Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Daily Erin Andrews: Hottest Athletes of 2008

As part of a personal thank you from everyone here at Walker-Sports for all of your support over the past year. We would like to share with you our list of the hottest athletes of 2008. So check them out, let us know what you think, and enjoy.

College Football Pick'em News Years Day Games

New Years Day means hangovers and while you were probably up too late the night before and you may already be regretful for how you brought in 2009, there is a slight measure of redemption. New Years day is a time to sit at home on your sofa and watch all the great bowl games. That’s right college football can heal all wounds. So let’s take a look at our College Football Pick’em for New Years Day.

Outback Bowl South Carolina vs. Iowa: The Iowa Hawkeyes had their breakout moment of 2008 when they knocked off then undefeated Penn State. While that win gave the Hawkeyes national accolades, their best player still went widely unnoticed on the national scene. That is until he won the Doak Walker award for the nation’s top tailback. All Shonn Greene did this season was rack up over 1,700 yards on the ground. Greene is the only back in the country to rush for over 100 yards in every game this season he also scored a touchdown in all but one game on the year. Not bad for a guy who was moving furniture and attending community college last season.

The Iowa defense is one of the strongest defenses in the country. The Hawkeyes were able to hold opponents to nine points or less in five games this season. In addition they forced 20 interceptions this season, that’s good enough to lead the Big 10 in that category. This could prove to be very important for the Hawkeyes, considering that South Carolina has had a mess at the quarterback position all season. Chris Smelley tossed 15 interceptions this season, and while Stephen Garcia got the nod to be the starter for the Outback Bowl, you can bet that it won’t take much for Steve Spurrier to pull the plug on him.

The Gamecocks have been an up and down team all season, but then again what else would you expect from a Steve Spurrier coached team, controversy goes with the territory. South Carolina crumbled down the stretch losing their last two games by a combined score of 87-20. Needless to say, the Gamecocks need to have a good outing in the Outback Bowl.

Despite being coached by Steve Spurrier, South Carolina has struggled on offense. They currently rank eighth in the SEC in scoring averaging just 21.9 points a game. Part of the reason for the Gamecocks inability to perform on offense is their complete lack of a running game. South Carolina only averaged 98 yards a game on the ground. That is not enough of a threat to scare any opposing defense. It also means that teams can attack the South Carolina quarterbacks. It doesn’t matter if it is Garcia or Smelley in the pocket, neither one can pass the ball effectively when they are on their back.

The Iowa Hawkeyes are a four point favorite entering the Outback Bowl. Considering the fact that South Carolina has played poorly in their last two outings, I expect that trend to continue. If the Gamecocks go down early and begin to struggle, look for Spurrier to press the panic button, and that will spell the end of their chances of finishing the season on a high note.

Capital One Bowl Georgia vs. Michigan State: Michigan State had a surprising season. Surprising because with one game left in the season, they had an opportunity to win the Big 10 title and play in the Rose Bowl. Obviously that did not happen. Michigan State fell short of the Rose Bowl because the Spartans were unable to compete with any of the big boys in their conference (OSU, PSU). For the most part, the Spartans are a one trick pony. That one trick is tailback Javon Ringer. When Penn State and Ohio State bottled up Ringer they were able to dominate Michigan State. However, the Spartans are playing the Georgia Bulldogs. The same team that blew a double digit led and gave up over 400 yards on the ground. The Bulldogs have had a rough season. They began the year the king of the mountain and before they even lost a game, they were ousted from the number one ranking. To add to insult to injury, Georgia did absolutely nothing to earn back their number one ranking all season. The Georgia Bulldogs are not a very good team. However, when it comes to bowl games sometimes you can fall into the perfect situation. This is one of those situations. Georgia is a heavily flawed team, but they are playing a Michigan State team that plays right into their strengths. The spread favors Georgia by eight and a half points, I expect the Georgia defense to bottle up Javon Ringer and hold on to cover the spread and win the Outback Bowl.

Gator Bowl Nebraska vs. Clemson: The Nebraska Cornhuskers are excited about the opportunity to play against an ACC opponent in the Gator Bowl. The Cornhuskers are excited because playing an ACC team means their defense will not be stretched to the limit chasing players all over the field trying to keep up with their spread offenses. ACC teams don’t run the spread (at least not yet). There is one problem with this however, last time Nebraska played an ACC team; they were unable to stop their power running attack. Virginia Tech ran for 206 yards when they played Nebraska earlier in the season. What Nebraska does do well is eat up time on the clock. Gone are the attempts of running a West Coast Offense. Nowadays the Cornhuskers run just about the most balanced attack in the country, and they are pretty good at it. The Clemson Tigers changed coaches in October and it actually helped them out as they finished the season on a high note winning four of their last five games. All the weapons that were supposed to make the Tigers a national powerhouse this season are still in place, and once Tommy Bowden was gone, they seemed to be able to live up to at least a portion of that preseason hype. Clemson is a three point favorite entering the Gator Bowl. While this may not be the bowl game that Tiger fans envisioned when the season began, they are happy to be in a bowl game when things looked very bleak at the beginning of the season. Look for Clemson to utilize their running game to control the clock and win the game thus covering the three point spread.

Rose Bowl Penn State vs. USC: Despite being an east coast guy I have had the opportunity to watch USC play in person this season, and they looked damn good on that occasion, granted they were playing UVA. The Trojans have been an interesting team to watch this year. They may have the best defense I have ever seen in college football history. However, this year’s USC team lacks the high powered offense we have become accustomed to see from the Trojans over the past few seasons. This means USC often finds themselves in tight contest with inferior teams. This was the case when they played rival UCLA. Despite winning that game, UCLA was never out of reach. Playing in a tight game like that against Penn State could prove to be dangerous. UCLA has not faced a team of Penn State’s caliber all season. The PSU defense posses the ability to bottle up the Trojans struggling offense. Penn State’s spread formation will not experience the level of success they are accustomed to in the Big 10 but it should at least put them in some good scoring positions. The spread favors USC by 10 points, but I have a feeling this game will most likely resemble an old school Rose Bowl. Meaning it will be a grind it out type of game, with defense leading the way. USC will win the game, but Penn State will keep things close and cover the 10 point spread.

Orange Bowl Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati: This is without a doubt the least appealing of all the BCS Bowl game. Not sure how it worked out that the once great Orange Bowl, has turned into such a stinker of a bowl game. The Poinsettia Bowl actually showcased two higher ranked teams. Despite the lack of sex appeal involved with this year’s Orange Bowl, the Cincinnati Bearcats should be proud of how far their program has come in a relatively short amount of time. The New Year’s Day game with Virginia Tech also gives the Bearcats a chance to exact revenge on the Hookies for their come from behind victory against Cincinnati back in 2006. Cincinnati’s Tony Pike has transformed into a solid quarterback, and he has the stats to back up that claim passing for 2,168 yards and 18 touch downs. However, putting up yards or points will be difficult against a Virginia Tech team that always showcases a strong defense. On defense the Bearcats will have their hands full. Virginia Tech seems to throw the kitchen sink at opponents now days. Not because the run a gimmicky offense, but rather they are looking for some form of stability. In their season finale against instate rival Virginia; the Hookies used three quarterbacks in a variety of formations. Each QB brings their own unique set of tools to the field. The spread favors the Bearcats by two and a half points. Virginia Tech has a history of blowing big bowl games, but this is Cincinnati’s first experience in the big game. They will not be ready for the intensity of the moment. Virginia Tech wins the game and covers the two and a half point spread.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mike Shanahan Fired as Broncos Coach

Yesterday was known as black Monday around the NFL due to all the coaching being fired. Today we have news out of Denver that the firings in the NFL have not ended just yet. Mike Shanahan of the Denver Broncos was fired.

This comes as a surprising move considering that Mike Shanahan was one of the longest tenured coaches in the NFL However, the Broncos late season collapse seems to have been too much for management to handle. There have always been critics that said Shanahan was simply the product of John Elway, and the Broncos lackluster performances since Elway's retirement could make anyone believe that speculation.

College Football Pick'em New Years Eve Games

It’s New Year’s Eve and that means plenty of alcohol and good times. But before you get too drunk to remember, sit down and pregame while watching a couple of great college bowl games. Besides what better way to get ready for a night on than town than throwing back a few beers while watching gridiron. Like you have anything better to do anyways.

Sun Bowl Oregon State vs. Pittsburgh: The Oregon State Beavers were one game away from a memorable season. Sure they beat USC earlier this season, and playing in the Sun Bowl is nothing to sneeze at. But when you have a chance to wrap up the Pac-10 and play in the Rose Bowl and all you need to do is win on your home turf against your instate rival, and you lay an egg in that game the season just seems to be a bit of a letdown. However, despite a horrible performance in the season finale the Beavers will actually be stronger going into their bowl game. Freshmen running back Quizz Rogers looks to be back in the lineup after missing the Oregon game with a shoulder injury. Reintroducing him to the Beavers offense should provide a level of balance and some explosion in their rushing game that they were desperately missing in November. Over the course of the season, the Beavers transformed into a pretty good defensive team, they managed to lead the Pac-10 in overall defense for the final two months of the season. Oregon State has a tendency to struggle against that run the spread offense and have mobile quarterbacks, lucky for the Beavers Pitt does not have either.

The Pitt Panthers may be one of the toughest teams in college football. Not because they are the hardest hitting or the hardest running team in the country, Pitt is tough because they were able to withstand the onslaught of doubters and critics they faced after losing the season opener to Bowling Green. One reason for the renewed success of the Panthers program is the shake and bake skills of running back LeSean McCoy. All McCoy did this season was record 21 touchdowns, leaving him one short of NFL Hall of Famer and Pitt alum Tony Dorsett. There is no doubt if Pitt wants to have any measure of success in this game it will come with a healthy dose of LeSean McCoy. On defense the Panthers will turn middle linebacker Scott McKillop. Currently McKillop leads the nations in solo tackles, and he is the only player in the Big East to average more than 10 tackles a game. It will be up to Scott McKillop to keep Oregon State’s Quizz Rogers in check.

The spread on this game favors Oregon State by three points. Considering the makeup of these two teams that seems fairly accurate. I expect this to be a tight contest with a special teams play being the deciding factor. With that being said, Pitt has made more plays on special teams this year than just about anyone in the nation. Look for the Pitt Panthers to pull the upset and win the game.

Music City Bowl Boston College vs. Vanderbilt: Yes you read that correctly, Vanderbilt is playing in a bowl game. It has been 26 years since the Commodores last reached a bowl game; even the mighty Jay Cutler could not get them over the hump into the post season Promised Land. Unfortunately for Vandy they are matching up against a very good Boston College team. If it was not for the fact that the Boston College faithful do not travel well, BC would not even be in the Music City Bowl. Boston College is a very good team with a defense that has been ranked in the top 10 nationally all season. That spells trouble for a Vanderbilt program that has struggled to get anything going on offense all season. The spread favors Boston College by four points, and I love those odds. It’s great to see Vanderbilt in a bowl game, but they will not be able to match up against Boston College.

Armed Forces Bowl Houston vs. Air Force: If this seems like a familiar match up to some of you, that’s because we saw these two team play each other back on September 13. Air Force emerged victorious in that meeting. Since then, the Air Force Falcons have seemingly turned over their entire roster in an effort to jumpstart their offense. Air Force replaced their quarterback and their tailback midway through the season, in an effort to jumpstart their triple-option attack. Despite losing to Air Force earlier in the season, the Houston Cougars are a very good football team. They were implementing a new spread offense in the early part of the season, and it took the players several weeks to adjust to the new scheme. How effective was the new offense? The Cougars racked up over 600 in each of their last four games. The Spread favors Houston by three and a half points. While Air Force is a good team, I don’t believe they can keep pace with Houston.

Insight Bowl Kansas vs. Minnesota: The Minnesota Gophers were a much improved 7-5 team this season. Minnesota used a new spread offense to work their way to a post season bid. Perhaps the new look caught some teams off guard. Unfortunately for the Gophers they became a little too addicted to their spread attack. Minnesota basically abandoned their rushing attack this season, and it caused them some problems. This is why a new offensive line coach was brought in, and this why the focus of the winter practices has been running the ball. The reward their improved play on the field the Gophers will take on a strong Big 12 North team in the Kansas Jayhawks. Last year Kansas took the nation by storm and rode their success to a BCS Bowl victory over Virginia Tech. This season the Jayhawks returned to earth, but they are still a solid team. Todd Reesing may be the second coming of Doug Flutie and that is by no way meant as an insult. When given weapons he is a very accurate and an extremely dangerous quarterback. The spread on this game favors Kansas by 10 points. While I believe Kansas will win the game, I think that Minnesota has what it takes to keep things interesting and keep it a close game.

Chick-fil-A-Bowl LSU vs. Georgia Tech: This is not where LSU wanted to be when they began their season in August. There is no other way to put it; the 2008 season was a disappointment. LSU head coach Les Miles already admitted there will be changes in Baton Rouge next season. The first change the Tigers should make is finding some stability at the quarterback position, but that’s next season, let’s talk more about the Peach Bowl (yes that’s what this bowl used to be). Georgia Tech was a pleasant surprise in the ACC this season. New head coach Paul Johnson wasted no time implementing his triple-option attack. The Yellow Jackets proved to the nation that the triple-option works in major college football, don’t believe me just ask the Georgia Bulldogs how well the option attacks works. The spread on this game favors Georgia Tech by four and a half points. While LSU may be a more athletically talented team all around, they are a team in disarray right now. Les Miles has already turned his focus to next season, and many of his players have little interest in traveling to Atlanta to play in a bowl game just one year after playing for a national title. LSU’s disinterest will be a blessing for the Rambling Wreck as they march to victory.

Monday, December 29, 2008

College Football Pick'em New Years Week

Alright let me welcome everyone to the second week of the 2008/08 College Football Bowl season, let me also take a moment out to welcome you to the second week of our College Bowl Game Pick’em. Last week I posted a 3-2 record against the spread, and I got to admit I am pretty proud of that. Now let’s take a look at what's coming down the pike in the upcoming week. Let’s begin with the bowl games being played on Tuesday.

Humanitarian Bowl Maryland vs. Nevada: The Maryland Terrapins are making the trip out west to play on the blue field of Boise State, and you can believe that no one on the Maryland roster is excited about their trip out west. The Terps have been an up and down team all season, and they have the 7-5 record to prove it, they spent a majority of the year bouncing around the bottom portion of the Top 25. Despite their inconsistency the Terps did manage to rack up wins against ranked opponents Wake Forest and Cal. The Maryland offense has gone through two phases during this season. In the early part they were highly explosive and relied on their big play receiver Darrius Hayward-Bey. However, as the season progressed teams adjusted their coverage to keep up with the speedy receiver and as a result Maryland struggled to maintain long drives.

The Nevada Wolf Pack are a fun team to watch, that’s just my personal opinion. They run an offensive set that you won’t see very often, it’s called the ‘pistol,’ and it’s Chris Ault’s variation on the spread option that has become so common in college football. The Wolf Pack’s offense is headed by their dual threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick, with him calling the signals and using his legs, Nevada was able to end the season with the second ranked rushing offense in the country. Throw in running back Vai Taua who accounted for over 1,400 yards on the ground, and you have one high powered offense that is capable of putting up points on anyone. The question is can the defense remain strong and keep their opponents out of the end zone.

The spread is favoring Nevada by two points. After the Wolf Packs season finale against Louisiana Tech, head coach Chris Ault stated it was a landmark moment for his program. This is a good for Nevada but bad for a Maryland Terrapins program that is anything but excited about traveling to Boise. Look for the Wolf Pack to use their momentum and cover the spread and win the game.

Texas Bowl Western Michigan vs. Rice: In many ways the Rice Owls are the most improved program that you never heard a thing about this past season. A year ago Rice was 3-9 at this point, now they are 9-3, sporting an intimidating spread attack and looking just their second 10 win season in school history. In addition to sporting a school record breaking spread offense in 2008, the Owls also sported a strong 4-2-5 defense. The Owls defense was aggressive at the point of attacked and they managed to force 29 turnovers and register 22 sacks.

Western Michigan is coming off a great season where they finished with a 9-3 record. On offense, the Broncos were juggernauts in the MAC quarterback Tim Heller led the conference in passing averaging 293 yards a game, and he tossed 34 touchdown passes. Putting up points has not been a problem for Western Michigan, but keeping teams off the score board has been anything but easy. The defense was so bad at one point this season head coach Bill Cubit actually broke up his defense by replacing several of his starters. It was a move that yielded average results.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect about this year’s Texas Bowl is what Western Michigan went through to get to this game. By finishing in second place in the MAC, Western Michigan were eligible to participate in the Independence Bowl, this would have meant a bigger payout for the Broncos. However, Western Michigan chose to make the trip to Texas instead, thus clearing the path for Northern Illinois to travel to the Independence Bowl. As a result the two MAC schools will combine and share their bowl payouts.

The spread on the game favors rice by three points. Oh did I mention this game is being playing in Houston in Rice’s back yard? To bottom line it, Rice is ready to make a move in the right direction that means they step up and win the Texas Bowl and cover the spread.

Holiday Bowl Oklahoma State vs. Oregon: The Holiday Bowl has always been one of my favorite bowl games to watch. Mainly because it typically features two good teams from major conferences going head to head in a situation they would rarely if ever be in. This year, the Holiday Bowl is living up to the hype by placing a solid Oregon squad against the high powered Oklahoma State Cowboys both teams are ranked within the top 15 nationally.

The Oregon Ducks are one of the highest scoring teams in the country, and they will likely continue that streak when they enter the 2008 Holiday Bowl in San Diego. Jeremiah Masoli took over as the signal caller for the Ducks as the season wound down, and with his duel threat ability he guided the Ducks to the eighth ranked offense in the country. Oregon is also responsible for the fourth ranked rushing attack in the country. This could pose a problem for an Oklahoma State defense that is known to give up points, and ranks just 73rd in scoring defense. The one weakness of the Oregon offense is they struggle in their passing attack. This is kind of ironic considering the Ducks won nine games and never scored less than 30 points in any of those games. To offset their inability to be effective in the passing game, look for Oregon offensive coordinator Chip Kelly to be very created in his play calling with the goal of generating more points and being able to keep up with Oklahoma State.

Mike Gundy has turned Oklahoma State into a powerhouse. It has only been four years since Gundy arrived in Stillwater Oklahoma and the Oklahoma State Cowboys are a force to be reckoned with. Mike Gundy is responsible for calling plays for one of the highest powered spread attacks in the country. Even in defeat, the Cowboys were able to put up big points with their offense on the field. Despite improvements on the defensive side of the ball under the coaching of Tim Beckman (now Toledo’s head coach) the Cowboys still give up a lot of points. Lucky for Oklahoma State the only teams that have been able to stop them are the teams that have been able to outscore them Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Texas.

The current spread on this game favors the Oklahoma State Cowboys by three points. More interesting however, could be that the over/under is set at 77 points, and I fully believe these teams will blow that mark away. This will be a game where the last team with the ball and a chance to score will win. That team will be Oklahoma State.

2010 Pro-Bowl to Proceed the Super Bowl

The 2010 Pro-Bowl will take place during the bye week between the conference championships and the Super Bowl. Both of these events will be held in the new Dolphin Stadium. This move signals a change in tradition of holding the Pro-Bowl the week after the Super Bowl.

The Pro-Bowl is traditionally held in Honolulu Hawaii, so needless to say scheduling for the players participating in the Pro-Bowl will be an issue

College Football Pick'em Recapping the Early Bowl Games

So the 2008 College Bowl season is well underway, and here at Walker-Sports we are knee deep in our College Bowl Pick’em game. And just for those of you who are keeping score, we decided to take a look back at the games that were played last week over Christmas, and show you how we stacked up with our picks. Warning this could get a little ugly.

Poinsettia Bowl TCU 17 vs. Boise State 16: TCU came into this game with the second ranked defense in college football, and they proved why they are worth of holding that honor. Boise State is a high powered team that can score points in a variety of different ways. However, in the end the TCU defense was too tough. After giving up an early lead, TCU controlled the line of scrimmage and they shut down the Broncos offense. TCU came into the game a three point favorite, they were unable to cover the spread, but they walked away with the victory, that means Walker-Sports split on this game.

Hawaii Bowl Notre Dame 49 Hawaii 21: This was the best game I have seen the fighting Irish play since Lou Holtz was calling the plays on the sidelines. Nothing else to say other than I was wrong. Jimmy Clausen played the game of his life completing 22 of 26 passes for a total of 401 yards and five touchdowns. There is no doubt that Charlie Weis’ team put it all together for this bowl game. As a result Notre Dame was able to break losing streak in bowl games that had extended for over a decade and included nine consecutive bowl losses. This may be the watershed moment for the Fighting Irish were they can build towards the future. Notre Dame was a two point favorite entering the game, and obviously they covered that with ease.

Motor City Bowl Florida Atlantic 24 vs. Central Michigan 21: FAU ended the 2008 college football seasons as one of the hottest teams in the country. After a dismal start FAU fought all year long to earn the right to play in a bowl game. On the day after Christmas, they were in Detroit playing Central Michigan and they continued to fight. There was no spread on this game, but we picked Central Michigan to win, which they were obviously unable to do, so I guess this one goes down as a lost against us.

Emerald Bank Bowl: Cal 24 vs. Miami (Fl) 17: The Miami Hurricanes are a young team with a lot of potential. In the late game on Saturday night they proved that theory to be correct. The Canes traveled across the country to play in what was basically a home game for the Cal Bears. Miami went down 14-0 early in the game, but they regained composure and fought hard to make this an interesting game. However, in the end, Cal was simply too much to handle. Javid Best is an absolute stud at tailback for Cal, and there is no doubt he will be high on my Heisman ballot entering next season. His ability to rip off long runs seemingly at will was too much for Miami to overcome. Best finished the day with 20 carries and 186 yards. The spread had Cal favored by eight points, and they were unable to cover that, but they did get the win, so once again that means Walker-Sports split on this game.

Champs Sports Bowl Florida State 42 vs. Wisconsin 13: Bobby Bowden still has a few bullets left in the old gun. That’s all I could think while watching this game on Saturday evening. In many ways this looked like a vintage Florida State team that was paced by their defense. Florida State manhandled Wisconsin throughout the Champs Sports Bowl. The Seminoles recovered three fumbles turning them into 21 points. With their defense playing so well, Florida State was able to open up their offense and take some risk that we have not seen them take in some years. The spread favored Florida State by six points and they easily covered that margin.

Meinke Car Care Bowl: West Virginia 31 vs. UNC 30: Without a doubt this proved to be one of the most entertaining games of the bowl season. The North Carolina Tar Heels were playing in Charlotte in what should have amounted to a home game, but there would be no home field advantage on Saturday afternoon. The Tar Heels and the Mountaineers were in a shootout, and the last one with the ball would emerge victorious. The West Virginia defense looked horrible for much of the game as they were unable to contain UNC wide out Hakeem Nicks who caught 8 passes for 203 yards and three touchdowns. However, West Virginia QB Pat White proved why he has been the pillar of the Mountaineer program for the past four seasons. White completed 26 of 32 passes for 332 yards and three touchdowns. Not bad for a quarterback who is supposed to be a runner first and a passer second. In a game that showcased offense, it would be defense that proved to be the deciding factor. West Virginia forced two key turnovers in the late moments of the game and they were able to escape with the victory. The spread favored West Virginia by one and a half points and they were unable to cover that mark, so once again Walker-Sports split the decision on this game.

College Football Pick'em Bowl Results
Against the spread: 3-2
Straight Up: 3-3