At last, my final round of postseason prognostications has arrived. Ere we turn our attention to my mistaken predictions of the January bowl games, though, I have additional news to report, on the athletic, personal, and professional fronts. Hey, like the banner says, my weblog is about the 'Dawgs, the sport, and the rest of life.
The University of Colorado has confirmed that school officials interviewed Boise State's Dan Hawkins for the Buffaloes' head coaching vacancy. Since Colorado is scheduled to travel from Boulder to take on the Bulldogs between the hedges next September, I will be more than happy to welcome Coach Hawkins back to the Classic City. On his last visit to Athens, you may recall, Dan Hawkins demonstrated that, if that whole coaching thing doesn't work out for him, he is a leading candidate for inclusion in the Not Ready For Prime Time Players.
Every Day Should Be Saturday offers an in-depth look at the first contest of college football's postseason and The Realist walks us through the point spreads. (Naturally, this is as opportune a moment as any to segue into my traditional disclaimer, remind my readers that my forecasts are not to be taken seriously, and caution you that, whatever the circumstances may be, by all means . . . Don't Bet On It!)
Somewhat closer to home, it has been a big week already in the King household. On Sunday evening, the Henry County Bar Association concluded 2005 with its annual Christmas party, effectively marking the end of my term as treasurer of the Bar Association and the start of my term as vice president for 2006.
When my son, Thomas, got his picture taken with Santa Claus at the Tanger Outlet just before Thanksgiving, we were asked by the photographer if she could use his picture in her advertising. Susan and I agreed . . . and, this morning, when I dropped Thomas off at day care, his teacher showed me an ad she had seen that featured Thomas's picture.
The best news of the week in the King household, however, came when my wife, Susan, arrived at Starr's Mill High School this morning and learned that she had been chosen as the school's Teacher of the Year. She will go on to compete with other teachers in her school system for the title of Fayette County Teacher of the Year. I know better than anyone how much effort Susan puts into being a good teacher, so I was very pleased and proud of her for receiving the recognition she deserves.
On that positive note, we now return you to your regularly scheduled weblog, which is already in progress.
Around the S.E.C.:
Outback Bowl: Iowa v. Florida (Jan. 2) - Didn't I call this game incorrectly already? I'm almost positive that, a couple of years ago, the Hawkeyes and the Gators hooked up in the Sunshine State on New Year's Day and I assured anyone who would listen that Florida would take care of business. Oops . . . it turned out that Iowa not only beat the Big Lizards, the Hawkeyes absolutely dismantled Florida, 37-17. This year, Kirk Ferentz's squad has let me down on a few occasions, so I'm picking Florida to exact revenge in the rematch. Hey, if I'm right, I get the satisfaction of being proven correct and I get to chalk up a point for conference pride, but, if I'm wrong, well, then I get to see the Gators lose. That's a win-win situation if ever there was one.
Capital One Bowl: Wisconsin v. Auburn (Jan. 2) - I'm not going to enjoy making this pick because I respect Barry Alvarez and I hate Auburn. However, facts are facts. Except for the Southeastern Conference champion Bulldogs, no team in the S.E.C. finished its season more strongly than the Plainsmen. The Badgers have put together a nice campaign this fall, but Wisconsin's postseason pedigree speaks for itself: U.W. faced Tennessee in the 1981 Garden State Bowl . . . and lost, 28-21; U.W. faced Kentucky in the 1984 Hall of Fame Classic . . . and lost, 20-19; U.W. faced Georgia in the 1998 Outback Bowl . . . and lost, 33-6; U.W. faced Auburn in the 2003 Music City Bowl . . . and lost, 28-14; and U.W. faced Georgia in the 2005 Outback Bowl . . . and lost, 24-21. Wisconsin generally keeps these games close but a team that is 0-5 all-time against S.E.C. squads in postseason play is not going to break its losing streak against this Auburn team. Some wise guy from Madtown will hang a banner in the Florida Citrus Bowl referring to the Wisconsin-Auburn matchup as "The Cheese and Cracker Bowl" and the Tigers will respond, "Badgers? We don't need no stinking Badgers!" Auburn will win. Nevertheless, I still will hate Auburn.
Sugar Bowl: Georgia v. West Virginia (Jan. 2) - You may not have noticed this, but, whenever Georgia is playing, I tend to pick the 'Dawgs to win. Hey, I've been right about that 52 times in the last 64 games. Naturally, a comprehensive statistical breakdown of the Red and Black's upcoming date in the Dome is forthcoming, but, for now, it suffices to say that Georgia will win.
National Games of Interest:
Gator Bowl: Louisville v. Virginia Tech (Jan. 2) - Other than the national championship game, the contest in Jacksonville was the January bowl game I found most difficult to predict. The Hokies are not noted for hanging tough in the home stretch, as V.P.I. has gone 6-12 in bowl games since the end of World War II and Frank Beamer's squad dropped four of its last six in 2001, four of its last six in 2002, and five of its last seven in 2003. Louisville boasts one of the nation's most explosive offenses, yet the Cardinals have struggled in the Sunshine State of late, losing to South Florida at Tampa in 2003, to Miami at Coral Gables in 2004, and to South Florida at Tampa in 2005. Neither team lived up to the hype this autumn, as Louisville's preseason expectations and Virginia Tech's late season expectations turned out to be so much wishful thinking, so it is open to debate which team is the more disappointed and whether that disappointment will translate into discouragement or incentive on the day after New Year's Day. There is also the matter of conference pride, as U. of L. was on its way into the Big East at the same time V.P.I. was on the way out of it. Will the Cardinals strike a blow on behalf of a jilted league or will the Hokies confirm that they would have been the best team in their old conference even if they fell short of being crowned the best team in their new one? I might as well flip a coin or consult the Magic Eight Ball on this one, because I really don't have a clue. Eenie . . . meenie . . . minie . . . Hokie.
Fiesta Bowl: Notre Dame v. Ohio State (Jan. 2) - As I found out the hard way, Fighting Irish fans are a breed apart and they are governed by a special set of rules which tends to make them rather batty. Rather than risk incurring the sort of Notre Dame wrath Brian Cook warned me about, therefore, I will begin by offering a special disclaimer for the aficionados of those who play beneath the Gold Dome. The Fighting Irish have put together an impressive season under their new head coach. Notre Dame is back among the national elite. The 9-2 record compiled by Charlie Weis in his first 11 games obviously is more impressive than the 10-1 record compiled by Tyrone Willingham in his first 11 games. Whereas Coach Willingham routinely lost to the Trojans by a large margin, Coach Weis led his team to a stirring moral victory over U.S.C. by only losing to Pete Carroll's team by a little. It is beyond me how Texas and Southern Cal were able to sneak into the national championship game with 12-0 records in major conferences when the B.C.S. could have picked a Notre Dame team with a 9-2 record and wins over the worst Pittsburgh squad since 1999, the worst Tennessee squad since 1988, the worst Michigan squad since 1984, the worst Purdue squad of the Joe Tiller era, the worst Syracuse squad ever, and a Washington squad in the midst of the worst downcycle in the program's history. Clearly, the 119 Division I-A teams are divided into three categories: Notre Dame, 12 teams that exist for the sole purpose of losing to Notre Dame (or, in some cases, beating Notre Dame, although, really, those "victories" shouldn't even count in the face of the super-spectacular awesomeness that is Notre Dame football), and 106 teams that exist for the sole purpose of basking in the glow of the aforementioned super-spectacular awesomeness that is Notre Dame football. The Roman Catholic Church should give serious consideration to relocating its headquarters from Vatican City to South Bend, renaming the religion "Charlianity," and issuing a papal bull declaring, "You can't spell 'Charlie Weis' without 'Christ' . . . well, except for the 'T,' but why should spelling matter in the face of the super-spectacular awesomeness that is Notre Dame football?" In short, Notre Dame is ultra-cool and, if you're a Notre Dame fan, you're ultra-cool, too . . . you're, like, Comic Book Guy cool . . . no, wait, you're, like, Heismanpundit cool! Notre Dame is so wicked 'cause of . . . 'cause of . . . just 'cause of the Notre Dameness of it all! And the coolest thing about the endless stream of cognitive dissonance that runs through the eternal sunshine of a Notre Dame fan's spotless mind is that the super-spectacular awesomeness that is Notre Dame football will not be diminished in the slightest when Ohio State hands the Fighting Irish their eighth consecutive postseason loss.
Orange Bowl: Penn State v. Florida State (Jan. 3) - Insert your A.A.R.P./Social Security/Depends/Medicare joke here. Like most college football fans, I would prefer to see the F.S.U. cowgirls happy rather than sad, but I'm afraid the lovely ladies of Tallahassee are going to be disappointed this time. On the plus side, since the cowgirls obviously don't mind being seen with major goofballs like these, you probably have a halfway decent shot at being able to console them after the Seminoles lose to Penn State.
Rose Bowl: Southern Cal v. Texas (Jan. 4) - I have gone back and forth over this one for the last several weeks, ever since it began to appear inevitable that the national championship pairing the pundits predicted in August would, in fact, come to pass. Where this contest is concerned, I am certain of one thing and one thing only: this will not be a close game. The winning team will win by a lot. I don't know if the winning team will dominate its opponent from start to finish or if the game will be tight for three quarters before the winning team breaks it open at the end, but, one way or another, the winning team will win the game decisively. I just don't happen to have a really good handle on which team is which. Obviously, Texas's Big 12 credentials work against the Longhorns, in light of Oklahoma's complete flops in the last two national championship games, but you can't hook the 'Horns for the sins of the Sooners. The boys in burnt orange have looked to me like the 2005 version of the 2004 Trojans: a team whose greatness was enough to overcome the weakness of its schedule. There is, of course, the Mack Brown factor, which raises the question whether the Texas coach permanently shed the can't-win-the-big-one label by beating both Ohio State and Oklahoma and by winning the conference championship game or if he used up all of his good fortune just getting to this point. It is hard to imagine Mack Brown leading his team to back-to-back Rose Bowl victories---a feat accomplished just twice in the last two decades (by Wisconsin at the end of the 1998 and '99 seasons and by Washington at the end of the 1990 and '91 seasons)---but, then again, the Longhorns have been here before. Of course, U.T. hasn't "been here before" in quite the same way as two-time defending national champion U.S.C. has and there is a limit to how much credit Texas deserves for beating Michigan in Pasadena last year, seeing as how the Wolverines have lost three of their last four postseason appearances and the Maize and Blue have gone 4-11 in the Rose Bowl in my lifetime. Naturally, I will be rooting for Texas, partly due to regional pride (despite the fact that U.T.'s opponent hails from a university with the word Southern in its name that claims as its mascot a horse named "Traveler") and partly because dynasties are dull and I am ready for the whole Pete Carroll/Matt Leinart/Reggie Bush/Southern Cal thing to be over, but I get the feeling that a large part of the Longhorns' fan base is going to become absolutely insufferable if U.T. wins it all. (I watched it happen with the L.S.U. fan base after the 2003 season. Not pretty.) In the end, I have lots of doubts and my head tells me that the Trojans have too many weapons for the 'Horns to handle . . . and yet there is the fact that newly minted Heisman Trophy winners rarely fare well in their bowl games . . . and the fact that, while both offenses are explosive, Texas's defense rather clearly is superior to Southern Cal's . . . and the fact that Peter Bean and his buddies at Burnt Orange Nation not only manage to be rabid fans and classy guys at the same time, but they also handed out the real weblog awards, which were a significant improvement over the travesty that was the Best Sports Blog award. All right, dang it, I've talked myself into it. I'm picking Texas to win it all.
Those are my postseason predictions, which, naturally, should be taken every bit as unseriously as my regular season forecasts. As noted above, I will be providing my usual pregame statistical breakdown prior to the Sugar Bowl, as well as offering an overview of where Mark Richt stands after five years on the job, as compared to some of his predecessors.
In other words, stay tuned to Kyle on Football as we head into the most wonderful time of the year.