it. The most obvious layer to the outside observer was the dichotomy between the two programs.

Kentucky is known as the mercenary program, shuffling one-and-done players in and out each year and making a mockery of college basketball. (This year’s team doesn’t fit that mold as easily as past teams do, but for the sake of the narrative, few pointed that out.)

Notre Dame, of course, is the school that refuses to play ball in the cesspool of college basketball recruiting. Some may dispute the ‘do it the right way’ reputation the school has, but again, for the sake of the narrative, that’s how ND was portrayed. Their best two players were seniors. Three of their five starters had missed games for academic reasons during their career, something you’d never expect to hear at Kentucky. The roles in the morality play were clear.

The roles in the basketball game were clear, too. Notre Dame was small. They had no depth. Against the powerful front line of Kentucky, their move was clear: Bombs away from the outside and hope to catch fire. Kentucky was going to lock down the paint defensively, dominate the paint offensively and would need both a poor performance themselves and a near-perfect performance by ND to lose.

But a funny thing happened on the way to that narrative: The opposite was true.

It was Notre Dame who controlled the paint offensively, in a manner of speaking. By staying in constant motion with the ball and not putting anyone in the paint, the Irish kept UK from gaining a foothold there either. Their ball movement created attacking opportunities at the rim, and ND delivered. Time and time again the Irish went in for layups. They scored 20 of their first 26 second-half points on dunks or layups.

ND led for much of the way, as it turned out. At one point they got up by six. They did this all while shooting 4/14 from three-point land. There were a couple in there that were probably attributable to poor shot selection or UK’s defense, but many of the misses were the same wide-open looks ND’s gotten for itself all year. So much for needing to catch fire.

It turned out — and this really should be being addressed more — that it was, in fact, Kentucky that needed to play perfectly, at least over the last 12 minutes, to win. UK did not miss a field goal in that span. They hit their last six free throws. They did everything well when it mattered most, as you’d expect a championship team to do. It was very impressive.

My heart broke just a little bit when Jackson committed a blocking foul with six seconds left that allowed UK to hit the winning free throws, somewhat anticlimactically. It broke a little bit more when Jerian Grant’s desperation trey from the corner — a shot that if you watch it, it’s a freakin’ miracle he even got it off at all — went long. It didn’t break because Notre Dame missed out on what would have been the greatest win in its basketball history, and its greatest men’s sports win, period, in probably 20 years. It broke because I wanted to watch these guys play again.

Notre Dame was an absolute treat to anyone who loves basketball this year. While the ongoing media gripe this year was that college hoops is unwatchable these days, ND played a beautiful brand of basketball, one that I, for one, feel incredibly fortunate to have seen.

There was a sequence against UNC in the ACC title game that summed it up better than I ever could. ND was in the midst of rallying from down 64-56 with 8 minutes left when Bonzie Colson came up with a loose ball and batted it over to Jerian Grant in the left corner. Grant whipped it to Pat Connaughton at the top of the key, who whipped it to Demetrius Jackson at the elbow, who whipped it to Steve Vasturia in the right corner for a wide open three-pointer that tied it.

That whole sequence took 2 seconds. ND never looked back. It was dream basketball, beatiful hoops that would be seen again when the Irish eviscerated Wichita State in the Sweet 16 with the greatest 15-minute stretch of play I’ve ever seen from any team in my entire life.

ND really and truly reached a different level with me over the last few weeks. I loved those guys, and loved watching them play, so much that it honestly bummed me out just as much that I wouldn’t get to see them anymore as it did that they fell short of the Final Four.

These are guys that deserved every bit of love they got, and probably more. The best tribute I can pay them is that I couldn’t pick a favorite player for most of the year. At times, each of the five starters save Auguste had claims to the title (and, naturally, Auguste would start climbing that chart himself with incredible play in the second weekend of the tournament). Connaughton and Grant were the kinds of leaders college sports fans hardly ever get to see. And we got two in the same class? What had we done to deserve that?

More importantly, all were great kids. Outside of the academic missteps, none of the ND players have been involved in anything to suggest they’re anything less than great kids. It’s a tribute to Mike Brey that he has consistently attracted kids of high character to his program the last 15 years. Grant and Connaughton go in the books as probably two of my favorite four ND athletes of all time for everything they brought to us. And there’s plenty of time for Jackson, Auguste and Vasturia, along with Colson, VJ Beachem, and the next crop of Irish, to start building their own legacy.

The last thing that made that game such a treat was Kentucky, believe it or not. Make no mistake about it: John Calipari is a sleazebag. To his credit, he does appear to have his athletes’ best interests at heart, but he’s still a sleazebag. However, his players aren’t. I was struck after the game with how little ill will I held towards the guys wearing blue and white. Normally I find excuses to hate everyone on the other team after such a game. Maybe I’m growing, but more likely it’s that the UK players impressed me. I don’t remember one time seeing anything that approached what you might call dirty or cheap play. I don’t remember one time seeing a player whine for a call from the refs. Even Calipari, by his standards, seemed to be on good behavior. It was a good, clean, classic game played by two excellent teams. It was, between the lines anyway, everything college sports wants to be about.

That’s what made that game so special to me, and why, once the nagging pain from the loss subsides — eventually it will, I think — I will feel very lucky to have witnessed it and to have had a rooting interest.

Why ND-Kentucky Was Special