Alabama and Michigan in Big D

Brendan is in Dallas for this game, but he refused to preview it for ALDLAND because he didn’t “want to jinx anything like I did with Barca in the champs league,” whatever that means. The only thing I don’t want to jinx is the chance that the earth under the megastadium opens up and swallows both teams, and I don’t think a quick preview of the game will do that.

Another person who fears no jinx is Floyd Mayweather, who apparently put $3 million on Michigan to cover the fourteen-point spread. If anything could jinx an outcome, it would seem to be publicly betting $3 million on that outcome.

Operating with a far lower budget, here’s a video preview of tonight’s game:

If you’re still with me and care at this point what I think about the game, it’s that I can’t see a path to victory for Michigan. I may have a blind spot in that regard, but let’s be real: Alabama’s going to win. The only question is whether Floyd Mayweather will win too.

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Daytona 500 preview

Trevor Bayne: defending Daytona 500 winner.

Tomorrow, the first and biggest race of the NASCAR season rolls off for 500 miles in Daytona, Florida. Trevor Bayne, just 20 years old, introduced himself to the wider world with his surprising win a year ago, and although he ran a majority of his season on the second-tier Nationwide Series, he’ll be there tomorrow to defend his win. It will be an uphill battle for him to repeat, though: he starts in the 40th position.

Bovada (formerly Bodog) has a Bayne win at 16/1 and likes Kyle Busch (5/1), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (5/1), and Tony Stewart (7/2). Stewart is the defending Cup champion, and after reeling off five wins in the ten-race Chase (the playoffs) to win it all last year, it’s easy to see why he’s favored in the season-opener this year. Kyle Busch has been strong in the first half of the season the last few years, so it makes sense that he would be a favorite too. Cynics might see Earnhardt Jr. as a sucker bet up there, slotted because his popularity, which outpaces his performance, will net the house some easy money, but he never can be counted out, especially at a track like Daytona, which best suits his driving style and where he has won before, and especially because he drives for Hendrick Motorsports, the best team in the sport. Roush is the next best team, and two of their drivers– Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle– are starting first and second on Sunday and have to be considered strong contenders as well.

Finally, Danica Patrick may be the biggest story going into Daytona this year, as she makes the jump from open-wheeled racing to stock cars on NASCAR’s biggest stage. She’s in good hands working with Stewart, but other successful IndyCar drivers have struggled to make the transition, and one has to expect that it will take her time to adjust as well. Still, she’s finding early success. Everyone’s focusing on a very bad wreck that was not her fault during the final lap of one of the pre-race races (I know), but she starts a respectable 29th on Sunday and has the pole position for today’s Nationwide race, remarkable for any rookie driver.

The full starting grid is here, and the top ten looks like this:

1 99 Carl Edwards Ford Fastenal
2 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M
3 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Mobil 1
4 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Best Buy
5 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Diet Mountain Dew / National Guard
6 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row / CSX “Play it Safe”
7 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford Stanley
8 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe’s
9 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar
10 33 Elliott Sadler Chevrolet General Mills / Kroger

Other stories to read before tomorrow’s race:

  • How owner points deals determine who makes it into the 43-car field at Daytona – NASCAR.com
  • Two-time winner Bill Elliot’s backnot back – ESPN.com
  • How Tony Stewart spent his championship offseason – FoxSports.com
  • “Where have the Southern drivers gone?” – FoxSports.com
  • Why Danica Patrick can win – Yahoo! Sports
  • The latest on Jimmie Johnson’s “major” rule violation – Jayski
  • Blast from the recent past: Ex-driver Jeremy Mayfield says he’s the victim of a NASCAR conspiracy – ESPN.com
Finally, a programming note: ALDLAND will be hosting its first live-blogging event during tomorrow’s race. Check back here or on our new Podcasts & Live Blogging page for details.

Liberty Bowl preview

After a couple weeks of silly bowl games and lamenting the defunctedness of the Baccardi Bowl, it’s come time to get into college football’s more serious postseason games. With the BCS bowls getting going on January 2 (there are no New Year’s Day bowls this year), New Year’s Eve provides a suitable appetizer, including Cincinnati and Vanderbilt in the Liberty Bowl, 2:30 pm Central time on ABC. Watch for me on the TV.

Rather than try to duplicate the good work already done by dedicated Vanderbilt bloggers and create my own full game preview, I’ll yield to more experienced voices below, after offering my own thoughts, in bullet-point format (it’s Memphis, after all):

  • While Vanderbilt was three plays away from a 9-3 record in the regular season, they finished 6-6, which still triples their win total from last year with essentially the same roster and bests their win total from the past two seasons combined. That said, a win on Saturday would give the Commodores a winning record on the season; a loss, of course, would give them a losing record. Coach James Franklin has hit this point in his preparation this week and I think it’s an important one. A season this good, comparatively speaking, cannot end with a losing record.
  • This is just the fifth bowl appearance for Vanderbilt, but this year’s senior class is the school’s first to play in two bowl games. At a school where nobody leaves early for the NFL (not even Jay Cutler), the seniors represent a strong, experienced group of leaders. They also have played for three different coaches (Bobby Johnson, Robbie Caldwell, and Franklin) in three years, so they have been through a lot together. After a win in the Music City Bowl three years ago, followed by two down years, the seniors seem to play for themselves as much as they do for Franklin and the future of the program. I think this bodes well for their performance in their final game.
  • As much as 2008’s Music City Bowl was a coming out party for quarterback Larry Smith, the 2011 season has been a coming out party for his replacement, Jordan Rodgers. The junior starter with a famous brother has been an offensive force this year, both as a rusher and a passer. Rodgers need not have a perfect total game for Vandy to win– other offensive options and tools are available– but he needs to avoid making the kinds of mistakes he did in the overtime loss to Tennessee.
  • Cincinnati is a relative unknown to me, and probably to you, something the information below should remedy. The two things that come to my mind are 1) they aren’t that far removed from Brian Kelly, so there probably is a talent residue there; and 2) their basketball team is made up of some hard brawlers, which may or may not carry over onto the football field. I just looked up their regular season record: 9-3. But they play in the Big East.
  • I’ve been to one other bowl game, the 2007 Rose Bowl. USC embarrassed Michigan that afternoon, and I was embarrassed to be associated with the state in which the losing team was located. I very much am hoping for a different result on Saturday.

History: Sensibly, the Liberty Bowl started in Philadelphia in 1959, but by 1965, it had moved to Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis to host larger crowds and establish itself as one of the oldest non-BCS bowls. The People’s history of the Liberty Bowl is here.

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