February 8, 2012

Schooling Schooler: Time to Feed the Ego

by Jac Coyne | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Clemson sophomore middie Ryan Conlon (above) has a pair of goals in the Tigers first two games of the season. If the No. 14 Tigers want to take down No. 5 Boston College on Friday night, Conlon might be called upon.
© Cecil Copeland/The Athletic Image

Life is full of ups and downs. It's that unpredictability that keeps things interesting. If everything lined up perfectly, existence would get kind of boring. With that said, it's always nice when, once in a while, life lobs you an alley-oop for the slam dunk.

That's what Schooling Schooler is for me; just a big ego boost.

For the third straight year, I will again put my nearly-clairvoyant MCLA game picking skills up against Nick Schooler – a former All-American midfielder for UC Santa Barbara during the Gauchos' salad days, an erstwhile doctoral student in marine biology at UCSB, and a self-professed 'MCLA Insider.'

And, for the third straight year, I will be walking away with the victory.

Nick typically puts up a good fight along the way, and occasionally has some interesting analysis. But if he falls behind early, you'll get a glimpse of that nasty, Berkeley-raised liberal who will viciously tear down anything that gets in his way (except a tree, of course). Heck, if things get bad enough, he may try to #Occupy the Internet in hopes of stopping the embarrassment.

As a refresher, we'll pick five games every week, keeping a running score during the course of the MCLA campaign. Three of the games every week will be the premier contests, with Nick and I each picking one game each to round out the group. It's not too complicated. For me anyway.

You ready, Nick?

SCHOOLER: After a long off-season of post-defeat reflection, I have decided to return for yet another season of MCLA lacrosse pick-em, better known as Schooling Schooler. However, this is not a quest of redemption.

I am doing this for all the readers out there who scoff at Jac's pompous arrogance. Why should we, as fans of the game, sit back and let people like Jac control the coverage of the MCLA unchallenged? The 99% of us who do not have a platform like LaxMagazine.com to publish our opinions need representation. I plan to serve the people and Occupy the MCLA.

Are you still clinging to the Santorum bandwagon? Do you still have that "anyone but Romney 2012" attitude! Just like a typical conservative, I will have Jac flip-flopping throughout the season. One week he will be telling us how BYU is the next Michigan. The following week, he will tell us how Florida State is going to win it all. I do know one thing about Jac, he will be riding the Gaucho train by season's end. Ole!

To the games...

Cal at No. 8 Oregon - Saturday, 1 p.m. PT
COYNE: If you remember back to this game last year, a highly-regarded Oregon team traveled to Berkeley to open the season and got embarrassed by the Bears, 10-2. If that wasn't bad enough, it sent the Ducks spiraling to a 1-5 start to the spring. They eventually righted the ship, winning seven of the final eight contests of the season, capturing the PNCLL title and advancing the national quarterfinals. But you can bet Joe Kerwin will remind his players how critical it will be for Oregon to get off to a better start in order to avoid a No. 8 seed (and a quarterfinal date with the top-ranked team). The Ducks should be helped with the game being in Eugene.

As easy as this pick is, Schooler may give me a freebie. While he's a UCSB guy, he has a soft spot for Cal, and, somewhat miraculously, he even called the Bears win last year. I've got a hunch he'll take his hometown team again, opening the door for me. Duckies, 14-9.

SCHOOLER: I am not falling for this trap and neither is Oregon. The Ducks were a young, inexperienced team last year, but they showed a lot of promise down the stretch. Look for the midfield tandem of Spencer Robertson and Kevin Clark to turn some heads this year and dominate the PNCLL. While Cal is looking great with the return of their top three scorers as well as the addition of my good friend, Ed Hill, to the coaching staff, I do not think they will be able to knock off a fired up Ducks team on the road. Oregon redeems themselves with a blowout, 18-7.

No. 1 Brigham Young vs. No. 18 Simon Fraser (at Boise, Idaho) - Saturday, 2 p.m. MT
COYNE: We can keep this short. Yes, we've got a couple of ranked teams, but in name only. Fraser may keep it close for a quarter or two, but the Clan will get overwhelmed. Cougars, 16-10.

SCHOOLER: This is pretty much the same BYU team that won the national championship eight months ago. There is no way that Calvin Craig can handle the Cougars on his own. BYU wins this easily, 15-6.

No. 5 Boston College vs. No. 12 Florida State (at Chamblee, Ga.) – Sunday, 1 p.m.
COYNE: All things being equal, you'd probably give the nod to Boston College in this one. The Eagles returned a solid group that could very well be one of the four final teams remaining, and Florida State graduated a massive amount of talent from 2011. However, thing's aren't equal. This will be the third game in three days for the Eagles, and the only contest of the weekend for the Seminoles – the rarely seen 'Triple Down.'

BC is the better team, and I still like them going deep into the MCLA tournament, but even in a rebuilding year FSU is a formidable opponent. Put them at the tail-end of a three-game weekend and that's trouble. This one will still be close, but I like the 'Noles to pick up the valuable victory. Florida State, 9-7

SCHOOLER: This is not the same Florida State team that most of the country thought was overrated last year. They have lost two All-Americans on the defensive half of the field as well as their entire starting attack. This will be a totally restructured team running their offense through the midfield and hoping to cause matchup problems for teams with a weak midfield defenses. If this Seminole attack turns out to be good finishers, we could see FSU move up in the rankings.

Coming off one of their best seasons yet, the Eagles have managed to maintain the core structure of their team. Senior Jason White will anchor the Boston College defense while Matt O'Sullivan will hold together a midfield that will need to come up big in this game.

The 'Noles have a few games under their belt already. By game time, BC will have a few games under its collective belt, too, but three games in three days can be tough. Luckily, climate change has given the northeast a mild winter and those Eagles have had ample time to prepare for this game. I see Boston College coming out strong and holding on for a 10-9 victory.

Coyne's Pick

No. 5 Boston College at No. 14 Clemson – Friday, 7 p.m.
COYNE: As mentioned above, the Eagles will play three games this weekend. Well, this is the first game of the three (BC plays No. 20 Central Florida on Saturday) and it won't be easy. Clemson has visions of making the short, in-state trip to Greenville this May, and a win here would be a huge chip in their pocket on Selection Sunday. The Tigers have plenty of pop on the offensive end – remember, they waxed Buffalo in the regular season last year – but they'll have to break in an inexperienced goalie after graduating a very talented combo. That will be the difference.

Boston College will have some questions to answer in this first game, and probably won't have the amount of practice time as the Tigers, but the Eagles' offense should be able to net enough goals in a surprisingly high-scoring affair. BC, 13-11.

SCHOOLER: Boston College has one of the tougher schedules in the country, and the first six games are tougher than any team. Kudos to the Eagles for going out of their way to play the best teams in the SELC and California on the road.

I am hoping that BC does not overlook this first game because Clemson is returning their entire team from last season, a season in which they were one game short of the three required out-of-conference games needed to qualify for nationals. That is not the case this season, and this would be a great game to win in the quest to make the short trip to Greenville. Clemson will come out tough in this game and catch BC off-guard. Clemson wins this in a nailbiter, 8-7.

Schooler's Pick

No. 21 Stanford at No. 11 UCSB - Saturday, 2 p.m. PT
SCHOOLER: No question who I am picking in this one. Mike Allan has returned to the land of beautiful women, great parties, endless summers, and best of all, great lacrosse. This is the same Gaucho team that gave BYU a run for its money in the first round of Nationals. They lost Dave Kurtmen on defense, but have returned the best midfield in the MCLA.

Stanford has always been a scrappy team and may come out with a heavy first quarter push, but the Gauchos will dominate this game and tortillas will be blanketing The Pit. UCSB wins, 12-3. Ole!

COYNE: Mike Allan returns and the Santa Barbarians assume its 2005 again. At this point, maybe they're right. Thanks to talented recruiting classes amassed by Allan's two predecessors, the Gauchos certainly appear to be a fearsome bunch. With that said, adjusting to three coaches in four years will take its toll on a program, especially early in the season when another new system is being perfected. UCSB may finish strong, but they'll have some hurdles to overcome early.

Stanford is a solid team, and a really good test for the Gauchos. If this game was on The Farm, I might be tempted to take a flyer on the Cardinal. However, with the game in Santa Barbara, I think UCSB will pull this one out. It'll be closer than people think, however. Gauchos, 8-6.

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