2015 NFL Preview & Prognostications

kickoff_footballThere is a delete feature when creating a blog post that I rarely use. Oh sure I revise & edit, but once I’ve posted something I usually don’t back out. This is an exception.

I have been deeply troubled in the past week ever since my Pittsburgh Steelers signed convicted felon and erstwhile dog killer Michael Vick as a backup quarterback. No, check that…I was ANGRY. I’ve always said that Vick “paid his debt to society” and “deserves a second chance”, but those were easy platitudes to spew as long as he wasn’t playing for MY team, a franchise that is usually associated with class & accountability. So I signed petitions, deleted Steeler fan pages from my Facebook feed, took down a Steelers helmet “fathead” that had been on my refrigerator for a decade, decided that I wouldn’t play any Steelers players on my multiple fantasy teams, promised myself that I wasn’t going to watch any Steeler games this year, & eradicated them from this season preview.

My resolve lasted only a few days, although there is a good reason for that.

The younger brother of one of my closest friends died unexpectedly. I called my friend and did my best to provide comfort, but what can one really say in such a situation?? It is terribly sad. Not long ago another friend (and mutual friend of the aforementioned friend) died in a tragic motorcycle accident. Even before that I had occasionally pondered mortality & legacy, but recent events have served to intensify the thought process. I am undecided as to whether that is positive or completely unhealthy.

At any rate, I began to contemplate Colossians 3:8, which advises that we are to “put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.” I am far too jaded and easy to anger. I know that about myself. I know that it is one of the weaknesses that prevents me from being the kind of example & witness of Christ that I’d prefer. There are certainly bigger issues in life than football, but this is a tremendous opportunity for growth. I have received much pleasure from Steelers football in my life. Should I let one player deprive me of that happiness?? Tomorrow is not guaranteed, so we all should live each day to the fullest…”suck out all the marrow of life”.

For me a big part of life is the Pittsburgh Steelers. I’m still not a Michael Vick supporter. I don’t like the signing and probably won’t change my mind. However, as long as God blesses me with another day of life I shall do my best to not take it for granted. I must do that to honor God and out of respect for those who didn’t get an opportunity for another tomorrow. So the fathead is back on the fridge, and I’ll watch the games rooting on the Black & Gold. And more germane to the present discourse, Pittsburgh is included in this revised preview. Enjoy.\







New England Patriots
(12-4) 10-6
Miami Dolphins
(8-8) 9-7
Buffalo Bills
(9-7) 7-9
New York Jets
(4-12) 2-14

At this moment Tom Brady’s four game suspension stemming from DeflateGate stands. That could change. I think it may New_England_Patriots_Helmetultimately be reduced to two games, but even that could get delayed by a judge. Armed with the information I have I will forecast the Patriots to win the division, but the competition might be interesting. Rex Ryan is now in charge in Buffalo and has engineered some intriguing moves, like trading for RB LeSean McCoy. The problem is the Bills still have Matt Cassel, Tyrod Taylor, & EJ Manuel battling to be the starting QB, which is kind of like going to a car lot and choosing between a Mercury Topaz & a Yugo. The Dolphins are set behind center and also added free agent defensive lineman Ndamakong Suh in the offseason. Miami could be in the wildcard hunt. The Jets are a bigger mess than ever, but after the 2016 NFL Draft should be able to make Geno Smith what he’s always been destined to be…a backup quarterback.



San Diego Chargers
(9-7) 10-6
Kansas City Chiefs
(9-7) 10-6
Denver Broncos
(12-4) 10-6
Oakland Raiders
(3-13) 5-11

Surprise!! I do not have the Broncos winning the division. Peyton Manning finally showed signs of aging last season, and I San_Diego_Chargers_Helmet3believe his decline will continue in 2015. The Chiefs finally have some wide receivers, an improvement that I think will have them contending for a playoff spot. The Raiders are…well, the Raiders. They are a sad shadow of the mighty Dark Empire built by the late Al Davis. I keep looking for signs of a breakthrough but they just aren’t there, unless one chooses to be psyched about new head coach Jack Del Rio, which is a stretch. I like QB Derek Carr, but he doesn’t have alot to work with quite yet. We’ll see how rookie WR Amari Cooper does out of the gate. All of that means that the Chargers will finally get over the hump and win the division for the first time since 2009, although I don’t expect it to be easy.



Indianapolis Colts
(11-5) 14-2
Jacksonville Jaguars
(3-13) 8-8
Tennessee Titans
(2-14) 6-10
Houston Texans
(9-7) 5-11

Count me amongst those who felt like the Titans should have traded down in the draft and stuck with Zach Mettenberger at QB. It’s not that I don’t Indianapolis_Colts_Helmetlike Marcus Mariota, who I think will blossom down the road after some initial growing pains, but Mettenberger didn’t really get a fair shot in Tennessee and could very well become a solid signal caller somewhere else in a year or two. Of course I have always felt the same about Ryan Mallett, who I assumed was just in a bad spot behind Tom Brady in New England, but he couldn’t even beat out Brian freakin’ Hoyer for the Texans’ starting gig, so my instincts may need some fine tuning. There’s no question that the Colts are winning the division, but the real surprise could be the Jags, who I believe will be much improved as Blake Bortles gets settled in behind center and RB TJ Yeldon out of Alabama leads a power rushing attack that’ll wear defenses down. Jacksonville isn’t a playoff team yet, but they’ll win a few games they aren’t supposed to.



Pittsburgh Steelers
(11-5) 10-6
Cincinnati Bengals
(10-5-1) 10-6
Baltimore Ravens
(10-6) 9-7
Cleveland Browns
(7-9) 3-13

Is this the year Johnny Football inexplicably gets an opportunity to be an NFL starting quarterback?? At some point…yes. What do the Browns have to diamond-steelerslose?? The more interesting question is what they’ll do with a top 5 pick in next spring’s NFL Draft. Do they choose from what I hear will be a deep class of QBs, or do they stick with Manziel?? Stay tuned. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but I believe we’ll see the Ravens take a step back this season. It’s just a vibe. I think it’ll come down to the Bengals & the Steelers for the division title. There is understandable apprehension in Pittsburgh about the defense due to the retirements of Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, & Brett Kiesel and the departure of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. These changes were necessary but there will be a period of adjustment. The Bengals are probably the favorites in places like Vegas & Atlantic City, but I’m not sure they have the total package.



Playoff Teams – Indianapolis, New England, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Kansas City, Denver
AFC Championship – Indianapolis vs. Denver





Green Bay Packers
(12-4) 11-5
Minnesota Vikings
(7-9) 9-7
Detroit Lions
(11-5) 8-8
Chicago Bears
(5-11) 3-13

I have to be honest…I really pondered changing my original forecast for the Packers after a season ending knee injury to WR Green_Bay_Packers_HelmetJordy Nelson. However upon further reflection I still believe they will win the division easily. The more interesting competition will be for second place and a possible wildcard berth. Losing Ndamakong Suh could very well have a more negative impact on the Lions’ defense than anyone could imagine, and that’ll open the door for the Vikings to emerge as a playoff contender. I really like QB Teddy Bridgewater, and he definitely has some talented offensive weapons, including returning RB Adrian Peterson. I will skip the obvious quip about using “weapons” and “Adrian Peterson” in the same sentence. Chicago is still a joke and will continue to be as long as Jay Cutler is their quarterback. I like head coach John Fox and have no doubt the defense will be fine, but with Cutler under center the Bears will continue to tread water.



Atlanta Falcons
(6-10) 9-7
Carolina Panthers
(7-8-1) 8-8
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
(2-14) 8-8
New Orleans Saints
(7-9) 8-8

I just hope that whoever tops this division in 2015 does so with a winning record. Might this be the year that Cam Newton fulfills his destiny and falconsbecomes a championship quarterback?? The loss of top wideout Kelvin Benjamin to a season ending knee injury doesn’t help that cause. Will new head coach Dan Quinn create magic for Atlanta’s defense like he did with the Seattle Seahawks?? Maybe. Can rookie QB Jameis Winston stay out of trouble long enough to help improve Tampa’s fortunes?? The biggest shock here may be the continued mediocrity of the New Orleans Saints. QB Drew Brees is still a gunslinger, but he lost a BIG target in the offseason when tight end Jimmie Graham was traded to Seattle. None of New Orleans’ skill players outside of Brees seem particularly intimidating on paper, and that’s a problem. This will be a competitive yet unexceptional division…again.



Dallas Cowboys
(12-4) 12-4
New York Giants
(6-10) 8-8
Philadelphia Eagles
(10-6) 8-8
Washington Redskins
(4-12) 2-14

This is going to sting, but I have to be honest. I see no reason to expect anything less from the Cowboys than what they achieved dallas-cowboys-logo2last season. The competition just isn’t up to par. The unpredictable Giants should show improvement as long as they can keep everyone healthy (excluding DE Jason Pierre “Fingers” Paul of course), but they aren’t legit contenders. No one knows quite what the heck head coach Chip Kelly is doing. He’s either a mad genius or in completely over his head. We’ll know more in a couple of months. And what can I say about the Redskins?? RGIII is NOT the answer at quarterback, but neither is Jay Gruden an impressive head coach. I think they’re just going to have to scrap everything and start from scratch in Washington DC. That includes the football team.



Seattle Seahawks
(12-4) 12-4
Arizona Cardinals
(11-5) 10-6
St. Louis Rams
(6-10) 8-8
San Francisco 49ers
(8-8) 2-14

It is completely possible that the Seahawks have gotten even better since inexplicably throwing away (literally) The Super Bowl seattle-seahawks1seven months ago. There seems to be some consternation about how new TE Jimmie Graham will fit into their offensive scheme, but if that’s the biggest problem to solve they’ll continue to be the envy of the league. The Rams should be slightly better and the Cardinals are probably a solid playoff team if oft injured signal caller Carson Palmer can make it thru the season, but neither are a serious threat to Seattle. The 49ers are a trainwreck that seemingly lost half their team in the offseason, including former head coach Jim Harbaugh. I hope the new guy is renting because he’s probably just a transitional fix until the powers-that-be can get this sinking ship afloat again and attract a legitimate head coach.




Playoff Teams – Seattle, Dallas, Green Bay, Atlanta, Arizona, Minnesota
NFC Championship – Seattle vs. Dallas



Seattle Seahawks 24

 Denver Broncos 27




Top 5 Picks in 2016 NFL Draft
1 NY Jets
2 San Francisco 49ers
3 Washington Redskins
4 Chicago Bears
5 Cleveland Browns

Points of Ponderation…..Episode 4.15

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

quitContrary to popular opinion, maybe sometimes it is okay to walk away. As children we are inundated with platitudes like “don’t ever give up” and “winners never quit & quitters never win”, but in the real world there are occasions where it might be best to make a course correction. A job you hate. A loveless marriage. A toxic friendship. A commitment or responsibility one can no longer adequately fulfill due to changes in life’s circumstances. Certainly one should ponder & pray before making any impetuous decisions…that’s obvious. However I think it is possible that there are situations where quitting might actually be the courageous & mature choice.


helmsI recently headed to the friendly neighborhood multiplex to check out the new reboot/sequel/follow-up to the 80’s National Lampoon’s Vacation series simply called Vacation. I didn’t hate it yet didn’t particularly like it either. You’ll have to wait for the year-end Sammy Awards for further pontification. For now though let me say that IF a sequel is given the green light (and I expect it will be) I have an idea. Citizens of The Manoverse are familiar with my love for Christmas movies, with 1989’s Christmas Vacation amongst my favorites. The new Vacation could…should…be followed by a Christmas Vacation sequel!! Clark & Ellen Griswold have a short cameo in the new Vacation, but their roles could be expanded in Christmas Vacation 2.0. Chevy Chase hasn’t aged well and Beverly D’Angelo has had more plastic surgery than Meg Ryan, but they still have the chops to pull off supporting roles as the wacky grandparents. They could come to visit Rusty & his family for the holidays. Leslie Mann as Audrey Griswold (who also is underutilized in the new Vacation) could come visit too (sans her weirdo husband). You might even throw in a grown-up Cousin Ruby Sue, Jane Krakowski could reprise her role as the original Cousin Vicki, & I believe both of the grandmothers (Doris Roberts & Diane Ladd) are still alive. If Randy Quaid ever regains his sanity and can legally return from his Canadian hideout an appearance by Cousin Eddie would be the cherry on top. The world needs more Chevy Chase/Ed Helms scenes!! I don’t have a fully formed plot in my mind, but I do know one thing…this film cannot be written and/or directed by the same guys who did the current one. They just don’t cut the mustard. Maybe Judd Apatow would be willing to take a crack at it?? He’s the closest thing we have to John Hughes nowadays. Come on Hollywood…make it happen.


ghettoOne of the definitions that Dictionary.com assigns the word ghetto is “something that is considered to be unrefined, low-class, cheap, or inferior”. I recently used the term to describe some classless language that another person had utilized. Not surprisingly I was immediately accused of being racist because that’s just what we’ve come to in 21st century New America. A person, situation, idea, or language can most certainly be considered ghetto without any kind of racial connotation, and anyone with a brain should know that, but it’s much easier and fashionable to consider just about anything & everything racist or otherwise offensive nowadays. People need to wake up & realize that if everyone was so sensitive in this country a couple of centuries ago we never would have achieved the greatness that once made the United States the world’s foremost superpower. I’m not politically correct. As a matter of fact I sometimes go out of my way to spit on political correctness just to annoy those who embrace such stupidity. If you’re not down with that then I don’t need to have you in my life.


argumentI think militancy is amongst the biggest problems our world faces. Are all Muslims bad?? Of course not. It’s the extremists that wreak havoc. I may not agree with homosexuality as a lifestyle, but I’ve had a few gay friends over the years who are quite lovely people. It is militant gay people who want to be given special treatment and put up on a pedestal that make things unpalatable. Is racism an issue?? Unfortunately yes. However I feel like many so-called “racists” are mostly hostile to militant minorities whose favorite pasttime is wallowing in victimhood and seeing racism in everything or fabricating it out of thin air. In other words, I am not so sure that it is the color of a person’s skin or their religion or their particular lifestyle that is the primary source of a lot of animosity. Much of the time disdain is a response to peoples’ behavior. If you act like an idiot people probably won’t like you very much regardless of your race, religion, sexual orientation, or anything else. Behave like a normal, polite, respectful, well-adjusted person and chances are you’ll probably get along just fine with most folks. It’s pretty simple.


trump2Not only did support for Donald Trump not diminish after his poor performance in the first Republican debate…his numbers actually went up. I get it…I really do. The disgust for the current occupant of The White House cannot be understated. Trump is an outspoken, politically incorrect rebel with nothing to lose. He definitely stands out from the crowd and people are into it. But I just don’t understand how anyone could have watched that initial debate and not become really nervous about him as the potential President of the United States. He doesn’t have any solid answers beyond tough talking sound bytes that appeal to the disgruntled masses. “Making America great again” is a really cool idea and I’m all for it, but at some point a candidate has to offer specifics. Trump is able to get away with meaningless platitudes and a defiant attitude that everyone thinks is awesome because right now no one is really paying attention and the field is so crowded that there’s really little opportunity for meaningful discussion. That will change, and when it does Donald Trump will have to convince voters that he legitimately believes what he is saying, explain his flip-flops/evolution on issues that he has leaned left on in the past, & temper his rhetoric enough that he becomes more palatable to judicious citizens that can’t be influenced by entertaining yet meaningless bravado.

2015 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

College-Football-MapA year ago I was so excited about the inaugural four team college football playoff. That enthusiasm was eventually mitigated just a bit. Though, at the end of the day, I admit that the teams selected were deserving, the process itself was severely flawed. It has become clear that the Division 1 FBS level of college football needs to be further subdivided into two tiers, each with its own championship. As it stands now, only half of the FBS teams have a realistic path to the playoff. At any rate, that is a debate for another time. For now let’s just be happy that football is back and there will finally be something worthwhile to vegg out for on the weekend.





1 Ohio State
Last Season: 14-1
Key Games: 11/21 vs. Michigan St., 11/28 at Michigan, 12/5 Big Ten Championship Game
I was WAY wrong in my assessment of the Buckeyes last pre-season. I, like many others, assumed that losing their starting QB was a death blow. Ohio_State_BuckeyesNow…a year later…they return three starting caliber QBs. It looks like Braxton Miller might move to receiver, JT Barrett will be the starter, & Cardale Jones will be forced to be patient and probably delay his NFL aspirations another year. Or not. Who knows?? I’m not at all worried about suspensions for the first game against Virginia Tech, and I’d be surprised if they didn’t get to 10-0 pretty easily before a tough two games to end the regular season.


2 Southern Cal
Last Season: 9-4
Key Games: 9/19 vs. Stanford, 9/26 at Arizona St., 10/17 at Notre Dame, 11/7 vs. Arizona, 11/21 at Oregon, 11/28 vs. UCLAUSC_Trojans2
The Trojans are still recovering from NCAA sanctions and may have some depth issues that make this prediction a bit of a reach. However, they return practically their entire starting roster on both offense & defense, including senior QB Cody Kessler. The schedule is brutal, so we’ll have a good indication by the beginning of October whether or not this team is for real, but even then November is absolutely vicious. It’s going to be feast or famine with Southern Cal in 2015, and I’ll walk away a fool or a king.


3 Notre Dame
Last Season: 8-5
Key Games: 10/3 at Clemson, 10/17 vs. USC, 11/28 at Stanford
Count me among those that feel The Irish need to eventually be not-so-gently persuaded to join a conference. They’re kind of playing footsie with the NotreDame1ACC, but aren’t all in by any means. On the other hand, until they are forced I understand why they aren’t making the move of their own volition. Why should they?? Being independent certainly isn’t hurting their schedule or national title hopes. They should blow right thru most opponents, although 2 of the 3 key games listed above are on the road. It would seem almost impossible for both Notre Dame & USC to make the playoff after one defeats (and presumably eliminates) the other on October 17. That’s going to be a huge game.


4 Alabama
Last Season: 12-2
Key Games: 10/3 at Georgia, 10/17 at Texas A&M, 11/7 vs. LSU, 11/28 at Auburn
The inaugural playoff proved that SEC teams aren’t just going to enjoy a cakewalk to the Final Four. After having seen the process and how everything AlabamaCrimsonTide2played out I now understand that any conference…including the SEC…getting two teams into the playoff is almost impossible. That being said, the SEC champion will undoubtedly be in the mix and there’s no reason not to think the Crimson Tide won’t be right in the thick of the battle. I don’t expect the season opener…a neutral site game against Wisconsin at the Palace in Dallas…to be a problem, and I don’t think the two Mississippi teams will be serious threats this year. 3 of the 4 key games I’ve noted are on the road, which may pose a bit of a challenge.


5 Michigan State
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 9/12 at Oregon, 10/17 at Michigan, 11/7 at Nebraska, 11/21 at Ohio St.
It seems like the Spartans are forever playing the bridesmaid role…always good, but never quite good enough. Until they are able to jump over the Michigan_State_SpartansOhio St. obstacle that will continue to be the case.


6 Baylor
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 11/14 vs. Oklahoma, 11/27 at TCU
Big 12 fans aren’t going to like this, but the fact is that until the league expands and adds a championship game the likelihood of the conference’s top baylorteam being left out of the playoff remains high. The Bears’ non-conference slate of SMU, Lamar, & Rice is completely prosaic & unimpressive, which will hurt their playoff chances even if they go undefeated. The conference itself, while fun to watch, doesn’t get the level of respect given to the SEC, Big Ten, or Pac 12, and that is probably going to remain the case as long as Oklahoma & Texas aren’t dominant programs.


Last Season: 12-1
Key Games: 11/21 at Oklahoma, 11/27 vs. Baylor
Remember what I said about Baylor?? Ditto, although I should point out that the non-conference opener at Minnesota is respectable. All one needs to TCU Cool Logoknow about how the Big 12 is viewed by those that matter is that the Baylor-TCU game on November 27th…a de facto conference championship game…is being played on a Friday night. Sure it is Black Friday and people should theoretically be home vegging out in front of the TV after a long day of shopping, but important college football games are NOT played on Fridays.


8 Florida State
Last Season: 13-1
Key Games: 10/24 at Georgia Tech, 11/7 at Clemson
As much as I dislike Jameis Winston I have to admit he was a winning college QB that oftentimes carried his team to victories they otherwise wouldn’t FloridaStateSeminoles1have gotten. But now he is gone, off to wreak havoc in the NFL (whether it’ll be on the field or off is to be determined). Obviously Florida St. is the kind of team that reloads quickly and doesn’t suffer all that much from such personnel losses, but I’d be surprised if they were in the national title mix again. They’ll do well in their conference because the ACC is always relatively weak, but it won’t be enough to get back to the Final Four. I just have this feeling that they’ll stumble unexpectedly atleast once.


Last Season: 8-5
Key Games: 9/19 vs. Auburn, 11/7 at Alabama, 11/28 at Texas A&M
Every game is a tough one in the SEC, and every team has the potential to be a top flight national contender if they perform well in that conference. lsu_logo-95472014 was a bit of a down year for the Bayou Bengals, but my vibes are telling me this will be a bounce back season. They’ll need to win one or two big games…probably atleast one on the road.


10 Georgia
Last Season: 10-3
Key Games: 10/3 vs. Alabama, 10/10 at Tennessee, 11/14 at Auburn, 11/28 at Georgia Tech
I’m really hesitant to put three SEC teams in the Top 10, but I will for two reasons. First of all, if any conference can pull it off it’s the SEC. Secondly, I georgiasuppose I’m hedging my bets just a bit. RB Todd Gurley has moved on to the NFL’s St. Louis Rams, but one must remember that he didn’t play all that much last year due to a suspension and then a season ending knee injury. Freshman tailback Nick Chubb was thrown into the mix out of necessity and rushed for over 1500 yards, including a 200+ yard game against Arkansas and a 266 yard effort in the Belk Bowl. The bigger loss may be WR Chris Conley…now with the Kansas City Chiefs…who accounted for over 1300 receiving yards and a dozen touchdowns in 2014. Anyway, when a team has a stud like Chubb the game plan is pretty simple…ride that horse all the way to the finish line. It’s not complicated.


11 Oregon
Last Season: 13-2
Key Games: 9/12 at Michigan St., 10/29 at Arizona St., 11/14 at Stanford, 11/21 vs. USC
First of all, the Pac 12 has suddenly become a brutally competitive conference. Secondly, a team usually doesn’t replace a Heisman winning signal Oregon-Duckscaller like Marcus Mariota without a hiccup or two. It’s not that I think the Ducks won’t be good…I just don’t think they’ll be in the playoff discussion. They have a huge game against Southern Cal in Eugene near the end of the season, but before they get to that point they will have to win a couple of battles on the road.


12 Clemson
Last Season: 10-3
Key Games: 10/3 vs. Notre Dame, 11/7 vs. Florida St.
I’m not quite ready to choose Clemson over Florida St. in the ACC…but there are some rumblings amongst the masses. A non-conference (kind of) clemsonclash against The Fighting Irish in South Bend will be a good indicator of where the Tigers stand, and then they have the Seminoles at home. An upset in that game could catapult Clemson into the Top 10.


13 Oklahoma
Last Season: 8-5
Key Games: 9/12 at Tennessee, 11/14 at Baylor, 11/21 vs. TCU
After reeling off four consecutive 10+ win seasons 2014 was a bit of a down year for the Sooners. I expect them to rebound slightly this season. A lot oklahomadepends on the outcome of a quarterback battle between incumbent Trevor Knight and a transfer from Texas Tech that is apparently impressing a lot of people. They’ll need to upset either Baylor or TCU to climb this far in the rankings.


14 Arizona
Last Season: 10-4
Key Games: 9/26 vs. UCLA, 11/7 at USC
To those who may be curious…yes, I still detest Rich Fraudriguez, but I’ll be darned if he doesn’t have a pretty entertaining ball club in Tucson. Last ArizonaWildcatsyear they upset Oregon with a late 4th quarter touchdown, defeated Utah with a last second field goal, & were a failed 2 point conversion away from tying USC. RB Nick Wilson rushed for nearly 1300 yards in his freshman season and should be even better this year, while the defense is led by junior linebacker Scooby Wright (one of the best names in college football). I expect to be up into the wee hours of the morning on several Saturday nights this fall watching the Wildcats, and I think they’re going to win most of those games.


15 Texas A&M
Last Season: 8-5
Key Games: 9/5 vs. Arizona St., 10/17 vs. Alabama, 11/7 vs. Auburn, 11/25 at LSU
I will never understand exactly why the Aggies joined the SEC. I mean yeah, I get the money & the prestige, but the fact is they are an afterthought aggiesclawing for every ounce of respect & attention. If they would have remained in the Big 12 not only would that conference be deeper but A&M would be amongst the best teams and have a clearer path to the national championship. Nevertheless, they are still a solid team that has a few very big games at home. Opening the season against legitimate competition like Arizona St. is admirable. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not it is a wise idea.


Last Season: 10-3
Key Games: 9/26 at Arizona, 10/15 at Stanford, 11/28 at USC
Quarterback Brett Hundley is gone, off to the Green Bay Packers to do Aaron Rodgers’ laundry and test his food for poison like people did for kings in ucla_bruins2The Dark Ages. It is for that reason that I don’t think the Bruins will get to double digit victories in 2015. Some of their biggest games are on the road, so that’ll be tough as well. However, I don’t think 8 or 9 wins and a Top 20 finish are impossible.


17 Northern Illinois
Last Season: 11-3
Key Games: 9/19 at Ohio St., 9/26 at Boston College
The talking heads tend to focus on the “Power 5” conferences and the competition to get into the four team playoff, and I will grant that those are the huskiesstorylines the uninformed masses likely prefer. However, there are ten conferences and the champions of those “other” 5 oftentimes sneak into the rankings and occasionally surprise people with big wins in bowl games. The Huskies have been in that mix on more than one occasion, and until someone comes along and takes the crown they have to be the favorites in the MAC. Two out-of-conference games will define Northern Illinois’ season. I don’t expect them to beat Ohio St., but if they can keep it respectable…say within two TDs…it’ll be an important moral victory. The following week they’ll need to go into Chestnut Hill and defeat the Eagles.


18 Boise State
Last Season: 12-2
Key Games: 9/4 vs. Washington, 9/12 at BYU, 11/20 vs. Air Force
Yep, they’re still here. The Broncos have settled into a comfort zone. They beat up on an inferior conference, rack up a bunch of wins, seem to have a boise-state-logospot in the lower end of the Top 25 reserved for them, & occasionally upset the apple cart with a win against a theoretically better opponent in a big bowl game. That formula won’t get them into the playoff discussion, but maybe…for now…they are happy where they are until the next round of conference upheaval.


19 Memphis
Last Season: 10-3
Key Games: 9/24 vs. Cincinnati, 10/17 vs. Ole Miss
The old Big East morphed into the American Athletic Conference a few years ago, but the AAC is about as similar to the Big East as McDonald’s is to memphishealthy food. Yet somebody’s got to win it, and the Tigers are my pick. It should be noted that the AAC has expanded with the addition of Navy and will have a conference title game for the first time in 2015. That’s cool, although I’m not sure that there is any conceivable matchup that’ll draw much interest. I’m predicting a Memphis-East Carolina championship game, with Memphis going on to compete in something yawn inducing like the St. Petersburg Bowl.


20 Fresno State
Last Season: 6-8
Key Games: 9/12 at Ole Miss, 10/24 at Air Force, 11/21 at BYU
I’ve always enjoyed watching Fresno’s ball games. They play an entertaining, up tempo, high scoring brand of football and have been sporadically fresnosuccessful over the years. The question is always how many points will their defense give up since many of their opponents tend to have similarly high powered offenses. I think this will be an “up” year for the Bulldogs, although to be successful they’ll need to win some tough games on the road, and to finish in the rankings will almost have to make it to the Mountain West title game.


21 Air Force
Last Season: 10-3
Key Games: 9/19 at Michigan St., 10/24 vs. Fresno St., 11/20 at Boise St.
Okay okay…I’m hedging my bets again. There’s probably no way that three Mountain West teams finish in the Top 25, even if it’s the latter portion. AirForceFalcons4Having said that, winning 8 or 9 games and upsetting one of the above mentioned key opponents would provide a tremendous boost to the Falcons’ chances. It’s not hard to prepare for their offensive attack…opponents know they’re going to run, run, run. But opponents still seem to have a difficult time stopping what they know is coming, as the Air Force rushing attack ranked 7th nationally in 2014 and they won ten games.


22 Georgia Tech
Last Season: 11-3
Key Games: 9/19 at Notre Dame, 10/10 at Clemson, 10/24 vs. Florida St., 11/28 vs. Georgia
Someone has to get beaten by Florida St. in the ACC championship, and I’m predicting it’ll be the Yellowjackets…again. A September battle in Southgatechlogocos-3 Bend looms large and could be the crucial point of the season. Tech is probably going to have to score a couple of huge upsets to sneak into the rankings, and I think they can do it.


23 Wisconsin
Last Season: 11/3
Key Games: 9/5 vs. Alabama, 10/10 at Nebraska
Replacing an All-World RB like Melvin Gordon is nearly impossible, but Wisconsin has had its fair share of really good tailbacks so WisconsinBadgersit could happen. However, I do think we’ll see a decline in production. When one looks at the Badgers’ schedule it becomes clear that a Top 25 ranking would be quite the accomplishment. The season opener against Alabama is a neutral site game in Dallas, but after that Wisconsin could conceivably reel off 9 or 10 wins. An October battle in Lincoln, NE will decide who gets throttled by Ohio St. in the Big Ten (which has 14 teams) title game.


24 Texas
Last Season: 6-7
Key Games: 9/5 at Notre Dame, 10/3 at TCU, 10/10 vs. Oklahoma, 12/5 at Baylor
The Longhorns haven’t had double digit wins since 2009. Will this be the season they get back their mojo?? Maybe…maybe not. I do think they will texasvastly improve over 2014’s losing record. Head coach Charlie Strong is entering his second year at the helm and I think he’ll get Texas back to its winning ways eventually, although more mediocrity will have the spoiled fanbase calling for his head, so who knows if he’ll be given a fair shake. The easy way to solve the problem is to win 8 or 9 games this year and atleast be in the Big 12 (which has ten teams) title conversation.


25 Michigan
Last Season: 5-7
Key Games: 10/17 vs. Michigan St., 11/28 vs. Ohio St.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but I think new Wolverines’ head coach Jim Harbaugh will begin rebuilding the program with a solid inaugural season in michigan-wolverines-fan-gearthe captain’s chair. I believe they’ll be legitimate Big Ten & national championship contenders within three years. For now though, an 8 win season, getting back to a bowl game, & ending the season ranked for the first time in a few years will thrill the folks in Ann Arbor.

Points of Ponderation…..Episode 3.15

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..




mockingbirdSeveral months ago, when it was announced that To Kill A Mockingbird author Harper Lee would be publishing a 2nd novel a half century after her one & only triumphant effort in literature, I was ecstatic. Mockingbird is one of my favorite books, as it is for countless others. However, the book is out and I haven’t purchased a copy…and I don’t intend to in the future. In the time between the initial announcement and the appearance of Go Set A Watchman in bookstores a few things came to light. First of all, Harper Lee is nearly 90 years old, in poor health, & residing in a nursing home. There is some concern that a shady lawyer made this book deal happen, that Ms. Lee doesn’t have the mental capacity to have made the decision for it to be published, & that if she had wanted it published she would have done so decades ago. Adult Protective Services in Alabama allegedly investigated the situation and weren’t at all concerned, but I’m still a bit apprehensive. The book is now out there being consumed by the masses, and I have read some reviews. It turns out that Watchman…though it is being billed as a sequel to Mockingbird…was actually the original idea, and a gifted editor basically told Harper Lee “This doesn’t work, but there is an idea within it that will be good if you revise & cultivate it” (or something to that effect). That modification grew into To Kill A Mockingbird. Now, why in the world would I waste my time with something that an editor didn’t feel good about in the first place, something that evolved into one of our greatest novels only after a major renovation?? Why would I pay money for something that very well could be the result of elder abuse?? And then there is the matter of Atticus Finch…one of the most beloved characters in all of literature. I’ve watchmanseen spoilers. I know what the Atticus in Watchman is compared to the treasured Atticus in Mockingbird. Some may see it as a fascinating and maybe even logical evolution. That’s fine, but I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life. That’s the great thing about fiction…characters we love can stay frozen in time, always fondly remembered the way we left them. Sherlock Holmes will forever be riding hansom cabs & solving crimes in gaslit London. Santa Claus will always fly thru the air in his sleigh every Christmas Eve. Huck Finn & Tom Sawyer are still riding down the mighty Mississippi on a raft getting into mischief. And in my heart Atticus Finch will remain a man of deep character & unshakable honor fighting for the rights of the oppressed and teaching his children valuable life lessons.



lionI honestly couldn’t care less about lions or other big game being killed in Africa. It never ceases to amaze me what the media is able to manipulate people into stressing out about. I saw a story a few days ago about some 21 year old kid who buried his dog alive, and that incensed me way more than any situation in which a hunter bagged some prey. FYI the dog was thankfully rescued.



Let’s talk about baby names. No, I have not impregnated anyone and probably never will…unfortunately. A babiesFacebook acquaintance of mine is pregnant and recently asked for some ideas for names for her baby boy. I guess I’m a bit old-fashioned because I was truly stunned by some of the suggestions: Alonte, Killian, Easton, Boston, Ledger, Zade, Phoenix, Malice, Beckham, Canyon, Courtland, Maxim, Savon. These were (allegedly) serious responses and not ideas for an American Gladiators revival. Look, I understand gravitating toward less common names. The world is full of guys named Mike, John, Bob, Steve, Tom, Jerry, George, & Fred. I get it. But whatever name you saddle a child with is a burden that they’re going to have to carry for the rest of their lives. Legitimate studies have been done linking weird baby names to criminal behavior later on in life, and that’s not even counting the bullying a kid may suffer or the confidence & image issues they may have along the way. I apologize in advance if my opinion hurts the feelings of anyone with one of these odd names or parents who may have named their child something a bit outside-the-box. It isn’t my intention to offend. I just think that the world is tough enough and a person will encounter more than their fair share of adversity in the normal course of things…why start them off behind the proverbial 8-ball with a name that isn’t nearly as cool or hip as some may think it is??



gop2First impressions after the initial GOP Presidential debate:
• Donald Trump is style over substance. He’s entertaining and says what a lot of people would like to say & what many believe, but at the end of the day he doesn’t have the temperament, finesse, or applicable experience needed to be President.
• Marco Rubio & Ben Carson strike me as solid potential VP choices. Their stock could improve.
• Mike Huckabee is sincere, intelligent, & articulate…but not Presidential material. He could be a good cabinet member.
• If the GOP nominates Jeb Bush or Chris Christie it won’t play well with hardcore conservatives, a detriment that won’t be equalized with support from Reagan Democrats.
• Rand Paul is passionate, thinks outside the box, & brings some interesting ideas to the table, but I don’t see him as Presidential either at this point. I’m flexible though.
• I didn’t watch the undercard debate, but I hear that Carly Fiorina did well. Hopefully a few of those folks get an opportunity to make their case at the big table the next time around.
• Ted Cruz is my frontrunner, but Scott Walker has tremendous potential.
• Oh yeah…John Kasich was there too. I almost forgot. I’m not sure his campaign will make it to September.
• I wasn’t impressed with Fox News’ presentation or the performance of their moderators.
• This race doesn’t truly begin until the field is cut in half. That may take awhile.



My physician recently put me on a low dose of blood pressure medication and indicated that meds for high sodiumcholesterol could follow. I have 6 weeks to alter my lifestyle, and he suggested a website/app called MyFitnessPal to help track my dietary habits. In just a week I’ve already figured something out. I’ve been trying to eat low fat for awhile because I kind of saw these issues on the horizon, but one thing I’ve been overlooking is sodium. I am single, financially challenged, & can sometimes be lazy, which means I look for quick & easy eating choices. I am aware that fast food is mostly unhealthy, but in focusing on fat we shouldn’t ignore the contribution sodium makes to poor health. I have been paying more attention to such things and have been truly surprised at the enormous sodium content of a lot of foods. Pretty much anything that is prepackaged for our convenience is a minefield. Fruits & veggies have never been a big enough part of my diet, but going forward they’re going to have to be. That doesn’t mean I’ll never eat another cheeseburger, piece of chocolate cake, or bowl of pasta…it simply means that one should always partake in moderation.