Posts by Peter Rosston

SQ Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl Preview

The 2015 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl is a rematch of the 2007 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in which a Kevin Riley led California Golden Bears team defeated the Air Force Falcons 42-36 in one of the more exciting Armed Forces Bowl games in recent memory. The game is on Dec. 29 at 2:00 p.m. EST

The 2015 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl is a rematch of the 2007 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in which a Kevin Riley led California Golden Bears team defeated the Air Force Falcons 42-36 in one of the more exciting Armed Forces Bowl games in recent memory. The game is on Dec. 29 at 2:00 p.m. EST and can be seen on ESPN. 

Key Storylines


Armed Forces Rematch: Cal and Air Force have not faced each other since the 2007 Armed Forces Bowl in which a star-laden Cal roster containing the likes of Desean Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, Thomas DeCoud, and Justin Forsett emerged victorious. Air Force has been back to the Armed Forces Bowl twice since 2007 and lost both times, so they will be out for revenge and a little bit of redemption in 2015.

The Last We See Of Goff?: If Jared Goff declares for the NFL draft, and it looks like he will, he is projected to be a top-five pick, according to Todd McShay. Goff has had an illustrious career at Cal and owns many of the passing records, surpassing the numbers of even the great Aaron Rodgers. 

However, this season, there have been some doubts about how ready he is for the NFL after Cal tanked following a 5-0 start. Goff will be looking to leave a statement for NFL scouts if this is indeed the final game of his collegiate career.

Who Can Find Motivation?: Cal comes into this game at 7-5, looking for their first eight-win season since 2009. With the exception of some fifth-year seniors, no one on this Cal roster has played in a postseason bowl game.

That being said, there is no doubt that after a flying start to the season, Cal has fallen flat, going 2-5 to end the year, and they may still be ruing what could have been. 

Similarly, Air Force is coming off a tough to swallow defeat at the hands of San Diego State. Down three late in the game, Air Force squandered multiple chances to tie or take the lead, and a victory in that game would have given them the Mountain West Title. With the taste of defeat still fresh, Air Force should be fired up for this one.


Key Stats

5 – All five of Air Force’s losses came on the road. The Armed Forces bowl will be played at a neutral site in Fort Worth, Texas–not close to either Air Force or Cal. However, Cal fans tend to travel well and should fill up Amon G. Carter stadium. Air Force will need to overcome their road travel woes and find some home cooking so they can emulate Fort Worth.

368.8 – Passing yards per game for the Cal offense. This number puts them at fifth in the nation in passing yards per game. Their running game pales in comparison; they only average 155.7 yards per game, placing 88th in the nation. While a lot of the credit goes to gunslinger Goff, Cal had six different receivers with over 35 catches, including Kenny Lawler, who has a penchant for the spectacular, especially around the end zone.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blyI4HjwBxA

42 – Number of rushing touchdowns for Air Force this season, compared to only 13 passing touchdowns. Air Force had 10 players punch the ball into the end zone this season via the ground. Led by Jacobi Owens and Karson Roberts, the Falcons’ running game carried the offense, accounting for 4,138 of the offense’s 5,836 total yards. 

Key Players

Kenny Lawler, WR, Cal – Although it would be very easy to put Goff here, Kenny Lawler needs to have a good game for Cal to win. Lawler started the season off incredibly hot with eight touchdowns and over 400 yards receiving in Cal’s first five games, all of which were victories. 

In Cal’s five losses, Lawler has been held to 180 yards and only one score. He is a big-time player and Goff’s favorite target, but big-time players need to show up in big-time moments, and now is the time for Lawler to shine.

Weston Steelhammer, DB, Air Force – Aptly named, Steelhammer does it all for the Falcons, including bringing the boom on defense. He leads the team with 80 tackles, 10.5 of which were for a loss. Air Force will rely on him to read Goff’s eyes all day and be wherever the ball is. He has five interceptions on the season and seven pass breakups and will need to have a major impact on the game to keep Air Force in it. 

Why California Wins

Cal is the better team–it’s as simple as that. All five of their losses came to a team that was ranked in the AP Top 15 at some point this season. When they played teams at their level or worse, they took care of business. They have the best player on the field in Goff, and he recently showed against Arizona State that if the game is on the line late, you want the ball in his hands. 

This season, Cal has been able to maintain a relative balance between running and passing, only throwing 55% of the time. If they can establish the ground game early and prevent Air Force from dropping seven or eight guys into coverage, they will win this game.

Why Air Force Wins

Air Force brings an offense in the triple option that Cal rarely faces. No Pac-12 team operates using this offense, and even with the extra weeks to prepare, there is nothing quite like seeing the triple option live for the first time. Cal’s already porous defense, which ranked 103rd in the nation against the run, giving up 203 yards per game, will have its hands full with the well-oiled machine that is the Air Force ground attack. 

Even though they play in the Mountain West, Air Force is battle-tested, having faced Michigan State, Navy, and Boise State this season. They will be playing with a chip on their shoulder after just missing out on a conference title and should come out guns blazing from the opening kickoff. 

Prediction

If you’re a fan of good defense, shield your eyes–this is probably not the bowl game for you. However, if you are like the majority of college football fans, this one should be a doozy with plenty of fireworks. Goff and Co. will be putting up points just as fast as their defense gives them up. The balanced triple option attack of Air Force should wear down the Cal defense and keep pace.

This game will come down to whether or not Daniel Lasco and Khalfani Muhammad can find enough holes to force Air Force to respect the Cal running game and open up the aerial attack for Goff and his arsenal of receivers. In the end, in what is likely his last game, expect Goff to will his team to victory. 

Final Score: California 45 – Air Force 31

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College Football Playoff Outlook Week 14

A crazy slate of high-profile games Week 12 saw Notre Dame, Michigan, Baylor and Oklahoma State all go down along with their playoff chances. With a dominating win over the Cowboys in the Bedlam game to clinch the Big 12 title, Oklahoma is likely the first team of 2015 to lock up a spot in

A crazy slate of high-profile games Week 12 saw Notre Dame, Michigan, Baylor and Oklahoma State all go down along with their playoff chances. With a dominating win over the Cowboys in the Bedlam game to clinch the Big 12 title, Oklahoma is likely the first team of 2015 to lock up a spot in the top four. Although they may not move up from their spot at #3 in the College Football Playoff rankings, they have no more games this year and are highly unlikely to be passed over in favor of another one or two-loss team. Going team-by-team, I am going to break down what it will take for the remaining playoff hopefuls to secure a spot in the top four. 

Clemson: (12-0 ACC) 

For Clemson, it is pretty simple: win and they’re in. However, after a disappointing performance last week at South Carolina where they eked out a 37-32 victory, a close win over North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game coupled with a dominant Alabama performance in the SEC Title Game may result in Clemson dropping to #2 in the final rankings. A loss to UNC would put the committee in a tough position. Clemson has run the table so far, but played a relatively easy schedule with their overall SOS checking in at 36. They do have quality wins over Notre Dame and Florida State, and if it comes down to Florida and Clemson for the final playoff spot, the committee will definitely take into consideration Florida State, and team that Florida just got pasted by 27-2, as a common opponent. 

Alabama: (11-1 SEC) 

Alabama is in the same position as Clemson. As long as they win, they will be in. Derrick Henry joined Bo Jackson and Herschel Walker as the only players to rush for 200 yards four times in a single season and looks to have just about locked up the Heisman.

Next up for Alabama is the SEC Championship Game against a floundering Florida team. A loss in this game would likely push Alabama out of the top four if Clemson and Stanford both win.  

Iowa: (12-0 Big Ten) 

Iowa has had to listen to the doubters all season. Iowa has played one of the easier schedules in the country, with a strength of schedule at 63. But more importantly, they have yet to lose. Now, they face their biggest test of the season, a red-hot Michigan State team, in the Big Ten Championship Game. A win here would cement Iowa’s place in the top four, and probably move them ahead of Oklahoma and into third place in the rankings. A loss and Iowa would be headed to Pasadena to face either Stanford or USC in the Rose Bowl.  

Michigan State: (11-1 Big Ten) 

Michigan State did what they needed to on Saturday, leaving no doubt in a routine win over Penn State. At this point, it’s pretty simple for Sparty. Like Iowa, win this coming Saturday and they will be in the top four, lose and a New Years Six Bowl awaits.  

North Carolina (11-1 ACC) 

Of the teams that are not guaranteed a birth in the playoff with a win, the North Carolina Tar Heels might have the most convincing argument to be next in line. Their only loss on the season came in Week 1 on the road against South Carolina, and they have only played one really close game, a 30-27 win over Virginia Tech, since then. The committee would be hard pressed to omit a 1-loss champion from a Power-5 conference, Naysayers will cite North Carolina’s 62nd ranked strength of schedule as an area for concern, but a win over consensus #1 Clemson would certainly silence some of them.  

Ohio State (11-1 Big Ten)

 If you think Ohio State fans and players haven’t already started to lobby the committee, think again. These photos are from a since deleted tweet from Ohio State Wide Receiver Michael Thomas pleading his case for inclusion in the playoff.   

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At this point, Ohio State has done all they can, and their only loss on the season came last-second at the hands of Michigan State.

ESPN’s Football Power Index has Ohio State listed as the 3rd best team in the nation, but they will need Clemson or Alabama to slip up to even dream of a chance to defend their title from last season.

Stanford (10-2 Pac-12) 

Stanford salvaged their season and chances at a playoff bid with a last-second win over Notre Dame in Palo Alto on Saturday. 

 
Next up for Stanford is the Pac-12 championship against #24 USC at Levi’s Stadium, where Stanford should enjoy home-field advantage. Stanford still needs either Clemson or Alabama to lose to have a shot at finishing in the top four. Stanford’s argument to be included over Ohio State would be their conference title, and their argument over a potential ACC Champion North Carolina would be their superior strength of schedule (18 vs. 62). 

Ultimately, if Clemson and Alabama take care of business on Saturday, the only drama when the committee unveils the final rankings will be the seeds of the top four teams. However, if one of them loses and Stanford wins, there will be plenty of debating and arguing over who deserves a shot to take home the second ever College Football Playoff trophy. 

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Who Has The Edge: Comparing Current College Football Playoff Outsiders

Right now in College Football, only six teams know that if they win out, they will be in the College Football Playoff come January. Those six teams are Clemson, Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Michigan State and Oklahoma. Alabama and Florida would meet in the SEC Championship and Iowa and Michigan State would meet in the Big

Right now in College Football, only six teams know that if they win out, they will be in the College Football Playoff come January. Those six teams are Clemson, Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Michigan State and Oklahoma. Alabama and Florida would meet in the SEC Championship and Iowa and Michigan State would meet in the Big Ten Championship, so only four of these six teams can actually win out.

Where things get more interesting is when, inevitably, some of these teams slip up. A handful of teams are waiting in the wings, just hoping that they get a chance to plead their case to be included in the Playoff. In this article, I will compare the resumes of different playoff contenders, currently on the outside looking in, and rank their resumes as if each of them won out. Again, since Notre Dame plays Stanford and Ohio State plays Michigan, it is not possible for every team on this list to win out. Keep in mind that current College Football Playoff rankings have little bearing on the final rankings. TCU was ranked 3rd up until the last poll of last year, won their last game and dropped all the way to 6th.

1. Notre Dame (Would be 11-1)

Notre Dame has only one win against teams currently in the AP Top 25, #25 Temple, but a win against Stanford on Saturday would do wonders to boost the Irish’s profile. The only blemish on an otherwise stellar season is a close, two-point loss to undefeated and undisputed number one overall Clemson. However, some potentially troubling news for the Irish is that standout Cornerback KeiVarae Russell broke his tibia and will not return until a possible National Championship game on January 11th. The committee takes long term injuries into account, and the loss of a key player may have some impact on their decision. 

2. Ohio State (Would be 11-1)

Given that Ohio State’s only loss on the season came on a last second field goal against Michigan State, you would think the Buckeyes would have a good shot at making the playoff if another team slips up. However, if Michigan State beats Penn State next week, Ohio State will be left out of the Big Ten Conference Title game. Anyone who doubts the importance of a conference title game should go talk to TCU or Baylor fans. What might save Ohio State is the eye test. The Buckeyes have a plethora of NFL caliber players in Braxton Miller, JT Barrett, and Ezekiel Elliot on offense to go along with Adolphus Washington, Joey Bosa, and Darron Lee on defense. If Ohio State can put together two dominant halves against Michigan in The Big House, the Buckeyes will be right on the brink of making the playoff. 

3. Stanford (Would be 11-2)

Until a deflating 38-36 loss to Oregon, Stanford appeared to control its destiny. Their only loss on the season up until then was a 16-6 disaster on the road in Evanston week one. Now with two losses, things are much different. That being said, Stanford appears to be in the best spot of any two loss team in the nation. Where Stanford holds an advantage over some one loss teams is that the Cardinals will be playing either a ranked USC or a ranked UCLA team for the Pac 12 Title. That means if Stanford wins out, they will have wins in the final two weeks of the season over a Top 10 Notre Dame team and a Top 20 team from LA. Also, who doesn’t want to see under-the-radar Heisman candidate Christian McCaffrey tear it up possibly in two bowl games instead of just one? 

4. Oklahoma State (Would be 11-1)

Oklahoma State’s playoffs hopes were derailed last week in a home dud against Baylor. If Baylor wins out, Oklahoma State would like their chances even more, as this would mean their only loss on the season would have come against an 11-1 team. More importantly, a win on Saturday would add a huge boot to their resume, which due to TCU’s recent struggles, lacks a true statement win. However, the lack of a championship game hurts them immensely. There is nothing worse for a team than sitting and watching while other playoff hopefuls are making statements. 


5. Michigan (Would be 10-2)

Michigan is in a position very similar to Ohio State. If Michigan State beats Penn State, Michigan has essentially no chance of making the playoff, even if they beat Ohio State on Saturday. Although neither of Michigan’s losses, at home vs. Utah and Michigan State, are terrible, especially considering the circumstances surrounding the Michigan State loss, the committee would prefer a one loss team or two loss conference winner. Maybe Coach Jim Harbaugh’s tantrums can intimidate the committee into giving the Wolverines a spot. 

6. Baylor (Would be 11-1)

Baylor fans will wonder what could have been if star quarterback Seth Russell had not suffered a season ending neck injury. Freshman Jarrett Stidham has filled in admirably, save for a bad performance against Oklahoma. A win last week in Stillwater against a previously undefeated Oklahoma State team has given the Bears a sliver of hope, however, and I must sound like a broken record, not having a championship game could come back to haunt the Bears for the second year running. Baylor has two remaining games, but every single team ahead of them on this list has a tougher remaining game, so even a win against a good TCU team would not vault the Bears up the rankings, especially if TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin does not play. 

Now the only other question that remains is would any of the six “win and you’re in” teams make it with another loss. As far as I can tell, for any of those six teams, and especially the six outsider teams, another loss at this point all but eliminates them from playoff contention. 

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