Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Case For James Harrison

James Harrison was once again voted to the Pro Bowl. Congratulations, James.

Hopefully, we don't see you playing in Hawaii.

We'd much rather see you playing the next weekend in Dallas.

Defensively, the Steelers are playing their best football since the 2008 season. Coincidentally, James Harrison won Defensive Player of the Year that year.

Is there a chance he'll win the award again this year? To be honest, probably not, given that he has been the poster boy for Roger Goodell's power trip. But the award is given by the AP, not the NFL Front Office.

But let's be objective about things for a moment and take a look at the stats. How does James Harrison compare with the other contenders for Defensive Player of the Year?

First, let's figure out who the contenders are.

Since the award was first handed out by the Associated Press in 1971, it has only gone to a player on a team that did not make the playoffs 6 times. 3 of those 6 times were in the last 10 years. Only once in the past 14 years did the award go to a player that was on a defense not ranked in the Top 10 in Total Defense.

The current Top 10 in Total Defense are: San Diego, Pittsburgh, Miami, NY Jets, New Orleans, NY Giants, Minnesota, Baltimore, Green Bay, Chicago


James Harrison
94 Tackles
11 Sacks (T-8th in NFL)
6 Forced Fumbles (T-2nd in NFL)
Team Defense Rank: 2nd
Harrison should be the clear favorite for the award. He has more tackles than any of the other Sack Leaders. His 2 INTs is tied for the 4th most amongst Linebackers and his 6 forced fumbles leads all Linebackers.

Cameron Wake
53 Tackles
14 Sacks (1st in NFL)
3 Forced Fumbles
Team Defense Rank: 3rd
Wake is leading the league in sacks, but is somewhat of a one-trick pony. He has about half the tackles Harrison does, with no interceptions and half the forced fumbles.

Clay Matthews
58 Tackles 
12.5 Sacks (T-3rd in NFL)
2 Forced Fumbles
1 TD (INT return)
Team Defense Rank: 9th
Clay Matthews has gotten a lot of press this year for the season he has had, and honestly he deserves it. He's a hell of a player, but has about 2/3 the total tackles Harrison does, with 1/3 the forced fumbles.

Tamba Hali
46 Tackles
12 Sacks (6th in NFL)
4 Forced Fumbles
Team Defense Rank: 11th

Terrell Suggs
65 Tackles
11 Sacks (T-8th in NFL)
2 Forced Fumbles
Team Defense Rank: 8th
Suggs has been a monster in some games and completely a non-factor in others. His 11 sacks puts him in the "elite" class in the league, but he hasn't created turnovers like Harrison has.

Jerod Mayo
169 Tackles (1st in NFL)
1 Sack
1 Forced Fumble
Team Defense Rank: 27th
Mayo has been a tackling machine, but let's face it: he hasn't made the splash plays that you would expect out of a DPOY. Also, New England's 27th-ranked defense won't help his chances.

Defensive Ends

John Abraham
38 Tackles
13 Sacks (2nd in NFL)
2 Forced Fumbles
Team Defense Rank: 17th
Abraham has been a sack monster, but the Falcons 17th-ranked defense will hurt him. If you're looking objectively, he has 1/3 of the tackles and forced fumbles James Harrison does.

Robert Mathis
56 Tackles
11 Sacks (T-8th in NFL)
1 Forced Fumbles
Team Defense Rank: 20th
The same amount of sacks as Harrison, with half as many tackles, no INTs and only 1 forced fumble. Plus, he plays on the 20th-ranked defense in the league.

Osi Umenyiora
43 Tackles
10 Sacks (T-14th in NFL)
8 Forced Fumbles (1st in NFL)
Team Defense Rank: 6th
Umenyiora and Justin Tuck have both had great seasons rushing the passer. Osi has forced more fumbles than any other player and double-digit sacks are nothing to sneeze at. Osi had a huge 3-game streak in the middle of the season where he rung up 7 sacks. The Giants making the playoffs would help Osi's chances.

Justin Tuck
74 Tackles
11 Sacks
6 Forced Fumbles (T-2nd in NFL)
Team Defense Rank: 6th
Tuck has simply been too inconsistent to win the award. He has 3 games with only 1 tackle, but also has 6 games with 7+ tackles. He has 2 games with 3 sacks, but also been shut out in 8 games.

Defensive Backs

Troy Polamalu
62 Tackles
1 Sacks
6 INT (T-2nd in NFL)
1 Forced Fumbles
1 TD (INT Return)
Team Defense Rank: 2nd
When you talk about big plays at big moments in games, the guy you want on your side is Troy Polamalu. For a three-week stretch, Troy put the Steelers on his back and made plays that led the Steelers to victory. His interception at the goal line against Buffalo, Sack-fumble against Baltimore, and Pick-6 against Cincinnati powered the Steelers to victory. No player in the league this year has made bigger plays in crunch time than Troy. Missing two games with an injury might hurt his chances though.

Asante Samuel
26 Tackles
0 Sacks
7 INT (1st in NFL)
0 Forced Fumbles
Team Defense Rank: 12th
Samuel leads the league in interceptions, but that probably won't be enough to win him the award, particularly considering Harrison has 8 turnovers forced (2 INT, 6 FF) and Samuel has 7.

Ed Reed
35 Tackles
0 Sacks
6 INT (T-2nd in NFL)
1 Forced Fumble
Team Defense Rank: 8th
Reed missed 6 games this year but has been on a tear with 6 picks since he got back. It won't help his case that he was no where to be found when the Steelers visited town and took control of the division from the Ravens.

With all the evidence in front of you, the choice should really come down to just a few players. Assuming the Dolphins and Giants don't make the playoffs, that takes Wake, Umenyiora, and Tuck off the board. Hali, Mayo, Abraham, Mathis, and Samuel play on defenses not ranked in the Top 10.

That leaves us with James Harrison, Clay Matthews, Terrell Suggs, Troy Polamalu, and Ed Reed.

Of these 5 players, Harrison has the most tackles (94), most turnovers created (8 - 6 forced fumbles & 2 INT), and plays on the best defense (2nd ranked). Arguably, Polamalu has made more impact plays this season that have directly affected the outcome of games, but he has also missed 2 games due to injury.

Based on all of the above statistical evidence (and not even counting the fact that he gets held on nearly every play), I would say that Harrison should be one of the leading candidates for Defensive Player of the Year.

To be honest, if we were voting we would probably pick Troy as our Defensive Player of the Year because he has made more big plays at key moments in games than any other defensive player this year. But since he'll likely miss his 3rd game this weekend due to injury, we don't think the AP voters will have him on their radar.

Therefore, Vote James Harrison for Defensive Player of the Year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Looking Ahead at the 2011 Schedule

With Kansas City's win and clinching of the AFC West this past weekend, the Steelers 2011 schedule is just about set in stone. The only thing now that would change the schedule would be us losing to Cleveland and Baltimore beating Cincinnati.

I know that the 2010 season isn't over yet, but let's, just for a moment, take a brief look ahead to the 2011 season.

For those of you that don't know how the NFL schedule is constructed, here's a brief rundown:
- Play each team in your division, home and away
- Play all 4 teams from 1 other division in your conference, home and away rotates with each cycle
- Play all 4 teams from 1 division in the other conference, home and away rotates with each cycle
- Play the two teams from the remaining divisions in your conference that finished in the same position as you

Now, before we look into the Steelers 2011 Opponents, let's get a few assumptions out of the way first:
1. A CBA is agreed upon and the NFL does not have a lockout in the 2011 season
2. The new CBA does not include an 18-game schedule, but sticks with the same 16-game scheduling format
3. The Steelers beat the Browns on Sunday and win the AFC North.

With these assumptions in place, the Steelers 2011 Opponents will be:
Home: Baltimore, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Jacksonville, St. Louis, Arizona, New England
Away: Baltimore, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Houston, Seattle, San Francisco, Kansas City

If the Steelers lose to the Browns and the Ravens win the AFC North, the only change will be that the Steelers would play the Jets and the 2nd place team from the AFC West (currently the Chargers, but it could be the Raiders if the Raiders win and Chargers lose on Sunday) instead of New England and Kansas City.

On the surface, getting to play the NFC West in the rotation seems like a great matchup.

But let's consider something: Since 2006, the Steelers are 3-8 when playing outside the Eastern Time Zone

That stat might seem a bit surprising, but when you look back, it's true.
2010: 1-1 outside of EST: Beat Tennessee 19-11, Lost to New Orleans 20-10
2009: 1-2 outside of EST: Lost to Chicago 17-14, Beat Denver 28-10, Lost to Kansas City 23-20
2008: 0-1 outside of EST: Lost to Tennessee 31-14
2007: 1-2 outside of EST: Lost to Arizona 21-14, Lost to Denver 31-28, Beat St. Louis 41-24
2006: 0-2 outside of EST: Lost to San Diego 23-13, Lost to Oakland 20-13

As you can see, and may well remember, we haven't exactly played our best football when we've left the friendly confines of Eastern Time.

Considering that the Steelers are 50-29 (63%) in the regular season since 2006, it's almost more astounding that they are 47-21 (69%) in EST. Add to that the Steelers have been to the playoffs twice, going 3-1, all those games played in EST, including the Super Bowl XLIII win in Tampa.

Obviously, we're not about counting our chickens before they hatch, and we also don't want to be calling fire in a crowded room. But we did find these stats interesting, and as bloggers it's our responsibility to pass them on to our readers.

But for right now, all that matters is Cleveland. Win Sunday, win the AFC North, get the #2 seed, and get ready for the playoffs.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Week 16 Playoff Scenarios

With the Steelers win over Carolina on Thursday night, we're one step closer to clinching the AFC North division crown and a first round bye in the playoffs. Here are the scenarios for the other AFC teams going into the action today:

12-2, at Buffalo
Current AFC East Division Leader

Clinch AFC East and #1 seed with:
- Win over Buffalo
- Jets loss to Chicago

11-4, Beat Carolina 27-3 (Thu)
Current AFC North Division Leader

Clinch AFC North and #2 seed with:
- Ravens loss to Cleveland

9-5, vs Tennessee
Current AFC West Division Leader

Clinch AFC West division with:
- Win over Tennessee AND San Diego loss or tie to Cincinnati
- Tie with Tennessee AND San Diego loss to Cincinnati

10-4, at Cleveland
Currently 2nd place AFC North

Clinch Playoff spot with:
- Win over Cleveland
- Kansas City loss to Tennessee AND Jacksonville loss to Washington or Indianapolis loss to Oakland
- San Diego loss to Cincinnati AND Jacksonville loss to Washington or Indianapolis loss to Oakland

10-4, at Chicago
Currently 2nd Place AFC East

Clinch Playoff spot with:
- Win over Chicago
- Jacksonville loss to Washington
- Indianapolis loss to Oakland

8-6, at Oakland
Current AFC South Leader

Can not clinch or be eliminated this week

8-6, vs Washington
Currently 2nd place in AFC South

Can not clinch or be eliminated this week

8-6, at Cincinnati
Currently 2nd place, AFC West

Eliminated from Wild Card Race with:
- Loss to Cincinnati
- NY Jets win over Chicago AND Baltimore win over Cleveland

Eliminated from AFC West Race with:
- Loss to Cincinnati AND Kansas City win over Tennessee

7-7, vs Indianapolis
Currently 3rd place, AFC West

Eliminated from Wild Card Race

Eliminated from AFC West Race with:
- Loss to Indianapolis
- Kansas City win over Tennessee

6-8, at Kansas City
Currently 3rd place AFC South

Eliminated from Wild Card Race

Eliminated from AFC South Race with:
- Loss to Kansas City
- Jacksonville win
- Indianapolis win

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Santa Clausen's Coming to Town: Steelers Win


For 60 minutes, Jimmy Clausen played Santa Claus to the Steelers defense. Seriously, what could be a better Christmas gift for a defense than receivers that can't get open, a line that can't block, and a quarterback who can't throw?

Carolina wins the toss and elects to receive.

The Panthers come out and move the ball a bit, converting 2 third downs but 2 false start penalties knock them out of field goal range and kill the drive.

In my game preview I mentioned that Carolina had the 23rd ranked run defense. That was blatantly obvious on the first play when Mendenhall bounced it to the outside and took it down the sideline for 35 yards.

Ben gets rolling, completing passes to Wallace and Heath to get us into Field Goal range. Mendenhall gets brought down in the backfield and Ben goes back to Heath to get us inside the 10. On 3rd down, he hits Sanders in the corner of the end zone, but John Fox challenges and it gets overturned. Suisham stays perfect as a Steeler.


Carolina's offense starts moving again, but Potsie blows up an attempted Wildcat play on 3rd down.

Second Quarter

Fox decides to go for it and Potsie blows the A-gap and brings down Clausen for the Steelers first sack of the game.

A holding penalty on Kemoeatu halts the next drive in its tracks.

Thankfully, Santa Clausen was in a giving mood. He badly overthrows a receiver down the right side and B-Mac makes a great over-the-shoulder interception.

Ben goes back to the air, hitting Heath over the middle. Carolina was stacking their linebackers on the line of scrimmage and playing 2 safeties deep to try to take away Mike Wallace, leaving the middle of the field wide open. Speaking of Wallace, two plays later, he makes the Panthers pay. He gets a mis-match on a linebacker out of the slot,

...turns on the jets...

...and blows between the safeties to the end zone. 

"Visibly fast"


Ike Taylor is all over Steve Smith. No way Clausen is finding him. 3-and-out.

The Steelers look like they're rolling again, but Carolina falls on a fumbled snap, putting the brakes on things. 

Carolina still can't do anything with the ball.

Redman comes in and starts grinding. Manny Sanders makes a big-time play with a 35-yard catch and run to get us into Panthers territory. Ben finds Heath again to get down to the 10. Two plays later, Ben hits Sanders who stretches for the goal line but can't quite get in.

After the 2-minute warning, RAISE SOME pounds it in.


With just under 2 minutes to play, Carolina tries to run a 2-minute drill, but 3 incompletions later, it's Steelers ball with a minute and a half to play.

Ben starts things off going down the left sideline for Wallace who makes a great leaping catch against the corner on the sidelines and somehow gets his feet in to get down to the 15. Ben tries to find Heath and Wallace on the middle post but overthrows both of them. Suisham.


We were perfectly content to go into the half 20-0, but after Carolina fumbled the kickoff, we had a shot for more points. AB gets us down to the 15, but Ben gets sacked on 3rd down and Suisham pushes a 41-yarder wide right.

Third Quarter

The offense comes back out picking up right where they left off with Ben connecting to Hines for 23 to get across midfield. A personal foul on Carolina gives us even more yardage and Ben goes to Heath on the same left-sideline out-route that burned Carolina all game. Mendenhall shoulders the load, but can't quite get to the sticks on a 4th and 1 swing pass inside the 10. Turnover on downs. I really don't mind the call to go for it on 4th and 1 there.

Did Bruce Arians switch sides? Carolina busts out the motif offense and Harrison brings down Clausen for a sack.

The Steelers take over at the Panthers 35 and get a free pass down to the 1 when Hines draws a Pass Interference call in the end zone on a play when Carolina had 12 guys on the field. Three plays later, Ben plows it in from the 1.


How freaking good has Brett Keisel been since he came back? He sacks Clausen on first down and kills Carolina's drive.
Shootin' them doooown

A holding call on Matt Spaeth puts the brakes on the next drive, but Kapinos keeps the field position positive, pinning Carolina back inside the 20.

Carolina picks up their first first down since 8:00 left in the 2nd quarter. Jonathan Stewart is able to pick up another first down on the ground as the quarter ends.

Fourth Quarter

Carolina gets close to midfield and the refs start feeling bad for their offense, so try to give Clausen a completion, but Tomlin throws the red flag. No way it's a catch. Call overturned, punt.

Motif offense. Punt.

Carolina returned the punt all the way to the Steelers 23. Stewart picks up another first down, but the defense holds to keep them out of the end zone. Mundy makes a solid play in the end zone to break up a pass. John Fox decides to save his team some dignity and kick a meaningless field goal.


Motif offense. AB makes it to the sticks on 3rd and 7 on a crossing route. Redman comes in but fumbles a handoff from Ben for the Steelers 2nd turnover of the game.

Ziggy Hood and the D-line storm the backfield on 3rd down and bring Clausen down again.

The Steelers get the ball back with 4 1/2 to play and that was really all she wrote. Redman bowls over people to convert a 3rd and 6 with a 23-yard plow down the left sideline. Two plays later, Ben goes to Wallace on a quick hitter to get Wallace over 100 on the game and take the clock down to 2 minutes.

Victory Formation.



Players of the Game
Offensive Game Ball: Mike Wallace
Defensive Game Ball: James Farrior

Honorable Mentions:
Ben Roethlisberger
Heath Miller
Hines Ward
Rashard Mendenhall
Bryant McFadden
Ike Taylor
James Harrison
Brett Keisel
Ziggy Hood
Ryan Mundy

Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game

Larry Foote wearing sleeves

As Hines once said, "I wore sleeves once as a rookie, but some O-lineman came up and tore them off my shirt, telling me 'We don't wear sleeves around here.'" Larry Foote was a Steeler for a long time. If you looked, he was the only guy on the defense wearing sleeves yesterday. Did his one year in the dome in Detroit make him soft? Quite possibly. I know this seems like something small to nit-pick, but hey, we played a damn good game so if this is the only thing I have to complain about, I'm totally cool with that. Seriously though, Larry...lose the sleeves.

Final Thoughts
  • Carolina had 2 3rd down conversions on their first drive and 1 on their second. After that they didn't convert another 3rd down the whole game.
  • The Steelers had 408 yards, including 320 through the air from Ben. I swear he gets better as it gets colder. Ben's skill is inversely proportional to the temperature.
  • Clausen had 72 yards passing. Santa Clausen for the Steelers defense indeed.
  • A 4-sack performance for the defense. James Harrison for DPOY. Probably won't happen because of the fines though.
  • Mike Wallace. Wow. What can we say about him that hasn't already been said? What a player. He deserves to go to the Pro Bowl.
  • Wallace is currently 5th in the league in receiving yards. Granted, that will change a bit after this weekend since he currently has played 1 more game than everyone else. 
  • Wallace's 2010 season is currently 10th in Single Season Receiving Yards in Steelers history. Another 100-yard performance will get him close to the Top 5.
  • One more 100-yard receiving game will tie Wallace with John Stallworth for the most 100-yard games in a season in Steelers history, with 7.
  • Great game for Heath. It's good to have him back in the lineup.
  • If the Browns beat the Ravens on Sunday, we lock up the #2 seed. If the Ravens win, all we have to do to lock it up is beat the Browns next weekend.
  • Have a Merry Christmas everyone! Thanks to everyone who read the blog this year, it really means a lot to us!
  • Best Christmas Song Ever:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gameday: Carolina Panthers

8:20 pm
Heinz Field
TV: NFL Network/KDKA
Radio: 102.5 WDVE

What to Watch For

1. Bury them early

The worst possible thing to do against a bad team is to let them hang around and have hope. We have to stay on the accelerator, bury them early, and not have to worry in the 4th quarter.

2. Force turnovers

The Steelers are second in the league in turnover differential with a +14 difference. However, we didn't force any turnovers against the Jets. The Panthers come in with a rookie quarterback who has thrown only 2 touchdowns to 7 interceptions this season. The Steelers need to take away the running game and force Clausen to beat us.

3. Run the ball

Carolina has the 23rd ranked run defense in the league. Rashard Mendenhall is in the top 10 in the league in rushing. Here's to hoping Arians doesn't get pass-happy against the #8 pass defense in the league. RUN THE BALLLLLLLLL.

4. Stop the Run

As I mentioned earlier, Jimmy Clausen is a rookie. He's not that good. But what Carolina does do well is run the ball. So the formula is simple: Stop the run. Make Clausen beat you. Tomlin mentioned in his presser this week that Carolina ran the ball 45 times last week against Arizona. If we take a big lead on them early, we take their running game out of it.

5. Win.

Really, that's the most important thing. We still control our own destiny. If we win out, we get the #2 seed and a first round bye. Just win baby.

Behind Enemy Lines

This week's Behind Enemy Lines guest is Eric Q. He joined us back in the preseason when he was a writer for Cat Crave. He's freelancing it now over at the Bleacher Report. You can also hit him up on Twitter.

1. The Panthers obviously haven't lived up to their expectations this year and are in line for the #1 pick in next April's draft. That said, you are coming off a win over Arizona, so there obviously have been some positive things happening too. What have you been most impressed with from the Panthers this year?

I would say the area I am most impressed with this season is on defense. It was this team's biggest area of question going into the 2010 season, and I believe it's proven a lot of naysayers wrong. I was sort of skeptical of the defense coming into this season, but at the same time I knew that if this young D had heart, it wouldn't matter how big or small the guys are. The look small, but they play big and that's what matters most.

2. You were our Behind Enemy Lines guest back in the preseason when these two teams met and mentioned how you felt Matt Moore really hadn't progressed from the end of last season through this preseason. With Jimmy Clausen now at the helm, how have you felt with his performance at quarterback? Do you think he is the long-term answer for the team or do you think Carolina will be using the #1 pick on a quarterback (Andrew Luck if he comes out)?

Truthfully I'm torn on Andrew Luck. I'm not sold on Clausen, but I'm not labeling him a bust, either. The offensive line that I thought was worthy of being a top-five has been anything but. As for Clausen, I believe he's shown some improvement throughout the season. I don't think much can be attributed to quarterbacks coach Rip Scherer, but I think it's more of Clausen's own self-development. I feel it's unfair to evaluate any quarterback with the offensive line and lame-duck coaching staff in place this season. If Luck is available, then I don't see how it could hurt the Panthers to draft him. It doesn't mean he has to be the starting quarterback, but who knows what could happen in training camp and preseason. Maybe he is the real deal. I think he's done too well in college to not be drafted by any team with the number one over all pick, which currently belongs to Carolina.
3.Those of us who are on Twitter have seen your name change to @Fire_John_Fox, and have a pretty good sense of where you stand on Carolina's current coaching situation. Who would you like to see the Panthers go after for their head coaching job? What do you think the Panthers will actually do?

If I could, I would have also added Jeff_Davidson_and_Rip_Scherer to the rest of the title, but it's time to move on. I respect Fox and what he was able to do with the Panthers, but his style and stubbornness have both gotten stale and stink. Right now it seems a good possibility that the Minnesota Vikings head coach could be Leslie Frazier. SO I'm going on the hunch that he won't be a likely candidate. My two top choices are Cardinals' offensive coordinator Russ Grimm and Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.

I'm curious to see how an "offensive-minded" coach could improve Carolina's offensive woes via the draft and free agency, but at the same time I can appreciate the success of defensive head coaches who have won championships. Ultimately, that's what I want to see in Carolina. A championship. They don't come often nor easy, and I expect it to be a while...a minimum of two to three years before the Panthers could be in serious Super Bowl discussions. I do believe that either Grimm or Fewell has what it takes to motivate and inspire a young Panthers team.

There's the desire amongst most fans to see Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh be hired by Carolina, but I'm just not a fan of college-turned-pro head coaches. So far, it's worked well once. Since Jimmy Johnson, at least three head coaches (Nick Saban, Miami Dolphins; Steve Spurrier, Washington Redskins; Bobby Petrino, Atlanta Falcons) have been a complete flop. College-to-pro coaches just don't have that glamor to me like it does to some.

4. In his press conference this week, Mike Tomlin referenced Carolina running the ball 45 times against Arizona. With numbers like that, we can definitely expect to see a lot of Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson.  Are there any "lesser-known" or "under-the-radar" players you expect to have a big impact on this game?

First, I wouldn't be so sure that we'll see a lot of running from Stewart and Goodson. It's possible, but it seems to me that John Fox is notorious for pulling the plug on anything that' know...working well. So we'll have to see. However, if he keeps the running game in the game plan, and they're able to effectively run against the Steelers defense, then it could be a long day for Pittsburgh. I personally don't see either happening. And it could very well be that Pittsburgh shuts down the run thereby scrapping the running game. I don't really think there are any hidden gems remaining on the active roster. Last I heard, Carolina has 52 men remaining. There's nobody waiting in reserve, as there are currently 14 guys in the Injured-Reserve list. Hopefully the team can finish its' last two games with little-to-no injuries.

5. Any other final thoughts?

Not really. I just hope I can find a place with NFL Network to go see the game! 

Around the NFL

It doesn't matter. If the Steelers win and Ravens lose, we clinch a first round bye. If the Ravens win, we still control our own destiny for the #2 seed. That's all you need to know.

Go Steelers!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

2010 College Bowl Preview

Guest Post by Michael S. Hit him up on Twitter: @SteelersTide74

Of course, I (Ian) couldn't resist adding my personal predictions in beside Michael's picks. Hope yinz enjoy his article!

With a slew of bowl games on tap for this bowl season featuring many mediocre teams. I thought it would be better to focus on the ten best bowl games of the season. I hope you enjoy the preview.

1. BCS Championship game

This one’s a no-brainer. This should be one of the better match ups in BCS history. You have the unstoppable Cam Newton against LaMichael James and an equally explosive offensive in Oregon. Cam Newton is simply the best football player I have seen play in 15 years. In fact he reminds me a lot of one Big Ben with his escapability. Alabama had the best chance to beat Newton and Auburn and was really the only team in conference play to hold him in the running game. But as Newton showed in the SEC championship game he is equally adept at beating you with his Arm. Look for Darvin Adams as well, he’s the featured man in Auburn’s passing attack. Former QB Kodi Burns is also a serviceable receiver. Onterrio McCaleb  is a key cog in the running game. Auburn has a bend or break defense. Ted Roof’s unit has gotten stronger as the season progressed. Nick Fairley is an absolute beast at the point of attack. As for Oregon they have a very explosive player in LaMichael James. James and the running game will be key because the only way to beat Auburn is to have balance. As the Alabama game showed, you have to maximize your opportunities in big games. I think this will be a great game but I think Newton and company will be too much. 

Michael's Pick: Auburn 45- Ducks 31
Ian's Pick: Auburn 27, Oregon 21

2. Allstate Sugar Bowl

I really like this game because it features two of the best QB’s in the land and one of the top receiving corps in the nation. Ryan Mallett has a cannon for an arm and he has all the tools that scouts covet. He’s a big kid at 6’8 and that helps him deliver his cannon shots to the receivers. Terrelle Pryor is also a fun QB to watch, he is Mr. Versatile.  Much like Newton he can beat you with his arm or his legs. The thing to watch for is if Ohio State can stop Arkansas passing attack. When Arkansas is on, they are very difficult to stop. The Ohio State defense will be a good test for Mallett and company. While Arkansas is dominant on offense they still struggle on the other side of the ball and that is why I think it will be a closer game than some might suggest. I think Ohio State keeps it close and they win.

Michael's Pick: OSU 21 Pig Sooooeeeeee 17
Ian's Pick: Ohio St 24, Arkansas 20

3. Rose Bowl

I like this game because I think TCU is one of the more underrated teams out there. Andy Dalton is a terrific playmaker and the TCU offense is prolific. They will be matched against a tough Wisconsin squad led by steamroller John Clay. While Wisconsin might be the trendy and safe pick here I am going to go with Dalton and TCU. I think they have the edge offensively and I think they are one of the more underrated defensive teams.

Michael's Pick: TCU 27-Wisconsin 20
Ian's Pick: Wisconsin 34, TCU 13

4.  Capital One Bowl.

I really like this match-up because it pits two quality teams against each other. The Capitol One Bowl is easily the best of the non BCS bowls. Alabama had a bit of a down year finishing the season at 9-3 while Michigan State is co-big 10 champs at 11-1. This game will feature explosive performers Julio Jones and Mark Ingram against Kirk Cousins and Greg Jones. While I think Michigan State has a legitimate shot at pulling the upset I think if Alabama comes prepared they will win the game. I think the combination of Julio Jones and Mark Ingram will prove to be too much for Michigan State. One area where the Tide will suffer is in the secondary where Safety Mark Barron will be out for the game. I look for this to be a highly entertaining contest and a much closer game than is being forecasted by the national media.

Michael's Pick: Bama 27- MSU 23
Ian's Pick: Alabama 31, Michigan St 17

5. Gator Bowl

This game is a big deal for the folks at Mississippi State. They have not been to a New Years day game in quite a long time. On the same hand it’s a big game for Michigan and for Rich Rod since his teams have been disappointing in his tenure. The Michigan people demand excellence and anything less could prove fatal to rich rod. Call me crazy but I am going with Miss State in this game. The underlying factor is the Michigan defense and how poor it has been this year. I think this game will be a shootout. I have State winning by a TD

Michael's Pick: MSU 42- UM 35
Ian's Pick: Mississippi St 17, Michigan 13

6. Valero Alamo Bowl

Year in and Year out this is one of the better bowls to watch as it usually goes down to the wire. This game will pit Oklahoma State and their high flying offense against Arizona. As with the Gator Bowl I think this game could be a shootout and it will come down to who makes the most stops on the defensive side of the ball. I think Oklahoma State will have enough on offense and just enough on defense to get the win. But don’t be surprised if Zona wins this game.

Michael's Pick: OSU-42 Zona 38
Ian's Pick: Oklahoma St 35, Arizona 13

7.  The Cotton Bowl

This game features two former rivals. Texas A&M and LSU used to meet each other in the regular season so the two fan-bases are no strangers to each other. The Question in this game will be which LSU offense will show up. Texas A&M finished the season on a very strong note by beating both Texas and Nebraska. Don’t expect a lot of points in this game, expect stout defenses and at least one trick play from the mad hatter.

Michael's Pick: LSU 17- A&M 14
Ian's Pick: Texas A&M 24, LSU 20

8. Holiday Bowl

I put the Holiday bowl in this list because it has featured some of the most entertaining games in the bowl season. This year’s match-up might seem less than appealing but it features some pro prospects in Jared Crick and Jake Locker that we should keep our eyes on. Overall I think Martinez and company will be too much for the Huskies. They are still steamed at losing that Big 12 game and they take their frustrations out on the Huskies.

Michael's Pick: Big Red 42 U-Dub 17
Ian's Pick: Black Shirts 31, Washington 10

9. Hyundai Sun Bowl

Catholics vs. Convicts all over again, I can remember vividly the 88 Irish win over Miami which was fraught with bitter controversy in a 31-30 Irish win. Notre Dame and Miami might not be the powers they used to be but the Sun Bowl usually provides a pretty entertaining match-up  I think the Hurricane defense will be the difference in this game and I see the canes winning.

Michael's Pick: UM 24 ND 10
Ian's Pick: The U 21, Touchdown Jesus 17

10. Outback Bowl.

This is the end of the Urban Meyer era, the man who brought the spread and Tim Tebow to the SEC is taking some time off and leaving the Florida program, On the other side of the field you have the indomitable will that is Joe Paterno, one of the greatest coaches to walk the sideline. This game will be fraught with emotion for the Florida players as they will want to send Meyer out with a win. I think they will do that but it’s going to be very close. 

Michael's Pick: UF 21- PSU 17
Ian's Pick: Penn St 84, Florida -7