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The College Football Report: Postseason Predictions From A Free Range Chicken As Well As Some Non-Fowl Pundits
In part four of our season preview, we introduce The College Football Report Free Range Chicken. The CFR FRC joins our ranks along with the returning Sports Seal this year. While the Seal will continue to focus on (largely inaccurate) gambling predictions, we welcome the Chicken for arbitrary picks and commentary. We can't let you in on the Chicken's methods but suffice it to say that the Chinese calendar, Kellogg's Cornflakes and a University of Delaware tube sock are involved.
To showcase our poultry's prognosticatory powers, we present for your perusal the premiere of the Free Range Chicken Postseason predictions . . . paired with those from non-fowl pundits:
Monday, January 2, 2012 - Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA)
Big Ten champion vs. Pac-12 champion
Lindy's: Nebraska vs. Oregon
Phil Steele: Oregon vs. Nebraska
USA Today: Stanford vs. Michigan State
College Football Report Free Range Chicken: Illinois vs. Arizona
Monday, January 2, 2012 - Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, AZ)
Big 12 champion vs. BCS At-large
Lindy's: Oklahoma State vs. Boise State
Phil Steele: Notre Dame vs. Boise State
USA Today: Oklahoma State vs. Notre Dame
College Football Report Free Range Chicken: Iowa vs. Utah
Tuesday, January 3, 2012 - Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, LA)
SEC champion vs. BCS At-large
Lindy's: LSU vs. Stanford
Phil Steele: LSU vs. Texas A&M
USA Today: LSU vs. Oregon
College Football Report: Florida vs. Notre Dame
Wednesday, January 4, 2012 - Orange Bowl (Miami, FL)
ACC champion vs. BCS At-large
Lindy's: Florida State vs. West Virginia
Phil Steele: Virginia Tech vs. Pittsburgh
USA Today: Florida State vs. South Florida
College Football Report Free Range Chicken: Boston College vs. Cincinnati
Monday, January 9, 2012 - 2012 BCS National Championship Game (New Orleans, LA)
BCS #1 vs. BCS #2
Lindy's: Oklahoma vs. Alabama
Phil Steele: Alabama vs. Oklahoma
USA Today: Alabama vs. Oklahoma
College Football Report Free Range Chicken: Baylor vs. Alabama
Well, that's odd. The Chicken may be onto something. Apart from the BCS title game, none of those picks look too outlandish. Well, okay . . . Illinois, Arizona, Cincinnati . . . let's move on, shall we? Below, you will find the next stage of our Other 25 preview, this week featuring teams between #36 (UNC) and #31 (Northwestern).
36. The North Carolina Tar Heels (8-5, 4-4 in the ACC, W vs. Tennessee: Music City Bowl)
Comment: In one of the more curious offseason moves, the North Carolina Board of Trustees fired head coach Butch Davis in late July - this after Davis had signed a recruiting class, presided over spring practice and almost all the way to preseason. The NCAA had already issued a Notice of Allegations a month prior that outlined numerous "potential major violations" including unethical conduct by former assistant coach John Blake, players receiving improper benefits and a problematic relationship with a former tutor. Yet the investigation concluded last December and sordid details about Davis' regime had surfaced as early as the 2010 preseason. Compared to the Jim Tressel situation at Ohio State, in which school officials deliberated for only fourth months before firing the legendary coach, we have to wonder if the Trustees at UNC are complacent, incompetent or (worse yet) complicit in undermining the school's reputation in return for glory on the gridiron.
Upset Potential: North Carolina dodges Florida State this year and only faces one ranked team (#13 Virginia Tech) late in the season. While unlikely - given change of command - if UNC can somehow squeak past the Hokies to win the Coastal Division, the Tarheels may land in the ACC championship game.
35. The Air Force Falcons (9-4, 5-3 in the Mountain West, W vs. Georgia Tech: Independence Bowl)
Comment: The Falcons rolled over many teams last season with a rushing attack that averaged more than 300 yards per game, good for second in the country. Air Force will run the ball using the triple option offense until the opposing defense proves they can stop it. And then they will run it some more, because the odds are good that the opposing team won't stop it again on the Falcons' next possession.
Upset Potential: In addition to conference powerhouses Boise State (#5) and TCU (#16), the Falcons face a formidable opponent in non-conference play: #16 Notre Dame. Air Force may match up well against the Irish and star wideout Michael Floyd however, as two seniors in the secondary (CB Anthony Wright and FS Jon Davis) both earned honorable mentions in the All-MWC honors in 2010. While the Falcons probably won't bust the BCS or earn an invite to the Las Vegas Bowl (which picks first from the MWC), odds are good that the Poinsettia Bowl will come calling to match up Air Force against Hawaii (probable WAC champion) or Navy (if the Midshipmen are bowl eligible). The latter would prove to be a dream match-up for the service academies and fans.
34. The University of Michigan Wolverines (7-6, 3-5 in the Big Ten, L vs. Mississippi State: Gator Bowl)
Comment: The Wolverines will try to move on from the horrendous Rodriguez era this season as new head coach Brady Hoke dons the maize-and-blue. Hoke has turned around struggling programs before - most recently at his alma mater Ball State, where he took the Cardinals into the MAC championship game (2008), sequential bowl games (2007-2008) and, for the first ever in school history, the AP Top 25. After the 2008 season, Hoke left for San Diego State and performed a similar CPR job for the Aztecs. SDSU concluded the 2010 season with nine wins (a first since 1971) and a bowl win - the school's first since a win in '69 in the (now defunct) Pasadena Bowl.
Hoke's first challenge will be to completely turn around both the offense and defense. The goofy 3-3-5 formation of last season proved too yielding for the Big Ten . . . maybe even the MAC. The Wolverines ranked dead last in the conference in 2010 in total defense (450.8 ypg), scoring defense (35.2 ppg) and pass defense (261.9 ypg). On offense, Michigan fielded an exciting unit led by QB Dernard "Shoelaces" Robinson. We loved Robinson's play so much last season that we compared him at one point to "Tecmo Bo" Jackson. But this year, Robinson and the Michigan "O" will line up in a more conventional West Coast offense. Nobody asked us, but we're not sure the West Coast system will allow Shoelaces to do his thing.
Upset Potential: Before producing results on the field, Hoke must hang onto his vaunted recruiting class. Highly touted freshman tight end (ranked #16 TE in his class by Scout.com) Chris Barnett bid Ann Arbor farewell this week to enroll at the University of Oklahoma. So long, Chris! Enjoy the cornfields.
The Wolverines face four ranked teams this season but three games will be in the cavernous confines of the Big House. A bowl game seems within reach, which will please Michigan faithful after only one postseason appearance in the three years under "Rich Rod." To get there, Hoke's squad will need to hold serve in nearly every match-up versus unranked teams or pull a stunner against Notre Dame (#16), Michigan State (#17), Nebraska (#10) or dreaded rival Ohio State (#18).
33. The University of Central Florida Knights (11-3, 7-1 in Conference USA, W vs. Georgia: Liberty Bowl)
Comment: The Knights appeared in the Top 25 for the first time in school history (#25 AP, #23 USA Today) last season and promptly laid an egg, losing a conference game to unranked Southern Miss 31-21. Oh well, it was a good run - for one week. But UCF went on to finish the remainder of the season in style capped off by a hard-fought victory Georgia. With the Liberty Bowl win, the Knights announced themselves as a new mid-tier national power and expect to be in the mix for the Conference USA championship.
Upset Potential: The UCF schedule does not list any AP Top 25 teams - yet. But a few opponents, particularly BYU, stand a fair chance of slipping into the poll at some point this season. We like the Knights to win the C-USA title game and slip into the Liberty Bowl with the opportunity to humble another SEC squad.
32. The Arizona Wildcats (7-6, 4-5 in the Pac-10, L vs. Oklahoma State: Alamo Bowl)
Comment: We can't remember the last time Arizona was legitimately good. With only one conference title (1993) and a 6-10-1 all-time record in bowl games, you could argue that the program has nowhere to go but up. We understand the enthusiasm in Tucson, but we would advise the Wildcats to set some modest goals before speculating about the Pac-12 title game. Then again, what do we know?
Upset Potential: Brutal. Just brutal. Arizona faces four Top 25 teams (in a row!) in the first five games of 2011 including three from the Top 10. By the time UA has run that gauntlet, the trip to Corvallis to play Oregon State may feel like a bridge too far for these poor bastards.
31. The Northwestern Wildcats (7-6, 3-5 in the Big Ten, L vs. Texas Tech: TicketCity Bowl)
Comment: Quarterback Dan Persa tossed his final pass last season on November 13 against Iowa. The touchdown lob gave Northwestern the win but Persa strained his Achilles on his celebratory leap, benching him for the remainder of the season. Without Persa, Northwestern lost the three remaining games of the season including the TicketCity bowl. Coach Pat Fitzgerald has NU in line for a fourth consecutive bowl game and an outside shot (9/1) to win the new Legends division of the Big Ten.
Upset Potential: Avoid Northwestern as a betting-line favorite: when "giving" points the Wildcats are 5-17 since early 2006. But hammer the money line when the 'Cats play at home against a ranked opponent - in the past two seasons, Northwestern has gone 2-2 including wins against conference foes Iowa (#13) and Wisconsin (#16).
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