Predicting the New Year’s Six: How College Football Concludes Its Season

Two nights before Christmas, football was on. The NFL rolled out Colts–Ravens and Vikings–Packers, leaving fans counting the minutes until the College Football Playoff. The sport could expand and move a week earlier. . .

Ohio State vs. USC

USC has a seven game win streak over the Buckeyes, and that looks to continue here. Ohio State lost by 31 to Iowa. (Update: Nope)

Pick: USC

Penn State vs. Washington

The Huskies haven’t looked the same since a crushing loss to Arizona State, but an Apple Cup victory rejuvenated an ailing team. It still won’t be enough to overcome Penn State in Saquon Barkley’s final game.

Pick: Penn State

Auburn vs. UCF

The electric Golden Knights offense will face a terrific Auburn defense, victors of the Iron Bowl. Don’t discount the Tiger offense either, as Jarrett Stidham leads a dual threat attack. However, UCF was, in my opinion, the fourth-best team in the country. Expect the Golden Knights to pull out a victory in their final game withcoach Scott Frost.

Pick: UCF

Wisconsin vs. Miami

A Miami team that destroyed Notre Dame by 33 faces a Wisconsin team unfamiliar with high-quality opposition. Malik Rosier will outduel his quarterback counterpart Alex Hornibrook to deliver Miami the victory.

Pick: Miami

Oklahoma vs. Georgia

The first of the Playoff matchups serves up an intriguing game, with Oklahoma’s top-ranked offense against Georgia’s SEC-leading defense. Unfortunately for the Sooners, a sluggish defense won’t be enough to slow down Georgia.

Pick: Georgia

Clemson vs. Alabama

This is not the Clemson–Alabama of old. The Crimson Tide had no business making the Playoff, and Clemson will outclass Nick Saban once again.

Advertisements

College Basketball Power Rankings: A New #1

Duke lost to Boston College, while Arizona State went to Lawrence and knocked off Kansas. Neither neither take the top spot. Michigan State sits at 12-1 while Villanova remains undefeated. 1-2 is an entertaining debate.

1. Villanova 11-0

The Wildcats blew out Temple by 20 to remain undefeated, and vault to #1 thanks to Boston College’s huge win.

2. Arizona State 11-0

Entering the year, Arizona was #2 and their in-state rival was unranked. When the teams meet on December 30, Arizona State will be #2. It’ll be a matchup of ranked teams, and the atmosphere will be electric.

3. Duke 12-1

Losing to BC hurts, and seeing Duke at the bottom of the ACC standings is amusing. However, the Blue Devils will get back on track.

4. Michigan State 12-1 

The Spartans racked up four quick wins against weak opposition, and don’t rise in the rankings.

5. Miami 9-0

Miami played only one game the past two weeks, but the ‘Canes stayed undefeated against George Washington. Miami and Villanova are the only unbeatens to appear in every top 25.

6. Kentucky 9-1

Edit: This post was written Friday, and hasn’t accounted for Saturday’s results.

Finally the Wildcats played some quality teams, as Kentucky knocked off Monmouth and Virginia Tech. They won’t be challenged until a January 6 trip to Tennessee. (Update: UCLA disagrees)

7. Texas A&M 11-1

The SEC is shaping up to be incredible this year. The Aggies follow Kentucky as the second top-10 team, while #14 Tennessee is one of the most dangerous teams in the country. Texas A&M will face a brutal January, coming up against Tennessee, Kentucky, and Kansas. . . all on the road.

8. Xavier 11-1

J.P. Macura is outperforming Trevon Bluiett, but Xavier doesn’t mind. The flamethrowing duo is averaging a combined 31 points per game, and that number will rise when Big 12 play begins, and there’s little garbage time for the bench.

9. Wichita State 9-2

The Shockers were upset by Oklahoma, and fall a few spots. Trae Young outdueled Landry Shamet on both ends of the floor, but don’t expect that to happen to Shamet often. Markis McDuffie’s imminent return will add another explosive weapon for coach Gregg Marshall.

10. Kansas 10-2

The Jayhawks snapped out of a skid, destroying Stanford by 21. Someone circled January 6 on the calendar, as TCU comes to Lawrence in the day’s 2700th ranked matchup.

11. West Virginia 10-1

The Mountaineers haven’t lost since the season opener, but that might change when WVU faces Oklahoma on January 6, (when else?) Baylor on the 9th, and Kansas on the 15th. However, all of those games are at home.

12. North Carolina 10-2

UNC picked up a great win over a terrific Tennessee team by 5, and is in good shape heading into ACC play.

There’s just one little problem called Wofford.

13. TCU 11-0

The Horned Frogs haven’t lost since last March, and coach Jamie Dixon has TCU in the thick of Big 12 contention. The conference is incredible this year, and TCU looks to be headed for the NCAA Tournament.

14. Tennessee 8-2

While the AP Poll has the Vols #21, Tennessee has been impressive. They controlled the game against North Carolina for 35 minutes before falling short. The nation’s fifth-youngest team just needs experience finishing games, and is a genuine threat to win the SEC.

15. Purdue 12-2

The Boilermakers blew out Butler by 15 while becoming the second-highest Big 10 team in the rankings. Purdue will answer the question of Michigan State’s toughest challenger on January 13, a trip to Minnesota.

16. Cincinnati 10-2

The two-loss barrage continues with Cincinnati, the American Athletic’s second team in the rankings. The Bearcats recovered from a tough loss to Florida by knocking off formerly unbeaten Mississippi State. Then UCLA fell to the elite defense. Wichita State’s greatest challenger rises again.

17. Baylor 10-2

Sick of the Big 12 yet? Baylor hasn’t played anyone for half a month, and won’t until a stretch against Texas Tech and TCU. Oh wait, their next two games.

18. Oklahoma 9-1

Trae Young is now the frontrunner for Player of the Year after a dominating performance against Wichita State. Oklahoma shocked the Shockers, and Young followed it up with 29 points and  22 (twenty freaking two!) assists against Northwestern State. Trae Young immediately went off again for 31 points and 12 assists as Oklahoma ran Northwestern off the court.

19. Arkansas 9-2

The Razorbacks knocked off Minnesota while vaulting into the top 25. A blowout loss to Houston earlier in the year hurts, but Arkansas could start 4-1 in the SEC. However, a December 30th clash with Tennessee could see Arkansas blown out.

20. Virginia 10-1

The Cavaliers didn’t really do anything, cruising against Davidson and Savvanah State. Skip!

21. Arizona 10-3

The preseason #2 is back in the rankings with impressive victories over Alabama and Texas A&M. The nation must despise the sight of a healthy Rawle Alkins.

22. Clemson 10-1

The Tigers are quietly putting together a solid resumé, and knocking off formerly-ranked Florida eliminated any obstacle preventing Clemson from being ranked.

23. Creighton 10-2

The Bluejays pulled off a nine point win over a good Texas-Arlington team, and move up thanks to. . .

24. Seton Hall 10-2

Rutgers is 10-3! Rutgers beat Seton Hall! Will wonders never cease?

25. Minnesota 10-3

The Gophers hit their annual December rough spot, dropping games to Nebraska and Arkansas before squeaking by Drake. Minnesota will get back on track eventually, and the Big 10 should be afraid.

Rounding out the 32: Texas Tech 10-1, Florida State 11-1, Gonzaga 10-3, Notre Dame 8-3, Houston 10-2, Syracuse 10-1, Auburn 11-1.

 

 

Playoff Scenarios for the Minnesota Vikings

Two weeks remain in the NFL’s regular season, and the playoffs are taking shape. After the Whistle details the Vikings’ every scenario, while not pointing out the Packers’ elimination. Whoops.

#1 seed scenarios

Just one possibility remains for Minnesota to get home-field advantage through the playoffs.

  • Eagles lose out (against the Raiders and Cowboys) AND Vikings win out (Packers, Bears)

 

#2 seed scenarios

This one seems like the Vikings’ most likely spot. A head-to-head sweep of the Rams and Saints gives Minnesota every tiebreaker if the current division winners hold, and the Falcons would lose the conference record tiebreaker. Carolina is the only team holding a tiebreaker advantage, but the Panthers are unlikely to win the South.

The follwing ensures Minnesota of at least a first round bye.

  • Vikings win out
  • Vikings win one of two AND a 12-4 Carolina doesn’t win the NFC South
  • Rams and Saints lose one of two AND a 12-4 Carolina doesn’t win the South

 

#3 seed

A finish depriving Minnesota of a bye would be a shock, but it could happen if one of these happens.

  • Vikings win one of two AND a 12-4 Carolina wins the NFC South
  • Vikings lose out AND Panthers win out
  • Vikings lose out AND Saints win out
  • Vikings lose out AND Rams win out
  • Vikings lose out AND an 11-5 Falcons win the South AND Rams finish 11-5 to give us weird tiebreakers that aren’t clear yet.

Tennessee–North Carolina: Playing for a 2-seed

Tennessee and North Carolina meet Sunday afternoon in a matchup of two terrific teams. While the Tar Heels are defending national champions, the Vols have been a surprise. Wins over Purdue, NC State, and a better-than-one-thinks Mercer have catapulted Tennessee into the top 25, and coach Rick Barnes’ team has a chance to cement themselves in the national conversation.

North Carolina is still a terrific basketball team. Joel Berry is back, while Luke Maye has entered superstardom. Maye will try to defend Grant Williams, Tennessee’s electric forward averaging 16.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. If Williams stays out of foul trouble, (3.5 fouls per game) Tennessee has all the tools around him to knock off UNC.

Bracket implications

Jerry Palm of CBS Sports currently projects both teams as three-seeds in his latest bracket. The winning team will find themselves a top 10 team heading into conference play.

History Thursday: Rome Reeling

Welcome to History Thursday. This week’s story topic is buried inside the history of the Second Punic War, while the quiz explores some Roman and Carthaginian history. Chaos will ensue.

The powerful Roman army had received heavy defeats at the hands of the Carthaginian army and its cunning general, Hannibal Barca. The son of Hamilcar had established a foothold in Spain and Gaul (France), but Rome had never been in a true crisis before. Hannibal had famously marched his army through the Alps on the backs of war elephants, and was camped about three days of marching away from Rome.
Fearing for their capital, the Roman Senate sent two armies to trap Hannibal near Lake Trasimene, a swamp notorious for being impossible to cross. The importance of the battle to Rome can’t be understated. Hannibal was no longer a distant threat. He was now at the edge of Roman territory and three days of marching from Rome itself.

Carthaginian spies reported that the Roman armies were staging an ambush in the woods near the lake, the only possible route for Carthage’s army. The spies estimated Hannibal would lose half of his army if he crossed the swamp, and would lose his entire army if the Carthaginians went through the woods. The spies implored Hannibal to turn back. However, Hannibal knew his army could survive the swamp and deal a crushing blow to Rome.

Hannibal lost a third of his army in the march through Lake Trasimene, but the Romans lost far more. Hannibal pulled off one of the greatest feats in ancient world history. Carthage would come the closest to conquering Rome until Alaric’s Huns in 476, and the world will always wonder what might have been.

The Weekly Quiz. . .

https://www.sporcle.com/framed/?v=8&pm&gid=cc0e83a2eae&fid=5a332878d2e1f&width=580

History Thursday: The Establishment

Welcome to After the Whistle’s latest series. After receiving requests and support for a similar idea, it is time to expand into the realm of history. History Thursday will feature various things, from stories to Sporcle trivia quizzes. This week will enter a battle buried inside the history of the Second Punic War; a battle that changed history.

 

Any recommendations for future History Thursdays would be greatly appreciated, and those can be placed in the comments below. Have a wonderful day, and please tell me which flag this is. 🇧🇲

 

Previewing the UEFA Champions League Round of 16

On Monday, fans in Paris and Madrid lost their minds. While Manchester City gets Basel and Bayern gets Besiktas, PSG will face Real Madrid in the Round of 16. After the Whistle previews and predicts the chaos.

Basel vs. Manchester City

Kevin de Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, and Manchester City are 11 points clear at the top of the Premier League, and get a favor from UEFA. This won’t be close.

Pick: Manchester City

Bayern vs. Besiktas

This is the point where I make an argument for Besiktas.

This is the point where I acknowledge Bayern is going to win by 90 goals.

Pick: Bayern

Roma vs. Shakhtar Donetsk

The Ukrainians were so good in the group stage that Shakhtar eliminated Napoli and pushed Man City for the top spot. Meanwhile, Roma sits at fourth in the Serie A, and doesn’t have Mo Salah to carry the team when Edin Dzeko can’t score. I’ll take the upset here.

Pick: Shakhtar Donetsk

Juventus vs. Tottenham

The Spurs were flying through the first five games. Tottenham then made the mistake of playing red-hot Arsenal in the Premier League, and haven’t beaten a team since, except for Stoke. Juve has surged up the Serie A standings, and run into an Inter Milan roadblock. The team from Torino possesses a little more firepower, and should put up a few goals on a stuttering Totteringham defense.

Pick: Juventus

Porto vs. Liverpool

Vincent Aboubakar will be a handful for Liverpool’s vertically challenged defenders, but Porto isn’t the power they once were. Mohamed Salah’s incredible run of form should continue as the Reds advance to the quarters.

Pick: Liverpool

Sevilla vs. Manchester United

While their weekend performance at Real Madrid didn’t show it, Sevilla is a dangerous side to come up against. Romelu Lukaku’s struggles against high-quality opposition pose problems for MUFC, but Mkhitaryan, Martial, and the on-fire Marcus Rashford will propel Manchester United to a most-needed victory. Too many M’s?

Pick: Manchester United

Chelsea vs. Barcelona

The Blues haven’t been terrific, dropping to third in the loaded Premier League. Arsenal and Liverpool are nipping at Chelsea’s heels, and Antonio Conte might choose to focus on England. Barcelona have no such qualms, as Lionel Messi and Co. are on top of La Liga. This won’t be close even if Chelsea fields their starting XI.

Pick: Barcelona

Real Madrid vs. Paris Saint-Germain

Neymar and Dani Alves face a familiar foe in Spanish giant Real Madrid. Kylian Mbappe’s transformation into superstardom has continued, and the Parisians won’t struggle to light up the score sheet. Defending will be the concern.

Real Madrid has slipped this season, slotting in at fourth in La Liga. Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. have focused more on the Champions League, and draw the best team in Europe for their troubles. Dani Carvajal and Sergio Ramos will have to anchor a surprisingly ineffective defense, while Ronaldo, Marco Asensio, and the attack will have no problem scoring. This should be an amazing two games.

Pick: Paris Saint-Germain 🤑

 

Far too early semifinals prediction: PSG, Bayern, Barcelona, Manchester City

Far too early finals prediction: Paris Saint-Germain over Bayern Munich