WEMO FB Week 8 by James Damon

damonOnly one game remained to determine the final standings for the WEMO conference as the Rich Hill Tigers hosted the Archie Whirlwinds.  It was another high-scoring shoot-out as the Tigers would nab their second win in the last three weeks, defeating the Winds 42-25.  All other WEMO squads played in non-con battles, as Adrian visited Sherwood and handed the Marksmen another shutout loss, as the Blackhawks cruised 28-0.  Cass-Midway visited Lighthouse Christian and held the normally potent offense of the Chargers to one lone score, as the Vikings thumped LCA 26-7.  Appleton City hosted Chilhowee in another 8-man contest, and yet another scramble ensued as both teams marched up and down the field all night long. The Bulldogs would get the home win 70-42.  Osceola went on the road to battle a tough Cole Camp squad, and fell on the short end, losing 23-17, continuing their road woes, where they have encountered all three of their losses.  Drexel hosted the Jayhawk-Linn Jayhawks in another high-scoring battle that Drexel would run away with nabbing the win, 62-23.
Butler would host the Sarcoxie Bears in a non-conference clash and the home team would score early and often cruising to another lop-sided victory to push Butler to 7-1 on the season, winning 61-12.  Senior Devon Loveall would surpass the 1000 yard rushing mark on the season in the win.  The Bears travel to Summit Christian next weekend to play for the Crossroads Conference title.
John Huber had the KC Area Game of the Week over the week as the Ray-Pec Panthers hosted the Lee’s Summit Tigers in a mid-tier conference mash-up within the Suburban Gold.  It would remain close throughout, but the Panthers would win on their home turf, 35-28, in the game between class 6 rivals.
Cass-Midway Vikings 6-2, 5-1
Osceola Indians 5-3, 5-1
Adrian Blackhawks 5-3, 4-2
Drexel Bobcats 5-3, 3-3
Rich Hill Tigers 2-6, 2-4
Appleton City Bulldogs 3-5, 1-5 (*2 wins not MSHSAA counted; 8-man games)
Archie Whirlwinds 2-6, 1-5
Butler Bears 7-1, 2-0 (Crossroads Conference)

WEMO FB Week 7 by James Damon

damonLow scoring games provided the main story line for most of the WEMO this past weekend as three of the four games entertaining WEMO teams included two scores or less each!  The game of the week in the WEMO featured the Cass-Midway Vikings hosting the Rich Hill Tigers as the Vikes looked to bounce back from a loss to Class 2 Butler, and the Tigers looked to build on their first win of the season.  Each teams exchanged punts early in the contest until Midway’s third possession when they would string together a couple first downs and then watch junior RB Peyton Richardson ramble 29 yards for the score.  Luke Boyer kicked the PAT and Midway led 7-0 entering the second frame.  Rich Hill seemingly would get positive yardage to start every drive, then draw a penalty, take a sack, or another negative play, forcing consistent third and longs, and have to punt it away.  Midway would take their next possession down to a first and goal situation, watching the Tigers stone them three consecutive tries.  On a fourth down attempt from the two-yard line, senior Maverick Greer would bust across with solid second effort, and Boyer’s point after would provide all the game’s scoring!  The final would be 14-0 in favor of Midway, but the interesting stats were Midway offensively on fourth downs: 1-5, but the one they cashed in was huge for the TD.  The other stat line showed Midway’s defensive dominance, though it was not overwhelming, as Rich Hill seemingly could gain yards, but never first downs.  The Tigers amassed only two first downs on the night, one early in the third quarter and one very late in the game.  The Tigers fall to 1-6, Midway rebounds to 5-2 and claims a share of the WEMO regular season crown.
In a pivotal game determining a piece of the WEMO crown, Adrian hosted Osceola and the two battled scoreless until very late in the contest.  Osceola would punch one across resulting in the games’ only score to win 7-0, and also grab a piece of the WEMO crown.  The conference awards teams a conference title (or a piece of it) based on record alone, regardless of head-to-head, though the Indians get the slight nod handing Midway their lone conference loss of the season.  Osceola moves to 5-2 overall and Adrian falls to 4-3.  Drexel played out of conference visiting Sherwood, and the Bobcats would get back to their winning ways after consecutive losses, as they jumped out to a 14-0 halftime lead on the Marksmen and would see that hold up over the duration.  Drexel advances to 4-3 and Sherwood moves to 1-6.  The final WEMO game featured the Archie Whirlwinds hosting the Appleton City Bulldogs in what many expected to be a shoot-out.  Both teams scored with consistency throughout the night as the lead exchanged hands a couple times, but it was not the mass scoring affair we thought it might be.  Appleton City scored late to make it a one score game, but would fall short as the Whirlwinds nabbed their first WEMO win of the season, 29-26.  Both teams move to 2-5 now on the season.
The Butler Bears traveled to Stockton to meet the Tigers in an important non-conference tilt, and both teams left their defenses at home.  Butler jumped out early on the Tigers, but Stockton would muster multiple comeback efforts, never quite getting over the hump.  At one point, the Bears had amassed an absurd 400+ yards on less than 10 plays from scrimmage!  Bears win running away 55-35, pushing their record to 6-1 on the season.  Stockton falls to 2-5.
In the KC area game of the week, John Huber had the defending class 5 champs, the Battle Spartans, visiting the upstart Lee’s Summit North Broncos, and the Broncos jumped out to an early lead, taking it into the fourth quarter.  They would run out of gas, however, as the Spartans fourth quarter war cry proved strong with multiple scores to run away with a 31-18 win, despite the game being much closer all night long.  Battle remains undefeated at 7-0 and Lee’s Summit North stumbles to 5-2, as they look at a potential conference title this weekend.
WEMO Standings:
Osceola Indians 5-2, 5-1
Cass-Midway Vikings 5-2, 5-1
Adrian Blackhawks 4-3, 4-2
Drexel Bobcats 4-3, 3-3
Archie Whirlwinds 2-5, 1-4
Rich Hill Tigers 1-6, 1-4
Appleton City Bulldogs 2-5, 1-5 (*one win counted as 8-man; not accounted by MSHSAA)
Butler Bears 6-1, 2-0 (Crossroads Conference)

WEMO FB W6 by James Damon

damonIn the Game of the Week on Prepcasts-KCMW, the Appleton City Bulldogs hosted the Adrian Blackhawks in another fun and exciting shoot-out.  The Bulldogs would march the field on the opening drive punching in the only score from the first quarter on a 4th and long pass to Coleton Smith from Billy Prater.  Prater would connect again for the 2-point conversion, this time to Tyler Piepmeier, and lead 8-0.  The Blackhawks would answer with their first play from scrimmage in the second frame when QB Gage Steen zoomed 80 yards for a score; Adam Cochran’s PAT made the score 8-7.  After stopping the Dogs, the Hawks would take the lead on a Devin Darby score, coupled with Cochran’s point after to lead 14-8.  Prater would push the ball downfield on his next drive scoring from the one yard line to tie the game up after a failed two-point attempt.
The score would tilt back in favor of Adrian as the Hawks drove and Zak Dabney would zip in from 43 yards out.  The PAT gave Adrian a 21-14 halftime edge.  Dabney would score his second TD to open the third quarter and seemingly, give the Hawks a cushion as they went up 28-14.  But Appleton City responded late in the quarter when Prater connected down the sideline with Evan Mitts for a 61 yard score.  The conversion was no good, but the Dogs stopped Adrian, got the ball back, and scored again to open the fourth quarter, when Prater took the snap, rumbled up the middle 73 yards for the tying score.  The two point conversion ensured that as Prater found Mitts again.  Tied at 28, Adrian responded three minutes later when Steen scored his second rushing TD of the night.  Cochran’s kick gave the Hawks the 35-28 edge, but one minute later Prater would connect with his fourth TD of the night, as he hit Piepmeier for a 43 yard strike.  The conversion failed, leaving AC down one, but they would stop Adrian and get the ball back with a couple minutes remaining and all three timeouts.
With the drive beginning at their five-yard line, they got a first down pushing to the fifteen and then Prater saw a pass near the line get away as he scrambled to the right.  It found the arms of linebacker, Hunter Harris, who would cash pay dirt, and give Adrian the 42-34 lead.  Appleton City would drive down near Adrian’s twenty yard line before their drive stalled out on downs, and lost a heart breaker and dandy game.
The Midway Vikings hosted the Butler Bears in the only non-con game of the week and the Bears would lead throughout emerging victorious for the first time ever against the Vikings, one week removed from tornadic activity damaging their field.  The Bears would lead through mid-third quarter 36-20 and neither team would score again proving the final for the night.
Bryant Courter had a monster rushing game for the Rich Hill Tigers tallying over 200 yards on the ground and four TD’s as the Tigers nabbed their first win of the season, and continued Drexel’s free-fall after being tied for the league lead just two weeks ago.  The Tigers won their homecoming effort, 43-24.  Osceola hosted Archie in their homecoming game and were never threatened jumping out to a 35-0 lead before winning 35-7.
WEMO Standings:
Osceola Indians 4-2, 4-1
Cass-Midway Vikings 4-2, 4-1
Adrian Blackhawks 4-2, 4-1
Drexel Bobcats 3-3, 3-3
Rich Hill Tigers 1-5, 1-3
Appleton City Bulldogs 2-4, 1-4 (*one win not MSHSAA counted as an 8-man game)
Archie Whirlwinds 1-5, 0-4
Butler Bears 5-1, 2-0 (Crossroads Conference)

WEMO FB Week 5 by James Damon

damonTornadoes ripping through Cass County truncated scoreboards and bleachers at Cass-Midway, postponing their football game until Saturday evening, and thus, not allowing intended coverage, but the Vikings remained on a roll blasting the Bobcats at the neutral site, 40-0.  Other WEMO action from the week included Osceola bouncing back from back-to-back defeats and keeping Rich Hill win-less with a 42-3 cruising.  Appleton City was the lone non-conference slated game as they visited Greenfield and played some 8-man football.  As is typical, defenses only played for “video game style” as the Bulldogs walloped the Wildcats 68-44 in the pinball action.  The final WEMO game of the week featured an extended lightning delay, but it did not thwart the host Adrian Blackhawks from jumping to an early lead, extending after the delay, and running away with a 38-7 win.
The KC Area Game of the Week started over an hour late after a weather-related delay, and then saw one of the classics from around the state as Blue Springs jumped to an early lead, watched Lee’s Summit fight back and gain the lead, and then played back and forth until the Tigers would tie it up late and force OT.  The Wildcats would kick the field goal for the overtime’s lone points and grab their first win of 2015.  Click here for that REPlay …
In one of the premier games around the state, the undefeated Butler Bears hosted the undefeated and #1 ranked, Lamar Tigers, and Butler punched Lamar right in the mouth early.  Both teams would struggle to have any defensive stops giving up repeated big plays and trading leads until a lightning forced weather delay.  Lamar returned from the locker room and the Bears did not, as the Tigers would outscore the Bears, 5 TD’s to 1, following the break.  Butler drops their first game of the season the Brotherhood from Lamar remains undefeated.  Click here for that REPlay …
WEMO Standings:
Cass-Midway Vikings 4-1, 4-1
Adrian Blackhawks 3-2, 3-1
Osceola Indians 3-2, 3-1
Drexel Bobcats 3-2, 3-2
Appleton City Bulldogs 2-3, 1-3
Archie Whirlwinds 1-4, 0-3
Rich Hill Tigers 0-5, 0-3
Butler 4-1, 2-0 (Crossroads Conference)

WEMO FB Week 4 by James Damon

damonA wild and woolly fourth week ensued through the WEMO conference as one major upset opened the door for mayhem as the season continues.  In the covered game of the week, the Archie Whirlwinds hosted the Slater Wildcats in the only non-conference match-up and rolled to their first win of the season.  Both teams came in without a win, giving up well over 40 points a game, and Archie not only notched their first victory, but did in shutout, blow-out fashion.  The Winds recovered a fumble on the opening drive, punched in a score that was erased with a penalty, and then fumbled the ball back to Slater.  But the Wildcats would go three-and-out, pooch a punt, and Archie would cash in a short field as sophomore Gabe Fischer scored his first of two TD’s on the game.  The PAT put the Winds up 7-0.  After another defensive stop, Archie got the ball back and QB Caleb Schacher hoisted a 40-yarder down the left sideline to a wide open Kale Wheeler who would easily score.  The missed PAT saw Archie’s lead at 13-0 after one.  The second quarter provided more of the same as Wheeler broke loose on the first of his two TD runs, en route to player of the game honors for Archie.  After another stop, Fischer burst through the line and raced 62 yards to pay dirt for his second score of the game, followed by another score within the half’s final minute as Wheeler would punch in his third score of the day.  Archie led 32-0 at the half, and would see second half TD’s from senior Mikel Bailey, Schacher on the ground, and freshman Brandon Lindley with the final score.  A two point conversion from Schacher to an open Colbey Fenton would prove the final points of the night as the Winds ran away from the Cats, 54-0, grabbing their first win of the year and dropping Slater to 0-4.
The grand upset of the night happened just a few miles to the west as Drexel hosted #10 ranked Osceola.  The Indians would trail most of the night, keeping it close, but managing at tie at 18 apiece heading into the final quarter.  A back and forth affair would continue throughout the fourth quarter as well with each team scoring one more TD.  The Cats would steal away a two-point conversion as well, proving the difference in the game, to get the big home win, 26-24.  Drexel moves to 3-1 overall, and in conference play.  Osceola falls to 2-2, and garners their first conference loss, which opens up a four-way early tie atop the standings.
Cass-Midway quickly derailed the high octane Appleton City Bulldog offense after the Dogs got their first win of the season, as the Vikings rolled into AC, jumped out early by a couple scores, were never seriously threatened through the night, and cruised to a rather comfy win, 34-0.  The Vikes go to 3-1 overall and in conference and the Bulldogs are the inverse, at 1-3, in both conference play and for the season.  The final WEMO match of the night saw another near upset fall short as the Blackhawks traveled to Rich Hill and were back and forth for three quarters.  The Tigers had an early first quarter lead that Adrian would erase to lead in a tight one at the half.  A one point game into the fourth quarter was opened up with two late scores from Adrian to seal a 33-12 win that was closer all night long.  Adrian moves to .500 at 2-2 overall and now is also 2-1 in the WEMO, as Rich Hill remains without a win, at 0-4 and 0-2.
The Butler Bears remain a pleasant surprise in the region as they hosted the Van Horn Falcons for Homecoming, jumped out to an early 7-0 first quarter lead, and 14-7 halftime margin.  Both teams would trade scoring salvos for the entirety of the second half, but the Bears would find four Tate Bollweg TD’s enough to stave off the Falcons and win 40-27.  Bollweg was the Player of the Game for Butler, as the Bears move to 4-0 and stake a first place lead in the Crossroads Conference at 2-0.
The KC Area Game of the Week featured a dual set of games, as John Huber had the Staley Falcons and Liberty North Eagles tussle at William Jewell College on Thursday night.  Weather would hamper the outcome and force a Friday afternoon finish, that John was unable to bring the listeners, but the truncated game saw no big difference from Thursday to Friday.  Staley scored early for a 7-0 lead, got a crippling Eagle fumble they took to the house to lead 14-0 and that was where Thursday ended. 
Friday saw one more Falcon score to push the final to 21-0.  Staley remains undefeated and awaits a monster showdown with Fort Osage, as Liberty North falls to 2-2.  In the Friday night game, undefeated class 1 Wellington-Napolean visited class 2, and also undefeated, Lexington on the Missouri River, and Minutemen mauled the Tigers throughout the game.  Player of the Game Warren Sheppard scored early and often leading Lexington to a 37-0 rout of Well-Nap and handing the Tigers, 3-1, their first loss of 2015.  Lexington now sits at 4-0.
WEMO Standings:
Osceola Indians 2-2, 2-1
Midway Vikings 3-1, 3-1
Drexel Bobcats 3-1, 3-1
Adrian Blackhawks 2-2, 2-1
Appleton City Bulldogs 1-3, 1-3
Archie Whirlwinds 1-3,0-2
Rich Hill Tigers 0-4, 0-2
Butler 4-0, 2-0 (Crossroads Conference)

WEMO FB Week 3 by James Damon

damonThe Butler Bears continue to show fans how an impressive turnaround goes after a 1-9 season last year.  Butler jumped out early trading scores on the road with Lighthouse Christian Academy, but would punch in a late first half TD to lead 28-14 at the half.  Several different Bears got into the scoring action as Butler’s veer based offense marched up and down the field throughout the evening.  The defense saw numerous holes in the passing game, however, as the Chargers also marched repeatedly.  Both teams exploded in the second half including a 92 yard catch and run for a score from Ben Friend, who had a monster day accounting for all five Charger TD’s.  The Bears would prevail in a game played at Willard High School in a shoot-out, 50-36.  Tanner Diehl was named the Bears Player of the Game.  The Bears host Van Horn for the drivers’ seat in the Crossroads Conference next week after the Falcons crushed Sherwood, 43-0.

Click here for that REPLay …

In WEMO action, the Midway Vikings played their home opener, hosting the Adrian Blackhawks in a tightly fought contest throughout.  Tied at 14 at the half, the Vikes would score the lone second half TD and pull out the closely fought 20-14 win.  The win pushes Midway to 2-1 overall and in conference.  The Hawks fall to 1-2 overall and 1-1 in conference.
In another Appleton City shootout, the Bulldogs would notch their first win of the season but not until a lengthy lighting delay after halftime would push another Appleton City game into the three hour time threshold!  The Bulldogs jumped out early and often against Rich Hill, keeping the Tigers win-less, and would end up cruising to a comfortable 58-28 victory.  Appleton City moves to 1-2 overall and in conference.  Rich Hill falls to 0-3 after losing their first conference game, and also saw star Bryant Courter get injured during the game.
A close game early saw Drexel leading at home versus the Archie Whirlwinds 14-7 in the first half, before they would reel off a 36-7 stretch, and get the runaway win for the Bobcats, 50-14.  With the win Drexel is now 2-1 overall and in conference and Archie remains win-less at 0-3, 0-2 in the WEMO.
The lone WEMO team to not play in conference was the #5 ranked team in the state, Osceola.  “Was” is the crucial word in that sentence because the closest this game would be is 8-6 early after both teams scored quickly.  The host Lincoln Cardinals would kick the jets in after that and roll to a 50-15 win, the biggest defeat point-wise in several years, for Osceola.  The loss would cause the Indians to tumble to 2-1, still 2-0 in the WEMO, and the win positions the undefeated Cardinals for a shot at a ranking in the coming weeks.
John Huber’s KC Area game of the week would see a close game between two undefeateds in the first half turn into a comfy win for the home Fort Osage Indians behind great games from Kansas State commit Skylar Thompson and wideout Matt Smith.  An early 7-7 tie would end up favoring the Indians 28-14 as they handed the Lee’s Summit Tigers their first loss of the season.  The win continues the march towards a very exciting match-up with Staley for Fort Osage in a few weeks, that has earmarks for a classic and will have implications for a conference crown, post-season rankings and hosting scenarios, and the inside track to a run to the Dome for one of the two squads.  Thompson and Smith were co-players of the game for their efforts.
WEMO Standings:
Osceola 2-1, 2-0
Cass-Midway 2-1, 2-1
Drexel 2-1, 2-1
Adrian 1-2, 1-1
Appleton City 1-2, 1-2
Rich Hill 0-3, 0-1
Archie 0-3, 0-2
Butler 3-0, 1-0 (Crossroads Conference)

WEMO/Butler Football Week 2

damonIn one of the featured games of the week on Prepcasts-KCMW, the Midway Vikings visited the Archie Whirlwinds, with both teams seeking their first wins of the season.  The Vikings opened with a halfback pass covering forty-plus yards to set up their first rushing score of the season as Maverick Greer plunged in from one yard out.  Silent until the second quarter, the Vikings would toss two TD passes from the Player of the Game, junior QB Blake Mincks.  Both scores went to Jarrett Jurgeson, and Mincks added a two-point conversion to make the halftime score 21-0.  The Winds would break onto the scoreboard with a 39 yard scamper from sophomore fullback, Gabe Fisher, and then get a fumble returned 70 yards by Kale Wheeler to cut the score to one TD.  The Vikes would close strong the final eight minutes, though, with two rushing scores from Luke Boyer to ice the win, 33-14.  Midway moves to 1-1 in conference and on the season, as Archie remains winless after two affairs.  Click here for that game …
The KC area Game of the Week featured a team dismantled last week by the defending class 6 champs, making the long trek to the KC area, and showing strong against the home Tigers squad from Lee’s Summit.  The Hickman Kewpies found themselves locked up in a 7-7 tie at the half, but amidst threatening weather, the Tigers would rebound with two second half scores including a tide-turning huge punt return from Player of the Game, Trevor Fell, and get the 20-7 win and move to 2-0; long drive back to Columbia for the Kewpies who still are looking for the year’s first victory.  Click here for that game …
The Bears All Sports Network would see an absolute dismantling in a Crossroads Conference battle as the Butler Bears scored early and often, rolling to a 46-6 win over the visiting Sherwood Marksmen.  The game was never close, and the huge win for Butler pushes them already to double their win total from a year ago, and are poised to be a “surprise team” from the area and Class 2.  Junior QB Kaleb Kauffman was the Player of the Game for the Bears.  Click here to VIEW that game …
In other WEMO action, the Appleton City Bulldogs would sport an 8-7 lead over top dog, Osceola, but never lead again as the Indians would begin scoring early in the second frame and often, running away to a 54-22 victory to move to 2-0, as AC remains win-less.  In a similar game that was close early between Drexel and Adrian, the Blackhawks would run away as the game wore on, thumping the visiting Bobcats, 41-8.  The lone WEMO non-con battle featured the Rich Hill Tigers, thought pre-season to be a contender in the area, get crushed again under new coach Marcus Wolfe, this time to visiting Lockwood, 48-0.  The Tigers will visit Appleton City next week still trying to score their first points of the year!
WEMO Standings:
Osceola 2-0, 2-0
Adrian 1-1, 1-0
Drexel 1-1, 1-1
Cass-Midway 1-1, 1-1
Rich Hill, 0-2, 0-0
Archie 0-2, 0-1
Appleton City 0-2, 0-2
Butler 2-0, 1-0 (Crossroads Conference)

WEMO/Butler Football Week 1

damonA triad of games kicked off the new high school football season on the Prepcasts-KCMW network last weekend.  In the featured games of the week, the Butler Bears traveled to Adrian to meet their rivals, and rolled the Blackhawks, dominating throughout en route to a 32-14 victory.  The Bears scored first and often, allowing only a second quarter and third quarter Adrian score to make the game closer than it played out.  Senior RB Devan Loveall scored four touchdowns for the Bears, after switching back to the veer offense, following one year running the spread.  The Bears match their season win total from all last year with the win to start the year against a non-conference foe.

The de facto WEMO football title had been decided in week one the past several years as the Midway Vikings visited the Osceola Indians.  Osceola had not beaten Midway since 2006, and both teams found themselves in a pre-season publications’ top 15 Class 1 squads.  Midway would cash behind a traditionally strong defense and score the games’ first two TD’s, both passes from junior QB Blake Mincks, including one on a fourth-and-long play.  The Indians would fight back with two scores in the second frame to see the game tied at 14 by the half.  A third quarter Indian field goal would come off the board after penalty, and no more scores would occur until Osceola punched one in late in the game.  Drew Carney ran for two scores, threw another, and kicked all three PAT’s for the Indians who get the early jump start leading the WEMO at 1-0.
The shootout of all shootouts came from Drexel as the Bobcats hosted the Appleton City Bulldogs and the defenses apparently took the day off.  Both teams marched up and down the field, scoring offensively, defensively, and with special teams, on short and long plays.  When the final gun sounded, the Cats nipped the Dogs in a doozy, 58-56!  Two other non-con WEMO battles would see the visitors fall in both.  Rich Hill, talented and with expectations, got marauded by Lincoln as the Cardinals crushed the Tigers, 40-0.  An improved Archie team would zip up to Crest Ridge and keep it close all night long, but never be able to get over the hump and upend the Cougars, falling 23-40, despite being closer much of the evening.

The KC Area Game of the Week featured one of the favorites in Class 5 as the Fort Osage Indians hosted the upstart Raytown South Cardinals.  The Indians would start sluggish, lose multiple players to injury, including big recruit Skylar Thompson, but fight back to snatch the opening week win, 27-14, behind a strong 2 TD performance from wideout Donte Dodson.
WEMO Standings:
Osceola 1-0, 1-0
Drexel 1-0, 1-0
Rich Hill 0-1, 0-0
Archie 0-1, 0-0
Adrian 0-1, 0-0
Appleton City 0-1, 0-1
Cass-Midway 0-1, 0-1
Butler 1-0, 0-0 (Crossroads Conference)

The remaining FB games

Twenty eight million viewers remained sated after two college semi-final matches had come and gone.  Will the numbers pop even more for a national title true champion this coming Monday night?  It is an outstanding match-up that will not feature the teams that a BCS type of scenario, or regular bowl tie-ins prior to the BCS, would have given us.  Oregon vs. Ohio State for the undisputed title, and it could be one of the best title games ever.  Of course, it’s a short list as most championship (or bowl type championship) games are closer to Alabama vs. Notre Dame finishes than Auburn vs. Oregon, both within the past five years.  That stated, we have had close outcomes recently, and I think this one will be of that ilk.

I believe key to the game is Oregon’s tempo, and if they can push it full throttle like they desire to, or if Ohio State can manage that, by sustaining long drives when they have the ball, and forcing Oregon to manage long drives of their own.  The Ducks lone loss came when an athletic team (Arizona) could apply sustained pressure to Marcus Mariota resulting in sacks and negative plays, either in yardage or turnovers.  Teams can get to Mariota, but if you don’t bring him down, he extends the play and burns you (and he rarely turns the ball over).  Ohio State has a good front seven and corners that are solid tacklers, which should keep the screen and horizontal passing game somewhat in check.  The problem tends to be when Oregon’s snowball starts, they score three TD’s in a couple minutes and you go from up 3 to down 18 or 20 before you know what hit you.  Ohio State will not be fazed if they fall behind, but I don’t think they want the full shootout type of contest, moving into the 40’s or 50’s on the scoreboard.  They can handle this one in the 30’s, if they keep it there.  This is new territory for Mark Helfrich, though I believe he’ll be fine.  Urban Meyer is another beast, though, as he is 8-2 in bowls and 2-0 in national title games.  Major advantage there if this one is close late, which I think it will be.  If OSU can run the ball and maintain those long drives, I think they control this game, and win by a TD late.  However, if the tempo pushes (OSU can push the temp offensively, but I think that lends to wearing their defense down over the entire course of the game; remember FSU in the Rose anybody?), Oregon is poised for that moment when they really seize control.  This feels like a “last possession to win or lose” type of game.  I think whoever wins the first few minutes and last minutes of each half wins the game.  My pick is Oregon by a field goal, but I would not be shocked at all if Ohio State wins this game outright.  I’m only .500 with bowl picks this year (my worst pick percentage ever), so I really need this one to finish with a winning percentage.

Moving to the big boys, we’ll start with the NFC:
Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks
There will be an earthquake test done during this game, and it may or may not have anything to do with the noise emanating from the stadium.  The Seahawks are playing their best football at the best time and have a tremendous home field advantage.  The Panthers have an awesome defense and “D” always travels, so they should be in this game.  Cam Newton is talented at QB and makes some big plays, but can be turnover prone and make some mistakes.  The opposite is said of Russell Wilson, who also is big play prone but is smart with the football and rarely makes back-breaking mistakes.  I expect this game to be close throughout and Newton to make mistakes in the fourth quarter which either opens the door for Seattle to win, or seals the victory for the home Hawks.

Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers
This one has high entertainment value written all over it.  Both teams have prolific offenses, and decent, but not great defenses.  There is more star power on Green Bay’s “D” and most interesting might be that this is a first time ever scenario in an undefeated home team hosting an undefeated road team.  The big question is Aaron Rodger’s injury and not if he’ll play, but how well he can and will play.  I expect Dallas to dial up a lot of pressure in an effort to hit Rodgers a lot and disorient him, even get him knocked down and out, if possible.  Eddie Lacy running well could help off-set that.  Dallas showed good moxie last week, regardless of the blown flag pick-up debacle, to come back after laying early stink against Detroit.  I love everything about Green Bay at home, but this feels like the kind of game that this Dallas team will just find a way to steal.  I take the Cowboys with a late score to win.

Onto the AFC ballgames:
Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots
It’s funny how one team can just seemingly have the “number” of another team.  Everybody seems to think that is Baltimore on the road against New England, but that’s simply because really nobody else beats the Patriots at home in crucial situations.  Baltimore has done that twice in the past six years, though one game was solely won by the Ravens defense as Flacco threw for a whopping 34 yards in the win (2009-2010 season).  New England bested the Ravens by a field goal three years ago, and the Ravens got the win en route to the Super Bowl.  Joe Flacco already has seven road playoff wins which is two more than any QB ever, which seems to indicate that this team just manages to get by all season long and then wins the important games.  That’s probably true, but I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid.  Baltimore is good but New England is much better, and I think hungry to fully re-establish themselves as the big dog.  The Pats assert themselves as Brady blows up with a bid day and that Pats win.

Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos
This game simply does not appeal to me, though the storylines are making a lot of fans gush.  Old regime vs. the new regime, both Colts one-time QB’s, blah blah blah.  Manning is fading and had a poor December, John Fox fades in the post-season, and a million other maybes.  How about this important factor?  Indianapolis’ defense is not very good, they are average on the road, and Andrew Luck has never (yet) won a road playoff game.  This is close early, but Denver manages the entire game and wins with little trouble.

Bowl Predictions Part Two

ncaa football logoThe truly bold (or crazy) now dig into a second helping of bowl mania thoughts as we check out the other 19 bowl games in the season.
Russell Athletic Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Clemson
This might be titled the Moderately Underachieving Bowl, or more apt the Overrated by the Media Early in the Season Bowl.  It should be an interesting game, though.  Trevor Knight returns for OU after a sub-par start to the season and might look for some mojo from his “out of this world” performance against Bama last bowl season.  Clemson is without their starting QB and newly departed offensive guru.  Each team could lay a stinker down, but I think the Sooners will have some motivation and best a deficient Tiger squad.
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Arkansas vs. Texas
SWAC fans unite, and all 14 are in attendance for this game, which has some intrigue as two new coaches (and very good coaches, though overlooked when the big boys’ names are mentioned) try to take their programs to the next step.  A bowl win always helps that process.  Both teams likely will try to sneak 13 guys into the box and stop the run.  Both teams are willing to bet that they are more man-like and can beat those 13 guys running the football.  Arkansas can do that but Texas cannot.  Neither QB is likely to do much, which surely means one of them will have a huge play or three to determine this game.  More entertaining is the hunt for Arkansas AD Jeff Long by infuriated Bear and Horned Frog fans who have yet to leave for Arlington or Atlanta.  I will take the Hogs.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Notre Dame vs. LSU
In line for one of the longest bowl game titles is this year’s Music City Bowl.  Not in discussion for an actual good game is the contest itself.  Everett Golson seems to manage to keep Notre Dame in most games, and I think Brian Kelly is a great coach, but the team is not really very good.  LSU is young and this could be a big builder as they look for a bounce back next year.  I like the Tigers in a blowout.
Belk Bowl: Louisville vs. Georgia
This might be my pick for most under-rated bowl of the season.  I drank the Kool-Aid early that this was Mark Richt’s year for the Bulldog Bounceback and chase for the title.  Not so much with those rascally autograph seekers, brutal SEC play, and Jekyll and Hyde-ian performance.  But the team is solid with a great back in Gurley and a soon to be great in Chubb.  Louisville will play motivated, but will Georgia?  They seem to disappear late in the season sometimes.  I’ll suggest they want to finish strong and beat a good opponent that they are favored to win against (rather than the finish to South Carolina, Florida, or Ga Tech).  I take the Bulldogs in a great game.
Foster Farms Bowl: Maryland vs. Stanford
Travel has to be an issue for Maryland rather than nearly up the road for the Cardinal.  The defense of the tree is stout and Maryland is not exactly a scoring juggernaut.  Neither is Stanford but they should have enough to win this game.  Low scoring, but not necessarily close.  I’ll take the Cardinal in a ho-hum win.
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl: Ole Miss vs. TCU
The story that was football in the state of Mississippi was really fun for a couple months, but now the Rebels and Bulldogs (more from them later) have to settle for good bowl games against tough opponents.  TCU feels snubbed and has been playing awesome lately.  They also have the best player on the field in QB Trevone Boykin, and many feel they still have a “chip on their shoulder” smaller tier mentality despite the move to the Big 12.  I’ve never been overly impressed with the play of Bo Wallace, and though Ole Miss can keep it close, the Horned Frogs should win and then give angry glances towards the selection committee.
VIZIO Fiesta Bowl: Boise State vs. Arizona
Intriguing match for a near home game for the Cats and a perennially strong Bronco squad.  This team is good, but not as good.  Arizona is hungry, mad they got blasted by Oregon in the rematch, and have a dominant force in Scooby on defense.  He snacks all day  long on the Broncos.  Many pundits are calling this one close for Arizona.  I think the Cats win by at least three TD’s.
Capital One Orange Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Georgia Tech
Prime time bowl game.  So-so in actual contest.  The Jackets run the option and really confound many opponents with it.  Mississippi State has Dak Prescott who was the Heisman and media darling until the Crimson Tide played a holiday trick on the Bulldog faithful.  The Jackets could not shut down Jameis and Crew and will find similar outcomes against Dak and the Boys.  I’ll take MSU.
Outback Bowl: Auburn vs. Wisconsin
Talk about great match-up in discussion.  The Badgers run the ball non-stop, even when they are on defense.  Auburn is lobbying for a rule change to a 12 second offensive play clock and making circled-up huddles illegal.  Who can actually hold the ball longer and cash in drives?  That answer will dictate the winner.  Wisconsin is in lame duck purgatory after a surprise departure from head coach Gary Anderson.  Tigers win.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: Michigan State vs. Baylor
WOW.  I think this game is a great concept.  Awesome defense versus awesome offense.  Michigan State hoped for more this year, but probably played right at its’ level.  Baylor thought a Final Four invite was awaiting, and would have been were it not for an epic collapse against TCU mid-season.  MSU’s defensive coordinator is yearly hot topic guy for open jobs, which would significantly weaken Spartan chances.  While typing this, Baylor scored 10 points.  I love Sparty’s attitude and I would never put them out of a game, but I think Baylor can score on Oakland, Jacksonville, and Minnesota.  They would likely beat Tampa Bay.  Bears win, more convincingly than expected.
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: Missouri vs. Minnesota
Talk about two over-achievers this year, and the conversation has to include these two.  Interesting side notes as Jerry Kill used to coach high school ball in Missouri.  Tigers defense is outstanding, and Shane Ray likely wants a huge bounce back game after a couple tight (and questionable, in my mind) penalties from his last two games.  Minnesota wants to be physical and run the ball on all occasions, but Missouri is equipped to handle that.  The MU offense has been far worse than anticipated, but could score some against the Gophers.  Good early, but the Tigers should handle this one, perhaps via the turnover.
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual: Oregon (#2) vs. Florida State (#3)
FSU has dodged bullets all season long and continually finds a way to win.  You have to keep the game close to be able to do that, and while that says something significant about this team, I cannot envision how they can keep it close early unless they get some early turnovers and score TD’s every single time.  Their best chance is long and sustained drives scoring pay dirt every time and keeping Mariota off the field.  Their defense cannot begin to stop him.  Oregon is hungry for a title, and I think they blast the Seminoles in this one.  A late comeback makes it close, but the Ducks control kick to gun.  And if you like the idea of shootout between Winston and Mariota, consider 17-2.  Those are the interception numbers for each slinger.
Allstate Sugar Bowl: Alabama (#1) vs. Ohio State (#4)
Ohio State is as deserving as anybody else to be in this position, however, they are not a top 4 team in my opinion.  Alabama will expose that.  Bama cannot play deep pass defense, however, and the Buckeyes will expose that.  Because of that major deficiency, the Buckeyes can make some big plays and stay in this game, always tantalizing within a big play or turnover from really making this one tight.  But it won’t happen.  Saban remains the only coach in history to win titles at two separate schools.  Bama rolls.
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Houston vs. Pittsburgh
After semi-final thoughts, college football fans will tune this on simply because it features an oblong leather ball.  They will not be disappointed because they are playing football.  They will be disappointed because this game will not feature good football.  Remember the whole coach leaving for another school and how brutal that is on a team in a bowl game?  Both teams will have new coaches next year.  Interim coaches are not in good positions.  Pitt RB James Conner should be too much for the Cougars to handle.  Close game that weather conditions, turnovers, etc. could strongly influence.  I’ll take Pitt in a very close game.
TaxSlayer Bowl: Iowa vs. Tennessee
As absurd as it sounds, the Big 10 could be poised to not win a single bowl game.  That sounds insane, but look at the individual match-ups and none really favor the Big 10 teams.  Best chances are probably Rutgers or Wisconsin, or Tennessee.  Iowa is not great, but neither is Tennessee.  Read thoughts about middling power conference teams from earlier bowl games.  In the end, you have to favor the FAR tougher schedule Tennessee faces in the SEC than the Cupcake Rotation known as the Big 10.  Go with the Vols.
Valero Alamo Bowl: Kansas State vs. UCLA
One of the best games of the bowl season, especially outside the playoff four.  This should be dynamite and lots of fun, perhaps the “must see” game in my mind.  K-State never wins pretty but they scheme well and are always seemingly in the game.  Thoughts on Arizona State apply here to UCLA (final four ideas, Pac 12 possibilities, lesser bowl game than hoped, though good game and venue).  UCLA has great talent and multiple NFL’ers.  K-State has sound fundamentals and awesome coaching.  They consistently work harder than nearly everybody else.  I’ll take that combination most of the time.  Purple Warriors win.
TicketCity Cactus Bowl: Washington vs. Oklahoma State
Shaq Thompson is fun to watch.  Mike Gundy defending his players, sort of, to regional OK reporters is fun to watch.  OSU seems to stumble in games with expectations.  They got the big play to upset the Sooners to close the regular season and become bowl eligible.  This game should be competitive and it should be a good game.  OSU won’t show up for the full tilt and the Huskies take the victory. 

Birmingham Bowl: East Carolina vs. Florida
East Carolina is a solid team.  Florida is not.  Florida has good athletes with pedigrees and can often act entitled.  East Carolina is under-rated on all accounts and has kids that want to make names for themselves, in regards to beating pedigree name (even if team is not that good) and get some NFL potential tape out there.  Pirates have good offense and Florida has an interim coach, and likely are wondering more about new coach from Colorado State after the thumping taken on bowl game day one by the Rams.  ECU wins in hammer fashion.
GoDaddy Bowl: Toledo vs. Arkansas State
Most people watch this game with piqued interest in hopes of Danica Patrick commercials.  This match-up always brings you Sunday college football to wrap it up (except with the title game now looming in playoff format).  It features the MAC and the Sun Belt, which both sound like food options, and are.  The Sun Belt traditionally produces some OK teams, while the MAC occasionally has a really solid top of the line lower tier team.  Neither is in play here.  Both teams are OK, and neither team has played a banger schedule.  Somehow the Red Wolves beat Utah State early in the year, though I doubt that could be duplicated now.  Toledo managed to lose against every good team they played.  Both teams have decent running games.  I call this a toss-up, and while many pundits take Toledo, I’ll roll with the Red Wolves, I suppose because their name is unique, and they kept their coach again this year (only happened once the last four years).