The season hasn’t even really begun and I’m already in a hole. Kudos to Zach, who pretty much nailed almost every game last week in going 4-1, while I struggled to a 1-4 mark. I watched as much as I could of a couple of games, but had other things going on. This weekend is pretty much the same. I’ll catch some of the early action, then head to our local Italian Heritage Festival Saturday night. It’s one of my favorite weekends of the year. There are a few intriguing matchups, and some potential playoff contenders could have their hopes negatively impacted right off the bat. I know there are fans that don’t particularly care for the College Football Playoff, but one positive byproduct has been marquee games in the first week or two. Teams can no longer get away with destroying glorified high school opponents by five touchdowns for the first three weeks of the season and hope to impress voters, and fans are the winners.
My Season: 1-4
Zach’s Season: 4-1
West Virginia at Pitt (-7)
The Backyard Brawl returns from hiatus after a decade+ (thanks conference realignment 🙄) and I’m pretty psyched. The Panthers are coming off a successful 2021 campaign in which they won the ACC Championship & went 11-3. USC transfer Kedon Slovis takes over the quarterbacking duties from new Steelers backup Kenny Pickett, but wide receiver Jordan Addison (who transferred to USC…the carousel is redonkulous) will be more difficult to replace. My Mountaineers are entering their fourth year under head coach Neal Brown, and if he wants fans to continue to “trust the climb” we’re going to need to see some progress. We understand that going undefeated, winning the Big 12, and being a legit playoff contender is not something to be expected, but winning 8 or 9 games shouldn’t feel as out of reach as it has the past few seasons. Georgia transfer QB JT Daniels will be under center, so if the offensive line has improved and the defense is solid there is reason for optimism. We’ll see. This is a Thursday night game on ESPN. Zach has confidence in Slovis & thinks WVU consistently falls short in big games.
My Pick: West Virginia
Z’s Pick: Pitt
Cincinnati at Arkansas (-6.5)
The Bearcats had nine players drafted into the NFL, including five picks in the Top 100. Replacing that amount of talent won’t be easy, so I don’t expect them to be nearly as successful. Conversely, the Razorbacks won nine games a year ago after a few lean seasons, and I believe they’ll maintain that. Certainly playing in the SEC is a brutal task, making it all the more vital that they win non-conference battles. They have the home field in Fayetteville and I think it’ll be a solid victory. Conversely, Zach doesn’t foresee Cincy falling off that much from last season’s success & thinks they’ll score the close win this week.
My Pick: Arkansas
Z’s Pick: Cincinnati
Utah (-2.5) at Florida
I assume it is rare for a visiting team to be favored at The Swamp. Many “experts” believe Utah can contend for the PAC 12 title, and I agree. Actually, I think they can do even better. That being said, if the Utes want to make a statement and put themselves in the playoff conversation right off the bat they must seize this opportunity. The Gators have been on a downward trend the past couple of seasons and made a change last November. Can new head coach Billy Napier, who was 40-12 in four seasons at Louisiana, right the ship?? The SEC is a huge step up from the Sun Belt, but this is a big test even before Napier gets to the conference grind. Perhaps he’ll be successful in the long run, but I don’t foresee things beginning too well. Zach likes Utah’s superior team speed to lead them to victory.
My Pick: Utah
Z’s Pick: Utah
Oregon at Georgia (-17.5)
Credit where it is due…the defending champion Bulldogs aren’t taking the easy way out to begin the new season. The Ducks were 10-4 a year ago & played in the PAC 12 title game. However, head coach Dan Lanning is new in town after former coach Mario Cristobal moved on to the Miami Hurricanes. What makes this matchup interesting is that Lanning spent the past three seasons as Georgia’s defensive coordinator. The champs return 13 starters, but lost 15 players to the NFL, including a record breaking five defensive players in the first round. Most of the time when we see those kind of numbers I assume a total rebuild is happening and have few expectations for that team, but I don’t feel that way about Georgia. I believe they’ll contend for another national championship & be as good or better than last season. Admittedly the points scare me a little, but this is a fantastic chance for Georgia to make a statement & show that they’re here to stay. Zach concurs, opining that Georgia’s size & experience in big games will make the difference.
My Pick: Georgia
Z’s Pick: Georgia
Notre Dame at Ohio State (-17)
The Buckeyes have been consistent playoff contenders since the new system began in 2014, but only have two appearances & one national title to show for it. Will anything short of hoisting the big gold trophy on January 9 be a failure?? I think it just might be. The Irish are one of college football’s most fabled programs, but they haven’t won a national title since 1988. They’ve appeared in the playoff twice, losing in the semifinal both times. I realize Ohio St. has the home field, but it is strange seeing Notre Dame as a double digit underdog. I have good vibes about new head coach Marcus Freeman and believe he’ll lead his team back to prominence one day…but not this day. As a die hard Michigan fan Zach rarely has any positive opinions about Ohio St., so he’s picking Notre Dame to atleast cover the points.
A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..
I’ve covered this before, but it’s worth reiterating…here in America we are guaranteed Freedom of Religion, not freedom FROM religion. If anything Godly bothers you that much a) just ignore it (you have the freedom to not participate), and b) perhaps search your soul…if you have one. There seems to be no shortage of people who truly believe that the settler’s of Plymouth Rock came here to run from religion, which is blatantly false. Our Founding Fathers codified what those pilgrims really wanted, which was the freedom to worship God in their own way, not subject to the whims of a country’s head of state. Contrary to erroneous progressive gaslighting, those early Americans were more devoted to their faith than any of us. Anyone who indicates otherwise is being intellectually dishonest.
If you can’t be bothered to pay attention to my story or listen to what I’m saying I’ll just end the conversation since it’s one sided anyway. I don’t need the aggravation of your disrespect.
How come it’s okay…perhaps even cool…to “dissent” now, but a year & a half ago it was an “attack on democracy”?? Everyone is entitled to their opinion on a particular subject & we can even disagree without being disagreeable, but the tone deaf hypocrisy is what I find loathsome.
I truly understand my mother’s admonitions to put things back where you got them. I hate it when people come into my space and rearrange stuff. Just leave it alone.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is one of the most deranged, dangerous, ignorant individuals to ever hold elected office in the United States, and I presume that anyone who supports her is nearly as unhinged. Y’all want to talk about the many shortcomings of Donald Trump?? Okay, that’s fair. He’s a really flawed human being who has made countless errors in judgment. Most conservatives are willing to concede the point. Unfortunately the folks on the other side of the aisle refuse to see their favorite “leaders” for who & what they really are, and I have a difficult time with that level of obstinance.
Is there any doubt remaining that the FBI is dirty?? Perhaps even treasonous??
Speaking of religion…
Get this y’all!! There are actually people out there right now equating “forgiveness” of student loans to the forgiveness that we learn about in church when we study The Bible. Now, I’m walking a tightrope here because I think alot of folks mean well…they’re just naïve. I don’t want to be rude, but the level of ignorance when it comes to sociopolitical & economic issues in this country is deeply troubling. Too many people look at politicians as Santa Claus, and they’ll vote for whoever is promising the most free stuff. The problem is that nothing is free. And those student loans?? Well Jesus isn’t the one “forgiving” them. Christ paid for our sins on the cross, but in this new scam being run out of Washington DC it will you, me, & all of our neighbors that’ll be paying back billions of dollars in loans that we were never responsible for in the first place. American citizens really should be much smarter instead of sitting back and letting politicians & the elitists pulling the strings make us look like fools.
They’re calling this Week 0 in college football circles, probably because it’s not a full schedule and none of the matchups are that appealing. However, we play by our own rules here, and I choose to believe that a few games might turn out to be more entertaining than anyone thought they’d be. Ultimately any football is better than no football at all, right?? We are glad to be back for another season, and in case y’all need your memory refreshed I scored the overall victory last year with a 57-69 mark, while Zach was 49-77. Obviously we’d both like to improve this season, but we’ll see how it goes. Enjoy.
Nebraska (-12) vs. Northwestern
When I was a kid the Cornhuskers were a force to be reckoned with, winning three national titles as recently as the mid 1990’s. However, they haven’t had a ten win season in a decade and haven’t posted a winning record since 2016. Moving to the Big Ten in 2011 probably wasn’t the smartest decision. Head coach Scott Frost is 15-29 in four years at the helm, and I have to think he needs to do much better this season. Conversely, the Wildcats has had some solid years since Pat Fitgerald became the coach in 2006, although they’ve finished 3-9 two of the past three seasons. I’m intrigued by the fact that the game is being played in Dublin. It’s a 12:30pm kickoff here, meaning that it’ll be 5:30pm in Ireland. The points scare me a bit, but I’m rolling with the favorites. Zach agrees that Frost is on the hot seat and thinks Nebraska will win, but foresees a close contest.
My Pick: Nebraska
Z’s Pick: Northwestern
Charlotte at Florida Atlantic (-7.5)
It’s a battle of C-USA foes, which doesn’t matter to me anymore since my Thundering Herd has migrated to the Sun Belt Conference. I suppose I’ll still watch the game though if I’m not doing anything more exciting Saturday night. The 49ers have only had one winning season since resurrecting the football program in 2013, while the Owls had a couple of good years under Lane Kiffin until he bolted for greener pastures. Willie Taggart enters his third year with only a 10-14 overall record in Boca Raton. Atlantic has the home field, and I think they’ll win…by less than a touchdown. Conversely, Zach thinks the home team’s high powered offense will lead them to a decisive victory.
My Pick: Charlotte
Z’s Pick: Florida Atlantic
Wyoming at Illinois (-10)
Occasionally these two programs will have a successful campaign, but they’ve both been mediocre at best in recent years. The Cowboys have won ten games since 1996, while the Illini last achieved that mark in 2001. I foresee a close, hard fought game decided late in the 4th quarter by a turnover or fantastic special teams play. Zach thinks Wyoming will win easily.
My Pick: Illinois
Z’s Pick: Wyoming
North Texas (-1) at Texas-El Paso
Don’t be fooled…they may both be located in the state of Texas, but the two schools are about a nine hour drive apart. Does that matter?? Not really…I just thought it was interesting. The Mean Green had a couple of nine win seasons not long ago, but have had losing records three years in a row. The Miners have only won more than six games twice in the past decade. I will not be watching this game since it is only available on an obscure streaming platform I won’t bother downloading. It’s essentially a pick ‘em and in those situations I like the home team. Zach likes North’s passing game to rack up the points.
My Pick: UTEP
Z’s Pick: North Texas
Vanderbilt (-6.5) at Hawaii
A few years ago I would have been pumped for this game because it kicks off at 10:30pm on the CBS Sports Network. Sadly it seems that I am far less of a night owl than I once was, so whether or not I make it thru the entire contest is a real toss up. At any rate, the Commodores are the forgotten member of the SEC for a reason…they’ve only had a winning record twice in the past decade and won five games total in the previous three seasons. The Rainbow Warriors aren’t great either, but they did have a ten win season as recently as 2019. Perhaps the oddsmakers know something the rest of us don’t, but I’m going with the home underdogs. Conversely, Zach doesn’t like Hawaii’s terrible defense and sees Vandy getting the easy win.
I briefly considered tossing aside this preview and simply jetting off to The Bahamas for two weeks, but in the real world that’s not how life works. As you spend the next several months chilling out with hot wings & cold beer in front of your gigantic TV enjoying intense gridiron action a few days per week never forget how spoiled & out of touch the millionaire athletes, billionaire owners, & talking heads are and how little they understand or care about your daily struggles. Of course this is the same issue we have with actors & musicians who make millions of dollars entertaining the very people they disrespect & gaslight with their insane perspectives on various issues. That being said, the fact is we need to be entertained. Every species…humans included…require time to play. That’s a rabbit hole I won’t dive into right now except to say that sports is one of our most prominent outlets to fulfill such desires, so most of us are willing to put aside any issues and simply enjoy the games, and so we shall.
Baltimore Ravens (8-9) 10-7
Cincinnati Bengals (10-7) 9-8
Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1) 9-8
Cleveland Browns (8-9) 6-11
The Ravens’ season was torpedoed by injuries a year ago, and I believe they’ll rebound nicely. I don’t think Lamar Jackson is as good of an NFL quarterback as he was a college QB, but he’s above average if he stays healthy & has a reliable backfield to whom he can hand the ball off, with a solid defensive unit for good measure. Cincy will still be good, but may suffer a bit of the traditional Super Bowl hangover. The Bengals focused on defense in the draft after adding some pieces to their subpar offensive line in free agency. Time will tell if that was a wise strategy. My Steelers might surprise some folks by being in playoff contention. A great defense and a stout rushing attack behind an improved offensive line will secure some victories, no matter which quarterback succeeds Big Ben. The Browns are the Browns. I may have given them a bit more credit if Deshaun Watson was going to be available, but he’s been suspended for 3/4 of the season.
Tennessee Titans (12-5) 10-7
Indianapolis Colts (9-8) 8-9
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-14) 6-11
Houston Texans (4-13) 3-14
Tennessee drafted QB Malik Willis in the 3rd round of the draft, but he’s not going to be ready to start or maybe even play at all this year. Ryan Tannehill is a solid NFL signal caller, and with Derrick Henry toting the rock the Titans’ offense should be good enough, so if their defense, which admittedly doesn’t have much star power, is atleast average then I think a weak division is theirs for the taking. The Colts have a new QB after trading for 37 year old Matt Ryan, but if that’s supposed to impress me it falls short of the mark. Of course he too has a great tailback…Jonathan Taylor…to carry the load, but I don’t think it’ll be good enough. The Urban Meyer Era in Jacksonville was a total failure, but going forward the Jags could be headed in the right direction. We won’t see evidence of that in the form of winning alot of games this season, but QB Trevor Lawrence should start to justify why he was the #1 overall pick in 2021, and the 2022 #1 overall pick…pass rusher Travon Walker… is the real deal. The Texans are a mess, but they got some much needed draft capital in the Deshaun Watson trade so we’ll see where they are in 3 or 4 years.
Buffalo Bills (11-6) 10-7
New England Patriots (10-7) 9-8
Miami Dolphins (9-8) 8-9
NY Jets (4-13) 7-10
Everybody is expecting the Bills to run away with the division and make a Super Bowl run, but not so fast my friends!! It won’t be as easy as some may think. The Patriots are still the Patriots as long as as Darth Belichick is in charge, so as much as I’d love for them go in the toilet I won’t believe it until I see it. Former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel did bolt again for a head coaching job though, so perhaps we’ll see a chink or two in the armor. I’m a fan of Dolphins’ QB Tua Tagovailoa, and watching him toss the ball to receiver Tyreek Hill could be loads of fun, but I have too many questions about the rest of the team, including new head coach Mike McDaniel. Believe it or not I foresee a notable improvement for the Jets, especially if second year signal caller Zach Wilson shows some growth & maturity. That being said, I think it’s a team that needs a year or two to gel. Watch out for the Jets in 2024…you heard it here first.
Las Vegas Raiders (10-7) 10-7
Denver Broncos (7-10) 10-7
Kansas City Chiefs (12-5) 9-8
Los Angeles Chargers (9-8) 8-9
This might be the most competitive & entertaining division in the league. All four teams are legit playoff contenders, and the difference between being on top or finishing in the cellar could come down to a single injury, turnover, or special teams blunder. The Raiders are getting a lot of attention after adding receiver Davante Adams, but are we overlooking their defense?? The Broncos are hoping to turn things around behind the leadership of new QB Russell Wilson, but can their defense kick it up a notch?? The Chiefs have been one of the top teams in the NFL for a few years now, but how will the loss of Tyreek Hill affect QB Patrick Mahomes?? Does he have the weapons to compliment his immense skill set?? The Chargers might have the most complete team in the division, and Justin Herbert gets undeservedly overshadowed by the signal callers on the other three teams. That being said, someone has to finish last and my vibe is that the ball simply won’t bounce their way this season.
There’s no way the loss of receiver Davante Adams won’t negatively affect the Packers. However, the impact might be minimal given that they play in a weak division. Most of the drama surrounding QB Aaron Rodgers a year ago has dissipated, but holy schneikes…the dude will be throwing to a ragtag group of pass catchers that aren’t going to scare anyone. Running back Aaron Jones and a no name defense are going to have to really step up. The surprise of the division might be Detroit. I believe we’ll see the further maturation of QB Jared Goff, but I’m really looking for the defense to carry the team. Rookie defensive end Aiden Hutchinson is a difference maker. While the Lions take a small step forward I foresee the Vikings going backward in a significant way. The names on the back of the jerseys…Cousins, Cook, Thielen, Jefferson, Peterson…look decent enough on paper. I don’t know enough about new head coach Kevin O’Connell to intelligently opine, but I understand why former coach Mike Zimmer was fired since the team had kind of been treading water for a couple of years. I’m going out on a limb with this prediction…we’ll see how it goes. I’m a little more confident in prophesying Chicago’s ineptitude. It feels like a make or break year for QB Justin Fields in only his second season, but unfortunately for him I just don’t find the supporting cast impressive, and don’t think the defense is good enough to make a difference.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4) 11-6
New Orleans Saints (9-8) 8-9
Carolina Panthers (5-12) 7-10
Atlanta Falcons (7-10) 3-14
He’s back…unfortunately. I know I know…many football fans (especially in Tampa, FL) rejoiced when Tom Brady’s retirement lasted about five minutes, but I wasn’t one of them. That being said, even without recently retired tight end Rob Gronkowski, I think the Bucs win the division comfortably. They may not win as many games as a season ago, and unlike other pundits I don’t believe they are a Super Bowl team, but the division is a low hurdle to leap. The Saints have some nice pieces on offense and the defense might be sneaky good, but it feels like the team is treading water. Carolina allegedly upgraded their QB situation by trading for Baker Mayfield, but I’m not sure that’s an improvement. If RB Christian McCaffrey is healthy and a young defense gels quickly perhaps the Panthers will make some noise, but I have low expectations. Unlike many talking heads I don’t see the Falcons losing Matt Ryan under center and replacing him with Marcus Mariota as anything worse than a lateral move. There are much bigger questions in Atlanta, and this feels like a period of transition that will see its fair share of rough patches.
Philadelphia Eagles (9-8) 11-6
Dallas Cowboys (12-5) 10-7
Washington Commanders (7-10) 8-9
NY Giants (4-13) 1-16
As usual I take any hype surrounding the Cowboys with a grain of salt. They’ll have a solid season and lose in the playoffs. Nothing new. Dak Prescott is a very good QB but not elite, and it isn’t helpful that he doesn’t have many reliable weapons. Conversely, I like what the Eagles have done. Jalen Hurts can be a legit NFL signal caller, and newly acquired receiver AJ Brown will absolutely help. I’m not as confident in their rushing attack as I’d prefer, but we’ll see what happens. They really improved their defense thru free agency, which is what tips the scales in their favor. The Commanders feel like they’re stuck in neutral, making this a pivotal season for head coach Ron Rivera. QB Carson Wentz gets yet another fresh start, and he may be running out of chances. I hesitate to “go big or go home” with the Giants, because I’ve been wrong about them more than once in years past. However, I have zero faith in QB Daniel Jones or any of the talent surrounding him, especially overrated running back Saquon Barkley. The defense could be okay, but that probably won’t cut it in this division.
Los Angeles Rams (12-5) 11-6
Arizona Cardinals (11-6) 10-7
San Francisco 49ers (10-7) 6-11
Seattle Seahawks (7-10) 5-12
Will the AFC West be the best division in football, or will it be the NFC West?? I don’t believe we’ll see much decline from the defending Super Bowl Champion Rams, but the Cardinals will give them a run for their money. I foresee the Niners taking a step back given their unstable quarterback situation & lack of a premier tailback, but the defense will keep games close. The Seahawks will be starting either Drew Lock or Geno Smith under center, neither of whom strike fear in opposing defenses. Seattle will sorely miss Russell Wilson, and the defense is far removed from the old Legion of Boom days. At 70 years of age Pete Carroll is the oldest head coach in the NFL, and after a dozen years perhaps it is time for the Seahawks to move on. It could be a good landing spot for Byron Leftwich.
As we head into a new football season I will admit to having mixed feelings. Things like conference realignment & NIL have exposed college athletics as the big business that it is, which has eroded much of its charm & virtue. Tradition means nothing when billions of dollars are at stake. That being said, for the next four months I’ll be spending most of my Saturdays vegged out in front of the TV from the time the pregame shows start at 9am until the final west coast games end around 1am, and I’ll love every second of it. I’m a pretty low key guy who is easily entertained, and there’s nothing better than autumn weekends & hours upon hours of gridiron action. So, as we have done for more than a decade now, let us take a peek into the ol’ crystal ball and see if we can predict with some degree of accuracy what may unfold between now & the end of the year. As always I discourage any kind of gambling based on what you read here. I’m not an expert and sometimes have no idea what I’m talking about, so enjoy my pontification in the spirit in which it is intended.
Last Season: 12-2
Key Games: 10/15 vs. Penn St., 10/29 vs. Michigan St., 11/26 at Ohio St.
Jim Harbaugh allegedly flirted with some NFL teams this offseason but ultimately returned to Ann Arbor. I do not think that will affect the season, but I also don’t believe the Wolverines will be a playoff contender in 2022.
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 10/8 vs. Texas, 10/29 at Iowa St, 11/5 vs. Baylor, 11/19 vs. Oklahoma St.
The Sooners lost their head coach & multiple players, including two star quarterbacks. That’s alot to overcome, and I think we’ll see a slight drop under new head coach Brent Venables. This may or may not be their final season in the Big 12, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Last Season: 12-2
Key Games: 9/10 at Texas Tech, 10/22 at Navy
Can Dana Holgorsen continue last year’s success and keep on winning?? The Cougars will be joining the Big 12 in a season or two, so it would behoove them not only to build momentum, but also take advantage of playing lesser competition while they still can. The September clash in Lubbock against the Red Raiders will provide an indication of how Houston stacks up against their future conference brethren, and it’s also a must win for this year.
Last Season: 10-4
Key Games: 9/3 vs. Georgia, 9/17 vs. BYU, 11/19 vs. Utah
Head coach Mario Cristobal bolted to return to his alma mater Miami (FL), so former Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning is in charge now. That makes the season opener against the Bulldogs even more interesting. The PAC 12 eliminated divisions, so the top two teams will play in the conference title game, meaning the Ducks will need to be better than Utah or USC. They go head to head with the Utes in Eugene in mid-November.
21 North Carolina State
Last Season: 9-3
Key Games: 9/17 vs. Texas Tech, 10/27 vs. Virginia Tech, 11/25 at North Carolina
The ACC has become a muddled mess of mediocrity. Only one team is considered playoff worthy…the rest are jockeying for bowl position. Of course only half of the league are likely to find themselves in that hunt, so the question becomes which teams will rise?? 4 out of the past 5 seasons have had the Wolfpack winning eight or more games, and I think we’ll see more of that in 2022.
Last Season: 11-3
Key Games: 9/1 vs. West Virginia, 9/10 vs. Tennessee, 11/26 at Miami (FL)
Quarterback Kenny Pickett is now plying his trade with my Steelers, and such a key loss would normally be cause for concern. However, thanks to the transfer portal the Panthers will now have former Southern Cal QB Kaden Slovis under center. I don’t believe they’ll be quite as successful as a year ago, but 8 or 9 wins seems achievable. I’m really looking forward to the long awaited renewal of the Backyard Brawl to open the season.
19 Michigan State
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 10/8 vs. Ohio St., 10/15 vs. Wisconsin, 10/29 at Michigan, 11/26 at Penn St.
I’m never quite sure what to make of the Spartans. In the past six seasons they’ve been 3-9, 10-3, 7-6 (twice), 2-5 (in the Covid shortened year), and 11-2. The Big Ten is stacked, so it’s pretty easy to get lost in the shuffle. They’ll need to win atleast a couple of the key games noted above, which won’t be easy, and may go into Happy Valley at the end of November in a must win situation.
Last Season: 7-6
Key Games: 9/10 at Pitt, 10/24 vs. Florida, 10/15 vs. Alabama, 11/5 at Georgia
It’s time. I remember when the Vols were consistently one of the top teams in the SEC, but that hasn’t been the case since the late 90’s. Occasionally they’ll show signs of life with a 9 or 10 win season, but that has not happened in about five years. I have no evidence to support my optimism. I may look back at this prediction in shame. However, I believe they’ll pull off atleast one stunning upset this season.
Last Season: 9-4
Key Games: 9/3 vs. Cincinnati, 9/24 vs. Texas A&M, 10/1 vs. Alabama, 11/12 vs. LSU
Not every SEC team will finish ranked, but more of them will receive benefit of the doubt than programs from other conferences. Can the Razorbacks continue their momentum from last year, or will they fall back into the abyss they’d been in the four seasons before that?? They can get things off to a good start by beating last year’s favorite underdog story, the Cincinnati Bearcats, and hosting other key games on the schedule at home could prove beneficial.
Last Season: 6-7
Key Games: 9/4 vs. Florida St., 10/1 at Auburn, 10/8 vs. Tennessee, 10/15 at Florida, 11/5 vs. Alabama, 11/26 at Texas A&M
The Ed Orgeron Era is over in Baton Rouge, and former Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has taken the reins. Keep in mind Kelly was not fired…he chose to make the move, and I assume he believes this team can be elite. Certainly it’s a tough road in the SEC, but we can’t overlook the fact that the Bayou Bengals won a national championship as recently as 2019. I don’t think it’ll take long to turn things around.
Last Season: 10-4
Key Games: 9/10 at Iowa St., 10/1 vs. Michigan, 10/22 at Ohio St., 11/12 vs. Wisconsin
It seems like the Hawkeyes are always good. They’ve won 8+ games in seven of the past nine years, and that’s including the Covid shortened season of 2020. Unlike the PAC 12 the Big Ten has not abandoned its divisional setup, so Iowa doesn’t have to be better than Ohio St., Penn St., or Michigan to get into the conference title game. Eight wins & a Rose Bowl berth is certainly possible.
14 South Carolina
Last Season: 7-6
Key Games: 9/17 vs. Georgia, 10/22 vs. Texas A&M, 11/26 at Clemson
This is a big wildcard. Shane Beamer enters his second season in Columbia with a little more familiarity of the SEC, and I expect to see some maturation. They’ll need to score atleast one huge upset, but that’s not out of the question.
13 Southern California
Last Season: 4-8
Key Games: 10/15 at Utah, 11/19 vs. UCLA, 11/26 vs. Notre Dame
I toyed with placing the Trojans much higher, but decided to be conservative. Lincoln Riley’s defection from Oklahoma along with QB Caleb Williams and the transfer of former Pitt receiver Jordan Addison grabbed a lot of headlines in the past several months, and expectations are high. However, perhaps it’d be wise to pump the brakes just a bit. Games at Utah and against Notre Dame in L.A. won’t be easy, and I expect USC to lose atleast once…maybe twice. Fear not Trojan fans…Riley will have his team in the playoff discussion soon…but not quite yet.
12 Notre Dame
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 9/3 at Ohio St., 11/5 vs. Clemson, 11/26 at USC
Credit where it is due…the Irish don’t have an easy path. Oh sure, they play a couple of gimmes (one of which will be the season opener against my alma mater…Go Herd), but they’ll need to win atleast one & maybe two of the key games noted above to climb this close to the Top 10, and that’s not going to be a a walk in the park. I am impressed with new head coach Marcus Freeman thus far, but he’s going to have to prove his worth with some big victories.
Last Season: 10-3
Key Games: 10/15 at Florida St., 11/5 at Notre Dame, 11/19 vs. Miami (FL)
After winning two national championships in six traight playoff appearances the Tigers fell off just a bit last year. And by that I mean they still had ten victories but didn’t win the ACC title and finished 14th in the final rankings. It’s the hallmark of an elite program when that is considered disappointing. Will they be back in the playoff picture this season?? I don’t think so. No one respects the ACC anymore, and I won’t be surprised if two SEC teams & two Big Ten teams are in the playoff. The only shot Clemson has is to go undefeated in convincing fashion & lay a smackdown on Notre Dame in South Bend.
10 Texas A&M
Last Season: 8-4
Key Games: 9/17 vs. Miami (FL), 10/24 vs. Arkansas, 10/8 at Alabama, 11/5 vs. Florida, 11/26 vs. LSU
Head coach Jimbo Fisher talks a good game, but can his team get it done on the field?? When you sign a ten year contract worth $75 million finishing third in the division simply isn’t good enough. Fisher’s feud” with Nick Saban has been a highlight of this offseason, but what matters is what happens between the lines. I don’t expect A&M to defeat ‘Bama in Tuscaloosa, but anything less than ten wins will be a huge disappointment, and that seat might start to get pretty hot for my man Jimbo.
Last Season: 9-4
Key Games: 9/24 at Ohio St., 10/15 at Michigan St., 11/12 at Iowa
I’ve always been a big fan of Badger football. They’re not flashy, but they are fundamentally sound and win in the trenches. Having said that, the Big Ten is looking awfully difficult, and it is entirely possibly that Wisconsin could be a middle-of-the-pack program right now. All three of the key games I’ve noted are on the road, which is a daunting task. I’m going to venture way out on a limb though and predict they’ll pull off massive upsets in two of those games, paving the way for double digit victories & a Top 10 finish.
8 Penn State
Last Season: 7-6
Key Games: 9/17 at Auburn, 10/15 at Michigan, 10/29 vs. Ohio St., 11/26 vs. Michigan St.
Is it likely that two Big Ten teams outside the state of Ohio finish in the Top 10?? No. So I guess I’m hedging my bets. An out of conference battle at Auburn & a home game against Michigan St. are must wins for the Nittany Lions.
Last Season: 12-2
Key Games: 9/10 at BYU, 9/24 at Iowa St., 10/1 vs. Oklahoma St., 11/5 at Oklahoma, 11/25 at Texas
The Bears won the Big 12 title and were victorious in the Sugar Bowl a season ago, and I believe it is entirely possible they’ll be just as good in 2022. However, they’ll need be road warriors to achieve that level of success. With Texas & Oklahoma ditching the Big 12 in the not-so-distant future there is a vacuum at the top of the conference, and Baylor has an opportunity to become the new standard bearer (pun unavoidable). Don’t miss their visit to Norman, OK in early November…I think it’ll be a really great game.
Last Season: 10-3
Key Games: 9/10 vs. Baylor, 10/15 vs. Arkansas
This is BYU’s final year as an Independent before joining the Big 12, and they’re ending their independence with a bang. It’s a hell of a schedule. I do not expect them to beat Notre Dame or Oregon on the road, but if they can upset Baylor & Arkansas, win all the games they’re supposed to win, and get to ten victories once again they might actually be in the playoff discussion. There’s no chance they’ll actually be invited to participate, but sometimes getting the respect of simply being mentioned is enough.
Last Season: 13-2
Key Games: 9/10 at Texas, 10/1 at Arkansas, 10/8 vs. Texas A&M, 10/15 at Tennessee, 11/5 at LSU, 11/26 vs. Auburn
Freakin’ Nick Saban actually had the nerve to say that 2021 was a rebuilding year for the Tide…a season that saw them win 13 games, beat the snot out of Georgia in the SEC title game, and inexplicably fall by two TDs in the National Championship Game. The sad part is he might be right. Still, the fact is that ‘Bama always receives every opponent’s best shot, and things happen in such a scenario. I don’t know which one it’ll be, but I have a feeling an opponent listed above will have everything fall into place just perfectly, and Alabama will have a rare off day. Will that be enough to derail their playoff aspirations?? God I hope so.
Last Season: 10-4
Key Games: 9/3 at Florida, 10/15 vs. USC, 11/19 at Oregon
USC has gotten all the PAC 12 attention the past several months, but Utah might be the team to beat right now. We’ll learn a lot when the Utes venture into The Swamp, and playing the Trojans in the cozy confines of Salt Lake City could be quite beneficial. I expect the winner of the mid-November clash in Eugene, OR to take one spot in the conference title game.
3 Ohio State
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 9/3 vs. Notre Dame, 10/8 at Michigan St., 10/29 at Penn St., 11/26 vs. Michigan
The Buckeyes have essentially become an NFL farm team. Quarterback CJ Stroud returns for his sophomore season after finishing 4th on the Heisman ballot last year. He’ll be considered a front runner for that award as long as his team is winning. I don’t believe the season opener against Notre Dame will be much of a challenge, and they have Michigan at The Horseshoe, so anything less than a playoff berth would be a huge disappointment.
2 Oklahoma State
Last Season: 12-2
Key Games: 10/1 at Baylor, 10/22 vs. Texas, 11/12 vs. Iowa St., 11/19 at Oklahoma
The “experts” all seem to slot the Cowboys about ten spots lower than this, so I’m really rolling the dice. The two biggest games on the schedule are both on the road, which makes the task that much harder. QB Spencer Sanders is a senior, which is good, but there was also some turnover in the coaching staff, which makes me nervous. It’s a “go big or go home” kind of thing really. Despite the fact that the TV folks (who really run the business of college sports, in case you didn’t know 😉) would undoubtedly love to see a playoff totally comprised of SEC & Big Ten teams (or USC if they can win the PAC 12), I think a Big 12 team will be in the mix, and given all of the offseason drama don’t believe it’ll be the Oklahoma Sooners. Keep an eye on the October 1st game at Baylor…the winner of that one might have an inside track to a playoff berth.
Last Season: 14-1
Key Games: 9/3 vs. Oregon, 10/29 vs. Florida, 11/5 vs. Tennessee
“To be The Man you’ve got to beat The Man”. That’s what wrasslin’ legend Ric Flair always said, and I think it’s good advice. The Bulldogs defeated Alabama to win the National Championship, and I don’t know of any reason to expect a decline. If Georgia comes out of the gate fast and beats Oregon badly then it’s on like Donkey Kong. Most people are likely expecting a rematch against The Tide in the SEC title game, and they’re probably right. I think Georgia wins that game, which will cost ‘Bama a playoff opportunity.